Starting to feel emotional “heart” oriented effects of the practice. Questioning of the value of the process. Nirodha Samapati experiences continue accompanied by Kenneth Folk’s advice and counsel. Playing with jhanas, finding new ones with some frequency.
Nov 4 2009, 9:37 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 4 2009, 9:37 AM EST
So, just coming off a long conference and noticing that the distinction that used to exist between practice and not practice has all but disappeared. It’s so easy to get into a concentrated state now that it just happens automatically, on its own, ant time, waking or sleeping. I’m starting to question the need to sit formally quite as much. I used to sit twice a day and have recently cut that to once a day. Hmmmm….. what to do?
Nov 5 2009, 10:37 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 5 2009, 10:37 AM EST
My decision is to maintain a daily formal meditation practice.
For the first time yesterday I used NS for a purpose. On my plane ride home last night (3+ hours) I leaned back and let ‘er rip. Nice tool, that. Very, very nice. When I rebooted I watched the new Scorcese movie about the Rolling Stones called “Shine a Light.” The combination of these two things was just breathtaking. Absolutely gorgeous.
Also, I want to tell you that everything is so achingly beautiful just as it is BECAUSE it’s fleeting. We all really, really need to grok that. It’s vitally important.
Nov 5 2009, 11:16 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 5 2009, 11:16 AM EST
I suspect Charlie Watts may be an arahat.
Nov 5 2009, 11:22 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 5 2009, 11:22 AM EST
Sorry, Mike. “NS” = Nirodha Samapatti .
Kenneth mentions is earlier in this thread and it was discussed here recently on “The Great Freedom” thread. Daniel Ingram discusses at length in MCTB.
Nov 7 2009, 9:01 AM EST
I’m having lots of cessations during sitting and sleep that show me the donut/torus/iris shape. I can invoke them easily enough but if I don’t they just happen anyway. I assume this to be a sort of re-observation period. Would that be a reasonable guess, Kenneth?
I’m also learning how to use jhanas and even NS in daily life, which I think is a nice thing to be able to do, but doing those things brings on a tug of guilt. Why that would be I don’t know. I worked hard to get to this “place” so what’s bothering me about using the tools I find here? It’s as if by using them I’m being selfish.
I’d be interested in hearing from Jackson, David and Kenneth on this particular feeling, assuming you guys have had it. I also assume that to get to the next stage will require a lot more time and effort than I’ve put in so far… yes?
Nov 7 2009, 10:07 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 7 2009, 10:07 AM EST
“I also assume that to get to the next stage will require a lot more time and effort than I’ve put in so far… yes?”
After 2nd Path, the process balloons into a complex fractal, with hundreds or thousands of “mini-paths,” each with its own set of 16 ñanas. While it’s still possible to see the overall pattern of 4 Paths, the daily situation is one of moving through these mini-paths, one after the next.
So, to make progress doesn’t require any extra effort beyond what you have done so far. It will continue with or without your active participation, but will be accelerated if you practice regularly and/or continuously. Spontaneous fruitions happen during the Review phase (16th ñana) at the end of each cycle. The torus shape is something I personally associate with the 6th jhana, the Jhana of Infinite Consciousness, but these images and associations vary from one individual to the next. When I have cessations, I usually don’t have any imagery beyond a rapid strobing of the mind, and often not even that.
Thanks again for the detailed chronicle of your practice. It’s priceless.
Nov 7 2009, 1:34 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 7 2009, 1:34 PM EST
Kenneth, thank you.
I plan to continue my formal sittings every day and then all the other stuff will just happen, too. At this point I’m more or less always practicing, awake or asleep. It is doing me now, because there is no doubt at all that I am not doing it.
Can you or anyone else comment on my other question about feeling a bit guilty? Is that normal, or am I somehow a weird case?
As you know, the appearance of this torus shape preceded my latest stage crossing. And it may not have any real connection to that other than in my own mind. Prior to that what you describe as cessations fit my experience – ’til very recently, that is. I’m assuming these more elaborate cessations will fade as they did before and will end up being more like what I experienced a few months ago — quick little burps or interruptions accompanied, if at all, by that strobing effect you mentioned. Right now though I’m getting a lot of lightning-like “lights” that precede each cessation and a much more pronounced “agony of anticipation” just before most cessations occur. I also am having a much more pronounced “electricity” sort of feeling, kind of like I’ve plugged into a low voltage system. This happens mostly at night but it can come on at any time. It’s a crackling, anxious feeling. Just a mental feeling. No lights or noises or anything else. Just an electrically charged “jaggedness” to experience.
Jhanas get easier and easier to both experience and identify with each passing day. I’ve tried to enter various jhanas directly and while I can do that it leaves me feeling uneasy. It’s like I’m doing something artificial – out of the natural flow of things – and the mind doesn’t really cotton to it much. So I stopped and just follow the normal arc. That’s never boring.
Nov 7 2009, 2:09 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 7 2009, 2:09 PM EST
Chris: “Jhanas get easier and easier to both experience and identify with each passing day. I’ve tried to enter various jhanas directly and while I can do that it leaves me feeling uneasy. It’s like I’m doing something artificial – out of the natural flow of things – and the mind doesn’t really cotton to it much. So I stopped and just follow the normal arc. Never boring.”
Hi Chris, I defer to Kenneth’s expertise on the details of the jhanas. As I’ve said before, I only pass through that territory without dwelling or even lingering there, so I have not observed many of the detailed attributes of those states. I have noted, however, their characteristics. These are precisely the same as the characteristics of ordinary experience: impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and absence of intrinsic self-nature.
One of the statements I keep on making over and over again (which some folks, such as David, may have found cryptic) is that Awakening is neither an experience nor does it exhibit the characteristics of experience. You can take that as a theoretical claim that must be tested in your own case. I assert without qualm or qualification that this is so. The implications of my claim are that ALL experiences — here and there, up and down, in and out, mundane or extraordinary — are fundamentally the same. How we deal with, or relate to, experiences is the only thing that changes.
