For Florian and others w/o retreats

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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 9/23/10 6:47 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/23/10 6:47 PM

For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
Sorry for this long post, I've tried to keep it tight....

Looking for input about where I am on the map. Particularly interested in advice from Florian and others stream entrants with family and job constraints (I have a kid and partner and a complex professional life). Any advice, suggested threads welcome--though I read a lot here, I'm sure there are threads I've missed. I'm looking for ways to structure my practice and what direction to incline myself. Also, a new schedule makes it very hard to keep in touch with any particular teacher.

I was able to attend two retreats (one 7-day sesshin and one 10-day vipassana) in the last year. Professional responsibilities have (fortunately) increased a lot this year. The result is that retreat time is unlikely for a long while.

Currently I sit 1 hour per day in the very early morning, starting with 15 mins of pranayama breathing (makes all the difference) and then noting practice. Not at all sure whether I crossed A&P. A lot to indicate I've been a dark night type over the years and I've had remarkable entheogenic experiences (one in particular where I briefly but totally and radically dissociated from my identification with "self" and instead entirely identified with a specific sensory input, ie: a splash of red paint in a painting). Never had bright lights in sitting, though plenty of rapture waves (not since July and even then), super intense joy and a sense of luminosity. It seemed to me that last Spring I was access Jhana 1-3, in that I had great piti, then contentment. All kinds of rapture waves and involuntary swaying. During sesshin, I had an abrupt experience of mindfullness while at dinner--still not sure what it was, I think it was just super intense mindfulness--hilarious!

On a 10-day retreat this summer, I passed through cycles of physical pain and irritated doubt into concentrated joy. The joy sometimes very intense and luminous (though not a spotlight, more an intense inner sensation of luminosity...if that makes sense), even in walking meditation--to the point where it became tedious. There was some rapture waves in this but mostly a lot of joy pervaded throughout the body. The last sitting of the 5th day I found myself once again in the bright joyful state--but a particularly strong one. I was careful not to modify or intensify it--just tried to "get out of the way". The bell rang and I continued sitting. People filed out of the hall and then someone turned out the lights. There was a visual strobing effect in my eyes/mind which shifted to a hugely expansive feeling, like being under a night sky. I felt boundless and spacious, it was pleasurable but not agitated, though a very "strong" experience...I didn't know what to "do" in terms of practice so I just sat with it--I realize now I should have continued noting. (Was that J4?). I never found myself in quite the same "place" again but did have a lot of joy and my sati/mindfulness became quite sharp. In the remaining days of the retreat, I sat for hours a stretch without physical pain. My sits often included "earthquake"-like feelings which where I felt sort of a sort of short shove/tremor from the ground (ie: I wasn't physically swaying). I sometimes felt a strong thrumming vibration in the back of my head (not in sitting, but resting) like a sort of rapid soft hammering, not unpleasant or pleasant. I experienced extraordinary clarity and stillness where I observed thoughts arise, cause agitation and pass away (in sitting and walking, but even more so at work and rest). Finally, my heart really opened and I experienced a softening and compassion for myself and others that was fearless and remarkable.

Current sits sometimes offer a challenge at the outset to settle all the distractions of professional intensity/concerns, plans. I focus on the the breath at nostrils or else the "nada" sound in the ears and sometimes when I am very distracted, it's easiest to go with choice-less awareness. Noting is verbal till things get subtle, then it's sort of pre-verbal (sort of a grunt "Unh"). No pain, often quite concentrated and sometimes surprised by the bell.

Lately I am mindful of a "knowing" awareness which arises with everything--even with distraction or lulling of attention away from the object. And now EVERYTHING comes within the beam of mindfulness. I am not aware of the passing away of sensations. I am aware of their arising and presence. Fine vibrations often spread throughout the body, though to this day I don't sense vibrations within an individual sensation of the breath (the only time I had something like that was that thrumming in the back of the head). Body awareness is soft/gentle, though never absent. I often don't need much sleep (is this a very extended A&P...like months and months?) so long as I sit. (I should say that this is an notably positive and happy time in terms of professional stuff--after years of the opposite of that, so I have energy because it's exciting). Sittings by and large are low on agitation of any kind (I work at keeping it that way) and I don't have thrilling rapture effects or intense joy, though sometimes a bit of pitti creeps in, but nothing like last spring or this summer.

