Saturday 9 March 2013

Diary of a Vipassana Meditator: February 2013

Those who have read about my experience at "Meditation Boot Camp" may be interested in the longevity of the after-effects, and whether I've actually been able to keep up the practice. So once a month, I will post my "Meditation Diary" for the month, including how often and for how long I meditated and notes on my meditation and its effects in daily life. Hopefully this will keep me accountable and is a way to objectively chart my journey...

Wednesday 6th - Sunday 17th
10-Day Course
Missed a siting on the evening of the 17th (on return to civilisation)
102.75 hours over 10 days.

(10.75 each day for 9 days + 5 hours on Day 10 + about 1 hour on the last morning.)
Monday 18th
About 1 hour on the plane + metta
1 hour in the afternoon incl. metta
Felt pretty focused and refreshed afterwards.
Tuesday 19th
1 hour + metta
1 hour incl. metta in afternoon
M: Sensations weren't as strong today, but equanimity was fine. Was slightly fidgety & changed posture in the last 10 minutes, but remained equanimous through loud construction noises. Felt happy afterwards. A: Was interrupted twice by a room inspection & phone call.
Wednesday 20th
1 hour + metta
55 mins incl. metta in afternoon
M: Again, not particularly strong sensations, and a somewhat agitated/busy mind. However, paradoxically it seems, was pretty equanimous. Did a bit of anapana, and think I need to up the attention a bit. 
Thursday 21st
1 hour + metta
1 hour last thing at night, no metta
M: Mind was quite agitated, worrying about job interview that arvo. E: Was really, really tired, too tired even for metta.
Friday 22nd
1 hour late morning (11.15am) + metta
M: went really well. felt really happy afterwards. thoughts seemed to be a bit slower. BUT: Waltzing Matilda (we've been rehearsing an arrangement of this in choir) stuck in my head.
Saturday 23rd
1 hour + metta
50 minutes not really meditating…lying in bed, half-noticing sensations

Sunday 24th
1 hour incl. metta
55 minutes…too tired for metta.
Wondering if this is really making a difference in my life. Still tend to react to certain thoughts with immediate anxiety - physiological & psychological. Wondering if I should throw in some CBT techniques.
Monday 25th
1 hour + metta
1 hour + metta
E: Sat adhitthana. Was fairly deep in meditation, but distracted by pain in the end. I know when my meditation is coming to a close when it starts getting really uncomfortable! Decided to stop just letting thoughts run in the background, but to bring awareness of the fact that I'm thinking & then feature sensations centre-stage again. It seemed to increase my attention/awareness.
Tuesday 26th
1 hour + metta
1 hour + metta
M: Sat adhitthana, and was really, really equanimous. Continuing to build my awareness by constantly renewing attention on sensations - thoughts much more in the background. Feelings of metta were really strong. E: Was feeling strong resistance to meditating. Had doubts arise (and disappear, of course) about the point of meditating…why am I doing this again?
Wednesday 27th
About 40 minutes, no metta
About 45 minutes + metta
M: Really distracted. Still really tired. Lots of thoughts about my career trajectory after a conversation with an academic…
E: A lot more equanimous. Felt more energised afterwards. Noticed that this equanimity was relatively unshaken even through potentially frustrating parts of choir rehearsal…I was actually in a pretty meditative state, and remembered to remind myself, yathā bhūta…as it is (I am at rehearsal and we are note-bashing), not how I want it to be (in bed)...It looks like this may be making a real difference in my life?
Thursday 28th
About 50 minutes + metta
1 hour + metta
E: Pretty good attention & equanimity, despite being really tired before starting. This tiredness surprisingly didn't affect my meditation.


Sittings missed: 2
Total number of hours meditated in February: approx. 123 hours
Total number of hours meditated in my life: approx. 148 hours

It was definitely easier to focus at the meditation retreat. That peace, silence and lack of external stimuli and distractions and, well, life, is  something not to be taken for granted. Meditation often felt out of context in the "real world".

Also, I often felt like I wasn't making much "progress". There have been plenty of doubts and anxieties too, both about the technique and about my life in general. However, I think it's important to keep in mind how much of a beginner I still am, and to look at it from a wide-angle perspective - it probably will take months to see huge changes. For now, however, I do think my equanimity, both in meditation and in day-to-day life, has improved a LOT. If that's the yardstick of progress, then I think I am making some progress. For example, even though I have had some tiredness these past couple of weeks, that hasn't been coupled with the normal annoyance at being tired, and I haven't gotten annoyed and frustrated at certain situations that I would have in the past.

Attention has been another aspect that I would like to work on. I think it's about being mindful of when my thoughts are creeping from the backdrop and threatening to take over centre-stage where my sensations should be, and firmly refocusing my attention. 

Finally, I think in terms of my evening sittings, I'll do those soon after dinner, rather than right before bed. As nice an idea as it is to be able to have a balanced mind before sleep, in practice, when tired, it just feels like an obstacle to bed, like an unnecessary burden. So maybe it won't test my equanimity as much, but it seems to work out better…at least, it's much more positive, which is important for continued motivation - what we know from operant learning theory is that we are unlikely to keep doing activities that are highly unpleasant (although to some extent, there is a role for the development of grit in some circumstances). My thoughts on this issue may change. 

Overall, this month has been a huge exercise in self-discipline. I can't believe I've actually been able to meditate basically for 2 hours a day, nearly every day. I have, however, seen that it has carried opportunity costs - time. I haven't yet gotten to the stage where I'm meditating so effectively I can get by with less sleep. So now that uni has started, I've reduced my meditation goals to 1 hour a day - maybe 40 minutes in the morning, 20 in the evening, and if I do more, great, if not, that's ok too - baby steps.

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