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Zachary's Practice Log Zachary 10/12/18 3:23 PM
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Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/12/18 3:23 PM
Short term goals: Develop stronger concentration and working knowledge of jhanas. Learn to climb the jhanic ladder to attain fruitions. Spend 1-3 months at meditation center or monastery in Summer/Fall 2018. Develop energy practice. Relax. 

Sit consistently each day for at least two hours. Reliably navigate the territory of first Jhana. Cultivate metta practice towards myself and all beings. Attend two, minimum week-long sits in 2018. 

Long term goal: Full Awakening

Current Practice: "Just Sit" formally 1-3 times per day. 

I sit daily for 60-120 minutes. I usually split my time between separate insight (noting, open monitoring) and concentration (breath on the tip of nostrils as object) practices. I do walking meditation sometimes and also have a bit of a metta practice.

History/tentative path progress: Currently in my late 20's. Grew up in Unitarian Universalist setting. Have been a bit of a spiritual dilettante since my teen years. Increasingly certain that I crossed the A&P after psychedelic use in early teens and flailed around in A&P/DN territory for a good decade, with all the fun stuff that entails. Intermittent psychedelic drug use and attempts at starting a meditation practice throughout the years. 

Practiced A
napanasati on and off for most of 2017, usually only 20 minutes a day. I took a break from meditation for about a month last fall after a destabalizing episode of depersonalization and light psychotic stuff. Moved from NYC to a quieter setting in PA near where I grew up, stopped working. Began applying much more effort to practice and started noting practice in January 2018 after reading MTCB and resolving to get out of DN. Have practiced every day since January, with one 5-day retreat at Bhavana Society in March and 9-day retreats at IMS in May and August 2018. 

Currently believe I attained to Stream Entry in Spring of 2018, working towards 2nd Path. 

-- 

I sat for three separate noting sessions today of 30-40 minutes each. Early in my sit I noted high-level sensations/feelings and switched to nonverbal noting once I began experiencing sensations so rapidly that they exceeded my ability to note conceptually. Using something like "dit dit dit" helps in the grey area between verbal noting and base sensate experience. I noticed today that I can kind of "throttle" the speed at which I experience sensations by increasing and decreasing the quantinization of verbal noting. A sensation will break apart into smaller units with conscious, quick noting. 

I felt light vibrations in different areas throughout my body, both on and off the cushion. These took the form of wider "fizzy" vibrations somewhere on the top of my head and throughout my hands. They also manifested as deeper, slower, throbbing pulses, perhaps 5-10 times per second. I observed one of these pulsing along the top left of my lip for about a minute. It went back and forth, like a small bug sprinting underneath my skin, I tried to widen my awareness of it and see how wide I could make the vibration's path go. 

Throughout the morning and early afternoon I had a foggy, numb, depressive feeling in the center of my forehead, and quite a few depressive story-narratives on loop to match. This was useful fodder for my sit but made the sit into more of a struggle. Some dedicated noting helped this feeling to evaporate. I am noticing more and more that my depressive states are a product of earlier, repeated negative judgements directed against "myself". Making hundreds of these sorts of harsh judgements a day will eventually cause a stable depressive mood to concretize.

One emerging benefit with noting is that it has now leaked into my day-to-day experience, at least with high-level emotional/psychological stuff. Many times today I caught the brief flakes of anxiety, annoyance, etc. right as they occurred. Thoughts are becoming less "sticky" in my awareness. I also found myself instinctively "checking in" with my body whenever I would catch myself becoming too embedded in my experience, feeling my feet, hands, face, upper back, etc.  

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/18/18 4:51 PM as a reply to Zachary.
I began cultivating a separate samatha practice a few weeks ago. Dry insight practice was beginning to make my daily life a bit too "edgy" and intense and I wanted to experience more stability. On one day in particular it felt as if I was experiencing a low-level psilocybin trip for the whole day. This was disturbing at first, then merely irritating.

Yesterday, I experienced a very pleasant state during a concentration sit. Previously when I focused on concentration I have had short flashes of things that were so striking that the fear/excitation of it knocked me out of my concentration completetly. These took the form of an immense flash of white light and an image of a pale alien-looking face that was stripped of all features and details except for two empty eyes and a mouth. There have also been some other indescribable "flashes". 

I took the advice of Leigh Brasington and applied an artificial smile at the start of my sit. It felt awkward but instantly snapped into place once a pleasant thought crossed my mind. As I paid attention to feeling of the breath at the edge of my nostrils, I lightly scanned my body for any pleasurable feeling. I found it in several places including my fingertips and my face, where I continued to enlarge the warmth of the smile. 

At about 15 minutes into my sit, my mind clicked into a memory of a particularly joyful encounter with a monk at Bhavana Society and I began to feel an immense opiate-like glow flowing through the body. I began to "pump" this throughout my awareness with each exhalation. I sat in this state on the cushion for 45 minutes, feeling amazing. I was still vaguely aware of bodily sensations and thoughts, though they were distant. I recollected that it should be impossible to achieve this sort of pleasure without any external influence, that it was a kind of "cheating". 

I eventually ended my sit and went to go lie down on my bed. However, the feeling persisted. It took me several minutes to decelerate out of the state to the point where I felt able to engage with the world around me again. 

A degree of this feeling remained for hours, throughout my activities for the rest of the day. It was a strong sense of contentment, happiness and confidence. I felt like in that state I would have been able to "do anything" but didn't feel any desire to do so. I applied mindfulness to the state, occasionally noticing how I attached I'd grown to the feeling, how I identified with it completely. I noticed a low-level anxiety about when/if the feeling would end and that there was something kind of annoying about feeling so good. I noted "contentment... contentment..." from time to time. I asked myself, "who is feeling this contentment?" and "who's happiness is this?"

-- 

In my insight practice I am bumping up against a couple interesting experiences. The first is a kind of "scaling" phenomena. I feel as if my hands and wrists are massive, like big clown hands resting on my knees. This is accompanied by the perceived swelling of my head. It also feels like my head is way up in the air, towering far above my body. This seems consistent with the fact that in my sits my awareness is typically focused most prominently in the hands and head. 

Another thing I've run into again and again is a deep fuzzy impatience and "fundamental" tension in my thighs and upper legs. This is an area where there usually isn't much sensation for me. It's neither pointedly painful nor pleasant. Rather, it is a deeply unnerving neutral feeling, sometimes so strong that it makes my skin crawl. No other sensation I've experienced makes me want to get up and abandon my sit as much as it. 

I try to sit with it as long as possible, forcing myself, telling myself "the bell hasn't rung yet, you can't get up" and so on. Feelings of violent rage and anger often accompany it. My body will instinctively begin to shake, sputter and thrash about to try and get away from the feeling. I note these senations persistently, but it can be difficult. I have been ending my sits early because of it. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/21/18 8:25 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Practice has been weak the last few days. I haven't been sitting as much as I'd like. 

I've been experiencing a bit of uncertainty about whether I am noting properly. I resolved to "go back to basics" with noting and start with slow, consistent verbal noting. However, as soon as I sat down and closed my eyes I was greeted by rapid pulsing waves in the visual field that were too fast to note, even with "ditting". I abandoned my intention to note and just allowed my awareness to float around to prominent sensations in the body. Instead of bouncing around to different parts of the body I have been spending more time with specific vibrations, trying to break them apart with piercing awareness. 

I am noticing intention more, it is a whiser-quiet, subtle voice. I especially have noticed the intention to move and direct my awareness throughout the body during sits, which isn't as random and haphazard as I imagined it. It often follows a "psuedo-random noting script" as opposed to actual randomness. I am noticing that intentions I made in prior minutes, hours, days, years reappearing frequently to assert themselves again and again. I notice that they seem to pop out of nowhere just like other sensations, they don't feel like "free will". 

I went for a long walk along the river where I live and noted the contact of my feet on the ground. Since I was walking fast, this was about two notes per second or more when I was able to keep up with heel-toe-lift motions as well. I wasn't able to maintain this consistently so I might try and do this more slowly in a more controlled area. I also noted the visual qualities of the path in front of me, trying to be aware of every little rock and crevice, as well as the wider swaths of dirts. If I remain motionless and stare at the ground, I can break apart larger swaths into subsets of visual sensations, to the point where the ground starts swirling and moving. There is sometimes a light white veil of flickering in the vision over everything.  

On the psychosocial/emotional level I noticed how detrimental the effects of drinking are on my practice, even one beer. I resolved to stop drinking at the beginning of this year but decided to have one the other night with friends. I chose to do this initially because I thought it would put my friends at ease and make them feel better about the particular way they were choosing to show compassion to themselves: drinking. I resolved to pay attention to the experience of drinking and noticed that my ability to disembed from sensory experience slipping away almost instantly. It was much harder to pay attention to what was happening to me on a moment-to-moment level. Even two days later I can still notice the physiological effects of that single beer on my mood and body. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/25/18 12:44 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Noticing sensory perceptions all as physical pressure. Experienced vibrations in the visual field as simultaneous physical pressure around the eyes. When the sound of the fridge turning on began I noticed the vibrations visually and felt it in my body, I noticed the pressure dissapate from my body when it stopped running. On a long walk I "felt" the smell of a thick stand of pines in the sun by the road. 

I haven't seen any phosphenes in a while. They were prevalent a month or so ago. I would see them when I opened my eyes in the center of my vision. They were usually a chartreuse/yellow color. 

Sometimes still struggling with when to switch between noting and open monitoring. 

The last few days I've been very sensitive to environmental sounds and visuals. Even in the idyllic new place I just moved to I am finding all sorts of tiny things to be upset about, tiny things that drive me crazy and abrubtly abort my sits. These include the lightly agitated murmur of someone having a phone conversation in the house below me, the warm sunlight not being in the most optimal place where I want it to be, certain bird chirps being annoying. Usually these things wouldn't phase me while sitting. I feel deeply irritated by them to the point where I think about moving to a new house already! 

Continuing to experience "zoomed-in" and scaling phenomena in the hands, thighs, knees and face. Feeling more pain than usual in the upper back, neck and lower back, though this may be a symptom of a weird staircase I have to navigate frequently at my new place. 

A kind of resigned vibe is becoming more frequent. I am noticing myself seeking to relieve tension/suffering all day long by trying to modify the environment around me and exert control over tiny things. This process never seems to exhaust itself, and never leads to any cessation of suffering.

The importance and urgency I felt about my practice earlier this year has largely faded away. It's just something I do as routine every day without much fanfare.  

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/25/18 1:35 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Have been experiencing a lot of tingling in hands on and off the cushion, especially when walking or doing activities where my arms are freely dangling. Vibrations in my visual field will mutate into physical pressure around the eyes that seep into the rest of my face. This happened a few times, including once when the vibrations grew and migrated to the cheek and upper lip area, it felt as if something was boiling rapidly underneath the skin of half of my face. 

High sensitivity to sound, when sitting I can feel acute noises rippling through my body, sometimes so strongly that it makes my limbs and body jump instictively. My new downstairs neighbor has very intense hour-long phone conversations of which I can detect the emotional thrust of but not particular words or content. This has been irritating as I observe my mental state starting to inherit their anxiety and frustration. Attempting to use this as fodder for practice because I don't have much choice! 

Have added a 15 minute walking meditation at the end of my 45 minutes sits. Really beginning to notice how each movement within a step arrises to alleviate a tension/anxiety of prior movements and yet creates its own tension and anxiety by doing so, continuing the process. 

Seeing phosphenes in the center of vision and a luminous "golden glow" wherever there is light when I open my eyes after long sits. 

Sticking with choiceless awareness/open monitoring about 90% of the time and noting the other 10%. I find noting is best for dealing with conceptual thought, planning, ruminating, etc. whereas choiceless awareness is more suitable for observing all other sensory phenomena. 

Noticing the texture of conceptual thought, how it is fragmented, cluttered and repetitive. This clutter seems to increase the more I try and label it. Certain fragments of words will stutter and echo within phrases. Observing how a single thought ripples quickly through a dozen interrelated images, memories and sensory associations.

A lot of practice log related conceptual thought is happening, its become a noisy subprocess all its own. It is making me wonder whether maintaining a journal is actually that skillful. 

Abandoned a sit after 20 minutes due to the feeling I've been calling "fundamental neutral tension" in the thighs and throughout the body. It has a kind of unnerving "willies" feel to it and makes my body shudder and thrash. Associated feelings are a deep anger and frustration, was able to stay with it a bit more than usual this time.

Went on a long walk on a path by the river. Decided to use open-eyed vision as my object. I walked slowly and observed the discrete fragments of visual field, where there were and weren't boundaries, where there were "objects" and where there were "swaths of objects" or even "swaths of swaths". There is a lightly pulsating webbing between "me" and what is observed that flickers through awareness. 

Went to a group sit in Princeton, NJ. There was a good hour and a half sitting and walking meditation. The discussion after was unfortunately a surface-level group psychotherapy session rather than any discussion of meditation or dharma. Has been difficult to find group sits or sanghas in the area that do not also fit this mold. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/28/18 3:39 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Walked three hours outside yesterday, paid attention to feeling of feet on ground and maintained general awareness of body. Was able to maintain this for a solid majority of the time. On the way back I noticed bodily pain and weariness, noticed myself starting to sing, tap rhythms and talk to myself to distract myself from this feeling.

