Ron's Practice Journal

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11 years 2 weeks ago #56318 by RonCrouch
Ron's Practice Journal was created by RonCrouch
I've been practicing concentration meditation for about three years and have decided to begin vipassana to have a more balanced approach and maybe have some insights. Kenneth recommended that I post my practice journal, and I'd be happy to have the advice and feedback of anyone on the forum.

Today I sat for 30 minutes, focused on my abdomen and noted tension, pressure and softness. My mind did not wander as much as it normally does, and I quickly began to feel concentrated (with in a few minutes). I noted that a light began and became brighter, along with pleasant sensations that moved from the base of my neck to the top of my head. I noted that where the sensations moved toward, at the top of the head, the light seemed brighter and I noted that there was a sensation of pressure there. I felt tension in my face muscles around the right eye and temple, and noted the tension. This tension became my main focus for the remainder of the session because of how salient it was to me. I wanted to penetrate it and see it break down, mostly because it felt so solid. However, during the session it did not happen. Still, I felt like I was on the right track when I really zeroed in on that sensation and tried to "dig in" to see it a close as I could.

Also, I'm working on 2nd gear. Today I made a resolution in the morning to focus on the question "who am i" throughout the day. The resolution helped, as I had the question come into my mind unexpectedly all day, at times when I just let my mind go blank. Still no experience of a witness, but something seems to be happening when I focus in on the question. I experience a halt to inner chatter, and more and more I'm asking the question not as a repetitive mantra but as a serious question. Sort of like "who is this person I'm experiencing right now?" or "who is writing this journal entry?" or "who is tasting this food?"

Ron
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11 years 2 weeks ago #56319 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Another 30 minute sit. Same first gear practice focusing on my abdomen and noting the sensations. This time during the sit I noted that there was a ringing sound in my ears and focused on that. As I watched the ringing it seemed to be constantly changing pitch getting higher then lower. As I focused on the sound more intensely it seemed as if there were extremely brief pulses in the ringing, but they pulses were too fast and erratic to "see" clearly. Then an interesting thing happened. The 2nd gear practice suddenly kicked in by itself, and I started watching the watching itself while still focusing on the ringing. It happened for just a few brief moments, but it was very distinct because it was accompanied by a "surge" of pleasurable sensation in my head and chest and a jump in the brightness of the light I experience whenever I concentrate. After a few moments I was back to baseline and focusing just on the ringing.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56320 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Yesterday I sat for 30 minutes and changed my practice a bit. I noticed that I had been feeling very irritable and cranky for the past couple of days so I switched to metta meditation for a session. For those who are not familiar, this is a "loving-kindness" meditation where you do a bit of visualization. I started by picturing a puppy (very easy for me to love) and did a bit of self talk, wishing it happiness and freedom from fear, suffering. Soon, I noted a pressure building in my chest, and feeling of warmth at the bottom of my throat. I focused on spreading that warmth to the object. Then shifted the object to family, close friends, associates, strangers, people who get on my nerves, and finally myself.

This practice isn't vipassana, but I wonder if it is a good supplement when a yogi is moving through the dark night (is that where I am now?). Afterwards I felt relaxed and really "at ease" with others. The day went smoothly.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56321 by NikolaiStephenHalay
Replied by NikolaiStephenHalay on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
I would whole heartedly agree that metta practice during these times is highly beneficial not just to you but to those receiving your loving vibes. Coming from the Goenka tradition I am really grateful to him and his instructions to generate metta after every hour sitting. It has changed my disposition and given me a tool that makes it easier to navigate the crappy stages and also to be a better human being.

I also whole heartedly recommend accessing the jhanas to make the dukka nanas easier to get through. I also recommend getting 1st path over getting the jhanas first as the access to them is unbelievably easier than pre-path. But if you can access them pre-path, utilise them to sail the rough seas easily. Also, getting absorbed in metta can ultimately absorb you into at least the 1st jhana. So I 100% back your practice of metta at those times.
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11 years 1 week ago #56322 by kennethfolk
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"This practice isn't vipassana, but I wonder if it is a good supplement when a yogi is moving through the dark night (is that where I am now?)."-RonCrouch

Hi Ron,

Yes, this is very skillful use of metta to balance the unpleasant sensations and mind states that arise naturally as you move through the structure of the mind.

