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 Post subject: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 5:05 am 
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Hi there, everyone.

I've taken a several year long break from meditation & Co. and am just in the process of relearning everything I have neglected over the last years. Having (still) lots of trouble with tuning down the mental clutter in my mind, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to document the process of learning to meditate and learning to mentally "shut up". I thought it might be a good idea to make my documentation public, as that might have several benefits like:

a) feedback for me, from people that are more knowledgeable than me, who happen to stumble upon and read my "meditation-diary"
b) if by some miracle I actually manage to make some progress, maybe people who happen to have trouble with the same kinds of hurdles I did, could find something helpful in my notes.

If something like this thread is not desired / allowed, then I apologize to whichever moderator has to go to the trouble of deleting this thread, for wasting their time. If my thread does not get deleted, I shall assume it's ok to do this and will keep adding posts in the coming weeks / months (/ years?), as I go through my exercises and observe anything that might be of interest.

Thank you for taking the time to read this - and see you soon. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 7:22 am 
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Location: Oldenburg, Germany
Session #1
Location: living-room
Duration: About 18 minutes
Posture: sitting on the edge of the couch I usually sleep on

Procedure:
Took a couple of minutes to settle into a comfortable sitting position, closed my eyes and hummed the mantra I had chosen earlier today.
Hummed it out loud once, as a sort of "lead tone" like the lead tone one would get in a musical dictation.
Went on to repeat the mantra mentally.
Was constantly distracted by various external and internal things like the noise outside, the rhythm of my breathing, my cat meowing at me and climbing around on me for a bit, the light-show on the back of my eyelids and, of course, lots of internal dialogue, most of it related to the various distractions mentioned above. I made a point of acknowledging the distractions without getting caught up in them too much. A distraction would come up, I would get tangled up in it for a bit - when I realised this was happening, I redirected my attention to the sound of the mantra.
At first, I never managed to focus on the sound of the mantra for more than 1-2 seconds before I let my attention drift to a distraction - gently redirecting my focus on the mantra, getting distracted a couple of seconds later. And so on and so forth for what was probably about 15 minutes (although that's just a wild guess).
Some time before the end of the session, I had a short (I think) period of focusing on the mantra for more than usually. Everything slowly became ever more hazy and I suddenly noticed that my mind wasn't in my body anymore. For the briefest of intervals, I was actually looking at my kitchen floor in my minds eye. The visual stream wasn't clear - it was more akin to how a drunk person sees the world: hazy and wobbly. But it "looked real". The moment I realised what was going on, I suddenly became aware of my body again.
Cool/Weird stuff: After my focus returned to my body, it felt like I had to pairs of arms / hands - my regular pair of arms hanging comfortably with my hands in my lap, palms toward me - and a second pair of arms, let's call them "ghost arms" for lack of a better term, which were also hanging comfortably with the hands in my lap. These "ghost arms" felt very warm and pulsating and their "palms" were turned away from me. I have no idea what to make of this.

I got up, feeling my tactile sense gradually "making sense" again and put on my glasses. Everything was crystal clear - like if my glasses would have been dirty before the session and they somehow got wiped clean all by themselves when I put them back on after the session. A stupid description, I know - but I don't know how to describe it otherwise.

As a goal for next session, I wonder if I can in any way dial down the internal chaos a bit, with my attention jumping back and forth all the time. My immediate objective is to be able to stay focused on the mantra for a bit more than now (which usually is anywhere from a tiny fraction of a second to about 2-3 seconds tops). I'd be satisfied if I could extend my "unperturbed attention span" to about 5 seconds in future sessions.

In case you've been reading this, I thank you for your time, welcome your feedback and see you soon. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 11:27 am 
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You just have to practice and use your Intent to focus and not let anything distract you.


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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 2:35 pm 
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@Sainsbury: Can't argue with that. I don't quite get how to use my intent to focus, though. When I "intend to use my intent" it feels like internal dialogue - the very thing I was trying to avoid in the first place. How can one use intent without having internal dialogue?

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sat Apr 01, 2017 8:02 pm 
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I found intent as Tom uses it as a difficult concept. As a special word, it is not the 'intent to go to the grocery store' kind of intent. It is rather something inherent to your base being as your IUOC. I wrote a paper trying to make this more clear and here is a link to that paper: http://www.active-mysticism.com/Intent-2_5-1_0.pdf Somewhere on the board is the post that Tom made accepting this as of value as further explanation and the original link to where it can be downloaded as posted here. Perhaps you will find it of value.

