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TOPIC: Coaching Post Stream Entry

Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 09:07 #7592

So part of what got me back to the forums is my friend, George's, request for help in becoming enlightened. I see myself more as a meditation coach in this case than a teacher - and for some reason the subtle difference in connotation makes a difference to me.

It was very clear to me that George - simply through knowing him and through his descriptions of how he experienced his "Self" that he had some degree of enlightenment - that is, he was at least a stream enterer. He also seemed to have a solid grasp of formations which according to Ingram, suggests that he had gotten 3rd path. Yet when he asked for help, he wasn't sure that he was able to get access concentration! Now this is someone who has been meditating for over 30 years - a hardcore IOT magician who very clearly had had experiences of "gnosis" which correspond to 4th jhana - and can produce this reliably. So we cleared up his misconceptions about what access concentration really is, and helping with diagnosis seemed to greatly help from a psychological point of view.

(As a side-note, I'm not sure he didn't get 3rd path very recently - we were talking about formations and he mentioned that when he took an actual physical object as the object of meditation that he had synesthetic sensations of "coldness" if it is a metallic object, etc. Then he asked, "Is that my imagination, or is it real?" I responded "Yes." That was kind of a breakthrough moment for him and it lead to a very interesting conversation about "essences", and how they varied from the Platonic forms and how Aristotle conflated form with essence, etc. Anyway, the discussion seemed to lead to a transformation of his experience of meditation as well.)

At any rate, what I have him doing is Samatha work, (though he's alternating that with Vipassana). The basic idea I have is that 4th path occurs on it's own and my job is to simply assure myself that there are no barriers to it actually occuring - that is, that his "physioenergetic development" is complete - I figure the best way to do that is to make sure he can access all 20 of Kenneth's basic strata of mind. If he can do all that, I'm going to make sure he has extracted the basic insights on each level - kind of creating a series of drills.

Would anyone else do anything differently? I'm interested in any thoughts that anyone has.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 10:34 #7596

I would concur that samatha practice is just what the doctor ordered (pun intended) for someone at the point you believe this person is, David. Fourth Path does happen in some mysterious way, on its own, though the transition does seem to be tied to some level of frustration with a person's "status quo" practice post 3rd path and the ability to relax enough (thus samatha practice) to see what they could not otherwise see.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 10:56 #7597

I think it depends a lot of the individual. I try to get a sense for what the person is hung up on that needs to work itself out and just use conversation to explore that. A really common thing is getting hung up on specific practice techniques, as if this or that practice, done exactly right and repeated with ever greater frequency will mechanically cause awakening. People with really driven personalities can get into this and depending on how long they've been at it it can be hard to break loose.

Some people have a lot of feelings of unworthiness that get exacerbated in late stages, and working through explorations of the falsity of those beliefs is helpful.

Some people get lost in complicated theories about awakening and keep trying to match their experiences to some book or traditional system or map instead of looking at what's true in their own experience right now. If they've had a long history in a rigid tradition this can be hard to let go of. They aren't having some special experience their lama used to rave about, and they figure until they get that they can't wake up.

Rejection of certain aspects of experience as not appropriate - such as I should only feel this or that, not wanting to include fear, etc - is a related tendency. This is most prominent in people who are not comfortable with their emotions.

And then there are the combinations of the above.

So these are the kinds of patterns I look for and try to help the person recognize the pattern and sit with it and let it work itself out.

Is that helpful?
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 12:32 #7599

I think that is stuff that may be helpful in the future - luckily most of that doesn't apply to this individual - but I'm going to ask about whether feelings of unworthiness or questions of appropriateness are coming up.

Most of my approach to the other stuff you mention would be to get them to do something "completely different." Kind of the Monty Python approach to meditation coaching. How do you handle it?
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 14:28 #7600

Well, for me 4th path transition was very different than the previous 3 paths. All the usual caveats that applied to the previous 3 paths did not apply to this one. In fact, I think this one is very much fostered by a certain amount of frustration, anxiety, and a deepening desire to just get the thing done, period. So it's possible that all the complexities that negatively affect the other 3 paths may not be so much an issue for the 4th path transition and, in fact, being frustrated with one's practice, one's predicament, one's inability to just continue on as before, may just be what pushes us over the cliff.

