Paul’s insight log

charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/18/13 6:35 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/18/13 6:35 AM

Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
I’ve posted a couple times on this site, more often as haphazard/knee jerk reactions to a long and protracted dark night.

While my formal practise has predominantly been focused on samatha, I naturally lean towards insight. Having become increasingly disillusioned with my on/off practise (coupled with an increasing informal, and at times unwilling, insight investigation off cushion) in which I doggedly went after bliss states, I have now switched to a MCTB vipassana practise.

I have also recently gone through a significant annata shift with the LU group over on facebook – this has really invigorated my practise and provided some real motivation, and hence this practise log.

Off the cushion, my mindfulness has never been stronger. It takes no effort to slip into a nice and light sensate awareness. I’ve even found awareness of anicca to pull me out of absorbed narratives. When not talking or involved in some activity, I feel constant vibrations which increase in strength as I turn my mind to them (sometimes making me jump, which I presume is a result of too much of a forced effort).

I’m not very fluent with the insights maps, but have been trying to work out focus tips from another re-reading of MCTB for my formal sits.

I currently shift between noting in choiceless awareness, and using ‘gone’ as a fall-back object, and some sort of intuitive mix of the two. Previously I would only note when walking etc., so I’ve found my vocabulary and technique when sitting a little wanting, but it’s still providing plenty of insights into the three characteristics.

Vibrations feature very highly in my sits – today’s was again noticing the very fast, dot-like vibrations I associate with my skin/perceived body boundaries. But there was a much larger, slower vibration which I think was conceptual (in the same way that fabrication of the breath becomes in the build-up to jhanna states). When I tried to directly examine these, they because faint and intangible, but when looked at indirectly with a ‘letting go’ type of effort they became much larger; at times I think there were different frequencies involved, and at others I would get glimpses of seeing/hearing/feeling all lumped together to create impressions. I’m a little unsure how best to focus, so am just falling back onto Daniel’s advice to note the 3Cs as I can, and listen to my own intuition (which has got much clearer since my perception shift).

Any advice would be greatly appreciated – I can’t even begin to say how much I’ve learnt just from lurking over the years on this site :-)
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/20/13 2:54 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/20/13 2:54 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Yesterday saw the increase of dn sensations that I had presumed would come after the no/not-self perception shift. Feelings of lightness replaced with heaviness as the self narratives/unpleasantness become harder to resist.

Sat for 50 min as normal. Fast noted and used gone until labelling seemed to interfere with the sensations too much. The big, heavy background vibration took on image perceptions of coalescing into balls.

I tried to get on with work at home, but whenever I focused the heavy background vibration could be felt. Vibrations noticed in vision and hearing increased. Ended up doing another two 50 min mediations back to back in the afternoon. At one point the tiny dot like vibrations that make up the area around the skin expanded in size and popped like bubbles. Finding myself sucked into content and mind soup much more easily. Used noting to get me back to the sensations. 3Cs so much harder to see.

Combination of a desire for deliverance and intense curiosity for investigation throughout the day.

This morning’s sit further decreased in quality, but this was compounded by having to pause it twice to deal with my cat! Experimented with detailed noting for a while, but soon dropped it as labelling once again diminished the strength of the sensations (I guess because it doesn’t come naturally yet?).

I live close to a very busy road, the heating was on, and the boiler was audible, so it became hard to distinguish hearing/feeling and background/foreground vibrations. The heavy background vibration seems to cross both feeling and hearing, but also still seems conceptual and imagey.

After the sit there are still very strong vibratory associations with seeing/hearing/feeling. As with yesterday, I have a massive increase in sudden jumps emanating from my hip muscles – this happens when noticing the background vibration.

Desire to be on retreat or spend another day investigating is strong, but I really have to get on with work.

