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Paul's practice log

Paul's practice log
12/4/16 12:33 PM
Recently I had a psychotic episode after doing too many hours of Mahasi noting in a short period of time (link here). Things are back to normal now, I did around 100h of concentration practices (as advised by DhO members), went to a Goenka retreat and I'm off all meds. 

I want to move out of DNoS ASAP, but don't want to make the same mistakes like the last time. Some of them were:
- reacting to thoughts, not noting some of them,
- reacting to sensations, not noting some of them,
- not noting new emotions that came bubbling up.

My problem is that it's hard for me to concentrate (mind gets bored, distracted) on anything but vibrations and vibrations show up (at least for me) when mind gets concentrated. I also feel absolutely nothing when doing metta at this moment, so it's not helpful. Thus, my plain is this:
- start doing noting again until vibes show up,
- focus on specific vibes to get concentrated and diminish hindrances,
- keep mixing insight and concentration until path emoticon

I also plan to describe experiences I find interesting to mention. Energy stuff is very exciting to me, because it's a completely new phenomena in my life. 

I also plan to listen to advice that will (hopefully) show up here and use this log as an outside source of information, so that I will get early signs from others that I might begin to lose it.

What do you guys think about this?

---- First entry

I was doing 2 hours of noting per day since 2 months. I think I'm at the edge of AP / Dissolution. It's not full dissolution. Some thoughts and notes dissapear very fast, others don't. Time flies quickly. I feel no vibes or energy. I can't decide if I should I use full words to note, or use monosyllables to speed things up. I remember being able to note without verbalization, which was optimal, but lost this ability. I think it requires higher concentration.

RE: Paul's practice log
12/4/16 5:42 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
What do you guys think about this?

I think, after reading this and your other thread just now, that you would be foolish to proceed with a deep meditation practice without having close contact with a psychiatrist or a psychologist and a very good meditation teacher. Maybe you have all that stuff in place now. I have no idea. But I think, based on your history and the issues you've already experienced, that you'd be smart to do all of that.

I wish you luck with all of this stuff you're going through, and peace.

EDIT: I guess I'm struggling with the idea that a bunch of strangers on a message board, though well meaning and sometimes knowledgable about certain things regarding meditation, could ever be expected to replace qualified medical professional assistance.

This is just my opinion -- your mileage may vary.

RE: Paul's practice log
12/13/16 9:45 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris, thanks for your opinion. I have these things in place: psychiatrist, group therapy and a meditation teacher. Many mirrors emoticon

Some notes:
- i'm taking breath flow inside the nostrils as the object
- there's plenty of thoughts, 90% of them last fraction of a second
- verbally noting them takes many times longer than the thought itself so I switched to monosyllabes
- today few very plastic fantasies occured. they all included a source of bright light that got more intense as I was pulled deeper into the fantasy. when I noticed I'm fantasizing, fantasies stopped and blackness under the eyelids got a golden hue.

My hypotheses are:
- these lights are pre-jhana nimittas
- it's AP stuff. This would mean I'm not in AP/dissolution, but in one of the previous nanas. 

Previously my AP consisted of body vibrations, feeling energy in the body, lights, inner sounds and auditory hallucinations. Interestingly when on a Goenka retreat, I didn't pass this kind of AP but went straight to dissolution (noticing only endings of thoughts, without the vibes).

RE: Paul's practice log
12/16/16 1:35 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Today I noted with a single mental label "a". This seems better - I'm able to notice subtle mental phenomena plus the verbalization center in the brain gets deactivated. Over time there was less and less verbalised thoughts. I noticed that verbal thoughts are unnecessary in the sense that the thought is already know before verbalisation, so there is no need to "speak" in the mind.

There were some vibrating itches present too. I interpret this as a sign of better concentration.

RE: Paul's practice log
2/10/17 12:12 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Concentration is poor, no vibrations are present. This is very frustrating, because I try to meditate at least 3 hours per day. The desire for progress is causing me suffering, because I don't see proof of progress. There's also fear of progress and higher vipassana jhanas because reality then seems to destabilize - my fantasies about what's happening are out of control. 

I'd appreciate some strategies to not get overwhelmed by "content" and stay grounded.

Here are some strategies I already use:
- sense restraint when things get strange (no tv, radio, internet, etc)
- physical activity
- not accepting anything without proof (sometimes hard to remember)
- occam's razor

I also have a question: is it normal not to feel any "bliss" or pleasant feelings in the body when doing metta? 

RE: Paul's practice log
2/11/17 12:41 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Paul Smith:
I have these things in place: psychiatrist, group therapy and a meditation teacher. Many mirrors emoticon
Hey Paul! I just read your story, wow. Really glad to hear you have these things in place and that you are doing better. emoticon

I've no where near enough experience to advise whether/how you should proceed or not, but one more check you might have in place are setting tripwires in advance. As in 'If X happens then I will abandon my meditation practice.' I'll leave deciding on what X is up to you and people more advanced than me. Decision in the moment is often clouded and irrational so pre-commiting in advance is often wise and can stop us from falling down slippery slopes.

