Every Breath You Take – PP Log

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by  Pop 1 year, 4 months ago.

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  • #1449

    Pop
    Member

    Hi,

    This is my first post. Happy to be here! There isn’t a specific place in the forum to present ourselves, so I guessed “Ride Sharing” is the best place to start. A copy of the book arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I started to practice while having a first quick read. I already have five years of meditation practice, though with many stops and goes due to odd sleeping patterns (I work from 4 am till noon), being a first-time parent and lack of concentration skills. I practiced Mahasi’s Noting, Shinzen Young’s Vanishings Noting and Vimalaramsi’s 6Rs protocol. All methods were fine, I had many insightful experiences, and I was better off when practicing than when not. But the lack of concentration skills didn’t allow me to go any further. Luckily, I came across with some Culadasa’s quotes, read many of his posts in the yahoo group and ordered the book. It’s an outstanding text! Never read a meditation book so deep yet clearly written!

    My plan is to use this thread as a log of my practice. Administrators: if there’s a problem with publishing a log, please delete it. Otherwise, I intend to and write down every 4 weeks a summary of my recent practice, experiences, findings, problems and questions. Feel free to comment, either teachers or fellow practitioners!

    • This topic was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by  Pop.
    #1451

    Pop
    Member

    I sit for one hour on a daily basis, half-lotus. Luckily, I have no postural problems/pains, other than a leg gone slept nearly at the end of the sit. The only postural thing that I watch closely is the bending backwards of the neck, which I recently discover is connected with dullness.

    I start the sit with a few minutes of the Four Steps, and then focus on the nostrils observing the starting and ending of the inbreath and outbreath. Usually I have to get back to the 3rd step many times during the sit, either to silence mind wandering or to be sure I’m keeping track of peripheral awareness. Lately, I restricted the area observed in the 3rd step to the face, as I get more than enough input to work with.

    Most of the mental chatter happens between the second half of the inbreath and the first half of the outbreath. I found that an undesirable consequence of my prior practice (noting vanishings) is that I was much more alert of what was happening at the end of the outbreath than the rest of the breath cycle. So, when I focus enough, the mental chatter restricts to the first half of the outbreath. Nevertheless, I lose completely the breath from time to time, up to 3 whole cycles (approx.). Most of the mental chatter (95%) is about the meditation method.

    One of the big findings so far is that I was following the breath flow and not the tactile sensations that the breath flow produces. Kind of controlling the breath instead of observing it. Having solved this issue I had to face a new problem: the tactile sensations end sooner than the breath flow. So, the attention is alternating between tactile sensations and the breath flow. The solution I found is to expand the attention to the whole face. But widening and narrowing the scope of attention twice per breath cycle doesn’t seem to be right. I guess that, on time, the tactile sensations will grow and eventually match the full cycle of inbreath/outbreath.

    Every now and then shows up smell of flowers, a descent of colder energy from the crown to the nose, or the activation of the lower dantian. I know this experiences aren’t related to Stage 3, but are a consequence of previous meditation practices. They come and go, but a relaxed breathing and attention on them may keep them stay longer.

    When the mind chatter ends, the scope of attention expands. Then, it’s easier to sustain the attention on the breath while keeping peripheral awareness. The later happens naturally, a consequence of the cease of mind chatter and widening of the scope of attention.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by  Pop.
    • This reply was modified 1 year, 6 months ago by  Pop.
    #1494

    Pop
    Member

    In the last two weeks, I sat for 60-70 minutes daily in half-lotus. On good days I stay through-out the session in Stage 4, but on bad days I climb up and down from Stage 2 to Stage 4. Transition to Stage 4 was quite natural, with a steadier focus the mind calms down and the scope of attention widens up (physically and mentally). The first impulse was to focus on this wider “physical” space / bubble, kind of focusing in the far edge of it and hearing a very low pitch. Then I brought the attention back to the nose but also the surroundings (face, neck, chest, arms). Later, lots of thoughts pop-up. But they’re clearly seen as sub-mind thoughts, not conscious thoughts (“not mine”). There are four flavors of these sub-mind thoughts: (1) “proto-thoughts”, very short and not fully developed words or phrases; (2) “intentions”, that is not even proto-thoughts, kind of unknown impulses to unknown targets; (3) “mind-stream”, even shorter than intentions and much more messier, felt as a something crossing mind-processing and a stream of tension; (4) “wise words”, psychological insights or else (eg “Learn to forgive”, out of nowhere).