It's not clear to me whether you are in the dark night, but my guess is no. I think you are fleshing out the lower ñanas and the difficulty you are having has to do with third ñana.

Nice job, good practice.

Kenneth
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11 years 1 week ago #56323 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Thanks for the support and clarification. I'm still new to this system of mapping so I had to go and look up the 3rd stage and it seems like a good fit for what I'm experiencing. The objects I'm picking to focus on are inherently unpleasant and that is what is holding my attention. That also makes the need for metta meditation apparent too. Thanks for the advice on getting first path before trying to get into jhanas. For the past 3 years I've been doing concentration only with the idea that it will lead to jhanas, but so far it only has led to seeing nimmatas. It is definitely time to try something new with my practice and vipassana seems right.

Another 30 minute sit yesterday. As I focused on my abdomen and noted pressure, tension and expansion, my attention quickly returned to the subtle ringing in my ears. I continued to focus on the ringing and had almost an exact copy of my previous experience. The ringing began to vary in pitch and there seemed to be a very faint pulsing to it that was too fast for me to catch.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56324 by RonCrouch
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I had two 30 minute sits today. One in the morning and one at night. I have found for a while now that I become more peaceful and concentrated in the evenings. In mornings my mind keeps wandering into the future, trying to plan my day. This morning was no exception. Much of the first 15 to 20 minutes was spent trying to keep my mind focused on the sensations in the present moment. I noted the rise and fall of my abdomen, pressure, expansion, and tightness. My attention turned to my toes, which I noted were cold. The sensation of cold changed as I focused on it, first feeling like pressure and then a bit like heat. It also seemed to shift around and move along the toes.

The sit this evening was much more interesting. I started as usual, noting the rise and fall of the abdomen, there was pressure and tightness. Soon I felt tightness in the muscles around my right eye, I noted the tightness and try to really explore it as much as possible. I noted the upleasantness of the sensation, the warmth around the eye, and the tightness seemed to shift into my temple. I kept watching and noting the tightness and pain, and it shifted back to the area below the eye and right next to the nose. As I watched the tightness became pulsing warmth. My attention was pulled to other sensations in the body, itching and pressure where my hands touched my thighs, and the sensation became a tingle. i felt single "tingles" at different places around my body. The tingles were accompanied by a mental image of dim lights winking on and off, like christmas lights, representing the tingling sensations. My attention returned to the tension below my eye and it seemed to be a compact field of densely packed tingles.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56325 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Had a 30 minute sit tonight beginning with focus on abdomen rising and falling. As I noted the tension and pressure it was difficult to focus on any one sensation for very long and yet my concentration became very strong. A sensation of lights going up in the room occurred coinciding with a feeling of excitement. I noted "light" "light" and made that the focus of the meditation rather than physical sensations (though this was experienced as a physical sensation). As I noted the light it became brighter and pleasurable sensations welled up from my chest into my head. A strong pleasurable sensation arose into the crown of my head and I noted pressure there. The sensation felt like a slight tickle and I noted that I was smiling. The brightness of the light increased as I focused on the tickling sensation and pressure.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56326 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Tonight the sit was like a combination of the previous two. A few minutes into the sit I focused on the sensation where my thumbs touched, and noted pressure. After a few moments of "gazing" into the sensation, I noted a pulsing that was possibly my heartbeat. Continuing to look into this I again noted a "tingling" sensation, like hundreds of tiny flashes of sensation, where the thumbs pressed against eachother. Then an interesting thing happened, my point of view "pulled back" in a sense, and though I was still focused on the sensation where the thumbs touched, I was also aware of tingling sensations all over my body on the surface of my skin. These were neutral in feeling tone. While the pulling back occurred, it seemed as though the lights in the room I was in were being turned up and a sensation of light began. I noted the light and followed the same pattern as last night of focusing on the sensation that accompanied the light, which were pleasurable, and which seemed to move up my body and into my head. As I focused on these sensations they became stronger and a feeling of pressure was felt at the top of my head and in my neck. I noted the pressure for some time (minutes), and then it felt as if the pressure/pleasure/light all increased suddenly, in a surge. This was both pleasant and unpleasant, as if it were too much energy to handle at once. The sensation of surging occurred two or three more times, and then the timer bell rang - the 30 minutes was up.