From the “point of view” of Awakening, every moment of experience presents exactly the same challenge, merely differing in degree and details. If you love, help or relate to everyone and everything present in your field of awareness, then your practice — which is your life — unfolds in a mysterious yet satisfying way because you operate from the position that is precisely the opposite of the three characteristics: it feels and is permanent, without suffering, and exactly like a self that has no location or definition in time and space.
Nov 7 2009, 2:34 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 7 2009, 2:34 PM EST
I was making a comment on the practice of intentionally entering jhanas “out of order,” so to speak. Did you think I was in some way asserting something else? I’m quite certain that jhanas are just states and as such exhibit all the characteristics of any state. Nor do I confuse jhanas with Awakening. Jeez, they’re nice and all that but they aren’t anything beyond what they very simply are.
So… can you please connect what I said to your point, just for this poor fool?
Nov 7 2009, 2:51 PM EST
Are you, Gozen, referring to that solid, clear, definite and very “here and now” sort of feeling I have sometimes? The one that doesn’t have a handle to hold onto? The one that doesn’t include me other than as the same as everything else? The one that makes me absolutely certain that everything is perfect as it is? The one that doesn’t care about anything but just knows? The sort of thing that I referred to recently in a post here when I said it is absolutely critical that everyone understand that the world is so achingly beautiful *because* it is fleeting? That thing?
Were you worried I was confusing the jhanas with that? I’m not. But thank you for speaking up, Gozen. I sometimes get lost in the technicalities of the phsyio-energetic path.
Nov 7 2009, 4:19 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 7 2009, 4:19 PM EST
In reply to your 2 most recent messages to me:
(1) I know that you were not confusing the jhanas with Awakening.
(2) I was indeed connecting back to your earlier statements about “that solid, clear, definite and very “here and now” sort of feeling” that you have had sometimes.
Everything you’ve said about it in your various postings has been right on target. At the end of your last message, you said that you “sometimes get lost in the technicalities of the phsyio-energetic path.” That’s why I posted what I did. I know you understand that the jhanas are not Awakening. But they are immense, offering so many pleasant possibilities, that we can get lost in their technicalities and their pleasures. So it’s important that fools like me re-state the obvious now and again.
Nov 7 2009, 5:10 PM EST
And it’s important for silly fools like me to listen.
You know, I just got here. I mean, I’m pretty new to this level of Theravada practice. It’s exciting and wonderful, and the jhanas are indeed immense, fascinating and often very, very pleasurable. But having tasted the Ultimate I’m certain I’m not in danger of getting lost in the jhanas.
Of course, that kind of certainty has the earmarks of massive folly written all over it. So again, Gozen, I thank you for being here and for reminding me. Please feel free to do so at any time. I also feel very comfortable that Kenneth more than gets it all, and as long as I stay within the reach of one or both of you… well, you’ll slap me back into what really matters
I have yet to find a jhana that measures up to that Ultimate Thing. I told Kenneth recently that I was beginning to feel a hole in my practice, and this was why — not enough of the Ultimate. k
Nov 8 2009, 12:52 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 8 2009, 12:52 PM EST
As always, your exchanges with Gozen are instructive and profound. What a treat it is for those of us who get to see it! I just want to get back to your question about guilt, which I forgot to address before.
“I’m also learning how to use jhanas and even NS in daily life, which I think is a nice thing to be able to do, but doing those things brings on a tug of guilt. Why that would be I don’t know. I worked hard to get to this “place” so what’s bothering me about using the tools I find here? It’s as if by using them I’m being selfish. ”
It’s very common for yogis to feel guilty about enjoying the pleasure of the jhanas. In all of the cultures that compete for our attention, including Christianity, Judaism, and Buddhism, we are warned about the dangers of greed. At the same time, though, we are promised some reward if we do everything right. And the reward is always described as some variation on unending bliss! Ha, ha, what a “mindf_k”!
Keeping in mind that pragmatism is king, the question is how to have a good, authentic, and reasonably pleasant life while spiraling ever deeper into the understanding that “it isn’t about me, anyway.” As westerners who are utterly drenched in Calvinist guilt, I don’t worry that most of us will succumb to the siren song of jhanic pleasure. If anything, the opposite is true; most of us will so carefully skirt the edges of bliss that we will fail to develop the concentration necessary for progress through the strata of mind. So far, you have done an excellent job of threading this particular needle; your progress speaks to that fact. My recommendation is to enjoy jhanic pleasure as a natural part of a whole human life and observe the guilt as it arises and passes away in each moment.
Nov 8 2009, 3:13 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 8 2009, 3:13 PM EST
Kenneth, I’m thoroughly humbled and exceedingly happy to have you and Gozen both here and, further, to be able benefit from your experience and wisdom so directly. I want to tell you how much this means to me. It’s huge, as my teenage daughter would phrase it. Huge.
Nov 8 2009, 4:56 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 8 2009, 4:56 PM EST
And speaking for the rest of us, it is equally huge that you are sharing this in real-time, Chris, and we get to continue to eavesdrop while you are being guided through this. Way huge.
Nov 9 2009, 2:17 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 9 2009, 2:17 PM EST
Hi Kenneth and Chris,
There is a certain irony in this for me. What I said here with regard to the bliss states is counterbalanced elsewhere by what I say to my Zen students. They’ve long read in Zen texts that the jhanas are to be avoided. I encourage my students to learn and explore the jhanas without becoming attached. My duty, as a teacher, is to sympathize with whatever the student seems to be denying or leaning away from. So I’ll often appear to be somewhat contrarian.
Nov 9 2009, 2:23 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 9 2009, 2:23 PM EST
“And speaking for the rest of us, it is equally huge that you are sharing this in real-time, Chris, and we get to continue to eavesdrop while you are being guided through this. Way huge.”
