Jim's practice journal

  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93201 by NeverSummer
Jim's practice journal was created by NeverSummer
...aaaand, away we go with the porting of the log:

January 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm #895

NeverSummer
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Starting a new log here. I admit to being not sure if I should just pick up where my log over at wetpaint left off or if I should import as much of that log as I was able to rescue (I did lose my reports made in the last 10 days). My thinking behind this is that I’ve found myself in some seemingly advanced territory, and (being a relatively new member of this community) if I just start where I’m at, one would be right to challenge me for evidence/backing information as to any claims (read: assumptions) I might be making…

I think what I’ll do is just provide a capsule summary of everything up to this point, and go on in more detail from there. I am happy to provide more detailed explanations of anything I gloss over (e.g. my experience of jhanas, witness, etc.)…

To begin, here’s the short version of my experience up to the point that I began posting on KFD:

* Around fourteen years of daily practice, 20-40 minutes, just following the breath and trying to be mindful. I had no teacher during this time. Around the tail end of this stretch of time I have good reason to believe I went through A&P and the dark night (I had no knowledge of vipassana meditation or Therevadin maps during this time).

*Followed this with about 1.5 years of doing Reggie Ray’s Tibetan shamatha and body-based techniques (I’ve found these to be a wonderful foundational practice for all other practices I’ve done since). During this time did two 3-day solo retreats.

*Followed this by reading Daniel Ingram’s book and starting to do vipassana meditation in late 2011. I found the level of specificity with regards to practice and its effects to be very appealing. For me, vipassana practice consisted of stabilizing concentration and then dropping awareness into the body and looking through the “lenses” of the three characteristics (primarily impermance – just noting the rapid arising and passing away of any phenomena that happened to come up. Which I guess puts this practice in the “choiceless awareness” category). When I described this practice to others, it was in the sense of perceiving the body as something much more akin to a flame or a star than a solid object.

*Went on a two week Dathun retreat over the holidays in late 2011 where I did a mixture of all of the practices described above, plus dipped my feet in the Mahamudra waters (more on this later). Crossed some spectacular territory here – energetic openings, supernatural craziness, the whole nine yards.

*Practice became discursive as hell for the next few months and was marked by a certain kind of periodic energetic upheavals involving anxiety and heart charka activity (again, more on this later). Nevertheless practice still seemed “productive” – there was still a sense of progress.

*Practice settled down somewhat during the late spring of 2012 and became much less discursive. Interestingly, this coincided with the introduction of the tsa lung/nine breathings of purification practices from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s “Awakening the Sacred Body.”

*Went on a 9 day vipassana retreat lead by John Travis in late July – early August 2012. By this time I was able to get into the jhanas and use them to stabilize my vipassana practice (even though I couldn’t experientially parse out the jhanas or tell one from another). This was by far the most productive stretch of practice in my life. We also did some mahamudra/non-dual stuff near the end of the retreat.

*post retreat, practice was extremely stable, blissful, equanimous…
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8 years 1 month ago #93202 by NeverSummer
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January 24, 2013 at 4:00 pm #896

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I started posting on KFD on November 13, 2012. From that time up until the present, my practice has consisted of:

*1st gear jhanic arc — in the past few days I’ve found myself fleshing out territory above PL jhana number 2. Since this is a process that is happening currently, I’ll be going into more detail in subsequent posts.

*2nd gear

*1st and 2nd gear combined: cultivating witness consciousness and then doing jhanic arc practice (my main daily practice in the mornings).

*Tibetan energetic exercises: tsa lung (from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s “Awakening the Sacred Body”) and Mahamudra exercises such as vase breathing, lower belly breathing, etc. (primarly from Reggie Ray’s materials).

My daily practice typically consists of 45-60 minutes in the morning and 30-60 minutes in the evening. From Summer 2011 to Summer 2012, I spent a total of 28 days in retreat (minimum 8 hours of meditation/day). I’m hoping to knock off at least a 10-day solo this year.

The last 6 months of practice have been very impactful on my day-to-day life. I’ve found my locus of awareness to have become much more broad and inclusive and less “person-based”. Via what I assume to be the effects of both 2nd gear practice and body-based, energetic practices, I’m coming into touch with vast, extremely still spaces in the lower chakras and in the area of the head that lies behind the palate, places where I can direct awareness and still the mind to what (to me) are incredible levels. In terms of dealing with the stressful occurrences that life hands us, there is just a lot more space for things to be accommodated. When I first began posting on KFD, I could go up the jhanic arc to 7th jhana before going back down, in order, to first jhana. In between then and now, subsequent higher jhanas have revealed themselves, typically via a churning, sort of energetic process that involves a bit of kundalini movement in the head. At this point in my jhanic arc practice, I am starting in 2nd jhana, almost immediately entering third, going up in order to 8th, going in to (what I strongly assume are) the first two pure land jhanas, then entering a very stable, humming, energetic space I assume is the next pl jhana fleshing itself out, and then dropping back down in order to the first jhana before making my way back up again.
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8 years 1 month ago #93203 by NeverSummer
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January 27, 2013 at 6:16 pm #967

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Getting up-to-date on practice. My morning sits have followed roughly the same pattern for a little over a week now. I start with lower belly breathing, follow that with the nine breathings of purification, and finish the breathing exercises with vase breathing. I then move into second gear practice, cultivating the witness consciousness. Once this is attained, I move into jhanic arc practice. For the last few months (and up until the current time), I’m in 2nd jhana when I start. For approximately the past month and a half, I move almost immediately from 2nd jhana to 3rd. Up until a little over a week ago, I would move up through the jhanas to pure land jhana number two and back down again in sequence. This pattern would repeat for as long as I sat.