Ted


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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 2:08 am 
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Quote:
[...]Perhaps you will find it of value.
I do find it of value and thank you for sharing it. It's as if I can almost "get it" - but not quite. :) I found myself struggling to build a representation of intent as described in your paper, using my own experience. It's still "slipping through my fingers", as it were. More time is needed for me to process and truly understand this, I think - but I will certainly play around with the concepts and revisit your paper until I feel I truly "got it". Right now, my feelings about the concept of Intent as presented by you, are similar to the feeling you have when you know a sneeze is building up because you have this tickling in your sinuses - but then you fail to sneeze. A bit frustrating, but my gut tells me I should definitely revisit this paper often in the following weeks.

Up until now, "intent" for me was little more than formulating a goal, almost like writing an instruction in a computer program: "do x now" / "execute y now" - hence, it always led to internal dialogue.

Reading your paper has helped me understand how little I actually understand about intent. I guess that's a start... :)

Cheers.

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:16 am 
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I also find it to be a difficult concept and if Tom had not accepted that paper and said it was helpful in explaining it, I would have just deleted it or tried again as probably of no value. It is something that we simply cannot get at directly from within PMR.

Ted


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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 12:50 pm 
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Mostly you just need to keep going. Meditation can take years and years before you get proficient.


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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 2:46 pm 
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@ch79:

I've only tried binaural beats lying down and all they ever did was put me to sleep... :) What I haven't tried is using binaural beats while sitting instead of lying down - for some reason, it never occurred to me to try that. Thanks for mentioning that - I'll try it tonight.

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:03 pm 
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Sessions #2 & #3 & #4
Location: living-room
Duration: about 22 minutes for #2 / about 12 minutes for #3 / about 17 minutes for #4
Posture: sitting on the edge of the couch I usually sleep on

Procedure:
Identical methodology to session #1. I am fairly frustrated by these last three sessions. I kept losing my concentration and being distracted by the same factors mentioned in session #1 - only it felt more chaotic. I can report almost nothing of interest. Except one small thing which I feel might be important:

Through all sessions 2, 3 and 4, it felt like there were a thousand people at once in my brain, all of their thoughts flowing together into a most disorienting cacophony. However, there was something else there. It felt like all of the random thoughts, impressions and distractions, although they came from different sources, were always "picked up" or "registered" if you will, by the same central presence. A presence which "said" nothing - it just listened to all the gibberish and shut up. That presence felt like... well... me, I guess. I only felt it for what seemed like mere milliseconds at a time, so it was tempting to just assume I had imagined it, but I just kept getting aware of this "part" of my mind again and again. For ridiculously short intervals of time, mind you - but it felt like it was persistent and the only reason I couldn't feel it for longer stretches of time was that I kept being tangled up in the noise. It felt like the part doing the listening and the shutting up was the "real" me - and all this random non-sense that I have always thought is me, actually isn't me.

The next sessions, I am going to try paying special attention to that part. It keeps quiet. I like that. :)

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:14 pm 
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Quote:
Mostly you just need to keep going.
That's very good advice indeed. I've seen this happen more than once: people succeeding be sheer perseverance, where others who might have initially been judged as "better equipped for the job", failed because they didn't keep going. I do intend to keep going. That's one of the points of this diary - getting in the habit of practicing regularly and documenting everything that might be of interest.

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:50 pm 
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Session #5
Location: kitchen
Duration: about 18 minutes

Posture: sitting on the edge of my computer chair

Procedure:

Changed a couple of sounds in the mantra because the new one feels more "natural" and seems to "roll along" all by itself, with me having to put almost no effort into keeping it repeating itself. That was definitely a step forward. I'll keep it, as it makes things a lot easier. Otherwise, identical to session #1 - except for the fact I was sitting in a different place.

What surprised me was that this time, there was much less "noise" than expected - as far as noise constituted by verbal chatter is concerned. I experienced "extended" periods without any internal dialogue at all. By "extended" periods, I of course mean incredibly long time intervals of up to 10-20 seconds... :) May not seem like much - but I'll rate this as a step in the right direction. When chatter did occur, it lasted for very short periods of time, compared to my previous sessions - and I didn't have to "beat back" the lines of internal dialogue - they were kind enough to disappear of their own accord.

My previous realisation that there is this part of me that's just... well... "aware" of it all, but shuts up, was a real breakthrough for me. Deciding to pay close attention to that part as much as possible feels like another step in the right direction. What really helped in this regard was this post by Sainbury . Thanks again for putting those together - reading that was definitely an "A-HA!"-moment for me.

