Message Boards Message Boards

Stream Entry

Story: Beginning Practice Through Stream Entry

Toggle
========================================
This is Lee: I've split thread off from the "End of 8 month sabbatical"
as this pertains more to Stream Entry.
=======================================



Hi Lee,

Thats for the report.

Could you please share some of your practice background from before you went on this intensive practice period?
And also, could you please share the way in which you practiced before you got stream entry..
Thanks emoticon

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/19/09 10:21 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Yadid Bee:
Hi Lee,

Thats for the report.

Could you please share some of your practice background from before you went on this intensive practice period?
And also, could you please share the way in which you practiced before you got stream entry..
Thanks emoticon


Hi Yadid,

Sorry for the delay. I'm going into substantial detail detail here hoping its value will out-way any personal indulgence in "my story"

I've been drawn to eastern religion and the idea of enlightenment since I was a teen. When I was 18, I read Siddhartha in one sitting and had a shift in consciousness. I thought I was enlightened for about 2 weeks but that faded. I didn't find a formal practice until about 20 years later.

I started serious Buddhist practice in May of 2007 inspired by Daniel's interview on Buddhist Geeks and his book. I practiced 1-2 hours a day following the breath as best I could until I could maintain a some semblance of concentration. After 4-6 weeks I seemed to find a nice pleasant sweet spot and guessed that to be Access Concentration or first nana. In July 2007 I went on a 7 day visit to Bhavana with the goal of crossing the A&P. I focused on noting and worked to note continuously all day long. It was very challenging and I was over-efforting and struggling with thoughts of judgment and self-recrimination whenever I would catch myself off. Around the 4th day after 3 days of pushing myself too hard, I had a spontaneous thought "you are so hard on yourself". At that point, I broke down. I saw clearly how my burning ambition toward whatever I was obsessing over would drive me to be a major jerk to myself and to others. I began to weep and sob deeply for many minutes. After, I held practice more lightly. I suspect I went through some early stages in the progress of insight but did not cross the A&P.

Next I went on a 14 day retreat at Tathagata Meditation Center in San Jose. Here I did all Mahasi noting. It felt I was floundering for the first few days not able to concentrate or get anywhere. On the third day I started working with Daniels technique to note sensations as fast as possible. In walking meditation I would note "lift, lift lift lift, move move move move, touch, touch, touch, touch touch" working diligently to see every frame of sensation. I did the same kind of noting with the rising and falling in sitting meditation. The evening of the third day the ability to see the individual frames became easy. I was flooded with happiness, bliss, energy and the ability to see 20-30 sensations a second. I remember doing walking meditation crying in bliss and joy at the ability and the intimacy of seeing sensations so fast and so close. Fairly classic A&P stuff. I enjoyed this stage over the next few days. A few times, I spontaneously fell into what I guess to be the second Jhana. My mind would suddenly see this place to relax into that was incredibly pleasant and stable state filled with rapture and bliss but didn't require much effort.

On the afternoon of the 8th day the dark night came despite not having an A&P Event I could clearly recognize. I don't remember the individual Nana's clearly. I do remember starting to look more deeply at my beliefs, judgments and thoughts about the world. They were just as impermanent and insubstantial as the phenomena I was watching in A&P but somehow that realization hit much closer to home. I began doubting and disbelieving all my ideas and preconceptions about life. The distinct sense that there was nothing to believe in, no where to rest, nothing to stand on dominated my thoughts. I became obsessed with staying utterly in the moment. I would force the mind in the present moment because everything else was bullshit. I noted with great effort attempting to banish even a moment of wandering mind. As the day progressed, things started to get more physically unpleasant. During walking meditation, I began experiencing disorienting waves of vibrations running through my face and chest giving me vertigo and making me feel sick. I wondered if I was going to faint or fall to the ground. This Dark Night phase lasted from about 2PM until I went to bed at 10PM.

