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Daniel M. Ingram, 13 hours ago.

Liferay 7.3 Upgrade Done! Please us know in if it is working properly. Important

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Dear All,

The remarkable Manish has managed to upgrade Liferay, the platform the DhO runs on, to version 7.3! This is a remarkable accomplishment, as Liferay upgrades have proved mind-boggling difficult, with each one we have done taking teams of people over a year each with many errors and failures along the way. Many thanks to Manish! If you find any errors, glitches, problems, or areas for improvement, please let us know in the dedicated thread below "Liferay 7.3 Feedback." Thanks!

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spatial's practice log

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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
I feel like I'm on the verge of something. I have a new willingness to experience things. I am able to sit still for an hour with practically no movement.

Previously, I would obsess over the movement of the breath, and the adjustments I would have to make to keep my balance as I moved with each breath. Now, I can observe myself making those adjustments, or not making them, and I am willing to experience each one.

I can observe feelings of discomfort, nausea, restlessness. I can observe myself wanting to eliminate them. I can observe the ideas my mind generates about how to eliminate them. I can observe how it affects my breathing.

I notice when my mind goes to "how much time do I have left?"...."30 minutes!? This is torture!" I notice how that affects my breathing, and I can feel other unpleasant sensations in my abdomen as a result.

I can feel myself gripping muscles to prevent pain. I can feel the pleasure of releasing those muscles as I realize I don't need them to stay upright. I notice how fleeting that pleasurable feeling is, and I notice my urge to try to hold on to it, and I am willing to simply sit still in response, and experience the nausea that comes as a result.

I am aware that a lot of these feelings and thoughts and sensations are still very solidified. But, I can feel things loosening a bit. I'm not sure what sense of self I am still holding on to, but I'm sure it must be there somewhere.

I worry about my knees. Sometimes I feel pain, but I don't know if it's coming from my knees, or the muscles surrounding them, or both. I think I will experiment with other postures. I should also get back into yoga...

I mentioned to a friend a couple weeks ago that I felt I had unwittingly gone off the path somehow. Over the past couple years, I had acquired so many insights into the nature of things, that I felt I really understood something fundamental. But instead of pressing on in the direction that led to those insights in the first place, I somehow tried to tie it back to satisfying the desires that I had before the insights occurred. As a result, I ended up frustrated and resentful.

I felt this morning as if I would be willing to experience absolutely anything, *as long as it doesn't lead to permanent injury*. Will this fear prevent me from going further? I will keep practicing and see what happens.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
I sat in a chair this morning, to give my knees a break from kneeling. I spent a lot of time thinking about posture. I suspect this is to be expected, because I am not accustomed to meditating in a chair, and have not yet found a stable posture. Concentration was in and out.

I was able to observe a lot of sensations and thoughts. I noticed recurring thoughts, and I noticed how disconnected they were, and how my mind kept trying to reconstruct them. Thoughts about how irritating this was, about how I think I know just what adjustment to make to sit upright.

I had the sense several times that I was leaning far to the left. No idea if it's true. I was able to sit with these sensations and notice the images in my mind for a while. I let myself count three breaths and then adjust a tiny bit. It felt better for a while and then went back.

I noticed myself falling into a deeper concentration state and then snapping out of it at least 4 times. I don't know if I was falling asleep or what. It felt like a startle response, and I felt safer after it happened. I have a feeling it would be great if I could catch this response before it happens.

I noticed my foot feeling like it was falling asleep, and I noticed my urges to move it. I noticed the feeling of my fingers touching each other, and then gradually felt those sensations disappear. I noticed myself wondering if my fingers were still touching. When I was done meditating, I noticed they were.

I could feel the muscles in my back and neck working hard to support me. I suspect this makes concentration difficult.

A couple times, there was pulsating light in my vision.

I noticed myself trying to go deeper into concentration by recalling images I observed in previous sessions.

I noticed myself getting frustrated that there were so many sensations I wasn't clearly noticing. I tried to make a real effort to observe everything. I felt discouraged, and felt a little panicked that my meditation was so unstructured and graspy.

Did 10 minutes of metta practice at the end. It was very hard to focus. I suspect a lot of this is because of the chair. Not sure if I should try to adjust the chair, or continue to sit with this and learn more.

Still think I'm moving in a good direction, though. I think there's a lot more dust that needs to be kicked up.
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alguidar, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 106 Join Date: 6/4/17 Recent Posts
i find it VERY hard to meditate in cushion, so much pain. Burmese/half lotus/seiza...

As an experiment,

Try to sit as confortably as possible  in your best chair/couch, not giving a shit about posture.

report back. emoticon
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
alguidar:
i find it VERY hard to meditate in cushion, so much pain. Burmese/half lotus/seiza...

As an experiment,

Try to sit as confortably as possible  in your best chair/couch, not giving a shit about posture.

report back. emoticon

I've experimented quite a bit with this. If I'm too comfortable, I tend to fall asleep. If I'm sitting in a couch, I eventually become very aware of how unsupportive the couch is, and how I either feel like I'm collapsing uncomfortably into it, or straining to keep myself from doing so. I cannot find any kind of chair or posture where this doesn't become a problem after 20 minutes or so. I've had the best luck so far in seiza while sitting on a stack of yoga blocks, as this is where I feel the most grounded and don't have to work so hard to support my spine. I feel like it's difficult to find a posture that simultaneously allows my spine to be free but also works with my lack of flexibility in my lower body. 
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Ward Law, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 123 Join Date: 9/7/15 Recent Posts
I've been sitting in a comfortable chair, spine curved, for a couple of years; and I've made progress in samatha/vipissana. Being perpetually sleep deprived, dullness is my main hindrance. So, whenever I feel dullness setting in, I immediately get up and move to the seiza chair. The stress on my back, and the postural instability,  are enough to re-energize the mind. At some point, I switch back to the chair.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Started off with really good concentration. I could observe the breath in minute detail. I felt like I could follow it through its whole cycle, and observe a very tiny sensation beneath my nostrils.

My vision was pulsating quickly. I felt at times as if this was synchronized with my perceptions of the breath. Perhaps it was only the exhale. It came and went.

Strong urge to swallow. Felt like mouth was overflowing with saliva. Could feel the pressure building up behind my lips. Felt horribly disgusted by this. Decided to sit with this sensation for a while.

Worried I might become a crazy person who didn't care if he drooled all over himself.

Decided to swallow just a little. Realized my mouth was nowhere near overflowing.

Just make this stop! Can't I just be enlightened already??? How much of this do I have to go through?

What if meditation is always just more and more observation of unpleasant sensations, and I just go deeper and deeper and nothing actually changes?

I alternated between this type of thinking and equanimity several times. Was able to observe these thoughts pretty clearly, and my urges to react to them.

I can clearly remember a time when these thoughts would have completely derailed me. I have all the same pain I've always had, but it doesn't freak me out as much now (time will tell, I suppose!).

Noticed clearly how my eyes want to move to whatever part of the body I'm observing. I think this is tiring for my facial muscles. I tried to stop this, and sometimes was successful and sometimes it caused a great deal of stress. This might be worth working on.

Examined some thoughts with curiosity, to observe their static nature. This has been particularly fascinating to me lately (how thoughts are not the dynamic movies they claim to be).

Was able to observe sensations throughout the body pretty well. Some doubt about whether I should focus on the breath, or scan freely. I didn't seem to have a plan in place.

Was certain my lower body would be numb when I finished. This wasn't the case.

I think it's good to journal some of this stuff. Reflecting on my experience makes it easier to see patterns. On the other hand, I wonder if I'm casting it in a specific light based on how I want to perceive it, rather than it being an objective log of what really happened.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Great reports on your practice sessions, spatial.


emoticon
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
The vibration in my vision is almost always there (with my eyes closed). The frequency changes. Not sure if it was always there before noticing it a few days ago, or if it's new.