Ron
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11 years 1 week ago #56327 by RonCrouch
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The sit tonight was strange. I had a lot of trouble focusing or staying concentrated and was really struggling. Every time I found something to focus on it seemed to fade out of my attention very quickly. Thoughts kept zipping into my field of attention and then would disappear. This went on for about twenty minutes. Finally, I reflected on the sitting last night, and as I remembered it, I experienced a surge just like the one from last night. As it faded, I found I could re-experience it at will.
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11 years 5 days ago #56328 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
Wednesday night I only sat for twenty minutes and in the airport of all places. But it was for a good reason, I was there to pick up my mother in law, who is visiting town because we are having a baby (a very happy occasion for us!). Anyway, back to meditation - I sat and noted the rise and fall of my abdomen and noted aching in my lower back. I stayed with the aching and felt pulsing and tingling which moved around the area of my lower back. Within a brief time (less than a minute) the sensation of light that I frequently experience began. It was as if the lights around me were being turned up and along with this a surge of pleasurable feeling arose in my chest and head. With the pleasurable feeling I noticed a tension that began in the muscles around my eye and noting the tension it seemed as if the areas just above my eyes began to ache. Even as I was focusing on the aching sensation though, powerful sensations of pleasure were moving from my abdomen and into my head and I was shaking a little bit from them.

Thursday night: A 25 minute sit. This sit was strange. I had a lot of trouble focusing. Thoughts continued to interupt each time I tried to focus on a sensation, and I seemed distracted and unconcentrated much of the time. I noted that I felt itching and tickling sensations in my throat and began wondering whether I was coming down with a cold. When I caught myself doing this I noted thinking thinking and went back to the sensations, but continually got off track.

ron
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11 years 4 days ago #56329 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
I had two 30 minute sits today, and given that I did catch a cold there were a lot of new sensations to focus on. I focused on my abdomen, noted expanding and contracting, and wheezing and tickling in my throat, I noted that this was unpleasant. Over the course of both sessions I noted aches in my face and especially around my eyes, but as before the sensations seemed to move and go very quickly and I couldn't stay very long with any of them. I began to feel pleasurable energy bubbling upward from my abdomen and into my head, where I noted pressure, which changed position many times, from the back of my neck to the temples to the top of my head. At this time I also experienced the appearance of a light and felt a corresponding increase in the pleasurable sensations. Per Kenneth's advice I focused on the sensations on my skin and found that I could sense all the skin at once. I noted tingling and warmth. This focus on the skin felt like a pulling back of perspective and the skin felt less solid as I watched it. Rather than solid, it began to feel like thousands of tiny flickering sensations. I noted itching, tingling, sharpness, unpleasantness, and movement.

Ron
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11 years 3 days ago #56330 by RonCrouch
Replied by RonCrouch on topic RE: Ron's Practice Journal
In a discussion yesterday, Kenneth pointed out that I was noticing a pattern in my meditation, and that is so true. It certainly follows the same kind of pattern each time. I begin by noting sensations, and eventually move to sensing a light and pleasurable sensations that percolate upward from my chest and into my head.