Now and then, I experience a sort of pristine clarity and calm, like sitting in nature, but sitting in my mind/body/house/life with everything just going on--that's pretty amazing. In those moments I bring my attention to vedena of that, and to what constitutes/constructs that feeling.

Hope this sketches it out alright. I have a hard time recounting my meditations in the super accurate way I often see here (my memory has never been super great...gets worse with age), but if more info is helpful, let me know.

FYI: In the last weeks, I've read and re-read with great interests threads started by Florian ("Idling Overhead" and "Empty Hands"--can't say I'm that far along, but parts of that discussion speak to me).
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 9/25/10 12:50 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/24/10 1:08 PM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
Oh, the buzzing/thrumming at the back of my head is back--not when sitting, but when laying in bed and drifting towards sleep. A very physical feeling, the rhythm very similar to a car idling. And the nada sound is noticeable to loud in the ears all day long
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 9/26/10 12:50 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/26/10 12:50 AM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi

Having read your post a couple of times, and having thought about it:

While I can't tell you where you are with any great degree of accuracy, the descriptions you give indicate A&P territory, as you yourself suggest.

So, if you assume A&P, what you could try to do is question your experience of good, effortless, pleasurable, balanced meditation. You know, this sense of "hey, this is going really well", the sense of being an accomplished meditator, of being impressed with how well one is doing. (Don't get me wrong! You are doing well, and are accomplished, and now it's time to take it to the next step). The corresponding teaching is called the "ten defilements of insight", and what you can try to do is adopt a more skeptical stance, instead of going for the balance you try to notice the tendencies that might be off-balancing; instead of noting the bliss or pleasure, you place your attention on the not-so-blissful and unpleasureable, to counter the sense of accomplishment you give more attention to all the things "out there" you haven't noticed yet, which aren't under your control, etc. In other words, make your noting more inclusive, all-around.

For me, it was fascination with seeing lights, bright, diffuse, patterned, on the back of my eyelids. To move on, I started to divide those patterns or lights into fields, to break up the sense of coherence and unity. Also, at that time, I started to use the nada sound as an object for noting. Since it presents so strongly for you at the moment, have you investigated it? It's made up of many "strands" (at least for me), a bit like a braid - one strand will become dominant, and can be followed for some time, but at one point it's gone, and there is a sense of having to feel for the next strand? That was useful to me.

So in summary, don't be afraid to knock harder, note more aggressively and inclusively, take a skeptical stance, and so on. Incidentally, exactly the same skills are useful in equanimity. If you're actually there, it's still a good idea to examine it really closely, with an attitude of "if this is equanimity, I can't destroy it by looking too close or questioning it too hard".

Finally, you mention how you often can't remember your sit to give a detailed report. Have you tried to make a formal resolution to gain more clarity? Resolutions like that are quite powerful, in my experience. Also, you mentioned your pranayama warm-up. Can you describe your experience of that exercise?

Helpful? If not, keep asking!

Cheers,
Florian
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 9/27/10 1:43 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/27/10 1:43 PM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
In my second post I originally wrote about equanimity--then went back to edit it from my iphone and instead deleted it but couldn't undo (discovered that DhO is not friendly to iphone for posting). Some aspects of what I experience corresponds to what I've read about equanimity: slippery, everything very smooth, even unsmooth experience is smooth....it just seems unlikely to me that I'd be there already.

FWIW I'm a "confusion" type (as opposed to an aversive or desiring type). My gut response to everything is uncertainty and feeling that things are indistinct and a lot of doubt.

Unexpected opportunity to sit all day on Saturday. In all the smoothness, I focused more on the subtle dukkha and on the craving for the experience to be more pronounced--dramatic. Things just got smoother in spite of lots of flashing, flickering in visual field and tactile vibration sensations over the whole body. The flickering quite pronounced (if this is what is meant by vibrations, I experience them all the time as waves that flow over the body or as a flickering in the mind, visual field or as a hard to discern, very fast flickering in the "nada" sound). In any case, the smoothness settled at the end of the day into an acute awareness city sounds--quite poignant in how brief and impermanent they were....Flickering quite intense--but not psychedelic over-the-top intense. Maybe this is a "comparative mind" problem... I'm often expecting the intensity to be intenser--maybe because I've had some very intense mind experiences back in the day--entheogens. So there is occastionally a sense of inadequacy/frustration/disappointment when that doesn't happen (yes, I'm noting that). See last sit described below.