I think I'm seeing where to go with this. I think the vibrations need to be made slower (or is it faster? or is this completely unrelated to anything? not sure...)

There is a steady stream of physical sensation. Much of it I can perceive as vibration. Very little of it remains solid after examination for too long.

I can do this with sounds too, to a degree. The halfway bell on my timer did not sound nearly as solid as it did yesterday morning.

Yesterday, I sat at the piano, closed my eyes, played one note at a time, and really paid attention. I just wanted to spend time hearing the harmonics and beats. It is fascinating how much of our world is closed off to us, because we just solidify it.

Two days ago, I became fascinated by this "Yanny vs Laurel" illusion. I spent 30 minutes training myself to be able to hear it both ways. I think this is a related endeavor, somehow.

Thoughts, however, are more intrusive. I can pretty easily see them as still images. But will they break down further into vibration? Perhaps if I observe them for long enough, and catch enough of them. They don't seem to be as constant a stream of input as physical sensation, though. Does that mean by sense of physical sensation needs to be refined further, until it as at the level of resolution of thought?

Thoughts always seem to be images or sounds, not words. Words seem to always be accompanied by movement in the vocal tract. So, they are not pure thoughts. At least, that's my perception.

There are other senses of mental activity, though. Realizations, questions, excitements, frustrations. I'm not sure if those are accompanied by images always. I get glimpses of them, but I don't know what their content is.

I think this is why stillness is necessary. There needs to be enough steadiness for things to decompose. The cats meowing, for example, is unpredictable, and distracting. My reaction to it, though, became predictable.

Sitting still for an hour like this was impossible a month ago. This is progress.

I tried to observe the breath fully. Sensation disappeared at my nostrils at times. Then I realized I could follow the breath elsewhere. I have a lot of letting go to do. It occurred to me over and over that as long as I'm observing something, I'm progressing. Even if it's not what I *wanted* to observe.

I've tried a few different vipassana techniques (scanning, noting, just watching). The technique always seems to get in the way. It slows me down way too much. Not sure if this is because of lack of practice, or because I'm doing it wrong, or because I need more concentration, or what. There's a big difference between a verbal awareness of sensation, and the direct, raw contact with that sensation. The techniques seem to encourage the verbal awareness too much, which feels like daydreaming rather than experiencing. What seems to work better is to wait for something solid to appear, and then trying to notice as many details as I can about it.

It's so easy to fall into "wanting things to decompose". Instead, I need to remind myself to just look for more things to notice.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Spatial --

There's a big difference between a verbal awareness of sensation, and the direct, raw contact with that sensation. The techniques seem to encourage the verbal awareness too much, which feels like daydreaming rather than experiencing. What seems to work better is to wait for something solid to appear, and then trying to notice as many details as I can about it.

Do some research on dependent origination aka dependent co-arising. It will help you sort through this. It's what you're getting glimpses of when you observe the different components of what at first seems to be one object.

emoticon

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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:

Do some research on dependent origination aka dependent co-arising. It will help you sort through this. It's what you're getting glimpses of when you observe the different components of what at first seems to be one object.


Do you think that it is worth trying to understand this better (through reading, etc.), or by digging in more with observation in my practice?
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Do you think that it is worth trying to understand this better (through reading, etc.), or by digging in more with observation in my practice?

Spatial, it's entirely up to you but I'd suggest you try both. It may help you to know what you're looking for and the reading is a "might help, can't hurt" kind of activity. It certainly doesn't prevent you from digging in deeply in your meditation sessions.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
Do you think that it is worth trying to understand this better (through reading, etc.), or by digging in more with observation in my practice?

Spatial, it's entirely up to you but I'd suggest you try both. It may help you to know what you're looking for and the reading is a "might help, can't hurt" kind of activity. It certainly doesn't prevent you from digging in deeply in your meditation sessions.

Probably a good idea. It's always helpful to be exposed to different ways of looking at things. Sometimes they lie dormant until they are activated by experience, and then things seem to really click... Thanks for the advice.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
This was not an easy session this morning. It amazes me how quickly it can change like that.

I decided to try no technique, and simply sit for one hour.

I noticed restrictions in my breathing due to my posture.

A lot of thoughts about how difficult it was. I tried to observe these thoughts, to separate myself from them.

I noticed strongly how I was identifying with so much. I was discouraged that I would never be able to penetrate through that. I reminded myself that I need to tease things apart more. I'm not seeing everything.

On a related note, I started to realize more about the connection between my posture and my breath constriction. This made me feel more discouraged, because I I felt like there was no way to clear that up.

Spent some time observing how some actions are performed by "me" and some are performed by "my body". It drives me crazy trying to see the difference. I tried to look into the nature of those thoughts as well.

Started to worry I was compressing nerves in my legs and would end up with a serious problem as a result. After 45 minutes or so, I switched to lying on my back.

10 minutes of metta, very hard to stick with the phrases, as I kept daydreaming, possibly falling asleep. Although, I had the sense that I could somehow synchronize the phrase with speed of my thoughts if I did it very deliberately.

Part of me says this was a good session, because it gave me a lot to observe. But, part of me says I am somehow conditioning myself to be averse to meditation, and I am going in the wrong direction. Not sure what to do.

I want things to go well. I don't even want to talk about them when they don't go well. I want to feel like I have a handle on this. Why is equanimity easier sometimes and harder other times? All I wanted to do was sit and observe unpleasant experiences, but somehow they got the better of me.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Practiced for about three hours (over 4 or so sessions) yesterday. It was all over the place.

This morning, things went pretty well. I decided to give Goenka's technique another serious try.

Start by concentrating on the breath. Mind wanders. I let it wander, and then tune back into the breath when it presents itself.

I am concerned that I am trying to focus my eyes really hard on my nostrils. A lot of pressure in my face.

Build up a good amount of concentration, and then try to tune into sensation at the top of my head. Nothing. But, I don't want to move my eyes there. Don't want to concentrate too hard. Just wait for it. Nothing. Mind starts to wander. Bring the attention back to the breath.

I work this way systematically through my upper body. Sometimes there is sensation, sometimes none. I am trying not to use my eyes. I am trying not to block out thoughts, but rather perceive the sensation through the noise of the thoughts.

I go into a deeper concentration state. I feel sensation throughout my body. A lot of vibration. My vision alternates now and then from dark to light.

I'm not sure if I'm doing the technique right. I can't seem to sustain the attention necessary to move part by part through the whole body. I always lose my place or start skipping around, or just decide to screw it and feel the body as a whole.

I feel imbalances in my posture. I feel anxiety caused by this. I feel myself trying to correct it.

I remind myself over and over that anything I feel or think is ok, and to refocus on physical sensation. The anxiety calms down, and I feel more settled.

I worry that I get attached to the positive feelings, the feeling of concentration, the excitement of a meditation that is going well. Equanimity with respect to negative sensation is easy to understand; just don't move when you feel it. But how do I practice equanimity in the face of positive sensations?

By the end, I was pretty concentrated. Large parts of my body had totally dissolved into (pleasurable) vibration. I am always so stiff when I stand up. Hopefully that will improve over time.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
This morning was quite an interesting meditation.

It started off with the usual discomfort and obsession over posture. Observed how the breath kept moving me off balance. How I kept adjusting. How frustrated it made me.

I had an idea bouncing around in my head: "meditation is not physical... it is purely about training your attention." What if I really took that seriously?

I observed the breath. Very hard to concentrate. I tried following it, but my mind kept wandering. Every time it wandered, I tried to bring it back. Frustrating and nauseating.

Ok, let it wander. This isn't physical. It's just about my mind. The frustration and nausea is not mental. Obviously, "trying to bring it back" is doing something more than the meditation really calls for.

Let the breath gently intrude on my mind-wanderings.

