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The Progress of Insight (part five)

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
The 16th Ñana: Knowledge of Review

"Kenneth, I'm curious about the phenomenon called "cycling" and how that manifests. I relate well to the part of your commentary that explains the initial run-up to first path. I relate well to your explanation of a yogi's practice and how it changes after achieving first path. In MCTB Daniel Ingram makes reference to the part concentration plays in recognizing progress and he explains that a person with less concentration (attention?) will be less clued in to where they are and what's going on. Your description below hints at the same kind of thing:

'Third, there is the **possibility** of re-experiencing the 15th ñana, frution; a yogi can **learn** to call up fruition, which is said to be the direct apprehension of nibbana (nirvana) at will. There are three doors to nibbana, namely the dukkha (suffering), anicca (impermanence), and anatta (no-self) doors. Each of these modes of accessing cessation leads to a slightly different experience of entering and exiting nibbana. The fascinating exploration known as fruition practice is only available to post-First Path yogis and consists of systematically calling up, becoming familiar with, and comparing these phenomena.'

(I added the **'s to highlight the parts of your comments I was referring to in the above.)

Can you elaborate on the role concentration plays at this stage? I have not been paying very close attention to where I am according to the four path model (or any model) and I think I'm missing some important information due to my self-induced ignorance. I experience fruition, but it occurs infrequently and on the cushion. Is it possible to miss the experience of fruition if it happens during a meeting, walking along, driving, what have you? Will increasing my concentration help me recognize it?

I'm just confused about what to expect and how to better recognize what's up.

Thanks in advance! "-cmarti

Hi Chris,

A high level of concentration is required in order to complete the 16 ñanas and attain First Path, but I wouldn’t say that concentration is the deciding factor in whether a yogi recognizes and can effectively review the territory; it would seem that attitude and training are more important. Here is an example that might help to make the point:

A Zen student attains First Path. This happens in spite of the fact that neither ñanas nor Paths are mentioned in Zen training and is not surprising given that the ñana/Path model is just one way to describe and map a natural, organic process of human development. Having traversed the territory, though, the Zen student has no meta-perspective that will allow him to conceive of what he has been through. In fact, throughout the Zen training, the various phenomena that arise during meditation are actively invalidated by the teacher; all of the pleasant and unpleasant experiences are considered “makyo” (hallucination). A good Zen student learns very quickly not to attempt to make sense of meditative phenomena for fear of incurring the ire of the teacher. In this case, both attitude (the belief that thinking about or assigning importance to meditative experiences is dangerous) and a lack of training in identifying and systematically accessing various states conspire to prevent the Zen yogi from mastering this aspect of practice even though he has shown that he has sufficient concentration to access them.

In cases like this, a bit of remediation is in order for those who would like to understand and master the mental territory that has become available with the advent of Path. This is the situation you now find yourself in, so I’ll bring this back to specifics and offer a prescription that is tailored to you.

You have already taken several important steps toward understanding your experience; you have begun to educate yourself about the phenomena by reading about the maps, you have identified fruition as a recurring phenomenon in your own experience, and you have made a commitment to learning more. The next step is to notice patterns in how your experience manifests both during a sitting and over a period of hours and days. Notice, for example, that a sitting will often follow a predictable pattern; beginning with very little concentration, you become more and more concentrated until you reach a climax of concentration, sometimes culminating in a fruition or series of fruitions, after which you become less concentrated again and have to work your way up to a concentrated state again.

Using more technical language, a stream-enterer’s sitting begins with the 4th ñana, progresses through ñanas 5-11, then leaps to nibbana with the 15th ñana, fruition. After that, it resets to the 4th ñana and repeats the pattern. You can enhance your ability to notice the various states as they arise by keeping a journal of each sitting. Over time you see a pattern. For example:

I started the sitting with my mind a jumble (the mind is not yet settled enough to access any Insight Knowledge).
As soon as my mind settled down, I felt pleasant tingling and vibrating in my leg, along with a feeling of well-being and lightness (4th ñana, Arising and Passing of Phenomena).
Next, there were subtle, cool tingles all over my skin and I felt bliss (5th ñana, Dissolution).
Next, I heard a sudden noise and was startled, frightened, and disoriented (6th ñana, Fear).
Next, my jaw and neck started to tighten and writhe, and I felt itches on my skin (7th ñana, Misery).
Next, I began thinking about snails and worms and ugly people, and my face pulled involuntarily into a sneer (8th ñana, Disgust).
Next, my chest became tight, my breathing shallow, and I started thinking “Let me out of here!” (9th ñana, Desire for Deliverance).
Next, my mind was full of all kinds of negativity, my concentration went to hell, and I began thinking I was wasting my time and I might as well get up and have another cup of coffee or watch some television. I started thinking about the argument I once had with someone, and how I had definitely been in the right (10th ñana, Knowledge of Re-observation).
Finally, my mind settled down, the field of awareness expanded, and sitting was effortless. There was a pain in my leg, but it was no problem; I experienced it as a flow of sensations, some pleasant, some unpleasant, but none of it was a problem (11th ñana, Knowledge of Equanimity).
I became more and more calm. Then, when I wasn’t expecting anything, there was a momentary discontinuity in my awareness, followed by a deep breath and a feeling of bliss (15th ñana, Knowledge of Fruition).
After that, I sat up straight, feeling energy returning to my body and mind and realized I was back at the beginning of the cycle (4th ñana, Knowledge of The Arising and Passing Away of Phenomena).

Sometimes these stages go by very quickly. You may get just a momentary taste of each ñana as you quickly move through it to the next. Nonetheless, with repeated observations, you can see that the mind is moving through a series of layers or strata as it becomes more concentrated throughout the sitting. Also remember that “concentrated” does not mean “focused on one small area or object.” Rather, it means “remaining undistracted with the mind resting in the object or objects of awareness.” In fact, as concentration deepens throughout the sitting, the movement is toward an ever-more-diffuse field of awareness.

Once you have a feeling for what each state or stage entails, you can make a resolution (Pali “adhitthana”) to call up each state and review it in isolation. You can call up any state in any order in this way. This becomes your laboratory for really understanding and identifying each of the ñanas. The formal resolution does not have to be elaborate; it can be as simple as “May I review the 4th ñana now,” or “OK, I wanna do some fruitions.” The more you work with adhitthanas (resolutions) the more confidence you have in them, until it becomes clear to you that all these states are available to you instantaneously by simply inclining your mind toward them. Finally, the answer to the question “how do you get to such-and-such a ñana or such-and-such a jhana”? becomes as simple as the question “how do you get to the kitchen from the living room”?

You just go there. You don’t even think about it. That level of proficiency with jhanas and ñanas is a realistic goal for anyone who has the interest and the willingness to train systematically toward it. Taken together, this kind of training is called adhitthana practice, and is usually undertaken during the 16th ñana (Knowledge of Review), but can be done any time after First (or any other) Path.

Kenneth Folk
August 2009

***

This is a place for questions and comments about The Progress of Insight (part five).
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Kennth

Let me say a heart-felt thank you so much for this post! It was extremely helpful.

I just sat down to see if I could go through this cycle and become more aware of it. I am starting to see that every few days I go through these cycles, which I had never seen clearly before.

So reading through those descriptions of each stage I felt like I was at arising and passing pretty much as soon as I started paying attention. Then I seemed to proceed within perhaps 2 minutes of reading each description. A couple of them I proceed past in a row so I had to skip.

Funnily enough, the key thing for me seemed to be the conciseness of your descriptions. I went through them almost in the time it took to read them. First time through my chest became tight. I lost concentration. I really noticed my field of awareness expand. Just kept focusing on the sensations one after another. Calmness came. Then the shortest of discontinuity, so short and unusual compared to what I normally pay attention to (now blip makes sense!) and the deep breath plus bliss. Then I did sit up in my seat, and felt the energy return!

It took no longer than 5 minutes. I started writing this message. Then I thought "well if its so easy, do it again". So I did, this time noticing the tightness in my neck very vividly and again the blip took me by surprise in that I noticed about 10 seconds after it happened and wondered if I was falling asleep although I didn't feel tired. Again the deep breath and that clued me in and then the energy returns.

So wow. I can't believe I just cycled through it twice, when I've never even noticed it before. I thought I was a chronic dark night yogi.

The concentration was ripe but I didn't know what I was looking for until you posted this particular configuration of words, for which I am very grateful.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Fruition revealed nothing to me whatsoever. Is that expected at a certain level of practice, in your experience?

