This is my online mediation journal, posted in several parts. It was originally posted entirely on Kenneth Folk Dharma on the dates you will see on each post listed below. This was the first online journal started at KFD. Kenneth Folk somehow talked me into the process. There were times when it felt naked, raw, and too personal to be posted on a public forum on the Internet. I did it anyway, under what is essentially my real name. Hopefully, it helped encourage many of the succeeding online journals that followed and that continue to be started and maintained today, on the new KFD, here on Awakenetwork.org, and in other places online.
What you will read is a progression that took place over the course of a few years of Theravada practice supplemented by other direct path methods, mostly Zen. In re-reading my own words I’m struck by how much change occurred in a relatively short period of time, and how my perspective continues to evolve.
May it ever be so.
April 13, 2013
Jul 30 2009, 8:40 PM EDT
Reading through Kenneth’s new discussion thread I’m reminded to ask folks here about a recurring experience that I have with some frequency. While observing an object in meditation – let’s say the breath entering and leaving my nostrils – I perceive a slow building of energy and focus. The in-breath starts to bring a very fine set of vibrations in the top of the head and an almost giddy mental feeling, sort of like a tiny whiff of laughing gas, that grows as the breath is drawn and until it is at its peak. The peak of the breath brings a sharp distinct break and when the out-breath starts that same energetic and finely vibrating giddy feeling resumes (this not a hyperventilation-like giddiness). Each successive breath slowly increases the intensity of these fine vibrations until a kind of crescendo is reached, at which point all the energy that has built up quickly flows to the observed object, appears to merge with the object and then FLASH!, an image appears, a complex image, for just a tiny fraction of a second, after which everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – winks out of existence. Pure pitch black, silent nothingness ensues (no sound, no light, no feeling, no self, no perception of any kind) and lasts for about a second or so. Then awareness reappears anew. The impression after the second or so of nothingness reminds me of the rebooting of a computer. Everything is turned completely off and then restarts.
FWIW – this is very clearly not the same as the experience of the simplest thing.
FWIW#2 – the fraction of a second image always reminds me afterward of a mandala that you see from the Vajrayana tradition or a series of tiny network nodes connected by tiny threads. Coincidence? Meaningful? Meaningless? I really just don’t know.
Thanks for your comments in advance!
Jul 30 2009, 9:26 PM EDT
You are describing, very clearly, magga-phala (path and fruition) as detailed in Theravada Buddhism. More accurately, you are describing phala (fruition), as magga (the Path moment) is a one-time event. Congratulations! This means that you are, at the very least, a sotapanna (stream-winner). This is a hugely significant marker of progress in the Theravada system. It is said that a stream-winner will be reborn a maximum of seven more times, after which time he or she will enter nibbana for the final time and not re-emerge. Tradition also has it that you can never again be reborn in the “lower” realms, meaning you can only be reborn as a human or a god. Actually, there are all kinds of really colorful and interesting (and amusing) things that you supposedly can and cannot do now, and I think you’ll get a big kick out of the Wikipedia article on sotapannas:
Jul 30 2009, 9:49 PM EDT
Whoa. This means I’ve been at that point for quite some time, say about four years. I guess I should pay more attention to the maps!
So… Kenneth, now what? Are there other things I should be carefully paying attention to? I have never paid much attention to tracking my progress thinking that in doing so I might get too bound up in it and that my focus on progress could possibly interfere with just sitting and following the instructions in Daniel’s MCTB. As I said today in Nicole’s “surrender” thread, I practice twice daily with one sitting being focused on choice-less awareness and the other sitting being focused on some form of concentration. However, I’ve been wonderfully sidetracked of late with the unbelievable lightness of being (now I really get that movie title) that is just letting go and surrenduring. It’s VASTLY more interesting and compelling than what I described above. If ever forced to choose just one practice I would give up the Lights Out in favor of surrender every time, and for the ten thousand eons. Still, what should I be doing now?
Jul 30 2009, 10:10 PM EDT (edit my post)
Kenneth, thank you for the wikipedia link. I’m glad I’m now incapable of killing my father, my mother or an arahat. I wasn’t contemplating doing so but there’s a certain comfort in knowing these things. As for not being able to “successfully create a schism in the monastic community” well, that’s true! I don’t have any idea how to do that, not being a monastic
Jul 31 2009, 10:16 AM EDT
Chris, this is fantastic! It does not come as a surprise at all, being that you always post good descriptions of you practice. It has been clear to me since I first met you in the forums that the info you provide in your comments comes from sincere practice
As far as the “Now what?” goes, I think you’re on the right track. I would place the 2nd Gear and 3rd Gear practices above any others at this point. If you’re working on developing more advance Paths with the Theravada model, I’d work on some samatha practice as well. But, my guess is that it would be better for you to stick to the surrendering practices which you have come to love. Not only is surrendering more fulfilling, it’s also a practice that can really catalyze progress. Keep it up!
Jul 31 2009, 6:00 PM EDT
Last night I listened to both parts of the Buddhist Geeks interview with Ken Wilber.