Then about a week ago, some territory past the second pure land jhana began to reveal itself. For me, when a new strata of mind begins fleshing itself out, there is sort of a churning, roiling sensation of perception very similar to the unstable strata of mind between third and fourth jhana. The stability of the new strata reveals itself in fits and starts, and over a period of a couple of days, eventually the new strata is incorporated as part of the arc. This new “layer” past pure land jhana number two has been a bit different. It has been very energetic territory, marked by very smooth and blissful energy in the body, and somewhat-to-very uncomfortable kundalini energy forcing itself around in my head. Sometimes it gets to the point where it feels like there are live animals bashing around under the skin in the sides, back and temples of my head. It has contributed to at least one major headache in the course of day-to-day life. In the course of my sits, I tend to ascend to this strata and get stuck there. The minimum amount of time that I have spent there is more than 30 minutes before dropping back down through the arc. More typical is that I ascend to that layer and stay there indefinitely, for the rest of the sit (up to an hour in some cases). I’m just speculating here, but whereas when I fleshed out previous levels of strata of mind it seemed as if I was just learning how to access something that I already had access to, this feels like the fleshing out of something entirely new. It feels like a major project I am being pulled into. So, each morning I gradually ascend to this level and patiently sit with an attitude of surrender and let it work on me. Periods of stability here are very locked in and stable. Typically throughout the day I’ll kundalini activity in my head continuing to move and work.

Many thanks to all who take the time to read and/or respond to this log.
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8 years 1 month ago #93204 by NeverSummer
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February 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm #1068

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Practice update, using the template:

This morning I sat for 45 minutes. In the vast majority of my practice (including this morning), I sit upright, on a cushion, in the 1/2 lotus position. My spine is straight, with the chin slightly lowered/tucked and the back of the head slightly raised. When I check in on my posture I’m looking at those elements described above and adjusting so that there is a feeling of the opening of the central channel, from perineum to the top of the head.

My morning sits have been following the same pattern described in previous entries; however, the territory above PL jhana #2 has calmed down quite a bit in the energetic sense — it no longer feels like live animals are rooting around inside my head. I am still getting “stuck” in that territory — my week has been hellaciously busy and my morning sits haven’t exceeded 45 minutes in recent times, so I haven’t been able to give myself enough time to exit this relatively new territory and drop back down the arc. This being a Friday, tomorrow morning I hope to spend as much time as necessary for this to happen (if it *wants* to happen).

Concentration was moderate this morning and varies from day-to-day. Typically during these sits if I succumb to a thought stream or (much more commonly) laxity, I will be brought back to the practice when I cross into the next strata, via the physical and mental sensations that occur — bliss in the body (esp. vibrations in the legs, warmth in the torso), a sense of the mind quickly churning then settling.

Insofar as the content of these morning sits, I intend to keep up this same practice and let this new territory establish itself.
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93205 by NeverSummer
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February 5, 2013 at 1:14 pm #1107

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Practice updates from the past few days:

On Saturday morning sat for 45 minutes and results mirrored my previous entry. On Sunday morning resolved to sit for as long as was necessary to “drop” back out of the territory above PL jhana #2 and descend back down the jhanic arc. I spent approximately 45 minutes in the aforementioned territory before dropping back down sequentially to first jhana (which, owing to always starting at 2nd and then getting “stuck” above PL #2, I hadn’t visited for a long time). Total sit time was 80 minutes.

As the energetic/kundalini component of the aforementioned territory (past PL 2) has calmed down quite a bit, I’ve been able to discern some more characteristics therein: This strata is similar to jhanas 7 and 8 in that there’s really not much there other than the strata/jhana itself; It does differ in my experience from jhanas 7 and 8 in that if I just relax my eyes and look at a specific point on the ground in front of me, my field of attention definitely wants to widen out away from the point (whereas in jhanas 7 and 8 my field of attention will “lock in” to a specific point much like in jhanas 1 and 2). As mentioned in previous posts (maybe ones that got lost over on wetpaint), this strata has a real “grip”. Although it’s more relaxing than it was when it first started revealing itself, I still wouldn’t describe it as relaxing — there’s a sense of it having a hold of me, and a palpable sense of relief when it releases its grip and I drop back into PL jhana #2. Typically as I am stuck in the territory I will at numerous times sense the sensations of a stratic transition coming on — cool bliss in the legs, warmer bliss in the torso, a sort of roiling, churning, unstable sense in the “small self” mind, but then things settle back down and I find I haven’t transitioned anywhere — until, after around 45 minutes to an hour, I do actually transition back down.