I've been down this road before, but this morning was a bit different. It occurred to me, "I can use the breath as a weapon to dissolve my experience." When the mind wanders, let it wander, and focus on the breath. The experience doesn't disappear, but the breath introduces disruption into it. It becomes slowly harder to concentrate on the experience. And eventually I'm back at the breath, or perhaps a new experience interrupts.

I played with this for a while. I would be pulled into thoughts, sensations. I noticed how the breath made it hard to really latch onto them. Just let them break up into little pieces.

Once I felt reasonably secure in this, I switched to Goenka body scanning. I tried the exact same technique. Focus on the top of the head. No sensation. Get distracted. Ok, let the sensation at the top of the head dissolve my distraction. Nothing.

Attention goes to sensation in legs. Great, let the sensation at the top of my head dissolve the experience of being with my legs. Now we're getting somewhere... This is exciting. Great, let the sensation at the top of my head dissolve the experience of being excited.

Once I felt something at the top of my head, I moved down my body bit by bit in this manner. I practiced dissolving absolutely every experience I noticed I was having, using the awareness of sensation of the body part I was focusing on.

This brought me into a deep state of concentration. My body felt still and I could feel subtle sensations everywhere.

There was a moment of fear. As my body was losing solidity, I started to panic with the thought that I might actually dissolve my entire being. And what if it didn't stop after the meditation? What if I ended up with some kind of dissociative identity disorder? I decided to go with it, and used the sensation of my body to dissolve that train of thought.

I was half expecting to achieve stream entry right there. But, I think that was just a preliminary defense mechanism. There's a lot more self that needs to be dissolved. Yet, the path seems a bit more doable at the moment.

The fear actually seems a little silly as I write this. I'm not dissolving myself. I'm only practicing focusing on something other than the self, for a brief period of time. The self isn't going to disappear. It's just a new habit I'm building. And if I'm happier with no self, then I guess that's not a problem...

I used the same strategy in my 10 minutes of metta.

"May I be safe...fr.... Oh this is really cool! I can really focus! Sensation in body is really pleasant...where was I....? May I be free from...."

No, that's all just experience. My focus is on "May I be safe from danger."

Wait for it to come in loud and clear, as a single uninterrupted action. If it's hazy, if I'm distracted, frustrated, whatever, then just go with it and wait for the phrase to come in loud and clear.
Tashi Tharpa, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 244 Join Date: 4/4/18 Recent Posts
In addition to finding a middle way between (1) just letting the mind wander and (2) being too tight around the primary object, you also seem to have found a way to see experience as process and watch it dissolve. Very cool. Great report!  
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Tashi Tharpa:
In addition to finding a middle way between (1) just letting the mind wander and (2) being too tight around the primary object, you also seem to have found a way to see experience as process and watch it dissolve. Very cool. Great report!  


Thanks! I wish it were more predictable. Sometimes I feel like I can get it, and sometimes it's just an intellectual concept.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Not sure what to make of this morning.

It was pretty difficult for the first half hour. Not easy to concentrate on the breath, or even feel the breath. My mind was racing with thoughts. I could not find a comfortable posture.

I tried using the technique I thought of yesterday of letting the breath dissolve my experience, but it wasn't working.  I could recognize that the feelings and evaluations of "it's not working" were themselves experiences, but they seemed more solid.

After 30 minutes, things changed a bit. I noticed I wasn't really feeling the breath. There is a difference between the mental concept of the breath and the actual physical sensation at the nostrils. I realized the physical sensation has quite a lot of power, because it's real and ever-changing. Trying to dissolve my thought patterns using more thought-patterns is potentially frustrating, but using real physical sensation is another matter.

So, I tried to zoom in on the sensation. It was a very tiny sensation. But, once I found it, it gave me something to anchor to, much more stable than any of the thoughts or even the larger unpredictable movements of my body. 

Zooming to a tiny level has the effect of stabilizing the mind, I think because it synchronizes everything to a level which is not on the same wavelength of the rest of the experience that was preoccupying me at the moment. 

I noticed that the sensations and thoughts I was experiencing were wholly separate from my perception of the breath. It was surprising, because a moment ago I had been completely wrapped up in them.

There was a moment of blackness, I felt tingling through my whole body, and my vision "reset" itself to a more stable pattern of slow oscillating light. I felt much more grounded after that point.

The rest of the session was fairly uneventful, except once there was what looked like a flash of lightning. Not sure what it meant.

I believe it is good to spend some time really making sure I am sitting as comfortably as possible. Even to take a few minutes at the beginning of every session to work on this, rather than immediately jumping in to observing sensation with equanimity. I am hesitant to do this, because I don't want to obsess over discomfort. However, unpredictable physical pain and instability of posture is really distracting, and if I can eliminate it, I should. I do think that a big part of this is being able to tune the mind into a concentrated state, because it makes observation easier, as much as that feels like a cop-out to me.

And, I am going to stick with my viewpoint that concentration is not about developing concentration, but rather about breaking up concentration.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
I practiced for a bit yesterday afternoon. I was really getting the sense that I could dissolve any aspect of my experience. The sensation of the breath, or other sensations I chose, could be steadily maintained, while thoughts came and went. Body parts disappeared.

A black hole appeared in my vision, and grew in size. It covered half of my vision, and then a new one appeared. The cycle repeated many times. I had the idea of allowing it to grow until it enveloped me. As it approached, I had an intense fear of disappearing. I decided to sit with the fear and let it approach, but I think I was distracted, and the black hole dissipated. I was slightly nervous that in my attempts to deepen my meditation, I was depriving my brain of oxygen, or threatening to burst a blood vessel, or about to cause a stroke or seizure, or something like that.

---

Not very concentrated this morning. Distracted by posture and noises from the kitchen. The noises made me angry, but I tried to welcome them as an opportunity to practice.

I wonder how much of this has to do with how well I slept at night.

15 minutes before the end, I changed posture to cross-legged. I'm nervous to do this, because I think it might be back for my neck and back, but I always feel that way about my neck and back no matter what I do with my body, so wtf do I know?

I felt my hair brushing against the back of my neck and imagined it was a spider. I noticed the image of the spider in my mind and felt tingling through my body. Just watch and return to the breath. My mind came up with another more detailed image of the spider crawling slowly. I saw the image frozen in time, and returned to the breath. Another image, spiders crawling all over my body, down my shirt and up my legs. Pretty terrifying, but I also saw clearly how my mind was trying to play this game. I thought "you laugh now, but what are you going to feel when you reach back there and find a real spider?" (I'm trying to put this wordless thought into words). But, it seemed clear to me that this really was just a game, and my whole experience of this was constructed in the moment. So what if there's a real spider later? It's only *right now* that I'm bothered by it.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Well, no meditation happened this morning. I spent the entire hour working on posture.

A few things are on my mind:

- Concentration is very difficult when I'm straining my muscles and when the act of breathing itself threatens to knock me off balance.
- I think it is possible to solve this problem.
- If I solve it, my meditations will probably be much more productive.

I was reading an article last night that suggested a method like this:

1. Sit grounded on your sit bones.
2. Lean forward until you feel yourself starting to fall, then relax as much as you can, feeling the pull of gravity.
3. Lean back until you start to fall, and do the same thing.
4. Repeat over and over, making the movements smaller and smaller each time.
5. Pull up through your head, and relax.
6. Repeat until you are balanced.

So, I started my session with this.

I noticed I was in a hurry to find balance. I wanted to meditate as soon as possible. Once I felt balanced enough, I tried watching the breath.

And then I wasn't balanced anymore.

I tried this a few times, getting increasingly frustrated.

It became clear to me that I was not giving sufficient attention to my posture. I was imagining how much time was left on the clock, and how little meditation was happening.

After 30 minutes, I gave up meditation and decided to work completely on posture.

