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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

What is this space in my consciousness?

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Interested for explanation/suggested diagnosis of the following?
 
Very early this year in my practice I began to repeatedly notice a sense of space within my stream of consciousness. To try and describe accurately - this space feels like it sits ‘around’ the total incoming sensate reality data & seems, on reflection, to have an Anatta quality. (i.e. it feels like something that isn't the parts of my mind that feel like self. It also seems to have a real physical feeling of space/spaciousness (but occurs inside my mind).
 
Initially, this experience happened occasionally. Initially I believed it was a weird anomaly, or a meaningless delusion hence ignored it.
 
Now it's happened literally hundreds of times & has become a permanent part of my meditation experience. i.e. it's there in every single meditation session.
 
When I focus on this space (or more relaxed into it) my mind drifts away from identifying with thoughts, emotions and sensations & gets into a very, deeply relaxed state.
 
Pretty soon after I finish meditating this “space” feeling diminishes. I've noticed it seems to diminish exactly when feelings I describe as ‘self’ or ‘selfing’ narratives arise in the body.

Whilst quickly diminishing after meditation this sense of space is now rising frequently within the stream of normal, walking around, non-meditative consciousness.
 
What is this space?
 
Is this what spiritual teachers (i.e. Adyashanti) mean when they say “spaciousness” in spiritual talk?
 
(To assist with the diagnosis. I've practiced Goenka method 17 years. Recently started practising Joseph Goldstein's ‘No-self’ meditation as part of my daily practice (which depend my understanding of Annatta significantly). I'm also now experimenting with open hearts 2 part method). Primary practice is Goenka style. I'm a dark night Yogi, cycling through to equanimity but not yet hit SE / Nibbana).
 
Thanks!
Fin

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/7/18 1:14 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
Hi there Fin!

When you say you practise Goenka style, could you elaborate what you mean excatly, as I'm not that familiar with it. Is it noting? How frequently are you noting? Or is it more like sitting without trying to do anything in particular?

With this spaciousness are you experiencing also some additional flavour? Is it pleasant, or plain boring? Or are you feeling slightly elevated in the mood, but not in an extatic way, more like being in equanimity?

How are you experiencing the boundaries of that spaciousness? Are they limited to your body or outside? Or you can't say? Or does it feel like it is just going wider without end?

When you stop your session, how quickly does the spaciousness go away? Within seconds or minutes? If in seconds, you might want to come out of the session slowly. Like if you've had your eyes closed, open them first and feel out this spaciousness. Then move your eyes a little while feeling it. Then maybe wiggle your finger whilst still feeling it etc.

From what you write, it does sound a lot similar than what I experience. For me, this thing is present in all my sits and also in day to day life most of the time. It is like you say, that it goes away only when there is some severe selfing happening, then it seems to contract and is not wide open in mind space.
I have trouble conceptualising what space feels like. I get confused about describing stuff as being 2D or 3D. I don't know what is the friction there but something is bothering me about it! It resembles a lot what I experienced with regards to understanding the self. I had trouble understanding all the descriptions related to the sense of self. I've come to terms with that. There the solution was that I had actually seen past this thing that people call self, and because the experience/consept in me was so "fluffy" I could not really understand and connect with the description. I wonder if similar thing has happened with me with regards to space? This is what I'm trying to find out. For me the spaciousness comes with other qualities too, and I've come to understand it as the natural state.

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/7/18 8:58 PM as a reply to Jehanne S Peacock.
Hi Jehanne, 

Thanks for your post! 

When you say you practise Goenka style, could you elaborate what you mean excatly, as I'm not that familiar with it. Is it noting? How frequently are you noting? Or is it more like sitting without trying to do anything in particular?
 
Goenka method does not involve noting. It uses Anapana to develop concentration & Vipassana to develop insight (practising with a base of morality too). The Vipassana practice is scanning the body part by part ,or sweeping, observing closely anicca (& later understanding Anatta and Dukkah) in all arising and passing sensations.
 
From me though I found practising Joseph Goldstein’s meditation methods for observing no self ‘turbo charged’ the understanding of anatta. 

With this spaciousness are you experiencing also some additional flavour? Is it pleasant, or plain boring? Or are you feeling slightly elevated in the mood, but not in an extatic way, more like being in equanimity?
Good question. It's pleasant & peaceful. It seems to be a state absent of 'selfing'. Your words are spot on - elevated, but more equanimity than ecstasy. It feels like resting in pure consciousness. 

