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Advice post-SE
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2/7/19 6:32 PM
Hi there, I've been trying to understand the changes that have occurred since completing 1st Path on a recent Mahasi method retreat. It's been a very interesting journey, but difficult to put the finger on any specific developments or changes. Any meditation friends in a position to discuss this are on long retreats themselves! Haha. So I'm here looking for help.

At the moment of Stream Entry, there was a clear turning inward of attention and a realisation 'There's no-one in there!' But this insight faded, and in the days afterwards there even arose awareness of a persisting sense of self, which left me wondering what SE is if not the dropping of that altogether. Just to be clear, Magga Phala was definitely experienced, followed by several hours of joy, insights, etc, and then several weeks of increasingly intense Fruition practice including 100s of them a day, some gradually getting longer and longer until 5 or more minutes were being 'lost' in them. During those weeks, the aforementioned sense of self gradually faded until it now seems difficult to isolate or be definite about. Which seems to have given rise to a general sense of calm, peace, quiet, inside. 

Anyway, it's been 2.5 months now and I'm off retreat but still wondering how to drive this new vehicle. At times it seems clear that something is missing, that something has up and left, and that there is a 'lightness' like when leaving baggage behind. There's also a sense of being outside of or apart from thoughts and things that happen, in the Kenneth Folk sense of everything being merely 'weather' now, and there is just observing of it rather than identification with it or getting wrapped up in it. That definitely feels like an improvement. 

But I'm writing to see if there is any advice from experienced folks here about where to look, what to investigate, how to understand the changes more. It feels as though things have become more interesting in meditation, and in just observing things in daily life, but it's all very vague, and I'd love to understand better what to do with this. Please, any advice or tips welcome!

Thanks

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
2/8/19 5:43 AM as a reply to Paul.
The standard progress of insight advice is to "do it again". 2nd path is basically a process of going through the nanas again.

Be prepared for things to be a little stranger and hard to map because jhanas usually show up more strongly and practice takes on more of a vipassina jhana flavor. The idea of "fractals" in the nanas starts becoming apparent, too. (In other words, each nana has an preliminary, early, middle, and mature stage that can feel like the entire range from the first to the last nana, but it all takes place within a single nana -- for example, a very mature "Misery" stage can feel like "EQ".) 2nd path tends to be very confusing.

Some people who are inclined to jhanas can actually jump into "going up and down the jhanic arc". It won't go as fast as in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRdiOoTZC3A, but a 2nd path person inclined to jhana practice can start developing access to the material and immaterial jhanas.

As always, the main thing is to keep a consistent daily sitting practice. Everyone has their own path. Your own path naturally leads onward by consistent practice. There is a certain amount of trusting the process involved, especially the more advanced a meditator you become.

Hope this helps. There's no particular way to "game" practice. You basically have to show up and go through it. Definitely ask more specific questions as they come up if you feel stuck.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
2/8/19 6:20 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you so much for the feedback! That makes sense, especially about the fractals. I'm off to a Myanmar meditation centre next week to keep up a strong daily practice and see what's next.

You mentioned more specific questions:

1. From the little I understand of this from Mahasi Sayadaw's writings, I have to get back to solid practice and work back up to Eq where Fruitions will begin again, train those up til very strong in it, then make a resolution to drop the Fruitions and go for a new Magga Phala. But in Daniel's book he mentions the mind simply inclining to 2nd path when it's ready, leaving Fruitions behind and moving on. These two roads seem contradictory. Have I misunderstood this?

2. I wish the practice had been kept up, but about 2-3 weeks ago when coming out of retreat, I came down with the most intense flu I've ever experienced, and spent 2 solid weeks either in bed or sitting in a chair feeling barely conscious. So there was little to no practice these past 15+ days. I've been wondering what part the deteriorating practice might've played in this collapse of my physical well-being. There were Fruitions at odd moments throughout these past 2-3 weeks too. Now when I sit at all, it seems very calm and still, even blissful with bright lights and strong concentration, so I'm guessing we're back to the 4th Ñana. Does any of this make sense? Is it possible the sickness was practice-related?

Thank you again. There's quite a bit of confusion going on at the moment, so your input has been a big help. 

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
2/8/19 8:53 AM as a reply to Paul.
It's great that you can put in the time to really explore this stuff. Best wishes for your retreat!