What I noticed while focusing on posture:

- sometimes not sure if my sit bones are pointing straight down or not.
- not sure if leaning forward and backward means rotating the pelvis, or moving from the bottom of the spine.
- even after I find a "balanced" position, I still find that I can let go and "slouch". This means I'm not relaxed enough. The relaxed position should support my spine.
- at each position, it is useful to take at least a full breath, to observe what effect that movement has on my balance.
- I believe it's possible to find a posture that requires practically zero effort, because I remember having found those balance points at times in the past (including, I believe, last night.)
- Sitting lower means the yoga blocks cut into my legs less, but it also means I worry more about my knees. It may be useful to get a meditation bench, but those seem expensive and I have no guarantee it would work better than what I'm doing now.
- I need to be aggressive about relaxing as much as possible, even if it means the routine will take longer.

It is a good idea for me to set aside time for no other purpose than to practice this balancing routine. I can meditate in a more comfortable posture until I feel I have it figured out better. I will have to run the risk of falling asleep, I guess! (And also potentially not be prepared for the retreat I have coming up in less than two months...)

There is a part of me that thinks this is either cheating or will lead to more obsession about posture. That vipassana is supposed to be about feeling your aches and pains and learning to be mindful of them, rather than trying to eliminate them.

I think it needs to be understood that yes, in meditation one should be mindful, but a posture needs to be chosen where mindfulness is possible. There are times where I feel OK sitting and watching my discomfort. But, if am constantly adjusting my posture, it is simply not meditation, no matter how much I am trying to be mindful. I need to proceed with determination, but also with gentleness.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
I've been thinking a lot about the characteristic of dukkha over the past day. I believe it's starting to make sense to me in a more comprehensive way than it was before.

I listened to Joseph Goldstein's recent podcast on the topic yesterday, but honestly I can't remember much of it. I think what really did it was flipping through MCTB last night and coming across this sentence: "Just knowing in each precise instant how you actually know that pain is unsatisfactory can be profound practice."

Life is unsatisfying. Everything is. This is so fundamentally true that it's easy to miss.

I experience pain. How do I know it's unsatisfying? Just pay attention. Notice my impulses. Chances are, I will find some reaction inside of me which is an attempt to minimize the pain. If I were satisfied with the pain, I wouldn't do this.

I experience pleasure. How do I know this is unsatisfying? Same deal. If I pay attention, I will find some attempt to hold on to that pleasure, to intensify it, to assure myself it will last or that it's real. If I were satisfied, this wouldn't happen.

In my meditation this morning, I tried to observe this characteristic of sensation. I think it proved to be somewhat fruitful.

Every time I experienced a sensation, I asked myself "what is unsatisfying about this sensation?" I noticed what my urges were to eliminate pain or hold on to pleasure. This isn't the first time I have thought about my urges this way, but this was the first time I made a deliberate investigation of analyzing ALL of my experience in this manner.

A lot of sensations seemed neutral, neither pleasure nor pain. These were challenging. How can these be unsatisfying?

It started to dawn on me that something wasn't right. I wasn't satisfied with the neutral experiences either. This was so simple that I am surprised I had missed it.

I was doing things in response to the neutral sensations as well. I was investigating them, asking questions about them, trying to observe them better, etc. I would not be doing those things if I were satisfied with them.

It's the only reason we ever learn to do anything. It's the only reason anything ever catches our attention. It's the only reason we ever care about anything.

This actually drove me a bit crazy. I felt like a pinball in a machine. I could see that everything I was doing was a reaction to something, an attempt to satisfy some deep unsatisfaction. Do I have any control at all??? Is life just one long sequence of bouncing from one urge to the next???

Why am I trying so hard to focus on the sensation in my leg? So I can be mindful. Why was I trying to be mindful? So I can be a good meditator. Why do I want to be a good meditator? Because that's just how I think of myself. Why am I thinking of myself that way at this moment? Because I am meditating and investigating the characteristic of dukkha. It's hard to convey with words exactly what I was experiencing, because much of it was subtle, and these realizations felt like they were happening quickly and sometimes simultaneously, but I am trying to give a sense of it. It's just one thing after another, all happening in perfect sequence.

These realizations moment-to-moment had a strange effect of allowing me to let go of a lot of my physical activity. I saw how interconnected much of it was...the interplay between my sensations, my concept of self, and my whole program of meditation. I think there is a way out of this mess, and that the way out is to see the concepts of self as being yet another attempt to satisfy an urge. This will need to be practiced. (It also raises the question for me: is the idea to see more, or do less, or both? There is the troubling realization here that "seeing" is itself more urge-satisfying)

Anyway, I think this line of investigation is worthwhile, and I am going to continue it.

I also think "suffering" is entirely the wrong word for this. That's my impression anyway, because hearing the word "suffering" made it impossible for me to understand what was really going on here. Now I think I understand that, on some level, one could say that what you think of as "suffering" is really just more experience (because "suffering" is just a label tacked on by your mind to a bunch of impermanent sensations), and all experience has that fundamental quality that sometimes manifests itself as "suffering", so in that sense there is an equivalence. But, it's misleading at face value.

It's so easy for this stuff to turn into abstract philosophy. It's important to keep it practical. I think physical sensation is the key to this.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Spatial, your powers of observation are amazingly astute. It's fun to read your reports here.

I also think "suffering" is entirely the wrong word for this.

I agree with the misleading nature of this word - it's not "suffering" in the usual sense, so how about using the word "dissatisfaction?" Concentration isn't the right word, either. I think we suffer (pun intended) from the original translations from Pali to English, probably done by folks who might never have experienced these things and so were a bit off in their choice of words.


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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Chris Marti:
Spatial, your powers of observation are amazingly astute. It's fun to read your reports here.


Thanks!


I also think "suffering" is entirely the wrong word for this.

I agree with the misleading nature of this word - it's not "suffering" in the usual sense, so how about using the word "dissatisfaction?" Concentration isn't the right word, either. I think we suffer (pun intended) from the original translations from Pali to English, probably done by folks who might never have experienced these things and so were a bit off in their choice of words.

Yes, I think "dissatisfaction" is a better word. I know very little about any of this, but I get the sense that the English translations are influenced by Western religious concepts in a way that isn't very helpful. Even "dissatisfaction" might be too negative of a term.

This is a very interesting topic... I don't think the Buddha intended "life is suffering" to be interpreted as "life sucks." I think the idea was to encourage people to look at their own behavior, so that they could see that they are acting on impulses which could be understood. It's an inherently optimistic message. We tend to think of "dissatisfaction" as some kind of negative feeling, but what if it is simply the observation that there is a connection between stimulus and response? There is absolutely no need to label any of it as negative, unless you want to create an elaborate story justifying that (which itself would be only a response to a stimulus). I go back and forth between thinking that I am really on to something here, and thinking that I am somehow oversimplifying this. 

I've been examining a lot of my sensations: negative, positive, and neutral. Neutral sensations are tricky, because there's no obvious attempt to eliminate them, or to latch onto them. But, something tells me that they probably aren't as neutral as they appear. Why would I even notice something that is neutral? I was looking at a white wall and asked myself "what could possibly be dissatisfying about the observation that the wall is white?" I'm not exactly sure, but I also can't ignore the fact that when I was a kid, learning the names of the colors, I must have felt great about myself...
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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I've been examining a lot of my sensations: negative, positive, and neutral. Neutral sensations are tricky, because there's no obvious attempt to eliminate them, or to latch onto them. But, something tells me that they probably aren't as neutral as they appear. Why would I even notice something that is neutral? I was looking at a white wall and asked myself "what could possibly be dissatisfying about the observation that the wall is white?" I'm not exactly sure, but I also can't ignore the fact that when I was a kid, learning the names of the colors, I must have felt great about myself.

