Practice log: Otto’s muscle – part 3

It turns out that it is quite difficult to suppress the twiching actively. Furthermore, all that efforting to keep in mind to relax the leads to a confused experience: Sometimes it is not possible to disguish between the muscle being sore, relaxed or tense.

I am therefore working with an even tighter focus than just on the muscle itself: I now try to intercept and freeze the moment where I tick. The protocol starts with a light samadhi w/o piti, just to gather focal resolution. I then begin with the in-breath, pause it, relax the levator muscle, then continue with the next stretch of the in-breath, pause, relax and so on, until the in-breath transitions into the out-breath. After a couple of minutes have passed I can try to reduce the number of pauses per in-breath. For now I ignore what’s happening on the out-breath, because I experience the pausing on the out-breath to be more forced than on the in-breath.

My first idea to stop the twiching was to tense both the right and the left levator muscles and hold them in balance. It works, but it obviously defeats the purpose: I want to relax any holding, not duplicate it. Furthermore, this technique does not always succeed in tricking the tick into pacification, by no means. The rate of success seems to depend on how symmetric the holding sensation in both levators is. The slightest imbalance is enough to let the contortion on the right side express itself forcefully.

Even if I succeed for an in-breath I can feel the twitching beneath the surface. Eventually the muscle ticks and disturbes the attention. For a very slight moment it feels as if I was oriented somewhere else, a moment ago. Before and after that moment I am in close contact with the meditation object, but suddenly the right levator ticks and there is some time-out happening. I do not experience the interruption, but I know it happened because the mind feels for a moment as if it lost its step.

What is striking is that the levator muscle often ticks at the same points in the breathing cycle, i.e. energises and releases after the same fraction of time has passed since the onset of the in-breath. This helps me to time the pauses correctly, i.e. immediately before the contortion of the muscle. This feels like a promising approach because the pause is an opportunity to check my „stance“ – – how I feel from within, mind and lived body. The whole practice presents as an invitation to train certain stances, not yet targeted directly at the tick but on the stance with which I greet the moment of the twitch.

I have made progress with a stance which feels from the inside as if I was fully behind the breath, symmetrically. I find it easier to do so when I hold some breath energy in the belly and replenish it on the in-breath. This acts as a counterbalance and lightens the load on the holding in the nose. As a result, the muscular action in the levator has softened. It is still impacting the attention but the jolts are less disorienting. I don’t trust this development yet, though.

The twiching of the levator muscle continues to be captured by the intention to attend to it. As a result the practice is more like a dialogue between the attending to the muscle tonus and the sensing of the stance, not a coming together of both attentional qualities at the same moment. There is nevertheless a quiet promise of a wholesome resonance which helps me to stick with the practice. Samadhi is strong and has been getting brighter the last days.

I need to be careful that the twitching does not relocate from the levator muscle to some other place in the bodymind. There is a knowing that the energetic phenomenon is able to sign up other muscles to help it to hold onto something. Intention: strong and relaxed shoulders, psoas, pelvic floor.

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