I'm not entirely sure how the three doors fit into it yet, although I was paying attention to impermanence while I did this, so perhaps I should try to enter through a different door.

Thanks again
Craig
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Craig, what you are describing here sounds just right. You wrote: “I went through them almost in the time it took to read them.” This is my experience as well. And this remarkable ability of the mind to attune itself to jhanic/ñanic states is the key to being an effective teacher of developmental meditation. Bill Hamilton used to point out to me that if you watch meditation teachers during interviews with yogis, the teachers are going through the states in real time as the yogis describe them. For example, the yogi says “I felt itchy all over,” and the teacher begins to scratch! Because of this automatic attunement, the teacher can not only get a feeling for where the yogi is, but also offer appropriate advice for that stage and check back later to see if the yogi is making the expected progress.

You wrote: “I can't believe I just cycled through it twice, when I've never even noticed it before. I thought I was a chronic dark night yogi.” These two things are not incompatible. In other words, it’s possible to attain 1st Path (but not realize it), then move on into the early nanas, the A&P and the dark night before 2nd Path, but still be able to do review (adhitthana) practice on the states you developed during the 1st Progress of Insight.

(continued below)
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
(continued from above)

You wrote: “Fruition revealed nothing to me whatsoever. Is that expected at a certain level of practice, in your experience?” Yes, this is expected. If fruition is “old hat,” then there is no wow factor. As Bill H. used to say, “How many times are you going to laugh at the same joke”? In fact, when you are working toward 2nd Path, 1st Path review practice can quickly become unsatisfactory; your mind naturally gravitates to the cutting edge of your practice, and gets impatient with too much review.

You wrote: “I'm not entirely sure how the three doors fit into it yet, although I was paying attention to impermanence while I did this, so perhaps I should try to enter through a different door.” I’ve written instructions for accessing the various doors somewhere. Let me see if I can find them and I’ll post them on this thread.

Mudita,

Kenneth
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Craig here are some instructions for and descriptions of the three doors:

Roll your eyes up into your head and let them flicker. Is the flickering continuous, or does it come in pulsing waves? Watch for the end of a cycle of flickers. There's just a tiny bit of tension as you focus on the end of the wave. Ftrrrp, ftrrrrp, ftrrrp. At the end of each wave of strobing there is a stop. Sometimes, there is also a little blip of nothingness, followed by a brief wave of bliss. The quick, clean blip is a dukkha (suffering) cessation. The smoother, slippery ones are anatta (no-self). No-self cessations can be extended to long periods of time. Dukkha cessations are always momentary as far as I know. The third door to nibbana is the anicca (impermanence) door. It also might show up while rolling your eyes up and fluttering them. And it can be extended for several seconds at a time, possibly more. But it is unlike the other two types of cessations in that it feels like you are being quickly and smoothly vibrated in and out of nibbana. Once you identity it and get the hang of it, you can call it up on cue just like the other two, although for me it's the trickiest of the three doors to review. It takes a slight amount of tension in the body and mind to make all of the mental vibrations sync up properly, and if you overdo the tension, you overshoot the cessation and just get tense! But, like all of these reviewed phenomena, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

For those who have just tuned in, the ability to experience cessation is evidence of having attained 1st Path. Put another way, if you can't do it yet, that's expected unless you are already a "stream-winner." Don't make yourself crazy trying to do something that can't possibly happen for you yet, just keep doing your vipassana and samatha practices and let the mind ripen naturally.

Kenneth
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Uh.... Uh... Okay... uh... holy shit.... I'm confused!

Kenneth,

I swear I have been stuck in the 3rd Nana (1st path), at least by reading the maps, but after reading what you posted about cycling through the Nanas and the comments above, I am pretty sure I've made 1st path.

That can't be right. I've only been doing insight practice for about a year. I'm not even counting the 12 years of Christian contemplative prayer I use to do for an hour a day. Should I count it?

And I haven't had any formal training, don't you have to have at least some... at least a retreat or two?

The question is... have I really already made 1st path and didn't even know it?!? If so, I'm kind of pissed!
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jamie,

Yes, it's possible to have 1st Path and not know it. Of course it's also possible to be mistaken in the other direction, so let's see if we can figure out what's going on with you. These online diagnoses are always subject to error, of course, but I'd like to take my best shot. I've been wanting to hear more about your practice ever since I read on your profile the other day that you think you are stuck in the 3rd ñana before 1st Path; there are some reasons to doubt that, not least because you are so enthusiastic about practice. That kind of fire doesn't usually ignite until the first A&P, at which time you are really bitten by the bug and have no choice but to pursue enlightenment.