How are you experiencing the boundaries of that spaciousness? Are they limited to your body or outside? Or you can't say? Or does it feel like it is just going wider without end?
It feels like it's both outside the body and inside the mind. I haven't noticed the dimensions of the space changing  - I will investigate.
It doesn't spread out endlessly (I've had that state on rare occasions - this is different). 


When you stop your session, how quickly does the spaciousness go away? Within seconds or minutes? If in seconds, you might want to come out of the session slowly. Like if you've had your eyes closed, open them first and feel out this spaciousness. Then move your eyes a little while feeling it. Then maybe wiggle your finger whilst still feeling it etc. 
Wthin minutes it diminishes yet it is always there if I am clam and aware. It's like a subtlety I've only just realised has probably always been there.
I will try coming out slowly. (I tend to get up quickly from meditation & go straight to my day/duties). 


From what you write, it does sound a lot similar than what I experience. For me, this thing is present in all my sits and also in day to day life most of the time. It is like you say, that it goes away only when there is some severe selfing happening, then it seems to contract and is not wide open in mind space. 
Yes, we are on the same page! emoticon 


I have trouble conceptualising what space feels like. I get confused about describing stuff as being 2D or 3D. I don't know what is the friction there but something is bothering me about it! It resembles a lot what I experienced with regards to understanding the self. I had trouble understanding all the descriptions related to the sense of self. I've come to terms with that. There the solution was that I had actually seen past this thing that people call self, and because the experience/consept in me was so "fluffy" I could not really understand and connect with the description. I wonder if similar thing has happened with me with regards to space? This is what I'm trying to find out. For me the spaciousness comes with other qualities too,
Totally agree - the more wisdom slowly matures the more I understand Dhamma is very hard to express accurately in words & seems to sound quite contradictory at times. Krishnamurti once said "as soon as the child understands the concept 'bird', she stops seeing the bird!" We're trying to reverse that process! 

and I've come to understand it as the natural state.
Funny just yesterday, shortly after posting this I was listening to Ramana Maharshi talking about the natural state and immediately wondered if that's what I have started experiencing. I think it is - I think you're absolutely right. This has only just 'clicked' in last 24 hours. 

Thanks for engaging - it it is very helpful. Glad to hear someone else going through the same experience too!  emoticon 








RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/7/18 11:32 PM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
Interested for explanation/suggested diagnosis of the following?
 
Very early this year in my practice I began to repeatedly notice a sense of space within my stream of consciousness. To try and describe accurately - this space feels like it sits ‘around’ the total incoming sensate reality data & seems, on reflection, to have an Anatta quality. (i.e. it feels like something that isn't the parts of my mind that feel like self. It also seems to have a real physical feeling of space/spaciousness (but occurs inside my mind).
 
Initially, this experience happened occasionally. Initially I believed it was a weird anomaly, or a meaningless delusion hence ignored it.
 
Now it's happened literally hundreds of times & has become a permanent part of my meditation experience. i.e. it's there in every single meditation session.
 
When I focus on this space (or more relaxed into it) my mind drifts away from identifying with thoughts, emotions and sensations & gets into a very, deeply relaxed state.
 
Pretty soon after I finish meditating this “space” feeling diminishes. I've noticed it seems to diminish exactly when feelings I describe as ‘self’ or ‘selfing’ narratives arise in the body.

Whilst quickly diminishing after meditation this sense of space is now rising frequently within the stream of normal, walking around, non-meditative consciousness.
 
What is this space?
 
Is this what spiritual teachers (i.e. Adyashanti) mean when they say “spaciousness” in spiritual talk?
 
Could be sutta jhana. First into second perhaps. Does it seem like attention sort of falls away from thoughts and thinking into something more stable, still, and spacious? As this goes deeper you might have a sense of the physical body dissappearing - like no longer knowing the position of your hands or arms - have you encountered that?

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/8/18 8:57 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
Funny just yesterday, shortly after posting this I was listening to Ramana Maharshi talking about the natural state and immediately wondered if that's what I have started experiencing. I think it is - I think you're absolutely right. This has only just 'clicked' in last 24 hours. 