Good early morning sit today. Skin felt creaky and mechanical, muscular movements in the fingers were bony and discrete. Noticing environmental expectations and the physical sensations around them. Listened to someone chopping wood in distance at irregular times and noticed subtle rhythmic tension in abdomen when anticipating when the next sound would occur. Experiencing vibrations immediately every time I sit down and close my eyes. Lots of tingling in hands and fingers, warbling pressure in center of forehead and sinuses. Feeling slower vibrations in abdomen, chest and blood moving through me. Very little conceptual thought. Opened eyes for a bit and noticed static/twinkly fields overtop vision.

Was relaxed and at peace following sit, feeling of near-total contentment with life as it was. Cooked breakfast and paid more attention than usual to cooking process. Could still notice critical/anxious/fearful thoughts but they were quiet and in the distant background. This lasted for about an hour. Repeated annoyance with sounds of gunfire from the shooting range across the valley took me out of the state. Noticed gun sounds weren’t that loud, no louder than cars driving by, but because of ingrained, conditioned relation to those sounds I was more annoyed by them. Can feel headaches from having bad posture and sitting weirdly.

Paying more attention to how I speak, to exaggerated, fantastical and crude language. Trying to attenuate spoken language to be softer and more in line with present reality.

Flurry of rapid visions before sleep last night. Dreamlike faces, places, patterns, scenarios. Heightened, full-body awareness of being tired at end of day. Bodily pain is most prevalent after waking up in the morning.

When walking around outside, hazy/sparkling areas in vision, especially when looking at the sky and bright areas without much visual distinction.

Feeling chill, grounded, more normative. Less esoteric inner musing about meditation and spirituality. Maybe a little dull and boring.

Noticed I could caress my arm with my hand to produce pleasurable tingling. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/30/18 5:26 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Great phenomenological report! 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
4/30/18 8:27 PM as a reply to Zachary.
4/29/18 - Morning

90 minutes split between 45min seated and walking meditation sessions. Sensitivity to hot and cold. Smiling and laughing by end of walking meditation. Lots of thinking and planning about remembering what to log after sit.

Excitement and irritation when reading social media, haven’t done this in a while and have most of these sites/apps blocked on computer and phone. Felt excitable, wired up and disoriented after reading Twitter for a bit. Noticed “slipperiness” of agreeing with opinions and beliefs that one encounters. Irritated by hearing murmur of phone conversation in apartment below me, sometimes even imagine it happening when it isn’t occurring.

Went for long walk after this session. Experienced intense visuals walking across a bridge. Noticed the details of the wood planks shimmering rapidly. Very vibrant and flickering as if on a low dose of psychedelic drug. Noticed I could stare “deeply” into the ripples on the river and see the causality of all these ripples on a micro and macro scale.

Experienced waves of fear and paranoia immediately after this, noted them and they passed quickly. Felt calmer after this, but a little edgy. Vision was still very vibrant.

Feeling manic and excitable for the first time in a while. Can’t sit still, focus and awareness is weak throughout the day. Energetic. Feeling lustful and hungry for rich foods.

4/30/18 - Morning

Intended to have 90min session of seated and walking meditation. Noted bird sounds, fridge sounds, tension in neck, back and face. Noted restlessness, anxiety about upcoming teacher interview, planning, car sounds and associated conceptual imagination about the environment where these sounds were taking place. Noted vibrations and colors in closed-eye visual field, impatience, body tremors and shaking, anger. Difficulty focusing, noted anxiety about proper noting technique, annoyance with preoccupation with proper noting technique. Sit ended early at 32min mark after autonomously punching my thigh. Noted pain.

Feeling restless, excitable and wired up, lots of tension in forehead. Some anxiety, but more of a manic intensity. Been noting these throughout the day. Haven't felt like this in at least a few weeks, maybe longer. 

Had first videochat session with possible teacher today, went well. 

Continuing to feel intense manic energy, wired up to the point where I am noting out loud in strong speaking voice to disembed from experience.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/2/18 12:59 PM as a reply to Zachary.
5/1/18

45 minutes seated followed by 45 minutes walking. Tougher than usual, but made it through. Generally calm, optimistic and happy today, brief moment of anger when preoccupied with annoyance of gunfire sounds from across the valley. Feeling less like I need to cut myself off from things in my life in order to practice well. Have given myself permission to indulge in rejoining a noisy Slack groupchat I used to participate in compulsively. Keep having brief feeling that I am catching a glimpse of an intellectual knot. 

Felt peaceful and normative. There is a spaciousness around awareness I never really noticed before. I am experiencing this on and off the cushion. Feeling rushes of blood and tingling in the hands and wrists on and off the cushion. 

Went through an entire 30 minute conversation with a stranger I met without mentioning meditation once. This feels like an accomplishment all in its own emoticon

5/2/18

40 minutes seated followed by 20 minutes walking. Began with a few breaths and moved to choiceless awareness of body. Sit began with quiet ease, awareness of sensations came quickly, fluidly, without effort. Noticeable head pressure, especially at the center of forehead, almost to the point of pain. Could feel sensations of the face as pressure, especially in areas that I have never been able to feel prior to this sit (under the eyes, around the nose, cheeks). Purple vibrations and swaths in visual field. Paid attention to the visual thought of the outline of my body sitting, as a silhouette almost. Noticed awareness as a sensation, as something moving through me without directed intention. Shimmering, wide vibrations in lower back and abdomen. Became restless towards end of sit and decided to walk, became restless at about the halfway mark and abandoned walking meditation. 

Feeling like there is no book, teaching or experience that will ever deliver me from baseline suffering. Trying to distract myself with wholesome activities like reading, exercising and cooking healthy meals are just more sophisticated forms of craving and aversion. Strong desire to do a month or 3-month long retreat so I can really apply myself and "get this over with". Feel ready. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/2/18 1:34 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Hi Zachary, 

Just wanted to say I enjoy reading you log. If you can go on a 3 month I would do it (wish I could). I don't want to phrase this as advice as I'm unqualified, but why not rip into those sensations/mind states of wanting to go on retreat, wanting the suffering to stop, feeling like you can't do it. These are not special sensations, and they don't deserve special treatment. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/2/18 2:26 PM as a reply to SigmaTropic.
Thank you, I'm glad to hear you are getting some use out of the logs, I find your log helpful as well. I think your advice is warranted, those experiences and feelings are indeed good fodder for investigation!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/18/18 3:38 PM as a reply to Zachary.
I returned a few days ago from a 9-day retreat at IMS in Barre, MA. This was my longest retreat to date, I'd only previously completed a 5-day at Bhavana Society in March 2018. Overall the experience was great and I left very impressed. The retreat was led by a solid team: Alexis Santos, Carol Wilson and Mark Nunberg along with Qi-Gong/Tai Chi instructor Franz Moeckl. They talked extensively about Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s “Natural Awareness” method, which had the feeling of arriving into my practice at just the right time. The focus was on preserving relaxed awareness throughout all activities, all day long, and not limiting meditation time to specific postures and time periods. There was also some emphasis on not deliberately slowing down activities, but to carry on as you might in lay life.


Pre-Retreat

Prior to the retreat I mostly abandoned my noting practice for a more inclusive, non-dual choiceless awareness, with the intention to give in and surrender to the present reality moment-by-moment. This was also incited by a teacher suggesting I “let it all go” and “surrender”. Right before the retreat, I began noticing a spaciousness around awareness and fell into a two-day stretch that felt quite nice. It began with an otherworldly, mild sense of depersonalization that was initially uncomfortable, there were a few minutes during which I was fearful about going crazy. However, the mood fell into a deep, impenetrable calm after I surrendered to it. 

Throughout these days the feeling arose in me over and over again that I "was done" and "was finished" with meditation. I felt as if I suddenly understood the maddeningly simple punchline to some elaborate joke and that "this was it". I felt intensely aware that all of reality was happening within "my" mind. The more this state persisted, the more confident I felt that I had awakened, even to the point where I felt I wouldn't even need to go on the retreat. However, my attitude towards awakening was more of a “lets wait and see”. My mood was stable and confident, a bulletproof, slightly-smiling neutrality. I told both my parents and therapist that I had "finished" meditation, thinking myself quite clever. My conceptual thinking during this time continued to be haunted by paradoxical thinking and struggling with ideas like free will, solipsism, etc.

This state, of course, did not persist beyond two days.


Early Retreat

The first day or so of the retreat was happy, jhanic and easygoing. I smiled and felt warmth towards all from the moment I arrived. All day long, from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep I worked calmly to notice awareness and what exactly it was doing. Alexis Santos mentioned something in a small group that really opened up my practice, that one should determine “what is the most relaxed you can be while still being aware”. In the prior months, my practice has had a bit too much of the striving factor, this was a welcome tip. I spent a lot of time reclining in bed, limbs splayed open, watching awareness.

I noticed over and over again that the path of my noting practice was still weaving selflessly through my body, it took a bit for this to peter out, it felt like it was completing a circuit in my mind and then exiting after I stopped feeding it with intention. The spaciousness I felt in my awareness continued to open up. I noticed that space was not a void but just a more subtle phenomena. I sometimes would play a little game based off another technique someone mentioned on DhO (pleasure mining) that I dubbed “Neutrality Mining”. I would deliberately try to direct awareness towards negative-space and other subtle phenomena existing between more “solid” seeming phenomena. I attempted to see if I could notice these without creating tension and resistance in the body.

Phenomena I noticed frequently on this retreat included weight, heat/cold, energy, interest, curiosity, investigation, spaciousness, boundarylessness, awareness itself, anticipation, feeling of time passing/change/novelty. A lot of time experiencing everything as neither pleasant nor unpleasant “energy”. This energy model dominated my experience and thinking throughout the retreat.


Mid Retreat

The observation that kept occurring to me was that awareness arises and sloshes around towards the most energetic phenomena, whether pleasant, neutral or unpleasant. I later revised this to the observation that awareness unconditionally arises in unison at the point of any “novelty” occurring in the present moment, and as a corollary, that if there was no change or novelty occurring, there would be no awareness. The only way to notice less energetic/novel phenomena than what is occurring at a given “time” is to forcefully generate your own motivation/intention/energy and turn the Mind toward something more subtle. Doing this produces tension, energy and resistance in the body.

During one particular reclining session I slowly rotated my head over to check the time. I was very much deeply “recursed” in awareness at this point. When “I” caught site of the time, that it was four minutes past the start of lunch, “I” shot up out of the bed, quickly put on my shoes and shot out the door to the dining hall. These actions all had the quality of “reality doing itself” while the sense of an observer was still and in the background.

At one point something just hit me out of nowhere during a sit. With my eyes closed, a giant strobing white light kind of scanned the interior space of mind. It illuminated a far vaster interior space than I imagined possible. This lasted for about a second. This has happened before, when it does it totally surprises me and it feels like getting hit with something heavy. One time the "wham" took the form of a pale, featureless humanoid face with two big empty eye holes. What are these?

I appreciated the silence and lack of eye contact throughout the retreat, however I discovered I was still continuing to seek human acknowledgement and validation in another form. This took the form of wanting the “brilliant ideas” I shared in the small group discussions to be brought up during the Dhamma talks by the teachers. Each Dhamma talk I noticed a tiny voice hoping this would happen over and over again.

Another tiny voice arose occasionally screaming the most vile things over and over. It was a purely demonic/egoic voice but very quiet and in the distance. It felt different than the usual inner monologue of thinking. It selflessly carried on with a cruel narration of everything that was happening around me and also implored me to stop this whole meditation racket and go back to doing debaucherous, egoic things.


Late Retreat

There were endless surface-level psychological insights. There was an emotional opening during the last day or two of the retreat. It felt like I had truly relaxed for the first time in many, many years. I wept a great deal in the sitting hall, it felt like the pain and suffering in the world was bottomless, that my weeping would never end. This felt tender, cathartic. Selfless, kundalini-like body phenomena grew more pronounced. An uncomfortable tension would build up in the body, making my skin crawl, shortly followed by very intense sensations that felt like every muscle in my body was contracting simultaneously. When sitting, my body would sway for the entire sit unless I deliberately exerted force to stop it. Intense pain and pressure on sinuses and face occured all day long, like someone was pressing their thumbs into the sinuses next to my nose as hard as possible. 


Post Retreat

A bit of a touchingly somber drive home. Have an ambient anxiety, very difficult to sit still and focus. The intense physical pressure on my face and sinuses continues, my visual acuity and emotional sensitivity is very heightened still. No longer feel a need to isolate myself so much, starting to generate plans about how to re-integrate my practice into the world, whether through volunteering, education or livelihood.

Definitely going to do a month or three-month retreat by the end of the year. I believe I will need more regular retreat time at IMS before I am eligible to attend the Forest Refuge, so may opt for somewhere in SE Asia. Good financial, interpersonal and health circumstances have all coincided in my life where I feel like now is really the time to extend and take a deep dive into practice. The “pull” I began feeling in January has continued to grow.

After about a day off retreat, freely flowing mild anxiety that feels exactly like what I’ve characterized as ADHD my entire adolescent life. This went away for the last few months but now seems back with a vengeance. I can’t focus on anything for more a few seconds, my whole body has been shaking and swaying for days no matter where I am. Qi-Gong exercises are helping balance the energy and move some of the extra anxiety out of me. Regular exercise doesn’t seem to help that much, it can even aggravate the body and cause more tension. Long walks/hikes are OK. The energy just feels bottomless. I catch my body just autonomously getting up, forgetting what it was doing, going out to do a hundred other different things, forgetting some more. I can’t even nail down simple tasks like “go into the kitchen and get a paper towel” without starting a half-dozen other trains of thoughts and activities.  

