Jim's practice journal

  • Russell
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8 years 1 month ago #93226 by Russell
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How long has it been since you got 3rd path?
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93227 by NeverSummer
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"Russell":pmnrayhw wrote: How long has it been since you got 3rd path?[/quote:pmnrayhw]

I'm not completely sure. I'm not even sure that I am third path. I do know that sometime in November of 2012, soon after I started doing strata-of-mind and 2nd gear self-inquiry practices, a lot of things shifted in a seemingly permanent sense -- awareness became broader and much more spatially accommodating in terms of the difficulties that life can present, practice became much more rich even when my concentration wasn't at its best, energy currents in certain areas of the body seemed to smooth out and be gateways to profound stillness, probably some other things I can't think of now -- just a big improvement in quality of life and practice. This followed a period of about three months of what seemed like high equanimity, and there certainly seemed to be dark night territory earlier in that year. There wasn't a single concrete moment where I felt like something happened, though. Sometime in probably early December of 2012 my sits began starting in 2nd jhana rather than first, and sometime in January of this year I got access to the first pure land jhana.

Before I read MCTB in fall of 2011, I had no exposure to any of this. I think that lack of formal training in vipassana might put me at a disadvantage when noticing things (for instance, if I've ever had a fruition, I don't know when it was)...Between reading MCTB and late last year, I used to be intensely curious about what path I was and I thought about it a lot. This year, I don't really think about it much -- which isn't to say I'm not still curious....

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  • Russell
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8 years 1 month ago #93228 by Russell
Replied by Russell on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
And you may never know. But that's OK, too. <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93229 by NeverSummer
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&quot;Russell&quot;:kzsfwbey wrote: And you may never know. But that's OK, too. <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->[/quote:kzsfwbey]

Ha. True that <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->

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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93230 by NeverSummer
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This mornings sit went for thirty minutes and followed the same pattern as previous &quot;morning sits&quot; described above.

Preliminary breathing exercises took up the first 8 minutes. Second gear practice, generating witness consciousness, took up the following 3 minutes. So, started jhanic arc practice at the 11 minute mark. Reached first pure land jhana at 20 minutes; dropped from 4th pure land jhana back to 3rd (and thus began coming down the arc) at 25 minutes. When the sit concluded at 30 minutes, I was in 8th jhana.

It occurred to me this morning that the 3rd and 4th pure land jhanas seem to be &quot;fleshed out&quot;. There is none of the wild kundalini activity in the head/getting hung up in 3rd pure land jhana indefinitely that was taking place back in February. Interestingly, this intense fleshing out phase only presented itself in PL#3 -- PL#4 showed up more or less already fleshed out. Transitions between the two are seamless and hard to notice -- just that previously mentioned &quot;ripple&quot; in the visual field (which, more than anything, is comparable to the visual hallucinations brought on by a mild dose of mushrooms).
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 month ago #93231 by NeverSummer
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Sat for 50 minutes this morning. Not particularly centered, but concentration was decent. Followed the same pattern as previous morning sits. Reached first pure land jhana at 23 minutes. Arrived at first jhana on the way back down the arc at 42 minutes. Finished the sit having ascended back up to 6th jhana.

The time it takes to get up and down the arc seems to be getting less and less.
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 4 weeks ago #93232 by NeverSummer
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Haven't had access to a computer for the past week, so a general update:

There's something going on with the vantage point from which practice takes place. I need to spend some more time wrapping my mind around it, but reading some passages from Daniel Brown's &quot;Pointing Out the Great Way&quot; seems to have &quot;pointed out&quot; something, as it were...Really seems like 2nd gear practice is starting to take hold of every sit, with perhaps 3rd gear bleeding in. There's been times when &quot;resting awareness on awareness&quot; as a practice has made perfect sense. More to come here, I think.

Movement up and down the jhanic arc is sometimes occurring quickly, at least relative to what I have experienced up until very recently. Sometimes I'll zip through a few strata very quickly, and then settle down to a normal pace. It is starting to seem like I can somewhat affect the speed by being diligent about maintaining concentration and vantage point (e.g. accelerate the process). That said...

