Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff?

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Andy R, modified 10 Years ago.

Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff?

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
I had a bit of an unusual experience with a sit yesterday, and I'm not quite where it falls on the map. I'd appreciate some comments on this.

I sat in my car over lunch as usual and set my timer to chime every 10 minutes, in case I got sleepy. Started with breath counting and got concentrated pretty quickly. After a few minutes, I felt a distinct quick slip or slide -- almost like I was falling in a way, and completely lost track of where I was in the count. It completely derailed my counting, and afterward, I absolutely could not tell you how far I had counted before the slip. I've had some slip sensations before, but they've always been mild. I've always thought they were from falling asleep. In this case, I was definitely not sleepy.

Initially, when I had started, my concentration and sense of space felt a bit enclosed and highly focused inwardly. Now, after ten minutes, it opened up into a somewhat larger space and included the sounds outside the car, although they sounded more distant and less prominent than when I started. Also, my felt sense of my body was greatly reduced. I had a hard time feeling the specific sensations of, say, the weight of my body on the car seat, my jeans on my legs. I almost felt like I was floating, light, buoyant. I've had this same progression a lot of times.

At this point, I was also getting my typical tingly, high-frequency vibration in my hands, feet, and a little on my face and lips. I also started noticing the typical pulsing, moving, shifting fuzzy spheres and color imagery I sometimes get. Nothing 3D, mostly snow and shifting areas of light and dark. Again, nothing unusual about this.

I started noting at this point. I noticed a flashing light around the periphery of my vision somewhere around 5-8Hz, nothing I could directly look at. I would notice this flashing fade in and out over the rest of the sit.

Noting went so-so. I would note for a while and find that I had stopped sometime. I'd do some breath counting to regain my attention and note some more. For a while I stopped explicitly noting and just hung out and investigated the sensations that came up. I noticed the timer chime another 10 minutes, so I was around 20 minutes into the sit.

Then, something interesting happened. I suddenly noticed that the "space" I was in had changed to be drastically larger. It was clearly only in front of me, not behind me at all, and I really couldn't tell how large the space was. Although it was pretty hard to get much of a sense of my body, it did feel to be stretched out a bit larger than normal, and kind of pressed up against the boundary of this curved space. I don't remember much thinking going on. I did feel a gentle rhythmic rocking, almost like being out on a calm ocean. I eventually realized this was actually my breathing, but this realization did little to diminish the sense of hugeness of space, of drifting, of resting in this peaceful, calm "place."

At one point I noticed that my neck was getting stiff. This happens occasionally in the car, and when it does, I usually move slowly and mindfully to relieve the discomfort. I suddenly could clearly could see how I was wanting the relief from the stiffness, and was really attracted to not having the stiffness. I noticed the wanting, the "pull" to move to relieve the pain and stiffness, and I saw it as it faded and passed. Eventually, I chose to move and changed my head and neck position. I've not seen both the discomfort and my desire to relieve it pass so very clearly before.

Eventually, I started feeling coolness on my face, hearing outside sounds and slipped out of the sense of vast space, and back out to where I was at around the 10-20 minute mark. I hung out waiting for the timer again, and the next time I heard it, I slowly brought myself out the sit. I must have missed one of the timer chimes, because I ended up sitting 50 minutes instead of 40.


Different/new for this sit:
1) Waking up unusually peaceful and calm that day
2) The intense slip sensation early on
3) The flashing light around the periphery of my vision (has happened once before)
4) Sensing the vast space in front of me, and the calmness, peacefulness
5) Clearly noticing my wanting the neck stiffness to be different than it was and then the passing of that desire
6) The much-lower energy, body bliss, buzzyness, joy

I'm not sure what to make of this sit.

Based on the previous two months, I would have put me at early to mid A&P: After several months of little happening, suddenly I'd been having sits with lots of energy, body rushes, body bliss, shivers/tingles/ripples, joy. I've been able to meditate reclining for several hours at a time in this state. I've started to notice some 5-10Hz pulsations in my hands, occasionally some auditory pulsations, and sometimes a steady, slower, heavy whole-body vibration. I've not noticed anything I'd call the A&P event, but have noticed the intensity of my sits decreasing a bit over the last month.