I think the key to 4th path is to let go enough to let nature take its course.
Last Edit: 22 Oct 2012 14:29 by Chris Marti.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 22 Oct 2012 18:40 #7601

David wrote:
I think that is stuff that may be helpful in the future - luckily most of that doesn't apply to this individual - but I'm going to ask about whether feelings of unworthiness or questions of appropriateness are coming up.

Most of my approach to the other stuff you mention would be to get them to do something "completely different." Kind of the Monty Python approach to meditation coaching. How do you handle it?

I probably wouldn't change their meditation practice around, just literally offer the questions. For example Alan once gave me the question "Why are you so driven?" (when I was in a real spin of waking up at night to meditate, barely sleeping, meditating over and over during the day) and my assignment was to really think it through. Not during meditation, but as a sort of essay question. I wrote and rewrote the answers to that over the course of a week, I had dreams about it, I went for long walks in the woods and talked out loud to myself, and by the end of the week my answers had completely changed. So it can just be that kind of ponder, supplemental to just sitting.

Another time it was "What part of you is bad?" when I fell into a "I'm not worthy of awakening" spin.

And so on.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 24 Oct 2012 11:47 #7615

I think samatha practice is a good prescription, with one potentially important caveat. I think samatha practice can get a bit to narrow and tight, especially when focusing on jhanas or so-called "mind strata." It's possible to push all the way through to the other side with this kind of practice, but it's a rough, hot, energetic ride. It can be pretty uncomfortable if not taken slowly, so it might be a good idea to provide some sort of disclaimer.

The other approach is to practice samatha in a more relaxed, open, expanded way; maybe even with eyes open. Ironically (or perhaps even paradoxically), this approach can actually be more difficult, as there is so much less to "do." But the results are much more balanced energetically, and the resultant awareness much more stable. Qi gung is a wonderful compliment to cultivating this type of practice.

I think both approaches are effective and beneficial, so it just depends on which appeals more to the individual practitioner. I personally spent much more time on the former, which is where the majority of life shattering insights came through. I'm just now discovering the latter, and finding it to be a better fit for me at this time. Once a certain degree of confidence is attain with regard to a nondual view, the practice can settle down and stabilize much more naturally.

As an aside, one of these days I'd like to open up a discussion about the 20 Strata hypothesis and method; both its merits and flaws. I think the topic deserves its own thread, but I don't have much time to devote to it at present.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 29 Oct 2012 09:17 #7630

I definitely think we should open a discussion thread on the 20 strata method - so far I like it the best, and would be interested in what people see as the pros and cons. For me it was definitely the best way to get a diagnosis.
I think samatha practice can get a bit to narrow and tight, especially when focusing on jhanas or so-called "mind strata." It's possible to push all the way through to the other side with this kind of practice, but it's a rough, hot, energetic ride. It can be pretty uncomfortable if not taken slowly, so it might be a good idea to provide some sort of disclaimer.


For George he had been doing Vipassana for years and hadn't felt he was making much headway and he can do "uncomfortable". I have been working on the theory that concentration and insight tend to leverage each other - that is, if you can't concentrate then you aren't going to be able to go very deep in insight practice. This along with my idea that enlightenment is a neurodevelopmental process and Ken's physioenergetic development theory gave me the idea of having him master the jhana states including the PL states, and then go back to a pure Vipassana practice. Actually what George has been doing is a 45 minute set of jhana work followed by 45 minutes of Vipassana, which is specifically against what Ingram recommends in MCTB, but seems to be working out pretty nicely.
The other approach is to practice samatha in a more relaxed, open, expanded way; maybe even with eyes open. Ironically (or perhaps even paradoxically), this approach can actually be more difficult, as there is so much less to "do." But the results are much more balanced energetically, and the resultant awareness much more stable. Qi gung is a wonderful compliment to cultivating this type of practice.

Interesting that you bring this up - George has typically meditated with his eyes open, and was having trouble getting to even 4th jhana. I suggested that he close his eyes for this work, and he got to 7th in two days. He said, "Getting through jhanas 1-4 is a breeze with your eyes closed!" This engendered a discussion about the merits of eyes open vs closed. Austin in "Zen and The Brain" is a huge proponent of meditating with eyes open - his point is that from a neurological point of view it would be easier to integrate meditative processes in waking life if one practiced with eyes open. My own opinion is that it would be very difficult to get to and through the formless realms with eyes open the first time - the sensations are so subtle, that it would be difficult to discriminate between them. So what I advised George to do is to get to them with eyes closed, and then we'll reopen his eyes and have him do it that way.

