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Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters

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Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
stream entry meditation techniques mahasi first path
Answer
1/16/19 11:16 PM
Hi All

This is my first post here so briefly, here is my background:

I've been meditating since early 2011, an average of an hour a day. I've completed 20 retreats of differing lengths. Mostly 10-day retreats but I've done two retreats that lasted three weeks. I've also had a strong precept and Paramis practice (using Ajahn Succhito's amazing book on the subject - highly recommend it) in recent years.

I've been living in Cambodia most of this time and studying with an excellent teacher, a Zen nun who is authorized by Gil Fronsdale to teach Vipassana. However, she is not an expert in or sees much use in discussing SE, maps or where one is on the maps which is why I'm here.

My main retreat centre of recent years has been Wat Chomtong near Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. I have been studying with the founder Khun Thanath Chindaporn and recently completed my fifth retreat there.

Frustratingly, Khun Thanath was either too busy or didn't think it was a good idea to get into map specifics with me either. So I suspect I have achieved SE but I'm confused exactly when, where are how, because there have been so many moments in my spiritual life (which began at an early age with Charismatic Christianity and went through psychedelics, through yoga etc.).

Another factor is I'm a dedicated Ashtanga Yogi, practicing in the Patthabit Jois tradition which means I have an advanced Asana and Pranayama practice also I have kept up when on Vipassana retreat (though I keep it on the DL).

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The system at Wat Chomtong seems to be Mahasi. In fact, teachers there will say it's all Mahasi. However, the rules and exercises for retreat practice there were authored by the Abbot, Ajahn Tong - a meditation master awarded a very high meditation honour from the Burmese: Aggamahakammatthanacariya (I'm not sure what it means but you can tease out something about being a great master using my limited Pali).

I suspect he has made a few tweaks. The main one being the idea of not sleeping the last two nights of the retreat.

During this "determination" period as they call it, the meditator sets the intention to clearly perceive "arising and ceasing" i.e. achieve SE. The meditator is to note carefully how many times they "lose consciousness," defined by sudden head nodding, waking up in weird positions etc. When skilled in this, they tell you to intend to lose consciousness (i.e. attain a state of meditation "without knowledge of outside phenomena") for specific periods of time, 5 mins, 10 mins ... up to one hour.

Now on my most recent retreat, I'm 100% sure I progressed up to stage 9. I'm 90% sure I went all the way up to Equanimity around the time I hit the "determination" days. 

The teachers and monks there (not Khun Thanath who has been reluctant to discuss this with me) have told me that it is this "loss of consciousness" is SE. 

Trouble is the tiredness makes things kinda complex. You see, without sleeping, sometimes you're just nodding off! They ask you to count these experience too. Which is weird. I wonder why they insist on meditators not sleeping at this important stage. It makes frustratingly little sense to muddy the waters in this way. On the plus side it does put you in a very extreme state of consciousness, everything is painfully apparent, pristine and clear. 

My experience during my recent and preceding retreats during the final stages of the Chomtong practice goes like this: 

I'm sitting, very tired and weirded out by lack of sleep, Then my head starts swaying kinda like the muscles in my neck are giving up. Then everything seems to converge into a tiny, intense, brilliantly white point around my third eye. I imagine it to be like the theoretical particle that gave birth to the big bang, such is the sense of its concentrated energy. Then it pops and my head drops. The loss of consciousness is so instantaneous that I'm back home by the point my neck reaches my knees. 

Trouble is, there often isn't much of a feeling of relief after because the exercise of staying awake is so arduous and causes so much aversion. While there is a sense of a "pop" and an extremely brief lack of consciousness after, all I tend to think afterwards is "damn I wish I'd actually fallen asleep! Now I have to keep staying awake and meditating." Interestingly, if I did lay down, I probably wouldn't have slept very easily such was the intensity of the practice with stuff coming up etc.