Had a huge energy (kundalini) upsurge, probably began at some point yesterday as I had trouble sleeping last night, as well as a headache. When I sat this morning it took full flower. Could not concentrate for shit. Felt like I was plugged into a wall or drank way to much coffee. This happens to me from time to time but it's been a while since I've had one this strong. Fumbled my way up and down the strata, getting stuck quite frequently, wandering off, returning. Finished with some body-based vipassana, just providing some equanimous accommodations for this eruption...
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 3 weeks ago #93233 by NeverSummer
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Skipped yesterday's morning sit to get situated at work after spring break.  Walked in to multiple technology failures and a classroom rearranged unbeknownst to me.  With the previously described kundalini surge still in full flower, I had plenty of material to work with last night.

Last night's sit consisted of 20 minutes of concentration with the ReWire app set to the Calm brainwave entrainment setting (low alpha waves), 20 minutes of lower belly breathing/9 breaths of purification/tsa lung practices, 10 minutes of body based, choiceless awareness vipassana as was, and 10 minutes of body based, choiceless awareness vipassana from 4th jhana.  I typically do these types of practices in the evenings as it seems to (in my perception) keep the energy channels straight.  I also tend to make it a point to do these types of practices when in the midst of these kundalini upsurges or any sort of &quot;dark night&quot; symptoms.  It all seems to go back to energy flow in terms of me and these perceived &quot;negative&quot; manifestations. In any event, lots of roiling, heated energy manifesting in different parts of the body during the resting phases of the breathing practices and during the vipassana practices. Lots of turbulence in the mind as well, very similar to unstable strata manifesting.

What was striking about last night’s sit was the last 10 minutes quickly going from 2nd to 4th jhana -- it was the first time in I don't know how long that I did strata of mind practice without doing 2nd gear first.  The difference in vantage points was striking, and indicative of just how much 2nd gear has permeated my practice and life.  Which brings me to some things I've recently re-read in Daniel Brown's book on Mahamudra, &quot;Pointing Out the Great Way&quot;:

&quot;As I studied these Indo-Tibetan texts I began to discover that the Burmese tradition regarding concentration meditation, within which I had clocked so many hours over several decades on the meditation pillow, did not have clearly delineated meditation instructions regarding intensifying and self-monitoring.  Nor did it have detailed instructions regarding switching from the event- to the mind-perspective during insight meditation...From the essence traditions, like mahamudra and dzogchen, I began to appreciate the depth of realization possible during ordinary concentration and special insight meditation was enhanced remarkably by shifting to the very subtle or extraordinary level of mind...the issue became less about concentration on the intended meditation object and much more about the level of mind brought to the concentration, and that, from the mind perspective, shifting from the ordinary self-representation to the extraordinary essence of the mind's real nature as the vantage point during meditation quickly brought the meditation practice within the range wherein awakening the mind was a definite possibility&quot; (For context, I don't think Brown is bad-mouthing the Burmese tradition. This is part of a larger section wherein he is identifying characteristics specific to mahamudra (“intensifying/tightening” and “easing up/loosening”, addressing laxity and dullness, self monitoring, pliancy (ability to stay on intended meditation object despite marked shifts in mental content or state of consciousness), etc.) that he deems helpful for awakening)...

I know it's difficult to gauge without a standardized set of language, but this is sounding very familiar to me. (Esp. seeing that the desired result of both mahamudra/dzogchen and advaita vedanta is non-dual awareness).

This morning I did my usual morning practice for 30 minutes. Concentration was not great, but much better than two days ago. As has been the case for about the last week and a half, there have been developments with regard to “vantage point”. Doing witness practice has resulted in a very stable “resting place” from which to view the strata, the “small self”, and anything else that may come up. It’s an ideal place to monitor “pliancy” (as defined above). The locus of this vantage point is tough to describe -- it could certainly be described as being near the back of the head (and doing work in this area via Reggie Ray’s pointing out exercise called “ground mahamudra transmission” seems to have helped activate this area), but spatially it’s much larger than the physical head -- vast, spacious, still. I know I’ve mentioned this phenomenon in previous posts -- I bring it up again because it certainly seems to be going along a continuum of development. It gets tougher to describe -- at certain times I feel compelled/pulled into having this space just “rest on itself”, or just continually “sustain” itself -- much like the witness “making love to itself”, but much more subtle...

