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Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Hibiscus Kid 6/10/18 10:18 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Hibiscus Kid 6/11/18 9:33 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 6/16/19 4:07 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 6/16/19 5:32 PM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Hibiscus Kid 6/25/19 7:51 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Chris Marti 6/26/19 6:46 AM
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RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Hibiscus Kid 7/31/19 5:35 PM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Hibiscus Kid 8/9/19 11:23 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log Jehanne S Peacock 10/4/18 3:54 AM
RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log alguidar 10/11/18 8:55 AM
Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/10/18 10:18 PM
The decision to make a practice log on this forum has come about because of a recent event that happened in daily life which I posted about here: Was that it? 

I don't have a main teacher who I report to regularly, and so it is difficult to track progress in my practice even with the extensive reading I've done on the progress of insight. I figured that posting my practice on here for all to see would give me a chance to report to other meditators with extensive experience. That way I can compare notes with others, shine a light on any "shadow sides" that I'm ignoring, get advice where needed, and, hopefully, posting on here may keep me motivated and accountable. With any luck, if this buddha-dharma experiment works for me, this log might be a helpful resource for other people in the same way that I have benefitted from the practice logs of other practitioners. I hope to keep meditation reports on the phenomenological end of the spectrum, but I'm not sure how this will unfold quite yet. 

For some background: I'm a 25 year old male working as an aerospace engineer in CT. I have a somewhat active social life. I like cooking, listening to and making music (I play piano and guitar and use Logic X), running, rock climbing, reading, traveling and meditating (of course!). I'm not extremely proficient in any single hobby of mine though as I often go where my interests take me. I'm a pretty busy person during the week as I work full time and try to be active in the evenings. I attend a Zen group once a week (which is super informal and the practitioners who attend don't seem to be super interested/believe in awakening for themselves). I also do community service in the form of mentoring through Big Brothers, Big Sisters and, once a month, I help out at a soup kitchen with my coworkers which is rewarding. I meet with a licensed counselor every few weeks to talk about life and such which for me falls directly in the realm of sila. 

My main resources that have guided my practice are Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, The Mind Illuminated, Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington, Focused and Fearless by Shaila Catherine, Practical Insight Meditation by Mahasi Sayadaw, Loving-Kindness by Sharon Salzberg, alohadharma.com, reddit/r/streamentry, reddit/r/themindilluminated, firekasina.org as well as The Fire Kasina book, and this website: the Dharma Overground. I also enjoy the countless resources from Shinzen Young and listen to podcasts such as Deconstructing Yourself, BATGAP, and the Wright Show. There are many other books and websites I've used over the years, but the ones listed above are the ones I typically reference again and again and again. I prefer simple, pragmatic instructions over everything else.     

My formal practice at the moment is to watch things come and go, trying to be as inclusive as possible and getting the noting speed up. The simple framework of 6 sense doors, 3 characteristics has been the framework that most resonates with me. My main practice involves trying to note as much as I can off the cushion (inspired by Noah's post) in my daily life. I am not the most consistent formal sitter, but I hope that I can get motivated to increase quality time on the cushion by posting to this log. I've been practicing mindfulness/noting in daily life since August of 2017, but my interest in meditation has gone back about 6 years at this point.
I've never gotten into a jhana from what I can tell. I usually get pretty agitated/impatient or really sleepy when practicing samatha (I'm aware that these hinderances are common) but vipassana is usually a bit more engaging and fun for me. I'd describe myself as an aversive type.  
I've been on 2 small retreats: a weekend fire kasina retreat as well as a 4 day metta retreat led by Shannon Stein on Denman Island near Vancouver, Canada. I find fire kasina to be settling and restful as well as engaging. My body really calms down and releases tension when I'm tuning into the sense of sight. I don't claim to have had any crazy visual experiences from the fire kasina, however. It's still fun though and is a nice way to shake things up when I feel like using a different object of meditation. The metta retreat led by Shannon Stein was also an interesting experience: I spent hours on end crying tears of gratitude during every day of the retreat. I've never had a heart opening like that before: the appreciation of the complex web of circumstance that aligned to get me to Denman Island from CT in order to practice with a practitioner as amazing as Shannon left an impression on me that I will never forget. Although the metta really flowed naturally during that retreat, I don't really practice it formally at the moment.

The big motivation behind meditating (and awakening) is because I'm acutely aware of how unsatisfactory my life seems. I've had an awesome life so far with many opportunities and blessings. I grew up in a loving, supportive, middle class family in which we always had enough money for food, housing, clothing, toys, vacations, after school programs, etc. I am young, have very little debt, good health, and I have a pretty promising career start so far. I have a good social/dating life and hobbies... the list goes on. This isn't meant to come off as bragging or anything, but to illustrate the point: I've come to this place now where I keep wondering what's next. I've followed all the rules and took people's advice on how to live life and, now that I'm here, I should be satisfied and happy, but I'm not. I'm not depressed, but I'm looking around at this point saying "what's going to make me happy and satisfied?". I look around at all the adults who helped me get to where I am, and I notice that they don't necessarily seem happy or completely satisfied either. There is usually this urge to be somewhere else or to be someone else which is why I think I'm pretty aversive. Either way, I am hoping that I could get to this point in my life where I can just come to apprectiate it all for what it is instead of pushing it away. It would be really lovely to settle into this moment and enjoy the ride. Curiosity is also a huge driving factor in this: what was the Buddha talking about and what is awakening (also luminosity, centerlessness, loss of agency, equanimity, nondual perception) really like??? This seems to be a worthwhile axis of human development. 

Thank you in advance to everyone for taking the time to read what I post as well as providing feedback. I also would like to express gratitude for all those who have already supported my practice through DM's, emails, video/in person discussions, as well as books and other countless ways. I hope that I can return the favor in some way to those who are seeking as well.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/11/18 9:33 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
When discussing daily life noting/noticing/mindfulness, I'll rate it using a scale out of 10 where 0 means absolutely no mindfulness was practiced and where 10 is my personal best (10 does not necessarily that I was mindful 100% of the time because I have work that requires my attention).  

I didn't get much sleep last night, so I had some trouble with keeping the noting going throughout my day (while I was at work). I took advantage of my 20 minute commutes to and from work to note. I also went for a walk in the company parking lot during lunch and used that time for walking meditation. Bathroom breaks, cleaning my bowl after lunch, filling my waterbottle, and eating were all great opportunities to note or notice physical sensations and thoughts/mental impressions. I'd say that I was about a 3 or 4 out of 10 for keeping the noting going while at work today. After I got back from work, I took a quick 20 minute nap which really helped to refresh my mind. I'd say I was a 6 out of 10 for noting as I exercised, made dinner, showered, and then drove to my Zen group.

At the Zen group tonight, I showed up 20 minutes early and used the time to practice samatha by focussing on the sensations of my nose (obviously sensations of the breath but also small tensions and twitches and such). Trying to keep the width of attention just on the nose while allowing other sensations and thoughts to remain in the background really helped chill me out (lots of tension in the body was released) and get me focused (similar to what is taught in The Miind Illuminated). After 20 minutes of samatha, the formal Zen sit started. 

The Zen group meditates for 60 minutes broken into 2 sessions of 25 minutes. There is about 10 minutes of silent walking in between the two sessions of formal sitting. I used the formal hour to practice noting with mental labels. The first 25 minutes started out pretty normal. After about 5 or 10 minutes, I was hit with major sloth and tried to keep my eyes open and the noting going. Eventually I was dozing off and watching how the mind would get pulled into vivid dreams and then get startled/wake-up when someone made a noise or coughed. The session continued between awake and dreamy states until the bell was rung. The 10 minutes of walking helped to refresh my mind and wake me up. The next sit was a bit more productive. I started noting faster and faster. I continued using mental labels since dropping the labels would probably have led to more dozing off/spinning off into content. I noted sounds, sights, body sensations, thoughts, emotions and more. Eventually noting shifted to noticing when things were gone (I see the floor - gone - I see the floor again- gone). There was also a lot of twitching which isn't very common for me, but I made sure to note it. At some point, while it was all going very well, I started to get impatient and noted appropriately. Doubts also arose and those were noted too. After the final bell was rung, I layed on my side and watched how the carpet started to pixelate and warp and change color which was interesting and engaging although this has led to states of anxiety in the past. The full meditation session for me was an hour and 20 minutes. 

After coming back home, I did another 20 minutes of fire kasina. I sat at my desk with the candle about a foot away. I would slide my waterbottle in front of the candle to block some of the light as I closed my eyes which helps create a brighter after-image. I typically stare at the candle for 20-60 seconds before closing my eyes and then let it ride out for 90-120 seconds (before the murk can really set in since I'm sort of tired). The after-image was moving to the bottom, right-hand corner for about 5 minutes of the session. The after-image would flicker quite rapidly due to the twitching in my eyes when initially starting. The after-image is usually the same shape as the candle flame. It usually starts as a yellow or green flash with a slightly red/pink outline before it shifts to a turquoise. At this point the afterimage will start to split off into 3 different colors like one of those rainbow popsicles with the different color bands. The top band is turquoise, the middle band is yellow, and the bottom band is red. Typically the top band grows downwards and the entire after-image becomes turquoise again. The after image oscillates between these two states for the rest of the session. My body becomes quite relaxed while tuning into the colors. I don't use a mantra and I let thoughts, body sensations, emotions, etc. come-and-go in the background. Again, impatience arose after around 10 minutes. 

With a minute left of the session, I put the candle out and used the LED on my phone to create one last after-image. My experience has been that the brighter light can usually get me the fabled red dot. Tonight, the dot was a brilliant shade of grey/white and would move straight down. In the past when using the LED, I'd get a brilliant turquoise dot that becomes almost 3 dimensional since it suddenly becomes super defined and pops out from the black background. I don't want to damage my eyes with the LED though. 

That wraps up my day today.      

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
7/27/18 4:48 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thank you for describing these experiences. Your motivation, attention to detail, and the breadth of dharma media you've taken in are all inspiring and bode well for your practice.

At this point, I'd recommend that you practice samatha according to the instructions in the various concentration manuals that you've read, especially The Mind Illuminated. Without access to jhana, insight practitioners often run into difficult psychological territory that can impact work and relationships. Practitioners who are dedicated to the dry insight path and unwilling to develop concentration sometimes stall out before the A&P or in high EQ and eventually give up on meditation, which is tragic. 

I suspect that those who are able to reach stream-entry without formal concentration practice have naturally concentrated minds and are likely to have experienced jhana at some point in childhood or adolescence. If you have never experienced jhana, it's a sign that you're better off pursuing concentration first: this will ensure that you have an enjoyable path and will guarantee that you're able to break through to stream-entry when the time comes. This is also in line with the path of practice that the Buddha describes in the Pali Nikayas.

It's fine to keep experimenting with multiple concentration techniques, like the fire kasina, mindfulness of breathing, and body scanning. This will keep your practice fresh and may reveal aspects of attention and patterns of mental resistance that you wouldn't have noticed practicing a single technique.

Consider working with a teacher like Tucker Peck, who is Culadasa's student and is generally well-regarded. If Tucker isn't taking on students, I'm sure he'd be able to recommend someone. Teachers are helpful for pointing out blind spots and providing perspective. You may have noticed similiar benefits from working with a counselor.

As an aside, you might enjoy the Hamilton Project blog about pragmatic meditation: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/

Best of luck to you on your path.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
9/29/18 12:19 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I haven't written here in a while. The posts I made before this were so long and would take me at least 40 minutes to write down all my thoughts and such. If I am to continue this log with any regularity, I'll probably be less detailed in order to save time. 

I originally started this log because I believed that I had a cessation on May 23rd. I wasn't reporting to a teacher with any regularity up until that point, so I wasn't really able to confirm this event. I decided to start a log on here so that others could chime in, but I haven't been very diligent in sitting or reporting.  

The advice is to wait a year and a day to decide whether or not one has attained a path (I am extremely aware that many people who think they attained stream entry are often incorrect and I accept that I'm most likely in that camp). Either way, there was definitely some sort of shift since May which reduced suffering. A huge portion of my existential crisis has evaportated. I became lazy in meditation since I felt so much relief since then, but I'm starting to notice all the other small ways my existence could be improved through practice on (and off) the cushion. It feels a bit like picking up all the dirty laundry off the bedroom floor (big mess) to then realize that it would be a good idea to vacuum the carpet as well (more subtle mess). The existential crisis was such a driver and really fueled my practice, so I'm trying to get some of that drive back. 

Another hinderance was having to deal with a panic disorder that made me slightly agoraphobic. I was frequently getting panic attacks that convinced me I was dying. Trying to ride out these terrible attacks of anxiety with noting usually just made them worse and so I became adverse to meditation as well. After spending months with Xanax, I finally spoke to my doctor about going on Zoloft so I could feel normal and not have to worry about potential addiction. I'm about 6 weeks into taking Zoloft and it's made a huge difference and has allowed me to be more objective about difficult sensations that I sometimes experience. I think that it was the right choice for me and helped to lessen the hinderance of major panic. 

Stay tuned! Thank you for reading! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
9/30/18 6:24 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
H.K.,

For what it's worth --- and I don't say this to be mean but rather give you another possible angle to look at your practice log --- your reports are very consistent with a deep A&P experience (which doesn't need to be "sparkly" it can just be profound and create momentarily reduced suffering), falling into disolution (lack of motivation in practice), then into the dukka nanas with the fear nana bringing up a panic disorder. This is a really, really common pattern. I would even say that >most< people have this experience in some way or another. I would recommend re-reading this section in MCTB. I can't guarantee it happened to you, but if I had to place a bet, that's the bet I would make.

It also seems that --- from your dharma library and internet interests --- you are essentially a dark night yogi. (Does that seem fair to say to you?) Sometimes it isn't obvious, especially when someone is intelligent, social, and is doing well professionally. 

A dark night yogi basically needs to develop a very consistent daily practice, never missing a day, never quitting too soon. (That's a little bit of an exaggeration, but essentially correct). They need to be dedicated to objectifying the "dark" or "negative" aspects of their thoughts/emotions and develop tools (jhana, metta) and have access to high-quality suppport (teachers, dharma friends). They need to read texts that support the >actual stuff< that is showing up and difficult (which could be reading about the nanas or particular psychological disorders/treatment methods). And they need to think of their practice as a life-long practice of healing and growth (otherwise they binge and purge with practice, trying too hard and then not enough, being "heroic" which usually fails, instead of being "consistent" which usually works).

Many people think of stream entry as the thing that "fixes" the dark night yogi, but it is really all of the things leading up to stream entry.  By the time someone is on the verge of stream entry, they almost don't care anymore about it. They know instead that it is doing the basic daily practice that makes a difference. They have a hunch, too, that even after stream entry there will still be a big benefit in continuing to practice. So they are going to sit and going to go on retreat when they can. It's just that simple. And any SE event is just a bump in a lifelong road trip. This is the kind of attitude that tends to support the equanimity and objectivity and consistency of mindfulness that makes us prone to SE.

The nice thing is that regardless of SE, the daily practice and introspection makes us better anyway. So there really isn't a downside besides a little less time spend sitting instead of TV, internet, etc. Ironically, dharma reading/internet/podcasts can eat up practice time if we are not careful. Better to sit daily and never read another dhama book nor listen to another podcast, the former is going to make the big difference.

Hope this helps in some way!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
9/30/18 7:18 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you shargrol! 
I've definitely considered that what I had could be an A&P experience. Other practitioners I've spoken to also think it was an A&P experience (some think it could have been a cessation as well though so the jury is still out). I guess I was somewhat hopeful that what I had was a cessation because I had been practicing rigorous noting in daily life for about 10 months preceeding that event in May (as well as formal sitting and I've been on two short retreats with Shannon Stein). The issues with panic started shortly after I started noting in daily life (maybe after about a month of getting serious about practice). I am quite sure that I had crossed the A&P years earlier (I can recall a few different occasions where I think I crossed the A&P by accident so I was probably cycling). I felt like I've been a dark night yogi for the last few years since meditation became such a huge interest of mine and I found myself on forums such as this trying to solve some sort of issue with my existence. 

As you and other practitioners have said, the important thing is to keep practicing and really make the commitment to consistency. I've noticed the benefits of practicing meditation even without getting paths. 

Thank you for your advice. I'll be sure to dedicate more time to formal sitting! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/2/18 7:55 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Sat for an hour today and noted with mental labels (about one note every second, sometimes faster, sometimes slower). Someone called the house phone 15 minutes into the sit so I paused the timer in order to answer.