What I've NOT felt is any of the expected Dark Night stuff: the falling away of the A&P fireworks, the affective stuff, the lack of ability/motivation to sit much, fear, misery, disgust, etc.

So was this maybe an early taste of Equanimity, or is this still an expected part of the A&P stage?
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff? (Answer)

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Sorting this stuff out, despite all the criteria and standards and commonalities, is actually not easy most of the time unless there is a clear set of the classic markers, some of which you describe, some of which you don't, so this is not straightforward.

A&P and Equanimity are both good guesses, but Dissolution shouldn't be written off either, as it can make people miss chimes and have a feeling of calm and the like, along with feelings of Equanimity (remember, it is 3rd vipassana jhana, and 3rd jhana characteristics are most strongly noticed on the path of insight during that ñana), and would come after vibratory stuff.

The spacial stuff is interesting: sound more like Equanimity, but then I would add the quirk of the sub-ñanas: you can be in 2.4 (to use vipassana jhana.subjhana terms) aka 4.11 ( to use ñana.subñana terms) and have it feel like 4.2/11.4 respectively, and the reverse is true also, and there are even more possible sub-mimics if one wanted to get uber geeky, as many phases can look like many others.

Big things:

1) Notice/note whatever is happening: space, attention, wonder about maps, speculation, equanimity, etc. Notice all the sensations that make up these experiences as they shift, present, fade, flux, and vanish, particularly vanish.
2) It doesn't matter so much were you are on the maps so long as you follow the advice in 1) above, as regardless of where you are, there is more to go, and 1) is the method by which the progress you seek happens.
3) Context: see what happens next and then after that, etc.: this is sometimes the only good way to tell.

Daniel
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Andy R, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff?

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
Thanks for the reply, Daniel.

Daniel M. Ingram:
A&P and Equanimity are both good guesses, but Dissolution shouldn't be written off either, as it can make people miss chimes and have a feeling of calm and the like, along with feelings of Equanimity (remember, it is 3rd vipassana jhana, and 3rd jhana characteristics are most strongly noticed on the path of insight during that ñana), and would come after vibratory stuff.


I'm curious about the vibratory stuff. I've never had a really clear sense of it as described here at DHO, in MCTB, and other places. I had been getting regular tingling in my hands, feet, face, and occasionally all over, but this is lessening, so perhaps I'm indeed leaving behind the A&P. I do pay attention closely to itches, tickles, pains, and they do eventually open up as various multiple irregular (but not necessarily vibrating) sensations. I have felt a whole-body 5-10Hz vibration from time to time, but then again, I've felt this on other occasions not during meditation. I also recently had been seeing a flashing strobe-light effect around the periphery of my vision with my eyes closed.

But, other than some occasional pulsations in my hands, some possible auditory strobing, and one case where I could clearly feel an in-breath as four individual sensations one after another with space between them, I've not clearly noticed what I'd call vibrations in sense perceptions. I've read everything I could on this, and still feel I'm missing something. I'm wondering if not seeing vibrations clearly will hinder me as I move past A&P.

Should I spend more time trying to "penetrate" sensations to get at vibrations? Or, does the fact that I've gotten this far mean that I'm actually noticing what I need to notice and don't need to worry about vibrations so much now?


Daniel M. Ingram:
The spacial stuff is interesting: sound more like Equanimity, but then I would add the quirk of the sub-ñanas: you can be in 2.4 (to use vipassana jhana.subjhana terms) aka 4.11 ( to use ñana.subñana terms) and have it feel like 4.2/11.4 respectively, and the reverse is true also, and there are even more possible sub-mimics if one wanted to get uber geeky, as many phases can look like many others.


I'll read up more on sub-nanas and fractals. Is it possible this is more related to samatha jhana, perhaps? I'm wondering if a lot of the body sensations, tingles, pleasures, rushes, floating feelings, vertigo, etc, are samatha jhana.


Daniel M. Ingram:

Big things:

1) Notice/note whatever is happening: space, attention, wonder about maps, speculation, equanimity, etc. Notice all the sensations that make up these experiences as they shift, present, fade, flux, and vanish, particularly vanish.
2) It doesn't matter so much were you are on the maps so long as you follow the advice in 1) above, as regardless of where you are, there is more to go, and 1) is the method by which the progress you seek happens.
3) Context: see what happens next and then after that, etc.: this is sometimes the only good way to tell.