More positive after effects were felt during break periods. There was a spontaneous arising of very pure Brahmavirhara states, and general clarity and loveliness. However, sensations during meditation periods get super gnarly due to the difficulty of staying awake and meditating for such long hours and the pain of up to eight hours of slow-ass walking meditation per day. This creates much aversion, so much so, half the time I feel like I'm in the worst of the DN. And all the while, I'm nodding off, sometimes due to tiredness but at least a couple of times in the manner described above. 

I personally think, given my current love of Buddhims and practice, and the general change in my thinking and lifestyle in recent years that one of these blips over the last five retreats must have been First Path. However, for the reasons outlined above I think there might be a chance I'm getting to Equanimity and then falling back to A&P and getting stuck in that cycle. Mostly due to the intense negative sensation that arise during the "determination sits."

So, here's the same old question: was any of this SE?

And secondly, what is with the sleep deprivation? Is this just a singular way of doing Mahasi? Or is it more common? And why does the great Ajahn Tong insist everyone at his centre do it? 

Finally, what are they talking about when they say "a state of meditation without perception of outside phenomena?" This is theire post-fruition exercise. They want to try and intentionally extend the periods of time you lose consciousness up to an hour. Has anyone heard of this elsewhere?

Many thanks for your time reading this far and I look forward to reading your wise responses. Blessings.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/17/19 11:37 AM as a reply to Nathan.
Nathan:
I suspect he has made a few tweaks. The main one being the idea of not sleeping the last two nights of the retreat.

During this "determination" period as they call it, the meditator sets the intention to clearly perceive "arising and ceasing" i.e. achieve SE.

Well, clearly perceiving arising and passing is the A&P nana, hence the name, not 1st path (aka stream entry).

Staying awake that long seems like a terrible idea to me. I would not recommend this practice.

The meditator is to note carefully how many times they "lose consciousness," defined by sudden head nodding, waking up in weird positions etc. When skilled in this, they tell you to intend to lose consciousness (i.e. attain a state of meditation "without knowledge of outside phenomena") for specific periods of time, 5 mins, 10 mins ... up to one hour.

Now on my most recent retreat, I'm 100% sure I progressed up to stage 9. I'm 90% sure I went all the way up to Equanimity around the time I hit the "determination" days.

Head nods are pretty common in Equanimity. They're also pretty common when you stay up without sleeping.

The teachers and monks there (not Khun Thanath who has been reluctant to discuss this with me) have told me that it is this "loss of consciousness" is SE. 

Trouble is the tiredness makes things kinda complex. You see, without sleeping, sometimes you're just nodding off! They ask you to count these experience too. Which is weird. I wonder why they insist on meditators not sleeping at this important stage. It makes frustratingly little sense to muddy the waters in this way. On the plus side it does put you in a very extreme state of consciousness, everything is painfully apparent, pristine and clear.

If they're trying to bring people to 1st path, you're right, it makes no sense at all.

But if they're trying to create people who think they're 1st path, it makes total sense. They make people tired so they pass out or nod off, and then that allows people to think they're 1st path when they're not.

But then again, I'm a cynic.

My experience during my recent and preceding retreats during the final stages of the Chomtong practice goes like this: 

I'm sitting, very tired and weirded out by lack of sleep, Then my head starts swaying kinda like the muscles in my neck are giving up. Then everything seems to converge into a tiny, intense, brilliantly white point around my third eye. I imagine it to be like the theoretical particle that gave birth to the big bang, such is the sense of its concentrated energy. Then it pops and my head drops. The loss of consciousness is so instantaneous that I'm back home by the point my neck reaches my knees.

Your description is a clear description of an A&P experience, the knowledge of arising and passing, the 4th nana.

Neck muscle pain is a symptom of the 3Cs, the 3rd nana.

More positive after effects were felt during break periods. There was a spontaneous arising of very pure Brahmavirhara states, and general clarity and loveliness. However, sensations during meditation periods get super gnarly due to the difficulty of staying awake and meditating for such long hours and the pain of up to eight hours of slow-ass walking meditation per day. This creates much aversion, so much so, half the time I feel like I'm in the worst of the DN. And all the while, I'm nodding off, sometimes due to tiredness but at least a couple of times in the manner described above.