Last night, a very different sit, which I wrote out more clearly. The pranayama I do is very rudimetary: 10 mins of deep breaths with exhales 2x as long as inhales. It concentrates me substantially. I then did candle flame kasina for a bit--though curiously, no afterimage presented (or very little). However, I could feel concentration building very strongly as pressure in the forehead. I turned attention to the nada sound and the various strands therein (have heard these too--but haven't tuned into the "having to feel for the next strand"). Then came the "chugging" sound, like imbalanced washing machine (have "heard" this lately). It is more tactile than auditory--but happens in the ears. I noticed it in the right ear and then it faded. I decided to surrender to these sensations but made an effort not to "enhance" them--which is hard, I often am craving a "stronger" more distinct experience. (I can mitigate that straining by really watcing my posture). This was followed by rushes of fine vibrations all over the body and the feeling of being smushed by gravity and more vibrations which coincided with heat in the body. Sublte images of moving through tunnels--like sewers, half-filled with "liquid". Since I wasn't sure whether I liked or disliked any of it (it was all very interesting), I began noting vedena. Then the vibrations became more prickly and I had physical sensations associated with fear (in my heart/stomach and along the skin). It was all sort of racing across my body and I had the feeling like I wanted to scream (Noting all the while...) The fear was chilling and "scary", but in a sort of melodramatic and cartoony way. So I asked to see the real stuff and it all got more intense and my face tightened with fear and I actually gasped a few times as the "fear sensations" rushed over me (I guess what was cartoony is that there was no object to this fear). Then a distinct feeling that "something" was behind me--which was genuinely creepy to me and while I could investigate it, I could only bear to check out the edges of that one on a sensate level. I felt a little drained when the bell rang. I wondered also whether the fear was tolerable because I was so calmly concentrated.

This morning: a frustrating sit. The feeling is familiar and I often label it, "these are not the droids you're looking for". It's the sense that I'm on the wrong track, that the wrong thing(s) is/are "happening" Doubt. But I also know better and know that "this is it". Nevertheless, I feel that I can't sense vibrations well enough, or that I experience the wrong vibrations...these aren't the "right" vibrations. I noticed these feelings of doubt and dissatisfaction but even the dissatisfaction seems indistinct....like it's not there. There's always this feeling that there's something I can't see, something I'm missing--even in noting that feeling of vagueness or doubt. I'm aware that the object of my attention is "out there" and it seems indistinct, aware that the dissatisfaction and sense of "indistinct" is "here." In any case, I'm very concentrated, even though it doesn't seem that way, as the bell is a complete surprise.

It has been helpful to write this. Still curious about where I am on the maps--while feeling dubious about the maps and naming stages too much (which is conceptual and not direct knowledge).
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 9/27/10 3:29 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/27/10 3:29 PM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Well, I'd say, a pretty clear move up through the nanas right into the fear nana. The flashing lights and strong, focussed nada sound I'd say indicate your passage through A&P. So you can obviously access the fear nana, probably beyond, from your description. With each sit, you push that boundary a bit further, and with each sit, you'll get there faster. If the maps inspire you to keep practicing because there is more to see, well, that's a good use of the maps, isn't it?

Have you experimented with prolonged kasina sits? I bet you can notice a progession through these same stages in the visual object. For me, with eyes open, the kasina will be clear and stable in mind&body, wobble and move in cause&effect, I tend to squint a bit in A&P, and then quite severely in the dark night nanas (such that I have double vision of the kasina), for example. Also, the backgrould gets "busy" in dark night. With eyes closed, the effects are different, but I can still feel my eyes crossing if I tune into the sensations around my eyeballs.

As to not wanting to "enhance" your experience - just note that desire not to enhance. And why not experiment? It's all well and nice to be very gentle and non-interfering, but after all, your experience is always your experience, whether it's the experience of passively watching what's happening, or the experience of actively drilling down. The important thing is not to lose track of what is happening (mindfulness). So What happens if you do actively enhance it (i.e. pump up the concentration), but mindfully? (This is actually traditional instructions from the suttas: to pump up the concentration now and then, in order to gain more power, stability, and clarity for investigation).

