Sam journal

  • Sam12S
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7 years 6 months ago #94376 by Sam12S
Sam journal was created by Sam12S
Hi everyone,

I really wanted to get a quick start here. I was registered a couple of years ago on the wetpaint forum keeping a journal but life got in the way and I didn't practice vipassana seriously and regularly again, despite spending lots of time reading about it, until last week. It was incredibly helpful and helped me to make some shifts(and thanks to all who aided me in this), however I now feel it's time to get more serious. A big thanks to Kenneth for making his teachings and forum available to try and attempt this. Just a little background to my practice(skip next couple of paragraphs if it's irrelevant or bored easily): I have a background in various meditation/mindfulness based 'releasing' and focusing techniques. I usually practice passionately for a while then unfortunately something else catches my eye and I end up going to that one. Went to a Goenka retreat a few years ago, found that a bit dry and difficult but in retrospect it helped a lot. Carried on dabbling in other stuff, eg. non-dual approaches, self-help, wondering why if I'm already perfect life's still such a struggle.

Heard about MCTB, then via this Kenneth's forum. I started a thread here, had some instruction, and got into noting technique. I got to go onto a 9 day Mahasi Sayadaw noting retreat which was great, but again I found difficult. I found that in noting I could get jittery and obsessive about trying to note properly, and feel like my conscious mind was leading a narrative. I read about Shinzen Young, digested a lot of his materials and got into some of his five ways. I appreciate the simplicity and also the slight focus away from achievement which felt as though it was turning meditation into an endeavour.

My current practice is: daily, either 2x 40 minutes or 1x1 hour. I get a good posture and mostly use an abbreviated a relaxed noting style that feels like a combination of what I've learnt here and from Shinzen. Feel, hear and see mostly, in out and flow. Free wandering attention, whichever sensory aspect seems most relevant or pressing to my attention. Sometimes it's more easy and relevant to note the feeling or intention. Sometimes I try to note gone, when I notice it has gone, but again I find that slightly difficult.

My progress: I have no idea where along the map I am. I would like to say I have gone through the initial stages and am now in the dark night, however have some doubt. Perhaps it will become clearer when I describe my experiences. I don't recall anything which seems like A&P, but I've had a few intense experiences both on and off the cushion. However I don't feel like I can put them into the kind of precise language I've read them described in here and elsewhere. I appreciate the amble along and see what comes up without aiming for high attainments, but maybe this is a barrier to progress. Anyway, onwards!
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 6 months ago #94377 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
So to begin describing my experience: I sit cross-legged and start by getting comfortable and relaxed, then spending a few moments tracking my breath. Pretty quickly feelings begin to arise, as well as memories, plans, images, self-talk and the like. I try to note whatever is in my central attention, breaking it down into whichever its main sensory component seems to be, a la Shinzen's noting style: Feel/Hear/See in. After a few minutes my concentration improves and I become more consious of the subtleties of the contents. Internal sights blur, become a mass of colours, sometimes form into something else(either a 'dream' like image or another actual image. Feelings are generally constant and I'm fairly good at tracking them, although often I also begin to get a visual sense of the feeling (a colour or shape for example) which I sometimes note over the feeling. Internal chatter is far more challenging to follow and frequently takes me away from my object into some idea or planning or description. When something takes its place I may try and note the 'gone' of the other sense before noting the new one, but this is difficult. My concentration isn't great but it's getting better.

Typically after about 10 minutes my perception gets flipped. Subtle sensations begin flashing in and out, sometimes causing me to experience strong emotions. Conversely stressful memories often disappear abruptly after a quick bit of noting. The senses often begin flashing in and out, which is either usually the talk or image or subtle feeling flashing rapidly in and out, or the larger more seemingly solid feelings slowly shifting and expanding.

