Meditation Journal – Day 12

Vipassana Meditation Day 12

am 1hr

Coming up on two weeks since the end of the course, the momentum created by the course and others has pretty much ceased. I’m on my own now, in terms of deciding to sit. And there’s a fuss about it, some protest, many excuses. Usually based around: ‘later’. And new rules: ‘let’s not do it on the weekends,’ ‘let’s cut the time of each session,’ ‘let’s do it after breakfast,’ ‘let’s not do it at all.’ So what gets me sat down? It’s the inherent value of being in touch. Not really any measurable value, either. It’s not as if I’m getting somewhere or gaining rewards. Perhaps I am but there’s nothing collectable. There’s loss and something else that comes when the unnecessary is lost or ceases. There’s a quieter mind and a way less tense body. I suppose these are measurable and I can grasp thoughts and therefore say: ‘let’s sit.’ But it’s not really for that reason. More like there is nothing else left to do. Every other trick on how to live has been tried and exhausted. This isn’t how to live in itself, but there’s a certain validity in what happens when the body is in stillness, a validity less tangible in the activity of daily life.

A still sitting. Each area tightening as attention moves to it, over it, through it. It’s much like a yawny stretch but without movement – there’s a moment of tension in the stretch and then a release. The sitting gives much opportunity for this kind of release, but without ‘doing’ it, just awareness without reacting. And if there’s reaction, it’s apparent. No real mystery.

pm 1 hr

Kind of high before I started. Or a sleepy drowsy kind of lack of thought, from an afternoon nap, after walking for a few hours. After some anapana, moving from part to part, and flowing within that part. More from the centre outward today, than just on the surface; a trend starting subtly a few days ago. Each section tightening up or straightening out. Belly goes in, like a yoga bandha, shoulders go back, legs tighten to perfectly strung, before softening as attention moves elsewhere. Right arm shaking at times. Thought clearing away. Somehow it feels it is safe to do so, the body in complete stability.

Meditation Journal – Day 11

Vipassana Meditation Day 11

am 1 hr

Some sort of daring is needed in order to get close up. Mr Duffy lived a short distance from his body. It’s easy to think that you are in touch but that daring is needed to actually touch. The daring drops away as soon as contact is made, its job over. Daring is not forceful or pushy in any way. Exploring some lesser sensations and more of the blind areas. A small twinge to the right of the sacrum, up a bit. The kidneys area, revealing a deep ache and the large tingly canvas of the lower back. Lots of subtle tightness in the shoulders and up into the neck. And of course the right arm with intense shaking down into the wrist. The left arm had a shaky go to for the first time. I felt safe in this quiet sitting. Well, safe and not safe at the same time, like anything could happen, and yet its okay. That I have never felt is okay to feel. With a daring touch.

pm 1hr

Stages of intense energy rushes through the brain, wiping and cleansing as it goes somehow. Stages of emptiness, stillness, resting in peace. Rest in peace, while alive. Clarity of thought. Clarity of the unecessaryness of thought. In the body, deep into the eyes, shoulders, outer right upper arm, feet, lower spine to the left a bit, right wirst. Tight tension, felt and changing in the feeling. Dead left leg, numb. Beforehand didn’t want to sit down. Went for a walk. Then didn’t want to sit down, but less. Ate a little. Browsed a little. Sat down. And after about five minutes there was absolutely no where else to be, nothing else to be doing. This.

Meditation Journal – Day 10

Vipassana Meditation Day 10

am 1 hr

It went smoothly this morning, relatively. The mind very still in the pre dawn, for periods, barely a thought wobbling by, and all sensation, feeling contained and included in the pervasive stillness. Moving through the body was easier too, with few areas of tightness or pain, the knots near the spine seemingly gone. At least for now. Shoulders tight, right hamstring tingling, right arm shaking and trembling at times when in the area. Then relaxing in some kind of totality of body-mind, and a sense of togetherness and inclusion.

pm 58 min

Just sat there. Felt nauseous, so I guess that was the main sensation. Lots of too-ing and fro-ing with thinking about this and that. Some cursory scans down and up but a long distance from the body, not really in touch. Some insights as to what equanimity is, and if the sense that any ‘I’ being anything is pretty much just a game of equanimity. And there I was. And there was this body, still for another hour, through it all. Every time different.