Thanks as always to any who read this…Jim
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8 years 1 month ago #93206 by NeverSummer
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February 11, 2013 at 11:03 am #1194

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Practice continues with some changes:

The territory after PL #2 continues to become much less defined by energy/kundalini activity and is become more gentle and smooth. It still retains a quality of being “grabby”. Yesterday morning my practice followed the same pattern as previously described sits, with the exception that I spent (only) 15 minutes in this territory instead of the usual 45-60 min or indefinite time period. Entry and exit was very smooth.

Something I forgot to mention — ever since this strata past PL jhana #2 revealed itself, PL jhana #1 has contained a very dramatic increase in blissfulness. An astonishingly sweet “flavor” that really blows any other jhana out of the water….
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8 years 1 month ago #93207 by NeverSummer
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February 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm #1220

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Two mornings ago, practice reverted to the form where I get “stuck” indefinitely in the area past PL#2, with lots of tension/twitchy kundalini head activity. Sit was 45 minutes in duration, about 20 of which was spent in this territory.

Was only able to sit for a brief while yesterday morning on account of a busy day at work. When this is the case, I follow the typical sequence of my morning sit up to PL#1 before wrapping up/dedicating merit.

This morning sat for 45 minutes. The territory above PL#2 was much smoother once again. Several times the symptoms of a transition came up — churning mind, bliss waves in the legs and torso. At one point, the tension that seems to be inherent in this territory relaxed a bit and the sweet bliss that I have come to associate with PL#1 came to predominate. I thought I had been “released” and dropped back down to PL #1, but these sensations quickly passed and I found myself back in the territory beyond PL#2 (which I then assumed I never left, and it’s simply more of the territory fleshing itself out)….

Thanks as always to any who read…Jim
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8 years 1 month ago #93208 by NeverSummer
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February 27, 2013 at 12:22 pm #1344

NeverSummer
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The basic structure of practice continues very similarly. One change is the territory beyond the 2nd PL jhana holds me for around 10 minutes now before “dropping” me back down. The “drop” itself has fleshed itself out as well — whereas before in past sittings time spent in this territory was intermittently dotted with the churning/roiling/unstable sensations that are characteristic (for me) of a transfer to a new strata, only to deposit me back into the same territory, now the passage back to PL jhana number two is a very distinct release, with a strong sense of opening.

In the course of day-today life, I’ve been trying to pay more attention to cycling, or how my mood/level of engagement is with the world around me. I feel like 2nd gear practice is really helping to establish a shift in “vantage point” that makes it easier to pay attention to and assimilate things. That all being said, over the past few days I’ve felt myself plunging into territory that I tend to associate with dark night stages. This fun place is marked by:

*Sensations of lots of kundalini movement, akin to being plugged into a wall. The epicenter of all of this is the heart chakra.
*insomnia distinctly rooted in energetic sensations described above.
*Feelings of alienation when out in public around people who aren’t “like me”
*Concentration not as strong in practice
*The stuff that tends to happily occupy my mind throughout the day (in my case, my practice and anticipation of international travel) seems to feel relatively worthless relative to how I viewed it even just a couple of days ago.
*Craving social contact and feeling anti-social — at the exact same time!

..and probably more I can’t think of right now. The interesting thing about this stuff is I’ve been through it countless times in my life. In the past, running from it or getting overly annoyed at it just tended to open up the rabbit hole of depression. However, recognizing it as a fruit of practice over the past few years, each time I pass through it I can investigate it more closely. As such, it gets easier to manage. I know what it is and what I need to do to accommodate it (or so I think).

Continuing with 2nd gear/Jhanic Arc practice in the mornings and more of the body-based energy work and vipassana in the evenings (to accommodate these dark night phenomena)…
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8 years 1 month ago #93209 by NeverSummer
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Having posted my logs from the previous platform, this is my first entry in the "new" log

Briefly:

*The "dark night" cycle mentioned in the previous post has passed.

*There seems to be additional territory beyond the territory beyond PL jhana #2.

It's been a busy week. Hope to get in some extensive sitting time this weekend and come back with a detailed report of what is going on...
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8 years 1 month ago #93210 by kennethfolk
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Thanks for bringing over your logs from the old forum, Jim, and for continuing it here. Tell us more about the jhanas. What does each one feel like for you? Will you make a list of all the jhanas you have access to along with as much detail as you can about the experience of each one? How does one differ from the next? What does it feel like to make the transition from one to the other?
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8 years 1 month ago #93211 by NeverSummer
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Kenneth! Thanks so much for reading my log. I had been thinking, what with the new new forum, that I should do a run through in great detail of a sit, describing both the jhanic aspects and the blow-by-blow of getting into witness consciousness (my last foray into the fine details is, alas, in wetpaint purgatory)....

