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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!