Meditation Journal – Day 9

Vipassana Meditation Day 9

am 1hr

Again the face, this time the lips, scrunching into expressions and positions I could not make if I tried. Similar to during the course. Likewise, at the extreme of the scrunch, one thousand needles piercing from every angle, the sharpest sensation. Moving on, through the body it felt unfinished in the face and sure enough during lovingkindness the lips began again, some kind of yogic pouting. Beforehand, the understanding that any movie watched will want to be undone again, the mind replaying scenes from what I watched last night. Also clear that there’ll be resistance and division unless something is done fully, totally perhaps. If it’s not being done fully, wait a while and regroup. This is  something of fulfilment.

pm

Yoga class instead; some breathing before bed.

Meditation Journal – Day 8

Vipassana Meditation Day 8

am 1 hr

Went through the wringer. As soon as attention came to the forehead I was sobbing. Then to the shoulders and my head fell forward, arching into the back of the neck into the shoulders. It wanted to stay like this some time and deep tension was touched within the back of the neck and upper back. Nothing to do but listen and be patient and listen some more and notice what’s occurring, including thoughts towards and away and seemingly at random. Little attempts to divert or to do something about the state of affairs. And there’s nothing to do. It seems the body knows what to do and is learning to use the opportunity of the one hour slots to work things out, in the arena of the mind’s awareness. The sobbing didn’t last long but the head was bowed forward most of the hour. And at this intensity the time goes by very quickly. My right arm had quite a few shakes, down into the wrist. The forehead also go wrung, and seep into the eye sockets and upper cheeks aound the bones.

pm 1hr

On the Waterloo-Petersfield train. The most relaxing train ride I’ve ever taken. A full carriage, chattering students, fading into a background ripple as awareness of breath deepened.

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – Lovingkindness

Extracts from Chapter Eight:

When you really get into it, you will eventually find yourself confronted with a shocking realization. One day you will look inside and realize the full enormity of what you are actually up against. What you are struggling to pierce looks like a solid wall so tightly knit that not a single ray of light shines through. You find yourself sitting there, staring at this edifice and you say to yourself, “That? I am supposed to get past that? But it’s impossible! That is all there is. That is the whole world. That is what everything means, and that is what I use to define myself and to understand everything around me, and if I take that away the whole world will fall apart and I will die. I cannot get through that. I just can’t.”

It is a very scary feeling, a very lonely feeling. You feel like, “Here I am, all alone, trying to punch away something so huge it is beyond conception.” To counteract this feeling, it is useful to know that you are not alone. Others have passed this way before. They have confronted that same barrier, and they have pushed their way through to the light. They have laid out the rules by which the job can be done, and they have banded together into a brotherhood for mutual encouragement and support.

Meditation takes energy. You need courage to confront some pretty difficult mental phenomena and the determination to sit through various unpleasant mental states. Laziness just will not serve.

Greed and hatred are the prime manifestations of the ego process. To the extent that grasping and rejecting are present in the mind, mindfulness will have a very rough time. The results of this are easy to see. If you sit down to meditate while you are in the grip of some strong obsessive attachment, you will find that you will get nowhere. If you are all hung up in your latest scheme to make more money, you probably will spend most of your meditation period doing nothing but thinking about it. If you are in a black fury over some recent insult, that will occupy your mind just as fully. There is only so much time in one day, and your meditation minutes are precious. It is best not to waste them.

As you practice loving-kindness within yourself, you can behave in a most friendly manner without biases, prejudices, discrimination or hate. Your noble behavior helps you to help others in a most practical manner to reduce their pain and suffering. It is compassionate people who can help others. Compassion is a manifestation of loving-kindness in action, for one who does not have loving-kindness cannot help others.

Your practical solution to your enemies is to help them to overcome their problems, so you can live in peace and happiness. In fact, if you can, you should fill the minds of all your enemies with loving-kindness and make all of them realize the true meaning of peace, so you can live in peace and happiness. The more they are in neurosis, psychosis, fear, tension, anxiety, etc., the more trouble, pain and suffering they can bring to the world.