Way, way huge.
Nov 10 2009, 10:58 PM EST
“So I’ll often appear to be somewhat contrarian.” -Gozen
You’ll hear no complaints from me, Gozen. Three quotes come to mind:
“My teacher has contradicted everything he’s ever said to me.” -Shinzen Young (from memory)
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.” – Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance
Nov 12 2009, 4:31 PM EST
First of all, thanks all for this conversation.
Chris, your reports are really helpful to me, as a younger practitioner, with unraveling the beliefs and worries that have been forming in my mind about insight ability declining with age (analogous to difficulty with language learning).
Given that I’ve had a clear grasp on conventional impermanence for a while (i.e. aware that I could pass away any day now), it’s good for me to be reminded that in the (statistically) likely case that I’m alive 15-20 years from now, I could make robust progress on the path at that point, as well as now. It’s a check on anxious urgency.
Secondly, and I’m speaking from a pre-stream-entry POV, here, I want to share my approach to bliss, similar to Kenneth’s but a little different. Different in that IMHO bliss (and the ability to enjoy bliss) is not just natural, but in fact healthy, nutritious and recommended. *Please dispute if you disagree.*
Lately, I’ve been enjoying jhana in the midst of sitting and daily life as a refreshment, like stopping for a deep drink of water on a long hike. It’s pleasurable, energizing, and a really good way to keep going. No need to feel guilty about that!
Nov 12 2009, 9:45 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 12 2009, 9:45 PM EST
Okay, here we go again…
For the past few weeks I’ve experienced an increasing change in my perception. Yes, that’s right, in the way I perceive things, as in see, hear, touch. It started as mostly a vision thing, but it is now getting stronger by way of feeling, body awareness and hearing. I can’t prove this is related to my practice but it appears to be so because it seems to be related to the sort of light-headed feeling that accompanied the emergence of more immediate access to the jhanas.
Please allow me to do my best to describe this, but words will not really be adequate:
I have a very electric-feeling sense of things. I see and feel jaggedness, edginess, impermanence. I see behind and in front of my eyes at the same time. I see an “aura” all the time, not so much as an obvious and in your face thing, but inferred.
I feel hollow tonight. Yes, hollow, in terms of the sense of my body. I see blue, but not the color blue, the sense of blue. This is all accompanied by a very clear, fairly emphatic sense of… impermanence.
Yes, that what I’m seeing wherever I look is not essence. There is a mental compenent to this that’s not clear to me (yet?) and I need to sit with this more to grok that part. Well, I hope that will help, anyway.
I asked Kenneth about this in an e-mail tonight. I was concerned because of the accelerating nature of this phenomenon, and wanted to compare notes. I really think this is related to my practice because it has that physio-energetic feel to it that I’m becoming intimately familiar with. It’s quite un-nerving RIGHT NOW, and it’s getting more so with each passing day. It doesn’t feel bad, really, but it sure does feel DIFFERENT. I see different, I hear different, I sense different. It fades away, and almost completely sometimes, but then comes back and when it comes back it usually comes back stronger than before.
Nov 12 2009, 10:30 PM EST
Yes, quite bizarre. And yet, not out of the ordinary… at least not in my experience. Though this stuff manifests differently for a lot of people, what you’re describing sounds a lot like a span of time I went through in my practice. I was practicing A LOT during that time, and the intermediate realm stuff started becoming really apparent. That’s right, “intermediate realm” stuff. That’s what this is. At least that’s my guess. Things can get pretty weird there for a while, but it won’t last forever. You’ll be able to revisit this way of seeing by intention and resolve in the future, but it won’t be your every day state for long. Enjoy it while you can, and remember that you’re not going crazy. It’s just a part of the fun.
I remember noticing that reality manifests both in particulate (binary) and wave-like (analogue) ways. I’d see big waves of reality pulsing and shifting, and I’d notice the cracks in between, and how they canceled out in to nothing. I saw little tiny flickers of experience going in and out, lie each tiny particle had an on/off switch. And I noticed the aura stuff too, particularly with animals.
Anyways… I just thought I’d share my experience. It’s good to journal about this stuff so you don’t forget. Things start to get a lot more “normal” after this stage. It’s all just a part of making progress.
EDIT: I should mention that this stuff really ramped up for me sometime during late second-path. Early second-path was all about the chakras, man. Once the chakras started to balance out, the other stuff started showing up. Does that correlate to your experience at all? Just curious.
Nov 12 2009, 10:56 PM EST
You’ve just made my day, Jackson. Thank you.
It continues to unfold… There’s no obvious center point. The old anchor, the center of the universe, that feeling of eyes and ears and feeling and what-not being located inside the head, of the safety and security of that feeling, is gone. It’s GONE. (“You mean, Copernicus, that the earth isn’t in the center of the universe? How so? Isn’t it just obvious? To everyone?”)
You may not realize how much you rely on that feeling, but you DO, and once it’s gone you WILL notice! My perceptive field is enormous, or so it seems. Panavision. Dolby sound. Technicolor. I am, to quote the woman in Shinzen Young’s ‘The Science of Enlightenment,” big. Sensations are unmediated in the sense that the reference point of “me” isn’t included in there, in the perceptive process. At least not right now. I think that’s a major part of the un-nerving feeling, but it’s also starting to feel more or less liberating. And, to top it off, this now appears to have some metaphysical and moral implications, but I’m going to hold off on talking about those tonight because if I got started I think I’d end up writing a book and WetPaint only allows for 2000 characters
More tomorrow, I’m sure.