My practice from yesterday went something like this:
1) get centred, feel nice.
2) begin to note. A few sensations began to evoke feelings of anger and sadness. I was meditaing with my girlfriend and a couple of times I felt like standing up and shouting at her, or putting my head in her lap and crying. This wasn't as bad as it sounds(don't worry I'm not a psycho! much anyway), and very often after noting the urge it disappates. Then often it's immediately followed by some more positive emotion which I don't think I'm consciously evoking.
3) Go through a lull, I can lose concentration, get it back and the cycle repeats.
4) At some stage my perception sometime makes a bigger shift, and I feel like my head feels the room while my body disappears, or something similar. Images become somewhat wilder.
5) About 40 minutes in, my legs starts to really hurt! I can keep it going for a length of time, feeling the pain flowing in and out, feeling the other contractions in the body as a result, feeling my attention intentionally try to blot it out. It slowly intensifies. I can usually keep going for a good ten or more minutes but then I may have to move it for a few minutes. This is why I only do an hour every other day.
6) Usually I'm feeling worn out in the last ten minutes and waiting for the timer to chime. I try and note this but it's persuasive.

And that's the end of my entry. I will try hard to update daily. In the meantime if anyone has any pointers as to how I could make better progress I'd appreciate them, otherwise I'm quite happy to keep trucking along as I'm doing. And thanks again Kenneth for the opportunity to keep this journal, I really appreciate the opportunity.

Sam
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 6 months ago #94378 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
I took the day off yesterday due to illness. I tried an incy bit of noting but didn't really have much energy for it. Still a bit tired.

Today on the 40 minute sit, posture felt good but concentration was poor. I notice when I don't feel up to it I don't get anywhere like as deep. No strange perception, just flickering from one thing to the next. A few seconds of feeling something, then something else, then thinking of something else, etc. Plenty of vibrations in hands and legs. Nothing else to report on this right now.

Although a question arose on a previous sit. When I feel, very often I begin to get a visual impression of the feeling. Not a memory, more like a colour or shape or location within the body. I generally stick to whichever my attention feels more stuck to, which for me tends to be the feeling. But sometimes I'll "feel see" or just "see" instead. Hear is the most difficult to pay attention to because the second I put my attention on it it disappears and a few seconds later reappears in a different place. Will have to prioritise this I think. I remember reading in MCTB about a teacher who had his students focus on the ringing in their ears, although I know this isn't exactly the same as the self-talk I'm on about.
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 6 months ago #94379 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
Just sat one of my 40 minutes. No problems with motivation or sitting for that period any more which is nice. The pain in my knee seems to be going away and posture generally feels easily upright.

When I first started this(a couple of years ago) while I was aware of tingling in my body I thought the flashing images and sounds was my imagination. That seems pretty solid now(poor choice of word). Mind is presenting a fast stream of flashing lights, internal sounds from ringing ears and emotions are vibrations also. Counting them per second is absolutely impossible at the moment though, either because they're too fast or there is too many different streams of sense coming in at a time. Internal talk tends to hijack my concentration mostly so when I realise I focus on the source of it, which is usually an emotion/sensation. No real reaction to this practice, aside from the occasionally charged memories and emotions. No fear, disgust, sadness, etc... I feel mostly equanimous but maybe that's just positive thinking.

Also doing ten minutes of metta at the end as I'm having some relationship problems, which seems to help me feel better about things.
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7 years 5 months ago #94380 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
I had a brilliant sit a few days ago, feeling very competent to note feeling, hearing and seeing. I was tracking the changes in attention well, just had a little self talk distraction. Since then maybe for other than vipassana reasons I hit a trough in practice. Each sit(still mostly 30+ min per day) has been a slog. Today I feel like I'm finally enjoying its purpose again but it's still not up to the level of concentration and clarity as before.
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 5 months ago #94382 by Sam12S
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Today lots of resistance to practice. Its difficult to describe but when I sit there is a vague feeling of anxiety and physical discomfort. It doesn't grow as such but makes me feel uneasy and unmotivated. If I'm honest when I note and note its various qualities it does go away, but doesn't leave any enjoyable feeling in its place, which I'd been used to before(transmuting emotion into something more useful). Coupled with a general sense of depression off the mat, which again I'm not used to. I've always tried to approach difficult phenomena as useful, but at the moment my 'I' doesn't seem to agree. However I'm resolved to see this out.
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  • AnthonyYeshe
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7 years 5 months ago #94381 by AnthonyYeshe
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" I've always tried to approach difficult phenomena as useful, but at the moment my 'I' doesn't seem to agree. However I'm resolved to see this out."- Sam