Doing awareness practice in bed lying down before sleep. Whole body is vibrating very fast, especially arms, hands and face. Swaths of vibrations rushing and criss-crossing throughout the body. Feels somewhat pleasant but odd. This leads into intense weird dreams where I am doing awareness meditation in the dream. In the dream I remember getting some deep insights into my awareness practice but I can’t seem to remember now, remember feeling that I was so close to something!

As of the moment of this posting, feeling restless and manic. More of a mindful manic if that makes sense, which mostly involves holding on, surrending and trying not to do anything too stupid. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/20/18 2:51 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Currently feeling the pleasant bulletproof neutrality that arises pretty frequently these days. It is quiet and focused. If I tune into good sensations I feel even better but this takes extra effort which is annoying.

The last few days were chaotic and messy. So noisy that I often found myself wondering if I've even made any "progress" at all since beginning my practice. I have thoughts sometimes that I am “scripting” my progress due to all the books/forums I read, gaslighting myself into thinking my intellectual understandings are things I've actually experienced.

Wrote down in my notebook that “it feels like everything is collapsing”. When I feel like this, it seems like there is a sub-process in every moment that frantically searches for an end to suffering. Everything feels like the wrong choice and a false step. I feel like I can't begin anything. I had considered this feeling ADHD for most of my life, but not pathologizing and identifying with it is probably a better way to go.

There is an image and sound of Dipa Ma that keeps popping up telling me to “keep going” emoticon

Neighbor told me it was nice to “stand around me” and absorb my calmness. Socializing is easy and anxiety-free for the most part but I don’t feel like doing it. Saying curse words and lying, even benignly, feels a bit painful in the body.

Have been focusing a lot on the sensations of “The Watcher” as it’s often referred to. The Watcher has felt the same my entire life, even when I was very young.

The following seem to be subcomponents of The Watcher but are not The Watcher itself, the Watcher seems to hold everything together as a Self and yet cannot be found.

  • Very faint images/memories of my face and facial features when I close my eyes. Blurry vision of parts of my nose when eyes are open and a perimeter/container to vision where the eye sockets are. At certain points when concentration is strong the perimeter seems to radiate slow, dark vibrations towards the center of vision, like the sense of an observer is scanning or disintegrating.
  • Feeling of the front of face. When I began meditation months ago I couldn’t feel the front of my face. Now the sinuses all over the face have so much pressure, it feels as if they might explode any day now. When I meditate this sinus pressure dominates awareness. Intense, liquid blobs of energy seem to be moving beneath the skin. It feels like the entire bone structure of my face is being reworked by some unseen energy, yet when I touch my finger to these sensations they aren’t there. The energy usually moves up the face, and sometimes streams towards the crown of my head.
  • Quiet ambient background sounds that give a sense of spatial location to the head and where it is in reference to the other limbs of the body.
  • Egoic “I” thoughts that come from the head area. “You should do this”, “I should do that”, etc. These reference past memories of being The Watcher and bolster the sense that it is a unified Self. Thoughts now seem to be just very quiet sounds or faint images, not separate from the other five senses. I like to play around with this and find the area where “loud” thinking becomes quiet talking. There is nothing special about thoughts as phenomena except that they seem to be coming from inside the skull rather than “out there”.

What conditions cause The Watcher to arise? What conditions cause it to pass? Not certain about these yet.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/20/18 8:05 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Nice retreat report. Sounds like good things are happening. 

The equanimity you're getting into is the good stuff. I like to watch the energetic/breath flow in the body. Sometimes the homogeneity of the energy in the body will get disturbed, get patchy, etc the energy will get pulled to one side or up or down or there will be a ripple like disturbance. In equanimity I've noticed the energy is homogeneous and doesn't get pulled around as much. These disturbances are correlated with little graspings before noticing them and releasing them. Maybe you've noticed something similar. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/22/18 3:08 PM as a reply to Zachary.
The last few days I seem to just be shifting back and forth from an agitated, noisy state to a quiet, pleasant depersonalization.

Noisy/Agitated State: Feel more embedded in unfocused mindsets. Obsession and anxiety with practice. Lots of forum/book reading. Worries about my practice being a sophisticated avoidance mechanism. Identifying with critical self-talk. Wanting to get the big E as soon as possible. Striving. Desire for more structure in life. 

Quieter/Equanimous State: Lots of spaciousness, more and more things seem "out there" or at least not definitely "in here". Mind is still chattering all day long but it is distant and quiet. Feels like being in Access Concentration but has become my default walking-around state. I can tune in to mind chatter and play with it or just leave it alone. I find myself able to use intention-setting to make myself focus, eg: "I will read this entire article before opening a new tab." Feels similar to when I used to take adderall but without the unfortunate side effects. 

A sub-process in my mind keeps popping up to remind to slow down whenever I'm rushing and taking shortcuts. I catch myself in the act of losing focus frequently. Wrote in notebook that it feels like "mindfully losing focus". Body will sometimes adjust itself to relieve tension and stress instantaneously. 

Overall just getting sloppier with my life, letting things go, breaking my own rules, being more worldly. I was keeping morality and orderliness tight and close to me the last few months but I feel myself loosening up. Noticing that the loosening isn't making my progress drop away. Find myself wondering why I found it necessary to do such dramatic things at the end of last year in the "interest" of my practice. Life is life and there's nothing that needs to be done. Renunciation is just a different neurotic flavor of dealing with your "stuff" in order to clear a space for real practice to happen. Still a little wary that engaging in worldly things will lead to a suffering situation that will rip me a new one. 

Humility seems to be replacing striving. Seeing more and more where my limits are and how so much suffering was caused by exerting myself to exceed those limits over the years. Also seeing how I could actually transcend those limits with calm, applied focus instead of manic desire. 

Volunteered for Meals on Wheels. Lots of sadness/tenderness/annoyance/joy interacting with other staff/elderly.

Intense sinus pressure still dominates. Have also noticed tons of hair falling out, way more than in the past. Acne and flushed face. A new autonomous pose my body sets itself into includes arching my spine, neck and head backwards as far as possible. Difficult to get out of the positions without exerting effort. All the Kundalini stuff feels magnetic, like the interference you get when pushing two magnets with the same polarity together. During sits I sometimes feel "trapped" in body and noticing that it requires more intention/energy than usual to move the body. 

Haven't been sitting as much, but still 1-2 hours a day.I think I might try making concentration/metta my theme for the next few weeks instead of doing choiceless noting. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
5/28/18 3:59 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Continuing to cycle through what I assume to be the dukkha nanas and equanimity. I’m becoming acquainted with the territory and the phenomenology I encounter. Feels like I am doing a lot of “state-learning” in that I have a mental impression of the specific qualities of each nana that I can summon. Developing recipes for navigating them, entering them and exiting them.

I know when I’ve hit equanimity because the fear of falling out of the state is much harder to detect, sometimes it feels like it’s not even there at all. There’s a sense that equanimity is so nice that it doesn’t matter if I fall out of it because it’s consolation enough to know that it exists and is accessible.

Kundalini stuff is still dominant all day long. Most prominent in the sinuses and T-zone on the face. Feels like someone is forcefully massaging my face. Can even sense what I imagine to be thumbs and fingers (?). Been reading a lot about the parasympathetic/sympathetic nervous systems in relation to kundalini. Initially thought I should try and treat the Kundalini stuff with some sort of pharmaceutical approach but I’m just going to continue with my practice as I’ve been doing. As far as other physiological things I’ve noticed, facial hair seems to be growing faster and amazing bowel movements for the first time in several years. 

Have had interesting meditations before sleep. On one particular night it felt as if experience slowed down enough that I finally “caught” the entirety of a single thought as it arose, was experienced, and passed. Almost as if I anticipated it, like awareness was outpacing thought. This was immediately followed by a massive bright flash of white light in the interior mindspace. Other pre-sleep sessions feel like being led through a mystical, archetypal consciousness. 

In equanimity a deep apathy sets in. Haven’t been sitting much at all. Sitting vs Rest of Life doesn’t feel that different. Not sure if I should continue with “letting go” or make some sort of interrogation effort.

I can close my eyes and experience vibrations all over the place within 0-30 seconds. Has been like this for a month or more. Read somewhere that people with 1st Path start sits in A&P territory, but who knows. 

Went to a barbecue yesterday, was one of the most exhausting things I’ve done recently, I felt drained after only an hour despite arriving in a solid state of equanimity. So much anxious energy in myself and others, hard to imagine why I ever thought these sorts of events were enjoyable at all! Felt painful and tense to talk about “myself” and what I was doing in “my life”. While talking to people I noticed the physical symptoms that in the past I would identify as “anxiety happening to me”. I was sitting, casually carrying on a conversation all the while feeling my entire face bubbling with vibrations and heat. Arbitrary socializing has a kind of dream-like, fugue quality to it. Interestingly, the one person who I felt calm talking to for a while also turned out to be a meditator. In the past I’ve always felt drained by social events and turned to drinking/drugs to tolerate them as well as putting on an aggressively charming mask to stymie myself.

Noticed I felt really depressed after leaving the event and into the following morning. Awareness was reduced in this state and I could feel throbbing from an old tailbone injury that I haven’t felt in the last couple months.

In dukkha nanas, still encountering lots of confusion, loss of focus, indiscriminate moment-to-moment craving. Immense hate, self-hate, inferiority. Concern with whether this whole meditation excursion is just another egoic goose-chase for validation and acknowledgement. Crying more readily at things, more tender moments of empathy and sadness. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
6/2/18 8:46 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Noticed how so many of my decisions are conducted through mental impressions I have of other people’s tastes, attitudes and opinions, they are like an archetypal filter for how I conduct myself and conform as a person in a particular setting (nation, relationship, friendship, family, Self).

Stumbled upon Douglas Harding's "The Headless Way" and did a few of the experiments he suggested. Really intuitive and powerful exercises, the sort of thing I might show a friend. Doing these exercises put me into a particular state I've been in many times before, but this felt more stable and all-consuming. Everything seemed to align for a split second and then there was a sudden shift, a dropping of observer/observed duality. I realized I indeed had no head, where I've always imagined my head to be was instead a vast, boundless awareness radiating out from "nothing" to the rest of the universe. It seemed that everything was occurring within my headless expanse of awareness, and that it had always been this way. I was awareness. This was simple and profound. 

I was then swept up with an intense, brief fear of solipsistic emptiness, isolation and depersonalization. I noted these fears off as also empty within themselves and came to a neutral emotional resting space in relation to what was happening. I had the growing sensation that something immense was about to occur. I lied down and closed my eyes. After a few minutes I felt like I was floating a bit above my body. There were some visuals and then an immense flash of white light in the interior of my Mind, like I've seen several times before this year. I am beginning to suspect that these are the immediate after-effect of cessations. They are of a totally different nature than typical A&P lights and are always very surprising yet subtle and cheeky. There is an immense silence to them that seems disproportionate to how surprising they are. Going to see if I can devise a recipe to recreate them at will. I traveled through various closed-eye visuals which at one point turned into a fast-moving star-field, much like the old Windows screensaver. This excited me as I'd never seen something quite like it before, there were some "I" thoughts and the visuals stopped shortly after. 

Dwelling as "The Headless One" seems to greatly reduce the sinus/facial tension I've had the last few weeks, it feels relaxing, another useful contemplative tool. I think I've finally taught myself the ability to click into this state whenever I want, which is wonderful. All throughout the last few weeks I had been dwelling in the front area of my face, thinking that this was somehow the base of Awareness. Seeing the alternative to this made me notice how painful it was to dwell in these sensations on the face, how noisy the flickering sense of "I" and facial images were, blaring all day long in order to preserve the sense of an I at all costs. 

I noticed the subtle tension in shifting awareness from The Headless One to the front of the face. I noticed how when I have a thought that Awareness travels from wherever it is back into my head. Awareness becomes like a rubber ball, bouncing somewhere "out there" back “in here” whenever it is summoned by an “I” thought or related “I” image.

Dwelling headless is like standing in the front-row of reality, or being reality. I notice how things to seem curve and roll by the side of my vision. I notice the parallax effect. Everything is up close, it is a good place to notice one's own body language and speech. There seems to be so much time and space between "Awareness" and "Me". I have ample time to craft my speech and behavior to be polite, compassionate and so forth. It creates a feedback loop that is stronger than anything else I've experienced as far as changing personal behavior. I can deeply understand what I'm doing to myself and others. A great heuristic for compassion is to operate within what you gather to be someone else's "Field of Belief" and try and sense what compassionate behavior might feel like for them. 

I had dinner with my family, on a secret mission as "The Headless One". It was wonderful, I felt so engaged and empathetic, yet completely relaxed. For a while yesterday, everything felt fresh, new, imbued with childlike wonder. This has eased off a bit. 

Spending time thinking how I can reduce worldly obligations in a stable, calm way. I have a situation set up now where I can support myself fairly simply and take care of food, clothing, rent and medical things. I think I could reduce my obligations a bit more, and this would be a compassionate thing to do for myself. 