Half the time you are in the worst of the DN. This "practice" sounds like torture not conducive to spiritual growth, in my opinion.

I'm a firm believer that you should listen to and take care of the body by sleeping when tired and eating when hungry. There is a famous Zen saying to that effect. https://www.reddit.com/r/zen/comments/2enmd9/the_zen_tradition_of_misquoting_bankeis_miracle/

I personally think, given my current love of Buddhims and practice, and the general change in my thinking and lifestyle in recent years that one of these blips over the last five retreats must have been First Path. However, for the reasons outlined above I think there might be a chance I'm getting to Equanimity and then falling back to A&P and getting stuck in that cycle. Mostly due to the intense negative sensation that arise during the "determination sits."


Yeah, rising to Eq and falling back to A&P would be my best guess.


So, here's the same old question: was any of this SE?


There's an easy way to tell - watch for review cycles. After a path you enter into review cycles going from A&P up through Eq and then Fruition - the cycles happen automatically until you start the next path.

Once you start the next path, if you wait a few months without practicing, and if you resolve to go back into review, you may be able to get back into a review cycle.

So try this. Stop meditating for a few months. Go on a self-retreat somewhere. Build up your concentration. Resolve as follows:

"I resolve, if I have obtained First Path, that I will go back into Review so that I may become more familiar with the stages of insight."

Then just sit and watch. If you've gotten a path, you'll see the Review stages. If you haven't, you won't.

I did this when I wasn't sure whether some experiences were A&P or path, and it cleared things up for me when I saw the Review stages.


And secondly, what is with the sleep deprivation? Is this just a singular way of doing Mahasi? Or is it more common? And why does the great Ajahn Tong insist everyone at his centre do it? 


I dunno. Sounds dumb to me. I wouldn't do it.


Finally, what are they talking about when they say "a state of meditation without perception of outside phenomena?" This is theire post-fruition exercise. They want to try and intentionally extend the periods of time you lose consciousness up to an hour. Has anyone heard of this elsewhere?


Yes, there are definitely traditions where you try to extend a Fruition into longer time periods, but in this case it really sounds like they're trying to make nodding off seem like a Fruition.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/17/19 12:20 PM as a reply to J C.
I’m glad that someone with experience and adequate qualifications said what I was thinking. (Most of it, anyway. I didn’t know that head nods were common in equanimity. I have them now and I was afraid that meant that I had dropped back into dissolution. I certainly do not think of them as a sign of progress.)

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/18/19 9:53 AM as a reply to J C.
About head nods being common in equanimity, would you say they are quick jerky head nods (like when we fall asleep for a second) or a slow bending down of the neck and statying in that position for long? When I'm in what seems to be the equanimity nana, the latter is the case for me. Very still, mindful and concentrated but when meditation ends and I open my eyes, I notince my head was in a nod position all along.

Leigh Brasington says this (the second type of nod I described) is common in 4th Jhana, so I'm wondering if this is the type of nod you mean when in equanimity.
I also saw the late U Silananda in this prolonged nod position while he was meditating in a retreat I went.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/21/19 2:37 AM as a reply to Nathan.
Nathan:

And secondly, what is with the sleep deprivation? Is this just a singular way of doing Mahasi? Or is it more common? And why does the great Ajahn Tong insist everyone at his centre do it?
Determination exercises are common in various traditions.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYSSf71Vo7w
I guess Ajahn Tong just really likes them.

Finally, what are they talking about when they say "a state of meditation without perception of outside phenomena?" This is theire post-fruition exercise. They want to try and intentionally extend the periods of time you lose consciousness up to an hour. Has anyone heard of this elsewhere?
Fruition duration exercises aren't unique to this tradition.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/21/19 3:26 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
About head nods being common in equanimity, would you say they are quick jerky head nods (like when we fall asleep for a second) or a slow bending down of the neck and statying in that position for long? When I'm in what seems to be the equanimity nana, the latter is the case for me. Very still, mindful and concentrated but when meditation ends and I open my eyes, I notince my head was in a nod position all along.

