Antero's practice journal

Awakening of an office monk

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Much of the time lately

Off the cushion:

  • Fortunately no more that unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness
  • At times very effective and energetic
  • State of flow at work

On the other hand, much of the time:

  • Restless mind
  • Low energy states
  • Sadness
  • Reactivity in situations
  • Easily affected
  • Feeling raw, like no skin
  • Mood swings
  • Emotional
  • General lack of interest
  • No desire to do anything
  • Lazyness when no compulsory tasks
  • Lazy even with the meditation practice

I used to be the stable guy, but now I seem to get affected by all kinds of trivial things. This uncharacteristic turbulence has led me to at times skip my morning practice out of fear.


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After the Five Day Retreat

The logical outcome of this practice has been revealing itself to me. Experience everything fully, don’t hold anything back. There is no one to blame. There are no other people’s problems. No safe places, no complacency, no protection. Being totally honest in any relationship feels daunting, scary and overwhelming. When you think of it, life is nothing else but relationships with oneself, others, plants, animals and whatever things the world is made of. All unpleasantness, tension, anxiousness or fear is a call to explore the problem with some relationships. This seems to be the result of the brief glimpses of buddha nature off the cushion.

Every now and then these kinds of feelings arise. I can’t manage all of the mundane daily chores, there is simply too much to handle. I feel fatigued and tense and there is very little initiative to do anything if no pressure is coming from outside. Just passing time and indulging in sense pleasures.

The next day I may feel focused and high on energy. Whatever happens at work, I just know what do or say, how to handle the difficult situation. There is a flow of rawness with emotional vulnerability, which seems to flush all obstacles from the system, the view of awakened awareness maintaining itself by spontaneously re-emerging after getting lost. The system seems to be adapting itself to higher states of energy.

The Four ways of leaving things as they are (cog bzhag bzhi) are biting deeper on and off the cushion. As a result I am feeling the difference between genuinely opening to the awareness instead of trying to hold on to it. Using Four ways as shortcut, there is almost simultaneous recognition and letting go of subtle manipulation with every one of the four lines. Maintaining the view feels easy and natural, non-artificial. The freedom of leaving things as they are.

My formal practice consists of ashtanga yoga from the viewpoint of awakened awareness and then some gazing practice. Often the bluish cloud already appears during the yoga practice, the experience melts, there is color and movement.

One night I had a dream in which I was doing my ashtanga practice and the blue colored blob was hanging in the air as usual. I adjusted my eyes a little and instead of a blob, there was a detailed Tibetan syllable inside an intricate flower-like ornament hanging in midair. Again I shifted the view, the syllable turned into a blob and back to a syllable, like focusing a cameral lens. The dream changed my relationship with the abstract colors that keep appearing in formal meditation.

The gazing practice is becoming more refined, more automatic, deeper. I am noticing subtle difference in the quality of awareness after the gazing. It is easier to see the quality common in all sense perceptions, like tuning to a different frequency of experience. People sitting in the train, patches of sunlight, reflections on surfaces, landscape rolling outside. The view becomes a kind of flat and ethereal in a translucent way. Like ice dissolving into liquid, liquid dissolving into pools of light, then mixing together. I am touching this source more often during daily life, all tension momentarily flushed away.

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Five Day Retreat, Fourth Day

I woke up late with a headache, practiced yoga, meditated and I did some physical work outside, but soon it became too dark to do anything. I felt the energy slowly stabilizing in the body.

Tonglen practice seemed to have a life of it’s own. Various conditions arising in my body-mind during the sit alerted me of various aspects of suffering common to all sentient beings. When the special state of mental silence arose, I gave it away to all sentient beings and breathed in the suffering involved in having a busy out-of-control thinking mind. When I felt striving or struggling, I breathed in the futile struggle common to all beings and gave them all equanimity I have ever had.

As a response to loneliness, sickness, confusion, desire, physical pain and so forth, I ended up giving away my mental clarity, equanimity, skillful parenting (that hurt!), physical health, happy marriage (ouch!) and so on. The developing dialogue between somewhat uncomfortable suffering that I was breathing into my heart space with every in breath and with the positive qualities (most of the time) joyfully given away with every out breath was interesting to watch. As a result of this I definitely felt more open, tender and connected with all beings and less attached to various aspects of my own happiness and wellbeing. The increased awareness of numerous positive qualities present in my life was remarkable.

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Five Day Retreat, Third Day

Ashtanga yoga, Guru Yoga, Tonglen, Six Lamps Gazing

I haven’t done Ashtanga yoga for a while, except for the standing series as a warm-up before sitting. There was a new delicate taste to the flow movement and stillness. Qualities of stability and ease were distinctly coloring the sitting practice afterwards in an intriguing way. Perhaps reviving the old Ashtanga routines might be worth the effort. It is also worth noticing how the intense flow of energy resulting from vigorous asana practice is just a hair tip’s away from noticing the qualities of awareness-space. Too bad nobody was able to point this out to me during my Ashtanga days.