My plan is to actually create a drill where he is in each jhana state for 3-5 minutes on the meditation timer, and have him go up and down with eyes closed for two weeks, then reopen his eyes and do the same thing for the next two weeks. Then we'll move to pure Vipassana, and have him do that drill once a month. What do people think of Vipassana with eyes open vs closed?
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2012 09:19 by David. Reason: fix HTML,
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 29 Oct 2012 15:47 #7633

Random stuff trawled from my memoirs:

Surrender practice is nice: while it is still a practice, something to do (rather than the cessation of doing), it roughly points in the right direction at least. Also, it can soften the tight focus of samatha.

Spending time in the presence of a person considered to be "done" is also an old trick. While I don't buy the "transmission" propaganda, there is something that goes on in such an encounter, even if it's only seeing how ordinary a highly realized being is.

Since he's a good magician, he could divine the exact date of when he'll pop. That'll give him something to get worked up about. Forget all about how shitty it's right now - the exam date, the moment of truth, is rapidly approaching OMG! :woohoo:

Cheers,
Florian
Last Edit: 29 Oct 2012 15:48 by Florian Weps.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 29 Oct 2012 17:41 #7636

For me surrender practice was important in large part because it helps undermine this idea that you have to do specific things (learn certain skills, carry out certain techniques, be very good at certain things, earn awakening through scoring points, etc) in order to awaken. And because post-awakening surrender practice has been (at least for me) the "core practice" that seems relevant.

The game of divining a date works genius - I did it, most of Alan's students have done it and it's very effective. I did it by invoking Tempe (see BH website) and asking him to give me a date. Divination of other sorts should do similarly. Whether through vision or divination tool, you also end up with a set of signs and symbols that start to manifest as the date approaches, adding to the urgency and Great Doubt.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 29 Oct 2012 17:43 #7637

Re: eyes open/shut: I find/found that eyes open tends to discourage altered states (including jhanas, I'd guess, though I rarely did jhana practice) and is thus good for noticing what's really here right now. Closed eyes help with any sort of altered states related stuff.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 29 Oct 2012 18:23 #7638

I'm not sure about all the various altered states but the jhanas in particular are very, very useful things. They can provide a really solid base from which to observe experience sans the usual babbling of the mind and they provide a great contrast to the "normal" experience we have while being in the world. They also very clearly illustrate some of the states and stages that the Theravada system speaks to. You can get very caught up in jhanas so you have to be careful to avoid that dead end, but useful? You betcha. Sometimes it's a big help just to be able to see what's possible. Jhanas can do that for ya.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 12 Nov 2012 01:34 #7751

Just to update everyone, I think my friend got it! One down, infinite sentient beings to go!

I had him doing pure samatha work, and in his second sit of the day, doing a practice of going to 4th jhana and then switching to Vipassana. For a while he was doing Vipassana all the time, even while walking (had a fruition while crossing the street - apparently not all that safe...). I had him switch to a witness practice which he was doing quite a lot for a few weeks.

Today I told him I was going to pose him a riddle: "What is the only thing left in J8 (Neither Perception, Nor Yet Nonperception)?" He thought for a moment and commented that it was still some kind of subtle experience, and I prompted him to keep thinking and then he said "The "I"?" I told him yes, it was the Witness, and that was what had to be deconstructed to get to the PL states.

We kept on talking and finally I just asked him, "What is it that perceives the Witness?" This surprised him and he came back with "non-local awareness?" and then he started laughing, and he laughed for a long time- over the next few minutes he realized that the Witness didn't really perceive anything - that there was nothing but this non-local awareness - as Chris once put it a long time ago - recursive nonduality... Anyway, how do you know if someone really got 4th Path? He's saying the right things - we had spoken once about how the last one was more of a hermenuetic shift than an experience - and he spoke about how insanely ordinary it felt... At any rate, it seemed an important insight, and I encouraged him to continue to practice anyway.
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 12 Nov 2012 04:32 #7753

Nice. One can have that exact insight and still not quite wake up - lapsing back into whatever other stuff that hasn't finished working itself out. As you say the key is to stick with the same practice, not become a gloating idiot. Give it a week - if he's just having a moment of insight that isn't sticky, then so be it, it will be clearly apparent. I know of two people personally who had that insight, laughed their asses off, and then had another couple of months of dark night stuff and ups and downs before it finally all came together.