No on to the less-than-optimal stuff - because I realised there are obstacles on this path I hadn't even considered up until now. Although I managed to ever so slightly turn the noise down a bit and although I managed to pay a bit closer attention to the "aware-and-silent"-part and although I am very confident I'll be able to completely shut off the "internal verbal gibberish" in my mind in just a few weeks of practice, I have no idea how to deal with the noise which is non-verbal. As I tuned down the internal verbal dialogue, I just kept getting more aware of the input from by body's sensory organs. The better I managed to keep internal word-salad out, the more the cacophony became a multi-sensory one. I could feel, hear and smell all this... STUFF! I think I now "get it" as far as "shutting up" is concerned - but how on Earth am I supposed to switch off the input of my sense organs? Not to mention that when I managed, for the briefest periods of time, to experience intervals without any sensory input from the outside world, my mind started making up sensory experience. Visuals projected on the back of my eyelids - some concrete, some abstract... weird mental noises... weird pseudo-tactile sensations which I know existed only in my mind... These things are not words - but they are still "noise" as far as I can tell.

I feel a bit overwhelmed. It feels like I managed to move one small pebble out of the way - only to look up for the first time and see the giant mountain blocking my road.

This is bloody hard work.

And worst of all: I have no idea how to proceed, other than what I have been doing already. Maybe I should look over Ted's paper on intent a couple more times.

But I'm putting the horse before the cart, I think. I'll just keep going and worry about the non-verbal stuff when I've managed to completely get rid of the verbal stuff for at least 20-30 minutes at a time. Which, considering the snails-pace of my progress, could definitely take a while... :)

Thank you for reading this and see you soon. ;)

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Sun Apr 02, 2017 5:22 pm 
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The only reason I referred you to that paper was that a question came up about intent or a need to clarify understanding of intent. Intent is not directly related to meditation.

Learning to meditate is a highly variable process, taught differently by many. I can't really remember when or on what basis I learned any more. Some suggest mantras, some just seek silence. I vaguely remember as a child just repeatedly stopping a train of thought when going to sleep at night because I would tend to think about a train of things and how I might have done differently if only I . . . Not really meditation but still learning about quieting the stream of thoughts.

Who ever's advice you are following, remember that there is nothing permanent about a technique. You use a technique to reach a point where you are ready to abandon it. Then you take up a refined technique, or none. What you seek is to be able to turn off mental chatter at will and eventually to just ask for contact and expect the LCS and guidance to hear you and respond. Perhaps you have heard Tom talking about walking meditation or washing dishes meditation or basically doing anything not requiring serious paying attention (NOT while driving an automobile) and being able to meditate at the same time.

I'm not saying this to discourage you at where you are at present but to encourage you as to where you can go with this. I would say that basically the only thing you have to keep in mind is that it can be done but it will take a longish time. So don't worry about a technique so much as is it the right one, am I doing it right, but rather keep you eye on the prize and make up your mind to keep at it until you get there. And you assuredly can get there and the more quickly the less frustrated you allow yourself to become or make yourself with worrying about techniques.

Ted


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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 2:28 pm 
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Quote:
Trying to deal with noise is also noise.
When you reminded me of this, I suddenly felt very strange about continuing to use a mantra. I tried meditation without any training wheels. The result was a pleasant surprise. It alternated between being more noisy than with a mantra and less noisy. Every once in a while, (almost?) all the noise is gone - thoughts, sensory data, the lot. It only lasts an instant, but I think I'm getting there. Trying to get somewhere by doing less really messed with my head - but it seems to be the right way to go. Right now, I feel like learning to ice-skate: I can stand up for the briefest of instants, before losing my balance and falling on the ice - I spend the next minute getting up again, stand for an instant before falling again and so on.

This feels really good. For the first time since I started meditating, I feel I might actually make it. I don't feel like I'm close - I just feel that it can actually be done, some day.

You guys have been very helpful. I think progress would have been much, much harder without you. The state I reached today - I thought that would take at least another year of work, at the very least. Thank you.

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 Post subject: Re: Meditation Diary
PostPosted: Tue Apr 04, 2017 4:04 pm 
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Ice Skate, Roller Skate, ride a 2 wheel bicycle, it's all metaphorically just the same as meditation. You can't do it for anything until suddenly you can. Then suddenly the training wheels don't touch the ground anymore and you take them off. It's the end of the struggle and the beginning of the real learning.

Ted


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