Yes, you're on to something here and while I'm reluctant to get deeply into it at this stage in your practice...  at some point farther down the path, it will become apparent that subtle, even very subtle objects cause a disconnect (you can substitute "unsatisfactory") between what is truly effortless and what requires effort. What I mean by effortless is that the mind is not required to process any stimuli at all. As you can probably tell, this is a pretty deep rabbit hole to follow. There's a book by a man named Rob Burbea called "Seeing that Frees" and in that book, Burbea does a good job of describing the fact that every object, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, requires mind effort when it arises, yet without that effort, there is no perception because there is no object.

I'm not sure this will help much but feel obligated to post it.




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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Chris Marti:
Yes, you're on to something here and while I'm reluctant to get deeply into it at this stage in your practice...  at some point farther down the path, it will become apparent that subtle, even very subtle objects cause a disconnect (you can substitute "unsatisfactory") between what is truly effortless and what requires effort. What I mean by effortless is that the mind is not required to process any stimuli at all. As you can probably tell, this is a pretty deep rabbit hole to follow. There's a book by a man named Rob Burbea called "Seeing that Frees" and in that book, Burbea does a good job of describing the fact that every object, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral, requires mind effort when it arises, yet without that effort, there is no perception because there is no object.

Thanks for the book recommendation. Is the idea that you can perceive stimuli without the mind processing it? Or, that the most basic act of awareness contains effort? Is the idea that what we tend to think of as "awareness" is really a complex conditioned phenomenon built on top of actual primitive awareness (which is unconscious)?
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Is the idea that you can perceive stimuli without the mind processing it? Or, that the most basic act of awareness contains effort? Is the idea that what we tend to think of as "awareness" is really a complex conditioned phenomenon built on top of actual primitive awareness (which is unconscious)?

It's that any act of awareness/consciousness requires effort, which is "painful" to some extent, even if only a tiny bit.  On top of that, if there are no objects, no subject-object duality, there is no consciousness.

In Theravada Buddhism, a meditator can experience this at certain junctures in their practice, called path moments. The first such moment is called Stream Entry, and one of the signs that a meditator has hit that point is the experience of at least one cessation, which is the total loss of awareness/consciousness - an event not unlike the rebooting of a computer, but it's the loss of any contact with the phenomenal world and contains no consciousness, no sense of time or space, just nothing at all.




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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Bigbird:
Hi spatial, ive been reading your posts. Is there a reason for using the kneeling position, if thats what your doing. I guess if it is, then you must have found sitting on a cushion presented difficulties. What did you try and what happened?

I just can't seem to sit in a way where I don't have to work super-hard to support my back. I don't think my legs or pelvis are flexible enough. I've tried sitting at different heights. 
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Bigbird:

Although your method of sitting falls into the right category for one aspect, its falls short in another. There is no future up there for some of the meditation experiences one will probably encounter in the future. If everthing switches off, will you stay upright. Try it. let yourself slump, and see if it stays up, for 1 hour 2 a whole day. A basic Burmese comfort will stay up, no problem. Try it, 50-60mm cushion max get a small forward tilt and slump into it. Add some Sri Lankan style to really test it. All you do is basically drop your face into your lap. Its a strange style, but not if your Sri Lankan. It can stay up for a day, probably way longer. If not you want fall far.  Understand the importants of this, having to remain aware of the basic physical body, is not recommended. A basic Goenke experience can have you on a lean but not realize, think your leaning but your not. Slowly lean until your head is on the floor. This will happen because you let it, and keep meditating. Thats recommended. Its going to be different up there, im guessing. I saw youve got a retreat in 2 months. Maybe after that, but think ahead. 

Are you saying that I should try leaning over and seeing if I fall? That I should actually lean over and fall?


Thank you for the advice, and for the link to the book! I will look through it and let you know if I have any questions.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Bigbird:
Hi spatial,
               The link to the book was so that you could see the end part of the practice and work your way back looking at the practice or framework -(you were starting to leave practices)- needed to get there. That way you could drop the theorising such as in the thread (TMI: A contradiction or no?) or where your heading with Chris and get your attention directly aligned with the object. ASAP! Thats where its going to count. That would be further back in another book, but its in the present moment, direct experience of the object using the Buddhas framework that is the place that has the material for liberation.
 

I agree that I was changing things somehow. I was worried about my body, and made that my focus. I think I got back on track by realizing I didn't know how to fix my posture, so I may as well just observe it. I'm not sure if this detour was necessary or not...maybe it was. I don't want to just push through things when they are uncomfortable and injure myself, but I also don't want to condition myself to shy away from discomfort. I remember when I started meditating, I could not sit in a chair for 5 minutes with my eyes closed without feeling nauseous and like I wanted to jump out of my skin. It's probably good for me to keep checking in with myself and making sure I am actually meditating. 
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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June 4:

So, I'm rethinking some of what I was saying about posture. It may indeed be problematic, but I think something else is going on too.

Over the past few days, I've been feeling increased sensations in my face. They happen frequently when I'm meditating, and often when I simply stop to focus on them. There is pressure, vibration, movement, all kinds of weird things.  I've been thinking that this is a result of the increased durations of my sits, that I have been straining muscles, and re-aggravating whatever started at the retreat last year.

I have also been noticing that the feelings of pressure and tightness disappear when I touch my face. I'm not sure they are as real as they seem to be. Maybe they are the result of heightened perception, or perhaps hallucinations or something like that. Maybe I'm feeling something real, but my mind is interpreting it as something worse than it is.

I have no idea is this is safe, but something tells me the only way to proceed is to continue meditating. 

I sat tonight and resolved to simply observe the sensations, without trying to make them go away. I decided to approach this with no pressure, with awareness of physical sensation as the antidote to getting lost in thought. I started with awareness of the sensations of the breath, with no expectation of where I would feel those sensations. When the sensations in my face started to distract me, I included them in the breath. I became concentrated pretty quickly. 

The outer layers of my body began disappearing. I don't believe it has ever happened in such a pronounced way. I could feel the skin detaching from my face. The feelings of pressure flickered back and forth between solid and decomposed forms. I could feel subtle vibrations throughout my whole body. I was scared that I was damaging myself.

I had the sense that I could not get lost in thought. I was constantly aware of sensation. I had thoughts, but I immediately recognized them as thoughts. I had emotional reactions to thoughts and sensations, but I saw those too. 

I could see how certain things were being prevented from de-solidifying. The sensation of the breath at my nostrils. The sound of the cats running back and forth in the kitchen. The edge where my hair touched my neck and moved slightly with each breath. The floor. 

It was all a really pleasant feeling, and I could observe that feeling.

June 6:

That was two nights ago, and meditation has been much easier since then. I have not had any trouble sitting motionless. I get concentrated pretty quickly.

I've been experiencing strange sensations on my face. Rippling feelings. Tickling. Fizzing. Tightness. Release. Heaviness. A lot of fizzing... Sometimes I can feel the breath landing on my upper lip and dissolving almost in slow motion. Slightly worried I am giving myself neurological damage. I don't feel these things when I'm not meditating, unless I tune into them. 

I get absorbed into the patterns in my vision sometimes. They can be mesmerizing. 

My body has not disappeared as much as it did the other night, but there tends to be a pleasant tingling. It's actually hard to describe, because sensations are changing a lot. Sometimes I feel like there's just a ton of stuff happening under my skin. I'm trying to keep my attention moving, observing as much of it as I can. Whenever I find something solid, I rest there for a bit, trying to look under the surface. I've been doing this with sounds throughout the day, as well, listening for harmonics and beats in musical tones, and oscillations in any kind of sustained sound, such as a fan. 