Wilber is the original and still the best of the modern map-mongers. I read his first book, *The Spectrum of Consciousness*, in 1989 and it really inspired me to get with the program and find out what all those meditation masters and sages where talking about.
According to Wilber, there is a consensus among the world’s contemplative traditions as to what the highest understanding is; it is none other than non-dual awareness. This pleases me, of course, as it happens to coincide with my view. With that in mind, you can do no better than to continue to surrender. Your own intuition is unerring on that point.
As to what else you should practice, it is very much a matter of your personal preference and your interests. If you are interested in becoming familiar with jhanas, they provide a fascinating and useful look into how our minds work at the deepest levels. And progressing through the levels of physio-energetic development (a process that is intimately related to the jhanas) to come to the end of “insight disease” is a must-do for some people, whereas for others it seems not to be a goal at all once they have access to the simplest thing. In addition to continuing to train in non-dual awareness, what most calls to you (if anything)?
Jul 31 2009, 6:52 PM EDT
Hi, Kenneth and Jackson. My interests, in order of personal importance, are:
1. Non-dual awareness
2. Non-dual awareness
3. Non-dual awareness
That said, I think the jhanas would be an interesting exploration to undertake. Your description that says they are “a fascinating and useful look into how our minds work at the deepest levels” makes me very, very curious so I might go there. I tend to be far more dedicated to those things that follow my curiosity, as I think is true of most people. Maybe you guys can suggest more books or web sites to further that aim?
I’m still digesting this little discovery.
And Jackson, I appreciate your comments. I’ve always been impressed with your knowledge and patience, as I think you know.
PS: I love Vince’s Buddhist Geeks podcast material but I’ve fallen behind on listening to them. Thanks for the head’s up on the Ken Wilbur segments, Kenneth. I’m anxiously awaiting Vince’s interview with neurologist James Austin, whose books on Zen and the brain I’ve slogged through over the past few years.
Aug 8 2009, 4:16 PM EDT
I’d like to report on my experiences of late so that others might be able to avoid the little traps and some of the confusion I’ve experienced. Turns out I’ve been experiencing Theravada fruition/cessation for a while now, but was unaware of what it was. I was practicing steadily using Daniel Ingram’s MCTB as my guide. One day I was sitting when everything whooshed into the object I was concentrating on, a very brief complex image appeared like a flash and then everything, and I do mean everything, winked out of existence. This was like hitting the off switch on your computer. Then, just as fast, everything rebooted and came back online. This winking out has continued to happen to me ever since. A week or two ago I described this process to Kenneth only to find, to my surprise, that this was pretty clearly cessation after obtaining first path.
Odd as it may seem, I had no idea this was what had been going on. I’ve been talking to Kenneth and have made a commitment to focus my practice on this ongoing process and report back here on my experiences as I try to become much more familiar with the stages of insight I’m cycling through every time the cycling occurs. This is my very first report:
I sat down to meditate this afternoon and immediately noticed that the vibrations and sensations I could feel were at a gross level. My intent was to try to invoke whatever series of insight steps I could… on the way to a cessation. What I can already report is that there is a very clear series of stages that do occur, although I’m not yet familiar enough with them to describe them all in great detail.
I’ve already mentioned the first stage, which seems to correspond with A&P. There are lots of bright lights in my field of vision and an energetic jumping around of my attention. Pretty soon this stage smoothed out and I could feel my extremities very clearly, especially my feet for some reason out of found this valuable. where there was a coolness and yet a very slight vibratory sensation. After that stage was established pretty clearly things seemed to happen fast: there was a stage during which noises were very pronounced, clunky and disturbing. There was a stage in which the colors in my field of vision turned completely white and smooth, and then a stage where the white faded to dark grey and a dark horizontal red line with a dot in the middle appeared.
Shortly after that a giddy feeling showed up and fast vibrations, centered on my forehead, arose. The vibrations crept slowly up from my forehead to the top of my head while the giddy feeling followed my breath up and down, waxing and waning in intensity. My breath slowly became more regular and deeper and the giddy feeling grew and grew, until at some point everything went POP, there was another brief flash of a bright, complex image and the lights wink out, followed after a fraction of a second by that same “rebooting” feeling as the world popped back into existence.
I was able to make it through what I believe were the same series of stages twice this afternoon.
As I practice this progression of stages more over the next few days and weeks I’ll report back on whether or not I can make the stages stand out separately better and, as Kenneth tells me I should be able to do, call up each stage independently as I become more familiar with them.
- A newbie in the throes of learning something.
Aug 8 2009, 7:56 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 8 2009, 7:56 PM EDT
Thanks for sharing this detailed description of your experiences, it’s very helpful.
I’m looking forward to reading your ongoing reports of progress. The unfolding of an adventure!
Aug 9 2009, 10:47 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 9 2009, 10:47 AM EDT
I had a new experience this morning while practicing. Instead of a single “pop” I experienced a fluttering, eyeballs-up-in-the-head kind of denouement to the process. Same stages pretty much, although prior to the fluttering there was an extended period of quiet, peaceful and easy observation. Also, I seem to notice clearly now that a fruition/cessation means the end of something and the beginning of something else. I wasn’t able to see that until I started paying attention closely, although I can’t imagine it wasn’t there all along.