I resolve to do this on Monday, when I have access to a computer rather than this little smartphone <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
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8 years 1 month ago #93212 by kennethfolk
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&quot;NeverSummer&quot;:krmnodnh wrote: Kenneth! Thanks so much for reading my log. I had been thinking, what with the new new forum, that I should do a run through in great detail of a sit, describing both the jhanic aspects and the blow-by-blow of getting into witness consciousness (my last foray into the fine details is, alas, in wetpaint purgatory)....

I resolve to do this on Monday, when I have access to a computer rather than this little smartphone <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->[/quote:krmnodnh]

Sounds great, Jim. Looking forward!

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8 years 1 month ago #93213 by NeverSummer
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So, a sit in great detail...Since the last time I documented closely (probably late November, early December 2012), certain things have changed -- transitions between jhanas occur with much more clarity; the jhanas themselves have become much more distinct and I’m much more confident determining where I am at in any given moment; and, several more strata of mind have developed themselves.

Before I continue, some general criteria: When I say jhanas, I am just as much referring to a strata of mind -- I’m not actively trying to absorb myself into these states, I’m more just watching them roll by as they work on me. This has a feeling of &quot;setting it out in front of me&quot; -- there’s the jhana, which I am penetrating to the point of seeing it as “not self”, and also in that “field” is the sense of the “small self”, which I am holding in the witness consciousness.

I use a variety of “markers” to determine what is what -- some of these I’ve gotten from the writing of Kenneth or others on this site, and some I’ve come up with through my own experience. I’ll mention them as they come up. I do want to clarify several terms or phrases that I use in the descriptions:

“Locus of attention” -- basically, this is what my field of vision is doing if I allow it to relax. If I look at a small point on the ground in front of me, does my vision narrow and lock on to it (narrow locus of attention), or does my vision resist snapping into a narrow focus and instead tend to remain wide and more diffuse (wide locus of attention)?

“Panorama of awareness” -- this is different from the field of vision described above. It’s more along the lines of “what is awareness doing”? Is awareness narrow and pinched? or is it wide and expansive? This is much more a function of mind than of field of vision. I realize that this falls squarely in the realm of subjective gibberish -- I took me awhile to differentiate between “locus of attention” and “panorama of awareness” in my own experience, so I hope these distinctions resonate with anyone who might read.

The logistics of how I begin a sit are detailed in this log in several entries made on March 15, 2013 -- specifically, these are the entries cut and pasted from the now-defunct WordPress(?) log that were dated January 27 and February 1, 2013. In short, I sit and go through a series of breathing exercises (tibetan in origin, specific to Mahamudra) and then start a brief 2nd gear practice. (I’ve decided to get into detail with 2nd gear experiences in a separate post -- it’s been an evolution, and I want to cobble together all of my detailed entries on the topic). Once I’ve gotten into the witness consciousness, I start jhanic arc practice. Transitions between jhanas typically fall into one of thee categories:

The transition is seamless and instantaneous (this is rarer than the other two).
The transition is marked by a brief, roiling instability characteristic of the territory between 3rd and 4th jhana on the arc (this is most common with strata of mind that are still “fleshing themselves out” or strata that I’ve only recently been familiar with).
The transition is marked by brief, blissful waves -- coolness in the crossed legs, warmth in the torso (this is most common for me).

Please note that all declarative statements regarding the number of the jhana are, in fact, assumptions based on what I’m experiencing <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

To being with, it seems appropriate to skip a thorough description of first jhana here, simply because at this point (and for the last several months) I find myself starting in 2nd jhana. Before that, when I started in first jhana, I never got a really good handle on what it was like. Per Kenneth’s “marker” (described elsewhere), I found it useful to use the “see if you can imagine using your thumb and index finger to pinch your nose” test to determine whether or not I was in first or second jhana. In first jhana, I could imagine this event taking place. In second jhana, I found myself too locked in to the “happiness” sensations inherent in 2nd jhana for this imaginary movement to take place. I’ve become much more familiar with the territory of first jhana via encountering as I come down the jhanic arc, so I’ll describe it at the end.

So, as I begin jhanic arc practice, I find myself in 2nd jhana. I am in a stable place, there is an element of happiness, and I am unable to visualize reaching up and pinching my nose shut with thumb and index finger --I am too locked in where I am at. My mouth naturally forms a smile in this space. The locus of attention is narrow.

Almost immediately (within seconds of adverting to 2nd jhana), my locus of attention widens out (a sort of “splash down” effect). The smile on my mouth gives way to a sort of buddha-smirk. The feeling of happiness gives way to a sense of ease and extreme contentedness. Things are more stable here. 3rd jhana.

Very soon after (often within one minute), the contentedness seems to flicker in and out and things become unstable. &quot;Energy roils around and does not rest comfortably&quot;. There’s kind of a sense of a TV signal deteriorating into wiggly lines. I just stay with this. There is often physical discomfort here -- I’ll feel tension across my shoulders and pain along my spine and in the liver area (I have a hereditary liver condition). There is sometimes a faint sense of nausea. There is still a sense of contentedness underlying the unpleasant sensations and relative chaos. Aside: I’ve come to see focusing in this space as very important. This area of the strata, I think, most likely derailed my concentration for years (long before I knew anything about the strata). I really try to engage the witness here and settle into a spot in the back of my head (I’ll write more about the links I’m finding between the witness and certain of the mahamudra practices I’m doing when I make a detailed entry about 2nd gear practice) and just placidly watch the chaos. Interesting to note that through most of these dukkha stages, the buddha-smirk is still naturally present (I’ve found what the mouth wants to do to be a useful marker at certain stages). Typically, these stages present themselves as one stage. I haven’t delved into it deeply enough to differentiate fear, misery, disgust, etc...