Feeling of tenderness was very much on foreground the whole day as a result of Tonglen. I found the practice helpful for letting go of subtle layers of clinging during the gazing. The colors and forms were very active today.

Lying on my back after the breakfast, I fell asleep but the awareness did not dim this time. I found myself looking at the ceiling, alive with geometric patterns, through my closed eyelids.

In the evening a lot of old emotional stuff came up, loneliness, hurt, desire, embarrassment, insecurity. I took in loneliness of all sentient beings and in return gave them all the friends I have had and feeling of friendship ever felt or will ever feel in future, opening, accepting, releasing. A sudden realization emerged, like a stab of pain, how much dependent I still am on other people and not nearly so ready for intense solitary practice as I had thought. This thought did not leave me for some time.

I ended up having a major energy imbalance which prevented me from sleeping, despite everything I tried. How frustrating.

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Five Day Retreat, Second Day

The days are short here up north, so I spent most of my time in candle light or in total darkness. Guru yoga, Tonglen, Six lamps gazing.

I found Ken McLeod’s presentation of Tonglen, Tibetan practice of taking in the suffering of all sentient beings and sending them happiness and joy, very detailed and practical. It felt particularly useful to do a variation of the practice for those parts of my own being that are hurt, shut off and denied and as a result a lot of interesting old stuff started to come up: shame, insecurity and anger. The practice of Tonglen made it possible to deeply accept and re-integrate past experiences into the unbounded wholeness, which resulted in a lot of energy and tears.

The relationship between the simulation we live in (unified display of awareness) and the ”real world” became one bit clearer for me today: how the notion of world out there is a compelling illusion, in reality a fake built out of concepts, pure conjecture. All ”things” in it are created by mental processes of inferring and labeling. We move into this construct and call it a world. By this we gain a seemingly comprehensive system that comes with a (false) sense of orderliness and security but loose the vivid liveliness of the direct experience.

Inference aside, in reality all we have is this simulation we call mind. It is just an experience, a transparent cloud of body sensations, seeing, hearing and thinking, but there is nothing else. A lot of stuff momentarily arising, aware of themselves. The moment this simulation comes into being we are alone and still we are alone when one day it will inevitably end. All people and relationships in between are illusions, easily making the imaginary agent feel lonely. This is the unrelenting consequence of seeing true nature of experience before seeing a bit more.

After sitting a lot, I lied on my back, grounding my being deeply into the infinite space below, finding the natural glow of compassion in space stripped of everything else.

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Five Day Retreat

Despite the lack of motivation to write about the unfolding experience, I am pushing myself to the keyboard to keep this journal alive and continuous.

During the past couple of months there has been a new feeling of tenderness in my practice off the cushion. It can be felt as a subtle hue coloring the experience or brief flashes of sacredness inherent in everyday objects and tasks, almost like this reality is made of something other than physical matter. It is not at all impossible to think that this Buddha mind is somehow living in a bigger Buddha mind consisting of trees, clouds and lamp posts and there is a very fine border between the two, a bubble of subtle duality that might not survive forever. There is a distinct sense of softness and wonder in that mystery.

I have felt the call of compassion practices, compassion that dissolves boundaries and opens up blockages. I have found this energy useful for maintaining the View during the daily life. How fortunate it was that I stumbled on Ken McLeod’s web site, the Unfettered Mind, just before starting the retreat. His teachings, like 37 Practices of an Bodhisattva and Mahayana Mind Training, were just the right kind of material for me at this moment.

First Day, Evening

I had a precious opportunity to dedicate a few days just for practice at the darkest time of the year. So why not make the darkness as one of the central themes of the retreat? I traveled in the evening by bus through the pitch black countryside, walking small roads to my retreat hut, cold sleet slamming against my face and soaking me in a couple of minutes. Luckily I knew the way, but still had some hard time finding the place in darkness.

Some days before starting the retreat I have felt strange reluctance and a kind of fearful anticipation. Now the arrival through desolate darkness brought up foreboding and fear. Fear of what? Uncertainty, not-knowing.


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Non-meditation is penetration daily life and sleep in a way not experienced before. The energy volume is constantly increasing and the luminosity and self-sustaining aspects are spontaneouly coming to the forefront of the experience. Subtle bubbles seems to be breaking.

On the cushion the cycle of Guru yoga, tummo, Guru yoga has become uninterrupted flow of awakened awareness, feeding itself and gathering momentum. Bliss, sacredness, softness and intensity are reaching record levels during the practice, manifesting themselves in unexpected ways. At times the forms and colors spontaneously appear superimposed over the view of the room tinted with rainbow colors, even before switching to the gazing part. The gaze is continuous, effortless and bright deepdive into the heartspace.

Dreams are often bright, trembling with hidden meaning and sometimes exploding into clouds of colored particles. At times I find myself spontaneously gazing geometric patterns in a dream.