I sure do hope this makes sense, and is helpful to other practitioners. Thanks so much for reading. Jim
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 2 weeks ago #93234 by NeverSummer
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Sat for 45 minutes this morning. Was feeling very centered, concentration was moderate. The sit followed the typical pattern I find in my morning sits these days (aside from the aforementioned centeredness and concentration which have been highly variable lately).

Did about 8-10 minutes of breathing exercises followed by a few minutes of 2nd gear practice to get into witness consciousness. Then, up the jhanic arc to 4th PL jhana, back down to first jhana, and back up to 6th jhana. It's been typical lately that my concentration wavers quite a bit when I am in the PL jhanas (and thus, I spend more time in those strata than in others). Twenty minutes of 2nd gear practice on the drive to work.

Outside of sitting, still seem to be cycling through the aforementioned &quot;dark night&quot; symptoms. I might add to the list of symptoms that during these times it's much more likely that the small self's ego assumes the driver's seat. The more I can practice during these times, the better...Overall though, things are good!
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 week ago #93235 by NeverSummer
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Morning sit today followed mostly the same structure and pattern as per usual. However, it was marked by a very strong centeredness and very good concentration -- it's been awhile since both of those have come together. The overall vibe of the sit felt very similar to the high equanimity territory I found myself in last late summer and early fall...

I was able to pay very close attention in the PL jhanas and am wondering whether or not the territory I'm calling PL #4 is in fact entirely fleshed out. This morning that space, under the lens of closer attention, was fairly chaotic with the typical churning fluctuations that mark the dukkha strata, the fleshing out of new territory, or the brief transitions between some strata...

There was noticeable third eye activity when entering the PL jhanas on the way up and when coming back down into PL jhana #2. As this was happening on the way back down, I gave NS a try -- I pulled my awareness in through the third eye on the in breath, and pushed it back into the skull (sort of &quot;turning the light around&quot;) on the out breath. I did this very gently, trying to let it work on its own. The results were similar to what has happened in the past -- A sense of falling asleep combined with waves of bliss. Very nice, but I'm not real confident that's &quot;it&quot;...

Came back down to sixth jhana and concluded the sit at 40 minutes. Many thanks to all who read this. Jim
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 1 week ago #93236 by NeverSummer
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A summation of the past week, which has been quite a roller coaster insofar as practice is concerned:

My sits from Tues -- Thurs of last week went in much the same way as the last one I documented here on Monday -- very strong concentration and centeredness. I seemed to be able to look into the strata, the small self, whatever might be presenting itself much more deeply than what was typical. That being said, my typical menu of &quot;dark night&quot; symptoms was starting to manifest off the cushion -- namely, near overwhelming kundalini activity in the heart center, accompanying anxiety, a sense of being plugged into a wall. In all of my years of sitting, I can't recall such a juxtaposition of these challenging manifestations being accompanied by such strong concentration on the cushion.

Last Friday morning, the chickens came home to roost -- my sit started out with the aforementioned strong centeredness and concentration, which all fell apart once I reached the PL strata. Coming back down the arc, concentration was so poor I had trouble even discerning what strata I was in. Of the cushion, pulses/waves of high anxiety throughout the day. Did tsa lung/choiceless awareness practices in the evening.

On Saturday morning, as I began my sit, it was quite obvious that doing my typical 2nd gear/strata of mind sit was going to be a massive struggle involving a tremendous amount of effort. I felt that it would be best to just let whatever was going have space to manifest, so I just sat for 45 minutes doing choiceless awareness/body-based vipassana. My heart center was wide open and there was a sense of a massive river of kundalini pouring out of it -- interesting that at this time, there was no sense of &quot;knots&quot;, pain or bound up energy in that area. Much of this time I used the triple noting technique with another note added on at the end of the triumvirate -- mostly variations on &quot;heart, neutral, accommodating, transmuting.&quot; Underneath the energetics was that sense of eternal stability and stillness that the 2nd gear practice seems to bring about. Again, high anxiety throughout the day.

Yesterday morning (Sunday), I felt settled enough to return to the 2nd gear/strata of mind practice. My concentration was moderate, centeredness was poor. There was a strong sense of fried circuitry in the subtle body. Lots of knots, pain and heat in the body during this sit. Went up through PL jhana #4 and back down to 6th jhana before concluding. Levels of anxiety seemed to be mellowing out.