Looking over the progress of insight stages I have an idea that I'm moving from first nana to the A&P and am starting dissolution. So this time when I sat down I tried to pay attention to where I was moment by moment. An interesting thing happened. I didn't see the first nana, but the second one did come up in a surprising way. What I perceived to be distracting thoughts was actually a brief review of kamma, in that what was distracting or hindering the meditation were the things I had most recently become attached to or upset by. For example, I received an unexpected complement recently and felt pretty proud of myself, so when I sat to meditate my mind automatically rewitnessed the compliment, as if I were "stuck" to it in a way. Within a couple of minutes I was focusing mostly on sensations that were unpleasant, tension, aching, sharpness, tightness, and realized that I was experiencing third nana. As I watched the sensations, a sensation of pleasure started bubbling up from my chest and abdomen and into my head where I felt pressure. At the same time a light seemed to come on in the room I was in. The sensations were so strong at one point that I was shaking. This seemed like A&P. This is as far as I got tonight. It is so fascinating to experience these stages unfolding and understand that they are repeatable. Before talking with Kenneth I had never heard of these stages, just the jhanas, and it is good to finally have this information.

ron
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11 years 3 days ago #56331 by kennethfolk
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Excellent observations, Ron. It's a remarkable thing to see your mind yield up the traditional Insight Knowledges, right on cue, just like the ancient Buddhists said it would. And to see it happen, in order, sitting after sitting... well, it's a revelation.

For those readers who are not familiar with the Progress of Insight, I've written about them here:

kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/The+...f+Insight+(Part+One)

Kenneth
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11 years 2 days ago #56332 by RonCrouch
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I sat twice tonight. The first one was pretty much a copy of many of the others I've described here, noting sensations, leading to light and pleasurable sensations. After 30 minutes the timer went off and I felt like something was left undone. So later after getting some things finished I returned and sat for another 45 minutes.

This time I went through the stages, up to the light and raptures, and then I kind of hung out there for a while, and just noted what was happening. I could feel energy moving upward from my lower abdomen and into my head and realized that I could unwind a bit and it would flow smoother. I relaxed physically and psychologically, and the light became brighter and the raptures became stronger. It was a feeling like I was "opening" wider somewhere.
Then a very interesting thing happened, I clearly saw that I was just watching the light and raptures. That they were there, but "I" was just watching them, they weren't happening to me really, they were just happening. This was very subtle, and I caught myself slipping back into the sense that the sensations were happening to me a few times. When this happened I was able to "pull back" and notice that I was separate from the sensations. The sense of this is still with me a little bit as I write this, though it is a little weaker. Right now I can stop and look at the words and see that there is a watcher that has nothing to do with the writing, but is just seeing. This seems right, though it is weak. Baby steps...

Ron
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11 years 2 days ago #56333 by kennethfolk
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"They were there, but "I" was just watching them, they weren't happening to me really, they were just happening."-RonCrouch

This is the Witness, Ron. See if you can keep it in the foreground and let the other phenomena pass by in the background. You can do it during formal practice and also during daily life activities, but until you've mastered it (and transcended it), you may want to let it down during interpersonal interactions. It makes you distant and aloof and other people can sense it. Not good for your relationships. This is the early phase of 2nd Gear practice. Later, you can do Self-enquiry even while with loved ones and rather than impede your empathy and compassion, it will enhance them.

If you are watching it, it isn't "you." Surely "you" must be the one who is watching. And then you can inquire into who it is that knows the supposed watcher. Who is the knower of this experience? Objectify, dis-identify, and dis-embed from your experience. Down this road lies enlightenment.

Good work,

Kenneth
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11 years 12 hours ago #56334 by RonCrouch
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Thanks Kenneth. It is exciting to have had this development!

Last night I sat for 30 minutes and started with noting sensations, rising, falling, tension, coolness, etc. However, things began happening much faster than normal, and within a minute of sitting I found myself at A&P, the lights appeared to go up in the room I was in, pleasant sensations moving upward and pressure in my head. I noted all of this, but as I turned my attention to the witness noting became difficult to do, as if it were intrusive or clunky in the midst of a delicate process. I stayed as mindful as possible without noting, but watched all phenomena arise while keeping most of my attention on the watching itself.

As this continued thoughts arose and started to carry me away, as usual. However, this time I caught them more quickly and let go. I'm not sure, but it felt as if this were a product of dwelling in the witness.

Another interesting development. Since Monday night I have found the "watch it walk" practice much easier. It is kicking in automatically when I wake up and staying for longer. I have to remind myself to do it less often.