Not sure what to do at this point. Just keep investigating whatever comes up, I guess. I'm a bit worried this ease will disappear at some point.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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I've been experiencing strange sensations on my face. Rippling feelings. Tickling. Fizzing. Tightness. Release. Heaviness. A lot of fizzing... Sometimes I can feel the breath landing on my upper lip and dissolving almost in slow motion. Slightly worried I am giving myself neurological damage. I don't feel these things when I'm not meditating, unless I tune into them. 


In an attempt to give you some context, these are some of the classic effects one gets at one of the stages on the Theravada meditators' path called the "Progress of Insight":  

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+The+Progress+of+Insight

I used to get these, too, as it felt often like I had bugs crawling all over my face when meditating.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Chris Marti:
I've been experiencing strange sensations on my face. Rippling feelings. Tickling. Fizzing. Tightness. Release. Heaviness. A lot of fizzing... Sometimes I can feel the breath landing on my upper lip and dissolving almost in slow motion. Slightly worried I am giving myself neurological damage. I don't feel these things when I'm not meditating, unless I tune into them. 


In an attempt to give you some context, these are some of the classic effects one gets at one of the stages on the Theravada meditators' path called the "Progress of Insight":  

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB+The+Progress+of+Insight

I used to get these, too, as it felt often like I had bugs crawling all over my face when meditating.
Are you referring to a specific stage? I'm a little hesitant to think too much about the stages, because I'm not sure I have enough knowledge to know which stage I'm in, and I don't want to aim too hard for specific experiences.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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That's funny - I was originally going to link you to the specific stage but thought about it more and decided to link you to the whole page so you could decide how much you wanted to dig into it. The main reason I posted was to get you out the worrying mode, thinking you were somehow hurting yourself. That's something I experienced, too.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Again, no significant trouble sitting motionless for an hour this morning.

I do something like the following routine:

1. Take a few moments of heavy breathing to make sure my posture is reasonably stable.
2. Focus on the breath, trying to be aware of each inhale and exhale, whatever that means. If anything distracts me, I incorporate it into the concept of the breath.
3. Wait for myself to become aware of the sensation of the breath at my nose.
4. Hang out there for a while, until I feel I really perceive it continuously.
5. If I feel antsy at this point, I try to get absorbed into something. Sometimes I can find a "glow" or "rhythm" somewhere. Not sure if this is recommended, but it often seems doable, so I go with it.
6. Once I feel stable with my attention, I start scanning my body top to bottom (the Goenka method), attempting to perceive subtle sensations in each part. If I feel something solid, I observe it and try to perceive some more detail. Often, it ends up vibrating as the breath does. Sometimes it remains solid, or blank.
7. Once I go through the whole body, I sit and wait for solid things to catch my attention, and investigate them in the same manner. If I get lost in thought, I come back to the breath.
8. Finish with 10 minutes of metta.

I find myself wanting to really perceive every single oscillation. It's a mixture of frustrating and fascinating. It's frustrating because the oscillations are usually way too fast (I wish I could count! Reminds me of an old computer monitor with a refresh rate that is way too low). It is fascinating because I feel like I can perceive them in anything I bring my attention too.

A couple times, I noticed blank areas on my body, and realized that the frustration over that was actually causing them to stay blank. I investigated sensations relating to the frustration, and found that this "tuned me in" a bit better to the level of sensation present at the blank area.

There was a time (I can't remember if I wrote about this) maybe a week ago, or more, when I realized that the vibrations were fast as I was inhaling, fast as I was exhaling, and then super-slow in between. So, I just decided to speed them up to even it out, and I could do that. It was like my attention went in and out based on what part of the breath I was interested in, and I realized I wasn't interested in the whole thing. I find myself wanting to do this with sensations of all kinds now, whenever I realize I'm not fully interested.

Several times this morning, I thought I saw several "harsh frames" of light in my vision, which pulsated for about 4 times (this happened a few days ago once, and it was like there was a metallic sound which went along with them...no sound this time). When I brought my focus to them, they disappeared and I felt irritated that I couldn't grab on to them. It was like I had fallen into a state by accident, but then my attempt to observe the state caused me to snap out of it. After a few instances of this, I started to investigate the sensations of "irritation".

I also get irritated when I hear sounds of someone walking. The sounds distract me from my attempts at de-solidifying my reality. Not sure if there's a way I can incorporate them better.

I find myself craving "pleasant tingling" and "disappearing body parts" and "motionlessness" and "glowing light" and "synchronous absorption" and "novel experiences."

Part of me is also thinking, "ok, now what?"
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Last night:

Very concentrated. Large portions of my body disappeared. I saw a great deal of light at times. Felt tons of movement on my face. After I was finished, I sat down again and had someone look at my face intently while I meditated some more, and she didn't see any signs of movement. I was really surprised.

After scanning my body part by part for a while, I realized I could feel the whole body on the exhale, if I tuned into it. I think I've noticed this before, but prevented it from happening, because I had taken it to mean that my posture was too strained. After I was done meditating, I tried tuning in to this while sitting on the couch, and found that I could do it then as well. It was like it had taken me 50 minutes in meditation to figure out how to do it, and then once I got it, I had it.

I think the trick is to keep it moving. Don't dwell on any sensation for too long. It seems that an expansive awareness is what I'm after. But on the other hand, there also seems to be the danger of just mentally running through the body too quickly, without actually experiencing any sensation at all. I have the same conversation with myself in piano practice. And there, the solution is, in my opinion, to just keep practicing.

The experiences I am having now are reminiscent of what I experienced on the Goenka retreat last year. At that time, however, they freaked me out. I think I was too ashamed or something to really talk to the teacher about them. I just viewed them as my own personal provlems that I would have to deal with alone. (I guess I don't have a lot of faith that teachers will be sympathetic to me, throughout my whole life!)

---

This morning's meditation had the least amount of movement yet.

I had a recurring urge to swallow, but I didn't. I wanted to adjust my posture, but I didn't. Every time I had such an urge, I brought my attention back to physical sensation.

I noticed how the effort of focusing on physical sensation is not the same as the effort of blocking out thoughts. I can really do this. It doesn't use up energy in the same way. If I get lost in thought, I can double down on the amount of sensation I observe, and it doesn't cost me anything. At least, that's the sense I was having this morning.

I was keenly aware of the difference between scanning my body by following a visualization, and scanning by following sensation. It's a subtle difference, and I often get confused by it. For example, I will observe sensation on the back of my neck, and then move down to my upper back, and feel nothing. Then, I realize I wasn't actually tuned into the upper back, but rather I was tuned into an image of the upper back in my mind. So, I go back to the sensation in my neck, and follow the sensation down a little bit, until I'm actually on my upper back.

After doing this for a while on the surface of my body, I tried a little bit on the inside. I could feel sensation in my mouth, followed it down my throat, felt my heart beating, into my abdomen.

I have certain fears about letting go of the need to move. What if I cut off blood supply to some body part for too long? What if I am putting too much pressure on my spinal cord, and the damage feels good? What if I figure out how to manipulate my heartbeat, and have a heart attack? What if I start feeling something scary, and I can't stop feeling it after the meditation is over?

I'm also wondering what is the best way to use this remaining time until I go back to the Goenka retreat in approximately 6 weeks. Should I be trying to make progress now? Or should I wait until I'm there and there is a teacher I can see?
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Just relax - you're doing great. Your fears about hurting yourself physically aren't uncommon but have you ever read a news article about someone having a heart attack during meditation? And... however you approach the upcoming retreat, it won't matter in the long run.


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Zachary, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 195 Join Date: 3/16/18 Recent Posts
Hey spatial, I've been enjoying following your reports, good stuff. 

Might I humbly suggest something to try out? I found the following to be immensely helpful after I'd made a lot of headway with my practice but was continually running into issues regarding striving and attempts to control and optimize my sits. 

Try and see how relaxed you can be while still being aware of what's happening. A more relaxed position lying down or reclining could help support this. Observe intentions and desire to optimize, control and tinker with your practice during sits. Really let go of any sense that there is anyone here doing the practice and just see what's going on. 