This morning did a 30 minute 2nd gear/strata sit. Concentration and centeredness were good. Went up to PL#4 and back down to 5th jhana. Transitions were smooth. Felt much better today -- most of the anxiety/tension seems to have left, a bit of a feeling of rebirth...

This stretch of practice/life was interesting for a couple of reasons. The anxiety that I encountered during this period of time was some of the strongest I've encountered in my life. That being said, my perspective or vantage point on said anxiety (or whatever else was going on) has also seemed to have evolved and changed considerably. I was able to view these phenomena from a healthy distance rather than getting sucked into them. I don't think at any point that the anxiety swept me up and locked me into a narrative where I was projecting on others or just engaged in prolonged mental rants. There was a very strong sense/knowledge that it was simply &quot;my shit&quot;, was impermanent, and was a hallmark of growth. Obviously there's a question of intensity -- at some point I could fall back into the maelstrom if anxiety levels got much higher than they were. And there's the very simple fact that it was not fun, but oh well...
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 5 days ago #93237 by NeverSummer
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Sat for 35 minutes this morning doing 2nd gear/strata practice. Things seem to have returned more or less to normal, &quot;normal&quot; being of course relative and all...Didn't feel very centered, but concentration was ok. Went up to the arc to 4th PL jhana and back down to 6th jhana before dedicating merit and heading to work. 2nd gear for around 20 minutes on the way to work.
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 4 days ago #93238 by NeverSummer
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Had a fitful night of sleep last night and woke up with mild symptoms of anxiety and my previously described menu of &quot;dark night&quot; symptoms. Found out that work had been canceled on account of weather, and so sat for 80 minutes this morning doing 2nd gear/strata practice. I cycled through the arc 2 full times (up to PL#4 and back down) and in the third ascent went back up to PL#4 and back down to 8th jhana before dedicating merit. Concentration was pretty good and I felt very centered. Lots of energetic activity (smooth-feeling energy and feelings of opening) in the lower and third eye chakras. At some point during my last ascent up the arc there was a strong feeling of opening and activity in the heart center that I associate with feelings of anxiety. I felt fine (real good, actually) while sitting, but upon finishing the sit, the feelings of strong anxiety returned...

Later in the afternoon did ~40 minutes of choiceless awareness/body-based vipassana and then did ~20 minutes of 2nd gear walking meditation out in nearby neighborhoods buried under snow...Anxiety eased back a bit after these practices.

Not gonna lie, I'll be happy when this current cycle is over. <!-- s:shock: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_eek.gif" alt=":shock:" title="Shocked" /><!-- s:shock: --> I'm completely bought in to the &quot;lens&quot; that this is developmental growth (and indeed, aside from and even during the pulses of anxiety, the practice has a strong sense of deepening), but again, not exactly what one would call &quot;ease&quot;...
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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 3 days ago #93239 by NeverSummer
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Did 50 minutes of 2nd gear/strata practice this morning. Concentration was fair going up the arc to PL#4, and scattered coming back down. Felt very centered the entire time. Mild sensations of anxiety accompanied the practice, but, as per typical in practice itself, were outweighed by the blissful side effects of sitting.

Post practice, the anxiety pulsed and bloomed. Today there is an underlying sense of strength and perspective with regards to it -- as if equanimity is poised to bloom as well.
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  • Jack H
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8 years 3 days ago #93240 by Jack H
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&quot;NeverSummer&quot;:p1on8s6p wrote: Srom the essence traditions, like mahamudra and dzogchen, I began to appreciate the depth of realization possible during ordinary concentration and special insight meditation was enhanced remarkably by shifting to the very subtle or extraordinary level of mind...the issue became less about concentration on the intended meditation object and much more about the level of mind brought to the concentration,
[/quote:p1on8s6p]
===
Jim, what pages are these from? I have Brown's book but I bogged down reading it. Lots of pages and much of it covered what I'm not interested in. Your directing me to the &quot;good parts&quot; would help.