So, can you tell me about your practice in bare-bones, Mahasi-style terms? I'd like to get to the bottom of this mystery!

I know you've read Daniel's book, so you know the concise reporting format, but here's a review of how a good report might look:

"There were tingles in my face. I noted "tingling." As I continued to observe, I noticed that the tingles were concentrated in my left cheek over an area about the size of a tennis ball. The tingling got stronger and changed to an itch about the size of a thimble. I noted "itching." It got even smaller, to a pinpoint, and got stronger. I noted "itching." It stayed for about half a minute, then became a burning sensation. I noted "burning." It disappeared after another half minute, and I returned to the rise and fall of the abdomen, noting "rising, falling."

There was softness and warmth at the abdomen, over an area the size of a soccer ball. I noted "rising, falling." As I observed the softness, it changed to..."

Also, talk about how your experience resonates with the review practice.

Thanks,

Kenneth
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Jamie,

I think it's possible to experience cycling prior to actually landing first path. I used to cycle from 1st to 11th nana over-and-over again prior to getting path and fruition. I was pretty confused as to whether or not path and fruition had taken place until BAM... it happened. It's not always clear. You may have, or may not have, attained a path. I'm interested to hear more about your experiences.

~Jackson
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: telecaster

I definitely think you should count it. Christian contemplative prayer is a powerful practice. 12 years is a long time.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I've been keeping a meditation journal. I'll string together the happenings from my sittings in concise format:

"I sit and am immediately aware of the separation between the six sense gates, including thoughts, and "me" the observer. At first mind is buzzing too fast and body awareness seems dull, so I focus on my breath and begin to notice individual "packets" of moments... "in" "in" "in"... "out" "out" out"... as if watching an old movie style reel moving slow enough for me to notice each passing frame though I don't have time to linger over the content.

"The 'observer' begins to notice many more sensations in the body that wasn't there, now since all attention is focused on the body. Things begin to vibrate out over one spot to the next. I note the sensations, but briefly think about how all things in the body are interconnected and effect each other, then back to 'observing'"

"Sometimes I get lost in a thought, but I move to being able to observe very quickly all sensations coming from all the sense gates... things are beginning to pick up and the observer is very concentrated. A feeling of dropping occurs with a strong sense of peace (maybe a little joy and almost pride that things are really seeming to click). Physically the shoulders feel as if they have dropped. A weird cool sensation about as wide as a soccer ball always seems to begin on my right shoulder/upper back. It usually doesn't spread out. Yesterday my cell phone alarm went of and spooked me, but I didn't get up, I just kept sitting through it. The alarm actually sounded different... choppy and clicky sounding. In the past my neighbor, who has a wood shop next door, turns on his saws and that has the same effect.

contd
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
"My left foot has fallen asleep (it always does about 10 minutes into sitting). I start to fear I am doing some permanent damage to it if I don't just quit and get up, but I just keep going. I become very concerned about my posture and intentionally start making sure I am sitting up straight to make sure I'm getting the full effect of sitting. (The whole time I realize this is just part of the progress so I just observe and go on).

My breath begins to seem to be getting labored and I start to fear that I might stop breathing. I so want to get up but keep going. I know it will pass, which it does. I finally reach a place of equanimity, whatever happens just happens and I know it's just a part of insight. Unless it's serious pain or cramps that come on and I just have to move, I'll sit through it and just observe. This is where I usually get stuck, whether sitting for twenty minutes or up to 45 minutes. Afterwords I get an after glow where all kinds of thoughts about how the Three Characteristics work, like yesterday I compared "me" to an individual cell in my body, and how there really is no difference (I won't go into it here, my point being lots of intense after-stuff comes up).

I've had an experience, though not while sitting, where I was doing something, not intentionally doing anything on purpose and my mind "blipped". At first I was confused about what had just happened and wondered where I had went. It didn't hurt, and it didn't seem like I was in any danger, so I didn't panic. It happened again a few seconds later twice in quick succession. I stood for a minute but went on to something else because at the time I didn't know what it was.