Nov 13 2009, 2:18 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 2:18 AM EST
Chris, I know the territory you’re describing. Very surreal. You’re actually describing what sounds to me like anagami (3rd path) stuff, especially when you start talking about feeling “BIG.” It’s a bit like the way that 5th samatha jhana feels big, yeah? Let me know if I’m off base. Don’t worry too much about the reference point stuff. Trust me on this. Just keep practicing, making time for both concentration and investigation. Take the time to enjoy the territory and keep giving us updates as things progress.
Nov 13 2009, 9:25 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 9:25 AM EST
Yes, it’s anagami stuff, Jackson. Same thing today, no change. A month ago “I” was large inside my head, had a “narrow” field of experience and my own thoughts occupied much of the territory up in there. Now there’s a tiny little “me” rattling around in an enormous field of experience. That’s the “big” part. The sensation part hasn’t changed from yesterday, either.
Kenneth told me I was in anagami territory several weeks ago on a phone call and I resisted saying anything here because, well, because it makes me very uncomfortable. But yeah, it’s clear to me that’s what it is. And, of course, Kenneth is always pretty much right on target, followed by the few of you who have also “diagnosed” me — David a few weeks ago and now you, Jackson.
So…. the “big” feeling is what carries all the metaphysical meaning, and I’ll post about that at some point but you can all probably guess what I’ll say. Wow, it’s really so good to have others who’ve been there to talk to. At one point yesterday evening I was about to crawl out of my skin. I e-mailed Kenneth, posted here, and then went to lie down. As I lay there just soaking it hit me, WHAM!, all of sudden — “Hey, now I’m really tiny and I’m rattling around in this enormous THING!” It felt like I had lost something or like something was cut off or disconnected. This, I believe, was previewed by the “hollow” feeling I was talking about here last night.
Nov 13 2009, 12:40 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 12:40 PM EST
Based on your description, the testimony of others, and my own experience, it’s hard for me to disagree with our favorite Buddhist Geek (Vince Horn) that the anagami/3rd Path stage is congruent with Tozan’s Third Rank. I know that there is some contention around this idea, in that Kenneth has told me that he thinks Tozan’s Ranks and the Theravada Four Path Model are somewhat unrelated (Kenneth, correct me if I am mistaken). Here’s what Bill Harris has to say about the Third Rank:
“You are established in the transcendent, not as a place to visit, but as a place to live. This third stage is what is generally thought of as enlightenment–taking up permanent residence in the transcendent. In this place you aren’t just ‘one with everything,’ you ARE everything, and everything is you. (In fact, you always were everything. It’s just that now you’ve realized it, not intellectually, but experientially.)… The experience is one of having no boundaries, no beginning, no ending. From this perspective everything is just as it should be, including everything you used to think of as ‘good’ and everything you used to think of as ‘bad.’”
Both Tozan’s Third Rank and the anagami/3rd Path are stages where a big chunk of duality drops and a true sense of “I AM THAT” first emerges and generally abides. Without good teachers and adequate models (which both you and I are fortunate to have), many people get to this stage and think, “That’s it! I’m done!” Rest assured – there’s more to come.
Nov 13 2009, 12:59 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 12:59 PM EST
I guess I should probably state why I thought it necessary to bring this whole Tozan’s Ranks thing up… I find Tozan’s model extremely helpful, particularly for the stage you (Chris) are experiencing. Having some foresight in to what lies ahead can give you the edge you need to keep things moving and to keep from getting complacent. I’m not at all suggesting that I think you are anywhere NEAR complacent, as I believe the opposite is true. Nevertheless, as a fellow dharma dude, I do what I can to be one of the many fingers you see pointing to the moon.
Have I mentioned that I think this thread freaking rocks?! Thanks for continuing to share your experiences with the world, Chris. I’m sure that many sincere seekers will benefit from this detailed chronicle of your journey.
Nov 13 2009, 3:11 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 3:11 PM EST
Jackson, thanks for the references! I’ll be reading that material pretty quickly.
“I should mention that this stuff really ramped up for me sometime during late second-path. Early second-path was all about the chakras, man. Once the chakras started to balance out, the other stuff started showing up. Does that correlate to your experience at all? Just curious.”
Yes, my experience is very much like that. And coincidentally, the “other stuff” all started to show up not too long after I started this thread, so it’s a weird kind of confluence of events based on where I was and Kenneth asking me to start this online journal. Maybe Kenneth kind of knew what was going to happen. (Kenneth?) I certainly didn’t.
@Mike, now it feels like a good place to be, sort of. But last night it felt very much like the rug was being pulled out from under me.
Nov 13 2009, 4:06 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 4:06 PM EST
“Yes, my experience is very much like that. And coincidentally, the “other stuff” all started to show up not too long after I started this thread, so it’s a weird kind of confluence of events based on where I was and Kenneth asking me to start this online journal. Maybe Kenneth kind of knew what was going to happen. (Kenneth?) I certainly didn’t.”
Thanks for the further information, Chris. It’s been fun to “talk shop,” with you. The intermediate realm stuff seems to follow the four major States of consciousness that Ken Wilber talks about (which he picked up from Advaita Vedanta and Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism). They are: gross, subtle, causal, and non-dual. Gross if your waking, everyday, non-enlightened stuff. First path gets your foot in the door to start experiencing more of the subtle stuff, but not much. The subtle stuff really ramps up during 2nd Path, particularly with how noticeable chakra activity/development becomes. The shift in to 3rd Path is where the causal realm stuff gets more apparent.
For example, during regular sits I remember accessing levels of mind where whatever arose was accompanied by its opposite. I first noticed this when working with the “Mu!” koan. “MU,” as you know, means, “No!” As I recited the koan while deeply concentrated, the “No!” was accompanied with a “Yes!” that was just as emphatic. It was as if “No!” could not really exist without “Yes!” somewhere in the mix, and that Sasaki Roshi is right when he talks about the Source polarizing itself into opposites in order to be observed as particulars (heavy stuff, yeah?). It was yet another interesting way to observe the activity of Impermanence, and at a much deeper level than simply noticing that things don’t last, which is sort of a kindergarten variety impermanence.