Jack

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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 2 days ago #93241 by NeverSummer
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&quot;Jack H&quot;:2g2hhpon wrote:

&quot;NeverSummer&quot;:2g2hhpon wrote: Srom the essence traditions, like mahamudra and dzogchen, I began to appreciate the depth of realization possible during ordinary concentration and special insight meditation was enhanced remarkably by shifting to the very subtle or extraordinary level of mind...the issue became less about concentration on the intended meditation object and much more about the level of mind brought to the concentration,
[/quote:2g2hhpon]
===
Jim, what pages are these from? I have Brown's book but I bogged down reading it. Lots of pages and much of it covered what I'm not interested in. Your directing me to the &quot;good parts&quot; would help.

Jack[/quote:2g2hhpon]

I hear you about the bogged down part. Really, the majority of the book reads like an extremely dry academic monograph -- gems scattered throughout, but overall very ponderous. That quote you referenced is from the preface (page xxiii), which contained the style of writing I was hoping for throughout the text...At some point I'd like to do a retreat with Brown -- he certainly has a vast wealth of experience in a number of traditions.

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  • NeverSummer
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8 years 2 days ago #93242 by NeverSummer
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Woke up this morning feeling much better -- much more equanimous. Did 40 minutes of 2nd gear/strata practice. Concentration was good at the beginning and end of the session, wandering in the middle. Felt very centered the whole time. Went through the entire arc once and ascended back up to 6th jhana before dedicating merit.

Here several hours after the sit I can find a slight residue of anxiety if I look closely, but there is a sense of cycling away from that for the time being...We'll see.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 11 months ago #93243 by NeverSummer
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Quick re-cap of the past 3 morning sits:

Saturday: Sat for 65 minutes. This sit had a strong feeling of equanimity stage to it -- quite comforting and blissful. I felt very centered. Concentration was interesting -- it was good, but it was also easy to get lazy with it because of the overall feeling of bliss. Went up the arc, back down, and back up to PL#1 before dedicating merit. Spend an inordinate amount of time in PL#4 and PL#3 (on the way back down from 4).

Sunday: Structurally almost identical to Saturday's sit -- same length, same strata traversed, same inordinate amount of time spent in PLs #4 and #3. This sit did not, however, have the same feeling of blissful equanimity, although I did feel good.

Monday (this morning). Sit was 35 minutes -- went up to PL#4 and back down to 6th jhana, again spending more time in PL#4 and #3 than in other strata. Concentration and centeredness were both fair.

The pulses of anxiety I've been experiencing over the past few weeks seem to be gone for the time being.

Thanks to any and all who read this....Jim
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 11 months ago #93244 by NeverSummer
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This morning sat for 30 minutes doing 2nd gear/strata practice. The sit was marked by equanimity -- just an all around feeling of bliss and ease. Centeredness and concentration were both good. Went up to PL#4 and back down to PL#1 before dedicating merit.

As in previous sits, spent a bit more time in PL#4 and PL#3 (on the way back down). These spaces are marked by lapses in concentration and energetic/physical tension in the body.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 11 months ago #93245 by NeverSummer
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This morning's sit report could be a carbon copy of yesterday's with the exception that a) I wasn't hung up in PL#4 and PL#3 for a longer amount of time, and b) I ended the sit back down in 6th jhana. Again, things are marked by a sense of equanimity -- blissful, content, an overall &quot;squishiness&quot; (really, there are some characteristics here that are difficult to describe in words).

I was reflecting that this overall feeling of equanimity, and it's onset, mark the first time that I've really been able to clearly delineate a transfer from dark night to equanimity. It's happened before, many times (and indeed, last late summer and early fall's equanimity/high equanimity stretch remains the reference point for describing how I am feeling now), but I've never tracked it so closely. I went back through my logs just to see how these cycles have unfolded:

~4/7 A deepening of practice in terms of vantage point/awareness of awareness. There were some things happening in this stretch that, at the time, I felt could be categorized as A&amp;P stuff.

~4/8 -- ~4/22 dark night stuff starting to show up in spots. Concentration highly variable, trending towards not real great.

4/23 -- 4/25 practice deepening intensely, almost as if a layer of reality had peeled away..

4/26 Onset of oftentimes intense dark night symptoms.

5/2 Equanimity starting to well up beneath the anxiety.

5/3 -- present: Very strong feelings of equanimity.