Kenneth, is this new fluttering experience another door to fruition/cessation? It’s actually quite easy to call it up again after experiencing it. All I seem to have to do is make the decision to have the experience and it comes pretty quickly after that.
Aug 9 2009, 11:44 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 9 2009, 11:44 AM EDT
I know you directed your question to Kenneth, but I thought I’d chime in. Hope that’s OK.
Not long after I got Second Path, Kenneth and I had a conversation at the DhO about the three doors to fruition and how we experience them. From what I can tell, the fluttering cessations you experienced sound like anicca (impermanence) fruitions. We didn’t say much about anicca door fruitions, so it was easy to paste the relevant information below…
Me: “… From what I can tell, the anicca, or “impermanence” cessations are the most difficult for me to get a good look at. There’s quick flashing, and then I come to with a sort of disoriented feeling for just a moment.”
Kenneth: “… Anicca cessations feel to me as though some force has taken hold of my brain at the third eye area, and is rapidly wiggling my mind in and out of nibbana. They are very pleasant, and can last for several seconds. They seem to require a very subtle effort to sustain.”
Aug 9 2009, 9:01 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 9 2009, 9:01 PM EDT
That helps a lot, Jackson. Thanks! It’s very close to what I experienced this morning, especially the “wiggling” language. Fluttering is close, wiggling is better
I assume the third eye area is in the center of the forehead?
Aug 9 2009, 10:16 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 9 2009, 10:16 PM EDT
Yeah, the Third-Eye chakra is also called the Brow chakra. When energy is heavy in this nexus, the sensations stretch from just below my eye-brows up to the middle of my forehead. During Second Path, fruitions occurred when energy that was blocked up in the Brow/Third-Eye chakra transitioned up to the Crown chakra. Strange, huh? The more we pay attention to these things the more they show up.
Aug 10 2009, 4:32 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 10 2009, 4:32 AM EDT
Thanks for the report, Chris, it’s helpful to read accounts of the experiences of others as they progress along different stages and discover new territory. I’m looking forward to future installments – congrats!
Aug 10 2009, 8:33 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 10 2009, 8:33 AM EDT
“During Second Path, fruitions occurred when energy that was blocked up in the Brow/Third-Eye chakra transitioned up to the Crown chakra. Strange, huh?”
That’s a very accurate description, Jackson, of what I am facing on pretty much every sit.. There is a “tension” that builds right in that area and until cessation it stays, both on and off the cushion. It may be stronger or weaker, but it’s there.
Thanks for your contributions. And thanks, too, to n8sense.
Aug 10 2009, 11:58 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 10 2009, 11:58 AM EDT
There was a long period of time when I was experiencing a pressure at my bai hui point. The crown of my head. And a tightness in my face. The pressure at the crown is gone now. but the tightness in the face sometimes I still feel. I’m looking forward to getting back to practice; and continuing the process. It will be useful to be able to check in here once those psychophysical processes start to get going again.
Aug 10 2009, 7:15 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 10 2009, 7:15 PM EDT
A funny (as in odd) thing just happened. I’m sitting here reviewing my own descriptions of my experiences and just reading this topic has caused me to enter another cycle. I’ve got that giddy feeling all of a sudden and the tension in my forehead again. I think I’ll go sit with this and see what happens…
Aug 11 2009, 9:12 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 11 2009, 9:12 AM EDT
Note to self: you can overshoot a cessation. You can be concentrating too hard and in the wrong “way.” Hold things lightly. There is no need to bear down. Let the breath breathe itself!
Aug 11 2009, 5:24 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 11 2009, 5:24 PM EDT
“Note to self: you can overshoot a cessation. You can be concentrating too hard and in the wrong “way.” Hold things lightly. There is no need to bear down. Let the breath breathe itself!
Ah ha! Yes. An excellent reminder.
Let the breath breathe itself!
Do you find this valuable?
Aug 12 2009, 12:38 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 12 2009, 12:38 PM EDT
Items to report from last night’s sitting: there is a stage that introduces significant feelings of nausea. A real churning, sick feeling in the stomach. Must be Disgust. Then a stage which induced some twitches in my legs and a strong desire to get up and go somewhere, anywhere. I assume that is Deliverance, but I’m not sure.
One thing is becoming very certain: fruition/cessation brings a definite change of mental state and what I’ll have to call outlook for want of a better term, and it is this change of outlook that seems to mark the cessation as much anymore as it is the cessation itself, as these seem to be getting less and less clear as I experience them more. I guess paying attention has that effect. Not sure. They used to be Big Events, then speed bumps, now they’re kind of like running over a garden hose with my car.
Aug 12 2009, 12:48 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 12 2009, 12:48 PM EDT
“They used to be Big Events, then speed bumps, now they’re kind of like running over a garden hose with my car.”-cmarti
Chris, this is brilliant! This is exactly what I mean by the “wow factor.” Any new experience in meditation causes a big “Wow!” But after awhile, it’s not a big deal. How many times are you going to laugh at the same joke? It’s the mind’s natural tendency to get bored with things over time that enables us to move on to the next level. As soon as all of the phenomena of 1st Path are routine, we move on to the Progress of Insight that leads to 2nd Path, etc. If we allow ourselves to let go of each new “Wow!” phenomenon in this way, we move inexorably toward arahatship. If we let go of even arahatship, we fall into that which cannot be further reduced.