    Travelling from (1) to (3) is seen as a deepening of attention. If I rest the attention on (1), then (2) stuff pop-up, and the same from (2) to (3). I played resting the attention in (3), as that calms “definitively” the mind (no thoughts) for a while. Yesterday I had an interesting insight experience: I was observing a stream of proto-thoughts and at the same time I watched how the mind was coupling (like a very very short eco) those proto-thoughts and then they were merged/supplanted by a fully developed mind phrase.

    Regarding the breath and mind activity, usually thoughts start to appear prior to the in-breath but become clear at the first part of the in-breath. This replicates at the prior to the out-breath. These is a change from last report, where thoughts were seen during the in/out breath only, or in the (breath) gaps, not as a stream. But as I modified the attention on breath, observing the temperature & pressure during the gaps, thoughts are sometimes more sparse, it isn’t so clear.

    What was clear is that I was still interfering the breath cycle. In the previous report I talked about discovering that I was actually following the breath flow rather than focusing on the tactile sensations it generate. In the last two weeks, though I focused in the tactile sensations on the nose, I was still clinging to the breath flow, generating unconsciously noise while breathing. Just keeping attention on not generating it, that was a “game changer”. The sessions are way more calm, and all that I mentioned in the previous paragraphs was spotted because of a silent breath. Every now and then there are noises, of course. But when a noise is fully present during a breath, that means some kind of struggling, tension.

    This 4th Stage means a lot of work balancing attention and peripheral awareness. Distractions aren’t easy to deal with. Physical distractions are the easiest. There are no pains, just mild itches in the legs at the end of the session. And the bending forward of the neck is a clear warning of bending backwards, which later drives to dullness if unattended. Sometimes, when I take a deep breath the cervical bones crack (no pain) as the posture is straightened up. In the last couple of sessions, when I stood up at the end, the legs didn’t even were asleep. Emotional distractions happen sparsely. I manage to let the come and go easily if they are verbal thoughts. But when they are images (eg. huge ant), that’s startling. “Brilliant Discourse” distractions are the tougher ones. I’m happy that they have calmed down a lot, but still are the biggest challenge. At best, there is interesting stuff to analyze, but usually it’s about “reporting” (a mental log) what I’m observing.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 5 months ago by  Pop.
    #1582

    Pop
    Member

    In these last four weeks, I wade through Stage 4, not really mastering the stage. In the 2nd week I had too many interruptions, family and work affairs, so I couldn’t meditate most of the days or less than 30 minutes. So, in the remaining last two weeks I tried to catch up.

    Before, Brilliant Discourse was the main distraction. Finally, it came to a rest. But in replacement, memories and unsolved emotional stuff emerged. Memories/thoughts are less sticky when they’re auditory, but visual ones come in off guard. I can sense verbal stuff as sub-mind stuff, but I easily get caught by images.

    This shift from Brilliant Discourse to Emotions & Memories started when I widen the scope of attention, including thoughts. I tried to find a dynamic balance (preventing emotions and memories from hijacking the sit), alternating during the sit some ~70% to tactile sensations of the breath and ~30% to thoughts, then 30% and 70%. But it didn’t work. I also tried rising the eyes position from the nose to right in front (parallel to the ground). This worked for some time, but at the expense of generating tension in eyes, head and even arms & hands.

    The next step was to relax everything, playing at the edge of dullness, and observing the breath from “behind” instead of being at the “front”. I watched the changes in the breath and the correlated tinny variations in the mind: arising and passing of tensions, tensions that remain despite trying to relax, the hurry to in-breath / out-breath, the conscious/unconscious effort to beef up the tactile sensations, or chasing sensations in order to have something to hold on to, etc. The most part of the work consisted in simply watching how things unfold, but also trying to relax any tension that emerged as a byproduct of breath or thoughts. This did work, as the mind was busy observing itself, so there was lesser space to emotions & memories.

    One thing that worked fine was to widen up the scope of in-out breath, including the cheeks, the area closer to the nose. This triggers much more vividness / clarity / sharpness of tactile sensations. The key is to in-breath “horizontally” towards the brain, not “diagonally” following the nose duct. It feels like Taoist reverse breathing, but in the head, instead of the lower belly.

    In the last week I had a big “discovery”, all distractions start at non-perceiving moments. Almost all happen at the end of the breath gap (post out-breath). That’s when tactile breath sensations end and the mind is comparatively more relaxed, because of the out-breath. To deal with those non-perceiving moments, I did two things: anchor to any tactile sensation in the nostrils (not observing new ones, just “keeping alive” the remaining sensation), and putting intention to perceive the starting of the in-breath. That is, there are some tinny physical tensions that happen prior to the in-breath. All this work allows me to sustain the concentration in a “seamlessly” way, for a while. I still have lots of interruptions, but there’s an improvement.

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