Sometimes feel like I can synchronize a tingly energy throughout my body with my breathing. Most of the time the breath is so light as to be barely perceptible throughout sits unless I specifically focus on it. 

Sense from time to time that my mind is "sorting itself out". 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
6/7/18 11:16 AM as a reply to Zachary.
My working theory is that I’ve been experiencing cessations since late March of this year. The alternative to this is that I am wrong and am actually just falling asleep briefly during sits after entering a hypnagogic state. I have been able to produce a consistent phenomenon using the following approach, the full process takes about an hour for me to realize.

  1. Sit or lie down, bring attention to breath for a few moments.
  2. Within 0-30 seconds things should be vibrating quickly all over the body and in the visual field, there will be various swaths and orbs of light in the visual field.
  3. Stay with these fast sensations, investigating them lightly for the Three Characteristics.
  4. Some difficulty will arise and subtle desire to abandon sit will grow, navigate this by gently recalling intention to sit until bell rings.
  5. Sit will become easier, subtle dullness and desire to relax even more will grow. Recall intention to stay aware, note dullness, resolve to remain lightly curious about all sensations as they arise.
  6. Sensations and activity will then begin to centralize in the visual field and mind’s eye, it may feel like thoughts are speeding up and becoming more intricate. A kind of solipsistic perspective on one’s thoughts may arise or there may be the sense of “your” thoughts as a separate presence existing simultaneously within and outside of you. The visual and auditory components of thoughts will become much more blatant. Visually, they will begin to shimmer and coalesce as 3D, multi-colored objects in the visual field. Some of these will look like familiar worldly objects and some will not. Sometimes it will feel like they are pulling “away” from “in here” to go “out there”. These can be incredibly vibrant and beautiful, it reminds me a bit of the visual characteristics of a light DMT trip.
  7. Things will continue speeding up, sometimes feeling heavier and stickier in Awareness. Eventually there will be a silent lurch or gap out of nowhere, a sense of missing time accompanied by brief, subtle confusion similar to waking up from a nap at a weird time. This is followed immediately by blackness or a brilliant white light silently strobing across the entire visual field.
  8. Pleasantness or bliss will arise to some degree and things will go back to vibrating pretty quickly as they did in Step #2.

Some other changes in my life over the last couple months that make me feel like some sort of permanent change has happened. These are in contrast to some very bleak times throughout the end of last year and early this year. 

  • Negative emotional states like depression and anger still come but they don’t stick around for more than a few hours at most.
  • No more panic attacks. Anxiety and paranoia reduced significantly. Trust and goodwill has replaced them.
  • Sponatenously arising instances of non-dual experience that collapse into a glowing, perfect feeling that lasts for 1-2 days. During these I want to laugh and smile and sometimes feel like I have "gotten it" or that there's "nothing else to do". 
  • Gave up all drug and alcohol use as these were problematic for me. Caffeine consumption reduced to more reasonable levels. I have been sober for the last five months after a decade of consistent mid-level drug and alcohol use. I do not have cravings for drugs and alcohol and hardly think about them. 
  • Diet is much healthier.
  • Strong waves of joy and gratitude wash over me spontaneously several times a week. During these I feel compelled to send out metta to others.
  • Spontaneously arising periods of metacognitive experience, quiet distance from thoughts and experience. 
  • Sits begin in A&P territory. Fast vibrations and sensations usually as soon as I close my eyes. Very little discursive thought during formal practice, even in the beginning of sit, if it does appear it is distant and quiet. 
  • Thoughts of wanting to help family and volunteer.
  • General sense that everyone around me seems way more anxious and agitated than I do. Several people that know me well have remarked at how I've changed and seem much calmer. 
  • No longer craving sex, more careful about how I use my sexual energy. Have been celibate all year.
  • Status-seeking behavior and status-oriented goals greatly reduced. Less interested in "acquiring admirers" and holding onto/impressing friends. Little interest in social media. 
  • Treating strangers, friends and family more similarly. Leveling of compassion. Really enjoy meeting and talking to new people but no burning urge to go out and do it. When it happens it happens. 
  • Listening to less music, overall consuming less media content and news.
  • Feeling lonely less

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
6/14/18 9:04 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Currently writing this from a state of low-level equanimity. Feeling chill and "not really here", not as much interest in updating this thread as there was when I began. I often think that these logs are somewhat biased because I seldom find the courage to compose them during DN stages. What's almost as important as what's in these logs is what's not mentioned and what type of voice and tone is not present. 

There was a feeling a few days ago that I was back at the start of something. The general theme since my last post is heavily on Dukkha Nanas. Not much new here that needs to be mentioned. It feels very intense, more than its ever been, but the periods seem to cycle shorter. Even intense rage and suicidal ideation that pop up in these stages seem to bring along their own background of awareness in which I can, at an impersonal distance, note and dismiss them. They have little power, and seem almost comical at times, just more mundane aversion and craving to throw in the hopper. During these stages there's a lot of edgy energy that makes my skin crawl, this is far worse than any thought or mood that crops up. To placate this I often do vigorous exercise (kayaking, biking, running, long hikes). Sometimes I'll even have a go at primal screaming into my pillow, I am becoming a fan of this technique. Heavy eating and orgasm also work.

Sits continue to feel basically like the rest of my life. I note constantly throughout the day, noticing how different sense doors link up to create different scenes and experiences. All throughout the day I'm noticing "pre-thoughts" and "pre-pre-thoughts". It as if each thought and spoken word is preceded by the ghost of itself. This is especially noticeable if I think "loudly" to myself or talk to myself. I notice the pre-thought enter awareness and anticiapte that the "actual thought" will immediately repeat itself moments later. Sometimes this echo can happen three or four times. It feels like each thought desperately wants to be experienced by a Self and repeates itself more strongly until it feels like it has been suitably considered as a part of a Self. Often find myself narrating internally in 2nd/3rd person: "We're getting in the car", "Zachary's walking over there now", "he's going to get something out of the fridge." 

Internet and smartphone use continues to be drug-like for me in DN. When I am in DN it seems absolutely dire that I find some sort of resolution to this issue. Now in EQ it seems totally fine. Not sure how best to address this situation, I've tried all sorts of wild ideas in limiting my screen time, with some success here and there.

There haven't been any of what I suspect to be cessations since last post. Was thinking back to what happened during them and remembered that in the lead-up there was a detiorating sense of an internal reference point. Right before the dropout there were a few noted thoughts and memories that seemed vaugely familiar to the observer but felt even more like they didn't belong to anyone. These had the flavor of Deja Vu. I even recall thinking in the moment, "What is this? Who does this memory belong to?" These instances accelerated into the cessation event. 

Still holding onto the possiblity that I am gravely mistaken about cessation experiences.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
6/16/18 10:19 AM as a reply to Zachary.
More possible cessations two nights ago (right after my last post), several in a row, as I did some choiceless awareness lying in bed before going to sleep. Feels like I just set the conditions for this stuff to happen and then it happens.

Lightly noted the usual sensory field and thought for a few minutes until I ended up at a lower level where all that seemed to remain were sporadic practice-related thoughts and an accumulation of pressure and energy in the third-eye area. This was accompanied by vivid, quickly flickering and mutating images emerging within the purple murk that is usually there when I close my eyes for a few seconds. There is an oscillation between thoughts of a doer "just sitting and being aware without intending" and a meta-doer observing this intention to not intend and a meta-meta-doer observing the meta-doer observing... you get the idea. 

Suddenly there was another kind of “Huh???” moment and then a flash of light. 

I was able to cycle through this three times last night, at that point the mental impression of what the preceding state to a cessation feels like was carved into my awareness and I was able to just “will” it to happen by letting myself relax into the state of “recursive intending non-intending”, and letting this continue to run its course. This is interrupted out of nowhere by that sudden feeling of stepping for a missing stone.  

After these there is a nice lightness in the body, almost like it’s not there, gentle bliss, an increasing depth growing in the closed eye visual field and a sense that there is a 3D star field extending out from the observer towards infinity. 

None of this lasted as long as it has in the past and I found myself clinging to it and disappointed when it ended. This feeling was followed by edgy, uncomfortable vibrating tension in the body and a return of restlessness. Whereas minutes before I was ready to go to sleep I now could not sit still and puttered around the house for another hour or two. In the morning I was still restless, I attempted to do some concentration work with a bowl kasina which sloppily degenerated into a bit of "Just Sitting" for 20 minutes. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
6/19/18 8:10 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Noticing during sits that there is no difference in the qualities of intention versus the mental impressions that arise after sensations are experienced. The only difference is that intentions have the sense of originating “in here” at the supposed centerpoint of the head and are followed, seemingly causally, by actions “out there”. There is a flow outwards from the centerpoint to “out there”. Subtle thoughts of wanting to move an arm occur with flickering images of the arm at the centerpoint, followed by a very light energy moving into the physical arms themselves, followed by actual movement, as if to relieve/accommodate the tension of the energy that has just moved into the limb.

This seems related to something I’ve been calling “3-Second Clairvoyance”, during which I can notice intention flowing into action from a witnessing standpoint throughout the day and sort of see into the future for very short periods of time. As soon as I recognize the intention in Mind, I can dutifully expect this intention to be fulfilled autonomously in the following moments. Interested in seeing how far I can stretch this window.

Internal language has an energetic quality to it, the detritus of some subconscious process. What is the vibratory quality of language that precedes linguistic meaning? Does it stutter and skip? Repeat itself? How loud is it? What is the energetic tone of the voice speaking it? Is it “my” voice? Is it airy and pleasant? Is it harsh and biting? Which phonemes precede and elicit certain moods and tones?

A high pitched ringing is noticeable during some sits. Illumination behind the eyelids seems to feature brighter and whiter illumination than in the past. Purple pulsing orbs and swaths remain predominant most of the time.

Experiencing lots of energetic phenomena throughout the day: washes of vibrations, tingling and heat. Sporadically falling into sits and states with jhanic qualities. Will just be sitting somewhere feeling relaxed and all of a sudden something will decide that its a good time to check out and go into a jhanic state. Feeling lots of warmth and love, especially around my family. Can feel waves of tingling and vibration in the crown of the head when experiencing strong emotions, especially sadness, empathy and tenderness. Feeling moved to cry more frequently. During sits there is a feeling of blood throbbing rhythmically throughout the body, radiating outwards. There is finer energetic tingling moving throughout the limbs and head and the slower movement of the breath. The three of these (blood flow , breath and energy) seem to have some interference with one another but but do not appear to be synchronized when concentration is high, though when not paying close attention it can seem like they are more united.

Pressure in the head seems to have attenuated from where it was a month ago. It can still get pretty intense, but less frequently. Pressure seems to have moved from the sinuses to the Third Eye. Sometimes I feel it trickling up through channels in the center of the forehead. Occasionally it even seems like it’s popping out the top of my crown a bit. The Third Eye area seems more activated than usual, it is tickly and throbbing, sometimes feels like bugs are crawling there.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/18 9:52 PM as a reply to Zachary.
A new territory is becoming more solidified, I've been able to repeat certain states that I've only accidentally happened into over the last couple months. After reaching a neutral, equanimous state, I intend the Mind to pay attention to the presence of the space between things, to relax focus and pay attention to the awareness around focus itself. I intend the Mind to notice that there was never any focal point to focus on, nor any constant focuser to focus, and that any sense of focus actually continues outwards infinitely, never landing on a destination. Sometimes I will sit in embodied awareness and imagine all the space around me in increasing distances, starting with the room I'm in, the area nearby, a plane flying somewhere miles away, a planet orbiting a distant star, massive galaxies hanging out somewhere many light-years away. Scaling focus from "close to observer" to infinity has the effect of reducing tension where the "observer" is.

This state feels groundless and a little uneasy at first. Last night I entered into it while lying down before bed and the entire sense of my body dropped away. I briefly became anxious because I could not feel myself breathing. There was a lightness and a sense that I was not a physical being and could float off into space if I wished to. There were vague visuals of galaxies and stars lazily drifting around "out there". There was a sense of acceleration into space. However, my brief fear about the breath caused the state to end. 

As focus relaxes and awareness expands, the tension in my facial area starts rippling off the sides of my head and upper body. The energy becomes less syrupy and more granular, vein-like channels of it start to work their way down my face into my jaw, neck and throat. Some of it begins to stream out of the top of my crown as a consistent, sparkling geyser and falls down around the outside of my head. This feels tickly and pleasant and can go on for hours. 

As I sit in panoramic awareness, there is no longer a "coming together" at the center of vision, there is no sweeping of the visual cone towards the center. Instead, vision seems to break apart into orbs at each eye and go off separately to the sides of the visual field. 

Sometimes dealing with a lot of apathy during EQ. The dishes pile up, I hang around all day, I go on long hikes/walks but more strenuous exercise is unappealing, I spend a lot of time on the internet but don't berate myself for doing so as I used to. Determined to steer myself with intention towards picking a "Good Emptiness". Sometimes feel confronted by an infinite Emptiness, beyond sadness, but there is very little presence there to ache over this feeling. I understand in these states that sadness, even a crushing depression and suicidal ideation would "feel" better than this emptiness. 