When you hate somebody … your own body generates such harmful chemistry that you experience pain, increased heart beat, tension, change of facial expression, loss of appetite for food, deprivation of sleep and appear very unpleasant to others. You go through the same things you wish for your enemy.

Meditation Journal – Day 7

Vipassana Meditation Day 7

am 1hr

Proper. Crawling steadily, with sure awareness through every inch, feeling what’s there, the agonies and ecstasies right here in this organism. All of life is here, or all of my life, in each cell and part of the body. In the one hour, after the chants and some awareness of breath, some dreams. Only one trip from head to feet and one back to the head and the seeming release of it all at the crown, with its delicate energy. Along the way each part responding on its own to the attention, tightening up, trembling, loosening, tingling, getting hot, each different, each relishing the company or attention at last, probably after years and years of neglect. And this from a yoga-practitioner, so it’s not as if I’ve been ignoring my body. Yet in a way, I have. This is supreme listening. Yoga tends to be ‘now we are going to do this, like it or not,’ or an imposition. Perhaps healthy but an imposition. This meditation is too simple to be an imposition, more a subtle listening and steady moving, inching, noticing reactions while reacting, and allowing. With nothing else going on – thinking, opposing, objecting. No, this is not multi-tasking.

pm 1hr

After working out and a shower, perhaps a little too sleepy. Literally nodding off several times during the first half, coming back out as quickly as I went into micro dreams. Second half more energy but only a cursory scan up and down, the rest of the time rather causal awareness of breath, mind going over some of the days events. Which is probabably beneficial in itself.

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – Structuring

“It is all empty back there.”

Extracts from Chapter Eight:

This is not the easiest skill in the world to learn. We have spent our entire life developing mental habits that are really quite contrary to the ideal of uninterrupted mindfulness. Extricating ourselves from those habits requires a bit of strategy. As we said earlier, our minds are like cups of muddy water. The object of meditation is to clarify this sludge so that we can see what is going on in there. The best way to do that is just let it sit. Give it enough time and it will settle down. You wind up with clear water. In meditation, we set aside a specific time for this clarifying process.

The best way to clarify the mental fluid is to just let it settle all by itself. Don’t add any energy to the situation. Just mindfully watch the mud swirl, without any involvement in the process. Then, when it settles at last, it will stay settled. We exert energy in meditation, but not force. Our only effort is gently, patient mindfulness.

When it comes to sitting, the description of Buddhism as the Middle Way applies. Don’t overdo it. Don’t underdo it. This doesn’t mean you just sit whenever the whim strikes you. It means you set up a practice schedule and keep to it with a gently, patient tenacity. Setting up a schedule acts as an encouragement. If, however, you find that your schedule has ceased to be an encouragement and become a burden, then something is wrong. Meditation is not a duty, nor an obligation.

First thing in the morning is a great time to meditate. Your mind is fresh then, before you’ve gotten yourself buried in responsibilities. Morning meditation is a fine way to start the day. It tunes you up and gets you ready to deal with things efficiently.

Vipassana meditation is not a form of asceticism. Self-mortification is not the goal. We are trying to cultivate mindfulness, not pain.

Don’t look at the clock until you think the whole meditation period has passed. Actually, you don’t need to consult the clock at all, at least not every time you meditate. In general, you should be sitting for as long as you want to sit. There is no magic length of time. It is best, though, to set yourself a minimum length of time. If you haven’t predetermined a minimum, you’ll find yourself prone to short sessions.

‘Discipline’ is a difficult word for most of us. It conjures up images of somebody standing over you with a stick, telling you that you’re wrong. But self-discipline is different. It’s the skill of seeing through the hollow shouting of your own impulses and piercing their secret. They have no power over you. It’s all a show, a deception. Your urges scream and bluster at you; they cajole; they coax; they threaten; but they really carry no stick at all. You give in out of habit. You give in because you never really bother to look beyond the threat. It is all empty back there.

There is another word for ‘self-discipline’. It is ‘Patience’.

