Practice log: Otto’s muscle – part 4

After two full days and long nights of diligent practice in the context of said „meditative experiment“ it seems as if I have found resonances between „the muscle“ (involuntarily twitching right levator muscle of the nose and upper lip, see above) and „stances“ (lived experience of ensembles of mind and body, felt from within).

TL;DR: Contractions cease when I stop trying to visualise the muscle and rather feel it from within, while at the same time holding one or more meditation objects
in awareness.

Longer report:

(Meditative experiments invigorate my practice. New relations crop up, with fresh meanings. The zest and fun and sense of accomplishment which comes from experimenting has a flip side, though. I run the risk of either seeing too much or too little progress from the experiment. Put differently: If there are no discernable effects after a short while of practicing, I tend to get disenchanted and drop it. On the other hand, and that’s what’s happening with the current experiment, if there is a positive effect I tend to exaggerate its degree => Intention: I need to discount and continue to investigate …)

… the preliminary results from tapering off the twitching of the muscle:

  • Breath movements in the nasal passages are less turbulent, more laminar.
  • The levator muscle does not buck off the attention anymore.
  • Awareness is more extensively „soaked into“ the focal points.
  • Less holding around the center of the face and the middle of the head.

There are two different modes of imagination: visualising with the mind’s eye, and connecting to the feeling from within. The former is often the default mode I fall into, and that’s what’s happened last week. Feeling from within, on the other hand, is more a slipping into a particular groove, with a holding of a somewhat more indirect stance in relation to the imaginal focus.

I experience visualisation as highly perspectival. If I focus my mind’s eye onto an area of the body, I often feel the eye making a saccade towards that body part, even when the eyes are closed. It’s as if visualisation uses the physical eyes to enforce the perspective of me being at the one point and whatever I visualise being at the other end of attention.

Feeling the levator muscle from within also has attentional quality, but with much less (sometimes even without any) beam-like perspectiveness. Observation: With less perspective-making comes less twitching. There is a feeling of spatial proximity of the levator muscle and the awareness in which it appears – – the muscle can be „soaked in awareness“. The stronger this co-occurance of the awareness and the knowing of the muscle is, the less the latter wants to tick.

I had had the right hunch how it works (see OP), but I got the causality wrong. The twitch does not cause any quiver in awareness, as I had originally thought. It’s more like that there is pespective-making co-occuring when the levator twitches. It’s as if visualising the muscle conjures a distance between what’s looking and what I am looking at. Any panoramic awareness I might have felt before the perspectival attention is happening is then nudged off-center, for a microscopic moment.

At this point of the practice regimen the „blip“ of the contraction of the muscle registers even if I am not attending to it. If I check my stance immediately after being reminded by the ticking muscle, I can see that perspective-making has been going on. The muscle is obviously a very sensitive device to indicate the presence of perspective-making. I am really well versed in feeling the body from within (i.e. skillful letting go of perspective-making), but the twitching tells me that there is more to learn. That’s something to be grateful for!

I have thus dropped seeing the contraction as a parasite. I believe a more skillful way of understanding is that I am probably habitually leaning slightly towards holding a perspectival stance, emenating from in here and landing on the attentional focus out there. I suspect that this stance is the default one, even if I am explicitely holding a stance of all-around awareness in mind. There is thus always some subliminal perspective-making ready to act out. Any lapse of mindfulness, particularly while walking, is then co-opted by that perspectival stance.

I am thus far from a stable self-correcting equilibrium. But that’s hardly news to me. Resting squarely in the body, felt from within, that’s a challenging perception attainment, especially if I try to carry it from the cushion into the daily life. On the other hand – after the connection between the twitching muscle, perspective making and awareness has become more obvious – I can now merge the experimenting with the levator muscle into standard awareness practice.

That’s the reason why I currently work with the intention of „holding one or more meditation objects in awareness“ (see the TL;DR at the beginning of this post). Multi-focal awareness works as an antidote to uni-focal perspective-making, that’s a tool I regularly work with. There is this visceral feeling which accompanies the „gelling“ of the awareness in the focal points. With the „twitch indicator“ I should now be able to recognise perspective-making faster and find ways to prevent it from arising, thus paving the ground for all-around awareness.

In the coming days I am going to test the different ways which give rise of multi-focal awareness. I will put those techniques in another post, together with some terminology (currently not yet worked out).

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