Also, as far as anxious or even paranoid thoughts, I've found that paying attention to what awareness is doing and where it is in the body when these thoughts are occuring can lead to strong insight.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Zachary:

Try and see how relaxed you can be while still being aware of what's happening. A more relaxed position lying down or reclining could help support this. Observe intentions and desire to optimize, control and tinker with your practice during sits. Really let go of any sense that there is anyone here doing the practice and just see what's going on. 

Thank you, I think it is good advice to observe my desire to optimize things. I'm starting to feel like the posture doesn't even matter so much. I will find things to tinker with no matter what posture I'm in. I think once the timer starts, my priority needs to be observation, not "fixing" anything.
Nicolas G., modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 27 Join Date: 1/4/18 Recent Posts
Hi Spatial,

I like to read your posts, Thank you for taking your time and write!

Meditation is just a practice, so, I'm wondering if it could be possible to share some generic base similar to learn/practice piano. Maybe this view can help you to use something you already know that works.

Going into too much thinking is not good for any practice, what about using the same good conditions (or mind states) you sugget to your students?: enjoy it, don't expect anything, patience, relax and get into the flow, etc.

Maybe you have already mention this and I didn't read it.

Anyway good luck!
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Nicolas G.:

Meditation is just a practice, so, I'm wondering if it could be possible to share some generic base similar to learn/practice piano. Maybe this view can help you to use something you already know that works.

Going into too much thinking is not good for any practice, what about using the same good conditions (or mind states) you sugget to your students?: enjoy it, don't expect anything, patience, relax and get into the flow, etc.


Yes, I think that is the way to go. It's not easy, though! I think meditation is a better place to practice this stuff, actually, because there's no outside pressure.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

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Somewhat frustrated this morning.

My mind was all over the place. There were fragments of thoughts bouncing all around: images, sounds, all coming and going very quickly. It was hard to maintain concentration on anything. I couldn't tell if I was falling asleep and starting to dream, or just had a crazy mind. I couldn't tell if I was being jolted awake, or if I was trying to concentrate my mind.

I got stabilized on the breath OK, and then tried to scan my body. I kept getting lost in thought. I kept losing my place. Was I just at my neck, or my legs? I can't even remember.

I kept feeling like I was losing my balance. After 30 minutes, I switched to sitting on the couch. My mind had a ton of objections to that, but I figured that I may as well try it and see how those objections hold up in reality.

The couch wasn't much better. I was still keenly aware of how I had to support my neck to prevent my head from falling backward. I just don't see any possible way to meditate in a relaxed position except perhaps lying down. I wonder if "relaxed" is the wrong goal. There have certainly been times (yesterday!) where I didn't feel like this was an issue.

The question kept coming up in my mind: when I am at a blank area of my body, and I am waiting for a sensation to appear, do I keep awareness of the breath, or do I stay with my attention on the blank area, thereby risking losing contact with sensation altogether and getting swept back into my thoughts?

I don't want to just invent my own technique and disregard the instructions. However, I find that what I perceive as progress has always come from "disregarding the instructions". I suspect that my attention should remain on the breath. What is the sense in getting lost in thought?

This is just always the issue: if I am going to observe without reacting, what do I do when I notice myself struggling? It's so easy for a teacher to say "you're doing it wrong...stop struggling and just observe", but it's not like I planned on struggling. In my piano practice, and with my students, I avoid this issue by keeping everything extremely concrete and physical. It doesn't matter if you are "struggling"...what matters is if you are doing the correct physical action or not. And if you get distracted, that is always 100% perfect, because you are only responsible for what you're doing at those moments when you notice that you have control over your physical action. I feel like I've constructed the exercises in such a way that you really can trust them to teach you. In meditation, I'm not really always clear on when I'm following the instructions and when I'm not. The instructions are vague. I can either resolve the issue on my own by clarifying the ambiguities, or I can just go day-by-day with whatever interpretation I happen to have at the moment. I could ask a teacher for clarification, but they would almost certainly introduce more ambiguity, or just tell me to persevere (persevere doing WHAT?) and then I run the risk of getting discouraged and quitting.

I'm not expecting anyone to resolve this for me or help me with it. I just wanted to write down my thoughts on this, because I have been to this place many times before. Someday, it may be useful to have a record of what I was thinking at this particular point in time.

In my metta practice, I could not keep my attention on the phrases. Literally not a single one. I kept losing my place in the middle of the sentence.

Yesterday, I had the idea of focusing more intently on physical sensation when I get distracted. For some reason, I didn't want to try this today. It seemed like it wasn't actually in accordance with the instructions.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Some thoughts, FWIW - please ignore if useless or not on target:

Have you looked into the source of your dissatisfaction?

Why is not having a "good" meditation session bothersome?

Is there such a thing as a "good" or a "bad" mediation session?

Why?
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
Some thoughts, FWIW - please ignore if useless or not on target:

Have you looked into the source of your dissatisfaction?

Why is not having a "good" meditation session bothersome?

Is there such a thing as a "good" or a "bad" mediation session?

Why?


The fear is that I will either go in the wrong direction, or I will get stuck in a loop. As far as good or bad sessions, no, I guess there is no such thing. There are sessions that make me happy, and sessions that irritate me, but one would have to expect those types of fluctuations even under the best of circumstances.

I made a list of situations that come up frequently in my meditation which cause me to question myself, and for each one, I listed some possible ways of dealing with it, and then picked one that I think will lead me in the right direction. That seems to have been productive. I practiced for a bit more this afternoon, and I think I understand a couple things better. Here's my current line of thinking:

The areas of intense sensation on my face have a lot to do with where I have been putting my attention. It is like I have trained my mind to observe certain spots, and to ignore other spots. So, as far as my mind is concerned, there is indeed something pressing against my face (for example), because I simply am not noticing how large of an area that particular sensation is covering.

The sensation of the breath on my upper lip changes at times, and disappears sometimes when I get more concentrated. My previous thinking was that this is because I am straining too much, and it is causing a blockage in my nasal passages. I'm reconsidering this. I think what I interpret as backed up pressure in my nose may just be the normal pressure generated by my breathing, and what I interpret as pressure on my lip may actually be the sensation of the air itself, but my mind has not been fully conditioned to see it that way at this fine of a resolution. When I focus on the pressure intently enough, suddenly my breathing clears up. It's like I can "see through" the pressure, and find the air inside there.

I think I just need to go through this process. I'm going to mess it up at times. I think it has to be that way, because my reality is changing as I observe more, so whatever mental rules I generate are going to eventually fail sooner or later.

I think the answers to all my uncertainties are: "Do whatever leads you to observe more sensation. Don't do whatever gets you stuck in your head." That sounds simple, but it's tricky because the same behavior that led me to observing sensation yesterday gets me stuck in my head today. That seems to be because the sensations I observed yesterday changed me somehow, so now my base reality is different, and thus what I consider to be the same behavior is actually different now. Thus, there needs to be reevaluation at frequent intervals to make sure I'm still on the right track emoticon

So, yes, I will end up craving those experiences where my body starts to dissolve and I start seeing light. I'm not going to resist that. I'm going to keep doing what seems to be working, until it stops working. Then, I'll figure out what to do next, with whatever new information I have then. I think this is doable.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
A lot of light and vibrations today. While doing metta, I kept losing my train of thought. I started saying a phrase in my mind, and by the time I got to the end, I was somewhere else entirely. I thought I was falling asleep. I tried really hard to stay concentrated. Sometimes I got distracted even from that.