At first, I noted apprehension at the fact that I'd be sitting for an hour. The first 10 minutes took some settling into as I worried about whether I'd get too cold (I sat in my backyard) or impatient to finish the sit. 

I noted sounds of cars driving by, air planes flying over head, birds, crickets, and neighbors talking/arguing. I noted mental images associated with these sounds. I noted annoyance with my neighbors arguing so loudly and explored the body sensations of that emotion as well as the mental content flashing by. 

I noted the warmth of the sun on my face and experienced it as different points of sensation sort of crawling around my cheek (I'd then get a subtle mental image of my face). I noted the pressure of the cushion on my butt, the pressure of my legs against the steps I was sitting on, the rising and falling of the abdomen as well as air flowing through my nostrils. I noted the sensations of my hands. I was also sort of anxious from drinking too much coffee earlier in the day, and I kept noting that sensation through out the sit.

There was this interesting little dance my mind would do where I'd get very subtle mental images of the parts of my body in which I was currently experiencing sensation. These mental images seemed to suggest the shape of the body part in question. For example, arbitrary sensations in the general space where my hand was located, taken along with a mental image of a hand, seemed to create the experience of owning a hand and knowing what shape it has. These sensations also suggested that there was distance from some center point (sensations being experienced "over there").

I stayed with noting but eventually my rate of noticing increased so for every note, I'd experience 3-5 other sensations. After about 30 minutes I started to get lethargic and had to put in more effort not to get pulled into mental content. I had to open my eyes and bare down a bit to keep the noting going. Eventually I started to get really impatient and noted accordingly. Then the bell rang and I got up but tried to keep some level of mindfulness using noting. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
9/30/18 7:17 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Nicely done.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/1/18 8:39 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Today was about a 1 or 2  out of 10 in terms of daily life mindfulness. 

Sat for an hour tonight. About 30 minutes leading up to the sit, I was dealing with difficult emotions related to lonliness and then impatience to get the sit started (I had to make a phone call beforehand and it was getting late), so I was noting the thoughts and objectifying the body sensations of these emotions (as well as sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of course) before making it to the cushion.

During the sit, I was pretty lethargic and had to keep my eyes open after about 20-30 minutes. Difficult feelings related to lonliness and such would pop up occasionally, but soon the sit felt very neutral. I just made sure to note sounds, and sights and physical sensations. Since I was lethargic, it was getting difficult to note thoughts since I'd tend to get pulled into them more. I tried to compensate by really grounding myself in physical sensations, the visual field and the auditory field. After a while, my body felt pretty relaxed but my mind was impatient at the same time.

After about 30-40 minutes, my vision would also start swimming and objects in the visual field became less defined and almost larger and sometimes seemed to change angles. Also, the vertical stripes on the wall paper started to move back and forth. This happened when I'd keep my gaze anchored on one point, but my attention was taking in a wider area of the visual field (I'd lose the center point). 

The last 10-15 minutes were pretty difficult as the impatience grew and then my legs and butt started to hurt. I noticed how large swaths of pain would travel around my legs and butt and then vanish the moment attention turned to a different sense door. My butt felt like it was burning and pricks of sensation would pop up and disappear. At first, I was reluctant to explore pain and stuck with visual objects, but eventually, there was curiosity to see what the pain actually felt like as well as the urge to explore the aversion associated with the pain. There were also a ton of doubts at this point which I noted (thoughts such as "Is meditation really worth it when it just leads to pain and impatience? How will I motivate myself to practice something that's so unrewarding?"  or "Will I ever awaken or am I being deluded?" "Even if I do awaken, will that actually fix anything? Is it even worth it?").  

The last 2 minutes, I was fighting urge after urge to check the time (which I didn't do) but I made sure to note the mental and physical aspects of these urges. 

The urge to check my timer leads me to a question: I've always had difficulty with understanding the concept of noting intentions (especially things like intentions that precede thinking because thoughts seem automatic and unavoidable). Are intentions an urge to do something? Can intentions arise even if the action isn't carried out (similar to wanting to check my timer)? Or must intentions always be acted on? Are some intentions more obvious than others? Sometimes actions seem completely automatic but intentions must precede these actions from a dharma point of view (like when I type this out, my hands are sort of doing it based on muscle memory and an overall intention to send a message, yet there must be an intention to type each individual letter out). What should I be looking for when it comes to noting intentions? Or maybe I've been doing it all along and havent realized it...

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/2/18 8:23 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I'd say I was about a 6 out of 10 for staying mindful during my day. I woke up and had to contend with the negative emotions of the previous night as well as lots of stress related to work (basically just did my best to objectify thoughts and body sensations). I noted from the time I got up until I got to work. The morning was stressful as I had to participate in a conference call in place of my coworker which I had never done. I noted the body sensations of the stress as well as the various thoughts related to fear that I'd mess up (luckily it all turned out well and it was just typical overreaction). I tried to go for short walks to the bathroom or around the parking lot and when getting lunch at the grocery store nearby so that I could take the time to note.
The afternoon was also stressful due to the fact that I had to finish a report that was due the day before. I noticed how my impatience to get the task done kept rising. The fact that I had some coffee after lunch definitely didn't help the impatience and added to the body sensations related to stress. This was also partly due to the fact that I needed to get out of work at a certain time to help out at a soup kitchen with some coworkers. Helping prepare food was fun and it gave me opportunities to continue noting when I wasn't engaging with anyone directly (I tend to lose mindfulness during social interaction since I tend to be more engaged that way). Serving the food to those less fortunate than myself also brought up natural feelings of Metta and inspired me to continue noting for the benefit of myself and others. I noted in the car on the way home. I noted in the shower once I arrived home. And then I did a formal sit...

I sat for an hour, but I sat in a lawn chair instead of on a cushion because the painful end of yesterday's sit was on my mind. There isn't much to report about the sit. It seemed pretty plain and unspectacular. There was plenty of impatience and doubts arose related to whether this was at all worth it. Also kept questioning my ability as a meditator ("I've never been able to achieve a jhana, how do I know that my concentration is even strong enough to make progress in insight?" [I just keep the noting going as best as I can, although I never feel absolutely absorbed in the task of noting if that makes sense]). I did my best to keep noting and I'd say that I noted about 95% of the sit. 

That's all for today. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/18 7:39 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Probably a 4 out of 10 for noting through out my day today. There's a natural, base level of awareness that's sort of going on even if I'm not labeling. There was a ton of resistance to noting for some reason. I think that aversion to the technique was so strong because there was a lot of aversion to my thoughts and feelings throughout the day (just aversion to the life that I'm living). I just wanted to day dream about living a different life. This post might turn into a bit of venting...

I wake up and seriously DO NOT want to leave my bed (I noticed the aversion). I drive to work and I get impatient and frustrated with cars that drive slower, I DO NOT want to be stuck in traffic. I get to work and I DO NOT want to focus on the tasks that I'm responsible for. I get impatient to leave and go home. I had to go grocery shopping after work since I've gotten lazy and haven't purchased food in over a week, yet another task I DO NOT want to do. I played volleyball in a beer league tonight, and on the way there, I was stuck in traffic and again I DO NOT want to be stuck in traffic.

Being stuck in traffic, I reflected on how much I DO NOT want to be living the life that I am. I feel this way on an almost daily basis, it's this crazy cycle (routine) that I feel stuck in. I'm not depressed or suicidal, more just frustrated at where I am. It all feels mundane and not at all glorious. I keep dreaming of the day when I will awaken and this will all seem glorious, then again, awakening can only be done through examining (and eventually embracing) the content that's coming up in the present moment (and honestly, I have no idea what awakening is like, I've heard it's actually sort of disappointing too). 

So I spent a good portion of my day day-dreaming. I would notice this on some level and understood why it was happening. Imagining myself with that girl I've been interested in (although I have commitment issues), imagining winning the lottery (the jackpots are pretty high today, and although I didn't buy a ticket, I still like to fantasize about it), imagining myself going on long retreats to experience the sacred geometries and other realms of deep concentration practice (although I fear the lonliness of long retreats, and I don't like concentration flavored meditation), etc. Then again, I'm averse even to the thing that's supposed to eventually take the sting out of aversion: meditation in general. 

So I'm not sitting formally tonight. Accepting where I am seems just so hard sometimes which is crazy because my life is actually really good content-wise (good job, good social life, friends, loving family, good physical health, interests/hobbies, etc.). I just have yet to see it. I just want to be content, you know? At the moment, I feel "doomed" to have to live this life. 

Thank you for reading this rant. I'm not sure how many other people feel this way or if anyone can relate. I'm curious to know how much awakening helps with these issues.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/18 9:19 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
Accepting where I am seems just so hard sometimes which is crazy because my life is actually really good content-wise (good job, good social life, friends, loving family, good physical health, interests/hobbies, etc.). I just have yet to see it. I just want to be content, you know? At the moment, I feel "doomed" to have to live this life.


When you have trouble accepting something, sometimes it's easier just to accept that you're having trouble accepting that thing. If you can't accept that you feel "doomed", at least accept the fact that you're having trouble accepting that feeling, if that makes any sense. It may seem like a minor distinction, but it can help.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/4/18 3:40 PM as a reply to Lars.
Hey Lars, 

Thank you for your input. I guess that I understand my feelings on some level but I haven't quite accepted them. I understand that insight meditation isn't about being peaceful and really means examining what is going on. I guess I respect my current issues, but I'm still allowing myself to skip formal practice which would probably be considered irresponsible by some practitioners here. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/18 9:49 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hey Hibiscus, I've enjoyed following your log, lots of good phenomenological reporting. 

The aversive and delusive (daydreaming, etc.) experiences you're describing are excellent oppurtunities for investigation, despite how painful it can be to face them over and over again. It can feel like banging your head against the wall. In my experience, making an effort to do formal sits during rough stretches yielded strong insight. You certainly should be mindful of your limits, but don't be shy about really plunging into experience here. 

There's a natural, base level of awareness that's sort of going on even if I'm not labeling. 

Since you mention this, you could also try shifting gears from noting every so often and see what it's like to just sit and rest in awareness for your formal sits. 

In the meantime, keep doing your best to take care of ordinary life stuff and don't forget to be gentle to yourself. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/3/18 10:18 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
 I keep dreaming of the day when I will awaken and this will all seem glorious, 
No need to have FOMO. It'll never all seem glorious (all of the time).
Probably a 4 out of 10 for noting through out my day today. There's a natural, base level of awareness that's sort of going on even if I'm not labeling. There was a ton of resistance to noting for some reason.

Don't worry about noting or labeling every single thing (unless you're feeling the motivation!). As you say, you already have a "base level of awareness". Pick a focus. It can be something obvious, like something that's bothering you when you awake in the morning. For me, a focus has been the feeling of awkwardness or emotional tensions within human interactions.

And this plays into what Lars said above about accepting your troubles in accepting. After all, what matters, in practice, is the refinement of "seeing" your troubles in accepting. Not the subject matter of what's not being accepted.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/4/18 3:54 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hi there,
I read your log and liked it very much. You're doing good on the noting and reporting about it. I could see myself in there, too, so rest assured, somebody else has been there too emoticon

I wanted to tip you to try two-part formula that combines vipassana and shamatha and directly examines the sense of self. This method has proven to be effective in producing the initial  awakening. The basics point is that during your sit you alternate between two different modes, and target speficically the I-ness of your sensations. They are implicitly there also in your current practice, but tipping the scale purposefully just a bit might help in obtaining SE. You don't have to note in partucular, but be aware of the various subtle sensations that are associated with each mode. In the other mode you purposefully fortify the I, in the other you relax until you have no clear concept of I anymore.

Here's the instructions:
"1. First, sit down and relax thoroughly. Take a comfortable seat with eyes open
or closed. Then scan through your body with attention and release
tensions from anywhere you notice them. Scanning the body means that you
look, feel and listen into the body space and scan around it as if
using a flashlight in a dark house. When some tension is found and is
allowed to release, pay close attention to what is found in the area of
that released tension. Look closely. What you find is mere open space.
After you notice this move on to next tension, release it, and again
notice the open inner space in the place of the former tension. After
you have done this for several minutes with some sharpness of attention,
what happens is that the small locations of open space become connected
and a greater open space becomes revealed. Notice and enjoy that
spaciousness. Marinate in it for several minutes. This mode is called
the ”I-less mode” because in this spaciousness there is no ”me” or
”you”. As you are in that experience of spaciousness, see if ”me” or ”I”
can be found there. Check whether ”I” is there or not. Check left and
right. Check front and back. Check up and down. Check the center as
well. Can you find the sense of me-ness from this spacious mind? If you
cannot find it, the recognition of the I-less mode is correct. If you
are not sure, then do the exercise again and look with sharper
attention. In this mode, when you listen to a sound or look at some
external object in front of you, there is no ”hearer” or ”seer” but
rather there is only ”hearing and ”seeing”. It is important to recognise
this selfless mode well. It is not difficult, you just need to apply
some attention and relax properly.

2. Say to yourself "I, I, I", "me, me, me" or "mine, mine, mine", aloud or
silently, with conviction, so that you mean it. Repeat the affirmation
2-3 times and then for a moment wait for sensations to arise. How does
it feel? Do you feel some tensions arising? Do you feel some lack of
freedom when you reinforce the I-thought? How does the I-thought feel?
You have consciously brought up the sense of me-ness and are now
consciously experiencing how your sense of me-ness feels, perhaps for
the first time in your life. The subject, me, now becomes an object that
can be observed. Make note of how me-ness feels all over your body, in
the chest and the head. Pick the strongest of these sensations and
observe it more closely, just like a scientist does when looking at an
organism under a microscope, not to change anything but just to study it
with great interest. Consciously look and feel the sensation and simply
by experiencing it, make observations about it. How is the I-thought?
Does it have a shape? What's the size of it? Where is it located? Is
this experience of me-ness the truth of you? Is that the real ”you” or
not? Look carefully and make observations. After some time, the
I-sensations disappear. If at that point you still feel calm and not
agitated, you can do another set of affirmations. If one the other hand
you feel a bit restless, look into that restlessness to find out what's
causing it. When these sensations eventually subside the spaciousness
again becomes revealed and so the formula begins again from the first
step.

The idea is that you keep comparing the two modes until the sense of
me-ness wears out. At some point when the affirmation no longer sticks
and the affirmation, no matter how intensely you say it, just echoes
into empty space, awakening has more than likely taken place. At this
point, you can feel a special kind of openness and elation, lightness
and unobstructedness, when compared to before.

When practicing the Two-Part Formula, it is best to sit down and process the two modes silently 1-2-3 times a
day for 20-30 minutes at each sitting. These sitting sessions are
essential along with processing during activities. In activities,
whatever they may be, make note of how the two modes alternate. Also,
when we are around others the ”I” can come up unexpectedly and strongly
because we are used to reacting to other people from our sense of ”I”.
Make use of these moments to look into the self or ”I” with awareness."

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/6/18 4:28 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thank you for the support everyone. I guess I was just having a rough couple of days and I'm feeling back to normal now. 

I've been noting a bit less in daily life the last few days.

I did an hour long session both yesterday and today. I'd sit for 25 minutes, do some walking meditation for 10 minutes, and then sit for another 25 minutes.

I tend to walk very slowly during the walking portion so that I can try to note the rise, moving, falling, placing of my feet, and shifting/balancing of my weight. I also note thoughts, sounds, sights, and examine aspects such as parallax and movement of objects in my peripheral vision. I notice that the hardest part of the each foot step to note is when the foot is moving through space since that's the most subtle in terms of physical sensation. I also notice some sort of sensations related to directing my attention in a downward manner towards my legs as if I were pointing a flashlight from my head and could sense the direction of the beam. Sometimes, it almost feels like the sense of self is down in the feet when the focus is intense enough.

During my sits, I notice that I have been a bit spacey. Thoughts are super vivid and tend to push physical sensations to the background so I have to be diligent so that I'm not caught in thoughts. I also realized this habit where if I have a mental image (and note it as such), I'll then jump to the visual field (so then the distinction becomes noticing whether I'm "seeing" something in my mind or with my eyes). The same goes for mental talking/sounds where, once noted, attention jumps to the auditory sense (am I "hearing" in my head or with my actual ears). This process is generally pretty automatic but sometimes it becomes a feedback mechanism to see if I'm lost in thought or not. 

Besides that, (as mentioned before) physical sensation bring up subtle mental images of those parts of my body. Or even, if I am wearing a hat to keep my head warm, I feel the pressure/tactile sensations related to having the hat on my head, and start to imagine my head and the hat etc. 

My face also constantly tenses up, and every time I notice, I set the intention to relax it. A few minutes later, I'll notice that my face is tense again. 