Listen With Prejudice – #47 Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures – Album Review

#47 Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures

 

Before: Rainy jerky doomsters with one actual tune, intense and a bit scary

 

Like a British The Doors, somehow, but glomier, vocals deep and distressed. Angualr rhythms, strange sound effects, throbbing driving bass driving, and those druggy, foresty English guitars. A band on the edge of something, no one is sure what, but it probably isn’t going to be pretty, and improbably a bit beautiful. Shambolic preciceness abounds.

 

After: The north of England through and through. Although Curtis does sound like he’s trying to be a bit American. One long demo?

 

Counting down the Top 50 over at Best Ever Albums. They’ve taken 6,600 greatest album charts and compiled them into an overall chart.

Mindfulness In Plain English – Henepola Gunaratana – What to do with your mind

“You will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy.”

Extracts from Chapter Seven:

Why not just sit down and be aware of whatever happens to be present in the mind? In fact there are meditations of that nature. They are sometimes referred to as unstructured meditation and they are quite difficult. The mind is tricky. Thought is an inherently complicated procedure. By that we mean we become trapped, wrapped up, and stuck in the thought chain. One thought leads to another which leads to another, and another, and another, and so on. Fifteen minutes later we suddenly wake up and realize we spent that whole time stuck in a daydream or sexual fantasy or a set of worries about our bills or whatever.

There is a difference between being aware of a thought and thinking a thought. That difference is very subtle. It is primarily a matter of feeling or texture. A thought you are simply aware of with bare attention feels light in texture; there is a sense of distance between that thought and the awareness viewing it. It arises lightly like a bubble, and it passes away without necessarily giving rise to the next thought in that chain. Normal conscious thought is much heavier in texture. It is ponderous, commanding, and compulsive. It sucks you in and grabs control of consciousness. By its very nature it is obsessional, and it leads straight to the next thought in the chain, apparently with no gap between them.

Concentration is our microscope for viewing subtle internal states. We use the focus of attention to achieve one-pointedness of mind with calm and constantly applied attention. Without a fixed reference point you get lost, overcome by the ceaseless waves of change flowing round and round within the mind.

Breathing is a present-time process. By that we mean it is always occurring in the here-and-now. We don’t normally live in the present, of course. We spend most of our time caught up in memories of the past or leaping ahead to the future, full of worries and plans. The breath has none of that ‘other-timeness’. When we truly observe the breath, we are automatically placed in the present.

Make no attempt to control the breath. This is not a breathing exercise of the sort done in Yoga. Focus on the natural and spontaneous movement of the breath. Don’t try to regulate it or emphasize it in any way. Most beginners have some trouble in this area.

Just let the breath move naturally, as if you were asleep. Let go and allow the process to go along at its own rhythm.

Observe the breath closely. Really study it. You find enormous variations and constant cycle of repeated patterns. It is like a symphony. Don’t observe just the bare outline of the breath. There is more to see here than just an in-breath and an out-breath.

Your mind will wander off constantly, darting around like a drunken bumblebee and zooming off on wild tangents. Try not to worry. The monkey-minded phenomenon is well known. It is something that every advanced meditator has had to deal with.

Somewhere in this process, you will come face-to-face with the sudden and shocking realization that you are completely crazy. Your mind is a shrieking, gibbering madhouse on wheels barreling pell-mell down the hill, utterly out of control and hopeless. No problem. You are not crazier than you were yesterday.

You begin to experience a state of great calm in which you enjoy complete freedom from those things we call psychic irritants. No greed, lust, envy, jealousy or hatred. Agitation goes away. Fear flees. These are beautiful, clear, blissful states of mind. They are temporary, and they will end when meditation ends. Yet even these brief experiences will change your life.

There is a definite goal. But there is no timetable. What you are doing is digging your way deeper and deeper through the layers of illusion toward realization of the supreme truth of existence. The process itself is fascinating and fulfilling. It can be enjoyed for its own sake. There is no need to rush.

Don’t set goals for yourself that are too high to reach. Be gentle with yourself.