Aug 14 2009, 4:20 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 14 2009, 4:20 PM EDT
Two days away, two days full of meetings and dinners and the like. No time to sit down and meditate. While these trips mess with my regular schedule it might not be such a terrible thing to take a break once in a while.
Aug 24 2009, 7:13 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 24 2009, 7:13 PM EDT
I’m now more aware of the stages that I’m moving through as I go through each day. This past weekend was a wild ride which I believe was spent almost entirely in the stage that causes nervous breakdowns This means I was very bothered/angered/frightened by a lot of things, especially loud noises and things going on outside my direct field of vision, mainly quick movements. Saturday was thus a bad day to go see “District 9.”
Aug 25 2009, 6:36 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 25 2009, 6:36 PM EDT
After a sitting session yesterday evening something different: a pronounced zinging/tingling at the top of my head and all the way down my back. This lasted for quite some time and caused me to twitch, shiver and shake enough that my wife asked me what was going on. That never happens, so the effect was pretty pronounced. I went to sleep with the tingling still going on. The nagging pressure right in the middle of my forehead is now completely gone. Cessation was different, too, with a longer than normal period of time spent in a much darker, quieter place prior to it, and a very, very bright flash of very, very bright plain white light. The tingling sensations started almost immediately afterward. Something is different now and I’m hoping time and more sitting will tell me what it is. My general mental state is more reserved and quiet today and my mind seems more still than it has in a long time.
Aug 25 2009, 6:51 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 25 2009, 6:51 PM EDT
Good work. Continue.
And please keep us informed of how you’re doing. If adverse effects arise (due to the energies you’re experiencing veering into the wrong channels) we can help.
Aug 25 2009, 6:57 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 25 2009, 6:57 PM EDT
I veered into the wrong channel?
Aug 26 2009, 12:28 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 26 2009, 12:28 AM EDT
I feel for you, it can be real tough going through that type of territory, I’m guessing the first (few?) time(s) on a new insight cycle. I had a weekend like that at Easter this year… very tough.
‘Saturday was thus a bad day to go see “District 9.” ‘ made me laugh. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys” but I suspect I watched that movie under very simliar circumstances. I was in a very dark place, and decided a good movie might help – I was only 20 at the time so hard to say now whether it was dark night or just depression (if there’s a difference – sometimes I think there is not). Boy oh boy was that the wrong movie choice. Funny in hindsight though
Interesting to hear your updated experiences with the tingling and something being different. Exciting stuff.
Aug 26 2009, 1:33 AM EDT
Not to forget the original topic, but I had a similar movie experience in 2006 or 07. The movie was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Someone had described it as a metaphorical tour through the bardo realms. I was intrigued.
But after I watched it, I literally suspected that I was being haunted for about 2 weeks after that. I’d start my standing meditation, and would feel a sense of unmooredness and impending malevolence. It stayed with me throughout the days. And took about 2 to 3 weeks to subside.
Ironically, it was another movie that helped me out of the period. Wai Ka Fei and Jonny To’s Dai Jek Lou, english title: Running on Karma.
A funny little cinematic sidetrip.
Aug 26 2009, 2:56 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 26 2009, 2:56 AM EDT
I just want to say thank you for sharing these reports on your progress. Sounds like you’re undergoing some significant energy transitions. Breath work can be helpful in easing through energy transitions. Slow, deep, regulated abdominal breathing is particularly beneficial.
Aug 26 2009, 4:44 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 26 2009, 4:44 AM EDT
“After a sitting session yesterday evening something different: a pronounced zinging/tingling at the top of my head and all the way down my back. This lasted for quite some time and caused me to twitch, shiver and shake enough that my wife asked me what was going on. That never happens, so the effect was pretty pronounced. I went to sleep with the tingling still going on. The nagging pressure right in the middle of my forehead is now completely gone. Cessation was different, too, with a longer than normal period of time spent in a much darker, quieter place prior to it, and a very, very bright flash of very, very bright plain white light. The tingling sensations started almost immediately afterward. Something is different now and I’m hoping time and more sitting will tell me what it is. My general mental state is more reserved and quiet today and my mind seems more still than it has in a long time. – Chris (cmarti)”
In addition to the breath work, things such as Tai Chi, Qigong, or yoga asanas can be a supportive asset to your meditation practice. I’ve found that following my meditation sit with a qigong session really helps to smooth out the energy. Just a few days ago, my meditation seemed to have produced some interesting energy stuff. I followed up by doing qigong… it helped a lot.
Aug 26 2009, 8:25 AM EDT | Post edited: Aug 26 2009, 8:25 AM EDT
Thank you all for the support and the well wishes. I do want you to know that I’m fine and that I find all of these effects, occurrences and energies fascinating and a huge great adventure. It’s interesting.
And I liked District 9. My twitchy jumpiness at the time added to the drama.