There is a widening boundary of the sorts of activities and mind states I can be equanimous in. Intense states and moods all bring along their own stable background of awareness, their own dis-embedded observer, their own mild curiosity. Everything "is like this". Playing basketball with friends in the hot sun for hours and then having a decadent lunch "is like this", being too exhausted to carry on a conversation and feeling guilty about it "is like this", being horny "is like this", being assertive "is like this", being annoyed at a friend for really messing up "is like this". All of these are OK, transient states that do not require me, do not require a Self to maintain.

Increasingly noticing lots of oppurtunities to energetically and emotionally influence others but choose not to do so because this seems unethical and doesn't feel good "to me" and besides, I can't really find the motivation to be bothered doing this. The exception to this is that it is sometimes nice to deflate someones anxiety just by hanging around them and being an empty husk of calm. 

I've noticed recently that I don't to have to take as much of a synthetic hormone I have taken for nearly a decade (due to a hemorrhaged pituitary tumor). My body seems to take every opportunity to empty itself of physical tension and stress. It also seems to have an intuition about which activities, postures and pursuits to avoid so that more stress is not accumulated. Sometimes I forget to take the medication because I'm not experiencing the physical discomfort I used to when not taking it. I don't know if my body is healing itself but I now consider this within the realm of what is possible and rational. My experience in practice with Kundalini and energetic phenomena are making me re-examine everything that happened during the period of my life when I had these pituitary-related health problems. It was preceded by and culminated in a lot of insights and spiritual opening and DN-type stuff that I didn't really get grip on until this year. 

Strong sense of intuition over what I should be doing in the next few months: continue working and save money, live frugually, sell some posessions, relax and spend time with friends and family, arrange to go on a multi-week retreat and travel a bit in the early Fall.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
7/24/18 12:53 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Has it always been like this?

I find myself asking this frequently. I can't quite put my finger on it but something has been subtracted from experience relative to the start of this year. 

My daily, waking experience is that I can easily tune in to the vibratory qualities of any object within moments just by focusing on it. The shakiness of the observer is blatant. I flux in and out of being dis-embedded from discursive thought depending on the situation and stress level. I feel emptied out more and more, especially when alone. Unless I am in some activity or social interaction requiring Selfing, I spend more and more time resting in “headless”, spacious awareness.

I find myself experiencing the empty, physiological currents of emotions and affects. For example, I was listening to a heartfelt chord progression of a song and experienced currents of energy coursing through the body in sync with these changes, signifying some intense emotional upheavel. However, there was no identification with it and no sense of the emotion as a mental construct, just pure sensory experience. This happens often throughout the day.

At times, the novelty of the always-unfolding process of experience is enough for me to feel content, nothing more is required. Things just don't seem to be happening to "me". The mental constructs of myself, the laughable homonculus in my skull, have stopped coming around as much. I only feel strongly like a Self when around others. It can be difficult and awkward to switch gears from resting in this empty facelessness to participating in outwardly social interaction.

I continue to sit formally for 20-50 minutes at a time, 2-3x a day. I mostly "Just Sit" or use the felt presence of my "energy body" as an object.  Questions pop up and linger. What is the difference between my subtly vibrating energy body and the vibrating environmental sounds and images around me? Where does one end and another begin? Where are they located spatially? Is everything "right here"? Without conception of myself, what am I? A felt energy body? 

There seems to be a "1st Person Me", a boundless perceiver around which is wrapped a tight, subtly vibrating energy body that feels "formy" when the eyes are open and there is visual input to bolster this sense of form. Further out spatially is everything else, which more and more seems to be a lot closer to home these days. Awareness is expansive, it feels weird and tense to look tightly at an object without also taking inventory of the background of which it is in. 

I continue to cycle through nanas but it seems the cycling is now against a background of equanimity. Everything is bearable, though not always pleasant. I notice the futility of trying to get away from the unpleasantness "in here". I've tried to disturb the background of equanimity by doing unhealthy things (including a week of pretty heavy drinking after having stopped the last six months) but haven't been able to make it budge. Still holding on to possibility that I've spun a great heap of delusional claptrap the past seven months and I'm still in a DN/EQ back-and-forth.

Energetic movement is still prevalent. In certain stages the energetic experience feels wild. Weird vibrations, pops, fizzes, buzzing, sloshing, warbling, throbbing — a total mess of energy in the body - whatever is going on is really doing a number on my energetic system. The syrupy, magnetic pressure/blockage/tension in my skull continues to erode and become more granular, fluid. I think this blockage is a kind of energetic/physiological residue of depression.


The vibrations in the face seem to be just the flickering return to Self/Centerpoint as awareness bounces back and forth from “out there” to “in here”, this seems important in how the illusion of duality is maintained and a Self is created.

Spending time feeling my head as “limb-like”, with no controller. Noticing it has different subprocesses that repeat selflessly such as scanning to look both ways before crossing an area with obstacles or scanning if there is a slight anxiety or potential threat in the environment. Directing focus implies a focuser, an observer and that the visual object of attention is relevant to the observer in some way. An interesting movement that is cropping up more and more: my head likes to whip and shake itself back and forth as hard as possible, as if discovering that it just another ordinary limb.

I followed instructions I had read somewhere recently and gently "held" the blockage in awareness. It felt black, dark brown and grey. I soothed it. I asked it what it wanted to show me. I told it that it was safe to do so, that I wouldn't judge it or reject it, that it was loved and enough. A wave of vibratory, undifferentiated emotional affect swept through my abdomen. A big lump of the blockage dropped like a rock from the center of my skull into my throat. Tears came, some relief. Memories and images of repressed anger and rage, and subsequent emotional numbing from early childhood. I wanted to scream and cry even louder, but I didn't feel safe doing so. It's still there as I type this. 

The 5th Jhana territory continues to open up. I level up to 4th Jhana and then let awareness rest on the spaciousness around the “energy body”. Then something hard to describe happens. It feels as if the subtly vibrating “energy body” is suddenly seized by a “gripless grip”, a weightless sand erasing the energy body as it fills up from bottom to top. Space opens up and feels cavernous, extensive. My instinct when this happens is to take a breath to make sure I still can. Still haven’t been able to solidify this state because of subtle anxiety about breathing.

In regards to life stuff, I find myself asking, "Now what?". I am less interested in path progress and my practice and more interested in, as Daniel says, creating a life that you'd want to awaken to.

Increasingly I am seeing worldly obligations and interaction through a lense of playfulness. At play with meaning, career, status, job, messing around with lenses, models. Doing things out of a kind of aesthetic tinkering and back-and-forth with reality. Searching for a "Lenseless Lense". There is a moving away from the shame-based/achievement/status model that has propelled me for most of my life, but it is not quite fully realized. 

I am faceless, boundless, yet this boundlessness also includes a human avatar that is durable and consistent to others around I meet. How do I best cater to these seemingly paradoxical existences? Where do I fit in in this interdependent human society? How can I feel and be useful to society and others? How can I use these different modes to help myself and others? Intuition tells me these questions shouldn't be rushed. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/1/18 11:04 PM as a reply to Zachary.
At the time of this writing I feel fine, chill.

Last week was rough. Rage, hatred, violent anger, deep frustration, depression, feeling like I’m going crazy, having trouble thinking thoughts. I’ve been fucking pissed. Do I want this? Why did I do this to myself? Wanting to give up on all this bullshit, and so on and so forth. Part of this includes realizations of how much I’ve used my practice as an avoidance mechanism in lieu of confronting a lot of “stuff”. It’s all bubbling up now.

I feel much more “solution-oriented” in regards to my stuff then I used to. I want to take it head on, I want to engage with it. I don’t want to isolate myself anymore, I want to come out of hiding after all these years. I can look it in the eye now.

Shifting out of these dark moods can be as simple as changing the scenery, going for a walk. Smiling and remembering a nice memory and I can shift into a stilted happiness. Mostly this painful stuff doesn’t even really feel like it’s happening to me, which can be uneasy too.

Resting into emptiness gets boring and painful after a while, the itch for activity kicks in. Leaning into Meaningness is exciting but brings along all sorts of pain and suffering. Emptiness has a felt texture to it, Meaningness has a texture too. One can intend towards either end of the spectrum with practice.

I am scheduled for a 9-day IMS retreat in a couple days. Haven’t been in the mood to go recently but I will make the schlep up as I’m very fortunate to be able to do such a thing. I intend to do some strong practice there and confront difficult stuff with deeper, prolonged concentration.

Some sits earlier this week were wild. Intense kriyas and involuntary movements before going to bed. Energetic movements go on as long as I let them. Body muscles contract and I’m nearly thrown into the air. When seated, head bends all the way back, a straight line from spine to throat pointing up. Weird vocalizations and growling come out. Furious autonomous head-shaking and jaw movements.  Lots and lots of metta seems to unclog the blockages and release this stuff, big poisonous sludge turning into fast-moving channels of electricity throughout the body. Little bug-shaped globs firing up up the arms and back.

The last couple days I’ve sat for 60 minutes once or twice a day and nothing really happens, the moody dark stuff seems to resume after the sit is over.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/3/18 4:56 AM as a reply to Zachary.
At this stage in your practice, hopefully you are getting the sense that the hard stuff  --- the reactivity, frustrations, negative emotions, paranoid thoughts --- is actually somehow necessary because it seems to be the only way the very deep, semi-conscious, or even unconscious mind learns to drop all this bullshit and stop self-creating states of mind that cause suffering.

I wish it was different, but it just seems like the very primitive part of our mind is a desparate little lizard that wants to attack or run or freak out at all the stimuli in the world... and then all of this gets combined with human emotions and intellect... which turns into the really hard stuff, the reobservation nanas etc. And maintaining awareness when all this shit is happening is about the only way the deep mind learns that this shit is simply not a helpful way to behave. It just seems to work that way.

I think it's a great time to go on retreat and hope you will do it.

You really don't need to do much at this point, just let all the faux-dramas play themselves out. Keep noticing how this mind that wants "something to happen" is yet another mindstate that causes suffering. See if you can let your self have a radical kind of equanimity on the retreat -- no concern for progress, states or stages, and just connect with how it feels to let yourself be a sitting, walking, eating, sitting, walking, sitting, walking, dharma talk listening, walking, sitting, eating, etc. human being on retreat. 

That attitude of playfulness toward worldly obligations is EXACTLY right. That's really the only way someone with a solid practice and insights can function in that world. Oddly enough, bringing that same playfulness into retreat is also the best way to make progress.

Hope that helps!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/17/18 3:41 PM as a reply to Zachary.
IMS Retreat

9-day at IMS. I let myself relax into this retreat. I allowed myself a degree of normality and resolved to not push myself into any progress-oriented narratives.

The retreat, content-wise, was rougher than it’s ever been from beginning to end. While there were maybe a few minutes on my last retreat where I was flooded with dark stuff, this entire retreat was colored by really awful content. I hit the first day in a very sour mind state and it basically only got worse from there. Really felt like I tapped into some primal vein of hatred, violence and lust. I felt like a walking pathology, an appetite.

However, the dark stuff that came up was without exception experienced within a cushioned awareness as selfless mental objects. I watched this process at work all day long. There were little to no involuntary movements throughout the retreat. There were a few times I felt involuntary movement creeping up on me, and then opened experience to some dark content to make it die back down. There is almost like a muscular resistance to exposing the mind to these uncomfortable thoughts, so these things get buried and accumulate in the pain-body instead of experienced. Lots of early childhood stuff came up too. Formative “selfing” experiences from the ages of 3-8. I made no effort to halt or label discursive thoughts, no matter how troubling they seemed.

Attempting Metta while being bombarded with this content can often yield such intriguing platitudes as “May All These Fuckers Awaken” (possible title for a future Dharma book).



Energetic phenomena was pronounced, regardless of what I was doing. The pressure and tension in my head dissolved into flow by the beginning of the second day. Continuous channels of it blasted up through the center of the face on either side of the nose and then washed over the length of the brow in unceasing waves. I noticed how trying to “do” anything, or any sort of subtle intention, would create little divots and jumps within the energy movement. By the end of the retreat it seemed like the energy was moving up into the crown area and continuing to do it’s thing. The energy forms a kind of “somatic wall”. When it’s present I feel cut off from experience, unable to make decisions, unclear and restless. When it finally dissapates into spaciousness, things are open and free. I feel focused and at ease, content.

I explored concentration states using the energy of the head as an object (didn’t really have much choice), they went up through the following:

1. Meeting the object (this is basically my walking-around default experience and has been for months. The form-like energetic presence of some part of the face and crown is always apparent and butts in to make itself apparent if attention is directed anywhere else.
2. The object begins to churn and sluggishly move. This presents itself instantly after the first stage. Also experienced throughout the day.
3. Throbbing and churning speeds up and intensifies.
4. Rapture and vibration of the object becomes extremely fast, yet still chunky and bubbly.
5. Vibration becomes extremely fast and smooth. Gooey electric currents that seem to be subtly vibrating many many times per second. pleasurable compared to previous stages, though can still be kind of irritating. Would describe this stage as "flow" rather than vibration. 
6. Movement evaporates and spaciousness increases. Erosion of boundaries. Feeling like a somatic wall has been lifted from in front of my face. Feeling is light and neutral. A relief after the activity of the previous stage. This only happened a few times, very briefly on retreat, including when crying (?).  
7. Distengration/erasure of energy-body and tuning in to spaciousness even more. This didn’t happen on the retreat but did the day after I returned home. When this stage happens it always seems like an accident. 