Typically, I note more freestyle, but I'm starting to try and ground myself more in the rising and falling of the abdomen. I figured that would be. a worthy aspect of practice to work on and could potentially help develop some better concentration.  

I still experience plenty of impatience towards the end of my sits, but at the moment, it is less intense than usual. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/6/18 8:45 PM as a reply to Zachary.
It can feel like banging your head against the wall. In my experience, making an effort to do formal sits during rough stretches yielded strong insight. You certainly should be mindful of your limits, but don't be shy about really plunging into experience here.
Hello Zachary,

That's exactly how I'd describe it. I feel like I'm banging my head against a wall with this life routine. I can feel frustrated with myself and also the circumstances in which I find myself. 

It's almost a bit like the story from Greek Mythology of Sisyphus whose punishment from the gods was to push a boulder to the top of a mountain, only to have the boulder roll back to the bottom of the mountain again. He had to endure this routine for eternity. 

A philosopher by the name of Albert Camus wrote an essay relating man's futile search for the "meaning of life" to the plight of Sisyphus. 
Some philosophers (interested in the "absurd") believed life to be pointless and that suicide was one of a handful of valid options for dealing with this issue. Camus went in the other direction and argued that the fact that life was pointless required revolt. He argued that the struggle of life is in itself fulfilling and is worth pursuing and we should never stop questioning. He concluded the essay saying "One must imagine Sisyphus happy" as in, Sisyphus could accept his position and enjoy the struggle for eternity.

I suppose that is very closely aligned with the various dharma folks who discuss the noticing and compassionate acceptance of the various sensations that arise in life and dharma practice. It can be so easy to forget that simple message sometimes. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/7/18 7:44 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Did 2.5 hours worth of formal meditation today in the form of 2x1 hour sessions at noon and at night with a 30 minute outdoor session in the later afternoon. The hour long sessions were 2x25 minute sits with 10 minutes of walking meditation in between.

I experimented with dropping labels in favor of just noticing sensations arise and vanish once concentration was stronger. I'd switch to noting with labels any time I felt that the session was getting spacey.

I noted the usual stuff (mostly sensations related to hearing, seeing, thinking, and physical sensations), but I'll mention a few of the more unusal things that happened (and were subsequently noted/noticed/investigated): 

--The 30 minute session outside was probably the best session because the noticing was happening so quickly and I could kind of sit back as loads of sensations came in (bird calls, crickets chirping, car motors buzzing, wings flapping, bugs flying, leaves swaying/falling/flipping, body sensations of heat/pressure/emotions, and all the thoughts interpretting this as well as nonsensical thoughts that just popped up). My attention became more diffuse as the sit progressed since it started focussing on fewer specifics and became more inclusive. The nice thing about this session was the overall feeling that "this moment was it" and I could just rest easy in it. Eventually, impatience did arise and I had to get on with my day so I got up.

--I also noticed at points throughout the day (not formally sitting) that noting with labels would be happening by itself in the background. I'd notice it happening and then the labeling would get louder in my head as soon as I realized it, bringing it to the foreground. Pretty cool! This didn't happen the entire day, and would really only pick back up if my attention wasn't currently attending to any task/activity. 

--During the first half of my night sit, about 30-60 seconds before the bell rang for the walking meditation portion, I suddenly felt huge. I felt like my wingspan had doubled. This has happened to me on a few different occasions before, mostly during meditation (and I've read that it's a common occurance in books such as TMI). It was interesting to explore because the sensations in my arms didn't feel any differently than usual, but for some reason, these sensations were interpreted as alluding to taking up more volume (and the mental image associated with that just reinforced that interpretation). I also wouldn't say that I was super absorbed either since I could still hear/see the insides of my eyelids/had thoughts/etc. so I doubt it was anything related to formless absorptions.

That's really most of the weird stuff. There was also a lot of investigating the mechanics of attention, as in, trying to understand the sensations that made it feel like attention was pointed at something. A feeling/sense of 'here' examining things 'over there'. Overall, a productive day with less impatience than usual.  

I'm starting to enjoy the process of adding material to this practice log because it's keeping me accountable and motivates me to put in cushion time. Formal sitting was definitely an aspect of my practice that was lacking as of late. I hope to be able to create a habit out of this. 

Thank you for reading and for the support/advice people have offered and continue to offer me! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/8/18 7:07 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Today was a long day. I tried to keep mindfulness when I could so maybe a 4 out of 10. I dealt with a lot of impatience at work as well as fantasizing. Coming back to this moment was always met with resistance. However, there's less of a sting in the reluctance to live in this moment as it is. 

When I got home from work, I had zero motivation and was pretty apprehensive about sitting for an hour given the fact that I was tired, impatient, and just wanted to keep the fantasies going. 

All in all, the sit was pretty uneventful. I tried my best to keep the noting going, trying not get caught in the tape loops of fantasy that make up an issue that's got quite an emotional pull for me. During the 10 minute walking portion I do, I was barraged with thoughts about quitting. I've seen people say that making the effort to at least sit on the cushion (even when not in the mood, or even if you spend the time not meditating) is very important so I stuck with it and tried my best to note even though I kept getting caught in thoughts and feeling bad about having a "bad" session. 

It's not glorious, it feels pointless, but it's important. There was some satisfaction with completing the hour and hopefully this is another drop to help fill the bucket. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/10/18 9:53 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I added my picture to make this thread a bit more personal on some level.

Okay, so my posts are pretty long, so I'll do my best to introduce "TLDR's" from now on at the beginning of the post. 'TLDR' stands for: Too Long; Didn't Read. It's a common way of summarizing really long posts to a few sentences on the website Reddit so that people will understand what a post is about without having to skip the entire thing because it is too long to concentrate on. I don't want to waste too much of anyone's time (even if you have good concentration and the samatha jhanas under your belt haaaaa [unlike me]). Feel free to read beyond the TLDR if you feel so inclined. Of course, your advice is always valued as well, so feel welcome to comment at any time! I'm not as advanced as most here, so having the guidance is always welcome. 

TLDR: Had a reasonable amount of mindfulness/noting the last 2 days. Didn't sit formally yesterday. Sat today, but the timer never chimed to end the hour sit, so I sat (and noted) for an extra 37 minutes before giving up and checking the timer.


I did not sit yesterday as I had gotten home late from afterwork activities (I went rock climbing). I did my best to note during the day and would give myself about a 6 out of 10 for noting. It was interesting to watch the natural, mammalian fear reaction (because of the height) during rock climbing and being able to sort of attenuate it by being really focussed on the next hand/foot hold that was in front of me. I wasn't necessarily noting, but the intention to be mindful of thoughts, emotions, and such was there.

Today I'd give myself about a 7 out of 10 for being mindful (so by 'mindful' I mean noting without labels or just being present). I noted (with labels) a bit less than usual, but I really tried to anchor myself in the physical body while working on the computer. I also went for a 20 minute walk during lunch to loosely focus on the senations in my feet while being aware of the usual sights, sounds, thoughts, and physical sensations/emotions. On top of that, I really tried to eat lunch slowly and chew my food well and turn that into an insight practice. After work, I played volleyball with my coworkers and dropped the mindfulness in favor of being involved with the game, but I still noticed my mind boomerang back to the present to make a couple of notes every now and again. I can see how training this way slowly creates a habit of being present/aware/mindful/etc. 

I sat tonight and instead of doing 2x25 minute sits with a 10 minute walk in between, I decided to sit for an hour straight. The reason to leave out the walking is because the walking allows me to gauge how long I have left (and that means I tend to get a tad less impatient and my legs won't have to deal with pain because I get the opportunity to stretch them out in between sits). I was already sort of dreading an hour-long sit (long day and such), but I figured that would be a good opportunity to explore impatience as well as pain. I use the "Insight Timer" app by the way because it allows different bells to be set at different times... and although I didn't set multiple bells tonight, it's still relevant to the story.

The sit was alright at first. I noted with single-word, mental labels and noted for a good 98% of the sit. I really did my best to stay with what was going on (seeing, hearing, mental image, impatience, thinking, phantasy, bummed, touch, touch, thinking seeing, etc.) and tried to observe the rising and falling of the abdomen. I also tried to note some of the hinderances/mapping after re-reading Daniel's essay "Map-Obsession: Hinderances in Sheep's Clothing" today. I allowed myself to open my eyes when feeling tired. My vision sort of washed out and things in my visual field warped. I sit in front of a Buddha statue during meditation (a drunken impulse buy, btw) and the face kept warping (although the eyes are closed, suddenly there were pupils overlayed and the mouth would warp into an uncomfortable grimace). Colors would wash out and things would move. Also, my body was swaying forward and backward ever so slightly in rythm with my pulse.

At some point, the pain in my legs/butt hit hard. I decided to explore the pain instead of avoid it as I had on previous sits. I tried my best to be ultra clear about its arising and passing. I tried to see where it was located (tried to "let it speak for itself" as I understand luminosity). I saw what the pain did to my thinking patterns. I'd see how I'd be focussed on a different sense door or a part of my body without pain and the pain would disappear. The longer I sat, the more the pain would take up my attentional bandwidth so that my attention was circling back to it more frequently. Pain kept coming up, but I decided to sit and watch it change and see how it affected this entire mind-body system. I had to use some real will-power to stay cross-legged. Thoughts came up about Shinzen Young and how he has had to deal with hazing at certain Zen monasteries where he had to sit for some ungodly amount of time without getting up (like 10 or 12 hours if memory serves), so I continued to sit and sit and sit and note and note and note with that as my inspiration. Finally, I broke and unfolded my legs for a while and decided to wait for the end of the sit with my legs out in front of me. Then, after some more time, I folded my legs again and kept waiting. The bell wasn't ringing... I got really darn impatient especially because I had to eat dinner still and it had been a long day, etc. I really did my best not to check my phone, but by gosh, this hour suddenly felt like it was the longest hour of my life. Finally I broke down after noting for so long and checked my phone. Turns out the app had somehow gone to sleep (the timer kept running though, but the bell never rang) and I had been on the cushion for an extra 37 minutes!!! If the timer had gone off at the proper time, I probably would not have faced the amount of pain/impatience that I did and it would have felt reasonably short by comparison. 

All in all, this sit was a lesson in the difficult physical pains and emotions/thoughts that can arise during a meditation session. I'm happy with the fact that I noted most of it and didn't get lost in thought. I tried to be honest about what I was feeling even if it wasn't pretty. I noted about 1 note every second on average (sometimes slower and sometimes faster) for 98% of the sit (hazarding a guess here). I tried to be skillful in opening my eyes when it seemed reasonable. I tried to explore the difficult stuff with curiosity. I tried to use will power and just kept sitting. I tried to see where sensations (difficult or not) were arising in space, as well as how the mind-body reacted to sensations arising and passing. Good teaching moment, but maybe I should be more skeptical of this app next time haaaa.

May this drudgery be for the benefit of all beings (especially myself, oh goodness!).  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/11/18 8:55 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
It happens to me many many times.
The non-stop fantasies, lots of judgements about others, lack of motivation to sit.

My atittude? Just do it. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/24/18 11:40 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I have not practiced formal sitting in over a week. I am still setting intentions to be as mindfull as possible in daily living and hoping that it will be enough to make the difference.

I probably have the time to sit formally for at least an hour every day (if I were diligent). If my hair were to be on fire, I could probably put aside multiple hours on certain days (maybe even up to 3-4 hours some week days and more on the weekends).

The hinderances are so overwhelming, honestly. Doubt related to the fact that doing these practices will actually make a difference in my life. Aversion to the thought of sitting, even for 20 minutes. Desire to watch Netflix, listen to music, have a few beers to chill, pursue hobbies that will make me seem interesting as a person, etc. Sloth after I get back from work and I'm tired. It's gotten in the way of being objective and just sitting. It's bumming me out. 

I'm still pretty young; at the age of 25, I keep telling myself that I have time to change. That's such a trap though. I tell myself that I have all the time in the world to pursue meditation and all other interests that would create the cohesive, well-rounded person that I wish I were. I honestly see this particular pattern of avoidance guiding my activities well into my 40's, 50's and beyond (I am sure that after a certain point, I'd just give-in to it and forget everything else and stop meditating all together). 

Shannon Stein and I spoke about this a few times since she became such a hardcore practitioner later on in life. She was always of the opinion that I was extremely fortunate to be so passionate about this stuff at such a young age. However, on some level, it can be torture. I see the benefit in discovering this side of myself now, but I tend to procrastinate because of the feeling that I have so much time.

Daniel and Michael Taft spoke about faith on the latest "Deconstructing Yourself" podcast. It was inspiring, but at the same time, sort of disheartening because I don't have that faith. I follow the directions when I'm on the cushion (staying away from the intellectual dances), but I don't ever see myself as the practitioner who gets soooo into this stuff to the point where I start making major lifestyle changes to get it done. That drive has yet to be discovered and I am so ready for it to rear its head. 

I think appreciation/rapture are missing from my practice, but I'm not sure how to cultivate that attitude. It's drudgery more than anything. 

I try to notice this all, of course, but that's not enough. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
10/25/18 6:08 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
If you think about it, this is a perfect problem to have. Doubt about meditation is no different than doubt about anything else in life, it's a big avoidance mechanism and usually behind it is some kind of perfection complex, e.g. "I need to be like Daniel or Shannon or Michael or I've failed as a meditator..." These sorts of doubt-avoidance mental states will happen throughout your life and if you can learn to rise above it, learn to go through it, then think of all of life's possibiliities you'll be able to explore and experience! You'll be one of the people that understands that doubt, confusion, fear, etc. are not signals to stop and avoid, but rather good, intelligent signals to _slowly_ explore. It's the key to safe adventure and personal growth. 

Honestly, the best thing to do in these circumstances is to dial practice back to something achievable and simply sit in the mess. Sit for 30 minutes. Or sit for 20 minutes. Or do 5 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of standing, and 10 minutes of sitting. etc. Something simple, but make sure you "take the seat" so to speak. 

Let yourself doubt, let yourself feel the drudgery, let yourself feel exactly as you are feeling. That's totally fine. Understand what your mind is going through in a very deep way. See if the doubt about meditation also relates to doubts about other stuff in your life, work, school, social scenes, familiy, etc. If you can, take periodic deep breaths and try to accept the simple fact that it is true that you feel this way. Sometimes journalling (writing down thoughts) after sitting can really help you see, understand, and clearly articulate exactly what is happening. 

And then get up and praise yourself for sitting in the mess. Good job! No need to dwell on it throughout the day, no need to compensate for having such a short sit by being extra mindful during the day, just let the sit go. Done. Live your life. Don't worry about it.

And the next day, take the seat again.

Everyone has to work through these periods of doubt, confusion, "bad practice", etc.  It seems like things aren't working, but this is EXACTLY what needs to happen for us to see our hindrances. We will always reach some kind of mental/physical/emotional limit during practice. The answer is not to push beyond it or avoid it. The answer is to meet it half way, adjust the "dose" of practice, but make sure we do a little each day, not pushing beyond it, not avoiding it.

There is also a point where you might need to convince yourself you can rise above this and go back to normal sitting. There is a story of Ajahn Chah who as a beginning monk was prone to getting really sleepy in the hot afternoons in Thailand. He would go to his meditation hut and kinda sit in a daydreamy sleepy way for the afternoon. He struggled with it for a while in a kind of wishy washy way. At some he realize there was no way he was going to make progress unless he overcame it. At a certain point, when he was ready, he spent some time sitting in his hut while _wearing_all_his_clothes_ to get as hot and uncomfortable as possible. And he sat like that with great energy and commitmentment. After a while, he went back to normal sitting and could easily deal with the afternoon heat.

The problem is most people want to heroically jump to using strong determination, then they fail, then they give up. I suspect that part of their mind already knows and wants to fail, so that they have a good excuse to stop. (Looking back on my life, I see myself doing that several times.) But the right approach is to go gently, really explore and consider what is happening first, and consistently and gradually work towards a goal. (It doesn't need to be meditation, this applies to all of life.) But also recognize that at some points in our life, there is no easy way to be found, and we just have to work through the difficult path forward.