Aug 31 2009, 9:18 PM EDT | Post edited: Aug 31 2009, 9:18 PM EDT
Tonight this little thread is about non-duality. I sat with all the intention in the world of doing vipassana, but other things just happened. As I was watching the world unfold the thought came: “Who is seeing this?” And then the universe revealed its luminosity as me and any thought of doing or being melted away. I got up after some indeterminate time with tears on my face. Again.
Sep 3 2009, 6:02 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 3 2009, 6:02 PM EDT
Traveling again a lot this week. Commercial airplanes, especially the window seats, are pretty convenient places to practice — as long as you don’t have a curious seatmate. My practice periods have been unremarkable with nothing ragingly new or different…. and that’s okay. I do notice a greater willingness to sit for more and longer periods of time and a new aspect of clarity (around seeing a deeper and wider field of experience all the time) and peace in general, both on and off the cushion. I seem to be able to access certain states at will now. I especially like the one I call “quiet and calm.”
Sep 3 2009, 8:06 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 3 2009, 8:06 PM EDT
Thanks for continuing to share your reflections along the way. They are like postcards from the path.
Sep 4 2009, 12:33 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 4 2009, 12:33 PM EDT
hi cmarti, congratulations! and thanks for sharing your experiences. looking forward to the ongoing adventure = )
i also attained 1st path, august 3, but on aug 10, i ended the review and was back in mind/body. i take u have been in review for more than a month now? in mine i only noticed cessation clearly about 3 times during that time. i did not have that much weird or strong energy thruout mine, one day was full of being eaten and shredded to pieces by invisible forces, but not so bad.
did u see anything extraordinary during the day u got stream entry? in mine, i dont think i remember clearly w/c exactly was the exact moment, but a couple of times that day i clearly remember seeing the world with perfect “signlessness”, like the objects in my vision were brand new, meaningless. but also in a way that allowed me to see into compassion, and how we are branches from the same tree.
Sep 4 2009, 2:45 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 4 2009, 2:45 PM EDT
I don’t remember the day much at all, mindful. It happened a few years ago. All I really remember is the cessation and a few seconds before and a few seconds after. The instant it happened is very, very clear, even now. But see, at the time it happened to me I didn’t know what it was so it carried no exceptional value or weight in my mind. Meaning is funny like that. It’s contextual.
Sep 5 2009, 2:54 AM EDT
oh ok ic. wow that was long ago. do you know what path you are in now? have u been practicing continously throughout those years?
that ‘allowing me to see into compassion, or branches of the same tree’ didn’t feel like it was just a given meaning, it felt like a truth that was touched and experienced and an emotion that was felt for the first time purely, like it is an alien feeling that i only saw that moment.
… but it felt like ‘something new’, just as cessation is ‘something new’ and alien. hmm, or maybe it was a meaningless delusion and my minds habit of applying meaning. do you remember what that complex object you saw in stream entry looked like? is it similar to the image i mentioned: like branches, or like: multi-layered sliced bread dimensions existing simultaneously?
Sep 5 2009, 10:28 AM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 10:28 AM EDT
“… what that complex object you saw in stream entry looked like?”
It looked like a complicated mandala. Another time it looked like a complex network of veins seen through thin skin, and another time it looked like a highly ornate temple. Now, if I notice it, it’s just a very quick flash of light – not much to write home about any more. I don’t place any importance on the look of it, though, and those are very, um, generalized descriptions. I’ve been practicing continuously since but I have no real clue what path I’m on. I’ve never placed a lot of importance on that part of my practice, at least until Kenneth Folk got me interested of late.
Sep 5 2009, 10:59 AM EDT
“I don’t remember the day much at all, mindful. It happened a few years ago. All I really remember is the cessation and a few seconds before and a few seconds after. The instant it happened is very, very clear, even now. But see, at the time it happened to me I didn’t know what it was so it carried no exceptional value or weight in my mind. Meaning is funny like that. It’s contextual.”
The overall structure or pattern will be repeated at every successful path completion, but your understanding of what’s going on will deepen each time. When you think about it (and I use the word “you” to mean “one” i.e. a person), our experience qua experience is all of a piece (i.e. all experience belongs to the same category of phenomena). One of the two “things” (i.e. progressive insights) that changes with our maturing practice is how deeply we understand what experience truly is. The other thing that changes is our understanding of what does NOT change, because it is NOT an experience and so does NOT display the Three Characteristics.
OK, enough abstractions. Here’s what it means where the rubber meets the road of the Path:
Awakening (which we’ll tag as being completion of Fourth Path) has exactly the same phenomenal (experiential) pattern as attaining First Path, except that it is finally understood completely. (a) Going into cessation is known and remembered. (b) Cessation is known as Awareness without any objects of experience (not even subjective experiences). (c) Emergence from cessation is known and remembered. Then you (the knower) have the “crazy” feeling that all of this is incredibly profound and important, while at the same time being perfectly ordinary and something which has always been there in the background every moment of your life. You feel blissful and bouyant. And then you do the laundry (or whatever work needs to be done).
Sep 5 2009, 11:47 AM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 11:47 AM EDT
Yes, thanks, Gozen. Very helpful.