Ron
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11 years 5 hours ago #56335 by kennethfolk
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"Thanks Kenneth. It is exciting to have had this development!

Last night I sat for 30 minutes and started with noting sensations, rising, falling, tension, coolness, etc. However, things began happening much faster than normal, and within a minute of sitting I found myself at A&P, the lights appeared to go up in the room I was in, pleasant sensations moving upward and pressure in my head. I noted all of this, but as I turned my attention to the witness noting became difficult to do, as if it were intrusive or clunky in the midst of a delicate process. I stayed as mindful as possible without noting, but watched all phenomena arise while keeping most of my attention on the watching itself.

As this continued thoughts arose and started to carry me away, as usual. However, this time I caught them more quickly and let go. I'm not sure, but it felt as if this were a product of dwelling in the witness.

Another interesting development. Since Monday night I have found the "watch it walk" practice much easier. It is kicking in automatically when I wake up and staying for longer. I have to remind myself to do it less often.

Ron"

Wonderful. Keep on keepin' on.

Kenneth
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10 years 11 months ago #56336 by RonCrouch
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I recently drove to visit my family, 6 hours each way, because my grandmother had a stroke and is not doing well. The whole thing reminded me of how short life is, how unexpectedly it can change and be disrupted. Of how much time is spent in frivolous pursuits, chasing after happiness in things that are also unexpectedly changing and being disrupted. There really is nothing solid to hold onto.

On the drive there and back I pulled over and meditated in rest stops along the highway, and found myself becoming very peaceful and still despite the worries. As before, things happened very quickly and I found myself at A&P within a few minutes. As I watched the watching itself I softened the noting. I began trembling with raptures and light was brilliant.

As I drove I tried to remain in touch with the witness as much as possible. It kept going in and out, like a radio signal. One moment it was as if I was watching the driving from a point of view "behind" the sense of "me" and was taking it all in dispassionately. Despite being dispassionate, it still felt thrilling in a subtle way that is hard to explain. Then, I'd be back in my "self" for a few moments and catch it and go back.

While I was doing this a moment from one of the suttas came to mind, where the Buddha is approached by someone asking for a teaching and who won't stop. The Buddha tells him to practice by understanding that "In the seeing is just the seeing, in the hearing is just the hearing, in the touching is just the touching" and so on. This really rang true for me in the moments when I was experiencing the witness.

Ron
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10 years 11 months ago #56337 by RonCrouch
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Today I felt drained and irritable, and when I sat tonight I resolved to pay attention to this feeling state and see what happened. I sat for 25 minutes, and started with noting the rising and falling at the abdomen. I noted upset, anger and when I calmed and looked closer at the physical sensations that made up the anger and upset, I noted hardness in the throat, tension around the eyes, aching in my temple and back of my head. Over the course of the meditation no raptures happened or light. Some brief sensations of rising pleasure, but they were mild and fleeting. Most of the time I noted the unpleasant sensations. They seemed to move and change, and at one point an itch that I had on my cheek felt as if it was vibrating or bubbling with infinitesimal bubbles. While there were no big insights that I'm aware of, I was in a much better mood after the sit.

Ron
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10 years 11 months ago #56338 by RonCrouch
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OK, I'm back to a regular practice after some disruption due to family events and traveling. Over the course of the past week I have only been able to sit irregularly and for brief stints, at rest stops, in between family functions, etc.

Tonight I sat for 40 minutes. Unlike the meditation experiences I was having when I last wrote, this took some time to get started. I was distracted, lost in thought for more than a few minutes at a time. When I caught this I noted it and tried to detect any physical sensations that came with the thinking. I noticed that no matter what the content of the thoughts, my muscles tensed as I was lost in thought. I noted all of this. It felt as if I was working the lower nanas for some time, perhaps 20 minutes or more, just noting sensations like tension, hardness, heat, unpleasant and pleasant. As I noted itching on my forehead and explored it, noting tingling, unpleasant, etc. the sensation of light coming up and pleasurable sensations began. I noted the sensations that came with this, including trembling, pressure, swelling, happiness. This continued for the rest of the sit.