Eventually the instability settles and the buddha-smirk drifts away (the mouth doesn’t really want to do anything here), and equanimity comes to dominate -- 4th jhana. This is by far the most stable stage thus far. The locus of attention is wide, as is panorama of awareness. If I’ve drifted during the dukkha nanas, the descending of this equanimity always brings me back. Oftentimes there is a “hum”, a ringing of the ears that occurs here that also tends to rein me back in if I’ve wandered. Typically during this stage I’ll shift my vision from the ground in front of me up to be more inclusive -- including the sky if I am outside. Although the stability is profound, and the locus of attention and panorama of awareness wide, when looking up there is a definite sense of there being barriers between myself (whatever that is at this point) and the infinite. This became much more noticeable when I got to the next stage:

Fifth jhana -- the same equanimity as before, but the walls dissolve. Space becomes boundless. Per a marker Kenneth has described, I can visualize lines extending from me straight out in all directions to infinity. If I’m outside and doing this practice, it’s relatively easy to induce a sense of vertigo on account of the vast, open space. Locus of attention and panorama of awareness are wide.

Soon, the space becomes flooded with a strong element of &quot;knowing&quot;. I can no longer visualize straight lines extending outward from me to infinity -- they curve back on themselves. There is sentience everywhere, a sense of the trees and sky looking back upon me knowingly. The humming/ringing in the ears often accompanies the flooding of space with “consciousness.” 6th jhana.

At some point, the consciousness/knowing/sentience just drains out of the field of awareness. The &quot;knowing&quot;, as well as anything else that one might hang their hat on, fades. Visually, things and colors become muted and dim, as if my eyes are half-closed and relaxed. However, even widely opening my eyes in this state, as long as I am rooted in the state, does not really effect this sense of overall dimness. I realize the word dim has negative connotations, but it doesn't here. This is very stable, peaceful territory. It just seems to have no ground whatsoever. The locus of attention and the panoroma of awareness narrow considerably and “lock in” -- 7th jhana. This is a very stable place, but not nearly so bright as the territory before.

It’s always been very difficult for me to differentiate between 7th and 8th jhana. Up until very recently, the only way I could tell I was in one or the other was because of the sensations arising that marked a transition between the two. One minute difference I can seem to notice is that the panorama of awareness slightly widens in the 8th. Otherwise, they are *very* similar (more similar to me than any other pair of jhanas).

The 8th jhana eventually gives way to incredibly sweet waves of bliss. I invoke “Namo Amitabha” (not even sure that’s necessary, but it’s certainly enjoyable), and the locus of attention and panorama of awareness blows wide open. Everything gets considerable brighter. Bliss waves permeate my body, particularly in the chakra/space 4 finger-widths below the navel. Activity in the third eye area (bliss and/or itching, vibrating) is common here. What’s really distinctive about this strata is the quality of the bliss -- it just has an incredible “sweetness”. This space is also permeated by a strong sense of gratitude -- the mouth forms into a wide smile. Pure Land Jhana number 1 -- my favorite strata of all <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

Every stage I’ve described thus far I’m very confident in documenting. It’s happened enough times and the stages have certainly distinguished themselves. The next three stages I’ll write about, while I am somewhat confident about them, are more recent occurrences and probably fall into the category of “things that seem to happen”.

Eventually the gratitude element of the first Pure Land jhana drains away -- the mouth is no longer compelled to go into a broad smile. Otherwise, this stage is very similar to Pure Land jhana number one -- the sense of sweetness remains. Pure Land jhana number two?

Around January 20th, some territory beyond what I have described up to this point started to flesh itself out. I’ve described this process in detail in my journal entries that I’ve pasted over onto this most current log (the pasted material was from January 27, 2013 and beyond, pasted to this most current log on March 15). In a nutshell, past PL jhana 2, the sweet bliss element leaves. Locus of attention remains wide, but curiously, panorama of awareness narrows, giving this space a slight resemblance to 7th or 8th jhana. A smooth-feeling energy permeates the body. There is a strong feeling of stability, but my concentration wavers here. At this point, there is still a sense that this strata has not entirely fleshed itself out or revealed itself. There is a “pinched” feeling to it. However, the pronounced kundalini movements in my head that marked this strata when I first started encountering it have more or less gone away -- it’s much smoother now. In addition, some additional territory beyond this has opened up in the past week or so, which I can only differentiate from this territory by the locus of attention narrowing. As such, this last bit of “territory” I have encountered has some commonality with the 7th and 8th jhanas (narrow locus of attention and narrow panorama of awareness).