Another thing that came up during the intense dark night stuff -- how to adjust practice to deal with it most efficiently. I've heard two lines of thought to approach this. One is to not dial back practice, to continue as much as possible with an attitude of complete surrender. Another tactic I've heard (and this is not necessarily addressed to the dark night per se, but rather with kundalini upsurges (which seem to be a hallmark of my own dark night experiences)) is to dial back practice quite a bit, eat heavy foods, have orgasms, etc. (this from Kornfield's &quot;A Path With Heart&quot;, although I've seen these strategies mentioned in multiple other places). For my own part, I've found it helpful to switch the content of practice over to energetic/body-based work and body-based vipassana, all with an attitude of extreme surrender. In this particular cycle through, I did actually dial back formal practice (I pretty much stopped doing evening sits for about a week). This seemed to be, intuitively, what was called for. That said, moment-to-moment living was infused with an attitude of surrender -- the symptoms were so omnipresent at times that I was basically practicing constantly (without sitting) whether I liked it or not.
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7 years 11 months ago #93246 by NeverSummer
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Sat for 45 minutes this morning doing 2nd gear/strata practice. Concentration was moderate, felt very centered. There was a mild feeling of equanimity associated with the sit. These preceding statements could accurately describe my practice over the past five days or so. This particular sit was marked by tenseness and pulses of pain in the body -- energy that didn't feel very &quot;smooth&quot;.

Ascended from 2nd jhana to PL#4, back down to first jhana and back up to PL#1 before dedicating merit.
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7 years 11 months ago #93247 by NeverSummer
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Sat for the same amount of time and covered the same amount of strata as yesterday. Felt very centered. Concentration was strong on the way up the strata the first time, spun out a bit in PL#4 and back down the strata, strong again on the way back up. This was most probably the fastest and most seamlessly I have traveled through the pure land jhanas.

General notes:

*For the past few days during strata practice, have been spending more time in the dukkha strata than usual.

*Ever since (the recently vanished) dark night symptoms started manifesting 1-1.5 months ago, the Pure Land jhanas have been very muted in their presentation. The outrageous bliss of PL jhanas 1 and 2 wasn't manifesting. That said, this morning the bliss was back.

*Another thing I've been meaning to record in this log but keep forgetting -- Just keeping track of my general level of enthusiasm with regards to practice. Typically, practice comprises a good amount of the percentage of my random thoughts during the day, as well as of my recreational reading. The reading aspect tends to ebb and flow depending on whether or not I feel like I'm taking in too much information and not having the opportunity to synthesize it all. At any rate -- beginning with the aforementioned dark symptoms, my level of enthusiasm for practice plunged. It's not that I didn't practice -- I just rarely thought about it, and had zero desire to read about practice. Over the past week or so, I feel my interest starting to rise again, and thoughts of practice are cropping up in &quot;the stream&quot; once more...
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 11 months ago #93248 by NeverSummer
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Practice has followed the same general pattern for the past few days. Very equanimous and centered. Concentration varying. Spending more time in the dukka strata than normal during 2nd gear/strata practice. Likewise, spending inordinate amounts of time in PL#4 and PL#3 (on the way back down the arc). Lots of energetic tension, 3rd eye activity.
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7 years 9 months ago #93249 by NeverSummer
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Haven't had ready access to internet in quite awhile, in addition to doing some traveling. Roughly, practice is similar since my last post.

My morning sits are an hour in duration, and as of late they are they only formal practice I've been able to squeeze in.
Patterns I am noticing in practice (2nd gear/strata) include:

*Good centeredness and concentration, except when in the PL strata -- my concentration tends to wander here. I also spend an inordinate amount of time in said territory. PL #s 3 and 4, in particular, still include lots of energetic tension.

*Coming back down the arc, I've been blowing through 6-5-4 territory quite quickly (sometimes within seconds).

Although formal practice has been limited to morning sits (if that), attempting to apply 2nd gear/strata practice to moment-to-moment life has been getting more fruitful...During a long road trip to Yellowstone, had some success at doing 2nd gear practice with strata cycling while driving (I typically will do 2nd gear practice while driving but hadn't incorporated the strata of mind practice until recently). Curiously, although I obviously wasn't able to devote the depth of awareness to the strata while behind the wheel, the strata tended to cycle by more quickly than in my formal sits. Likewise, becoming much more aware of cycling throughout the day. I'm not 100% sure about what I am observing, as this element of practice is new to me, but it does some like if I find myself in a &quot;funk&quot; at any part of the day, I'll look into it and see that a) my &quot;locus of attention&quot; (defined in previous post) is wide, and b) my mind is churning a bit -- both symptoms of dukkha strata as I experience it. So, I'll sort of advert my mind to 2nd gear/strata practice, and the &quot;funk&quot; will pass and I'll continue to cycle through the strata. (and if my observations are correct here about what's happening, I'm morbidly curious about how much of my life, especially my 20s, I spent lodged and wallowing in these dukkha strata).