I hereby resolve to try my hardest not to get sucked into content and the increase of ‘selfness’. I will make a concerted effort to remain mindful on the 3Cs throughout the day.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/21/13 6:07 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/21/13 6:07 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
I find a natural strength of mine is off-cushion observation/investigation, and often find the tightrope balancing act between observing and engaging in enjoyable.

After my sit yesterday I found a mixture of the following:
Jumping from the hips, uncomfortable vibrations in felt/hearing range, general unpleasantness. Twitching and pain. Impermanence and Dukkha noted throughout. Cycling between stages – more subtle mind states noted with a soft pleasantness. Attention to the flow of sensations, either one sense in particular, or the change between senses, can result in a rush like overload and/or a physical jump. Shift from thoughts of doubt, sadness, and general unsatisfactory feelings towards my practice and life, to noting how these thoughts coalesced into a heavy sense of self and endless grasping. There was another shift towards a lightness and more objective observation, and I spent much of the night shifting around this area – until an unplanned evening of drinking much wine led to a steady dn esk stabilisation, but with a light continuous observation when not in content.

Having my morning tea and feeling a little worse for wear, I read Fitter Stroke’s post and it really hit a cord. I have been aware of my difficulty to observe thoughts in detail, and reading this post was like someone shining a mirror on what I was doing wrong.

The advantage I’ve found to meditating on a hangover is that my thoughts seem to be amplified (a pain when sunk in content or trying to sleep, but great for observing!), so after gaining access concentration, I very quickly and easily locked onto the thought flow. I watched dispassionately as sensations produced reactions of pleasantness/ unpleasantness/neutral. As I became more concentrated the creation of self -identifying with these became clearer, so too with the narrative of observing.

As I watched I noticed the background to my mind was stable in a jhana sort of way (I had noticed this on previous occasions, and put it down to accidently solidifying the vibrations). I noticed the pleasantness, but also a sense of dissatisfaction and had no desire to give up my investigation for this state (if it even was a jhana state). I began to concentrate on it and saw it was made up of the background vibration that was so strong previously. As I went to investigate the vibrations further, an intuitive feeling made me stop and notice the observer (thanks to Fitter Stroke’s post I think). I could perceive how a sense of ‘I’ seemed attached to a thread, and if I followed it I came back to the observer. I watched as thoughts of progress and desire, a background narrative I’ve not really explored before (other than intellectually), seemed to spring from this sensation. I found myself in a loop that would come back to this observer (manifest as a slight tension) – sometimes I would try to inverse into this observation or force myself into it (sometimes with a weird sense of humour as I mentally shouted and laughed at it, or asked ‘what/who am I’), and I would then find ‘myself’ as a thought, disentangle once more, and travel up the thread again (no idea if this is going to make sense to anyone). I tried to relax into it once or twice, and seemed to see it, but got dragged into sensate thought as a rush sensation began, or I tried to articulate or conceptualise.

My timer went off, and I carried on for another twenty minutes exploring this feeling, or ‘traveling’ the thoughts to the observer (sometimes asking where am I as a prompt) – it felt like I could have stayed there forever, but I keep getting increasing dragged into the sensation of my morning caffeine fix was having on my need to pee!

The sense of dispassion and clarity has remained – even as I went food shopping in a busy supermarket; something that, when hungover, can drive me very quickly to fantasies of murder! Insights into impermanence where frequent, until I started to look for them when they became intellectualisations.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/22/13 3:36 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/22/13 3:36 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Off cushion leading up to sit: Noticed a sliding from contentment towards doubting and insecurity (about my practise) then felt close to tears. I noted these as best I could, but again started to slip into intellectualising rather than seeing.