As for the non-dual… well, what can be said?
Nov 13 2009, 6:56 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 6:56 PM EST
Jackson, I just read your links. I see what you’re saying about there “more to come,” and it is sobering. Sobering indeed.
Nov 13 2009, 7:25 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 7:25 PM EST
“Jackson, I just read your links. I see what you’re saying about there “more to come,” and it is sobering. Sobering indeed. Thanks. ”
Sobering, yes. But there are some other “goodies” to look forward to as well, depending on how the whole thing plays out. I’ve never read a description of a person’s insight progress that was exactly like someone else’s. Though, it is almost always somehow related to what is influencing their practice at the time. I’m saying that you shouldn’t expect your progress to play out just as the article details. The degree to which different landmarks manifest varies greatly from one person to the next, from what I understand.
I’m looking forward to your future updates. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself, and don’t forget to let yourself be curious if that’s what happens. Explore the hell out of this terrain if you are so inclined. There’s so much to discover!
Nov 13 2009, 7:58 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 7:58 PM EST
Jackson, From the perspective I have now the past is more or less gone and so is the future. What I see that I never did before is the seemingly infinite reality that is mind and universe. I don’t frankly know which causes which because they’re really an identity. There is a vast openness, no center. The universe can be experienced right here, right now, IS right here and now. As I drove home from the office I did think about the need to explore, and so I really do get the “be curious” part of your comments and plan to do exactly that
Also apropos to your links, Kenneth asked me a few weeks ago, “Are you done?” As I’m sure he would tell you, that question surprised, flummoxed and confused me for some minutes. The article you posted puts that confusion into good perspective. No, I am NOT done. I don’t feel done. I feel…. open. I feel weird. I feel crazy energy. But I don’t feel like this journey is over. I look forward to more with a mixed sense of anticipation and dread (I gotta be honest, there are times when this is painful and scary). This last 24 hours has produced the biggest metaphysical, energetic, philosophical and perceptual change I’ve ever experienced. It’s funny how this plays out over time — I would have expected a huge, short duration BANG and then everything would be different immediately.
This has played out of the course of about a month as pieces popped into place, went away, came back, and alternated with other pieces. This has been much more like watching something grow. It is ORGANIC. Which of course argues for the biological basis of it we’ve talked about and is assumedly why Kenneth calls it a “physio-energetic” process (hope I got that right).
I’m rambling and I sort of scared my wife last night in the middle of all the hoopla so I want to be with her now. I may even watch a soap opera with her
Nov 13 2009, 10:39 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 13 2009, 10:39 PM EST
Chris, I remember getting the “Are you done?” question from both Kenneth and Tarin. It’s a real trip. It’s safe to say that when you’re done you’ll know it at some level. At another level, though, you’ll probably continue to doubt yourself to some degree. It’s because we make a habit of doubting everything all the time. I hear it can take a while for the doubting thing to fade off, after getting it done and all that. I think you’re in a great place, man. Congrats on your progress.
Nov 16 2009, 7:55 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 16 2009, 7:55 PM EST
Same stuff going on but without the drama. I’m getting used to the feeling of big. My guess is I won’t really notice it all that much after a week or so. The mind is nothing if not pliable and impatient for really new stuff. Old stuff gets old… fast. I wouldn’t mind a few weeks off from this roller coaster ride.
Nov 16 2009, 8:03 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 16 2009, 8:03 PM EST
“The mind is nothing if not pliable and impatient for really new stuff. Old stuff gets old… fast. I wouldn’t mind a few weeks off from this roller coaster ride.”
That really sounds like the way Dr. Ingram describes the path of insight on the buddhist geeks podcasts.
Nov 17 2009, 7:25 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 17 2009, 7:25 PM EST
Here’s the deal:
I’m in what appears to be hell right now and I let my weirdness and emotions spill over onto these message boards early this morning. I’m sure it’s just more cycling or other manifestations of practice, but it’s now got a much higher amplitude. Or something like that. I apologize to everyone here, and I’m going to go get a grip before I post here again. I tried to apologize on the thread where this occurred but I see I’m not even capable right now of doing that well.
Anyway, I’ll be back when it feels better and settles down. Could be tomorrow, could be days form now. Who knows?
Nov 18 2009, 9:42 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 18 2009, 9:42 AM EST
Okay. I’m resigned to the fate of having to learn how to cope with daily life as things get ripped apart, re-examined and rebuilt under the hood. Wherever I am now there is a huge difference from where I was a year ago, six months ago. The energy I’m dealing with is far, far greater and the swings of the cycles are, too. This is not a good recipe for managing the affairs of daily existence but so be it.
I started this and I *will* finish it.
Nov 18 2009, 10:26 AM EST
After reading your more recent posts, I was reminded of an email exchange I had with an older, wiser Zen friend. I had just experienced a great release, in which I had found a seemingly unshakable peace. Here’s what he said to me…
“Your practice may seem to lose some energy or poignancy for a time, that is natural. It will come back. I think at this point you have to try and keep your practice fresh and not just go to repeat what struck you with awe. I can only speak from the Chan [Zen] perspective, but do not feel fixed or look to repeat what you just experienced. Keep it alive but in some sense forget it, not that you can, but do not try to repeat the same mind. There is really no place to put your feet!… … And as you rightly point out, there is still a lot of work to do. We are no better than anyone else for gaining this insight. If anything, it may call for more vigilance to keep from getting a swollen head or any other foolish notions. That peace you have found can easily be lost, continue to practice.”
The two points to remember are that any peace or freedom we gain in practice can be an object we cling to, and that in reality there is really no place to put your feet. Life happens. Cycles happen. Even after full awakening, when things are seen as they are, there is still practice. Hell, Ramana Maharshi waited 20 years after getting enlightened to start teaching! This stuff takes a long time to sort out. Don’t beat yourself up over it, eh?