Was there an actual click? An event of change, that marks before and after?

Where can I find Goldstein's no-self meditation instructions or guided?

edit. found it.

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/9/18 1:23 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Hi Kim,

No, no click. No SE. My self delusion took a big hit a few years ago during an A&P exp. I saw myself as only the 5 aggregates & realised I am not my thoughts & saw clearly the self is just a story in the mind. Then after a few weeks of release/joy I felt totally as normal - identifying as self again. 

Also - doubt lingers, habits (rituals/patterns) - I'm attached to doing certain activities at certain times in certain order. No huge shift in insight or normal experience (just a slow gradual one over many years with small leaps).

Often in thinking I realise that my thoughts are not real & can often stop identifying with that story but the conditioning has not released enough for cessation.

Coincidentally, I started your 2 Part Formula as a regular practice just this week. Am looking forward to seeing what I see. emoticon

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/9/18 1:24 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi Chuck,

Interesting to consider but would Jhana arise in ordinary, daily life? If I have had Jhana its only after days of Anapana on retreat. 
I find the maps sketchy as words about experiences are easliy misinterpreted. 

I'll investigate!

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/10/18 6:01 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
Hi Chuck,

Interesting to consider but would Jhana arise in ordinary, daily life? If I have had Jhana its only after days of Anapana on retreat. 
I find the maps sketchy as words about experiences are easliy misinterpreted. 

I'll investigate!
As you say, words about experiences are easily misinterpreted. And there are a number of different definitions of jhana out there as well. There are also different opinions about what level of depth is required for it to be called jhana.

When you wrote: When I focus on this space (or more relaxed into it) my mind drifts away from identifying with thoughts, emotions and sensations & gets into a very, deeply relaxed state.
This is what led me to think of jhana as this is the nature of first moving into second jhana. First distracting thoughts and emotions fall away and only thoughts related to the meditation object are present and then eventually this falls away as well and the mind settles into a more peaceful spacious place. There is a perceptual shift that takes place. As an analogy, imagine you have a turtle in a box that is open at the top so you can keep an eye on it. You have to keep your eye on it at all times to keep track of it. If you place a hand on the turtle you can then close your eyes. This requires much less effort than having to watch it all the time. There is also a shift in perception from the eyes to the sense of touch. This experience of thought activity dropping away is completely unknown to most people. You can still have observational thoughts about what is happening to you but normal internal dialog – the chatter – is gone.

Likewise, when you wrote:Pretty soon after I finish meditating this “space” feeling diminishes. I've noticed it seems to diminish exactly when feelings I describe as ‘self’ or ‘selfing’ narratives arise in the body.
This is exactly what happens. As the internal dialog starts up again you drop out of that state. But the positive or pleasant sensations that accompany it will fade away more gradually. With practice, the mind becomes more stable and it can enter into it even when not sitting if conditions are suitable and you attend to your surroundings in a way conducive to bringing it about.

These states can arise outside of formal meditation practice – for example a walk in a park or out on a quiet evening walk.

And then it could be something else too….

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/12/18 1:03 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Hi everyone,

space !!!

This is my experience of it. After a retreat some 3 years ago, I didn’t sleep for 3 days. I was getting worried I might go into hallucination but I was clear and high as a kite. Then something interesting started to change. It’s like my from my eyes onwards is exposed and become sky. It feel cool, expansive, and very little “me”. Like someone described in previous post, it feel contracted when I need to talk, walk or focus. Then there is this anomaly, where I flip in/out, like a light switch on/off. Almost everything almost gone but the spaciousness. The ability to think, coherently talk, drive....
When mediate, the moment I relax the mind expand and I feel ecstasy. It’s not joy, or happiness or peace. Those were “body” based. This ecstasy is mind based. Then the energy gathered and started squeezing my consciousness out. And I ceasated. Like a candle flame blown out. It’s only a moment or so but continued for 18 months.
The next changed was, emptiness. The mind don’t expand anymore, rather there is an empty space in the mind....

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/12/18 3:29 PM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
Hi Kim,

No, no click. No SE. My self delusion took a big hit a few years ago during an A&P exp. I saw myself as only the 5 aggregates & realised I am not my thoughts & saw clearly the self is just a story in the mind. Then after a few weeks of release/joy I felt totally as normal - identifying as self again. 