After reading this, I sat and spent some time trying to pay attention to vanishings. I'd notice a sound or a physical sensation that would pass quickly. Then, I'd notice that a memory would immediately follow the event, and that memory would slowly fade from my mind until it was clearly gone. So, it's not the ending of the actual bare sensation itself, but the trace memory of it that I'd notice fading and vanishing from awareness. Is this what you mean by vanishings, or are you referring to the sensations of the bare event itself?

I'm wondering if, as Florian has mentioned elsewhere, I'm spending too much time looking for stuff, and not enough time looking at stuff. In any case, I'll keep going with 1, 2, and 3. If I am indeed currently passing through Dissolution, then this should be clear to me in short order.

Thanks again,
Andy

[edited 11/12 to add more detail to vibrations question above]
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff? (Answer)

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I think that focusing on vibrations, anything like that, is really good. I would penetrate sensations to see that every instant they flux and vanish faster than one would generally imagine and have all sorts of other sensations around them arising and vanishing while one's main object does that also, including all the sensations of aiming attention, all the sensations of effort, all the sensations of the background and space, all the sensations of perception and inclination and investigation themselves, as well as all the rest: tons of rapidly flickering, fluxing, pulsing, vanishing sensations one after the other, fast, fast, fast.

Stick with easy things: tingles, subtle energy stuff, and work towards harder stuff, like the memory you described as slowly fading: this is not what happened, as actually that was a stream of probably hundreds of fresh and very rapid pulses whose general intensity faded but each one was very rapidly impermanent: if you are up to it, try to see that, not just for memories, but for everything, starting with easy stuff and working up to hard objects, like thoughts/mental stuff, attention itself, space, etc.

Rushes, tingles: more vipassana than samatha.

Floaty feelings: usually early 1st vipassana jhana stuff, along with bodily distortions, etc.
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Andy R, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Early Taste of Equanimity or Expected A&P Stuff?

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
So, an update to provide a little closure on this thread.

It's now been two months since Daniel responded to me and essentially gave me four pieces of advice:
1) Notice/note whatever is happening.
2) It doesn't matter so much where you are on the maps so long as you follow the advice in 1), since this is the method by which the progress you seek happens.
3) Context: see what happens next and then after that, etc.: this is sometimes the only good way to tell.
4) Focusing on vibrations is really good.

In my less than infinite wisdom, I examined and then promptly ignored 1-3. I then skipped all the way down to (4) since that is what I'd been doing and decided that by golly, I was going to see those vibrations if it killed me.

Since the beginning of October, I've been trying to note MCTB-style -- fast, inclusive, trying to miss nothing. It had been rough going. So, after receiving the excellent advice from Daniel, I instead tried to note harder and faster. Intense frustration, disappointment and loss of focus soon followed, so I would drink coffee to get more focused and try again.

In mid-December I realized I was getting in my own way and was wasting serious time looking for anything that even remotely resembled what I though vibrations should be like. I stopped looking for vibrations, started paying attention to what was actually happening, and switched to Kenneth Folk-style noting. See this Buddhist Geeks post for details on the technique.

I put some dead time to use, and started practicing noting on my freeway commutes. I use a timer and set it to chime every three minutes. When it rings, I switch from noting the sensations of the five senses over to noting vedana, then to feelings/mind state, and then to thoughts. I think of it as practicing piano scales -- it's not what I'd do in a performance, but it certainly has helped get the mechanics of it nailed down solidly. I usually manage to get 5-8 hours of noting practice on a good week.

In addition to my regular sits, on warmer days I now sit in my car at lunch 2-3 days a week, for a total of up to 7 hours or so a week of actual closed-eye meditation, in addition to the noting exercises above.

The real question is how has that worked for me?

Very well indeed. I'll fill out the details in a separate post, but after about a month of practice, I had the opportunity to note for 14 hours over two days on a long drive to visit a friend. Shortly after getting home at the end of January, I had an incredibly intense and vivid passage through A&P, Dissolution, the Dark Night nanas, and when it was all over, I was clearly in Equanimity. I never did see vibrations the way I thought they were going to manifest, but it's hard to argue with success.

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