Again, the difficult path forward isn't the first path we should explore. We should respect our body/mind and how it needs to gradually change over time and go slowly and consistently toward our goal.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
11/1/18 6:13 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you Shargrol. This post has been helpful and is much appreciated. I've been reading it daily!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
11/1/18 6:55 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Been sitting on and off lately. Practice sessions are nothing spectacular. I'm coming to terms with the fact that not having "fireworks" during meditation sessions is not a cause for concern. There is definitely some attachment related to being a "good meditator" with good concentration and the idea of vipassana/samatha jhanas and formless realms and nanas and all that. The real goal is to put all that sexy stuff aside and just watch the sensations and be patient and let the process work itself out. I've been through something like this before. There's less striving (I mean, it's not completely absent) and being mindful becomes more natural (but not quite automatic). It seems like less of a deal to be quietly present to what is currently going on instead of striving to note every single damn thing coming up in experience during my day. It becomes very simple. There's also less frustration when I do get lost in thought/content or when I have to concentrate on a task at work and can't be aware of everything going on around and in me. 

Many of the relative "issues" that I've been dealing with have been attenuated over the course of the last 3 weeks. There's this really lovely, overarching feeling of quiet contentedness underlying even times when I'm stressed, etc. There's less idealizing some perfect self (less striving after some ideal self who is talented and physically fit and whatever else I tend to heap on myself). There's less fantasy about other ways my life could be better and less pull into those thoughts as they deliver less of a dopamine hit. 

I'm keeping an open mind. I know this won't last which I'm completely fine with. I'll enjoy this period for what it is and just keep the gentle mindfulness going. Experiencing the sensations for what they are. Coming back to it all again and again and again. 

Maybe it's just the transition in seasons (I'm willing to bet that there are changes in brain chemistry associated with this sort of thing). It's nice to go out and see the leaves during walking meditation however. As it gets darker earlier in the next few weeks, I'll probably start some more exploration of the fire kasina! That's something to be excited about for sure!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
11/2/18 7:38 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
About 75 minutes of Fire Kasina tonight (not timed, just sat for fun). I was rereading the Prologue of the Fire Kasina book today and feeling pretty inspired to sit down. The most recent Deconstructing Yourself interview with Daniel was pretty inspiring as well. Seems like a few practitioners benefitted from the Fire Kasina at the Cochise Stronghold retreat in September. Apparently Daniel and Shannon (and many other high level practitioners) are currently on Denman Island where I had my first meditation retreat with Shannon. They are doing a Fire Kasina retreat. I guess you could say the FOMO got me to sit down haaaa. As an aside: it would be an awesome experience to meet and sit with some of these people one day since I think of many of them the same way sports fans think of their favorite players.

Back to the practice: at the start, the oblong dot would move and flicker until my concentration set in a bit more and my facial muscles stopped twitching. I had to deal with a lot of dullness and dozed off many times. Sort of annoying but I tried to keep it going.

I experimented with using mantras tonight. I don't usually use mantras but they seem beneficial for aiding concentration based on what I've read. Daniel's advice is to make the mantras long and resonant, but I could see a preference for my mind to repeat the single-syllabic mantras I experimented with about once a second or maybe slightly slower (rather quickly all in all). I'm also not familiar with that many traditional mantras, then again, my understanding is that any word/sound will do. It's less about the meaning, and more about keeping the mind occupied with the repetition of syllables. I guess I'd just like to find a syllable that's fun to repeat mentally and produces interest if that makes sense (I'm looking at the practical side of this). "Om" doesn't really do it for me. 

Also, the dot is rarely red for me. It is usually a really lovely turquoise with some red outlines. Sometimes it turns white or gray or yellow. It goes through many different random phases and tends to disappear and reappear. I'd also tried to be aware of the details and colors around the dot (there's usually a halo around the flame that creates a lovely afterimage in addition to the dot). I'm not really concerned with the fact that the dot isn't red though. It's stil fun to just watch the dance unfold.

The interesting part of tonight's sit was when the dot would shrink to a black pin-prick. That's when my concentration seemed to be the most strong. The dot itself was easy to see even with its small size as it was clearly darker than the rest of the murky, pixelated visual field. The dot would become super defined and warp into various simple polygon shapes. The mind naturally found these different shapes to be interesting and would watch little sides and corners appear and disappear. It almost looked like a small black spider trying to make up its mind about which direction to crawl. As soon as this "spider" stuck a leg out to one side, it would pull the leg back and consider another direction and stick its leg in that direction and so on and so forth. It was cute, in a way, and natural feelings of metta would sort of accompany the observation of the dancing dot. 

Fire Kasina is a lot of fun. I have a really hands-off, playful attitude towards it as a practice compared to noting or the TMI style breath meditation. Someday, I'd like to go on a long term, intensive Fire Kasina retreat to experience what Daniel and Shannon have, but I feel that expectations would potentially cloud the enjoyable aspect of this practice. Then again, maybe it is just natural, simple, wholesome fun and one can explore that deep territory even with expectations as long as one is diligent. I look forward to practicing this more as it gets darker earlier through the rest of this fall and winter.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/19 6:07 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I have not posted here in a while, so I thought I’d just check in. 

A few months ago, I picked up my copy of TMI again and decided to really practice it. I had been in touch with some TMI yogis over on reddit who really hailed the benefits of achieving unification of mind and practicing within the later stages of samatha laid out in the book. I was talking to some real phenoms who had managed to reach the later stages of the book within a matter of months. I really wanted to get there myself and started really striving. 

My new years resolution was to try and practice formal sitting at least an hour a day, if not more. I left some of my toys (guitars and other such things) at my parent's house so I wouldn't get distracted. I wanted to immerse myself in practice. This period of practice really sucked. I was bearing down which only led to tightness, frustration, and stagnation. Practice was more of a stick than a carrot. I was skipping plenty of days and quit most of my sits before the bell. Most sits ended with me being extremely impatient. Sometimes I'd end the sit just flat out angry. 

The irony here is not lost on me: Samatha is not achieved through force and requires some degree of relaxation. Unification of mind requires enjoyment. Culadasa mentions throughout the book to rejoice in coming back to the breath, which I clearly wasn't. 

I realized that this point in my development would really benefit from falling in love with my practice. The post that really drove this home were some instructions from shargrol this past week on the stream entry subreddit: 
https://old.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/at46qr/questions_and_general_discussion_weekly_thread/eh0w2hf/

The fact is, I've been bumping up against the various hinderances that were presented in that post. I've been using shargrol’s instructions which have really helped me feel settled. I am also a big fan of keeping this sort of loose awareness of breath sensations going through out my day: commuting, cooking, exercising, at work, showering, talking to others, etc. 

I'd really like to fall in love with my practice. If I sit for two hours a day in the future, it will be because I've found the process to be an enjoyable one. I'd like to let this path of mine to unfold as it may. I know that it's good to sit a bit longer now and again, but pushing ourselves must be done in a balanced and considerate way. I cannot map others' success onto my own development. All I can do is set aside some time daily for practice, participate in the process, and let grace do the rest. 

If I fall in love with my practice, the rest will sort itself out.

Thank you shargrol for your perspective and advice! Thank you to everyone for making this community what it is emoticon


RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/19 8:18 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Cool, rock on!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/19 2:39 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I'd like to let this path of mine to unfold as it may. I know that it's good to sit a bit longer now and again, but pushing ourselves must be done in a balanced and considerate way. I cannot map others' success onto my own development. All I can do is set aside some time daily for practice, participate in the process, and let grace do the rest. 

Nice to hear from you again. This sounds like a great attitude to approach practice from. It's a mindset I've had to learn and check back in with time and time again. Give yourself as much license as needed to experience love and joy in your practice! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
2/26/19 6:04 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thank you shargrol. Thank you Zachary.

Yesterday: 
I was about a 5-6 out of 10 for being mindful. Loose focus/awarness of breath sensations in the lower abdomen was the anchor (intstead of noting). I figured that the lower abdomen was a good place to come back to as it leads to nice, easy abodominal breathing that is a known relaxation technique. It does seem to work: I notice myself being a little less wound up than I usually am. At some points in the day, it felt like I was wading through melted butter: slowly gliding as I moved, it was almost decadent.

In the evening, I attended my Zen group. I haven't been going as often for personal reasons, but it is nice to reconnect with that group. 2x25 minute sits with some walking in between. Again, just relaxing into it and watching thoughts and coming back to the body and breath. There was some impatience to work with. There were also thoughts of "maybe I should try to increase the vivdness of breath sensations" or "maybe you should set stronger intentions to stay with the breath". Noticed these thoughts and continued breathing in an easy-going way.


Today:
I was probably a 6-7 out of 10 for being mindful today. I kept general breath sensations in my lower abdomen as the background focus when I remembered. If I was walking, I used the sensations in my feet as an anchor. 

I did 2 informal walking meditation sessions: 1 at lunch and another once I got home from work. 

I did a formal sit for 25 minutes. Very dull. Many thoughts that pulled me away from breath sensations. The intention I set was a very light focus of breathing.

Many repeating mental images pop up during my sits which is curious because these images really only pop up when I'm in a formal sit. An example: usually it's mental images of video games I played a looooong time ago. Weird that the mind is sifting through it's old memory banks to rehash information that is entirely useless to me. This happens practically evey time I sit.

Shortly after starting the sit, I also dealt with a couple minutes of really uneasy dread. This feeling of dread/doom has been really substantional from the end of December until about a week or two ago (I blame part of this on the fact that I developed some sort of panic disorder/anxiety issues about a year and a half ago). I observed the thoughts in conjunction with the fear, but after a few minutes, the fear subsided. At that point, since I was calm, I tried to remember which particular thoughts had induced that feeling of dread/doom and I honestly could not remember. 

The sit ended with more impatience and dullness. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
2/27/19 6:23 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Probably a 2 or 3 out of 10 for mindfulness off the cushion today. 

Directly below is a rant about my current attitude. Feel free to skip down to the next underlined portion that says "End Rant" for the phenomenological reporting of my afternoon sit. 

Bit of a rant (or some thought patterns/thinking I'd like to see through):

I had some interesting conversations about "conditioning" at work today: familial and social conditioning that leads us to normalize clinging, toxic behaviors, and lack of self awarness that hinders personal growth. These conversations highlighted one of my motivations for practice: if I did not cling to familial and societal expectations/pressures, and was able to undo past conditioning from those afore mentioned influences, I could lead a more authentic, rewarding, and exploratory life.

I'd like to move away from CT and spend a few years either in a foreign country or on the West coast (Seattle or San Francisco or Vancouver). I'd also like to try living off the grid in a yurt or travel in a van (different and separate fantasy). I'd like to know what it's like to work and cook in a commercial kitchen. I'd like to perform music I've written in a live setting. There's more I'd like to do, but there are fears related to the logistics of it all: what would friends/family/coworkers have to say? Would leaving behind a 401k and a promising career be worth it? What would my parents do without me (they've mentioned many times before how tough it would be on them if I left CT)? What if I can't find a job in a new location? Would I make new friends? If I decided to turn back to a career in engineering, would I have shot myself in the foot by missing a few important career development years? What if the music I write is not recieved well and people think I suck? What if working in a commercial kitchen is even more stressful than my current job and I don't even learn how to cook beautiful food in the process?

The list of fears and such goes on. I feel that these fears are totally due to 'clinging' to various stories and self images. If I could just loosen the hold on some of these, I'd be more inclined to pursue some of these interests and life would be more interesting, fun, and rewarding. I'd really like to just live my life and not worry too much about receiving some sort of "blessing" from others for my actions. 

Then again, all this 'wanting to try new things' is a form of clinging in itself. Maybe making peace with my life now, as it is, is the practice. No idea what I should do. I'm only 25: young and dumb.  

End Rant


This afternoon's sit was 30 minutes. I was pretty tired so I decided to note with one-word mental labels which helps me to stay awake.

Relevant pre-session info: about 20 minutes before the sit I tried CBD oil for the first time to see if it would help with anxiety at all. I have been taking some medications for anxiety and I wanted to see if there are other options to limit my consumption of Xanax (even considering how well Xanax works for me, the amount of stories I hear about people forming addictions makes me apprehensive about taking it). I bought this CBD stuff right up the street at a gas station! Wow! What a time to be alive: the dharma is freely available on the web and CBD oil can be purchased right up the street haha!

Anyway, I used labels. I noted sounds and corresponding mental images. Mental images would appear, one after the next in rapid succession. I got pretty dull and started to doze. I let the mind doze and watched the mental images unfold: all were noted to the best of my ability. I could feel the effects of the CBD oil in my body (similar to Xanax honestly although not quite the same): as if a heavy blanket was weighing down my gut and made me feel almost cozy. I noted the slight feelings of usual stress, but also the effects of the CBD: the fact that it all seemed a bit "muffled". My body was just so chilled out and this was noted. I did end up becoming impatient towards the end of the sit and I noted accordingly. 

Overall summation of the sit: mostly stayed with mental objects since dullness/drowsiness/relaxation led to vivid mental images. Noting helped me from getting stuck in thought proliferation. I was able to note and experience dullness and be aware of it.

Honestly, it took me longer to type all this out than my actual meditation session. Probably not sustainable, but I will figure it out. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/2/19 6:07 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I would encourage you to really feel into the sensations that comprise everything you mentioned in your rant: being fed up with your current situation, the desire to do something more fulfilling or creative with your life, the belief that if you just change something or make certain choices that things will be better somehow in the future, unsavory and darker beliefs about family/human socialization and so forth. Really dig into these on a sensate level and see what's there! Additionally, get really interested in the texture and felt experience of dullness, irritation, drowsiness, etc. All of this stuff is great fodder for investigation. 

Finally, and I think it's mentioned in MCTB at some point: notice that all these ideas and beliefs about your past and future only ever happen right... now.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/3/19 5:37 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Thank you Zachary! These are all good reminders. It's easy to lose sight of the simple fact that these stories and sensations are more fuel for awakening if investigated properly.

I appreciate your feedback and I'll reread it any time this sort of material/stress pops up from now on. Inevitably these sort of frustrations will arise again considering my general disposition and attitudes and it's best not to get lost in it all. Thank you!! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/3/19 6:33 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thursday February 27th:

Probably a 6 out of 10 for mindfulness. At around noon, my attention was... weird. It felt like I was navigating my day with a shoe-box on my head. Realizing that things were off, I did some walking meditation during lunch to explore this weird state of attention. I could stay mindful/aware of sensations in the feet (and noted other sensations and such), but it felt really heady and I couldn't really take in the world around me. It felt like being high. I think it was because of caffeine, blood sugar levels, and lack of sleep, but it cleared up around dinner time. 

I didn't sit formally on Thursday.


Friday February 28th: 

Didn't sit. Was really busy at work. Drank too much coffee. Didn't eat until dinner. Was not very mindful. Fridays tend to be really unproductive for me: I have trouble focussing at work and meditation is typically not on my agenda. I think this is because in college, I'd have 1 or 2 lectures at most on Fridays and then I'd start celebrating the weekend with my friends. The same checking-out happens now, but I am not really celebrating the weekend in the same way that I was while in school. Oh well.

Saturday March 1st:

Had an opportunity to interact with an advanced practitioner from reddit/r/streamentry for almost 2 hours. I asked him some questions about practice and life and I felt really motivated afterward. This practitioner has worked with Ron Crouch in the past so we discussed topics such as noting, the Progress of Insight, and faith in the practice. Faith in practice is probably the most pressing issue for me. 

Although many of my friends/family/colleagues would consider me really spiritual, lack of faith in the practice has always been a major hinderance for me. This practitioner described how their sits would progress exactly as Ron had described the PoI on his website. The fact that the maps lined up so well with this practitioner's practice really helped their faith. I have never studied with a teacher on a weekly basis, and I personally don't see the PoI manifesting for myself (or maybe it is and I am just too pig-headed to see the patterns). Either way, since my experiences seem so plain compared to the descriptions given by the practitioner, Ron, and Daniel, I feel like I haven't validated the practice for myself.

I felt a bit better once the practitioner decided to do a 5 minute noting session out loud. It's really so simple and it's a technique that I am doing correctly. My experience may not match the maps, but the maps are not the key to progress: it's this experience right here that is the key to progress. Even if I feel frustrated because my experience doesn't match the maps, this just needs to be noted for what it is: mapping, frustration, etc. "The Hinderances in Sheep's Clothing". 

That being said, faith is something I need to work on, the ultimate question needing to be satisfied is: Is this practice a good investment of my limited time while I'm still on this planet (will it work as promised or is it just a waste of time)? 

Probably a 7 out of 10 for mindfulness and did a formal sit for 40 minutes with noting. My sit was pretty normal: noted body sensations, thoughts, emotions, doubts, impatience, motivation, gratitude, sounds, etc. I can't really remember details about how the sit progressed, but it was a nice sit. 


Today, Sunday March 3rd:

Was probably a 5 out of 10 for mindfulness, but I had quite a lovely sit. I managed to get really relaxed, played with attention and awarness while using the breath at the nostrils as my main object. 