Sep 5 2009, 12:22 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 12:22 PM EDT
Gozen, the path seems to me to be an ever increasing objectification of experience. What I mean by this is that slowly over time and through various experiences we gain the ability to see more and more of what’s going on in our experience, not as a participant but from a more objective, observational POV. I think this maps pretty well onto what you have said here and what Kenneth has explained in his written material about the path.
Question: where do you put the experience of rigpa/kensho in the model you described? I seem to be able to get to that pretty easily these days. As I described in a recent post on this thread, sometimes the mere thought of “what am I?” or “who is experiencing that?” can invoke it. I believe that experience (rigpa/kensho) is the peak experience of the path but it does not seem to map onto the four path model you and the Theravadans describe. It seems different, outside of that model to me. Yes? No?
Also, please, everyone, call me “Chris.”
Sep 5 2009, 1:38 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 1:38 PM EDT
Yes, you’re correct that development on the path involves “an increasing objectification of experience.” Instead of identifying with experience as “me” we recognize it as something that just happens, like a summer breeze. It’s “out there.”
As to your other points, let’s first examine your terminology: “the experience of rigpa/kensho”.
“Kensho” (as the term is often used) refers to an insight, but not to the permanent turnabout or transformation in “point of view” that IS Bodhi/Awakening.
“Rigpa” is the Tibetan term for the One, the Buddha-Nature, the Ultimate. Rigpa is What or Who you truly are, and thus can be recognized as being what is always already the case. But kensho/insight and rigpa are *not* experiences. Experiences are intrinsically impermanent, never completely satisfactory (even if only by virtue of their fleeting nature), and without whatever it is that we could properly call “self-nature.”
Certain experiences are associated with rigpa’s recognition (literally “knowing again” or “cognizing beyond the superficial”). But those experiences are not rigpa itself.
You may get to rigpa “pretty easily these days” because it does not map to the Theravadin four path model and rigpa is not an attainment. Rigpa is never absent; only our conscious awareness of it can come and go. I referred to the four path model (saying that we’ll tag Awakening as being completion of Fourth Path) because such a mapping is simply convenient. We find is easy to conceive of developments when they are arranged in such a map. But the map is not the territory. Just as a map of the USA leaves out the rest of the Earth, and a map of the Earth leaves out the rest of the universe, so too will any comprehensible map we make be unavoidably incomplete and therefore somewhat misleading.
Sep 5 2009, 3:36 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 3:36 PM EDT
That pretty well matches up to what I thought. It’s nice of you to spend so much time on this.
Sep 5 2009, 6:23 PM EDT
“Rigpa” is the Tibetan term for the One, the Buddha-Nature, the Ultimate. Rigpa is What or Who you truly are, and thus can be recognized as being what is always already the case. But kensho/insight and rigpa are *not* experiences. Experiences are intrinsically impermanent, never completely satisfactory (even if only by virtue of their fleeting nature), and without whatever it is that we could properly call “self-nature.”
Rigpa is never absent; only our conscious awareness of it can come and go.”
Is Rigpa synonymous with “I am” or is it the Absolute? The reason for wanting the clarification is the terms “the One” and “Ultimate” suggest it to be the Absolute. While to be consciously aware of Rigpa puts it into the realm of “I am”. I am guessing the word “conscious” may be the slippery term here. Anyway it would be good to clarify terms so the “I am” and the Absolute are not confused between traditions.
Sep 5 2009, 7:33 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 7:33 PM EDT
“Is Rigpa synonymous with “I am” or is it the Absolute? The reason for wanting the clarification is the terms “the One” and “Ultimate” suggest it to be the Absolute. While to be consciously aware of Rigpa puts it into the realm of “I am”. I am guessing the word “conscious” may be the slippery term here. Anyway it would be good to clarify terms so the “I am” and the Absolute are not confused between traditions.”
Words fail. (You know the currently popular FAIL blog? It’s like that.)
I can only take responsibility for how I used those words — the One, the Ultimate, rigpa (or Rigpa?). And then there is the term “I am” which you used. For teaching purposes in the current context, I would equate all those terms; they all mean the same thing.
But tomorrow I may say something different. I may choose to distinguish between some of these terms because I want to make a practice point. Or I may toss all those terms into the dustbin and use something else. We can easily get stuck on particular terms, reifying them into mental objects, which then become stumbling blocks in our path.
Take the word “conscious” for example. It is indeed a slippery term. In some traditions, Consciousness is IT (i.e. the One, et al). In traditional Buddhism, consciousness (small “c”) is merely the 5th skandha (aggregate). Similarly, I slid that slippery term into my sentence as an adjective modifying awareness (which is another slippery term!) in order to make the point that the BIG THING (rigpa) is un-changeable, but we see it only by the flickering light of our conscious awareness.
Sep 5 2009, 9:09 PM EDT
I like that dustbin thing. Let’s forget all the terms and go practice… and then live our lives.
Sep 5 2009, 10:46 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 5 2009, 10:46 PM EDT
“I like that dustbin thing. Let’s forget all the terms and go practice… and then live our lives.
Thanks Gozen; and I am with fully with your sentiment Chris.