One teacher, hearing my description of rising up through these states, emphatically instructed, “great, now keep following the refinement of pleasure as a causal process of Mind”.

Another phenomenon that came up early on was a kind of phantom drooling at either corner of my mouth. I spent the first day or two repeatedly wiping that area to see if I indeed was drooling, but nothing was there. It felt very “wet” inside and out.

Mostly a long retreat of greeting and allowing the rage, hatred, lust and other poisonous stuff to really come home and be experienced. Using the energy of these hindrances to power good practice, which is actually pretty interesting when their is a solid background of concentration to investigate them with. Seeing the confused compassion in all of them.


Post Retreat

Left the retreat feeling pretty much the same as when I went there, the high state of concentration dwindled off a bit in the following days.

First days back, restlessness and manic state predominates. Very on edge, feel powerful and gregarious. Seeing other people as these kind of hairless apes just strutting about in the vast material jungle of our world trying to fulfill their needs and it all seems so comical, tender and sad.

After a few days, this has wound down a bit to a nice equanimity, perhaps just getting back to non-retreat baseline. 30-75 min sits 2x a day. Should be more consistent with these and push myself a bit more when there is resistance during sits. Continuing to explore the same states I had on retreat, nice to have new territory to investigate rather than just the head blockage that has predominated the last few months.

Can sense the spine and back of body more and more, energy building up in the base of spine and lower dantien. Abdomen and chest area still can feel vague in contrast to the commotion going on in the head area. Sharp pain in left lung area, like wind has been knocked out of it. Weird pulsing heart/chest stuff. Energy in the head goes through the vibratory “refinement of pleasure” when I’m hanging out and somewhat relaxed, or even engaged in some task. Energy currents wiring up in the lower abdomen, little currents dropping from head region into throat and chest.

Stumbled upon what I guess is my aura while zoning out and staring vaguely into a bathroom mirror (well-lit room against a bright white wall). Wasn’t searching for anything, but this thick, bright emerald-green humanoid shadow started outlining my body. There was a bit of chartreuse yellow phasing in and out and maybe some more indigo-bluish stuff in the head area as well.

Sat in total darkness at night. This blob of arbitrary tension in the face seems to be the only thing left that feels like “me”, sporadic thoughts pop up in that space to reify it. It’s like a self-reinforcing geometric pattern-memory.

Active dream-life in last couple of days, childhood and religious themes. In one dream I was doing a sort of Tai Chi movement in sync with a Jewish prayer in front of an early christian/medieval statue of Christ. Nice.

Feeling mostly lost and adrift about practice, that's OK. The whole thing sort of seems to have a mind of its own. Just going to continue practicing every day. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/17/18 7:33 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Interesting stuff!

I've experienced the "drooling at the corners of the mouth" sensation too.  Come to think of it it's been a while but there was a period where it would happen regularly at a certain point in my sits.  Early on I would check to see if my mouth had opened but as soon as I made a movement it was clear that nothing had changed.

Nothing of substance to add but just thought it was funny how we both experienced such a similar minor experience!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/17/18 8:22 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for all this, I definitely took it to heart throughout the retreat.

Interesting you mentioned the lizard, I certainly felt quite reptilian at times. In one of the dharma talks they even discussed how a primitive, reptilian section of the brain is responsible for the crude labeling of experience as Pleasant, Unpleasant and Neutral, a process that precedes the rest of nearly all cognitive functioning. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/20/18 9:57 AM as a reply to Zachary.
"Current Practice: "Just Sit" formally 1-3 times per day. "

Still do Just Sitting?  That´s my practice.


Tell us how are you experiencing this kind of "meditation"?



RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
8/31/18 8:40 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Feel so peculiar. Colossal apathy, lack of preference. Writing this stuff feels beyond useless. Sense that I'm close to something, yet not seeing something crucial. Strong sense that all of experience is within Mind. Every intellectual grasping seems to cower and evaporate when confronted with the magnitude of this. 

Ambition is gone, really gone, as if I just deleted twenty-odd years of psychosocial programming. 

Binge-watching television, playing online poker, doing nothing all day, eating whatever. Everything is fine. There's no entity in all of existence I'd want to switch places with. I pity the rulers, the adored, the saints, the gods. That's all beyond my pay-grade.

What is left to do beyond running the clock out on this human life? The suicidal reflex is a laughable misunderstanding of reality. It doesn't really pop up much anymore. What dies? What awakens? Unkotting earlier and earlier memories. Feeling like I've done this all before. What was I before awareness concretized into Zachary? 

Narrativeness versus narrativelessness. Generating novelty versus generating entropy. Narrative requires a lense, usually the Self. Mind is interested in things that are symbolically connected or tangential on some sense level. Creating a Self is an easy way to do this with disparate sensory information. 

Interest is a subtle recognition of something’s potential for narrativeness. Interest isn’t quite pleasure, it's a pre-pleasure, a pleasure speculation. 

Really starting to see how the nanas color background experience -- something more with this I'm not quite grasping.

All of experience has a texture of addiction, compulsion. Experience recognizes itself, seeks itself — where is the pain here? What am I missing? Interrogation and questioning create forward momentum, an arrow out of every moment. The lense of self is reborn moment to moment due to clinging. 

Bumping into mild personality disorder stuff — how much of it is actually causing problems in your life (preventing you from meeting basic needs and hurting others around you) and how much is it just another Selfing goose chase, another neurotic affiliation with Problemness? Who cares? The Self would rather identify with something shitty than nothing at all. Realization that I'm unfortunately just a regular human person with regular human experiences. So much wasted time and effort throughout my life trying to fix the core wound of Self.

Emotional life is rich, I laugh more deeply and louder than ever, I cry, I get angry. Sometimes feeling a bit crazy and schizoidal but continue to do worldly stuff effortlessly when needed. Spending time with friends and family is a true joy. Spending a few days alone is a true joy. Reality is so quiet when you get out of your own way. 

Chest area "filling in" with sensation, little zaps and trickles of current opening up. A halo of pressure moving up into the crown. A splotch of tension on the right side of the frontal lobe. A lot more happening energetically in the lower back. Feeling the spine and tension in the hindbrain sometimes. Things getting connected. For a brief moment the other day, the experience of feeling my body was alien, unrecognizable. Who does it belong to? 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
9/1/18 6:47 AM as a reply to Zachary.
After powerful retreats, it is totally okay to slack and let things come back into balance. You'll eventually find yourself wanting to seriously sit again, but in the meantime it can be good just to commit to doing short daily sits and let what ever happens just happen, without judging it. Those short sits can help balance return and create a foundation for whatever is next.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
9/20/18 7:01 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Apathy, procrastination, deep neutrality prevails. Investigating these for subtle aversion to experience and life itself. Aversion to excitement and high-energy states. Doesn’t feel like depression. Sleeping a lot. Craving junk food. 

Boredom and restlessness, more fear and aversion beneath the surface here. Balancing the narcissism of intense self improvement versus the hidden aversion of letting life just pass you by. 

Lots of new, freely available energy. Chest, neck and abdomen filling in with energetic sensation. Halo of pressure going up crown. Experience of body and sensory phenomena is very energetic. Hypersensitivity. Energy in body goes through jhanic refinement of pleasure regardless of whether I’m sitting around just hanging out or doing formal sits. Aversion to formal sitting, have been keeping formal sits pretty short. 

Lots of body scanning while lying in bed. Usually have to involuntarily go through an hour or more of various energetic stuff before I can fall asleep. Intense involuntary spasms, more intense than anything experienced previously. Big bursts of energetic possession rip through the body, flailing all limbs and muscles for several seconds. Total loss of control of everything. Whole body vibrates grossly, then subtly, then feels like it isn’t there at all. This stuff in general keeps trending towards pleasurable feeling. 

For formal sits I just surrender and let this stuff work itself out, nothing really for me to do here at this particular stage it seems.

Endocrine issues, which were a problem for last decade, continue to heal. Depression basically gone now. Feeling physiologically wakeful all the time, even through dullness, or falling to sleep. Always a sense of being "behind experience" no matter what, all day long.

Spoke to my teacher and he just let me ramble on about whatever rather than do any practice with him like usual.

Directly following the body’s energetic knowing as opposed to conceptual rumination.

Lingering sense of "Am I totally delusional and fucking this up?"

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
9/20/18 3:15 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Seems pretty normal, but no one finds it fun. It's important to try and find a kind of balance despite being knocked around by periods of energy and no energy. Mostly it's very important to be kind to yourself during times like this.

It's also important not to (consciously or unconsciously) develop a sense of identity around "all this wierd stuff is happening, I'm special". Even though no one indends to do it, I'll bet everyone with a serious meditation practice falls into phase of spiritual pride and/or a funny feeling of "I'm proud because I'm such a mess".

Best wishes!!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
9/20/18 3:45 PM as a reply to shargrol.
It's also important not to (consciously or unconsciously) develop a sense of identity around "all this wierd stuff is happening, I'm special". Even though no one indends to do it, I'll bet everyone with a serious meditation practice falls into phase of spiritual pride and/or a funny feeling of "I'm proud because I'm such a mess".
Good to know, definitely some of that going on over here, can be very seductive. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
9/26/18 10:40 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Lying in bed last night, doing light body scanning. Something in the brow area pops and there was a nice rush of energy into a new area, the tippy-top of the crown. Like some sort of ceiling had been broken through. The curve and container of the crown is felt clearly, warm vibrations hum and collects in that area, I can't help but to smile and feel great joy. Briefly there was a sense that extending out a few feet from the body was a bubble. More activity seems to open up in the body, things squiggling up the spinal cord, etc. Something very clear and energetic happening in the solar plexus.

Bringing Metta and joy into all practice. Checking the attitude of the mind before every sit and throughout the day. Cultivating an accepting, joyful curiosity towards experience.

By bringing a sense of gratitude each time one returns to an object of meditation, one can infuse a concentration practice with metta and launch into bliss. Can you find gratitude in this moment? Gratitude mining. 

Metta dissolves boundaries, accepts and surrenders to experience. I feel this in the chest area the most. I imagine opening the heart and offering it to the universe, surrendering it, receiving and accepting anything that happens to emerge. The feeling in the chest is not a gushy, romantic love but a softly burning courage, at its most excited state it's as if it wants to shoot a fiery beam out into all things.

No preference. Erring on the side of ease. Have some important decisions to make but all options seem OK. The desirous willpower I used to advance the narrative of my life just isn't there much anymore. I think I am going to have to learn decision-making all over again to navigate the growing groundlessness. What would it feel like to bring a bit more concern and urgency to the moment? To your life? To the lives of others? 

Someone said somewhere that awakening feels like getting better problems. This is true.

Behind the eyes in the witness area, a newer, deeper darkness. Feels like longer lengths of time where there is no selfing happening. No light flickering images of the face, little discursive thought, proprioception is vague and tuned out. The darkness of the body. The lights are off and nobodys home. 

Sensory gaps towards middle/end of sits. Usually after flickering. A prolonged gap in flickering vibration behind the third eye or brow of nose. Empty gaps in the constant stream of sound. 

Used red plate as kasina. Vibrations and open-eyed visual phenomena indicate difference between attention and peripheral awareness. Both seem to prop up the sense of duality. Waves of visual vibration go from here to out there. Hadn't seen that in a while, seems wrong. Closed eyes, purple orb on plate center, secondary shadows are teal. Sometimes a white haze. 

A quick dip into DN the other day. Energetic activity in the head solidifies into tension, migraine, pain. Nausea. Self-critical voice is loud and abrasive. Hello again, old friend. Everything sucks. Whole being feels poisonous and toxic. Edgy, disgusting vibrations. Identity panic, discomfort with groundlessness and not having preference, not knowing what to do. Want to escape out of each moment, out of this body. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/7/18 8:55 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Sits recently consist of checking attitude and intention prior to sit and nudging it towards a gentle curiosity if needed. Then I just sit for a while until I don't want to anymore, pushing for a few more minutes after that point of wanting to pack it in. 

Some of the experiences that have popped up during sits recently. Not a thorough, sequential list.

- After sitting and closing eyes, energy in head starts vibrating and moving grossly.
- Fine, energetic tingling in extremities, sometimes moves with breath and sometimes out-of-sync with breath. Whole-body breathing is felt. A kind of fuzzy bubble inflating and contracting.
- Energy concentrated in the brow region, crown and sides of the head.
- There is a clamping feeling in a halo around the head above the ears.
- Light discursive thought “heard” and experienced within awareness. Noticing over and over how the energy in the head seems to subtly contract inwards every time a thought happens “in here”.
- Feels like I am wearing a hat or there is a bubble growing out of my crown chakra. This tends to feel warm and pleasurable. Throughout the day I have to check to make sure if I’m actually wearing my hat.
- There is more refined energy spurting upward into the crown. Finer energy moving up into the crown that is kind of pleasurable but still slightly annoying in that it has a pressure to it and teases by never seeming to quite satisfy.
- Side-to-side involuntary jaw movements. Annoyance with and aversion to energetic phenomena. Bored with sit, “Why won’t this thing just pop already?” “When is this stuff going to end, it’s been months”, etc. Wanting to move the energy downwards or somewhere else.
- Attempts to make something different happen. “Should I abandon Shikantaza and do “Whole Body Breathing”, “Body Scanning?” What are the difference between these anyways? Always feels like I am an awareness “behind” these inner conflicts anyway so why bother?
- Purple haze illumination behind the eyes. Just a constant dancing, growing and moving swath of purple light. Seems to fill up more and more of the visual field. Pretty. Can be steadier and less playful too.
- Inner high-pitched ringing. Sometimes an inner sound of roaring wind or ocean waves. Feels vague and underdeveloped.
- Towards minutes 30-40 of sits, intense black and white, rapid flickering behind the eyes, feeling of something about to happen. Excitement with this causes it to stop. Disappointment and striving to make it happen again. Can come back and go away over and over again.
- Open-eyed, panoramic vision is flickering.
- Boredom, restlessness
- Lots of early childhood memories and memories related to alienation and loneliness 


Continuing to weave in metta and gratitude throughout the day. Could bump this up a bit I think.  

