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Antonius' Practice Log

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Antonius' Practice Log
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6/15/18 4:56 AM
Background: I was brought up as a Christian but gave up religion aged 15, a couple of years before I think I probably went through A&P. I have always felt a fascination for 'the unknown' and this drew me to reading about enlightenment and meditation in my 30s. I read bits of MCTB in 2013, and since then have done some half-hearted concentration/insight meditation on and off, on my own and mostly casually without keeping a journal. I have recently decided to get more serious about a regular daily insight practice (noting style), which I hope will complement some other things in my life over the next couple of years. I do not know with any certainty where I am on the path, although I suspect I spent a lot of my 20s in a dark night.

I'm going to put up my practice log in case anyone wants to read and/or comment. This is all quite tentative for me at the moment.

6th June, 21:55, duration 01:10. Lying in bed. Started with focus on breath for perhaps 5 minutes, then broadened awareness. Vibrations popped up pretty soon. Tension in eyes difficult to release. Aware of heartbeat, white noise in ears, clouds in vision, sensations throughout body, knees ankles, neck etc. Went through several stages, things felt very slow at one point. Vibrations permeated everything at one point. No lights.

8th June, 21:50, duration 02:00. Lying in bed.Things got really intense around about half way in, with LOUD vibrations constant (perhaps 5 Hz?), and other frequencies, sensations all merging, violent, felt like pulling body in different directions. I did feel a bit scared - Fear? - which subsided after a period, and things calmed down a bit. Left feeling quite affected and shaken.

9th June, 13:00, duration 00:50. Lying in bed. Not much to report.

10th June, 21:35, duration 01:35. lying on futon. More distracted than usual, perhaps because of tiredness? More random thoughts and distractions than other times recently. I still saw progression through stages, but they were more "weak" somehow, certainly compared with Friday 8th. Paying attention to the Body and Mind as described in PIM.

11th June, 21:55, duration 01:32. Lying in bed. I recognised some experiences from recent sessions - at some point being aware of a circle around the rear of my head that gradually got smaller as it moved towards the back of the skull. At some point, growing tension in the jaw causing my teeth to push towards each other (this was also there in recent sessions). This was a rather "not bothered" session in some sense, I didn't have the "drive" or "desire for progress" that I have had beofre, but just decided to let happen whatever happens. I was aware of vibrations, but not as intense or powerful as they have sometimes been (last Friday 8th). Again, I seemed to eventually get to the "noisy" bit, but less noisy than on 8th, and through this into calmer territory beyond. I got quite frustrated at the end, wanting to finish. My right heel was hurting and arms felt uncomfortable. I tried being aware of this and riding it out, but then I gave up and stopped. Looked at the watch - 2m40s to go!

12th June, 21:45, duration 01:15. First time on the new "Seiza bench". Also I have been reading carefully about some of the stages of insight on Ron Crouch's blog. I was more aware that a) I sometimes struggle to consciously grasp my emotional states (this aligns with what a friend said about a year ago), b) I was struggling to consciously get a clear example of cause and effect, c) my legs, knees, ankles were uncomfortable, especially right side. I was interrupted at 1h15 (I had set watch for 1:35) and when I tried to get up my legs felt worse than I realised - pins and needles and unpleasant numbness. It was difficult to walk for a few minutes. I believe this will get better with practice. A&P appears somewhat subdued although I do think I go through it because I feel the vibrations and little electrical pulses on the skin. I was aware, tentatively, of being in various dark night stages. At one point I gripped my jaw again, and I think this may be misery, then followed by scrunching around the mouth/nose/eyes - is this disgust? I didn't see a clear re-observation.

13th June, 12:30, duration 01:00. Sitting on a hard floor cross-legged, back to wall. Feels like a lot happened. I seemed to go through A&P quite quickly, and if my tentative assessments are right then what I have recognised as fear, misery, digust. Reobsersvation is unclear, but at some point I felt like I might have been in early equanimity, and this seemed to last for a really long time. I got quite a lot of light patterns/visual effects at times, vibrating. At some point it definitely felt like all sensations were merged into a single phenomenal pulsation. 

14th June, 12:35, duration 00:50. Sitting on hard floor. Didn't feel comfortable, couldn't get into a good position. Too cold. Ended up lying down on the floor but that didn't work. I did seem to pass through stages, and near the end there was a rapid, short spiral into a very close pulsing sensation.