I have occasionally met people who on first impression I assumed were awake because of the way they taught or wrote or talked, but invariably in longer personal conversations the barriers will show up - things they don't like, things they aren't comfortable with, sticky spots around dogma and beliefs, not quite getting a question or comment I make, etc. A couple of times I've been quite surprised by this because they said all the right things in their teachings.

But most of the time if someone emails the "hey, I had this experience, am I awake?" question I usually know the answer in a couple of paragraphs based on what they are paying attention to and fascinated by, and the underlying motives in the conversation (ie a sense the person wants the praise of a teacher, wants someone to grant them status, etc. - quite common). And it's easy to spot the kids trying to fake it by using lots of terminology they picked up on a forum somewhere. ;) Defensiveness (when criticized) starts dropping away radically as the clinging to sense of self falls apart. This means people are more likely to say "you are so right, I'll work on that" when given zen whacks.

People who have really woken up tend to be quite humbled or perhaps disoriented, rather than gloating about it. It never meets their expectations, so that in itself is a good marker. In fact it's often a rather disappointing experience, in a sense - not the fireworks you kept imagining. More like "really? that's all? it's just this simple?" And a recognition of how idiotic the whole endless struggle with practice was tends to be quite evident at first.

Helpful? Mileage may vary...
Last Edit: 12 Nov 2012 04:34 by Ona Kiser. Reason: clean up stray sentence I didn't finish...
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 12 Nov 2012 08:45 #7754

"Anyway, how do you know if someone really got 4th Path?" -- David

You can't know for sure, David, but your friend is indeed saying things consistent with 4th path attainment. In my experience, when I hear someone describe the "event" and the resulting experiences it's just downright obvious if they have the attainment. Also in my experience, this is something that cannot be faked to someone who has the attainment, like you do. So if you think your friend got there he probably did.

YMMV
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 12 Nov 2012 09:35 #7757

Ona Kiser wrote:
I know of two people personally who had that insight, laughed their asses off, and then had another couple of months of dark night stuff and ups and downs before it finally all came together.

Raises hand!
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 13 Nov 2012 13:31 #7785

Ona Kiser wrote:
People who have really woken up tend to be quite humbled or perhaps disoriented, rather than gloating about it. It never meets their expectations, so that in itself is a good marker. In fact it's often a rather disappointing experience, in a sense - not the fireworks you kept imagining. More like "really? that's all? it's just this simple?" And a recognition of how idiotic the whole endless struggle with practice was tends to be quite evident at first.

Yeah he's definitely anything but gloaty - actually the metaphorical language he's using to describe his insight is better than I could do. And interestingly, he can now hit the PL states when he could not before - maybe some collateral evidence?

He had this great disturbing dream last night: He was hanging out with his friend, Mike (espouses the dharma but does not truly grasp or live it), and his wife (intensely pragmatic). In the living room of his house was his old statue of the Buddha (not the one he meditates with, but rather a primarily decorative object, and a new Buddha that he had been given as a gift but that he had not yet seen. His friend is hanging out in the basement (a place of habitual activities for him), and his wife on the front porch. When he walks into the living room, both Buddhas have been shattered (even the one he had not yet seen). He asks his friend and his wife which one of them had broken the Buddhas (knowing that they were the only ones who could have done it) and they both act like it's a ridiculous question, angering him...
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Re: Coaching Post Stream Entry 13 Nov 2012 14:27 #7793

Interesting about the dream. I had a very vivid nightmare a few days after waking up: a guy came to leaf-blow the yard. He wanted to know where to put the fallen leaves. I said we used to put them there (pointing), but everything's changed and now we can't. He revved up the leaf blower and in 30 seconds had blown all the leaves into oblivion. There was nothing but bare ground. I was rather unhappy about it, but thought "well, there's nothing I can do about it now." Later in the dream some teenagers were destroying my garden and house, smashing through the walls. The gang leader was wearing a shirt with a laughing buddha on it, with an arrow through the buddha's head. Then they dug a grave for me in the driveway....

:)
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Coaching Post Stream Entry 24 Jun 2015 10:24 #99339

This is such a great thread!
I realize it's also an old thread but I dug it up in my exploration of the site, and enjoyed it.
(btw - hi. I'm Doug, the new guy.)

David you sound like a great coach. As a noob (not as far along as your friend was) even following along seemed helpful.
And it was really fun to live your friends path vicariously. :)
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