In life I feel stuck and lost, apathetic. Find myself appealing to a “higher power” for some reason. Not sure where I’m at. Some depression every now and then but it’s not very sticky.

Thinking about heading to SE Asia for a month or two of retreat. Circumstances in my life are lined up for this to happen but I haven’t totally sold myself on it yet. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/11/18 3:39 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Definitely in strong DN recently. It sucks. My whole life feels like a delusive shipwreck at the moment emoticon

I tried to force some new life-path items into existence and something in me just rejected the process entirely. DN is a very bad time to make decisions or start a significant deviation in your life. There is a ton of rage coming up when leaning into any new egoic narratives that aren't being launched from an area of basic necessity or genuine love/curiosity/exploration. Even the ones stemming from basic necessity are proving difficult. 

I read a post from Tucker Peck about the "mild/strong delusive" type of practitioner. It set off some warning bells for me so I decided to give one of the techniques he recommends a shot, which is to just go into the body and pay very close attention to sensations between the neck and groin.

Thus, I have been focusing on the sensations of breathing in the chest and abdomen, as part of the wide field of awareness, and any other little stuff that happens to pop up in that region. There is a background of discomfort there that I never really noticed, or have been subconsciously avoiding. As I check in throughout the day, it's always there. That area felt very vague and "off-limits" until I made a special effort to pay attention to it. There is a tension in the lower abdomen. It's shape is "pit-like" and is made of up very slow, uncomfortable sensations. Just a subtle, dark "ugh-ness". A pit of slow electric warbling and tension. There are little buzzy electric shocks happening in the chest and elsewhere. There is pressure and a certain gross-ness to the beating of the heart. 

During body scanning there is a slower, scanning wave that moves up the body that is markedly different from the breath sensations and fine energetic tingling. It feels like it is "delivering the payload" of attention to the head area or something. 

The head is still full of pressure and varying intensity/pleasure of vibrating stuff. Sometimes it off-gasses this through the crown, but mostly it just keeps doing its thing. It's interesting, I've read numerous accounts of people who take SSRI's describing similar head pressure phenomena in the first days/weeks of their medication. Some draw a connection to the newly elevated levels of norepinephrine, which seems consistent with the increased wakefulness that I am running into as a result of my practice.  

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/12/18 7:11 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Sounds like good practice. You're investigating the yucky stuff and keeping a broader context that "this is the DN and its normal for things to suck". It's very true, investigating the sensations of discomfort in objective way really does seem to move practice forward. But investigating is different than wallowing in a self-pity party (which will happen from time to time, no big deal, you're human), so keep that in mind. 

It's almost like the observation of all this shadowy stuff "refines" the experience and untangles these little knots of micro-suffering. Even though the DN feel clastrophobic and oppressive, the work to get very clear on the actual nature of how these little sensations/feelings exist in our body/mind seems to be what leads to a much more expansive and sensitive mind. 

Good work, keep (genthly) going forward!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/24/18 9:31 PM as a reply to Zachary.
How/why is a sensation known to be pleasant? Unpleasant? 

As I sit, I “meet” each sensation and become curious of the means by which it is known to be unpleasant or pleasant. What are the qualities of the sensation that make it so? How do you experience this? There don't need to be answers to these questions, but in the questioning something else starts to happen. Vibrations become so subtle and fine, the feeling of the body does not seem like physical matter. The body begins to feel as light and mercurial as a thought.

Continuing to feel as if I have some mild kind of "Yogi Dementia". 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/25/18 6:12 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Sounds good/normal. The subtle stuff isn't "known" the same way that the obvious stuff is known. It can feel vague and uncertain and give the yogi an odd feeling of "being there but not really being there" --- I suspect that might be the same thing as your "Yogi Dementia". 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/25/18 8:12 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Sounds good/normal. The subtle stuff isn't "known" the same way that the obvious stuff is known. It can feel vague and uncertain and give the yogi an odd feeling of "being there but not really being there" --- I suspect that might be the same thing as your "Yogi Dementia". 
Hahaha. You just nailed my sit from this morning. :-D 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
10/25/18 8:34 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
emoticon

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/1/18 10:15 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Introduced Zhan Zuang standing meditation into practice. This has been great for embodiment. Even after a few days it is clearly very powerful stuff. Working my way through "The Way of Energy" after seeing it mentioned in another log here (SigmaTropic). Have been practicing the first two standing positions for 5-20 minutes before each sit. A real workout for mind and body. 

I assume the position. I follow the movement of the breath in the chest and abdomen. The continuous presence of subtle energy is noticed in the extremities and chest. I noticed that breathing and exhalation happens deeper in the abdomen then I expected. There's an extra second or two "glurp" of exhalation that pops out at very bottom of the lower abdomen. It made me wonder if I've been shortchanging myself on proper breathing my whole life. There is a mild, active burning in the chest region, like after a long jog in the cold. The heart is felt beating, gloopy and buzzing. There is dull pain inside the cavity of the abdomen. 

The energetic area of the heart and chest seems to open up and exchange energy with the head region. At times this current of energy seems to cycle all the way from the head to the lower abdomen. This feels not fully realized, but it is clear there is some sort of momentum and direction that this all wants to go in. At times I feel a subtle bubble of energy around the chest and abdomen which extends a couple feet out, it inflates and deflates in sync with the breath. 

After each session the body feels pleasant, a nice combination of vital and mildly stoned. This lasts for a bit.

Zhan Zhuang has so far brought a level of clarity, energy and presence back into my daily life I hadn't been getting from sitting. This coupled with some moderate weight-training has done me well. It has been a good antidote to the overactive energy in the head. On some level I had been hoping my formal sitting practice would pop me out of the funk I'd been in, all by itself. This is not a skillful attitude to have. Turns out that dispassionately observing listlessness, fatigue and dullness over and over again will basically only make you really good at dispassionately observing listlessness, fatigue and dullness emoticon.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/9/18 12:46 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Things continue to evolve on their own accord in the direction of whole-body pleasure, sensory pacification and concentration. My guess is that the Zhan Zhuang practice has kicked the door open in this regard, but who knows. "The Way of Energy" book gives lots of suggestions in addition to the formal standing practice for postures for normal activities like working at the computer, walking, sleeping, etc. I've had good results with these. 

Energy is opening up in the lower body, heat and champagne bubbles washing up from the base of the spine. The dantian and brow of the head feel like two "poles" that are equalizing in amount of awareness-energy. There is a growing safe home in the body. There is a "taste" of this growing concentration all day long. It is a strong focus accompanied by dryness in the mouth and tongue that reminds me of the feeling I used to get in that area years ago when taking prescription amphetamine and bupropion. There is a really nice focus I can tune into.  

Content-wise, spending time noticing and chipping away at this sense of omnipotence and subtle craving for perfection in all things. Forgiving myself and others for transgressions perceived or real, however insignificant. Noticing over and over the little voice that wants something changed at subtler and subtler levels. 

Laughter is the sound of one lens leaking into another. 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/11/18 11:33 AM as a reply to Zachary.
An interesting cycle through DN last night. I always seem to have the strongest DN’s in the night while in bed. It is more difficult to be aware and get a handle on things in the middle of the night which is why I think DN stuff seems to strike then. It is when mindfulness is at its lowest.

--

A&P: Beautiful, mystical dream where I am walking around with friends and can see their multi-colored auras and chakra systems, I interpret what their respective energy systems mean and give them the low-down. Lots of cool occult symbols and lights.

Dissolution into Fear: In the dream I become preoccupied with the jaundice-yellow energy in a friend's face, thinking it indicates hidden drug use and poor health. Whatever good feeling was there drops away. Wake up and feel things continuing to slip away, then a huge wave of fear (“Am I getting too cocky with this energy stuff?”, “There is such a vast unknown of things in the universe and its all so ineffable and scary. Will my perceived hubris lead to me getting my ass kicked by something unknown?”, “What else is lurking out there in the darkness that could hurt me?”). I wander around the house on alert, there is buzzy, frenetic energy around the light sources in the house like LED clocks, etc.

Misery: Back in bed, all of a sudden feel tearful and sad about some of the people in the dream and their suffering. (“How can I help them? I wish I could help but this all seems so hopeless and bottomless.”)

Disgust: Awake lying in bed in early morning. People are talking in the kitchen of the house. ("Why are their voices so damn loud? The vibrational quality of their voices is so edgy and irritating! I can feel it in my abdomen, it’s making ME anxious. These people clearly have repressed anger and agitation within them! How rude of them to talk, keeping me awake and annoying me with their agitated personalities!") My lower back hurts.

Re-Obs: A few minutes of thinking I need to change such-and-such aspect of my life to make this suffering go away. I’ve played this game so many times now at this point that it doesn’t seem to take long for me to roll my eyes at this and move on.

Low-EQ: A little restless and annoyed, but why wouldn’t I be? Time for morning sit. Nice and sunny out today. Everything is OK.

——

The basic theme I see over and over again is:

DN: Everything in my life that is important to me disappears into the “Hole” as soon as it is experienced. This causes me fear, misery and disgust.
Low-EQ: The fear, misery and disgust that arises as I witness everything important to me disappearing into the “Hole” also disappears into the “Hole” as soon as it is experienced.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/27/18 4:05 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Continuing to practice for about 90 - 180 minutes a day. The defining mood of my sits and daily life is neutrality, boredom, subtle restlessness, mild pleasantness, some dullness. A sense of being fine even with the sensations that seem to imply that things are not fine. A continued spiraling towards normality that is visible even in things like aesthetic/cultural tastes. There is still a lot of energetic stuff happening all the time in the crown and forehead but it’s rote at this point. Trying to sit longer (60-90 minutes at a time) in order to push through subtler and subtler states of boredom and restlessness. I spoke to my teacher the other day and he seemed to think that I’ve been hanging out in EQ. He instructed me to cultivate pride in my practice, to feel good about the work I’ve done this year.

Headed in a few days to Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose for a retreat of a little under three weeks. Sayadaw U Pannananda, the abbot at MBMC, will be leading.

Have been continuing to pay attention to the different states of concentration. I’ve mentioned these before, but have been trying to fit them into the Vipassana Jhana framework, so make of it what you will. Open to suggestions if something seems off. 

-- 

1st Vipassana Jhana

Concentration is sticky, solid, locked-on. There is a sense of being in control and of successfully applying mindfulness. There is a focus on the head area, specifically the crown and forehead. This is my walking-around baseline for the past few months and can be clicked into within moments.

As VJ1 transitions into VJ2 (typically within moments), the solidity of the head focus begins to shift and break up into goopy swaths of energy that slither around inside the head.

2nd Vipassana Jhana

Energy increases in the head and becomes more refined and granular. The energy is “bubbly”, like that of a cheap garden fountain, but then becoming smaller and quicker. There can be vertically spinning eddies of energy in the head. The sense of “applying mindfulness” is dropped and the thing just seems to be doing itself. The breath feels silky and moves quickly, the sense of an “in/out” breath begins to disappear and breathing just becomes one continuous energetic thing that just "is" and not happening within/to the body. In the head, there is a noticeable upward pull through the temples which culminates in what feels like a constant blast of quickly vibrating energy rolling up and out of the forehead. There can be moving luminous purple stuff in the visual field. Relative to the 1st VJ, this all feels more intense and interesting. 

3rd Vipassana Jhana

Somewhere during the transition into third VJ, there can be a “peak” emotional experience. It feels purifying, there is the sense that some emotional blockage or memory is being untangled and passed through. There can be a brief panic and intense aversion to sitting, lots of resistant verbal thoughts in the mind, or feeling of wanting to cry. This usually only lasts for a few moments and is accompanied by whole-body vibrations sweeping around several times.

As the 3rd VJ matures, energy begins to spread out more through the body. There is a feeling of more energy dropping from the head into the chest, heart, neck and abdomen. The quality of the energy is more refined and chill, more pleasant. However, there are also sporadic weird, and less orderly energetic sensations popping up and pulsing throughout the body. There is a throbbing pulse in the knee that seems to show up with clockwork regularity in the 3rd VJ, it feels kind of gross. There is something annoying about this energy because while it feels nice, it is still not “as good as it could be” and keeps slipping away. If there is luminous purple stuff in the visual field, it is calmer and more spread out.  


4th Vipassana Jhana

As 3rd VJ transitions into 4th, everything continues to chill and even out. Any remaining energy in the head and body seems to disappear almost entirely. The cavity of the skull feels empty, there is a sense of relief, spaciousness and stillness. I have a tendency of dropping back from 4th to 3rd here. It has been hard recently to maintain 4th VJ. Each time the skull empties out, a new wave of vibrations arises moments later to fill it up, like there is some sort of backlog of “stuff” that has to be processed.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/27/18 4:26 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Zachary:
I spoke to my teacher the other day and he seemed to think that I’ve been hanging out in EQ. He instructed me to cultivate pride in my practice, to feel good about the work I’ve done this year.