14th June,  21:45, duration 01:05. Seiza bench, placed on top of a cushion. Felt some progression through stages but it was slow. I did have a moment where I saw a clear example of cause and effect, where a physical sensation led to a thought/memory, but I am now struggling to recall exactly what this was. Often I would find I had gone through a thought/memory and only recognised and noted it some seconds after it had passed, this felt less "sharp" than usual. Ankles and knees were uncomfortable again, about 50 minutes in I quit and went to lie on the bed instead, but couldn't get focussed, there was what felt like an itch on my face. I noted this and kept awareness on the rising and passing of phenomena, but the itch kept returning and I felt annoyance (also noted). Eventually quit and gave up early. Turns out there was a hair on my face that was likely causing the itch.

General doubts - am I doing this right, are my assessments of various stages accurate, is my concentration and level of awareness good enough? Also I have a feeling that it doesn't really matter, I should just keep going and keep up the journal and try to not stress too much about progress.

RE: Antonius' Practice Log
Answer
6/20/18 6:12 AM as a reply to Antonius Block.
The last few mornings, the vibratory sensations are right there from the moment I wake, and I can sit in bed examining them for a few minutes before getting up. I think I am going through stages throughout the day. I have read PIM in more detail and I am trying to be much more aware of things throughout the day, not just during assigned periods of meditation. Noting my intention to reach out and open the door, actually reaching, touching the door handle,... that kind of thing.

I have also been thinking about the concept of "Self" recently. Currently, I can see that the rapid sensations experienced in vipassana are not "me". I can see that there is no "me" to see or point to or experience directly. I _do_ currently think that the self does exist, only in the sense of being a model or concept constructed by the thinking, intellectual parts of us. So, to me "self" exists like the value of money or national borders, or corporations exist. It's a "concept" or "story" but this can have a large influence on behaviours and objects in the "real world". Identifying with this "self" involves suffering, especially if the self is full of contradictions and conflicts with experiences felt at deeper levels of awareness.

I will post notes made after recent individual sessions next.

RE: Antonius' Practice Log
Answer
6/20/18 6:25 AM as a reply to Antonius Block.
15th June (1 hour): Sat with legs stretched out and back against wall (for future reference, I don't recommend this, cross-legged is more comfortable, or lying (or the Seiza bench if available)). Definitely noticed different phases, progression was there. At one point things were vibratory and dense, close, dark, and then suddenly shifted to being bright (as if light shining on my closed eylids), open, intense, feeling of a kind of twisting movement from right to left (I have noticed this right to left shift before). It felt like something was "almost there" again, I have had this before. Difficult to put names to different phases. Restless, pain of uncomfortable position, back was hurting. Wanted it to be over.

15th June
(1 hour 35mins) This felt like a good solid bit of meditation. I was just being as aware as possible and noting every little thing, and the same patterns came up. I am getting better at recognising things. A couple of examples of cause and effect, saliva collecting in my mouth, uncomfortable feeling, intention to swallow, followed by actually swallowing. Also, unexpected noise, shock, tensing of various muscles, "just a noise", relief, relax muscles. Went through several repeats where the jaw tenses, teeth come together, muscles around eyes and upper face tense, then things relax, "close" intense vibrations with everything bundled together and less sense of individual parts, "wider" vibrations with clearer sense of individual spatial body parts, thoughts etc. tight feeling over head at one point.
 
16th June: I lay for an hour, nothing special to report – similar to previous times.
 
17th June (1 hour): Sitting in a chair. Coughing and sneezing, quite disruptive! But still I passed through stages. I think I’m getting better at recognising A&P whilst I'm in it, feels more spacy and floaty. Didn't notice much jaw gripping this time. Noise from other people in other rooms. Did get to the familiar "rise"/"ride" in close focused pulsing where something feels near but then the moment passes, things get brighter and more spacious and the intensity has gone. The whole event takes perhaps 10-20 seconds. I can get somewhat excited by this but I am now trying to just let it happen and keep up awareness.

18th June (55 minutes): Similar to previous sits on the hard floor.
 
19th June (55 minutes): Aware of vibrations from near the start, passing through stages some dark and some light, some "close/compact" and some "open and wide". Several distracting thoughts about internet message boards, memories of reading things, plans for what to write. Got intense near the end, vibrationss slowed down, felt like peeling back reality. Haven't really noticed any tight jaw or grimacing / face scrunching in this sit.

RE: Antonius' Practice Log
Answer
6/21/18 5:11 AM as a reply to Antonius Block.
20th June (12:45): Short sit today (perhaps squeeze in another later?) I am more motivated than in some recent days. Noted being annoyed at having "missed" the intention to swallow before swallowing. Noted thought about needing to do a work task, and then being worried about not having done it already. Noticed general sense of sadness.