As such, I was wondering if this last bit of territory was in fact 7th or 8th jhana yesterday morning, but I went back down the arc in the exact reverse order of the ascension. Back down through the new territory, into the territory described as PL #2, into the joyous PL #1 and back down through 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Descending below second jhana, I go through territory that is reminiscent of the dukkha strata, although it is more marked by sensations that are physical rather than mental. I drop from this into first jhana, which, after all this time, is quite nice. The mind is not so locked in, I can imagine reaching up and pinching my nose, and there is a warm energy shimmering in and outside of the body. The locus of attention is very narrow.

Yesterday morning (March 17, 2013) going through these strata took exactly one hour. I spent more time in each of the two apparent strata beyond Pure Land jhana number two than in any other jhana (about 8-10 minutes each).

It is my wish that this makes at least some sense to any and all who read it. Thanks to all who do....Jim
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8 years 1 month ago #93214 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
My notes on 2nd gear practice, from back when I first started doing it to the present:

(The following was posted in mid-November, 2012, describing my first attempts at 2nd gear practice)
I sit and repeatedly inquire &quot;who am I? who am I?&quot;. My initial response isn't a construct, like for instance &quot;Jim&quot; or &quot;teacher&quot;. Rather, I get sort of zoomed into this energetic &quot;essence of Jim&quot;...It's more of a flavor or feeling, really. I work with gently sort of disembodying from that -- if I am perceiving the &quot;essence of Jim&quot;, then who is perceiving? At first it's a process -- I disembed and become absorbed in the watcher that perceives &quot;Jim&quot;, and then the &quot;essence of Jim&quot; will sort of snap back and become the watcher, at which point I gently disembed again. There is often a &quot;hall of mirrors&quot; effect here. I just sort of gently, intuitively and patiently work with this.

Interesting that discursive &quot;noise&quot; during this time is *heavily* tilted towards old memories and dream fragments (much more so than any other practice I've done).

At some point the &quot;watcher&quot; that is watching the &quot;essence of Jim&quot; comes to predominate. It has been taking between 25-30 minutes to get to this point. &quot;Jim&quot; becomes more and more muted and irrelevant. As I become absorbed in this watcher, this knowing (which I assume is witness consciousness, please set me straight if not), things become extremely stable and space becomes suffused with the &quot;knowing&quot; element that is present in the 6th jhana. If I explore this &quot;state&quot; with the intent to compare it to jhana, it seems much more solid. It definitely seems to not have a dog in the race.

Could this be it?

(the following was posted late November or early December, 2012)
Started my sit this morning by doing 2nd gear practice. This practice has evolved somewhat since starting it two weeks ago. There is no longer any sort of &quot;hall of mirrors&quot; effect (an endless loop of &quot;who is watching I?&quot;). I'll sit and repeatedly inquire &quot;who am I&quot;, and more or less immediately a sense of watching whatever energetic &quot;flavor&quot; &quot;I&quot; happen to be comes about (what I referred to in an earlier post as watching the &quot;essence of Jim&quot;). The watcher soon comes to dominate this arrangement and that strong sense of &quot;the knower&quot; floods in. Whereas it took a full 30 minutes for this to come about when I started this practice, now it takes less than ten minutes and oftentimes occurs much quicker than that.

(the following was most likely posted in late December 2012)
2nd Gear: As the practice evolves, it looks more like this now: I inquire &quot;who am I&quot; while focusing on &quot;I&quot; (again, a certain essence or &quot;flavor&quot; of my presence, if that makes any sense). This is a process of dis-embedding: If I can perceive that essence of &quot;I&quot;, it's certainly not &quot;me&quot;. I had an interesting reflection this morning that in the past, before I even began doing this practice, there was a distinct locus of self that existed in the area of the head. This is not so much the case any more -- it's much more un-locateable. As described above, the &quot;hall of mirrors&quot; effect when inquiring into &quot;I&quot; is not happening anymore. Typically during this practice my eyes are open, looking straight ahead at the ground in front of me (head slightly tilted down). 

I will at times look straight ahead and fill the visual field and inquire &quot;who is it that sees?&quot; -- there is a distinct sense when doing this that the visual field is as much a projection of and intermingled with my &quot;self&quot; as it is an objective phenomenon. Oftentimes there is a sort of borderline twitchy kundalini activity in my temples and the side of the head when doing this practice.
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8 years 1 month ago #93215 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
And, some current notes on 2nd gear practice:

As per always, I'll start by locating what I am now referring to as the &quot;small self&quot; (previously referred to as &quot;essence of Jim&quot; or my &quot;Jim-ness&quot;). It's interesting to fool around with the question that I ask and how it resonates at a given time with how strongly I can disembed and hold the &quot;small self&quot; in view. The question might be:

&quot;Who am I?&quot;
&quot;Who is Jim?&quot;
&quot;What is Jim?&quot;
&quot;Where is the self-contraction?&quot; (got that term from Ken Wilber's writings and I have to say it resonates with me).