Re #1: In general, it's always good to spend time mastering something before moving on. You can imagine that in a monestary (where a monk may live for their entire life) there really is no need to rush things and doing things like fruition mastery practice makes a lot of sense. I can honestly say that while everyone goes through review after SE, not everyone does extensive fruition practice (especially those of us who are lay practioners) --- but it is still possible to attain to 2nd without extensive mastery of fruition. The monastics may disagree, of course. And so there might truly be contradicitons in people's opinions. But regardless, the _intention_ to not to review anymore but rather to proceed with the next path is the main thing. There is no need to rush this decision. When if feels appropriate and good, not greedy and rushed, It can be expressed formally through a statement of resolution ("May I cease reviewing the attainments of the first path and begin the work of attaining the next path." ...or simply having the heartfelt intention to work towards the next path.


Re #2: its very unlikely that the sickness was practice related.

For what it's worth, an interesting thing you will find, especially since you will be on retreat, is that aspects of the first path will sometimes "pop up" when things are difficult when working toward 2nd. It's another part of the confusion of this path. For example, you might be having a difficult "three characteristics nana" experience and a fruition will pop up, or you'll see lights and feel bliss. One possible explaination is that the mind is jumping to the first path fruition or first path A&P as sort of a comforting mechanism. This happens a lot in later paths. So it's entirely possible that your mind right now is going to the second vipassina jhana and A&P to help calm the sick body. (Its also possible that this is simply more review of first path, which can start with A&P.)

It's a very wild ride with all of these different possibilities: old path, new territory, new and stronger jhanas, quick drops into formless jhanas in the midst of vipassina --- the real trick is not to worry too much about where you are on the map, but rather stick to the basics: body relaxed but alert, mind accepting and curious, envigorate practice when dull, relax practice when agitated. That's really all you need to know, but it can be years of practice to turn these basic instructions into instincts. 

Also remember, the climb up the nanas isn't just a climb, it's up and down, up and down, sometimes climbing up into new territory, sometimes dropping down in a way that feels like backsliding --- but that's all fine. The mind goes where it goes and it is totally normal for it to go up and down, even a few times in a single hour sit. So don't think you are doing anything wrong if this happens.

Hope this helps!

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/21/19 10:41 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hey shargrol and others 

Some more questions! I’m on retreat and getting loads of Fruitions including long ones. But, and I feel a bit ungrateful saying this, each day feels pretty much the same and I’m thinking what else is there to do at this stage. So the question is: Are the benefits of Fruition practice accumulative so that the more I get, the more good it does the mind? 

Second question. When we see Stream Entry Magga Phala, the mind goes through 1 of 3 doors, Anicca, Dukkha, or Anatta. And each one is said to have implications for one’s future practice, such as an emphasis on wisdom if through the Anatta door. So the question is: Do we go through the same door again on each higher path or is it possibly different each path, and if so, then what relevance does it end up having?

Last one. Is it possible to make resolutions and do the higher formless realm Jhanas while at this stage? It seems I came back to consciousness from a Fruition to experience Infinite Spaciousness, which I believe is the 5th Jhana. It was pretty damn awesome. Can this be repeated somehow?

Thanks!

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/21/19 2:48 PM as a reply to Paul.
For what it's worth... 

No good advice from me on fruition practice, trust yourself. If it seems a rich place to go, go there. If not, don't worry.

There is no particular rule for which doors will be experienced in path moments. The real benefit of frutions and the different doors is how they kind of point to how subject-object relationship is constructed. Both going in and coming back from the non-experience seem to be hints of how things are constructed. Or not. Again, trust yourself.

As far as repeating a specific experience, time will tell! I tend to recommend resolutions that 1) you KNOW you can do because they are in your control or skillset, OR 2) say it in ways that are less specific, along the lines of "may I have jhana experiences that will most benefit my practice" -- you can't get that kind of resolution wrong, you see what I mean? Or, may I have the experiences on this retreat that will be the greatest benefit to my practice and may my practice be of benefit to all beings. ---- that's a powerful resolution because now you and all being want you to be successful! 

Best wishes! And when in doubt, don't overlook the really simple stuff like "mindfulness of the sensations of the body as it breathes itself". It can be good to have a core practice to go to as an anchor or foundation.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/21/19 3:46 PM as a reply to Paul.
Thank you, Paul, for asking so great questions, and thank you, Shargrol, for answering them in such a great way! This is great reading.