I noticed "forgetting" of the breath as well as gross and subtle distractions. I noticed how dullness and drowsiness would get in the way of breath sensations, but also produced their own sensations. I saw how letting tape loops of thought do their thing was less stress inducing than cutting thoughts off, all while keeping the breath as the anchor and thoughts in the background. There were different types of thinking: fantasizing, planning, remembering, ruminating, projecting, etc. Some of these types of thinking created different types of sensations in the body depending on whether they were future oriented or past oriented, etc. 

The overarching progression was: The sit started pretty plain, strengthened in focus and detail, and then at some point I hit dullness and kept forgetting the breath. It got a bit muddled after that with fluctuating between good focus and dullness, but I tried to be as aware as I could on a sensate level. 

The 40 minute sit went quickly without too much impatience. Very nice. 


 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/5/19 8:17 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Sat yesterday for 40 minutes. Tried to stay with the breath while allowing other sensations to arise. Was pretty dull. 

Today: rigorous off cushion investigation of experience.

Examining mental echoes of sensations: I feel a sensation somewhere on my body and all these mental images of my body map those sensations in space. Hearing noise and trying to locate sounds. Watching when and where thoughts occur in space. How vivid. How rapid.

Investigation became more interesting although sort of ominous when I tried to notice the patterns of sensations related to a centerpoint/perceiver. I'd tune in to the sense door of sight and try to figure out just what or who (or distinguish which patterns of sensations felt like a 'what' or 'who') was doing the seeing. It is so subtle and at some points felt like there was just seeing. Tried the same with hearing at at some point it felt like sound was flowing through an open, hollow skull.

Saw through some difficult anxiety and thought patterns that have been haunting me as of a while now. Panic disorder has made me afraid of having panic attacks or dying in front of other people, but there is this part of me now (in the very short term) that would be open to it, like it fundamentally wouldn't mind. If waves of anxiety washed over me today, I really just sat there feeling it, completely open to it. Almost like part of me was saying "try me" to these really dark stories and sensations that would arise. I can't run away from these sensations for the rest of my life, so like a cornered animal, I have to face them. Unlike a cornered animal, I feel a bit more resolute about it. 

It was a good day.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/6/19 6:25 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Sounds good. The trick is being both vulnerable and strong. Adventuous but safe. Investigative yet relaxed. Etc. etc. Afraid of panic yet willing to panic. It goes beyond the thinking/emotional mind and is more of a embodied, "this is my life and I have to live in it, so I will do my best while recognizing my body and mind's limitations. I know that over time I can develop beyond my current limitations, but I can't do it all in a day." Fast fixes never last long, but gently and firmly building a foundation of mindfulness and insight will support me in growing for the rest of my entire life. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/21/19 8:44 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I have been avoiding formal, timed sitting lately. Sometimes I'll just sit for 5-15 minutes before bed without setting a timer. Mostly just trying to "take the seat". Noticing how the initial resistance to sitting falls away within moments of starting (I need to really remember this so I'll be less likely to skip out on sitting). Anything beyond 20 minutes generally makes me somewhat impatient which is something I need to confront and examine.

Today I was pretty darned mindful in daily life and have been so the last few days. 

I sat for 40 minutes today. I tried a simple samatha/vipassana fusion. Focus was anchored on breath sensations at the nose. I set a gentle intention to increase the vividness of the breath. I also let my awareness stay open. I watched how the attention would leave the breath and scan the body for tension and see what thoughts might have been tied to the tension. The breath would still be there in the background somewhere. I did get lost in thought here and there for short stints. Coming back to the breath was done without any sort of fuss or beating myself up. 
 
I opened my eyes while on the cushion to fight off some dullness. I'd see my body/legs/blanket in front of me and then I'd get a mental image of myself sitting in the room. I'd get the same thing while focussing on breath: mental images of my face or nose between sensations occuring somewhere in the vicinity of my nose. It's sort of funny. Like the mind is making really overt attempts to map things out in space and to create a sense of self. This has been happening all day as well. Many sensations are closly followed by self referential images of my body/face.

Interesting to note during this session: sometimes I'd sort of let the thought loops play out. This would make the magnetic pull of them stronger. Additionally, the more the thought loops played out, the more impatient I was to get off the cushion (mostly because the thought loops were about what I'd rather be doing). If I set the intention to be more diligent with the technique, the impatience would subside quite a bit, sometimes almost completely.

It was a good practice. It wasn't rigid. It wasn't formulaic. It was more about digging and exploring and examining. Trying to find ways to get over dullness (although clearly aware of it) and calming agitation.

May this practice be for the benefit of myself and all beings! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/21/19 6:17 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Nicely done!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/24/19 8:36 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Yesterday I sat for an hour: 20 minutes of Metta, 20 minutes of walking, 20 minutes of mindfulness of breathing.

After the mini DhO get together in NYC, I was feeling pretty inspired to sit today. I did a small, self lead 4-hour retreat in the afternoon.

There were three, individual hour-long sits with 30 minutes of walking in between each session. The initial session dealt with some mind wandering and tensions/worry associated with the prospect of sitting for so long. The technique was mindfulness of breathing with some noting thrown in if I felt that I was getting off track (and when walking, attention was anchored on the feet). 

After about 90 minutes (towards the end of the first walking session), noting with labels felt clunky/cumbersome and effortful/contrived. During the second sit, I sort of let the meditation do itself. There were still many tape-loops of thought going on, but they were in the background. It was almost effortless with minor adjustments here and there to account for dullness or tensions. I dropped the breath as the anchor and just watched where the attention went without really feeling the need to steer it anywhere or hold it on anything. At this point, practice was more about watching bare sensations arise and vanish in a broad, inclusive way. 
I was lying down on a yoga mat, and the attention would scan the body (especially the back of my head or anything in contact with the ground), observe mental states, and tune into the sense door of sight. Staring up at the ceiling, there were lots of colorful patterns and pixels just dancing around: flashing, coalescing, dispersing (basically like watching the murk during Fire Kasina, but with eyes looking at a white background). It became so intriguing to watch. I wouldn't say that I was focussed on any specific part of the visual field, but sort of taking it in as a whole. Focussing too hard on anything felt contrived and created tension. 

While just being naturally interested in this process, there was a sort of blip in the region of my head which caught me by surprise (no, I'm not claiming any sort of path moment today, but it still feels worth noting here). It was so subtle that it is hard to describe. I wouldn't say there was an entrance, but more of a "coming back to the body and mind" quality to it, after the fact. Almost as if by being so interested in these patterns, the mind forgot to frame the rest of experience and create a sense of self with the other sensations in awareness (indeed, peripheral awareness had basically collapsed). It sounded like someone had snapped a wooden match or a toothpick and then I was back (or rather, everything else came back). There was no notable bliss wave or anything. 

The rest of the mini retreat was alright. The second walking session was uneventful. The last hour was basically just dealing impatience (partly because I hadn't eaten for a while and I needed to meal prep lunches for the week). I feel like my last sit included brief flashes of fear (as I was laying down on the yoga mat I was suddenly terrified for some reason), misery (upon closing my eyes, I felt sort of doomed/bummed that my conciousness was stuck in a body, specifically limited in the area of the head) and disgust (I had my hands resting on my stomach, but had to remove them because I felt nauseous, admittedly, this could have been scripted based on the fact that I was mapping after the moments of fear and misery a few minutes before). After that, I was just really impatient and there isn't much to say as the retreat ended uneventfully. 

I'd like to do more of these mini retreats in the future, but I can already feel the aversion rising in me at the thought. Sitting for so long requires commitment, but forcing this issue too much doesn't seem productive. We shall see. Last night was inpsiring, and I'd like to try and ride this wave and use this inspiration for as long as it lasts. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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3/25/19 8:45 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
A good portion of my day felt like my head was stuck in a shoe box. It was hard to concentrate and stay focussed on tasks at work. I felt stoned honestly: my body didn't want to play along and moving around took a lot of effort (to be clear, I smoked over two years ago and I was never really a smoker at all). Sometimes I'd get random pangs of panic because I didn't want this to last too long (similar to when I've smoked too much). I tried to be aware of the crappy quality of attention, the heaviness of trying to get intentions to lead to actions, and how there was some major discomfort involved with my lack of ability to be a normal, functioning adult. 

After work, I put in about 2.5 hours of formal practice: sitting & walking at home, and going to the Zen group in the evening.

At the home session, I was walking outside and would get freaked out by minor things. A leaf blowing in the wind behind me made me spin around because I thought that I was about to be chased/attacked by a squirrel or rabbit. The dried out patches of crab grass looked like massive, white sac spiders. Then came the feelings that I was not a good meditator. That I was wasting my time. That I was alienating myself by spending hours being alone in silence when I really should be socializing with other young adults. I started having these phantasies that I'd be alone forever and there was quite a bit of sorrow in there. Sorrow related to how this is my only life and how badly I want to 'get it right' - whatever that may mean. All these thought bubbles/tape loops were noticed between sensations of footsteps, sounds of cars and birds, the air on my face, the sights around me, etc. I wasn't getting lost in them or harping on them too much.

When sitting inside, my stomach started burning a bit. It felt a bit twisted and I started gagging. This lasted less than five minutes and then ceased. After that, there wasn't really anything to report. I tried my best not to get lost in thought or to get up from the cushion early. A little bit of impatience here and there, but nothing unmanageable. Just intentions to observe the process of whatever was unfolding and be especially honest about feeling the painful, embarassing sensations. 

Some moments arise during practice and throughout the day in which I feel less like a single animal, and more like a colony of little critters. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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3/26/19 8:29 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Wasn't extremely mindful today, but that's alright. 

I did an hour of Fire Kasina after work and a 30 minute walking meditation. 

The first 20 minutes of FK were pretty good. Took only about 5 minutes for my facial muscles to stop twitching. Then the afterimage did its usual thing (for me): becoming more defined, brilliant aquamarine, splitting into 3 horizontal bands of aqua (top band), yellow, and red (bottom band). The after image would dissolve and reappear. The body loosened a lot of tension. The full field of pixels would pop in an out of existence, dancing around. I've been noticing more and more that there will be this series of bubbles or particles moving over the after image (and this happens when staring at a white wall or a blue sky) in a downward direction. It looks like someone is sprinkling sand into a clear glass of water. It's a rather interesting pattern/texture that is in constant flux.
Thoughts (mostly songs on loop) would play in the background. Then I became extremely tired and kept dozing off.

The sit was mostly working with dullness and trying to bring awareness into the process of dozing. I consider this sleepiness a mixed blessing: I didn't want to be so tired for meditation, however, I usually have some difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep due to stress. It's good that the body had a chance to really relax and get some rest. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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3/28/19 7:49 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Yesterday I got up at bit earlier than usual to sit. I've gotten used to getting 8-9 hours of sleep these last few winter months, but I'd like to see if I can start getting 7 and half hours without being too tired during my day. I did 15 minutes of Fire Kasina while drinking coffee before a certain bodily function caused me to end the sit early. Just trying to start slow with the morning sits at this point.

In the afternoon, I did two 45 minute Fire Kasina sits with a 30 minute walk in between to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and raise the energy levels. I kept the attention anchored in the visual field during the walk and noticed objects pop in and out of the periphery, examined colors, textures, rotation, shifting, and parallax. Exploring the visual aspects of reality induces a sense of wonder and highlights the beauty of the world in which I walk.

I had 2 objectives with the Fire Kasina sits: notice the 3 characteristics and to spend more time in the murk. I was examining the fluxing nature of the pixels, the behavior of the after image (changes in color, texture, flashing, moving, clarity, and the cycles), as well as the frustration involved (frustrations tied to the afterimage not staying in the center, frustration with twitching facial muscles, frustrations with getting spaced out while in the murk). The murk was pretty hard to deal with. The clarity is completely gone and the individual pixels blur together into clouds. The mind spaces out and this is when more mind wandering would occur. It's hard to see any details on anything in the center of the field, and the periphery is indiscernible. I'll be spending more time with the murk in the future.

I tried to keep a mantra going through all of this, but I am still having difficulties with using it. Sometimes I decide to drop it and just focus on the visuals. Either way, it all feels productive, fun, and I can see where there's room for growth. The bonus is that I feel pretty relaxed when practicing this way!

 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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3/29/19 7:23 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Yesterday morning I did a 30 minute sit with the Fire Kasina.

I took a 30 minute walk during lunch and anchored myself in the feet/visual field. Really looked for parallax and shifting of textures and frame rates.

After work I did a 2 hour session of 2 individual 45 minute Fire Kasina sits with a 30 minute walking session outside.

The sits have been all about diggging into the 3 C's. Watching the pixels disappear and reappear. I'd say that the colors were less vibrant than usual since I was putting less energy into appreciating that aspect of the practice. My energy was focussed more on the glittering patterns that appeared on the after image. Sometimes these whitish 'S' like curves would appear on the black dot. The 'S' curves would become more exaggerated and start pulsing, giving the impression that the dot was spinning rapidly.
The murk was slightly more interesting yesterday. There was more detail, but it was still mostly clouds with random pixels popping up here and there. When looking at the candle, blue pixels would appear in the periphery around the halo of light that the candle was giving off.

I also tried to notice the impatience and frustration involved. I was pretty strivey yesterday, especially during the walk. There is a brook that runs right next to the house where I am staying, and I spent about 10 minutes staring at it, watching the patterns of light dance off the ripples and waves so rapidly that it almost made me dizzy. I wanted my attention centers to synch up with experience so badly and it almost felt like it would here and there, but that's probably my imagination. I really wanted to skip out on the second sit, but I forced myself to sit down. I did check the time left on a few occasions, but I rode it out. It was a sit marked by impatience and mild interest in doing the actual practice. Of course, when doing the actual practice well, the impatience is pushed to the background making it more manageable.


After the sitting, I noticed that the mind was naturally viewing the aspect of parallax more as I moved through space. It became a habit of sorts.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/29/19 8:48 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
There is a brook that runs right next to the house where I am staying, and I spent about 10 minutes staring at it, watching the patterns of light dance off the ripples and waves so rapidly that it almost made me dizzy. I wanted my attention centers to synch up with experience so badly and it almost felt like it would here and there, but that's probably my imagination. 

Oh, this quote brought back memories! One thing I learned the hard way is that the kind of intent staring/focus really really does not help. This is a classic example of agitation building up and trying to fix it with effort, but when agitation occurs the correct response is to emphasize >relaxing<.

The rules are:
   If agitated, then relax 
   If dull, then energize 

The other thing to be aware of is the ambitious mind will naturally want everything in the flowing brook to be crystal clear, in focus, no blur, etc. But when you are actually synched up with (in equanimity with) the visual field, there can still be blurriness. A bit of a blur is also a beautiful, normal, natural, honest aspect of the visual field.

Your quote reminded me of a time on retreat when I was getting angry with myself because all the fluttering leaves on the trees were just a confusing blur. Later on the retreat (after a path moment in fact) I looked at the trees again and the leaves were still blurry but beautiful just as they were.

Hope this helps! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
3/30/19 9:32 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you shargrol. Relaxing into the meditation technique seems to come up naturally for me during different phases of practice, however I understand that there would be benefits to cultivating it purposefully. I'll keep it simple and use your formula as required. Thank you emoticon

I think that appreciating the simple wonder of sensate reality as it presents itself would make the act of sitting more interesting and fun. That includes the understanding that some things are going to be unclear, not so defined, blurry, confusing, or ambiguous (also realizing that the moment needs to be noticed as what it is, even if wonder or appreciation are not present). I came across this quote in MCTB 2 yesterday while rereading the section about the 3 C's and it pertains to my current issues:
While we can direct the mind to penetrate phenomena with great precision and energy, we can also sit quietly and allow reality to just show itself as it is. Both perspectives are important and valuable, and being able to draw on each along the way can be very helpful. Said another way, we can realize that reality is already showing itself, settle quietly into this moment, and be clear and precise about it.

It seems incredibly ironic to be striving so hard to get 'somewhere' in meditation when that 'somewhere' is none other than here/now. A daily thought of mine is, "I'll be better off when I am enlightened some day", but as has been said before, a person wakes up to their life as it is (so make sure it's one worth waking up to). 

In a later section of MCTB 2: 
...Christopher pointed very clearly and directly to an immediacy of freedom here and now... 

Appreciating this moment seems to be 'it' on some level, and yet the practice is required to drum it into my thick head. It seems like a bit of a paradox.

Thank you for the advice and encouragment! emoticon 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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3/31/19 8:52 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I think that appreciating the simple wonder of sensate reality as it presents itself would make the act of sitting more interesting and fun. That includes the understanding that some things are going to be unclear, not so defined, blurry, confusing, or ambiguous (also realizing that the moment needs to be noticed as what it is, even if wonder or appreciation are not present). 