Also - doubt lingers, habits (rituals/patterns) - I'm attached to doing certain activities at certain times in certain order. No huge shift in insight or normal experience (just a slow gradual one over many years with small leaps).

Often in thinking I realise that my thoughts are not real & can often stop identifying with that story but the conditioning has not released enough for cessation.

Coincidentally, I started your 2 Part Formula as a regular practice just this week. Am looking forward to seeing what I see. emoticon
Yeah, if it goes back to exactly how it was before, then it is not a shift, even though other experiences are also helpful on the path.

Many people take 2PF as a practice that they want to fit in among other practices of their daily routine. They do this, and that, and this and some 2PF. Well, ok, but it is important to understand that 2PF works best when done as a stand alone practice for the required period of time. When given full attention, it works best, and when it gets the job done it can and should be discarded, for it doesn't work for post-awakening practice.

17 years Goenka... Wow. Hats off!

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/12/18 11:50 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
@Chuck - I just reread Ingram’s description of first and second Jhana in MCTB and totally see what you mean. The description is very similar to what I articulated above. May well be a Jhana.
 
@Van Lu - thanks for sharing. Definitely sounds similar to what I experienced down to the barely sleeping for a few days. I however have not yet enjoyed a cessation. Congratulations!
 
@kim
 
Many people take 2PF as a practice that they want to fit in among other practices of their daily routine. They do this, and that, and this and some 2PF.
 
Ha. Yes that's totally me thus far too.
 
Well, ok, but it is important to understand that 2PF works best when done as a stand alone practice for the required period of time. When given full attention, it works best,
 
Point taken. Okay I shall give it a fair trial for a few weeks as a stand alone practice and see what I think.
 
 
and when it gets the job done it can and should be discarded, for it doesn't work for post-awakening practice.
 
Makes perfect sense. My awakened friends have said similar about working in a different way post-awakening.
 
17 years Goenka... Wow. Hats off!
 
Ha! Yes and derived much benefit however, definitely seeking an alternative technique now. Awakening seems rare in Goenka tradition. Since meeting collegues who have at least attained SE I realise its possible for everyone in this very life. 

Thanks for the advice!
Fin

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/13/18 1:29 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:

and when it gets the job done it can and should be discarded, for it doesn't work for post-awakening practice.
 
Makes perfect sense. My awakened friends have said similar about working in a different way post-awakening.
 
17 years Goenka... Wow. Hats off!
 
Ha! Yes and derived much benefit however, definitely seeking an alternative technique now. Awakening seems rare in Goenka tradition. Since meeting collegues who have at least attained SE I realise its possible for everyone in this very life. 

Thanks for the advice!
Fin
Goenka teachings include vipashyana of mental phenomena, right? If that is correct, that practice is post-awakening practice, and very useful to a point, just like noting.

SE is important but just the beginning. There is so much more to go.

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/13/18 10:45 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
Goenka teachings include vipashyana of mental phenomena, right? If that is correct, that practice is post-awakening practice, and very useful to a point, just like noting.

That is correct Kim, Goenka technique is Vipassana practice giving attention to bodily sensations. I would definitely go back to this technique after giving a fair trial to 2PF to see what that might result in.
 
SE is important but just the beginning. There is so much more to go.
 
I bet! However, one thing at a time! emoticon
 
I started a30 day trial of 2PF today. Following exactly as you describe in your Awake book. Will be really interesting to see what happens!
 
I had some pretty strong & unusual rupture arise during the very first session, followed by a ‘very sensitive nervous system’ feeling I often get after formal Goenka meditation retreats . Definitely not my normal experience of a meditation session.
 
I must admit I'm slightly sceptical but definitely open-minded and deeply curious!
 
Thanks for your help thus far!
 
Once I've experimented for a few weeks to get some contextual experience, I may well look into getting in contact with you RE Guidance to Awakening however, I want to try to understand the technique and see what questions might arise.

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/14/18 1:31 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
Go for it, mate. There are plenty of online materials to support with the process. Keep it simple and fresh. If you dig into it, it will pop up for sure.

RE: What is this space in my consciousness?
Answer
11/15/18 7:37 AM as a reply to U Ba Fin.
U Ba Fin:
@Chuck - I just reread Ingram’s description of first and second Jhana in MCTB and totally see what you mean. The description is very similar to what I articulated above. May well be a Jhana.
 