My “living life” seems to be one of looking in dustbins, not helpful.
Sep 6 2009, 1:42 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 6 2009, 1:42 PM EDT
Another update this morning after meditation: there remains a stillness accessible to me that does not flee as conditions arise. Accessible at any time, it is. While it’s hard to describe the effects are quite real. It arises immediately when I sit down to meditate. It is otherwise available pretty much whenever called upon, and is very nice and calming and quiet and….well, nice, calming and quiet. I don’t know what it means, but I can actually use this in daily life, which I think is extraordinarily important. What is most noticeable is patience with other human beings and other things that are usually seen as “external” phenomena. I seem to be more prone to apologize for real and imagined slights when called out by others. This, I theorize, reflects the slow diminishing of the sense of “me” being so central to experience. Patience is a funny and somewhat unexpected expression of that, I think.
What this is not: this is not a limitation on what I can do, what I feel, or my innate reactions to what happens around me. All those things remain as they were. This is more like the ability to observe from afar that which is occurring in the immediate vicinity and see the nature of experience, as I said yesterday, from a more objective viewpoint. It is what led me to make that remark.
Maybe this is a new level of equanimity?
Sep 10 2009, 11:20 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 10 2009, 11:20 PM EDT
Nothing particularly new to report. I’m busy, busy, busy at the office right now and will be until mid-November but I am pondering the need to actually go on a retreat at some point because, well, I think I need to do that. So I’m open to suggestions. What’s a good place to go if you are in my place, my condition. I’m not a fan of hierarchy and I have plenty of self-control so I don’t think I need someone else to keep my nose to the grindstone. I’d probably have more trouble doing so if pushed in that direction.
Sep 11 2009, 7:47 PM EDT
| Post edited: Sep 11 2009, 7:47 PM EDT
“not to forget the original topic, but I had a similar movie experience in 2006 or 07. The movie was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Someone had described it as a metaphorical tour through the bardo realms. I was intrigued.
But after I watched it, I literally suspected that I was being haunted for about 2 weeks after that. I’d start my standing meditation, and would feel a sense of un-mooredness and impending malevolence. It stayed with me throughout the days. And took about 2 to 3 weeks to subside.”
Incidentally, this is the very kind of thing a simple banishing would have taken care of within a few minutes.
Interesting thread, I’m following closely…
Sep 16 2009, 7:48 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 16 2009, 7:48 PM EDT
I’ve been out and about in the world for the past few days, mainly with my economist friends. (Now that’s a group that could use a good dose of spirituality!) I’ve had little time to practice formally, which is frustrating but, as I probably mentioned somewhere here before, isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, especially after my friend Gozen reminded that a practice doesn’t just take place on the cushion. So I made it a point to practice while I was working, talking, thinking, and so on. I’ve noticed that this practice kind of settles in no matter what you might be doing at the time, and the more you work on it the easier it becomes to sort of “be there” with it. Then, too, business meetings can offer some really interesting opportunities to just let go. Ego and I/me/mine are always on high alert in that milieu, for everyone, and noticing your own is a fascinating way to notice everyone else’s
In the just letting go there is…. everything.
Sep 16 2009, 10:00 PM EDT
A nice session on the front porch this evening, the first since Sunday morning. I ended up playing a sort of cat and mouse game with objects or, better said, the subject-object aspect of normal awareness versus a much more expansive and immediate view. There was a sort of strobing effect going on with “me” seeing things from an everyday perspective (I’m here, it’s over there, a mental map of my physical location determining perspective, geography, things like that) and then a super wide, in-your-face very intimate experience of being everything sensed, from the butt on the floor to the kids playing down the street to the cars driving by to the train whistle in the distance. Periodically this dance would lead into to a very deep visual field that was dark but held a fuzzy blue light in the center of the background. The blue light seemed to be comprised of smaller individual dots. After what seemed like a few minutes one of our cats jumped up in my lap and cried to go inside. It had actually been over 45 minutes since I sat down.
Of course, I got up and let the cat in… and fed him.
Sep 17 2009, 7:46 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 17 2009, 7:46 PM EDT
Today I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Practice seems chaotic. Random. Unfocused. Is this related to a chaotic day at the office? Don’t know. Sometimes it feels like I don’t have the verbal tools to say things adequately. Like a little kid who’s limited to one syllable words and needs Webster’s. Is this a new path showing up? Don’t know that either. There’s only one thing I do know and that is to push on because that’s the only way out, or forward, or up. Whatever.
When I sat I had a serious amount of tingling on the back of the neck. Hair standing up on end kind of stuff. Weird. Not a bad feeling, though, but different. The energy has moved. Why? Maybe I should become a map maven. That might clue me in…
Really don’t know.
Sep 18 2009, 2:13 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 18 2009, 2:13 PM EDT
Sorry – meant to post a response to this earlier.
Just wondering if you’ve ever encountered Peter Senge’s thought or Otto Scharmer with “Theory U” – talks about how to create institutional change in line with an enlightened perspective – might be helpful in terms of integrating practice with work.