As always, your posts are timely, memorable, and most helpful.
P.S. By adding the quotation, I was not implying that you’re getting a “swollen head” or having “foolish notions.” It was just a part of his response to me. We can all gain from his sobering advice, however.
Nov 18 2009, 4:48 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 18 2009, 4:48 PM EST
But I actually DO have a swollen head and foolish notions!
And thanks, Jackson, for the information and the commiseration.
Nov 22 2009, 10:47 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 22 2009, 10:47 AM EST
This was a very helpful topic for me. The description of your experiences is very similar to what I wrote in my journal in the period leading up to what I call my first (and biggest” shift in perception (Sep 2008). I don’t recall experiencing this: “…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.”
Then I read this – “They used to be Big Events, then speed bumps, now they’re kind of like running over a garden hose with my car.” and triggered a memeory. I experience these ‘blips’ that occur in much less than a second, kind of like frame jumps when your watching a DVD. I never gave them much thought before. Don’t think I even wrote about them in my journal at the time. I’ll have to go back and look. Anyway, thanks!
Nov 22 2009, 4:14 PM EST
“I experience these ‘blips’ that occur in much less than a second, kind of like frame jumps when your watching a DVD. I never gave them much thought before. Don’t think I even wrote about them in my journal at the time. I’ll have to go back and look.?-AugustLeo
Very interesting, Michael. See if you can call them up and review them. Sometimes it helps to deliberately flutter your eyelids; that gets your mind into the strobing mode. What happens before and after the frame jumps? Is there a perceptual shift? If it happens during a sitting, what territory were you in when it happened? Pay attention to all of these details, as though you were a scientist watching a bird, trying to understand its behavior, looking for patterns and connections. This is the essence of 1st Gear/vipassana practice.
P.S. Michael, let’s create a new thread to discuss your findings; it will be good to keep this one focused primarily on Chris’s progress.
Nov 22 2009, 4:23 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 22 2009, 4:23 PM EST
Hi, Michael. Glad this little topic helped you! And you are very welcome. Please stop by and say “Hi” any time.
Nov 22 2009, 5:45 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 22 2009, 5:45 PM EST
Kenneth – ” …P.S. Michael, let’s create a new thread to discuss your findings; it will be good to keep this one focused primarily on Chris’s progress…”
- Thank you. I understand. Chris – sorry for hijacking your thread a bit. Still learning how to navigate in this forum’s envorinment. Thank you again.
Nov 22 2009, 5:50 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 22 2009, 5:50 PM EST
Michael, that’s what this is here for – just glad to be of assistance.
Nov 25 2009, 1:57 PM EST
It’s update time!
It’s now abundantly and crystal clear to me that the path is just repetition of the cycles of insight. This is now what I do, every freaking day, every week, all the time. I can more easiy identify the cycles and where I am at any given time by the mood and perceptual swings that are very clearly not driven be events but by whatever process the universe is using to willfully mess with me. (That’s tongue in cheek, btw.) The changes can be very strong and it often feels like someone has access to a switch in my head that they can use to dial up the changes, at will.
Some of these happen at inopportune times and that has lead to some, uh, interesting results at the office. Then, ironically, all of a sudden I’m struggling with the jhanas. Either I’m trying too hard, which is a fault I tend to have, or something else is going on that serves to obscure them a bit. They seem fuzzy, and less distinct. I’m less able to figure out which one I’m in. If I fall asleep, or start to fall asleep, this fuzziness goes away and I can easily harden into whatever jhana I’m in at the time, and the really clear “scene” that particular jhana entails shows up. I suspect a rat , which is to say a rat in the form of more change on the horizon, just based on previous experience.
Anyway… more later if I have anything of note to report.
Nov 25 2009, 4:09 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 25 2009, 4:09 PM EST
“Then, ironically, all of a sudden I’m struggling with the jhanas. Either I’m trying too hard, which is a fault I tend to have, or something else is going on that serves to obscure them a bit. They seem fuzzy, and less distinct. I’m less able to figure out which one I’m in. If I fall asleep, or start to fall asleep, this fuzziness goes away and I can easily harden into whatever jhana I’m in at the time, and the really clear “scene” that particular jhana entails shows up. I suspect a rat , which is to say a rat in the form of more change on the horizon, just based on previous experience. Anyway… more later if I have anything of note to report. ”
You know I recently noticed a similar phenomenon when I sat at a Vietnamese Zen Temple – I saw the stages of insight very clearly, but the jhanas were less distinct if I chose to notice them – made me feel like there were two different sides to the same coin or something.
I think I finally found something that explains it in the Mahamudra literature. They take the position that meditation can be seen from the perspective of
A. event processes in the consciousness stream and
B. the perspective of structures of mind – which requires an observing position – the Witness.
A is probably responsible for the nana perspective, while B is responsible for the jhana perspective. It would make sense that if you are more focused on A that B would seem less distinct. Of course they are two different perspectives on the same thing – and it is even possible to shift between these perspectives in a single meditation session. Just thought I’d throw that out there.
I’m planning to do a full write up summarizing Mahamudra and comparing it with our Hinayana technology in the near future. D
Nov 25 2009, 4:28 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 25 2009, 4:28 PM EST
Very interesting, David.
The A/B thing makes sense to me. I’ll have to check it out during a sit. Also, I’m definitely interested in reading your comparative study of Mahamudra and Hinayana.
Nov 25 2009, 4:32 PM EST That’s fascinating, David. It could explain a lot. Oddly enough I was just experimenting with this a few minutes ago and that’s more or less what appears to happen.
When I start into jhana territory, intend to go there, I get the new fuzziness. When I leave that perspective and go into a more purely observational/non-attached/just-watch-without-doing mode I get more clarity in the jhanas. Thanks!
And I would also be interested in your write-up.