I can disembed from the small self almost immediately, and almost as immediately the witness consciousness starts to flood in. After a few minutes of working with the above questions, I'll shift somewhat by raising my eyes to include the visual field in front of me. Then, on the in-breath, I'll focus on one of the above questions, just looking at the &quot;small self&quot;. On the out-breath I'll inquire &quot;who is it that sees?&quot;, and witness the visual field in addition to the small self. This really seems to ramp up the witness consciousness as well as having some other interesting effects -- the &quot;small self&quot; and the visual field itself both seem to be part and parcel of each other and somewhat separate from the &quot;witness&quot;. This has called up questions in my mind about &quot;co-dependent arising&quot; and what that means -- I've heard it mentioned in regards to practices looking into the nature of mind, and it's on my list of things to look into further. (I'll also sometimes do this practice by saying &quot;neither this (small self) nor that (visual field)&quot;, something that I picked up either from Wilber or Nisargadatta's &quot;I Am That&quot;)...

Typically my 2nd gear practice takes place in formal sits for just a few minutes -- once the witness is cultivated I move on to jhanic arc practice. I'll also do the practice in the car while driving to work (not sure this is mankind's best idea, but it is a good place to get in about 20 min of practice). I also do 2nd gear practice as I can remember to throughout the course of my day....

One last thing with regards to 2nd gear -- I've been working my way (slowly) through Reggie Ray's &quot;Mahamudra for the Modern World&quot; audio series, and early on there is a practice called &quot;Ground Mahamudra Transmission&quot;, which is a pointing out practice that involves looking deep into some areas along the central channel -- behind the chakra four finger-widths below the navel and the area in the head behind the palate. When awareness is placed in these spaces, it (with practice) become incredibly expansive and still. There is definitely something going on (for me) with the space in the back of the head that connects with 2nd gear practice. It's very hard to put into words -- it's almost as if the witness resides there, not in the specific spot within the cranium but in the expansiveness that's found there. That &quot;space&quot; seems to be the area that the small self, the visual field, the objective world are all ultimately perceived from. It has a real sense of being eternal and beyond conventional time. Coming from this space in day-to-day life, when I can, has been immensely accommodating.
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8 years 1 month ago #93216 by NeverSummer
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This morning I sat for 30 minutes (as opposed to my usual 45 min - 1 hour -- time constraints!)

The sit followed my typical morning pattern -- breathing exercises --&gt; 2nd gear --&gt; jhanic arc. I'm thinking it will also be useful to document two categories in regards to each sit: &quot;Concentration&quot; and &quot;centeredness&quot;, with concentration being the mind's ability to stay on an object (or no object) without wandering, and centeredness being a much more body-based feeling (hard to describe, I'll continue to refine this definition in the future, but suffice it to say that I can at times sit down feeling extremely &quot;centered&quot; and then have a hell of a time concentrating)...

At any rate I was not feeling particularly centered and my concentration was poor this morning -- didn't sleep well last night...

Nevertheless, ascended through the jhanic arc and arrived at pure land jhana #1 22 minutes into the sit. Continued through the territory described in previous posts, and finished the sit (at 30 minutes) in the territory beyond PL jhana #2 that is marked by very narrow and tight locus of attention and panorama of awareness (this would be the fourth discrete stage I encounter including and beyond PL #1).

Practiced 2nd gear on the drive to work while listening to brainwave entrainment tracks designed to induce theta waves. 20 minutes of this.

In the evening, my sitting practice is more tailored to addressing relaxation and body energy (kundalini). I'll typically start with the aforementioned set of breathing exercises (sometimes preceding this with a 10-20 minute session with the ReWire app), followed by some combination of the tsa lung exercises (from Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's &quot;Awakening the Sacred Body&quot;), Earth descent breathing and 10 points practice (from Reggie Ray's &quot;Your Breathing Body&quot;), and/or body-based vipassana using Kenneth's triple-noting technique. Sometimes I will deviate from this type of evening practice to continue slowly making my way through the mahamudra shamatha practices on Reggie Ray's &quot;Mahamudra for the Modern World&quot; series (and I do have to say I am very much looking forward to the mahamudra vipashyana exercises that follow, really looking into the nature of mind)...

Thanks as always to any and all who read.
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8 years 1 month ago #93217 by kennethfolk
Replied by kennethfolk on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Good, clear reports, Jim. Thanks for the comprehensive descriptions of what you mean by each jhana. Keep the reports coming!
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8 years 1 month ago #93218 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal

&quot;kennethfolk&quot;:2ioztnj9 wrote: Good, clear reports, Jim. Thanks for the comprehensive descriptions of what you mean by each jhana. Keep the reports coming![/quote:2ioztnj9]

Will do Kenneth. Thanks so much for taking the time to read!

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8 years 1 month ago #93219 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
This morning's sit went for 37 minutes (again, time constraints!). Centeredness was moderate; concentration was poor at the beginning, moderate at the end.

The sit followed the exact same pattern as yesterday's, although I took it a few stages further. It took 26 minutes to reach PL jhana number one. The territory past pure land jhana number two seems to be really stabilizing. Whether it is the territory immediately past PL2 (wide panorama of awareness, tight locus of attention) or the stage immediately past that (tight panorama of awareness, tight locus of attention), they are both marked by very smooth, nice bodily energy that doesn't seem to be located in one particular place.