Was reading through other practise logs looking for points that seemed to be relevant for what I’m experiencing.
Following on from Fitter Strokes advice which I am keeping at the fore of my mind, this post on from Nikolai an Alan Smithee’s log really added some further impetus:

‘When you get up into what you are calling 'high equanimity', is their a tendency to overlay/assign the mental weight of 'unique' or 'unusual' to certain sensations/phenomena over other phenomena? If so, is such a segregation of the field of experience (i.e. some phenomena unique, other phenomena not unqiue) noticed (and thus noted)? Or is such a tendency to section off aspects of the field of experience and relate to them subjectively as 'unique' going unnoticed? or is it more so, an evaluation occuring in hindsight and not at the very moment of 'high equanimity'? If so, carry on. Just be aware that such a tendency, if gone unnoticed/unnoted, could be a source of frustration and obstacle.

If going unnoticed, perhaps including such manifestations as part and parcel of the wide, panoramic, 100% inclusive awareness (a defining factor of 11th nana/4th jhana territory, at least right before the infamous 'blip', cessation, fruition, shift seems to occur to do the desired damage) will get things moving along to where the mind forgets/ceases to assign any mental weight whatsoever to any of it,where it all just mixes together as one mass/borderless blob of phenomena, mental movements, sensations, just the field of experience, where sensations of 'self'/'me-ness' get lost in that same mass of experience/phenomena. Ideal synching up territory.

Is any aspect of experience being held differently (assigned mental weight such as 'unique') to other aspects'? If so, noticing and noting such a tendency/manifestation will usually lead to letting go of it, and letting go of it all, the entire field of experience, borderless mass of phenomena, is the cause for the cessation of all the senses (i.e. the cessation of the entire field of experience). If some aspect is being assigned mental weight within the mind, such as 'unique', there is a tendency to hold onto that thus evaluated 'object', not a letting go of it. Letting go of it all is key in high Eq.’

Slightly further down this log, Richard Zen posted about noting, which again stood out.

Retrospective analysis of my sits, with all these points in mind, have made me realise how I’m striving for SE in the same way I was striving for jhana in my previous practise - and how such striving is creating content I’m getting lost in.

With all this in mind, I took a more relaxed approach this morning. I let my concentration linger on the breath past access concentration as I noticed hearing/feeling etc. Then I began to notice the difference in hearing/listening etc. As my concentration deepened, I had to make a slight effort not to get absorbed, and just note the sensations (as I write I realise I could have been noting this effort too!). I began to become increasing aware of the observer, so I stayed around this focus and noticing what was going on (no labels at this point). Slowly I noticed more subtle mind states, and slowly I noticed the interplay of self upon these. The tension I associated yesterday with the observer was observed as just feeling and my clinging to this sensation. The observer was then seen as different feelings progressing through waves as I noticed the link. I then, more slowly and delicately, noticed this with thoughts and subtle mind states (I need to spend much more time here!). I noticed the breath and jhana, but again stuck to looking at the mind states this produced. Not-self and impermanence were strong here, and not-self created sensations of sadness (maybe with hindsight this was dukkha being clear, but I just noted it as sad). It was around here that the link between self and sensation became clearer and clearer. I noticed a few flickering’s in this gap, became excited, noticed the excitement and again saw very brief flickering’s. At this point thoughts of progress and my worrying that I was scripting or reading too much became increased, so I just backed off and went to a wider field again. I had a quick peek at my timer at this point, and saw I only had a few minutes left, so I watched the coalescence of self as my concentration became less refined, which was both enjoyable and insightful. I attempted some more metta as I came out, but really struggled with the absurdity of using ‘I’, so tried ‘we’ to represent what seemed like the thousands of ‘I’s I could see, and just laughed to myself and used I :-)

This feels like the way I should focus my sits for now – regardless of progress, the insights were profound and unsettling, which I guess is good. I know the implications of some of these are still racing through my mind.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/24/13 6:24 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/24/13 6:24 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
23/02/13: Tried to maintain awareness throughout the day – didn’t have time to meditate as had an early start with work, and a very busy social schedule after (girlfriend/rugby/friends/too much beer and smoking!) Felt bad about not making time to meditate. Drunkenly meditated for literally a minute before bed, just as a morale boost in continuity.