 

 

Meditation Journal – Day 6

Day 6

am

It’s about being in touch. When I’m not in touch, within myself, my body, and with people, there’s tension, restlessness, boredom, and the mundane sets in. What is being in touch? Direct perception of things as they are. Out of touch is things as you’d like them to be, or simply as they are not. As far as I can tell, this ‘as they are’ is forever shifting and flowing, and so that sensation I thought I knew, I no longer know. This is true for yesterday into today, and for this morning into this evening, from hour to hour, from body scan to body scan, and even within the lingering on an area for the requisite minute or two. The lingering is changing as is the sensation. Right action is ‘more in touch’ – for now

pm

After a day of pure escapism, was still able to sit down despite some grumbling about it and trying to find an excuse. There is no valid excuse, but I listen. Considering the day of avoidance, with a feeling of shame nearby, was surprisingly still, quickly settling with the breath and then a part-by-part tour of the head, body and back up. Then another down and up. Sensation: sciatic in right buttock; right ankle; deep around the eyes and upper cheeks; across the centre of the back during the later scans of a hoop around the torso; subtle tingles over the head and in other areas where gross sensation absent. Some nausea. A release of obsessional fear centred around a weeks-away event.

Meditation Journal – Day 5

Day 5

am

Feels like I am back to how I was towards the end of the course, in terms of steadyness and togetherness. The feeling of completeness and a job done well, instead of some of the bodge jobs during the week. After a good night’s sleep till nearly 8, several minutes of anapana then moving through the body. This is a lot smoother too – right buttock, right upper arm, right foot arch, right side of face. No big shakes or ultra tightness although the arm movement was more rapid than ever in the space given by smoothness. My muscles are softer to the touch, my shoulders are lower, my belly is softening, as is my face.

pm

In the city, the sound of traffic strong at first and fading to mere vibrations. Car park anapana.

Meditation Journal – Day 4

Day 4 of practice since the 10-day vipassana course.

am

Tensions not centred on particular knots but broadly across the shoulders and into the neck. Awareness of these areas led to trembling and some arching forward, not so intensely as before. Sensation increasing in lower abdomen and lower back into the pelvis. Blissful energy rising from lower spine, meeting the tightness in upper body and the mind, rippling through, undoing resistance. Some flexing of feet, but not strong. Generally milder and scanning smoother.

pm

Felt very good most of the day. Like a long term tiredness is lifting, a tiredness not fixed by sleep. Giving some time after work is better. Work out. Take a shower. Next week work out; today some domestic chores. Not entirely sure if I should stick with anapana for longer as when I begin to scan I am still scattered and without much attention for each part I come across. It’s easy to get a bit restless with awareness of only breath especially when parts of the body start calling, so I then begin the journey south bumping along, but the restlessness can go if staying longer with breathing. Middle of the back again, small spot, tender and sweet. Left hamstring white and taught. Right foot. Forehead. Staying with each, exploring how much I am pushing for change, how neutral I can be. Not easy when the forehead is scrunched up and the eyes are closed tight like in a cartoon.

Listen With Prejudice – #48 Led Zepellin – Led Zepellin – Album Review

#48 Led Zepellin – Led Zepellin

 

Before: Hard rock, long hair, darkness, riffs

 

Some kind of rock blues (soap) opera. Lyrics are all baby baby baby pining and whining. Amazing drumming backing a tight band playing closely together. Guitar echoing the vocals, and the riffs another voice itself. Heavy… early heavy metal with a psychedelic edge. The 70s in the 60s.

 

After: Tight. Mighty riffs of guitar and voice

 

Counting down the Top 50 over at Best Ever Albums. They’ve taken 6,600 greatest album charts and compiled them into an overall chart.

121121 Meditation Journal

am

Surges of ecstasy, lingering deep fatigue, facial tension, back arching forward, right arm rubbing the thigh like a spastic Vic Reeves over and over. One scan up and down and then the body took over. Resistences in the mind obvious, then back to equanimity, through the pleasurable and the tighter sensations. Leaving it alone, in awareness, increases the sensation and allows fuller if not fullest expression. All the while the sitting, the sitting, a constant through all manner of strangeness, a strangeness underpinned with total familiarity. RSI in right arm is undoing, wrist and upper arm freeing up. Afterwards: very tired. Lying down before work.

pm

Buzzy from a long afternoon at work in front of the screen. Standard resistence to stopping once I was home; the norm is to carry on until sleep. And now the novelty is starting to wear off, the inner desire to find out, to continue the experiment, got me sat down again. There really isn’t an option though. Gentle breathing for ten minutes, then scanning part by part. No major sensations. Feet tightened then moved. Towards the very end, third time round to the right side knot somewhere below the shoulder blade (has it moved from the spine?), the right arm trembled but didn’t move far, and back arched forward for a while. Part of my mind taunting: you can’t do this, you will fail, you’re going to stop this any second, any day soon. Some temptation to join in the fight back, to protest, but didn’t, kept still, watchful to all of it, all over the place.