RE: Paul's practice log
2/11/17 2:33 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
Thanks Rainbow emoticon

RE: Paul's practice log
2/11/17 7:12 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Paul, definitely ask your meditation teacher these questions. These boards are just barely better than nothing, it's so much better to talk with a person who knows the details of your practice and can provide fine-scale suggestions.

Just a large scale observation: can you see how your practice is motivated by aversion, greed, and indifference? Not wanting dark night symptoms, wanting juicy metta practice, indifferent about vibration-less meditation states? Paradoxically, the way "go beyond content" is to go right into the content and notice the universal patterns of aversion, greed, and indifference are the context-independent causes of having problem with the specific content that appears in awareness. (That's quite a sentence, hopefully you get my point!)

If you can sit and notice all the ways you make your meditation a problem... then maybe you might notice that the flip side view would be: Oh, I can be interested in investigating dark night symptoms to see how they are created. Oh, I can allow metta to be what it is and simply doing it without expectation. Oh, I can recognize that vibration-less meditation states are as "real" and "worthy" as any other state, maybe I'll let myself hangout and just enjoy the simplicity of that state.

In a sentence: you're trying too hard! emoticon 

Conventional practices to find happiness are all about prefering one state to another and rejecting the bad one and going toward the good one. But the happiness found in meditation is making peace with all states --- profound equanimity --- while gently allowing practice to deepen -- by innate wisdom, not calculated cunning -- over time.

Keep working with your psychitrist. In many ways, you are still at the stage of building a foundation for deep meditation practice. Allow meditation practice to be a place where thoughts and concerns just "bubble up" and you notice them as simply thoughts and concerns. It's almost like you are learning to be your own therapist, listening to the inner thoughts and concerns, acknowledging them without judgement. Meditation practice at this stage can be like saying to yourself "interesting, tell me more" and then just noticing the contents of your mind.

There is no value in trying to rush through meditation to "get to" stream entry. Stream entry happens when we are just  very present and accepting of what occurs in mind without preference or control. If stream entry is your goal, practice accepting whatever occurs in mind without greed, aversion, or indifference.

Your practice will take its own course, according to what you need to experience. It will be different from everyone else. So let it take its shape and customize it to work for you. But don't try to force particular states or insights, it just doesn't work that way. Lots of gentle, low-effort practice is what makes deep changes happen. Using willpower and a lot of effort is actually just training the conventional mind and doesn't lead to resiliance sense of happiness -- it's just more striving, more samsara.

Hope this helps! I'm honestly trying to prevent a lot of mistakes that I myself made emoticon

Best wishes.

RE: Paul's practice log
2/11/17 7:37 AM as a reply to shargrol.
There's an old joke/saying: go slower, it's faster.

RE: Paul's practice log
2/13/17 8:29 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks shargrol.

RE: Paul's practice log
2/13/17 8:56 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Some things I noticed:
- noting should be constant (on/off cushion), otherwise my daydreaming, fantasies and mental dialogue dominate
- using just few labels: thinking / hearing / seeing / tasting / feeling is too simple and turns into an automatic process, more effort in inventing labels is necessary
- AFAIR speed of inventing labels when a key factor for entering dissolution last time

RE: Paul's practice log
3/8/17 5:41 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Noticing mental states led to mild destabilization and general weirdess of experience again. Fantasies and interpretation of what was happening was key. I felt heat radiating from my hands and dense fog in my field of vision - I reinterpreted normal weather fog as a quantum field of potentiality emoticon. This led to scenario spinning and fear. 

Two teachers recommended I focus on bodily phenomena alone and skip mental states. I also plan to experiment with concentration practices with iPhone afterimage kasina created by staring at the light emitting diode and then closing my eyes.  

Dreams got weird too, they are so abstract and unlike anything I experienced it's hard to remember them. Some are of nondual flavor, for example I recently dreamed about my consciousness spilling into objects in my bedroom.

RE: Paul's practice log
3/8/17 6:05 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Unfortunately, meditation is somewhat destructive -- in the same way that exercise tears up your muscles a bit before making them stronger, mediation can be destabilizing before it is stabilizing. Just like in exercise, you want to go at a pace that allows you to continue over years and years and years...

Always fine tune practice to what actually works for you. Don't press on thinking things will be better in the future. Meditation should be good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end.

Most people go through their life assuming that whatever they think must be true. Meditation can allow you to see how the mind interprets things, rather than things always being exactly what is thought. This loosens the solidity of the mind and can mean that the mind is more prone to fantasy, both good and bad. Delusions of grandure as well as delusions of persecution as well as general confusion. There can be a lot of good hearted creativity and joy, too. It can be goofy.

So go slow. Investigate, but also allow the intensity to settle back down. Don't forget exercise, diet, and sleep.

Keep working with your teachers, advisers, and folks helping with psychological support. 