24/02/13: Felt rubbish this morning, but more to do with smoking and drinking too much this week, and for not committing to a decent mediation session yesterday, than dn type feelings!

Tried to replicate the conditions of my previous sit, but was unable to maintain a decent level of concentration. Switched between various types of noting as needed. Noted mind states as much as I could, but with no real clarity. Mostly observed ‘observer waves’ and vibrations and pulses.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/26/13 4:18 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/26/13 4:18 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Cycling off the cushion noted (when not engrossed with content). Contentment and observation seem to combating the dn cycles like never before.

Sits involve vibrations, which when examined become layers/bubbles etc. This occurs in narrow or wide spacious focus. Continuing to use the observer as a springboard into strong no-self experiences (which gel seamlessly with impermanence). Spacious perceptions of sensations (including thoughts) observed as awareness notes and drops them almost immediately. Reactions of the mind seen as a process of stringing these together – like a container that has little bearing on what it holds. Pain easily dissolved by looking at it in this manner (until 10 min from the end). Shudders towards the end, particularly when experiencing the vibrations between the eyes as an inverse expansive universe.

Strong desire to continue investigating, but am falling behind with deadlines looming; but feel calmly contended regardless.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/27/13 2:21 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/27/13 2:21 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Still hard to get to sleep as my mind seems so inclined to investigate. Heavy vibration very apparent, feelings of fear and annoyance were also clear. As soon as I stopped fighting it, the vibration widened and negative feelings vanished. I explored for a while, but ended up wanting to get to sleep as had to wake up early to fit my meditation in. Took ages to sleep, and with retrospect, should have gone with the insight clarity. Woke up throughout the night, and found I was meditating in these moments. Remember noting insights.

Morning sit was full of expectations after last night and previous sits – whether it was these expectations or not, I found it hard to concentrate. DN feelings were strong, and I couldn’t seem to see abstract thoughts with any clarity. Noting anything was shite. Feelings of being lost, having no idea about what to do, feeling my practise was rubbish, and being stuck were felt throughout.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 2/27/13 10:53 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/27/13 10:53 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Edgy all day. Slightly dislocated/disjointed perceptions and thoughts, also when trying to hold conversations. I’m attributing dn insights into areas where I may feel somewhat negative regardless of meditative practise – like it’s highlighting these areas with a magnifying glass to study, although I’ve found it difficult to note more than in glancing.

At one point, during a pretty boring lecture, I found I had to concentrate hard not to fall asleep. I think this concentration brought on the heavy vibrations centred around my forehead area (although also seemed to be background) very tempted to explore and expand, but I’ve been prone to physically jumping when applying concentration at times, and didn’t really want to risk it in a small and quite lecture theatre! Just noted the vibrations gently and this seemed to alleviate some of the edginess.

Decided to go for another sit (laying down) and set my timer to go off every ten minutes as I get sleepy in the later sits. Started with noting, was a bit groggy and nearly dozed a few times. Noted sounds, feelings, and some thoughts. Then put more focus on the ends of sensatons and the little dot vibrations. Around the twenty minuet mark, the heavy vibrations kicked in, and that was it for the rest of the sit – a field of vibrations/bubbles. My mind didn’t feel groggy anymore, but I didn’t have the clarity to really zone into the observer or subtle mind states/thoughts. Lots of glimpses of images with the bubble vibrations, but again, I didn’t have the mental freshness to examine these. I just spent the sit trying not to get bored watching the vibrations.
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 3/1/13 2:18 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 3/1/13 2:18 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
28/02/13: Found it difficult to see thoughts and mind-states and have resolved to work on noting skills (will pillage what I can from other practise logs as there seems to be quite a lot of info on this at the moment). At least twice, I had a very strong welling up of sadness as I perceived myself as nothing but a continuation of reactions; this sadness is still with me – I guess the trick is to really note/examine it rather than let it lead to suffering…