121120 Meditation Journal

am

Very tired. First ten minutes, mind dreaming of this and that, with some awareness of breath going on, but not ongoing. Eventually came to be able to move through the body in large sections. A couple of times lapsed into sleep or half sleep and the right arm was trembling and shaking for a little while. Looked at the watch: only half way through. Some despair if I’ll be able to continue. Somewhere some calmness keeping me on the cushion, it’s OK, it’s OK. This deep fatigue and tension and trouble I’ve lived with, right there with me on the cushion, normally ignored or kept at bay while I muddle on through, hoping hoping for some kind of change, or a good day extending into all other days – hoping rather than doing much about it: some yoga, some casual sitting or lying. Again, the feeling that this is really the real deal.

pm

After work. With MP3 download of one hour session with Goenka chanting at start, brief instructions and loving kindness/chanting to finish off. This meant less than an hour’s actual vipassana in silence. Which is less daunting although perhaps a little disappointing. Spiritual materialism: flat mat arrived from Blue Banyan, so now I have my little sitting space set up just right. Quality mat.

Thoughts from work: unfinished business and some conversations replaying. Made it down to the feet, the flexing and pointing of both feet continued, but more so in right foot, and to less extent. Some holding at the point of perfect tension. Again less tense than previously. Forehead scrunching, strong tension around centre, in the main muscle, seemingly at the back nearer the bone. Painful. General tightness in shoulders and neck, which I could feel building during the work day, my first in nearly two weeks. Really appreciated the time given to this instead of flitting about online or wherever, and not reluctant or scared to sit down. Maybe the slight gimmick of the recording and new mat helped. But it seems sustainable, this practice, helped by my inherent unforced interest in the internal world, without which I dedication to practice would have to be by sheer will.

121119 Meditation Journal

am

First day after the ten-day course and time to begin my home practice. I felt the usual resistances beforehand, same when about to do yoga and the shorter sittings I used to do. But the genuine wanting to do this allowed it to happen and so the excuses didn’t win out. So on waking and after a quick wash, wrapped in a blanket, I sat down in the corner of the room by the window and radiator. At first I just sat there, not really knowing what to do and then the subtle feeling of the technique of breath sensation came back to me and I was somewhat agitatedly and distractedly aware of this for a few minutes. As I settled in I was able to proceed with the vipassana sensing of the body from head to foot and from foot to head, but only moving part by part, not really scanning or flowing over the body. But this was good enough: here I was, at home, dedicating myself to an hour’s sitting. Unprecedented.  It felt right. As per the instructions, I have been working with the gross sensations and blind spots rather than the subtle. Most recently this has been in the arches of the foot, and so after half an hour or so of scanning, my feet started to twitch and move. There’s only so much pain the body allows for and so the extreme tightening I felt through the legs neck and jaw doesn’t happen with the feet, where the sharp cramping sensation threatens to be overwhelming, so instead the feet flex and extend somewhat rhythmically. I’m not doing this consciously; the body or the unconscious mind is doing it. The toes, however, can fully tense for minutes at a time without the searing agony of the arches. This takes place in the context of equanimity and awareness, with the notion that everything changes.

At around 45 min, I really wanted to stop. Experience shows that if I don’t stop, something interesting will happen. This time, suddenly my right upper jaw lifted and the right cheek went into tension, the right side of the face ever so slowly moving, spreading tension sensation through the entire right cheek and upper jaw. This didn’t last so long. Looking at my watch, I had 5 minutess remaining and so returned to simple breath awareness and repeated those parts of the lovingkindness meditation I could remember, centring at the heart.

pm

Five minutes anapana after yoga class.