After my sittings I can recall very easily everything that occurred while sitting. I am also seeing changes in my personality. Since I am better at seeing intentions to my actions more quickly...

contd
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
continuing thought from above:

I am not reacting out of habit so much. I am also beginning to see how those intentions were seeded by something else previous, whether actions or thoughts. At work I was starting to get very jaded and negative. Now I am having more compassion (I recite the Metta Sutta before leaving the parking lot), and have more equanimity about what happens at work, though I do have a lot of unskillful stuff I still do.

That's it for now without going further into boring content.
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Kenneth

I have done perhaps six cycles this morning trying to pay attention, each time I notice different things about it. The flickering starts out continuous and ends up feeling like its slipping away or ephemeral. Just noticed a fanning out of the sensations followed by the ftrrrp, ftrrrp ftrrrp for the first time. The wave of bliss at the end is what keys me in to the cycle having completed (bit of an assumption though) as sometimes I miss the cessation, usually because I'm too tense. I had one blip this morning, and the others have been very slippery.

(continued in next post)
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
(continued from last post)
So it looks like I'm able to recognise the dukkha and anatta cessations, I'll keep looking for the anicca ones next.

I know exactly what you mean about overdoing the tension causing you to overshoot the cessation.

I also notice tingling at the crown of my head in an area about 5 inches in diameter, which occurs sometimes after the completion of a cycle. Does anyone else experience this? I've been experiencing this tingling and wondering what on earth it was for about the past year. I've figured its something to do with the crown chakra.

Thanks for the help!

Craig
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 19 Join Date: 7/7/09 Recent Posts
"I also notice tingling at the crown of my head in an area about 5 inches in diameter, which occurs sometimes after the completion of a cycle. Does anyone else experience this? "

Yes, although not nearly as pronounced as you seem to, Craig.
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jamie,

Sorry to take so long to get back to you. I was in Boston for a meeting of language geeks. Actually, it was a certification/training seminar for teaching accent reduction to English speakers.

You wrote:

"I've had an experience, though not while sitting, where I was doing something, not intentionally doing anything on purpose and my mind "blipped". At first I was confused about what had just happened and wondered where I had went. It didn't hurt, and it didn't seem like I was in any danger, so I didn't panic. It happened again a few seconds later twice in quick succession. I stood for a minute but went on to something else because at the time I didn't know what it was."

Say more about the blips. How long have they been happening? Can you describe them some more? What happens just before and just after the blips? See if you can get it to happen again. Sit down with the intention of reviewing that territory and see what happens.

Kenneth
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
"I also notice tingling at the crown of my head in an area about 5 inches in diameter, which occurs sometimes after the completion of a cycle. Does anyone else experience this? I've been experiencing this tingling and wondering what on earth it was for about the past year. I've figured its something to do with the crown chakra."-CGN

Hi Craig,

Yes, this kind of activity at the crown shakra is normal and common among meditators, and is a sign of progress. The progress of insight is intimately connected with the movement and maturation of kundalini energy within the body. Eventually, all of the chakras are developed and the energy flows freely through all of the energy channels and nexuses. The tingling at the crown chakra is a legitimate object of meditation, as is any sensation within the body. Just observe the tingling impassively and see what happens to it (if anything).

Kenneth
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 134 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Kenneth

Thanks for your reply. It's a relief to hear that it's normal, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I

I haven't practiced much the past few days as I have been ill but I will take it as an object of meditation next time I experience it.

Thanks
Craig
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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Responses to The Progress of Insight (part five)

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Question: I believe that I'm in review stage, and definitely feel like I'm "cycling" and have been able to call up pretty clearly the ñanas (though not always super strongly, the dark night ñanas are particularly weak on the emotional side), but I often get stuck at fruition. I've never had a very clear experience of the "blip", but rather am guessing that it's happening when the wave of brief bliss occurs, which is definitely perceptible.

I guess my question is twofold. First, what can I do to not get stuck in high equanimity and move from that to high mastery and then fruition? It seems like sometimes there's an energetic block, or sometimes too much effort and self, though sometimes I feel like I enter high mastery and then go to the eye flickering, which frrps along for a bit, but then stabilizes into calm.

In those other times, where the wave of bliss occurs (which I'm assuming is following a fruition) I'm wondering how I might hold/develop things so that the fruition becomes noticeable. Thanks for any and all help!

Rafi

ps - I'm generally working with impermanence when I get to high equanimity and high mastery.

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