It seemed I was putting in too much effort. I tried to broaden my focus a bit. Sometimes when I did, I felt like I broadened too much, and almost lost consciousness entirely. When that happened, there was a very bright flash of light, and I came back. This happened at least three times. Eventually, I had the idea of going very slowly. One syllable at a time, I made my way from the beginning of the sentence to the end, checking after each syllable to make sure I still had contact with the breath, and that I was still aware of what sentence I was saying. It took several tries, but I eventually made it. I have no idea if all of this was because I was falling asleep, or if it was because my focus was at a level that was just much slower than my thoughts normally go at. It was a very odd experience.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
In some sense, I am having a much easier time sitting still. In another sense, there is more turmoil, because I am even more sensitive to all of the urges that are trying to prevent me from sitting still.

A couple times, I saw a small black dot in the center of my vision. There were a couple other patterns that came and went, and are hard to describe. There's a pulsating circle (what I described in another post as a "black hole"...this is nothing like the "black dot" I just mentioned) that gets bigger and smaller, and which seems to appear when I am very concentrated. Faint white light started to appear about halfway through. Sometimes there was bright light, for one instant, and then I would try to investigate it and it would disappear (very frustrating). There is vibration, which seems to go through certain stages, depending on how sharp my mind is: 1) unnoticeable, 2) fast when I am inhaling and exhaling, slower in between, 3) fast and even, 4) erratic, sometimes freezing for a moment (filling me with some sense of momentary dread when it does this).

I understand why people think they can contact spirits and otherwordly realms while meditating. At one point, I felt like there was a woman walking by me. I could feel the air brushing against my right side, and I could see her clearly. It lasted just an instant, but it was very pronounced.

There was a moment where I felt very detached from all of it. I could watch my body struggling subtly, and I could watch myself evaluating all of it, and I could watch myself feeling like I was doing it wrong, and I had this sense like "Here I am over here, and I can just observe all of that over there. Yes, there is struggling, but I'm not the one struggling." It lasted just for about one second. The same thing happened yesterday (or was it the day before?)

One thing that is driving me crazy is the clear awareness that I am enjoying many aspects of my meditation. I notice myself trying to recreate certain experiences (tingling, light, concentration). I almost wanted to scream in frustration at one point when I was thinking how every teacher on earth would tell me I'm doing this wrong. WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO??? I CAN'T HELP IT! I DON'T EVEN NOTICE I'M DOING IT UNTIL IT'S ALREADY DONE!!! I went through the same thing with my piano playing, and the only thing that helped me was to take a stance of complete and utter acceptance towards anything my body or mind happened to do while sitting at the piano. I am considering taking the same approach with meditation.

I have a greater sense that my attention span has certain junctures. There are moments where things can go one way, or they can go the other way. I have some amount of control over this, but my mind has to be sharpened to a certain resolution before I can do that. There are certain things that seem to encourage this sharpening:

- Focus on subtler sensations of the breath.
- When I observe a blank area on my body, try to observe the breath simultaneously.
- When I'm trying to focus on one part of my body, and I feel a tension elsewhere in my body, do not relax that tension.
- As much as possible, try to broaden my awareness, seeing as many different things as I can.

There is a balance between trying and not trying. It's hard to tell when I'm trying too hard and when I'm not trying hard enough. And sometimes I try too hard to stop trying. How can I make sense of this? I'm thinking "getting frustrated and wanting to quit because I can't stay focused," is an indicator of trying too hard, and "not meditating at all, or meditating and totally forgetting what I'm even trying to do" is an indicator of not trying hard enough. I think it can tip from one to the other very very quickly, though.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Quick FYI:

Dots and holes and round pulsating colored things in the middle of one's field of vision generally accompany the jhanas. When I access various jhanas I almost always get the same round-shaped, pulsating patterns and colors that are associated with specific states.
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
Quick FYI:

Dots and holes and round pulsating colored things in the middle of one's field of vision generally accompany the jhanas. When I access various jhanas I almost always get the same round-shaped, pulsating patterns and colors that are associated with specific states.
I suspected as much. I'm not sure how many jhanas I have been able to access, but it does seem like I can much more reliably get into these states nowadays.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
How's it going, spatial?
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
How's it going, spatial?

Thanks for checking in emoticon

My meditation has been pretty uneventful over the past several days. Basically more of the same.

Over the past two days, and especially this evening, I had the distinct sense that I'm not the one meditating. There is a guy sitting there, and I'm watching him meditate. I decided to go with it.

Not sure what to make of it. It made it hard to focus. I didn't feel any urgent need to interfere. It's very easy to let go. Anytime some uncertainty rises in my mind about what I should do, I can just say "eh, I'm not going to deal with that. I'll just watch what happens instead." I didn't even want to stop this evening, and ended up going 6 minutes past the timer.

So, as a result, my attention was really scattered. I did not have any consistent focus. I think there's no point in trying. I would drive myself crazy if I tried to push through this. I had the sense that there was the breath, and there was my attention, and sometimes they would sync up, and sometimes not. The sensations are there whether I notice them or not. If I don't notice them, it's because my attention was elsewhere at the moment.

I'm not going to bother. I don't have the energy for that. This is just out of my hands. I have a feeling that it's going to be a little hit-or-miss for a while in terms of steady concentration. But, there seem to be only two options: 1) identify with the guy sitting there, and stress out about every little thing, or 2) go along for the ride.
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Chris Marti, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 3662 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Nice update, thanks.

We're all just along for the ride  emoticon
Nicolas G., modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 27 Join Date: 1/4/18 Recent Posts
Hi Spatial,

I hope this could help! if is not your case, please, discard the post.

My experience was: that perfeccionist/obssesive people reinforce a try-hard pattern that get worst over the time. And at the end, you have success doing things at for example: work,  but at cost of generating alot of stress and tension. This try-hard habit is the opposite of letting go, and meditation is all about letting go!

try-hard = loop of not accepting until done = tension
letting go = accepting -> release = relax

In some point, trainning the mind in letting go is equal or even more important than development of the attention.

What worked for me was, to sit for weeks doing:
- Sitting without any expectation (this means: not looking for wow experiences, fireworks, jhanas, etc).
- Set the main goal of the practice as: letting go, everthing that happens: note, accept, then release.
- Second goal: attention of the object (breath).

Accept is the key: We don't have realtime/direct control of what's going on in the nervous system/subminds, not accepting what's happening make things really worst.

The wonderful thing about this is that you will start to see the effects of letting go out of the cushion! and everything starts to improve!

On the other side, I also have tension in the forehead, and it has improved alot with:
- Alternated walking meditation with sit meditation.
- Starting the sit meditation, relaxing body/mind paying attention to the breath at the belly (samatha), and when the mind is calm, move to the nostril.

Send you a big hug!
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Nicolas G.:

In some point, trainning the mind in letting go is equal or even more important than development of the attention.

 
I think this is the key point. It's hard to remember at times, but it seems to occur to me over and over. Struggling with attention is just a recipe for frustration. 

Thanks for the advice! 
Tashi Tharpa, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 244 Join Date: 4/4/18 Recent Posts
spatial:
 the only thing that helped me was to take a stance of complete and utter acceptance towards anything my body or mind happened to do while sitting at the piano. I am considering taking the same approach with meditation.
Wisdom. But then the question or koan seems to be around the role of agency/goals/intentions. 

I guess in this case your intention is to allow whatever is going on to be exactly as it is. As Jason Siff says, "Whatever happens in meditation, that's meditation." 

Different from the framework I'm working with now, which involves trying to cultivate stable attention. I'm sure I'll eventually come right back to this approach of just letting be and dropping techniques.  
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spatial, modified 2 Years ago.

RE: spatial's practice log

Posts: 600 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Tashi Tharpa:
Different from the framework I'm working with now, which involves trying to cultivate stable attention. I'm sure I'll eventually come right back to this approach of just letting be and dropping techniques.  

It seems that I keep going back and forth between these. Maybe that's what has to happen. I'm not sure.

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