Came back down to PL2, where I dedicate merit and ended the sit. Did 20 minutes of 2nd gear on the ride to work.
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8 years 1 month ago #93220 by NeverSummer
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For ease of writing (and hopefully, reading), I'm going to go ahead and name as jhanas all of the distinct pure land territories I encounter in a strata of mind sit. Although future experiences may go to show that what I will now call pure land jhana #3 is not in fact pure land jhana #3, I think at this point it's a lot less awkward to give these things numbers than to keep referring to &quot;the territory past the territory where the locus of awareness widens and the bliss becomes sweet, etc., etc.&quot;....

So, from here on out, until my experience changes or lends more clarity:

Pure land jhana #1 -- The 8th jhana eventually gives way to incredibly sweet waves of bliss. I invoke “Namo Amitabha” (not even sure that’s necessary, but it’s certainly enjoyable), and the locus of attention and panorama of awareness blows wide open. Everything gets considerable brighter. Bliss waves permeate my body, particularly in the chakra/space 4 finger-widths below the navel. Activity in the third eye area (bliss and/or itching, vibrating) is common here. What’s really distinctive about this strata is the quality of the bliss -- it just has an incredible “sweetness”. This space is also permeated by a strong sense of gratitude -- the mouth forms into a wide smile.

Pure land jhana #2 -- Eventually the gratitude element of the first Pure Land jhana drains away -- the mouth is no longer compelled to go into a broad smile. Otherwise, this stage is very similar to Pure Land jhana number one -- the sense of sweetness remains.

Pure land jhana #3 -- Past PL jhana 2, the sweet bliss element leaves. Locus of attention remains wide, but curiously, panorama of awareness narrows, giving this space a slight resemblance to 7th or 8th jhana. A smooth-feeling energy permeates the body. There is a strong feeling of stability, but my concentration wavers here.

Pure land jhana #4 -- Exactly the same as PL #3 (sweet bliss is gone, smooth-feeling energy permeating the body), with the exception that the locus of attention narrows to a point. This transition is extremely smooth, and I often don't notice it exactly when it happens -- I just happen to notice that my locus of attention has all of a sudden narrowed.
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8 years 1 month ago #93221 by NeverSummer
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Sat for 43 minutes this morning. The sit followed the general pattern of morning sits that has been described above.

Reached pure land jhana #1 at the 23 minute mark. Really tried to notice the very subtle transition between PL#3 and PL#4. There was a very brief (1-2 seconds) &quot;ripple&quot; in the visual field, a sense that light and dark patterns in the field of vision were getting wavy and perhaps inverting (really tough to describe) right before the locus of awareness narrowed into PL#4. There did not appear to be any physical sensations at all.

Dropped from PL#4 to PL#3 at the 30 minute mark. Spent more than the average amount of time in PL #s 3,2 and 1 on the way back down. Finished the sit in the sixth jhana, dedicated merit and went to work. Centeredness was strong throughout the sit. Concentration was good to start and not as good once I got to PL#3 on the way up.

30 minutes of 2nd gear practice on the drive to work.

Thanks as always to any who read and/or give feedback. I hope others find this journal helpful.
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  • Russell
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8 years 1 month ago #93222 by Russell
Replied by Russell on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
It is cool that you continue to explore these jhana's. After I experienced them, the craving for these states was very strong (especially PL1) and once I realized that, for some reason my desire to work on jhanas disappeared and has not returned since (this was around early August of last year).

Have you experienced NS yet? Just curious.
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8 years 1 month ago #93223 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Russell, thanks for reading! I spent a couple of weeks messing around with NS either late last year or early this year. At the time, 8th jhana was as high as I was able to get in the strata. I'd get to 8th jhana and either use the &quot;turning the light around&quot; method that Kenneth described, or pushing &quot;down&quot; on the spot behind the third eye (which was described elsewhere in the journals back on wetpaint). What I found was while at times I could initiate a set of sensations that seemed to be leading to a &quot;shutdown&quot; or &quot;kill switch&quot;, I don't think it ever quite came to fruition. I could, at times, generate extremely nice waves of bliss messing around with these techniques, but I don't think I ever &quot;got it&quot;. Overall, the process had a very strong sense of expending lots of effort to make something happen, which seemed counter-intuitive to the jhanic arc practice, so I stopped messing around with it. It's interesting that you brought it up -- over the past week or so I've been thinking of trying it again. Is 8th jhana the ideal place for NS? Or maybe pure land territory?
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8 years 1 month ago #93224 by Russell
Replied by Russell on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
I was just curious about your experience. Don't try to push it if will end up frustrating you.

I am not an expert on it. When I used to try to 'make it happen' it wont usually fully power down. However, it does happen on its own on occasion. Sometimes over and over. My attention just naturally wants to go there sometimes, but I couldn't tell you want Jhana I am in when it happens.
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8 years 1 month ago #93225 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Not sure why I was so fixated on it needing to be 8th jhana back then. I'll mess around with it again here soon whenever it seems to present itself in practice and see what happens...
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