Nov 27 2009, 11:36 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 27 2009, 11:36 AM EST
Interesting night last night. Went to bed and was watching television when I started to get that certain “buzz” and an aura-like thing surrounding everything. I put up with it for a while but it got to be pretty insistent, so I turned off the TV and just lay there in bed, in he dark bedroom. Of course, when the draw into the buzz is that strong there will be no denying it, so I started into it – it feeling like some jhana or another. There was no arc this time, though, no messing around. This went FAST and was very intense. More so than the norm, at least for me. After a fairly long time, maybe a half hour?, the intensity ratcheted up another several notches. I noticed something unusual at this point — this was not a typical jhana experience. This was more like what I remember happening during first path, or even before first path, before my first fruition. It seemed to be headed somewhere different.
There is a certain beautiful agony that prefaces a fruition, and that feeling has a “location” in my head. This is where this “thing” went, right to that place in my head where fruitions occur. It went there, and sat. And sat. And sat. A fruition fired off, slowly, over the course of some time, it intensified and (this is hard to describe), went “up” in flavor, or feeling, or maybe I should call it “pitch.”
Anyway, it went WAY, WAY up, and sat there, and didn’t move. It didn’t pulse with the breath any more, either. It was high, very hard, and very, very stable. It makes my body go numb and then disappear. Seriously. And it can make anything sort of disappear. In other words, it appears to me to be revealing emptiness. It’s still with me right now. I’m sitting in a coffee shop and it’s doing exactly what it did last night. I don’t think this is going to go away any time soon. It intensifies greatly when I turn my attention to it. Otherwise I just feel… tingly.
Nov 27 2009, 11:39 AM EST | Post edited: Nov 27 2009, 11:39 AM EST
One more thing – all the energy flow in my body has changed. It’s loosened up a lot and is flowing straight through, up my spine, across my forehead (not stopping there like it used to) and going right to the crown of my skull. That part feels quite pleasant, and freeing
Nov 28 2009, 12:39 PM EST | Post edited: Nov 28 2009, 12:39 PM EST
I started practicing The Witness very heavily on Thursday after a conversation with Kenneth on Wednesday evening. We’ve talked again since and I believe what happened to me as described in the most immediate two previous posts is related to this large change in my practice. The sense of The Witness surprised me with its power, actually. The sense of existing (that old “I am” sense) can become the object of meditation and as such becomes a very powerful tool.
Initial reaction: While in that state everything becomes sort of “diffuse” and the sense of “I” fades pretty quickly into the sense of generally existing, of just being. When that occurs there’s really no one around to sweat the small stuff. I imagine abiding in the Witness is quite possible, and is probably pretty darned rewarding.
Dec 3 2009, 5:02 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 3 2009, 5:02 PM EST
Still practicing The Witness both during and after meditation sessions during the normal workday. I also woke up early the other morning and managed to spend about an hour with the ol’ jhanic arc and found out another jhana has shown up. I can count to ten now!
The fuzziness I had a week or so ago around “seeing” the jhanas seems to be gone, or at least it was at that time. I also continue to cycle a lot, and it’s not a ton of fun but The Witness seems to help take the edge off of the peaks and valleys.
Dec 8 2009, 7:46 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 8 2009, 7:46 PM EST
Very, very busy lately with much too little time for formal practice, which I really dislike. I did have the amazing good fortune to be able to sit with our own Gozen last Saturday while we were both attending a conference (I hope, Gozen, it’s okay to reveal that).
We also had a number of wonderful, lengthy conversations and I want to state publicly here how much I really enjoyed the time together and will remember all of it for a long, long time.
Dec 8 2009, 8:08 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 8 2009, 8:08 PM EST
It was so wonderful to have had the opportunity to sit in meditation with you, and to talk so much over the weekend. And thanks for the Starbucks!
Dec 16 2009, 8:39 AM EST
Though I got little sleep I had a wonderful night last night. I woke up as mind slipped into what I believe was the second Pure Land jhana (high frequency, body oriented, buzzy, beautiful bliss – flavor of gray-ish pink in the visual field). From there the bliss just got better and better for a while until the process slowly turned downward in focus and ended with mind slowly fading away into deep, dark , blank, beautiful nothingness. The way this happens is a sinking into darkness with each successive breath, sometimes every other breath. As the thing goes on it just keeps sinking in. It’s kind of like being lowered into a deep, dark, warm well. All external signals (sounds) slowly fade away. All thought slowly recedes. Sense of self disappears. After a little while this doesn’t happen to a person, but it just happens. At some point it becomes inevitable that the blackness will come and overwhelm everything no matter what. Before that mind can recover, bounce out, so to speak. And then it can fade back in again, same process, breath by breath.
This all started at about 3:30 and ended when I got up with the alarm. I’m left with the most marvelous chilled-out feeling this morning. It’s not elation or excitement. It’s mellow and smooth.
Dec 18 2009, 10:37 PM EST
This morning an interesting thing happened as I was laying in bed and sort of into/out of jhanas and such. I became very much aware of the progress of mental activity as the mind first engages with an object (the very low-level and fundamental raw data that first hits our senses) all the way to the creation of a separate “thing” or object.
What was interesting today was that I was fully aware of the middle step. That’s the gray area in between the raw data and the mind-created concrete, separate objects we deal with in our day to day lives. While this wasn’t the first time I’ve been aware of this process for some reason this morning it was that much clearer and… more interesting. I tried to wake my wife to tell her about how I could see where people get their notions about all kinds of shadow things but, as usual, she was half asleep and not all that interested in what I thought was this marvelously fascinating world of proto-thoughts
If I incline my mind toward this process I can perceive it with clarity. A nice metaphor for this is the way my lava lamp I had when I was as teenager worked: thoughts bubble up from the source like the wax globules in the lamp, flow to the surface where they become objects, ideas, concepts, then slowly sink back into the source to be replaced by lots of other bubbles in a never-ending dance. So why is this important? I have no idea other than it validates what we all here either know or suspect – that what appears to us as a concrete reality isn’t, really, and that mind is processing on many, many levels in a massively parallel way so that we can function in our lives without having to pay attention to the processing itself. And our practice is in large part about uncovering enough of that processing that we can come to that realization.