1/3/12: I feel very frustrated after this morning’s sit – on one hand, I feel that my insights are continuing to develop. For quite a while I’ve noticed how intention seems to be like a tangible feeling/thought, and today I linked that with thought being a sensation that the observer can be comprised of, in the same way as a feeling sensation (I’m drawn to really investigating the observer at the moment). I’ve had similar insights before, but not ones that seem so magnified. Very often I feel so close to something big, but either I force it by putting too much effort into exploring vibrations at the cost of neglecting to pay attention to the wider mind states. Or, I go the opposite way and seem to flounder as my noting skills/vocab aren’t very developed yet.

I’m neck deep in deadlines for the next few weeks, so practise and reading up are kept to a minimum. I feel very torn in how to continue…

I don’t know if anyone who could offer any advice is paying attention to this log, but I’d really appreciate any feedback on whether I should just chill the f***k out, and just let my practise develop as it will? Or really hone in on the vibrations and/or the observer and take advantage of this driven motivation that seems so dominant at the moment?
charon, modified 10 Years ago at 3/7/13 11:05 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 3/7/13 11:05 AM

RE: Paul’s insight log

Posts: 36 Join Date: 11/24/10 Recent Posts
Having read a lot of the advice given recently on other threads, I’ve eased back a little on my intensive meditation, and gone for more of a basic awareness approach focusing on hatha yoga/mindfulness (also due to a chronic injury and pain condition spike).

I’ve found insights into all three characteristics coming constant and strong – to a degree I dislike intensely.
****disclaimer**** cathartic and thought-sorting vent coming next, so not delivered in the phenomenological approach preferred here…

I’ve noted with interest some of the views on dark night happening on/off the cushion; my interpretation of dn has always been as a descriptive of mind-states that would be there regardless of meditation – only the meditation acts as a magnifying glass and brings them to the fore (or, brings up the causal mind-states that produce such thoughts). I hardly ever experience dn on the cushion to the extent that I do off. I have watched mindfully as I’ve cycled through them at a rate of seconds or minutes (much as people describe during meditation).

Having gone through my very early years having profound auditory and tactile hallucinations, and watching them pass in a very scared state, I wonder if these helped lay the foundation for my very introspective and self-analytical personality. Since mid-late teens I have been significantly affected by existential questions. I also recognised the transient nature of identity from this age, and have been consumed by the implications ever since.

However, like most people I know of the same disposition, relief was found through drink and drugs; regardless of how much pleasure was found in this outlet, the incentive to stop my thoughts was always lurking. I remember many times crying at the thought I was insane because of how loud, transient, and out of my control such thoughts were.

My twenties were filled with international travels and adventure, like the uncomprehending dog with fleas, I was always trying to escape and find a comfortable spot. Even living in Asia, where I felt a profound relief from having to think and act like how I perceived everyone else to be, was filled with dissatisfaction. I remember one celebration where I had won my first Thai-boxing fight (taken up in no large part to stop my thoughts and adopt another identity that seemed tangible), where I had to sneak off and cry because even this felt empty and hollow – so significant because it had been such a massive dream for so long.

A good friend introduced me to Collin Wilson’s ‘The Outsider’, a literary critique of people searching for existential answers, which led me onto further philosophy…and to cut a boring and drawn out story short, onto Buddhism and my current path.
My current thinking can’t help wonder if this angst was created by an A+P type event in my youth, or if I’m just predisposed to think about existential questions, or do I suffer from mental health issues (of the non-incapacitating type)? The relationship between the last two I find fascinating in a which came first/can’t separate them type of way.

I guess I’m just wondering out loud if strong dn symptoms are dependent upon the natural disposition of the practitioner. If this is the case, just how subjective is the whole enlightenment process? I think genetic predisposition, not to mention the random chance of socioeconomic birth, lays at the foundation of the religious universal karma view.

If it is so subjective, is there really any hope of relief with stream entry…