Practice log: Otto’s muscle – part 2

I have now practiced about two weeks with Otto’s muscle and feel reasonably sure about the phenomenology of the twitching to write about the progress.

My practice in the first week was anapanasati with focus on the upper lip, while at the same time trying to feel the fluttering of the right levator muscle, as it happened while breathing in and breathing out.

The first days it was actually quite difficult to experience those contortions clearly. Even with slow or shallow breathing there is movement happening in the nasal passages. The sinuses excert a minimal counterforce on the in-breath; the movement of the breath changes the temperatures in the inside of the nose; the in-breath thouching the palate and the back of the throat conjure a feeling of depth. The complex of facial sensations masked at first the contraction of the levator muscle.

Because I had to look closely there was the positive side effect of an increase in alertness. This helped me to decipher what was happening on a micro-level and develop a feeling for the „signature“ of the particular contraction: how it builds up, how it releases and how it feels from within. This in turn helped me to carry the practice into the daily life. With the increased resolution on the fluttering of the muscle it became evident how (very) often this muscle contracts.

Originally I had planned to correlate the contortions with what I call „stances“ – – certain coming-togethers of mind and living body, felt from within (e.g. extensions and orientations of awareness, changes of perspectival vantage points, gradations of being in the body). The problem was, though, that the levator muscle basically always twitched, even in deeper samadhi. I followed a number of hunches with regard to stances but the tick was stronger. It is so habitually ingrained in the breathing process that it seems to have a life of its own, a kind of parasitic energy. Attending to the muscle (or even just intending to do so) increases the propensity of the muscle to tick. Or put differently: At the end of the first week I had the feeling that by attenting to the phenomenon I am actually feeding it.

So instead of experimenting with different stances with the hope of letting conditions materialise by themselves which would lead to less twiching, I decided to try to simply suppress the twitching actively with brute force. At the end of the first week I therefore switched the meditation object, from upper lip to the tonus of the levator muscle, with the explicit intent to thwart the contortions.

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