Leigh Brasington says this (the second type of nod I described) is common in 4th Jhana, so I'm wondering if this is the type of nod you mean when in equanimity.
I also saw the late U Silananda in this prolonged nod position while he was meditating in a retreat I went.
Thanks for this. They are mostly of the latter kind of nods

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/21/19 3:27 AM as a reply to Raving Rhubarb.
Raving Rhubarb:
Nathan:

And secondly, what is with the sleep deprivation? Is this just a singular way of doing Mahasi? Or is it more common? And why does the great Ajahn Tong insist everyone at his centre do it?
Determination exercises are common in various traditions.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYSSf71Vo7w
I guess Ajahn Tong just really likes them.

Finally, what are they talking about when they say "a state of meditation without perception of outside phenomena?" This is theire post-fruition exercise. They want to try and intentionally extend the periods of time you lose consciousness up to an hour. Has anyone heard of this elsewhere?
Fruition duration exercises aren't unique to this tradition.

Thanks this is great info. Do you have any more info on the latter post-fruition exercise?

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/21/19 5:10 AM as a reply to Nathan.
Nathan:
[quote=]Finally, what are they talking about when they say "a state of meditation without perception of outside phenomena?" This is theire post-fruition exercise. They want to try and intentionally extend the periods of time you lose consciousness up to an hour. Has anyone heard of this elsewhere?Fruition duration exercises aren't unique to this tradition.

Thanks this is great info. Do you have any more info on the latter post-fruition exercise?
No. But search on this forum for "fruition duration" or similar. I have seen this discussed before.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/21/19 10:35 AM as a reply to Ben V..
Ben V.:
About head nods being common in equanimity, would you say they are quick jerky head nods (like when we fall asleep for a second) or a slow bending down of the neck and statying in that position for long? When I'm in what seems to be the equanimity nana, the latter is the case for me. Very still, mindful and concentrated but when meditation ends and I open my eyes, I notince my head was in a nod position all along.

Leigh Brasington says this (the second type of nod I described) is common in 4th Jhana, so I'm wondering if this is the type of nod you mean when in equanimity.
I also saw the late U Silananda in this prolonged nod position while he was meditating in a retreat I went.

Both and everything in between. I mostly get the relatively quick kind.

RE: Possible SE but sleep deprivation muddies the waters
Answer
1/23/19 10:38 PM as a reply to Nathan.

My experience during my recent and preceding retreats during the final stages of the Chomtong practice goes like this: 

I'm sitting, very tired and weirded out by lack of sleep, Then my head starts swaying kinda like the muscles in my neck are giving up. Then everything seems to converge into a tiny, intense, brilliantly white point around my third eye. I imagine it to be like the theoretical particle that gave birth to the big bang, such is the sense of its concentrated energy. Then it pops and my head drops. The loss of consciousness is so instantaneous that I'm back home by the point my neck reaches my knees. 


Hi Nathan,

I believe I may have had a similar experience on a 20 day Goenka retreat in India. I'm quite sure (now) that it wasn't SE. 

I wrote about it here & got answers about what the experience might be: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/7275508

I don't believe it was SE as I've not had a permanent change.
 
A friend who has experienced SE/Nibbana (he says it is an insight, not an experience BTW). His insight included a deep understanding of dependent origination. He had permanent changes and notable, permanent reduction in Dukkah. However, he had this turning off and on of consciousness occurred frequently before actually achieving SE. The monks at Wat Ram Peong told him this 'nodding' is a natural precursor to SE.
 
I'm certainly no expert however – in fact I'm increasingly convinced I know pretty much nothing!  emoticon

Could be a promising sign if not actually SE?

Best of luck!
UBF