Sep 18 2009, 7:15 PM EDT
“Today I feel like I’m not getting anywhere. Practice seems chaotic. Random. Unfocused. Is this related to a chaotic day at the office? …Sometimes it feels like I don’t have the verbal tools to say things adequately.”
Putting it altogether, perhaps you will see the answers to your questions herein.
“…a “stillness” accessible to me that does not flee as conditions arise. Accessible at any time, it is. …It arises immediately when I sit down to meditate. It is otherwise available pretty much whenever called upon… I can actually use this in daily life, which I think is extraordinarily important. What is most noticeable is patience with other human beings and other things that are usually seen as “external” phenomena. I seem to be more prone to apologize for real and imagined slights when called out by others. This, I theorize, reflects the slow diminishing of the sense of “me” being so central to experience. Patience is a funny and somewhat unexpected expression of that, I think.”
“What this is not: this is not a limitation on what I can do, what I feel, or my innate reactions to what happens around me. All those things remain as they were. This is more like the ability to observe from afar that which is occurring in the immediate vicinity and see the nature of experience…”
“I’ve been out and about in the world for the past few days… I’ve had little time to practice formally, which is frustrating but… isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, especially after my friend Gozen reminded that a practice doesn’t just take place on the cushion. So I made it a point to practice while I was working, talking, thinking, and so on. I’ve noticed that this practice kind of settles in no matter what you might be doing at the time, and the more you work on it the easier it becomes to sort of “be there” with it.” -Chris
Sep 18 2009, 7:16 PM EDT
The point in the above post, is that it seems to me that you have provided the answers. It’s all a process whereby the progress in meditation is not separate from our everyday activities. What is attained on the cushion then flows into all that we do, and vice-versa. As we work with the mind, we are altering our perspective… the view (in our everyday living) becomes more equanimous and we discover a new reaction – that which is not actively reactive. I think as these changes occur in our everyday living (the dissolving of self/me/I), it is reflected in our meditation practice, hence the seemingly chaotic, random, and unfocused presentation. It’s kinda like what happens when we change the resolution of a digital image… the pixels that make up the image need to breakdown and then reform the image in accordance to the adjusted resolution.
Sep 18 2009, 9:55 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 18 2009, 9:55 PM EDT
Well, Khara, you must be right because tonight sees the return of a much higher level of equanimity. I sat in the same place – my front porch – but for much, much longer. I walked up the stages for a while and relaxed there, then walked back down and then paid attention just to whatever presented itself. I had a lot of pain in my legs and they eventually went to sleep but that didn’t bother much and didn’t make me restless like it sometimes does. A “no dog” kind of perspective took over and I spent a long time watching mind grasping at objects as they arose. This is always fascinating because I could see it trying to create separateness and permanence where neither exists. It’s that tugging, wanting feeling being exposed for what it is and as a source of the I/me/mine. It’s also the seeing of the subject-object duality that we live in, the cause of so much unhappiness, desire, pain. And in the seeing of it comes the equanimity (or is it the other way around?). A very counter-intuitive kind of thing – a sheeply surprise wrapped in wolves’ clothing, so to speak
Now I’m feeling mellow, not anticipating, not remembering, just hanging out here and now as I type.
David, I will look up those authors this weekend. Thanks.
Sep 19 2009, 8:52 AM EDT | Post edited: Sep 19 2009, 8:52 AM EDT
More tingling sensations on my neck and down my back this morning while sitting. Very energetic. More purple haze, too
I’ve also discovered that when I sleep I still have some small, residual awareness going on all the time. I woke up with that realization this morning very early and had so much energy that I went outside and sat on the porch.
The words “phase transition” stick with me these days. That’s what the jhanas and nanas remind me of. Like regular old water when it turns to ice, or to steam. The mind appears to be doing a similar thing. It would be really cool to see a combination EKG and fMRI of someone going up and down the jhanas.
Sep 19 2009, 4:12 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 19 2009, 4:12 PM EDT
“It would be really cool to see a combination EKG and fMRI of someone going up and down the jhanas. – Chris”
You might be interested in this: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5474604744218568426#
Gozen originally posted this link sometime ago on DhO; it’s a video/lecture of Todd Murphy, a neuroscience researcher describes the brain’s role in enlightenment as understood in Buddhism.
It’s a video definitely well worth taking the time to watch.
Sep 20 2009, 12:05 PM EDT | Post edited: Sep 20 2009, 12:05 PM EDT
Thank you, Khara. I remember watching that when Gozen posted it. Very apt. And speaking of Gozen, he who told me to get used to uncertainty, boy oh boy, was he ever right on the money!
Practice both on and off the cushion continues. I’m seeing things differently and that’s progress, though it seems to be nerve wracking progress in many respects because things I used to rely on are no longer reliable. Things like, oh, awareness itself. But Kenneth reassures me (thank you again, Kenneth) that I will integrate these views and all of this will seem more or less normal. For now, though, I have fallen off a cliff of epistemology, existence and philosophy, to name but a few of the effects
My plan, as coached by Kenneth, is to let this play out at its own pace and to try not to grasp at things that I think I need to grasp in order to break the “fall.” I have to do that, as I am not in control anyway. Relax and let go.
Energy abounds, especially up and down the spine.