Message Boards Message Boards

Stream Entry

Stream Entry Mechanics II

Toggle
Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/28/18 7:05 AM
Hello people,

I have a question concerning stream entry. Please correct me at any place when I am wrong. As I understand it, stream entry is depicted as being reached only through strengthening of one's concentration (as compared to the starting point of the meditative journey) to foster greater sensory perception of the three characteristics which, in turn, lead to liberating insights about conditioned phenomena.
My question now is, whether stream entry is always a specific moment in time or if this progress of insight is also possible to unfold over longer stretches of time and lead to the same realisations. 
I am asking because I have made it my goal to reach stream entry as soon as possible, and went on 5 Mahasi-retreats of 5-16 days this year, plus dedicated daily practice but I don’t seem to be able to “take the heat” of such intense practice. I get to a point at which I inevitably get lost in fear, confusion, doubt and exhaustion and practice seems to become futile, or at other times not even possible. However, I have come so far as to see that this practice is worthwhile and that there are useful insights to be had. I am now looking for other ways to reach my goal. 
Thank you for taking the time to read this.

With Metta

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/28/18 9:14 AM as a reply to lukas lohr.
I'll offer this...

The path to SE is an intresting blend of sensory clarity AND relaxing. We tend to use the word "concentration" to mean an effortful directing of attention, but almost a better word for meditatative concentration (jhana) is "centering". There is less and less effort the more and more centered you get.

Most people do not try hard enough in meditation, which is why most books/teachers emphasize effort. But the few people that are actually putting in the hours and retreat time tend to be the ones that try too hard. As a result, they kind of shoot past equanimity. That was my experience. I kept getting caught in a loop of good progress to my first A&P on retreat, some challenging dark night nanas which I pushed through with too much effort,  which lead to a strange A&P, then more suffering and too much effort, which kept me looping and didn't allow me to settle into EQ. It really messed up my body and mind. 

The good news is that a much more gentle approach will not only lessen the "heat", but it will also lead to a stable EQ and eventually SE. And much more importantly, the VERY VERY good news is learning how to do that is what provides the mental sanity and healing that we ultimately want out of practice. SE really doesn't change the person that much. It is all the work leading up to SE, learning to balance effort and relaxation, that really changes a person. 

So I'm very sorry you were unable to get their with 5 retreats -- but I can definitely say that you have learned what NOT to do. It is important to go slower and with patience and be much more accepting of how the mind naturally balences itself. You will find you have much more stable access to jhana and the dark night nanas become interesting rather than disturbing/"hot". It will still require effort/dedication, but a different kind of effort.

It's much more like sailing across an ocean. You need to learn to follow the wind and adjust the sails... and you will get there. If you start paddling really hard because you want to make quicker progress, you just burn too much energy, become exausted, and eat up all your food before you get across. 

As a final piece of good news, after I failed during my "try hard" phase of practice, I finally started working with a teacher... and I experienced SE at home my during normal sitting practice. 


Hope this helps!

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/28/18 10:40 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:


It's much more like sailing across an ocean. You need to learn to follow the wind and adjust the sails... and you will get there. If you start paddling really hard because you want to make quicker progress, you just burn too much energy, become exausted, and eat up all your food before you get across. 



Uau, very nice image.

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/28/18 10:51 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol, thanks for your wonderful response! I too have been 'striving for stream entry' for about 18 months and only getting myself more and more wound up in frustration. I tend to eventually claw my way up and out of Reobservation, get a taste of Equanimity, and then quickly find myself slammed back down into some Dark Night pit.

It's really encouraging to hear that others have been there AND gotten through it. Getting the right balance of effort and equanimity is definitely not my forte, but knowing that there's still hope for even the most hard-headed of us is refreshing in a sense.

Thanks again shargrol, and good luck to you lukas!

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/30/18 3:55 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you for your account shargrol, it is really much appreciated!

It is easy for me to get lost in the specifics of practice and forget about the actual reason I got into it, thank you for reminding me! Also, knowing that someone else has managed to go through this phase of practice and come out the other side successfully. I noticed myself that my effort was somehow off but, as you mentioned, I only ever heard about insufficient effort, not so much about excessive effort. That’s why I thought that I would rather do too much than too little. I am looking forward to exploring this dimension of practice now! 


I have some questions regarding the process with your teacher; when you started working with your teacher, did you make it explicit that you wanted to reach stream entry? And how did you find your teacher? I live in Europe where I feel like there is a real scarcity of insight meditation teachers.

Again, thank you for your help!

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/30/18 5:04 AM as a reply to lukas lohr.
Well, the short answer is I found my teacher by saying to myself: I give myself 3 months to find a local teacher because talking with someone in person is going to be the best approach, but if I don't find anyone in 3 months, then I'll work with Kenneth Folk (who was just starting to teach at the time and was actively posting on DhO, AwakeNetwork, etc.). I looked around all of Chicago, looking for a teacher that I connected with, but didn't find any. So I started working with Kenneth using Skype. (I've also worked with two other teachers using video over internet and it works really well.)