I seem to be stuck with the word ”great”, haha.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/22/19 6:24 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Uhm... sorry for hijacking the thread a bit, but... Shargrol, I started watching these videos that you linked. I’m on the third video now, https://youtu.be/GUCvX82HM9Y, and I’m recognizing all of this. I did not expect that. I didn’t even know that there existed as many as 13 jhanas. What are they called, those in this video? I have done this, for crying out loud! The one with the crown chakra was one of the things that I did tonight instead of sleeping.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/22/19 10:45 PM as a reply to Paul.
Out of curiosity, how did you handle the flu from an emotional/mood perspective now that you are post- SE compared to before?

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/23/19 10:37 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Actually, the reason I asked earlier if the flu could have been practice-related is it knocked me out for weeks and seemed strange and unfamiliar for such a common illness. It hit straight out of the retreat when I arrived at a friend’s to stay, and got into a lot of ranting and emotional chatter. It was the first time in 2 months of Fruition practice that I wasn’t meditating in silence all day, so I’m thinking it was a big shock to the system. As the days went on, it was impossible to meditate as I could barely sit up or keep the mind together. So I also think that continued to undermine the recovery. They say the Enlightenment Factors protect from sickness, but if we drop them so mindlessly and suddenly as I did, maybe the come-down has the opposite effect. Just a thought. 

Anyway, within hours I was all messed up in strange ways as much mental as physical, and went to bed shivering, and the next 2 weeks were a whole range of weird sickness experiences, none of it conventional flu stuff, like no gastro issues, only exhaustion, sleeping through the night and all the next day, blocked up head, etc. There was also an episode in a crowded Apple Store where I had bought an iPhone and was setting it up and was overcome with an incredibly strong sense of illness all through the body, all energy drained away and I thought I would collapse onto the floor, so I began to lower my head to the table I was sitting at, and the next thing I was aware of was coming out of a Fruition with my head on the table to find my friend’s hand on my back and his voice calling my name and the energy surging back through the body again. When I sat up he was freaked out saying I’d been out cold for 15 seconds or more, eyes open, not responding. As the next 30 seconds went by, I felt better and better and better until I was ready to leap up and go eat. Funny thing is, since then, I’ve been in places, like a quiet garden, and was overcome with the same wave of no-energy, slumping down, going very tranquil, then a powerful Fruition, then coming back out and feeling great again, except without the sickness. I’m taking these to be the mind just taking over and insisting on getting a Fruition when it wants one. Fortunately I’m not driving or anything like that these days! 

As for how it was handled from an emotional perspective, I felt distanced from it all, as if watching from down a tunnel and seeing it happen ‘over there’. So there was very little upset or suffering, more just a sense of inconvenience since it kept me out of action for weeks. It wasn’t a very conventional sickness experience so it’s not easy to compare to before. Not sure how all that sounds. I was wondering at the time if the retreat had messed my head up. But feeling fine now that I’m back in solid practice.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/23/19 3:54 PM as a reply to Paul.
Interesting,

There is a monumental difference between the common cold and the flu. When most people say they have the flu, they really just have a cold. It seems you may have actually had the flu, where it fucks you up for so long, delirious, and stuff. I recently had the flu, and even though the doctors office is three blocks away, I had to take a cab. 

I don't really know what to make of your iphone store experience. Very strange.

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/23/19 11:53 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinxed P - Fair enough. I’m happy to put it down to a flu. I’m not attached to any particular telling of the events ;-)

The Apple Store experience only seemed odd to me due to the sickness part. On retreat, Fruitions were happening in the middle of the Pali chanting, while eating, drinking, falling asleep, walking, even during a teacher interview. So having it happen in a drowsy moment in a busy public place didn’t seem so out of the ordinary at the time. It’s true it takes strong concentration but that can surge up from nowhere in a flash when training isn’t so far in the past. 

Shargrol - Do you mind saying more on the subject-object experience you mentioned? I’m not sure that’s been a part of the practice for me yet. More about noticing the absence of any agency in the conscious self mind, and that things tend to happen on their own, including intentions and decisions. 

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/25/19 9:12 AM as a reply to Paul.
I've had several paths during the middle of the flu. Involuntarily fasting and not getting out of bed is similar to a vision quest of misary, I wouldn't recomenre this as method but if all you have is misery anyway, it's an easy focus.
Ive also had reobservation hit so hard that it was flu like, only to disappear into EQ in seconds.
Good luck!
~D

RE: Advice post-SE
Answer
3/25/19 9:22 AM as a reply to Paul.
Fascinating to hear how accessible multiple fruitions are for you. Thanks for sharing!