One thing that I am beginning to really buy into is the idea that this is a physical and energetic process. More and more it feels as if there is a rising sensation in me when I get to A&P, and this sensation moves upward from my abdomen into my head. It feels like something is flowing, and if I step back from it and watch it happen it becomes stronger and more pleasurable. My body reacts to this moving energy in some interesting ways, trembling, rocking a little, and I recently noticed involuntary movements of my lips and facial muscles. Another interesting point. If I focus on this flow of energy during the day as I busy with other things I can detect it and watch it.

Not sure what all this means, or if I just fumbling around with something that leads nowhere.

ron
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10 years 11 months ago #56339 by RonCrouch
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Sat for 35 minutes tonight and focused primarily on 2nd gear practice. Once I got settled and felt pleasurable sensations gurgling upward and sensed light, I switched my focus to the watching itself. This feels like a flip in the direction of attention, from outward to inward. The watching itself doesn't have a "place" in the space of my consciousness like physical sensations do, but it is in a sense "inward" rather than outward. When I focused on the watching, the raptures became progressively stronger. At some point the raptures became less coarse, with less trembling and i noted that I began to slump, my breathing became shallower, and I felt cold sensations on my skin, especially on my legs.
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10 years 11 months ago #56340 by RonCrouch
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The last two sittings were similar to the previous one written about. I quickly passed through the lower nanas and once at A&P I seem to slow down a bit and dwell there for quite a while. At this time I sense light above and behind me, becoming brighter, pressure at the top of my head, and energy moving upward through my torso into my head. After some time in this state, I sense a feeling of being "slowed down", my breathing seems shallower, and the energy seems to smooth out and become less course. No sensations of coolness in the last two sittings though.

A question popped into my mind at the end of the last sitting. I was considering the analogy of the hill, where the stages of insight are parts of a trail going up a hill and during a sitting one goes from first nana at the bottom of the hill to the farthest height they are capable of, A&P for me. As one keeps up their practice, one gets a little farther up the hill over time. What occurred to me is this: what is it that moves one up the hill? Is it effort? Time? Attention? Or is it some momentum that has nothing to do with the individual?

This may simply be an academic (and therefore useless) point. But there may be an opportunity for insight here if I understand this...

Ron
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10 years 11 months ago #56341 by RonCrouch
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Tonight I definitely noticed movement through the jhanic arc. During a 30 minute sit I felt the lower nanas (pressure, unpleasant, tension, aching, softness, coolness, etc.) and while I was watching the sensations of tightness in my knee the sensations broke down into miniscule tingles that winked in and out of being very quickly. I felt raptures then, pleasant surges of energy upward through my body, pressure in my head. After a few minutes of noting these sensations of light and pressure the raptures calmed down and rather than moving "up" through my body the energy seemed to move "out" and dissipate. Then I noted cool sensations on my arms. Before I could note more of this part of the arc (I seemed to have slowed down) I was back in A&P, light, pressure, rising pleasant sensations, then tingling all over, then I seemed to "bob" in and out of A&P. Down to tingling then back into raptures and light, and then back down.

Before knowing about this arc I had noticed this shifting back and forth, however, because I was working from the point of view of concentration practices, I simply thought that my concentration was waning and waxing.

Ron
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10 years 11 months ago #56342 by RonCrouch
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On 2nd gear practice:

This is by far one of the most subtle practices I have engaged in. Now that I have a sense of what the witness is like I can tune to it fairly quickly, but staying with it is difficult. What is this drive to constantly stay embedded in the sensations and thoughts? It's like a magnet that pulls "me" down the second I stop looking at it.

Kenneth, maybe you can clarify a question I had with the witness. While it does seem to be digital in that it is being experienced or not, it also seems to be analog, in that it can be stronger or weaker. Sometimes it feels just slight, and I'm still concerned about things I'm experiencing, other times I feel very distant from what I'm experiencing. It is almost as if once I've turned on the witness, I then have to "tune it in", sort of.

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