Have you tried formal resolve to reach equanimity quickly? Definitely worth a try.

Cheers,
Florian
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 9/28/10 1:19 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/28/10 1:19 PM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 60 Join Date: 2/4/10 Recent Posts
Florian Weps:

Have you experimented with prolonged kasina sits? I bet you can notice a progession through these same stages in the visual object. For me, with eyes open, the kasina will be clear and stable in mind&body, wobble and move in cause&effect, I tend to squint a bit in A&P, and then quite severely in the dark night nanas (such that I have double vision of the kasina), for example. Also, the backgrould gets "busy" in dark night. With eyes closed, the effects are different, but I can still feel my eyes crossing if I tune into the sensations around my eyeballs.


Are you practicing vipassana or shamatha in these kasina sits? I don't always see a hard line between the two, but for shamatha I tend to leave noting aside.

Good point about the enhancing--it's all my experience. I guess I'm thinking about the experience I described from retreat this summer, when I hit whatever that was (4th J?...Equanimity...still curious about what it "was", it was huge and spaceous). What happened was that I didn't do anything. After a long day, I had become quite concentrated and was sort of waiting for people to leave the hall and listening to the shuffling and quieting down as people went out, when the light switch was flipped off in the hall and then boom! (but a big soft pillow-y boom). Afterward, I was aware of how much I didn't "do", ie: how much I got out of the way. The key is not getting attached to any method I guess.

Thanks for your perspective and particularly for the encouragement. This site, and what goes on here, is pretty amazing.
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 9/29/10 1:43 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 9/29/10 1:43 AM

RE: For Florian and others w/o retreats

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
boeuf f:
Florian Weps:

Have you experimented with prolonged kasina sits? I bet you can notice a progession through these same stages in the visual object. For me, with eyes open, the kasina will be clear and stable in mind&body, wobble and move in cause&effect, I tend to squint a bit in A&P, and then quite severely in the dark night nanas (such that I have double vision of the kasina), for example. Also, the backgrould gets "busy" in dark night. With eyes closed, the effects are different, but I can still feel my eyes crossing if I tune into the sensations around my eyeballs.


Are you practicing vipassana or shamatha in these kasina sits? I don't always see a hard line between the two, but for shamatha I tend to leave noting aside.


Well, this is a samatha-heavy mix of both, actually. I just gaze at the kasina, no noting. I think you'll notice how the different jhanas present themselves, and also the state shifts in between. I'm not talking cast-in-concrete hard jhana here. Just enough concentration to get to the jhana, then a low-key looking at what's happening here kind of investigation. A bit like leafing through the jhanas, like a slide show on automatic, that kind of attitude.

boef f:
Good point about the enhancing--it's all my experience. I guess I'm thinking about the experience I described from retreat this summer, when I hit whatever that was (4th J?...Equanimity...still curious about what it "was", it was huge and spaceous). What happened was that I didn't do anything. After a long day, I had become quite concentrated and was sort of waiting for people to leave the hall and listening to the shuffling and quieting down as people went out, when the light switch was flipped off in the hall and then boom! (but a big soft pillow-y boom). Afterward, I was aware of how much I didn't "do", ie: how much I got out of the way. The key is not getting attached to any method I guess.


Sure, that kind of thing arises from letting go, from finding a balance and then releasing the supports. Remember that state for a few minutes before sitting, make a formal resolve, "May that state from the last retreat arise in this sit", then sit and forget about it. I recognize your description, and have accessed states like this off retreat, so it's definitely doable.

Not getting attached to methods - well, those that work are worth keeping. I think the "no method" approach is nice to clean up the attic now and then, but it shouldn't become a rigid dogma. The whole point of experimenting is finding out what works, after all.

I hope I didn't confuse you - I was just making a few suggestions for experimentation, they were intended as "things to try out", not to be combined all in one single sit.

boef f:
Thanks for your perspective and particularly for the encouragement. This site, and what goes on here, is pretty amazing.


Yeah, I love this place, too, and all the dedicated people posting here.

Cheers,
Florian