Headed in a few days to Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose for a retreat of a little under three weeks. Sayadaw U Pannananda, the abbot at MBMC, will be leading.

Have been continuing to pay attention to the different states of concentration. I’ve mentioned these before, but have been trying to fit them into the Vipassana Jhana framework, so make of it what you will. Open to suggestions if something seems off. 

-- 

1st Vipassana Jhana

Concentration is sticky, solid, locked-on. There is a sense of being in control and of successfully applying mindfulness. There is a focus on the head area, specifically the crown and forehead. This is my walking-around baseline for the past few months and can be clicked into within moments.

As VJ1 transitions into VJ2 (typically within moments), the solidity of the head focus begins to shift and break up into goopy swaths of energy that slither around inside the head.

2nd Vipassana Jhana

Energy increases in the head and becomes more refined and granular. The energy is “bubbly”, like that of a cheap garden fountain, but then becoming smaller and quicker. The sense of “applying mindfulness” is dropped and the thing just seems to be doing itself. The breath feels silky and moves quickly, the sense of an “in/out” breath begins to disappear and breathing just becomes one continuous energetic thing. In the head, there is a noticeable upward pull through the temples which culminates in what feels like a constant blast of quickly vibrating energy rolling up and out of the forehead. Relative to the 1st VJ, this all feels more intense and interesting.

3rd Vipassana Jhana

Somewhere during the transition into third VJ, there can be a “peak” emotional experience. It feels purifying, there is the sense that some emotional blockage or memory is being untangled and passed through. There can be a brief panic and intense aversion to sitting, lots of resistant verbal thoughts in the mind, or feeling of wanting to cry. This usually only lasts for a few moments and is accompanied by whole-body vibrations sweeping around several times.

As the 3rd VJ matures, energy begins to spread out more through the body. There is a feeling of more energy dropping from the head into the chest, heart, neck and abdomen. The quality of the energy is more refined and chill, more pleasant. There are also lots of weird, less orderly energetic sensations throughout the body that are not present in the previous VJ’s. There is a throbbing pulse in the knee that seems to show up with clockwork regularity in the 3rd VJ, it feels kind of gross. There is something annoying about this energy because while it feels nice, it is still not “as good as it could be” and keeps slipping away.


4th Vipassana Jhana

As 3rd VJ transitions into 4th, everything continues to chill and even out. Any remaining energy in the head and body seems to disappear almost entirely. The cavity of the skull feels empty, there is a sense of relief, spaciousness and stillness. I have a tendency of dropping back from 4th to 3rd here. It has been hard recently to maintain 4th VJ. Each time the skull empties out, a new wave of vibrations arises moments later to fill it up, like there is some sort of backlog of “stuff” that has to be processed.

Really good descriptions. Dropping from VJ4 to VJ3 is totally normal, same with dipping into dark night after EQ. The mind is kinda doing a scrub of your "stuff". Resting a little, creating a safe place, then bubbling up stuff and digesting that, then resting a little, etc. This is a sign of really good practice. Or an even better way to say it: this is when "you" stop "doing" the practice and when "the practice really starts doing you". Honestly, it can kind of feel like your mind is showing you all the things you need to see. This exactly the kind of "I'm participating in practice, but not controlling it" effot that will keep your practice moving ahead.

So that's really good advice from your teacher. You can be happy with your practice! emoticonemoticon  You have put in the time and are experiencing things that few humans experience.

Best wishes on your retreat!! You are are in great shape for having a rewarding retreat.

The hardest thing for most yogis at this stage is to actually let themselve soak in the jhana that arises and learn to use less and less effort and let the mind guide the practice. To really get deeply into EQ, you have to let go of worry, of second guessing. By now you should see that there is no way you could have "figured out" how to get your practice to your current level -- and yet, here you are! Practice really does follow it's own path and everyone is different, except everyone is the same in the sense that if you keep a consistent practice, progress does happen.

I normally caution folks from DhO to forget about maps on retreat and really go deep into the lived experience. A lot of us will spend too much time "thinking about being on retreat"... and not enough time _actually_being_on_retreat! So, what does it really feel like to be a breathing human being on retreat? What does this body feel like in this world of textures, breezes, sounds, smells? How does it actually feel to walk? How does it feel to sit? When you close your eyes, what is the mindspace like? Really, what _are_ sensations, urges, emotions, thoughts? (Can you feel that calm and open and yet gently questioning/inquiring mind -- that's what you want to cultivate.)

And don't worry if things are kind of vague and confusing. That's not being dull/distracted, but actually that's when things are subtle. Notice how a lot of what we experience --- when we let the busy mind slow down and we really pay gentle attention --- is a mix of very sublte pre-sensations, pre-urges, pre-emotions, and pre-thoughts --- subtle sensations that sometime never even develop into concrete and discrete objects, but rather are subtle flickering almost-sensations, almost-urges, almost-emotions, almost-thoughts. 

On a long retreat, you're going to have highs and lows, aches and bliss, clarity and confusion. That's all normal and totally fine on a retreat. The important thing is you keep your intimate experiencing of all of those things. Connect with the knowing mind. The knowing mind doesn't care if things are clear or confused, it knows it is clear or confused. The knowing mind doesn't care if the body feels aches or bliss, it knows aches and it knows bliss. This is deep deep Equanimity. This is a mind that is prone to slipping into SE. So don't fall into the trap of judging your progress based on what is happening during your sits, simply strive to intimately experience it, to know it. And simply trust that this moment is absolutely the only thing you need to pay attention to. The mind will lead practice onward...

It takes a deep body-sense of letting go and trust before the mind will grasp nirvana as an object instead of grabbing all the objects in samsara. The worried mind is always grabbing at samsara. But on retreat, life is simple, there is almost nothing that needs to be done. You can let yourself relax more and more and simply be a knowing mind.

Basically, it is like a star imploding into a black hole. All the energy of the judgemental mind needs to wear itself out, like a star burning out, and then it collapses into itself.

And if you get stream entry, so what? That's just 1st path. emoticon There's plenty more emoticon So no big deal.
And if you don't, well many folks have struggled on retreat only to fall into SE when they were doing just normal practice at home. So no big deal. 
No big deal either way. This is a lifetime practice and it can be good to think that way so that you stay balanced and stay consistent and keep practicing in each moment.

Again, best wishes!

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/27/18 6:40 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Re-reading/skimming your journal, I'm curious what you think about those previous cessations? (I might have missed if you had recent thoughts). Do you think you're working on 1st or 2nd? (No deep answers from me, based on what I read I could argue it both ways.)

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/27/18 7:02 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Zachary:


Headed in a few days to Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose for a retreat of a little under three weeks. Sayadaw U Pannananda, the abbot at MBMC, will be leading.



Great center. I was there for 10 days back in March and a weekend retreat more recently. Enjoy! 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/28/18 10:21 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Re-reading/skimming your journal, I'm curious what you think about those previous cessations? (I might have missed if you had recent thoughts). Do you think you're working on 1st or 2nd? (No deep answers from me, based on what I read I could argue it both ways.)

I'm not really sure where I stand with 1st vs 2nd Path either, it hasn’t really been a huge deal for me in recent months, in fact I keep forgetting to bring it up with my teacher. Reading Daniel’s piece, “Overcalling Attainments”, led me to stop worrying so much about this stuff and keep practicing until I had more certainty. Alas, here are some ramblings on the matter. 

Arguments for SE:

- 24/7 metacognitive awareness. Thoughts are seen as thoughts and not Self pretty much always. I “hear” all my thoughts. The concept of a persisting Self is obviously false.
- There was a growing obvious sense that nothing else is ever going to get the job of awakening done other than just paying attention to what is happening, when it happens- the only thing I’ll ever be able to do forever and ever. I guess this is some form of “abandoning clinging to rites and rituals”.
- Improved concentration abilities
- Months and months of constant intense energetic "re-wiring" in the head since Path
- I can enter into a vibrating A&P state within a moment or two whenever I want just by being still and paying attention.
- Reduced anxiety, can intend to just feel really chilled out whenever. Feels like I dropped a whole bunch of neurotic “stuff” (not that there isn’t quite a bit left).
- Everything is just… different in some undefinable way that isn’t particularly mind-blowing or interesting, has been like this for months, all the time, no matter what. Something was subtracted from experience. So there’s definitely been a reduction in general life suffering that has held up through all mind states. Emotional states are just way less sticky and not really a problem like they used to be.

Arguments against SE:

- Perhaps all the persistent, nice psychological stuff mentioned above is just a months-long equanimity or just the reduction of psychological issues that were beyond the norm and fixed by regular lifestyle changes.
- Not sure if I have ability to repeat fruitions at will, not really sure what to look for in this regard
- Can’t access hard jhanas
- The cessations I had were not cessations but rather one of the following:
  • Some kind of A&P stuff (partial cessation, etc)
  • Brief, sneak preview of formless jhana
  • Falling asleep and waking up due to dullness combined with hypnogogic stuff
  • Something else
- Possible that too much forum-reading has led to scripting experiences that weren’t actually anything I thought they were.




The first time I thought a cessation occurred was before I even started this journal, early this year. I’m pretty sure at this point that it was just an A&P thing. I had been DN'ing hard, just living in an apartment by myself and practicing a lot. I went through another A&P where the whole visual field was dissolving and vibrating kind of like what one might experience on psilocybin. After that there was a lot of fear. Then one day everything just felt OK, like the first time in my life that everything was just fine as it was. (This is all quite abridged, I wish I had been keeping some sort of record back then.) One evening I was lying in bed calmly paying attention to the bubbly vibrations on my face when out of nowhere it felt like a black hole hit me right in the third eye area. BAM. It was like a lightning bolt. I remember immediately thinking “What the hell was that?”.



The next time I thought cessations happened was in June a couple months later, a series of “blips” over a week or two. I would be lying there lost in practice-related thought, kind of just tuning in and out of the mindstream of thought fragments when all of a sudden there would be a single instant of a very complex 3D image in the mind (that sort of seemed geometrically impossible) and then an instant of “Huh? what just happened?”. Coming out of this I would be dropped back into some kind of A&P thing (one time a giant flash of light and another time I was sent traveling through a star field.) I remember right before there being a feeling of anticipation and a weird sense of deja vu where I couldn’t recognize who my thoughts belonged to, like there was no interior to me. This wasn’t the same feeling of Mind & Body though.



More recently, sometimes there will be a pleasant release of energy from the brow area into the crown, sometimes out of it. This is sometimes accompanied by a wave of bliss in the body. I’ve read other people describing this as a fruition for someone who’s gotten used to it happening, or something. Not sure.

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/29/18 5:45 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Okay, thanks for the arguments for/against SE. I have to admit I'm now placing my bet pretty solidly on "SE".

(For what it's worth the evience that tipped the scale for me was 1) multiple cessasions, 2) instant A&P when I sitting, 3) head rewiring, and 4) knowing that there is nothing special except simply meditating in the moment which creates progress, no special tricks.)

Which means that the advice I gave for retreat is still mostly correct, but wow, it means you really really need to let meditation take you wherever it wants to go. You might have a lot of body aches, body bliss, awake dreams, dips into formless jhanas, lots of those geometric and rainbow colored images, etc. It can be confusing where you are on the map, but post SE things get harder and harder to map anyway so not caring is a great attitude.

Also, be prepared for extended EQs that are simply like "being present" without much of anything that seems like meditation. This can go on for days (!) Like you are just simply alive, a nice basic feeling, but it can be unnerving -- "shouldn't I be trying to meditate?"  Don't try to make something happen during those states, but rather just know that if you are aware of any body/breathing sensations, then you are present, body sensations only occur in the present, and that's all you need to be, simply present. 

In the same way that in SE you become interested in the mind, get lost, then have a cessation... In later paths, you become interested in the full bandwidth of being an alive human being, wholely embodied and present, and that completeness is seductive and somehow you get lost, and there is the next path. (As usual, if you start getting excited or anticipating a path moment, just laugh at your mind "silly mind always trying to anticipate or make things happen. I understand you're excited, but we're just going to relax and sit here and see what happens..." emoticon

So what this really means is you are totally allowed to become a simple human on retreat, to get into studying the patterns of the mind/body over the course of the day, to enjoy "the pleasures of seclusion", to let go of worries and cares, to be a simple forest monk sitting at the base of a tree and simply allowing experience, living imperminance, to show itself in the moment.

One of my favorite metaphors is you are sitting in the jungle by a small pool of clear drinking water, and over the course of the day and night you watch all the animals step from the jungle and quitely sip some water -- and if you are simply still and quiet, you'll see all the amazing animals in the jungle. After several days, animals you never imagined will start showing up, some beautiful some terrifying. But they all just want to take a sip of water and then melt back into the jungle. So just sit and watch.

Nothing fancy, but very good hearted and whole hearted and accepting of simplicity.

Best wishes!!!




 

 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/29/18 1:54 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks shargrol, always a treat to read your posts! 

RE: Zachary's Practice Log
Answer
11/29/18 7:02 PM as a reply to Zachary.
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