20th June (22:15): Started focusing mainly on breath, then widened up. I noted many thoughts about work (unpleasant and anxious), lots of apparently random memories that seemed to come up from nowhere, some pleasant thoughts about feelings of attraction for a woman at work, itches. I noted tightness in the neck followed by intention to relax the neck, followed by actually releasing tension in the muscles. Noted anxiety about "will I remember that for my diary?" Feeling of cool as air blew in from the window.

Things got flickery, more intense and open. Later the intensity died down, and I noticed jaw-tensing followed by grimacing. My level of awareness grew dimmer for a bit. Then it picked up sharply again as the momentary sensations rained down more harshly, I recognised this as what I have called the "noisy" bit before. This went on for a while, then became calmer and less intense. It was easy to observe the vibrations in some detail. Closeness and vividness seemed to cycle in and out a few times. My timer went off but I silenced it and decided to keep going, ended up going for 2 hours in total.

After finally getting up I went outside for some cigarettes and just being outside in the dim cool light was a memorable experience. It was really easy to be acutely aware of physical sensations, mental processes, like I was right in the moment and could almost reach out and touch the thoughts/sensory inputs as they came and passed. I might have had odd moments like this before, but this was new because it was constant and felt natural and long-lasting. For a short time my whole vision (with eyes open) flickered, I don't think I've had that before. As I walked, touched, looked at things I seemed to be noticing details I didn't normally notice. My everyday habitual ways of doing things (things like just getting my key, putting it in the lock, twisting, putting key back, linked with intentions to do all these things), which I normally do automatically, I was keenly aware of and could follow clearly moment to moment. I think I could have continued in this state for a long time, but as it was past 1am and I had work the next day, I got into bed (still in a highly-aware state) and went to sleep.

RE: Antonius' Practice Log
Answer
6/25/18 11:16 AM as a reply to Antonius Block.
I wasn't sure if the "highly mindful" state would persist the next day, alas not.

21 June: 30 minutes cross-legged on hard floor. Painful. In the ~30 minutes before sitting, I had been having a forceful argument on twitter with a stranger about Brexit. In fact I delayed starting to meditate in order to be able to fire off another couple of responses. So when I did sit down my head was buzzing with the logic of my argument as well as the emotion - I was quite angry. This made for an interesting start to the session, as I could see many related thoughts, as thoughts, note them, but they kept coming back for quite a few minutes. And the anger was also noted well into the sit. But, it died down and was pretty much completely gone within about 5 minutes. Then bam - straight into hard vibrations.

22 June: 1 hour 35 minutes, seiza bench on rug next to fire. I had been playing piano with my daughter on violin earlier in evening, and the music repeatedly played in my head, I would note it and it would go, then return again within a few minutes. this continued pretty much throughout the whole sit off and on,I think it lessened towards the end. Also, a noisy wood pigeon outside. Many thoughts about the dho message board. Took a while to notice any progress between stages, the "vibrations" took longer than normal to arrive. Difficult to see vibrations in the shoulders. Some facial tension. It's less comfortable on this bench, my ankles and knees experienced pain, also noted. At one point I wanted to stop, had thoughts about how much time was left, but then it got easier. At one point the vibrations became kind of "muted" or "flappy", I wonder if this is when I am aware of endings and not arisings? Afterwards I was very stiff and legs were in pain, it took several minutes before I could get up and walk.

23 June: 40 minutes, lying in bed. Felt unusual, first time recently I meditated early in the morning. Vibrations appeared within 10 breaths, with regular constant frequency. Loud birdsong outside. Distracting thoughts work, message boards, feelings of attraction for a woman, flickering vision (eyes closed), never seemed to change stages or get more or less intense, which is unusual.

24 June: 1 hour lying on bed - a fairly typical session, interrupted at the end.

24 June: 1 hour lying on bed. Felt almost like I was continuing back where I ended the earlier (interrupted) session, with the "clipped" or "flappy" vibrations. Didn't seem to change much in terms of any obvious progression through stages or changes in intensity. Still plenty of thoughts and sensations to note.

25 June: 40 minutes cross-legged, hard floor. I went straight into a state where a vibrational quality to sensations was clear. They felt more distinct, I think, than last night. I got flickering lights (with eyes closed) and the frequency seemed higher than yesterday, I think. Over 10 Hz. No obvious progression between stages, but intensity did vary a little over time.