Overall, still seem to be in equanimity phase. Everything is peaceful, easy and stable. No dark night anxiety of any real duration, as well as none of the real hung-ho approach to practice that seems to mark my A&amp;P phases.

Hoping over these next few days/weeks to be able to get in at least a couple of full days of retreat.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 8 months ago #93250 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Finally at a spot in time where I'll have some consistent internet access and hopefully be able to keep this log up to date.

A lot has happened since my last post in early July. Following that post, I got in quite a bit of practice -- not the full days of retreat I was hoping for, but about a ten day stretch with anywhere from 3-5 hours of practice daily. As per usual, my practice was mostly 2nd gear practice incorporated with strata-of-mind practice, as well as body-based vipassana and tsa lung exercises. One thing that came up fairly quickly in this stretch was a new strata in the pure land territory revealing itself. From (what I have been referring to as) pure land jhana number four, panorama of awareness and locus of attention widen into an extremely nice, stable, rooted state. I find it most similar in character to (what I have been referring to as) pure land jhana number 3, albeit much more &quot;stable&quot; and permeating.

For ease of reading, here's previously posted descriptions of some of the terminology I use, as well as of my experiences of the pure land strata:

“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.

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 and the body sensations remain.

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. To me, this strata is similar to 7th jhana -- very &quot;dim&quot;, in fact the &quot;dimmest&quot; of all of the strata I have encountered

Pure land jhana #5? (and actually, there should be question marks in front of all of these -- I'm not making any real claims, this is just my experience)...anyhow, this strata is described above.

So that happened. Practice deepened over those days, and a phenomenon that's happened before and is indeed documented in this log somewhere previous reared it's head again -- I went through a few days of the &quot;fabric&quot; of reality in practice peeling apart and being able to &quot;see&quot; much deeper into things, and then got slammed by a nasty, nasty dark night (and this really seems like, having experienced it with some knowledge about what it might be a few times now, a dissolution --&gt; dark night cycle).

This dark night didn't have the characteristics I have previously ascribed to dark night phases in this log (typically, heart chakra &quot;eruptions&quot; and anxiety). Rather this one had a lot in common with depression (and while I can't rule an actual depressive episode out, when I look back over years of practice a lot of parts that I have strong suspicions were dark nights do have the about-to-be-described characteristics in common) - a draining out of the field of experience of anything that seems good or meaningful; huge doubts about practice and it's application; paranoia; pessimism; just a lack of &quot;soul&quot; in day-to-day life.

Bad news is this sucked. Good news is, I knew/know what it is and techniques that work (for me) to accommodate it and hasten it's passing. Bad news is that after that ten-day stretch of solid practice, I was traveling, visiting friends, socializing and had very little time for constructive practice. As such, in moment-to-moment life, I don't think I was dealing with it in a completely healthy way -- rather than accommodating it, I was subconsciously recoiling and pushing it away as I attempted to fulfill the day-to-day social obligations of my summer. Piling on top of this, in late July I got hammered with a nasty case of what is most likely the cyclospora stomach flu (I had originally thought it was food poisoning -- but after 24 hours of hell, symptoms (albeit less life-altering) are persisting even now).

To wrap this up -- I cut my summer vacation short. I came back home to Colorado. I've been using the last week or so to rest and practice and exercise -- yesterday was the best I've felt in what seems like a long time. In accommodating the dark night symptoms, tsa lung practice followed by body-based vipassana has been very helpful. Just allowing the &quot;darkness&quot; to manifest in the bodily vessel, seeing it as impermanent and not-self while relaxing and surrendering and bathing it in love as much as possible.

As always, thanks to any and all who read. Having been away for awhile and seeing today that this log has over 5000 views is kind of mind-boggling. I hope it is helpful to others. Looking forward to posting more technically, and more frequently...Jim
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