RE: Paul's practice log
4/17/17 2:40 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
I found The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa and I'm practicing according to it. Interesting phenomena show up, some buzzing (nada sound) and lights. There is a sense of a murky membrane between the observer and these phenomena. I suspect this membrane is a psychological manifestation of brain chemistry not being alright. I'll try to get back to ketogenic diet, because I got very good results with it in the past.

I'm also fiddling with a technique of noting triplets: what, where, what else - name of the sensation in the body, where is it in the body and is it pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. This takes all of my mental bandwidth and makes it easy to observe the movement of thoughts / attention. It's amazing how unsteady my attention is after so many hours of meditation. It blows my mind to think how chaotic it must've been before I started to practice.

I will also note for archival purposes that I was able to acces bhanga on day 9 on a Goenka retreat, but without hitting AP. That dissolution had only "thought-component" where I was able to notice only the disapperance of thoughts, no interesting bodily sensations were present. When doing intensive Mahasi noting I hit AP and after around 8 days of noting for 8 hours I hit dissolution. Vibrations were present.

RE: Paul's practice log
4/17/17 6:23 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
I had a very interesting dream regarding practice (featuring monks speaking in spanish emoticon) and making love to the universe. It's too personal to describe, but it got me thinking: how should I treat dreams and what are they? I read multiple times that dreams are astral travels. Is this correct?

RE: Paul's practice log
8/26/17 3:19 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
I slowed down my practice during last few months and went back to being completely psychologically stable. I made an error of watching "Eyes wide shut" and had a strong negative emotional reaction to the ending: There was a sense that something is communicated with the play of words and it upset me. I noticed some paranoid thoughts after that event, but they died down - mind drops these loops if I'm not perpetuating them with attention. 

I also went to a buddhist monastery in the UK to check it out and was disappointed. Monks there didn't seem particularly enlightened, just chill / withdrawn. I very much disliked the amount of time spent of preparing food. Seems like a huge waste of time.

I restarted noting and ramped it up to few hours / day since last week and results are slowly showing up:
* strange dreams
* muscle twitches 
* nada sound when falling asleep

There is a clear sense that most thoughts simply arise without my control. The "me" part is noting and sometimes deciding to drop a train of thoughts or imagine something positive instead of negative mental loops. Noticing patterns and subtler phenomena is very interesting. I made a "discovery" that a thought can be noted before it ends - it's possible to interrupts thoughts without allowing them to finish. The interrupt procedure isn't yet burnt into the neural hardware, so it's a rare occurence.

There's this constant dissatisfaction with how my brain operates. I can't shake the memory of meditating one time on LSD, where all senses were vibrating along with the noting that vibrated in the center of my brain. The speed was constantly accelerating until the 3d universe dissolved into light and turned inside out into a donut / 4d-sphere. This sphere had a square grid on its surface. "I" was a "camera" that observed it. Camera moved towards the donut and cyrindrical fibers shoot from the sphere. These fibers were wade of other fibers, which were made of smaller fibers. The finest fiber in that bundle contained visual representation of 3d objects. These objects had colors and 3d structure. They were made of vibrating rays of light. The experience ended with the sphere folding back on itself to form the usual 3d universe around me. My thoughts were still vibrating with extremely high speed and I remember not being able to use language - its expressive power was too weak. It felt like trying to hook a fiber optic wire to a telegraph - words weren't able to carry the amount of information that was flowing through my brain. 

I guess that was my peak AP experience and it worked as expected - getting that state back / dissolving the universe is my priority in life now emoticon

RE: Paul's practice log
9/8/17 12:22 PM as a reply to Paul Smith.
I feel faint vibrations at various points on the surface of my body. When I concentrate, I can feel rings of magnetic (?) energy moving around my body. I can move these rigns with attention. This energy can interact with muscles and can induce twitches. I can also feel different kind of energy, it's felt in the body as fluid electricity (plasma?). When I concentrate I can feel it moving between muscle fibers, clearing some kind of connective tissue. After such 'clearing' muscle become more flexible - can stretch further.

I'm amazied how many different muscles there are in the face - it's like a complex layered web of interwoven fibers.

RE: Paul's practice log
9/9/17 7:53 AM as a reply to Paul Smith.
Apologies for butting in- and I don't know your psychiatric history, but I notice meditation has made you psychotic and you say you are off meds and continuing with it? 

I just just wonder if it might be an idea to have an atypical antipsychotic to hand - at least until 3rd path (by Daniel's definition) or so?

i don't want to worry you, and my info is very sketchy and anecdotal, but I think SE can be a very unstable time for people- esp those who have 'bipolar' tendencies. The brain is just suddenly transformed and it can be pretty weird. If I hadn't had zyprexa to hand I would've completely lost it during insanely intense first path review cycling. 

RE: Paul's practice log
9/9/17 10:39 AM as a reply to Robin Woods.
I've a bunch of meds from my last episode, thanks emoticon

What was your experience like?

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