It seems incredibly ironic to be striving so hard to get 'somewhere' in meditation when that 'somewhere' is none other than here/now. 

Nice!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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4/2/19 9:19 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Just a (long) thought:

I've heard that the process by which the sense-of-self is created requires quite a bit of processing power/energy to maintain. I've always been sort of curious about this point and quite unsure about how this would manifest down the line. 

As of late, I've been seeing an aspect of this first-hand by examining the three poisons as they show up in experience (this wasn't an intentional investigation either, but it has become quite apparent). Realizing that the mind/body can create a lot of unnecessary drama/tension when confronted with small hurdles tends to make these hurdles much larger/more complicated meaning more will power and energy are required to confront/overcome said hurdle. It feels like the three poisons are essentially shooting myself in the foot.

Some examples I've seen in my life the last few years:
  • Studying for exams in college was no fun and exam season is really stressful. The aversion to studying means that more will-power is required to stay on task. Aversion would also inhibit my ability to learn as aversion would not allow for natural interest to arise which would allow the studying/learning to be somewhat enjoyable and flow more smoothly. The stress/worry of having to study for other exams would also scattter my attention meaning real low-quality study time.

  • Doing chores during the weekend: getting in a car (basically sitting the entire time), driving a mile down the road, picking out food that I didn't have to grow or hunt myself, and driving back home. Then preparing the food in a fully equipped kitchen. Then doing the dishes. Then doing laundry and folding it. The list goes on. Overcoming the resistance to doing these mundane tasks is more draining than the tasks themselves.

  • Yesterday on the way home from work, I remembered I had to get an anniversary card for my parents, and right away the resistance appeared since this would require me to take 10 minutes out of my day when I just wanted to go straight home. Honestly, this is a funny one because I knew that it would be such a simple task, a quick detour, and yet the body/mind was just highly reactive. Again, that reactivity is more draining than getting a card. It also details how aversion can make me less flexible as deviating from a routine can be painful. Ooph.

  • Traffic: driving should be such a simple thing. I sit in a comfy chair, I can listen to music or podcasts, I see a lot of scenery along the way, and yet, the feeling of being stuck in traffic or even stuck behind a car that's only going 65 mph when I want to go 75 mph causes tension and frustration and anger. Obviously I'm not alone on this one because road rage is 'all the rage' in this day and age. It can be absolutely draining to commute for like 20 minutes because of impatience and the like.

  • A final one: the amount of time I have spent in my life lost in fantasy, playing videos games, watching Netflix or surfing the internet (still both huge vices of mine) is pretty crazy. The point here is not that I am making myself feel bad that I could have made that time productive, but more questioning the reason why tuning out is so pervasive. Living life without these distractions does not seem restful or relaxing and it seems that watching TV while doing chores makes the chores themselves more bearable. I actively rearrange parts of my life to give myself time to tune out through TV or the internet. Avoiding whatever the moment is presenting is so much easier than what the mind inevitably dredges up in silence.

This ties into a phantasy that I often have: me being some sort of older, retired, and awakened version of myself, chilling out on a hammock and enjoying some New England sunshine and a light breeze without a care in the world. It would be a simple life. I can now imagine a version of this 'simplicity' that doesn't look outwardly simple (no hammock, not retired, many demands on my time), but an inwardly simple version of this where the 3 poisons don't gum up the works and I can function a bit more smoothly.

I don't know if the 3 poisons disappear completely at a certain level of attainment and it sounds almost too good to be true. I realize that the body and mind still become tired after a long day as that is our biology. However, I'm still hopeful that the mental gymnastics that gets in the way of living becomes attentuated, allowing me to just live in a down-to earth, sane way. Here's to hoping.

I'll be examining clinging, aversion, and tuning-out and how these manifest as reactive patterns, thought-loops, emotions, and tensions in the body.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/2/19 9:43 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:

[...]
A final one: the amount of time I have spent in my life lost in fantasy, playing videos games, watching Netflix or surfing the internet (still both huge vices of mine) is pretty crazy. The point here is not that I am making myself feel bad that I could have made that time productive, but more questioning the reason why tuning out is so pervasive. Living life without these distractions does not seem restful or relaxing and it seems that watching TV while doing chores makes the chores themselves more bearable. I actively rearrange parts of my life to give myself time to tune out through TV or the internet. Avoiding whatever the moment is presenting is so much easier than what the mind inevitably dredges up in silence.
This ties into a phantasy that I often have: me being some sort of older, retired, and awakened version of myself, chilling out on a hammock and enjoying some New England sunshine and a light breeze without a care in the world. It would be a simple life. I can now imagine a version of this 'simplicity' that doesn't look outwardly simple (no hammock, not retired, many demands on my time), but an inwardly simple version of this where the 3 poisons don't gum up the works and I can function a bit more smoothly.

I don't know if the 3 poisons disappear completely at a certain level of attainment and it sounds almost too good to be true. I realize that the body and mind still become tired after a long day as that is our biology. However, I'm still hopeful that the mental gymnastics that gets in the way of living becomes attentuated, allowing me to just live in a down-to earth, sane way. Here's to hoping.

I'll be examining clinging, aversion, and tuning-out and how these manifest as reactive patterns, thought-loops, emotions, and tensions in the body.  
Personally, I draw spiritual inspiration from the most unspiritual person ever: Linus Torvalds who, when faced with accusations of "stop being a jerk", apologizes and, instead of trying to change his character, decides that some nifty tools will do the job just fine.

https://lore.kernel.org/lkml/CA+55aFy+Hv9O5citAawS+mVZO+ywCKd9NQ2wxUmGsz9ZJzqgJQ@mail.gmail.com/

I think this issue boils down to a simple decision. You can either
1) watch how your life goes by while browsing reddit and buzzfeed, wondering if this is actually skillful and trying to shoehorn this into a 2500-year old framework that was invented when internet wasn't even on the horizon yet. Eventually you decide that this is not skillful and you try to be mindful and remove the urge to tune out. You do this for years, an uphill battle against a mind that is always faced with temptation, and it works... sometimes. a bit. maybe.
2) You install leechblock (or similar). invest a few weeks of try&error to find a configuration that works fine for your needs. problem solved forever.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/6/19 7:49 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I've been sitting for at least an hour on most days within the past month. I've been using noting, the breath, or Fire Kasina as objects. 

Practice is pretty normal feeling, nothing special. 

Today I did a 3 and a half hour session. I wanted to do a 4 hour mini retreat, but I was suddenly uncomfortably impatient during the last sit and quit early. The other sits and walking portions were more relaxed. I realize that there would have been many benefits to continuing the sit, oh well. 

My only hope is that I keep up this momentum so that these practices can fulfill their promised outcomes. 

I've been sitting for at least an hour on most days within the past month. I've been using noting, the breath, or Fire Kasina as objects. 

Practice is pretty normal feeling, nothing special. 

Today I did a 3 and a half hour session. I wanted to do a 4 hour mini retreat, but I was suddenly uncomfortably impatient during the last sit and quit early. The other sits and walking portions were more relaxed. I realize that there would have been many benefits to continuing the sit, oh well. 

My only hope is that I keep up this momentum so that these practices can fulfill their promised outcomes. 

Edit: I'm considering getting a teacher. I had an unofficial teacher about 2 years ago, but I wouldn't really talk to them on a regular basis (this person is no longer available). I've always wanted to have a consistent practice going before reaching out to someone since I didn't want to feel like I was wasting their time by being a student with commitment issues (issues commiting to daily practice) or wasting my money since payment often seems to be a part of instruction within the pragmatic dharma world. I'd really like to get to a point where I can come into my own as a meditator and be self reliant, but I don't have that confidence right now as I can't really tell what stage of insight I'm in during the day or during a formal session (I try to note that I am mapping though). It would be cool to have someone who can point that out to me so I get a better understanding. Honestly, I should just do it. I've been interested in this stuff for years and it has been my main interest for about 2 years now. Still feels weird to spend money on something that isn't tangible though. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/7/19 7:18 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Finding a teacher, mentor, spiritual friend(s) is probably the most significant thing that will help your practice at a certain point. Of course, not all teachers are a good match. For what it's worth, I personally gave myself a particular amount of time to find a local teacher here in Chicago, saying to myself "if I don't find a teacher I connect with in real life in 3 months, then I'm going to send Kenneth Folk an email." (This is at a time when Kenneth was just starting to teach and wasn't widely known.) I didn't find a local teacher that resonated with me, I contacted Kenneth, and it really helped my practice. 

The one thing I always advise is "never give away your power" to a teacher. Don't let them tell you what to do, what to think, how to feel, etc. Their role is to provide good advice, which when tested through practice time leads to better practice and more independence for you. You get to decide if their advice is helpful and if after testing it for a reasonable amount of time it is not helpful, politely end the teacher-student relationship. Rule #1: If you find yourself becoming more dependent on a teacher and doubting more and more your own abilities as a meditator, i.e. you feel less independent and less sane --- get the fuck out. The teacher must inspire confidence and growing independence. And if the teacher is violating basic respect for your finances, emotions, family and friend relationships, psychology, privacy, etc --- get the fuck out. Remember that they should be even more respectful than your friends in this regard, so if you wouldn't be friends with a person acting this way, don't have them for a teacher. 

And it's like the boy scout motto for campsites: teachers should leave the students better than when they first found them.

And it's like camping: you don't become a great camper by living forever in the first campsite you encounter. It's okay to camp in other campsites. You can have several teachers in a lifetime. A good teacher will want to empower a student to explore and own their own development, even if it means leaving the teacher-student relationship.

For what it's worth!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/23/19 8:18 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Brief update: I've been formal sitting almost daily (1-2 hours most days [2 hours is the goal], sometimes more, sometimes less) and it has had good short term benefits both on and off cushion. Mostly noting, but sometimes Fire Kasina. Hope to keep it up. Additionally, using life as practice and seeing where I get hung up, what I am pushing away, and what I may be tuning out. 

Have a consultation with a teacher coming up in 2 weeks. I need more direction and I think a teacher will help me make the best use of my time.

Tonight during Zen: Probably doesn't mean anything, but for a brief moment, the line between seeing and hearing disappeared. Seeing and hearing became qualities of the same volume. It was as if the subconcious mental process that differentiates these sensations had a momentary lapse. It lasted a moment and, upon realizing this, I lost it. I could just be kidding myself, it was subtle.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/25/19 1:10 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
The last few sits that I've had have been rather challenging in that I keep spacing out and am having trouble staying with the object/technique. Phantasy/mind wandering are features of the last few sits.

I've been very gung-ho about meditation the last few weeks which includes a couple of hours of formal practice daily and rigorous daily life mindfulness, but now I'd rather be doing anything else. General impatience characterizes the last few days no matter what I'm doing. As soon as I do something I like, I realize that I'm not actually engaged in said thing and will be phantasizing about the next thing instead. I have been slowly opening up to the urges, emotions, thoughts and quality of mind that make sitting (and anything else) difficult.

I'm still making time to sit, whether it's an hour sit, or just connecting to the cushion for a few moments. At this point, it feels more like medicine that I feel I need to continue taking. I don't really have expectations as far as the quality of the sits is concerned, so I'm not hard on myself when the mind wanders. Keeping up the momentum is the main challenge/goal at the moment, especially because I don't feel like awakening is all that intriguing right now. I've seen some people mention here that most of the work that meditation does to the mind happens in the background (subconcious) and so we are not aware of changes taking place on a short time scale, which makes a lot of sense and has been keeping me coming back. It's like some subminds are rebelling and telling me to go out and enjoy life. Maybe I can blame this on the nice weather... maybe it's just allergies emoticon  

I ordered a skateboard for the first time since middle school. I have always been the type of person who gets obssessed with a hobby for a few years, I get some momentum going and some good results, and then I drop the hobby almost entirely. I really never thought that I'd buy another skateboard again in my life, and although my skills have atrophied, I am just so excited to start riding again. I mention this partly because it's interesting to see how life is unfolding, and because meditation is 'that hobby' for me at the moment. However, I feel like meditation practice will be here to stay to some degree since it improves life as a whole and can be incorporated into all other interests/activities. It's a lifetime commitment, or so I've been told.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/30/19 7:58 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Had a nice sit this morning. 60 minutes of watching the breath and coming back to the breath when wandering off. Just trying to train the mind to stay steady without much fuss when it doesn't. It went well, although no absorptions or anything were attained.


Could only sit for 30 minutes tonight. I wanted to work with anchoring attention on the breath again, but what ensued was a shiatsu massage of anxiety. As soon as I sat, the resistance to sitting hit me like so many bricks. I knew that if I stayed sitting, a lot of shit was about to come up, but I also realized, that the only time to work with any of this stuff is right now and not some future time. 

There was so much anxiety about everything, but in a weird ambiguous way. Basically for no reason at all. And I just had to sit with it. Lean into it. Figure out why certain thoughts and body sensations feel 'dangerous' or 'off limits'. Opening myself up to how it seems that everything in my life will collapse or has already started collapsing. Or how most things feel pointless. Or how it feels like most people I know are mad at me. Or that I am somehow being left behind by society. Most thoughts at this point in the sit are painful. Trying to think of something comforting to lessen this angst is near impossible. The momentum of the negativity is just too powerful. It is all just extreme bouts of guilt and paranoia and helplessness like whoa. And all I can do is sit with it and feel it out. Not quite accepting it, but no longer able to ignore it. 

Facing some of this stuff was really important and it cleared out quite a bit of bodily tension. There is still anxiety, but I'd rather get ready for bed now and face this again in the future. It is truly scary how deep this weird ambiguous anxiety seems to go. My life is good, but everything is currently collapsing in my mind and hopefully that doesn't keep me up too late the next few nights. 

Now I am having some peanut butter, herbal tea, and watching something humorous. emoticon 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
4/30/19 8:38 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
The mind can generate bizarre, terrifying, disgusting and downright awful narratives during practice. It's important to let yourself feel into the difficult stuff, dispassionately observing the content of mind and noticing what's coming up in the body. Keep noticing how this fearful content isn't "you" and keeps slipping away fragment-by-fragment as soon as it's observed. Notice how painful it all is, almost insurmountably so. You can make a lot of headway by going through these rough patches with a tender mix of courage and surrender. 

It's also totally fine to take small bites of this stuff, a bit at a time, take a break and come back later. Sometimes it can feel like the content of our experience is going to totally drown or consume us. It's important to be kind to ourselves and do our best to set boundaries so practice doesn't spill out into the rest of our lives. It can help to remember that no matter what is going on in our practice or daily life, we aren't going to stay there forever. 

Be well and keep up the good practice emoticon 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/7/19 11:09 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Thank you Zachary! Your gentle encouragement is appreciated. I've been digging into discomfort and stress as of late.


My practice recently has been marked by stress/frustration/striving and some difficult emotional territory. My greatest issue with this has been that I'm practicing vipassana (and living all of my life) with a 'future orientation': I am hoping that I'll be a happier person in the future through path shifts and the like, but the practice of meditation and awareness is always NOW. I like to imagine that I'll be a more functional human being after getting these path shifts, but that is just wishful thinking. I don't know what path shifts will do to me or my motivation or discipline. The theme remains the same: all of these different axis of development need to be developed NOW, today.

So I need to learn to be happier NOW with my current life/circumstances and this current moment. I don't have to wait to be happy and I shouldn't rely on future path shifts to get the job done. It feels almost weird or guilty to say that. I don't need that expensive car or house or flashy wardrobe or dream job/social life/romatic life, etc. to be simply happy now in a grounded, down-to-earth way. I still want all of that to some degree though, so it feels almost foreign or wrong to say "I can be happy now anyway". I realize awakening goes beyond happiness and that we can't be happy in every single situation, but I do see how the constant wanting of material and spiritual wealth leads to this mind finding reasons to neglect simple forms of happiness and pleasure in the present. 

In essence, I'm trying to develop the factors of awakenig of joy/rapture, tranquility/relaxation, and concentration/samadhi. These factors are lacking in both my practice on the cushion, and in my daily life. Focussing on all the dukkha in my life has made all this clinging, craving, aversion, etc. more apparent. It can be drudgery to a certain degree. I suppose by focussing on positive qualities such as gratitude and similar qualities will make all of those small blessing more apparent as well. I want to enjoy my life as it is a very good life, and yet this mind operates from the stand point of 'lack' and this causes stress and unhealthy, painful reactive patterns in a variety of ways. Simple presence sans expecations seems to be the antidote to striving that is slowly becoming a hinderance.  