I tend to agree teachers are scarce that will talk about SE. But now I have a much better understanding of the big picture... People can really mess themselves up with practice. They can push too hard and have psychological problems, or they can practice poorly and still expect a teacher to "give them" SE. There is almost no way a teacher can be 100% successful in protecting someone from having problems and almost no way to guarantee SE. In addition, focusing on SE is a classic way to have a sloppy practice. It is much more important to really focus on what is actually occuring, rather than imagining some goal in the future. So I understand why teachers do not want to talk about SE or suggest that SE is a reasonable expectation.

That said, Kenneth said to me: When I was growing up, there was a piano teacher who told all of their students "the students that practice with me go to the state competition". It was simply an expectation that the teacher and the student had and all of her students practiced hard and went to the state competition. I think the same way about stream entery. All of my students reach SE. So Kenneth was (is?) one of the few people that would say things like that at the time. And I think hearing that made it seem like a reasonable goal. 

I personally enjoy helping people who already have a consistent daily practice. I have found that maybe out of the 10 times I'm contacted by someone, only 1 seems to want to really dive into the challenges of their practice. The other 9 are looking for someway to avoid having challenges or who underestimate the work it takes to practice daily and go on a few retreats a year. Meditation is a very serious activitity, almost like mountain climbing, where people need to be very dedicated and focused on working on weakness and turning those weaknesses into strengths.

It's also like mountain climbing in the sense that it is a personal accomplishment, but no one else really cares, so after you climb the mountain you are not a hero in everyone's eyes or if someone does idolize you for a while it doesn't last long. So it's important to be really personally curious rather than driven by ideas of power, riches, or fame. 

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/30/18 6:55 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:

I personally enjoy helping people who already have a consistent daily practice. I have found that maybe out of the 10 times I'm contacted by someone, only 1 seems to want to really dive into the challenges of their practice. The other 9 are looking for someway to avoid having challenges or who underestimate the work it takes to practice daily and go on a few retreats a year. Meditation is a very serious activitity, almost like mountain climbing, where people need to be very dedicated and focused on working on weakness and turning those weaknesses into strengths.


You have excellent coaching skills and I really appreciated your help when I was working on 5 dakinis/5 elements. I usually learn best by figuring things out on my own and only asking for help when really hitting a wall and had never gotten coaching for meditation before. Even on retreats my practice has been self-directed and teachers just helped me troubleshoot when necessary. So it was a fun and novel experience. 

My own coaching skills aren't very good, probably because I don't naturally work that way myself, and it makes me respect those skills all the more. It's always so nice to read what you and Chris Marti write on people's practice logs as you're both very good at it. That takes a lot of energy and patience, especially given the low percentage of people who are really willing to put in the necessary work over the long haul. 

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/31/18 12:51 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:

I personally enjoy helping people who already have a consistent daily practice. I have found that maybe out of the 10 times I'm contacted by someone, only 1 seems to want to really dive into the challenges of their practice. The other 9 are looking for someway to avoid having challenges or who underestimate the work it takes to practice daily and go on a few retreats a year. Meditation is a very serious activitity, almost like mountain climbing, where people need to be very dedicated and focused on working on weakness and turning those weaknesses into strengths.

It's also like mountain climbing in the sense that it is a personal accomplishment, but no one else really cares, so after you climb the mountain you are not a hero in everyone's eyes or if someone does idolize you for a while it doesn't last long. So it's important to be really personally curious rather than driven by ideas of power, riches, or fame. 

First thank you so much Lukas for starting this thread and describing so nicely where you are on the path towards SE.
Actually it seems to me that I'm kind of in the same situation like you:

>I have made more than a dozen 10-14 days Mahasi-retreats this last 2 years
>I meditate daily for one hour and I still don't know where I am regarding SE (currently it seems to me that I am cruising between "dark night" and EQ that I reach when I apply effort of concentration during daily life in order to keep the fear and angry feelings at bay).  
>I live in Europe/Paris and cannot find a proper teacher (currently my teacher seems to be the "the Mind Illuminated" from Culadasa and I have the feeling I have reached Stage 5)
>I have been looking for a teacher and have as well reached to Kenneth Folk which whom I had one skype interview but I could not afford paying 100 USD for one skype session everytime I had a question..

Secondly - thank you so much Shargrol for your answer and bringing so much clarity. I guess I would love to have some help from you.

And a last -a more general-question to the Sangha:

Do you guys find normal that someone charges 100 USD per skype session to help other walk on the Dhamma path?
I understand that everyone needs to make a living and that all is not free and whence donnations/dana is key in Buddhism but overcharging so much seems to me to go completly against any Buddha's teaching on morality or generosity... 
But maybe I am wrong or biaised and would love to read any other opinions.

Thanks again shargrol, and good luck to you lukas!

With metta


 


RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/31/18 8:52 AM as a reply to Chris In Dhamma.

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
12/31/18 3:49 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Chris

thanks for the links but I know these resoruces already emoticon

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
1/1/19 8:54 AM as a reply to Chris In Dhamma.
Great. My question would then be - have you contacted any of the teachers at those links?

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
1/6/19 10:03 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Chris 

So from the links you've sent the only teacher I see I would be able to contact is Christopher Titmuss...
Or have I omitted something? 

RE: Stream Entry Mechanics II
Answer
1/6/19 11:11 AM as a reply to Chris In Dhamma.
There are contacts listed for all of the centers I linked to. If it were me, I'd contact all of those centers and ask who their teachers are and how I could communicate with them directly.