I went through the MCTB definitions of Jhanas 1 and 2 for comparison. For the first Jhana it is stated that
As concentration improves, it is as though the mind “sees” the first
jhana and grabs on to it. Having an idea of what you are looking for, i.e.
something enjoyable and steady, can be helpful for this. It has the five
primary factors of applied and sustained effort or attention, rapture,
happiness and concentration. Thus, it is great fun, feels good, but takes
consistent effort to sustain.
The attention is focused narrowly, as though
one were looking at a small area of this page. This state can be quite a
relief from the pain and discomfort of sitting meditation and can
temporarily quiet the mind somewhat. As with all the concentration
states, it is generally quite easy to concentrate on something that is very
enjoyable. Thus, one’s concentration skills may improve rapidly and
easily after attaining the first jhana and tend to basically flounder until
one has attained the first jhana. Thus, attaining the first jhana is really,
really important.
In my experience of this "space in my mind" there is not the quality of applied of sustained attention of any effort. The thing happens on its own when I drop as much doing as I can. Also I woudn't call it rapturous or happy, but these are more debatable since there is this cool, equanomous, wonderful aspect that feels more like loving deeply.

The second Jhana chapter begins with this:
The second jhana is like the first, i.e. a seemingly solidified mind
state. With the dropping of almost all of applied and sustained effort the
rapture and happiness factors created by concentration can really
predominate.
Thus, whereas the first jhana feels like something you
need to pay attention to, the second jhana has the quality of showing
itself to you
. The focus of attention widens out somewhat, sort of like
looking straight ahead without focusing the eyes on anything specific.
Whereas mind-generated objects in the first jhana are stable, they will
move (e.g. spin, pulse, resonate, etc.) in the second jhana in ways that
correlate with the phase of the breath
, moving slowly towards the top
and bottom of the breath and more quickly in the middle.
So here the effort is dropped almost completely. I still don't see the happiness and rapture predominating. And also, there is nothing moving/changing with the breath. There is this stability in what I experience.

Now third Jhana looks more like it:
In this state, the rapture drops away, and what is left is more cool
“bodily” bliss and equanimity with a lot of mindfulness of what is going
on.

.
.
The attention is now in wide focus, sort of like resting in the half of
space that is in front of one’s self.The third jhana is like the
counterpoint to the focus of attention of the second jhana. In the second
jhana, wherever we look we see clearly, whereas in the third jhana the
wide periphery of our attention is clear and the center of our attention is
murky.
This can be extremely confusing until one gets used to it, and
trying to stay with one object in the center in the third jhana will cause
the meditator to miss what this state has to offer and teach. Moving from
the second to the third jhana is like going from focusing on the donut
hole to focusing on the outer edge of the donut, except that now you are
sitting in the center of the donut.
.
.
In its pure and simple spaciousness, profound clarity, balance and
contentment
, the third jhana is even better than the second jhana.
Simple spaciousness, clarity, contentment sound like what I have. I'm not so sure about the central vs periphery attention though. It's more like both are present equally.
Oh look, the fourth sounds even more like what I have emoticon
As before, if the student wishes to go on to the fourth jhana, then
they just cultivate the third jhana and begin to pay attention to the fact
that even the bodily bliss is somewhat irritating or noisy. Eventually, the
mind will abandon the third jhana and shift into the fourth jhana, which
is the height of equanimity. This state is remarkable in its simple
spaciousness and acceptance. The extreme level of imperturbability
would be astounding if there was not such pronounced imperturbability.

This is by far the most restful of the first four jhanas.
The focus of attention is now largely panoramic and thus even
saying “focus” here is a bit problematic
.


I stop with the quotes now, but I read through all the jahanas and they seem to resemble more and more what I'm having. However. I'm not doing concentration practises, as this state of mind tends to arise fairly quickly and with the guideline of "doing nothing" or "dropping all doing"so it is unclear to what extent these definition of Jhana should apply. Also, I meditate with my eyes open. So, it is a different animal than these Jhanas, although it has certainly been useful to read about these after a long time. I notice how much my practise has advanced since I can now relate to these desciptions instead of reading about them in awe!

Still, I'm not sure what I have. I'll keep meditaing and calling it a natural state :]