Edit: I've also been interested in developing off-cushion samatha/samadhi as described in TMI and Shinzen's Science of Enlightenment. Does anyone have any comments about this process? With more practice and path shifts, does off cushion samatha become more wired-in or easier to access if it isn't baseline? Many people on the TMI message boards describe the persistence of off-cushion samatha, but it isn't discussed here all that much.   

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/9/19 8:44 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Good to see you continuing your practice, Kid.

For off-cushion practice--one thing I really like is to use the posture/breath as a place to return to in every spare moment. It can help to do some formal standing meditation or yoga practice as a supplement, but basically what you can do during the day is just become aware of your posture, stand up straight or otherwise correct any postural problems, relax and rest in the sensations. Then take a single deep breath if you have the time, or just move on to whatever you were doing. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You can do the same thing if you're in a chair.

But this is just one option. There are tons of ways to do this. When I was first working on this stuff I turned it into a game to see how many creative ways I could come up with to practice off-cushion. 

Have fun!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/10/19 9:51 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thank you for this Andromeda!

Sometimes I return to the breath, sometimes I check my posture, sometimes I note, sometimes I do walking meditation.

After almost 2 years of trying to note as much as I could during the day, I have just been letting the technique go for a bit. It is interesting to see how my baseline level of mindfulness/presence has grown through more hardcore, diligent off cushion practice. I often find that the mind/attention/awareness boomerangs back to this moment and examines what is happening in the various sense doors as well as reactions to what is happening. It is more natural to be present instead of lost in thought, although that still happens plenty. 

Cool to see that progress is happening, in a way, but still wondering where this is all leading or how it all progresses... although it all leads to being here, now. Sort of paradoxical, but I am acclimating to that paradox and not trying to figure it out. Your advice is appreciated!

Have fun!  
This is what I need to work on too haha emoticon
  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/10/19 10:39 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
still wondering where this is all leading or how it all progresses... although it all leads to being here, now. Sort of paradoxical, but I am acclimating to that paradox and not trying to figure it out. 
  

It sounds to me like you are right on track. There is an infinite creative potential at the heart of practice, but it absolutely isn't something that the conceptual mind can figure out. We just have to keep going back to the mystery of it, again and again, and when we do that consistently over the years sometimes things happen. Or sometimes we simply notice one day that things are very different from what they were. 

As to where it's all leading and how it progresses... I still wonder about that myself sometimes. And I haven't met anyone who really knows, even the ones who've been deep into practice since The Beatles were popular. Isn't it a fundamental part of being human? And wouldn't it be kind of a bummer if we weren't? Without that, we would have lost the capacity for surprise. The more time I spend resting in not-trying-to-figure-things-out, the more it seems to me that the most important things in life simply don't fit into words anyway.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/14/19 4:48 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Had a major heart-opening on my commute home from work today and started sobbing. This heart opening came in two parts, but I'll share the second part to save time. The first part cracked me open a bit to the possibility of beauty and vulnerability.


Part 2:

I told myself I needed to meditate after work today. Today I told myself I'd try to get in 2x45 minute sessions after work. I would like to cultivate jhana and someone compared it to cultivating a runner's high on reddit/r/streamentry in a way that I found helpful. It means putting in the work, just as with jogging.

On the commute home, a part of me thought "Why bother sitting twice? You're probably never going experience jhanas or awaken. You always set goals and then flounder. You suck. It doesn't matter whether you sit twice or not because you're rarely consistent anyway. It's barely a drop in the bucket and makes no difference. This, too, is doomed to fail."

However, the slight part of my heart that was open to beauty in that moment responded with "Today we will be meditating because life is beautiful. Because we'd like to keep in touch with that beauty. Because it's okay to let down the defense mechanisms and to be open and vulnerable."

I started sobbing. It's like this body needed to release tension associated with the constant contracting into a self. There was the recognition that this constant contraction is annoying and painful.
Contraction feels like I am wearing a suit of armor that restricts my movement, and weighs me down for the sake of 'protection'. Vulnerability feels light and open and freer. I could see how being contracted all the time isn’t healthy for this body or mind and how it really is holding me back from being simply happy and at ease.

There was some real grief due to seeing how much time I've spent miserable due to putting up walls and defenses. That grief was reinforced by the recognition that there will be much more time spent in contraction in the future as the mind and body learn to open up and be vulnerable.  



Obviously this heart opening will not last and I am mostly past it at this point. Already feeling contraction again. However, today I’d really just like to sit and honor the beauty that is already in my life as I usually pass right over it. The beauty of having money, food, shelter, health, clothing, a profession, hobbies, material wealth, etc. Grateful for my connection to others and meaningful friendships. Also grateful for what the Buddha discovered 2,500 years ago, grateful that these practices can seem to unlock some feature like a hidden Easter egg in a video game, grateful for those that have transmitted these practices over centuries, and grateful that I, too, can partake in these practices. I figure I can just honor the process which has its own intelligence and sit in a whole-hearted way. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/14/19 5:41 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Good for you!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/14/19 6:04 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Beautiful.  emoticon

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5/15/19 12:23 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Oh wow! That’s the way to go. I’m so happy for you, and moved.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/20/19 6:53 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I'd like to list some observations/lasting intellectual understandings from this past week's heart-opening so I don't forget them and can track how these understandings deepen/change in the fututre. Please feel free to comment if any of these ideas require more refinement/examination or are just plain wrong. It is sort of interesting because a lot of these ideas are all aspects of the same understanding in a way. Also, a lot of these ideas are common sense (intellectually) as I've heard and maybe experienced some of them before, but they seem to penetrate deeper and deeper (experientially). There is a somewhat logical flow to the ideas listed below so they will be numbered:
   
1. Although the body and mind are separate entities, the connection between them cannot be ignored. An excited/tense/stressed/upset body causes the mind to spin out of control and vice versa. I'll refer to this as the bodymind within this post. My practice must therefore be holistic: anything that helps the bodymind to feel well/ease, happy, settled/tranquil, and strong is worth exploring/investigating/cultivating/growing.
   
2. The 3 poisons are inherently painful as they cause both bodily and mental contraction. Contraction is extremely limiting and saps the bodymind of energy. The 3 poisons are also equal to the 5 hinderances (where greed=sensory desire, aversion=ill will, & delusion=sloth, restlessness, & doubt). Since the 3 poisons are equatible to the 5 hinderances, the reduction of the poisons can/may lead to more off-cushion, baseline samatha which is extremely healthy and healing for the bodymind.
   
3. As various momentary identities/identifications arise, the 3 poisons arise (contraction of the bodymind in general) to define the boundaries of these identities (which is the aforementioned limiting quality of the 3 poisons). As an example: I act differently around my coworkers, friends, strangers, parents/family, etc. I generally feel more contracted around those where I need to be limited or restrained in my actions and words to fit into a certain mold/identity. The mold/identity is often based on context, my expectations for desired outcomes, or just based on 'who' I wish I were.     
   
4. Contracting is closely tied to 'putting up walls' against other people or any life circumstances. Putting up walls is the opposite of awakening. An analogy for this that popped up in my mind recently: awakening is not about creating an impenetrable fortress ('self-fortress'), but it's about taking down all the walls. Instead of armies, arrows, cannon balls hitting the walls of the fortress, armies/projectiles simply march/fly right through open space/air. However, part of the work of awakening involves dismantling the walls of the self-fortress which requires encountering and confronting our reactions and defense mechanisms again and again which can be difficult.
    
5.A. Beneath all these 'walls' and projections/judgements about others/ourselves (contraction), there is an openess/vulnerability and acceptance/lack-of-expectation for others and our selves that can be best described as love (this isn't an emotion either, but an orientation of the mind). It is inline with what I've heard from various sages and awakened beings who describe the source of awareness as 'love' (reading/hearing this often caused me to roll my eyes). It's not a passionate, romatic 'love' or even sweet or fruity or hippie, but more of a friendly, accepting, 'open', spacious quality/orientation of mind. We often are not in touch with this open, loving quality/orientation of mind because so much of our psychic garbage/karma/conditioning gets in the way which lends credence to the idea of buddha nature: that we all have buddha nature but is often obscured by clouds (conditioning) and cannot shine forth (I realize I may be slightly off here or just describing a small aspect of that analogy).
   
5.B. Not only are we contracted (putting up walls) against other people, but also life circumstances such as traffic, work, chores, etc. Reducing the 3 poisons to life circumstances means less obscuration of that loving, spacious orientation of the mind. This could very well lead to more satisfaction with life. 
   
6.A. The Brahma Viharas are direct antidotes to the 3 poisons, but since the 3 poisons arise in response to life circumstances beyond just dealing with other sentient beings, there may be a way to use the Brahma Viharas to become open and spacious to traffic, work, chores, etc. This isn't about being productive, but about creating less negative bodymind reaction to those things we deem annoying. I've heard of a Lama who repeatedly reached out for a mug of tea until he was satisfied that he did it with enough love which is in line with this line of thinking.

6.B. The Brahma Viharas are great in that they cultivate these helpful qualities, but they also help to temporarily remove the obstructions to the background love/openess/vulnerability which is always present. The Brahma Viharas may very well be less about 'loving others more than we usually do' as much as 'removing the walls' that obscured the baseline level of love and openess that is there when we are not contracted. That openess and love may very well be more beneficial for ourselves (our bodymind) than for other people. 


Okay, I think that is enough for now. There are many ideas packed into the above points, which are both understandings and speculations. However, I see the benefit in the heart practices and how these practices counter the 3 poisons and can lead to near term enjoyment of life. Also, seeing how the sense of self/center-point is painful and how the 3 poisons cannot really function without that center-point. Exploring that territory seems to be fruitful for insight (as those reactions are very much automatic and cause suffering). The immediate beauty of the heart opening is long gone, but the understanding and inspirations will definitely guide exploration in the near-term.  

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/20/19 7:45 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Looks like you are making good use of the insight HK.  Keep at it!  

With metta
Malcolm

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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5/20/19 6:15 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Excellent, rock on H-Kid!

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5/31/19 10:01 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Small update: I will now be working with a pragmatic dharma teacher on a biweekly basis. I know some people who have worked with this teacher and they had good things to say. I look forward to seeing how this affects my practice as I feel like I've been spinning my wheels for years.   

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/5/19 9:07 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Life has been pretty busy recently as I have had to travel abroad. Between jet lag and spending time with family (basically very little privacy or personal time), formal meditation took a back seat. It was interesting to see what reactions came up (my constant anxiety has been attenuated quite a bit for the time being [yay!], and I am better able to turn towards anything that is frustrating or bums me out). I've been home for a week now and back to my usual rhythm.  

The teacher I am working with (from here on out "my teacher") is having me work on 2 things: relaxing at the beginning of meditation sits, and forming intentions related to practice.

Relaxation: I've always sucked at samatha, always striving for a tight focus on the sensations of breath that leaves me feeling contracted (basically the exact opposite of calm abidding). Also, I usually just rush into meditation without settling down first. I'm taking time (10-15 minutes) to adjust posture, feel the body, settle in, breath slowly and deeply, relax, focus a bit more, and eventually switching to noting.

Intentions: My teacher asked me how long I'd like to practice daily and I figured that 2 hours a day is a pretty solid minimum to have. The idea is to set an intention to formally meditate for 2 hours a day and that I should word it in such a way that is appealing to me. Touching on the intention on a regular basis (every few days maybe) would help the mind to align with the intention. I've personally always felt weird formally stating intentions, but I am going to put the logical mind aside and go for it.

"My intention is to engage wholeheartedly in formal meditation for at least 2 hours a day for the benefit of myself and all beings."   

If I can live up to the above intention (especially the 'wholehearted' part) I think I'll be in a good place. I will also start experimenting with shorter term intentions before individual sits or when trying to "get things done" during my day.

Just as an aside: the teacher also mentioned how intentions can mold reality when practice becomes more advanced and that we could experiment with that once I have some more experience under my belt. For now, the idea is to use intentions to aquire Wisdom and I am totally on board with that. Magick & The Powers are really interesting and I'd like to experiment with these at some point, but I'd like to keep practice simple for now.  

Life is good emoticon

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/13/19 9:03 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Been hitting my target of sitting for 2 hours a day: an hour in the morning, an hour in the afternoon/evening.

Usually start with 10 to 20 minutes of relaxation and focus followed by noting once the concentration starts to break down.

Lately sits have looked like:
(Samatha)
1) initial dread/impatience
2) a settling in
3) sustained breath focus and some stability and confidence
4) relaxation & visual light & feeling like I am in a cozy cocoon of sorts
5) falling off the breath, spacing out

(Vipassana: slow noting)
6) frustration at falling off the breath and being spacey/dull
7) turning towards/opening to the thoughts and body sensations of frustration, doubt
8) relaxation, stability
9) resting in awareness: watching how sensations just arise and pass on their own without searching them out
10) dullness, spacing out
11) mild frustration at spacing out
12) turning towards/opening to the thoughts and body sensations of frustration, doubt...

The cycle of dullness, mild frustration/doubts, investigation of frustration, resting in awareness repeats a few times over the course of the sit.

Towards the end of the sit, I start to get impatient as I want to go do something else. This usually occurs at about the 40 minute mark if I had to guess. It is usually manageable and observing it impersonally seems to attenuate it a bit.

Less striving than usual, but also more patience and honesty when turning towards feelings of frustration or doubts that do come up. When falling off the technique or the breath, I come back to it with the attitude of "Just this breath (or this moment): no reason to fuss". When building momentum in concentration, it can be discouraging to fall of and get lost in thoughts. Coming back to the breath, there are often worries that I just ruined the momentum. I find that the attitude of "just this breath" is helpful as it avoids the guilt and frustration that comes with having fallen off. No reason to add any more angst and frustration. Just this breath. Just this sight, this sound, this body sensation, this thought, this emotion, this fear, this doubt, this confidence, this moment.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/13/19 11:40 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:

Lately sits have looked like:
(Samatha)
1) initial dread/impatience
2) a settling in
3) sustained breath focus and some stability and confidence
4) relaxation & visual light & feeling like I am in a cozy cocoon of sorts
5) falling off the breath, spacing out


Sounds like good stuff, a couple thoughts:

One idea to help stay more rooted in your stage (4). If you haven't been doing so, you might want to try checking in with the rest of the body periodically and see where else within it you can spread this sense of relaxation. Often times in samatha practice the feeling of relaxation can be so nice and welcome that we can end up unconsciously funneling all our energy and attention into specific areas of the body in order to get as much of that pleasant feeling as possible. It can be helpful to ask yourself if there are any tensions or areas that feel vague in the body that you can get to "sympathetically vibrate" with the nice relaxed feeling you've already cultivated. Really allow the body to tap into this, and don't feel shy or guilty about promoting this sense of ease and peace wherever you can.  

If you end up in stage (5), one approach could be to bring in some extra effort to investigate the sensate qualities of "spacing out" and "falling off the breath". Experiences that are vague and lack clarity still have a very definite, even granular quality that can be fruitful if investigated. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/13/19 2:44 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Looks like you are building strong foundations HK. Keep it up and they will bear fruit.

Malcolm

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/16/19 4:07 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
That cozy cocoon part sounds like a very fitting way of describing third jhana. How would you describe the texture of the cocoon? emoticon

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/16/19 4:43 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I'm really not sure that I'd consider it a jhana at all. I think that it may be access concentration because I still have to put in effort to maintain it. It's a state of feeling relaxed like waking up from a nap while lying under a heavy blanket. There's plenty of thoughts in the background as well, but the general outside world is attenuated or muffled as if I were in a cocoon. There's usually a field of light (nothing crazy) and the breath is sort of at the center of attention. 

It feels alright, but it isn't really as blissful and wonderful as I have heard jhana can be.

I still think it's worthwhile to cultivate and hang out in as it may lead to something deeper. emoticon

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/16/19 4:42 PM as a reply to Zachary.
I'll experiment trying to spread it out. I notice that even in this state, there is still some constricted tension in the stomach/abdomen. 
At this point, it is still pretty fickle and delicate and I need to work on stabilizing it so as to be able to play with it more. 


Thank you for the advice Zachary!


@Malcom: Thank you for the encouragement! I've heard that 'advanced' meditation is simply the skillful application of the foundational practices (paraphrased from Shannon Stein's Fire Kasina auto diaries if I remember correctly). Just trying to build the foundation as best as I can! emoticon

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/16/19 5:32 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
I'm really not sure that I'd consider it a jhana at all. I think that it may be access concentration because I still have to put in effort to maintain it. It's a state of feeling relaxed like waking up from a nap while lying under a heavy blanket. There's plenty of thoughts in the background as well, but the general outside world is attenuated or muffled as if I were in a cocoon. There's usually a field of light (nothing crazy) and the breath is sort of at the center of attention. 

