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habit log 1/12/19

[posting late as I was too tired to edit this last night]

OK, so week 2. At least this time there is something to record. I’m going to get the broad summary out of the way first, because one particular item will require more attention than the rest. In brief:

– read a book for 30m+ every day
↳ Start of the week was ropey but easily cancelled out by the end of the week. Have done a lot of proper long-form reading as well, so I feel I easily met this one.

– 30m+ of exercise 4+ days a week
↳ Jumping straight back into it after a long break, and allowing for my arm injury, 30m may have been a bit ambitious. But I’ve been doing 20m *every* day, and at this point I feel confident that I’ll be able to go back to the gym properly in January – the rotation exercises have really helped with my arm.

– sensory exercises for 20m a day while walking
↳ Have done this on the days I’ve gone into town, which were fewer this week. Nevertheless I’m not too worried because….

– concentration meditation for 10m+ a day
↳ AHAHAHA, SEE BELOW

– play guitar/sing for an hour 4+ days a week
↳ Failed badly. Have played for about 30m twice this week, which is nothing like enough. Frustrating as well, because I enjoyed it.

– play harmonica for 30m 4+ days a week
↳ Nada. Zilch. Zero. This is one I really need to get self-authoritarian about, I’ve dropped it entirely.

Onto the story of the week.

***

As you may know, I had a pretty big experience this week. I don’t want to go over any of that again, but suffice to say I came away with plenty of motivation to apply myself anew to mind tourism. In terms of raw time spent, every day since I’ve meditated twice a day for anywhere between 50m to 2-3h. I’ve also found elements of meditative practice presenting themselves in my daily experiences and routine. In short, I’ve easily met my goals for the week, and then some and some and some. So how has that been?

Well, to get the most obvious question out of the way, I haven’t had any experiences of the same intensity, and had no disassociative events. However, that’s not to say I’ve gotten nowhere – far from it. I have had 3 meditative sessions where I experienced palpable, significant pleasure, of equivalent intensity to smoking a joint or having 2-3 drinks, with attendant affects for 1-2 hours afterwards. They weren’t the full-blooded, MDMA-esque rush of a few nights ago, but I was literally laughing to myself at how ridiculously enjoyable it was – that there was basically an accessible lab of reproducible highs in the mental attic. I’ve also had meditative sessions that were strange, and some that were frustrating. But above all, every single session has been a completely different kind of experience to my previous meditating. This had mostly consisted of ‘sit and breath and try not to fidget as the weird music plays’. Perhaps some of the contrast is down to doing it intensely and for longer periods by myself, versus in short mandated bursts in a group setting. The key take-away from this first week of serious practice is that there is an entire aspect of experience that until now I’d had no exposure to. You can explore the mind and experience things that are difficult to put into words, but are definitely real.

As I said earlier, an interesting secondary effect of this practice has been to see elements of it bleed into my day-to-day experience. I’ve begun to notice more and more granularity in aspects of perception, and a slight but noticeable reduction in internal monologue – always at the same time. When I’m just going around being ‘normal’, things look like they always do and there’s all the usual stuff going through my head – songs, idle speculation, Walter Mitty nonsense. But when I begin to really focus on my sensory data, and start to notice the finer features, my internal monologue just recedes. Concentrating on the here and now really does seem to quiet the mind. I should stress though that the effects are still temporary; I don’t yet feel any definite persistent changes, even if ‘getting into gear’ as it were is becoming easier.

Another interesting thing is that meditating can be kind of… exhausting. A great session leaves you feel excited and buzzing, a frustrating session can leave you feeling, well, frustrated. But both take effort and concentration, and so unsurprisingly, I have found my head feeling a little bit wrecked afterwards. It’s still fundamentally a good feeling, but it reminds of when I’d do a really hard stint in the gym and barely be able to climb the stairs the next day. It’s good, and you’ve banked it, but boy do you feel it.

Lastly, it’s really, really clear to me now that practice is key. I can feel certain things hovering at the periphery of my concentration, and in chasing them I often fumble. But there’s a definite sense that these things are really there, and accessing them is a matter of skill, not delusion or mysticism or pot luck. So on that note, see you next time…

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