So…. that’s all.
Dec 18 2009, 11:04 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 18 2009, 11:04 PM EST
Dec 19 2009, 9:08 AM EST | Post edited: Dec 19 2009, 9:08 AM EST
David — “I’m planning to do a full write up summarizing Mahamudra and comparing it with our Hinayana technology in the near future.”
How is this coming along? I would love to read it.
Dec 19 2009, 3:09 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 19 2009, 3:09 PM EST
Well – maybe I can have it out by the end of the weekend. It’s proved to be more complex than I originally suspected – it’s at least Master’s thesis material. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with how to summarize it and what parts to gloss over. Interestingly, a lot of the more advanced stages are involved with uncovering some of the subtle cognitions you refer to above. They have a a different vocabulary though. Here’s a kind of summary of the stages:
I Preliminaries: Guru yoga and Virtue Training
II Contemplation: Perfecting the Asana on physical, energetic (and breath), and mental levels
III Meditation with support – a visual image is taken as meditation object (usually the Tathagata) and the skills of directing, intensifying (and “easing up), pliancy, and intelligence are trained. There are 9 stages that the aspirant goes through until he can pretty much visualize the stable image for the entire meditation session. At that point the image is allowed to change and one meditates upon the “seed” of the image (a kind of formation complex related to the idea of the image). There are some other very specialized meditations after one masters this to get to the stage of being “done with the seed.”
IV. Meditation without support: No particular object is taken, or rather the mind itself as object is observed. Subtle cognitions are the main object. Again, a number of very specific exercises are prescribed. By the end of all this, one has developed “Quiesence.”
V. Insight training – At this point the meditator learns the relevant Buddhist philosophy, thinks about it, and then verifies it in his own experience during meditation. During this the meditator gains insight into the emptiness of the self, and all things and events. Again, there are very specific instructions given on how to meditate.
Finally come the “Extraordinary Practices” Yoga of the One Taste: The meditator experiences nonduality between self and universe and all things. During this phase is when Enlightenment proper dawns.
Nonmeditation – pretty much dwelling in Rigpa, as far as I can tell. There’s no end to this phase of practice.
There are a few post-enlightenment practices too. I’ll try to get something together, but it’s been a bigger project than I thought.
Dec 19 2009, 3:34 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 19 2009, 3:34 PM EST
David, I’m not trying to hurry you! I was just curious, and yes, anxious to read what you’re writing. Take your time. I know what not having enough time is like. I would be horrified to learn that I’d inflicted anything like what I go through on another human being.
Dec 20 2009, 7:53 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 20 2009, 7:53 PM EST
Something new. There has grown a high bandwidth connection between my mind and my heart. What I think, I feel. What I feel, I think. There is a kind of symmetry, a parallel, a connection, that has never been there before. Not like this.
It’s very deep and it’s very wide.
More later. I do not yet have the words assembled to talk well about it. Maybe I never will. Maybe this is fleeting. Maybe not.
Dec 21 2009, 9:53 AM EST
I’ve been observing closely and it’s not bandwidth. It’s simplicity. Nothing interferes with the signal. And I don’t think it’s new.It’s been sneaking up on me for a while now. And once again I have to say, there’s no one this is happening to, and all the motivation in the world won’t change the timing or the result. Inexorable. Impersonal. No purpose.
Dec 22 2009, 10:16 AM EST | Post edited: Dec 22 2009, 10:16 AM EST
Up most of the night last night. Lots of jhanas to start, but for some reason the bloom has come off that rose a little bit. There is a feeling of unsatidfactoriness about the jhanas all of a sudden. It’s as if the mind has grown too used to what now seems just another thing, another state, another experience. This led me to practice something Kenneth taught me last week, and the Witness. About dawn it became clear that simple, simple, simple is the way. Then came another revelation, uncovering, of the very simplest thing. Then more jhanas, then what I think was sleep, but entered into through Nirodha Samapatti. I do that now when I really want shut things down. It’s definitely nice to have
It’s funny — I can pretty much tell when something different is going to happen. It’s sort of like a bigger, longer, more pervasive version of a cessation, where the polarity builds up inside until it just has to pop. Before a cessation the polarity builds up in what seems ot be the frontal lobes of the brain. With these larger cycles the polarity is building up all over. This cycle seems to have more to do with feelings and emotions, whereas past cycles have been almost entirely about pure mind (whatever that means).
Dec 23 2009, 9:44 AM EST | Post edited: Dec 23 2009, 9:44 AM EST
It let me sleep last night. I think of this, whatever it is, as “it.” It is nameless, faceless, inexorable, uncontrollable, unpredictable, unbelievable, irresponsible, implacable, un-caring and unwilling to let “me” have any say. Good for it!
Someone e-mailed me yesterday and asked me if I regretted letting it into my life. Hell no! It is the best teacher I could ever hope to have. It is working very hard to show me how to let go.
Dec 23 2009, 2:48 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 23 2009, 2:48 PM EST
I wanted to say thank you for keeping this diary up. I really appreciate the companionship. Though I’m not in “it” where you are (meaning the content is totally foreign most of the time) I can totally relate the the sense of being in “it”. I won’t go into what that’s like for me at the moment, but I want to say that this journal of yours is highly valuable to me. The best way I can say it is that I appreciate your tone.
Dec 23 2009, 7:30 PM EST | Post edited: Dec 23 2009, 7:30 PM EST
Thanks. The tone you will read here is pretty much always dictated by “it.”. I try to report and then let you decide.