It feels alright, but it isn't really as blissful and wonderful as I have heard jhana can be.

I still think it's worthwhile to cultivate and hang out in as it may lead to something deeper. emoticon


Ah, okay. If that’s the case, then you have even cozier cocoons to look forward to. emoticon And yeah, if the breath is at the center of the attention, it’s probably not third jhana anyway. Language is so tricky! The thing is, I have had jhanic factors lately that really felt like being in a silk cocoon. Soooooo soft.

Definitely something to cultivate further. Best wishes for your practice!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/16/19 6:01 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

Definitely something to cultivate further. Best wishes for your practice!

Same to you Linda! emoticon

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6/16/19 10:15 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hibiscus Kid:
I'll experiment trying to spread it out. I notice that even in this state, there is still some constricted tension in the stomach/abdomen. 
At this point, it is still pretty fickle and delicate and I need to work on stabilizing it so as to be able to play with it more. 

Nice, and the thing with tensions in the body is that some will respond readily to effortful concentration and specific techniques and others not so much. Some areas of constriction just need a whole lot of time, space and awareness before they fizzle away on their own, so don't get discouraged if some tensions just don't seem to budge! 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/19/19 8:07 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I might be starting to cut into Equanimity. Sat for 75 minutes this morning and this is how it unfolded:

(Samatha)
1) Sluggishness, distraction and settling in
2) sustained breath focus and some stability and confidence
3) relaxation & visual light
4) falling off the breath, spacing out

(switch to Vipassana)
5) frustration at falling off the breath and being spacey/dull. Tons of anxiety came up as well (more-so body sensations than thoughts). 
6) turning towards/opening to the thoughts and body sensations of frustration, doubt, anxiety
7) relaxation, stability
8) resting in awareness: watching how sensations just arise and pass on their own without searching them out

The steps listed above happened in about the first 30 minutes... after that:
9) things feel normal and I am alert: just sitting
10) lots of mental imagery similar to as if I were dozing off, but I am wide awake and aware: not forgetting to apply the technique of slow noting (and doing so without striving)

I sat for 15 minutes longer than usual. There was a small amount of impatience towards the middle of the sit (30-40 minutes), but after that I could just sit indefinitely. There wasn't much impatience during last night's sit either: I could just sit.  

Might not be equanimity: either way, my goal is to sit for 2 hours a day (and practice off cushion) and whatever happens, happens. I've been fulfilling my end of the bargain by practicing wholeheartedly and opening up to whatever arises.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/20/19 8:19 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I need an attitude adjustment:

I reflect on all the times I got stressed out or hung-up or clingy/needy about certain things in high school & college and there is some real remorse there. I always think "Oh man, it was so dumb to stress out about that. What a waste of time and energy. If I could go back to that situation as I am now, it would not even phase me." 

And yet, I do it still today. I stress out about many things: Will I get the path shifts that I am hoping for?; Will I be able to find an SO when I am finally ready to settle down?; Will I be able to keep friendships as people start settling down and start families?; Will my body remain healthy and functional?; Will I ever find the bravery to move somewhere new?; Will the people close to me (who rely on me to an extent) be able to thandle their emotions if I leave? Etc...

The specifics of these stresses may have changed as I have gotten older, but that constant habit of psyching myself out is sort of ruining some of the best years of my life: I'm young and healthy and have good friends and career prospects, etc. It all feels so heavy though. I guess I am just super insecure. 

I need to chill out. I'm honestly sort of jealous of those people who are laid back and genuinely at-ease with their lives. They don't need spirituality to solve all that nagging.

I'm wondering if getting more into these practices will help me to chill out and just be more laid back. Either way, still curious about what the Buddha and other Arhats experience, so even if I was laid back, I might still be into this. Who knows? It's my karma as some might say. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/20/19 9:59 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
I get a lot of what your saying. Especially that part about being insecure which can cause a lot of issues. I think for me the greatest thing going is being different from all the people that really got it all together and are at ease (supposedly). I use to really wish things would have been different in life with more money, better relationships, better schooling and all kinds of other things and areas of life. But for me I realize I’m still at an age where I can wake up all the way and live in some real truth no matter what’s going on. I trip about all the path stuff to. I was tripping about it all week with thinking I’m close to something or in eq or falling back to dn and so called money and work issues but I saw a post that talked about suffering and then read a meditation in this guy’s book on seeing everything as suffering because of its impermanent nature and it kind of chilled me back out. I’m no arahat but the practice I’ve done has made me way less insecure and more open to the idea that it was all and is all exactly the way it’s supposed to be. Anyway man I can get down with what you wrote and the honesty so I figured I would say something.

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6/21/19 6:16 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
And yet, I do it still today. I stress out about many things: Will I get the path shifts that I am hoping for?; Will I be able to find an SO when I am finally ready to settle down?; Will I be able to keep friendships as people start settling down and start families?; Will my body remain healthy and functional?; Will I ever find the bravery to move somewhere new?; Will the people close to me (who rely on me to an extent) be able to thandle their emotions if I leave? Etc...

These are all normal anxieties about the future. But they are about... the future. Imaginary and impermanent, not self, and prone to making you uncomfortable. So you can examine them as they occur with the skills you have developed, then you can see them as what they are.

emoticon

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6/21/19 7:24 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I was doing that a bit yesterday. I'd go off into these thought loops about past and future and then bring myself back to the present moment. The sense of there being a 'future' and a 'past' as concrete aspects of reality is just such a powerful illusion. It's the baseline (locked-in) way in which I experience "time". Yet it's all just mental imagery, mental talk, and body sensations wizzing by. Coming back to the present moment can almost feel like waking up after one was dozing off.


I suppose the reason why I brought up this 'content' related stuff is because of the conversations had here and elsewhere regarding awakening and psychology: that an awakened person can have psychological issues and blind spots and personality quirks. I'm sure that seeing these 'worries' in a 3C's sort of way (locked in) would lead to being more laid back about it all, but I figure that my general attitude would be a separate axis of development. I can imagine that there are awakened folks who are chronic worriers, but those worries would be seen with clarity. Maybe I am wrong... I'm probably wrong emoticon

Either way, I just noticed the habit of worrying and I can imagine that in 5 years I'll look back on this period of my life and say "Why was I so worried?" and it will come from a place of better perspective: just as I look back on myself as a teenager and ask the same thing. As shargrol likes to say, mastery in something doesn't mean that problems no longer arise, but that one gets "better problems".  


Edit: Thank you for putting up with my ranting and helping me to keep my eye on the ball!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/23/19 6:51 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Not strictly practice related, but here goes: 

I just finished the book "Tales of Awakening: Travels, Teachings, and Transcendence with Namgyal Rinpoche (1931-2003)" and I have to say it is a very beautiful book. I'd definitely consider it to be one of my favorite dharma books from here on out.  

I got really interested in Namgyal Rinpoche after going on retreat at the Hermitage on Denman Island outside of Vancouver, Canada as the retreat center is part of his lineage and legacy in a way. The Lama who lives on site had some stories about Namgyal that piqued my interest and eventually I found a few books written about his talks and life. 

Namgyal Rinpoche was an interesting dude: he grew up in Canada, originally ordained in a Theravadan lineage and was later recognized as a Tibetan Tulku when traveling to India with some of his students (he was constantly traveling all over the world - truly astounding).

The book is great in that many short stories are given about the man by various students he had throughout his teaching career. These stories are almost similar to hearing about Zen masters because he seems so embodied and eclectic and quirky and often taught via unconventional means. He had a wide range of knowledge about the world (politics, the sciences, history, religion, etc.) and meditation, and he often would scream at his students for getting caught up in spiritual materialism (with the Tibetan empowerments he'd bestow and the like). He liked collecting things such as gems/crystals, and he liked SCUBA diving, travel, art, music, playing cards, and adventure.

What's more interesting is that many of the teachings in the book are super pragmatic although they may not seem to be when taken at face value (there is a certain poetic, stream-of-conciusness quality to the talks he gave). Although MCTB is a very different book in terms of tone, scope, instruction, etc., it is pretty clear that Daniel and Namgyal Rinpoche are pointing to many of the same truths. Namgyal's main message was very empowering (that anyone could awaken) and life affirming (there is beauty to life which should be savored and dharma practice is part of that overall beauty: practice is not meant to be exotic or esoteric and it should encompass all of life including washing the dishes). 

It is very clear that he was highly awakened, but was also completely human: he had foibles, blind spots, and it seemed that he was always developing as a person over the course of his life. There are some things about him that would have turned me off: his students would often give him foot massages and he was obviously getting a lot of money from his students to be able to travel, to go shopping (one of his students mentions that shopping with the guy was an expensive endeavor), and the funds to open so so many retreat centers around the globe. He'd sometimes throw tea at people or outright assault them (the Lama at the retreat center mentioned Namgyal punched a guy in the face as the guy dared to question Namgyal's attainment in a rude way). All of his students seemed to have put him on a pedestal to some degree, yet, they still talk about the times in which there was friction between themselves and Namgyal or when his behavior threw them off. 

Overall, I am very inspired by this book: it really illustrates that the process and reality of awakening is deeper than any one person. I am just so grateful for the people who went out of their way to compile the stories in this book (and those who freely offered to open up about their personal relationship with Namgyal).

It inspires me to be self reliant, to practice meditation well, and to also create beauty and enjoy this life whether that is through service, or cooking a nice meal, or writing a song, or exercising, or going an adventure, or just enjoying the company of others. It all fits together. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/25/19 7:53 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Took 2 hours to just 'be' last night.

I had a cushion to sit on, a yoga mat to lie down on, I could walk around my room if I got dull/drowsy, and I had a candle for Fire Kasina.  

The ground rule was not to indulge in any sort of media or entertainment or hobbies for 2 hours. Besides that it was just unstructured time to be aware.

Mostly I laid on the mat and noticed the changes in body sensations, thoughts, sounds, and vision. A bit of noting with labels here and there. I walked around my room for maybe 5 minutes to deal with some drowsiness. Finished up with about 30 minutes of Fire Kasina.   

I'd like to invest more time into evening meditation assuming that I don't have anything else planned. This was a tenative step in that direction. I often like to watch Netflix or read or surf the web in the evening to tune out before I go to bed. This has really sort of become a ritual and a bit of a bad habit as I pour hours of my time into consuming media/entertainment. It's a coping mechanism in a way: a distraction from dealing with the present.

Even if I did a formal hour of sitting with more effort/structure and then just backed off to be generally aware (without consuming any media/entertainment) for the rest of the evening, I think it would help.      

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/25/19 7:51 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Strange moment tonight while doing some walking meditation:

Something happened to the space between objects as I was looking at them. As if the sense of space could only be inferred from the fact that there are objects around my room (bed, floor, desk, etc.) inhabiting their own coordinates in relation to eachother (the sense of space arises with physical objects). I wouldn't say space seemed 2 dimensional at that moment, but objects in my visual field seemed really close all of a sudden as if I had pressed my face up against a painting of my bedroom.

It was as if my mind forgot to construct the sense of 'space' which it creates out of colors and textures and lines. Maybe that is similar to how the mind constructs a sense of 'time' which it creates with memories or future thoughts?  

Who knows? Maybe it was just the lighting. The rest of the meditation was pretty uneventful. 

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
6/26/19 6:46 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
It was as if my mind forgot to construct the sense of 'space' which it creates out of colors and textures and lines. Maybe that is similar to how the mind constructs a sense of 'time' which it creates with memories or future thoughts?  

That's something to investigate. Why space? Why time?

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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6/27/19 7:30 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Synchronicities have been happening quite frequently in the last 3-4 weeks as I do more formal practice.

Maybe it isn't wise to talk about, and yet, it has been beneficial for my faith in the practice more than anything else. I'm going to be pragmatic about it: anything that gets me to sit on the cushion (and practice well) is seemingly skillful. Even if that means believing in a bit of 'woo'. Happy, little occurences. I'll enjoy them while they last.

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
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7/31/19 5:35 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Hopefully not speaking too soon here, but it looks like I'll be attending about 13 days of retreat in September (plus 2 book-end days where I arrive and leave so 15 days total at the center). I still have to book my travel to and from the center.

I've secured a spot at the Tathagata Meditation Center (TMC) in San Jose, California which is a pretty good and serious Mahasi center from the looks of it. The monk heading the retreat is Sayadaw U Thuzana who is the abbot of TMC. Prior to TMC, he was an assistant to Sayadaw U Pandita for several years and then the chief meditation master at Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Center (MBMC) for 7 years. 

This looks like an extremely good opportunity to practice vipassana all day long with qualified teachers so I'd like to make the most of it. True to form, the daily schedule is rigorous - up at 4:30am, in bed at 10:30pm, sitting and walking in between with a dharma talk, interviews, chanting and such thrown in.

It is my intention to follow the instructions from waking until sleep and to really follow through.

Can people with retreat experience offer up some practical advice how to make the most of this opportunity? How can I best get prepared? What is a healthy and productive mindset/attitude to have towards all of this? I have a few of my own ideas about how to prepare for this (having read the chapter in MCTB 2 and the Slacker's Guide many times, etc.), but any advice is welcome as I am not sure what to expect. 

I'm both excited and nervous, but I figured I should just go ahead and dive right in for once. emoticon Thank you!!!

RE: Hibiscus Kid's Practice Log
Answer
8/9/19 11:23 AM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Practice feels pretty normal lately. I sit, I note, I develop a nice & stable calm, then I get sort of dull and thoughts start to dominate. I bring the mind back to the moment again and again. I see the urge to change techniques (and other doubts), I notice how the mind starts setting intentions to search out sensations (noticing the sensations of searching or looking), noticing the impatience with sitting. I notice how I wish the quality of mind were more clear but I still sit through the dullness trying to bring awareness to it (and the urge to open my eyes so I feel more awake - my teacher recommended I keep my eyes shut so that I can really navigate this spacy, drowsy territory and bring awareness to it). Trying to be honest about what is occuring and to really lean into it and trying not to change anything necessarily.

A large part of my practice has been examining the 3 poisons which has made me more objective about difficult mind states. It makes me curious about how I'd be able to handle certain difficult situations I've had in the past. It also means that I am more open to experiencing difficult emotions in the future. I'd like to confront the difficult thoughts and body sensations and emotions and urges that essentially knock me off my game.

A personal example: when I am not meditating regularly, I tend to get angsty. I feel annoyed with my current circumstances and I start imagining how I want to cut off contact with people, move away, go on retreats, basically just give up on the daily grind and the material stuff that isn't entirely satisfying (not trying to deny that food, clothing, friendship, a car, a job, fitness, etc. is important and supports mental health and happiness). Recently, a new romantic relationship has taken up a lot of my practice time, especially on weekends. This person makes me happy and reasonably fulfilled, but I absolutely need to keep meditating otherwise I won't be able to enjoy this relationship or anything else that's wonderful about my life. 

So I believe I backslid a bit because I wasn't practicing regularly. I got angsty. Nothing about my circumstances changed, but the mind suddenly had a cow with everything. I had doubts about myself and my progress. I noticed how I wanted everyone in my life to leave me alone so I could get more cushion time in. I noticed how I wanted to quit my responsibilities and move and whatever. However, since I am working more with the 3 poisons, I saw how there was a unique mix of desire and aversion and confusion that led to a difficult mindstate. It was still unsettling, but I was able to confront it a bit. "Ahhh here we are again. Back in this territory". I was able to examine all this both during formal sitting and in daily life. I'll admit that I wasn't perfectly objective about it and it is an area that still needs a lot of work, but I can see there was a willingness to really be with it and investigate it.

I am not quite sure where I am in terms of the PoI, but I just notice that the willingness and ability to confront different sorts of mindstates has been immediately helpful.

It isn't equanimity in that I feel chilled out (although I can be chill), but more like a meta-okayness with feeling 'bad'. An openess to feeling different stuff. To skillfully navigate my own defense mechanisms and really be aware of my psychology and investigate or just 'be' with it.   

This past week, I have had more time to practice as my SO is away for work. I think I need to be better about blocking out my time to be able to practice daily. I've never been good at setting boundaries and being honest about my needs in romantic relationships. I feel that I owe it to her though so that I don't become resentful or bottle up frustrations (because she is awesome and supportive about this area of my life). Being direct and open and honest is probably the best way to handle this, even if there is some friction associated with me disappearing to a corner to do a sit when we spend time together on a weekend. Just another skill to learn emoticon