I feel ya, Sam. Difficult stages of practice can be some of the best times for new progress...but that doesn't mean you have to like it <!-- s;) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_wink.gif" alt=";)" title="Wink" /><!-- s;) -->

Here is a Kenneth video that I found helpful.
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 5 months ago #94383 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
Hi Anthony, thanks for your reply and the video link. Absolutely resonates with me what Kenneth is saying, and it's useful to hear some encouragement. It's hard to say what I'm experiencing is due to meditation and what is other life stuff, which is not so easy at the moment. But anyway I do find practicing still helps more than not practicing.

So I didn't realise I'd left it so long between updating, will try to do it more regularly again.

Notes from today, a 30 minute sit. Attention is a strange thing. I can note a sense or sensation for a few seconds, and it seems as though my attention expands with the breath to focus on another aspect, either of the same sense or another. eg. 1) feeling hands, 2) slowly become aware of chest in background, 3) now feeling chest not hands. Sometimes this happens more or less consciously. When I notice this I can keep focused maybe for a minute or more on the moving attention. I'm noting usually just hearing, feeling or seeing, and sometimes if feeling vibratory nature I focus on that and the flowing aspect. Interuptions come from mental chatter or visual images, and when I note them they disappear but it feels as though they're hiding somewhere waiting to pop out again. What I do here is focus on the area and sense(visual or hearing)) where it occurred. If my attention is good, it doesn't come back, and I often begin to naturally come back to the 'constants', which for me tend to be buzzing feeling in my hands, ringing in my ears or colour/shape behind the eyelids. It feels ok at the moment.

Sidenote 1: Life feels weird as I mentioned earlier, which I've noticed much more of since beginning noting. In some ways it's better, emotions are easier to cope with and my concentration is way better, which helps in a lot of difficult situations. On the flipside I almost feel colder in the way I relate to my sensory experience. There is less sentimentality and attachment in me, and I almost feel less connection to others at times then I think I should, because I just can't relate to getting upset over little events which I know are going even as they're coming.

Sidenote 2: My daily routine right now(usually divided throughout the day): 1) 30 minutes vipassana noting. I like Shinzen Young's simple noting style best as it seems to help me get past the concepts. I don't think it's perfect but seems the right fit for the moment. Second and third I do a concentration practice and a mindful movement practice for 30 minutes per day each. this seems to help keep me sane and stress free though I can't tell if or how it helps with the vipassana path. I'm not really looking for guidance on this (unless anyone sees any g=particular problems) but wanted to put it down here of interest for later. Thanks.
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  • Sam12S
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7 years 5 months ago #94384 by Sam12S
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A longer sit yesterday. It started as it usually does, quickly feel comfortable and relaxed, then interested in the sensations as I note them. I noticed though that halfway through I began to feel a sense of boredom and fatigue. My natural action would be to carry on but to note half heartedly. It does just feel like my attention span has gone down and I need to do something else instead, although it was more clear this time how my mind was trying to hijack the meditation. I noted that and continued. In the last third the sensations became light and more energetic. Pain in my knee felt cool and soothing, thoughts were easy to track and there was a general feeling of euphoria, which was interesting and kind of nice.
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7 years 5 months ago #94385 by Sam12S
Replied by Sam12S on topic Re: Sam journal
Sitting 30 minutes a time still. Found that I was putting pressure on myself to notice a certain way what was happening which was influencing my perception,eg. According to what the map says and where I think I should be on it. So during vipassana sits now I just try and note every second or two that I am feeling/seeing/hearing/thinking or whichever note feels easiest and most relevant. Lots of different layers of feeling naturally going from one to the other, easily distracted by thoughts. My concentration is getting better but I can't note the end of a sensation unless I work really hard. All in all I'm finding the destabilising effect is getting easier to deal with. More to come.
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