The next morning, everything seemed ok, effortless, easy. The storm had passed. My ideas, thoughts and beliefs were still impermanent, unsatisfactory and insubstantial but I was ok with that. On the 10th day, equanimity deepened and I began to have some interesting perceptions. In sitting meditation, a loud sound would arise that would startle me, but my experience of it was sound vibration interacting with body vibrations generating fear vibrations. And all the vibrations felt pretty much the same. However, my meditation sessions were very inconsistent. Many sessions had excessive wandering mind and spacing out. I didn't care much to put effort into practicing, but I didn't have a feel for effortless practice yet. Occasionally I would have a profound equanimous sit, but often I would laze into the pleasant sensations of concentration while I let the mind spin off on new content. And equanimity provided plenty of new content for the mind to spin on. One challenge for me in equanimity is tremendous creativity often arises and I get enchanted by the new ideas

The next few days I spent in equanimity and wallowing in content and then the retreat ended. Equanimity mostly persisted in real life. Over the next year I did 3 different retreats. Two of which I got back to Equanimity but stalled there or would cycle between the Dark Night and Equanimity. Then I started my Sabbatical mid January 2008.

My first Sabbatical retreat was 3 1/2 weeks at MBMC. I intended to stay 3 months but my back gave out on me. Initially it was very difficult. The center was very hot, very loud and had mosquitoes with no screens on the windows. Regardless I did the best I could. By this time, it was very difficult to track progress. I felt I was bouncing all over the Nanas. I was also struggling with content around quitting my job and ending a 10 year relationship and feeling like I was getting nowhere. There were some definite periods that resembled A&P, Dark Night and Equanimity but they were jumbled and seemed out of order. I speculate this may be because I had gone up and down this territory many times by this point.

Eventually the Sayadaw (Thurzana) left and a new Sayadaw (Panathami) came for a visit. Panathami met with me for 25 minutes and heard my report and proceeded to give me a long intense speech about just focusing on noting rising and falling and nothing else and to give heroric effort. I was so sensitive and his presence was so strong I did just that. Unfortunately more effort and narrow focus was not what I needed, but I pressed and forced inspired by his strength of message. I regressed over the next 2 days and my body rebelled. It seemed I was replaying knowledge of mind and body and knowledge of cause and effect again and again unable to break out with the way I was practicing. Then my back gave out and I decided to leave retreat for a week to recover.

I spoke with Vince, Daniel, Constance, Tarin and a Teacher I had worked with back at IMS. All helped to reinforce that I just needed to keep practicing and get it done. I went back a week later and started mixing in some Adyashanti dharma talks as well as some self-inquiry (who am I) with the noting practice. This time right effort seemed natural and easy. I fell back into a solid groove quickly. On the 5th and 6th days I was having some solid sittings where thought became easy to note and penetrate. At the end of the 7th day during lying meditation I was tuned into the stream of impermanence in the breath though I was able to see vibrations throughout the body quite easily. I also started to notice pleasant tingling rapturous sensations. I noted pleasant, rapture. I was probably noting 1 in 10 or 20 objects that i noticed. I also started to notice the other factors of awakening. Mindfulness was strong sensations were intensifying and energy was rising. Concentration was strong, equanimity and tranquility were strong. I noted all these. I noticed sensations of spaciousness, I noticed sensations of expectation. I noted these as well. As the intensity strengthened I was utterly determined not to get sucked into thought, sensation or anticipation. I stayed with the intensifying experience noting and noticing everything I could. Then as the crescendo of experience started to peak, there were 2 unknowing moments. Something seemed to have happened but I didn't know what it was.

Then reality warped back and my state was completely different. The intensity, energy and rapture were gone. There was an intuitive sense that something had happened. I asked myself "was that it? was that stream entry?". I examined the mental state. Seemed quiet, maybe too quiet. Something seemed different. Like some annoying stuff that the brain normally does, it stopped doing and I intuitively sensed that it wouldn't be doing "it" anymore. But I couldn't really put my finger on what "it" was. Also, obsession with attainment and goals in practice literally dropped away. In fact, I felt like taking a break from practice even though I had only been there a week. Somehow with the lack of desire for attainment, intensive practice seemed much less appealing. I reached out to a few people and relayed my experience as there was no Sayadaw at the time. Basically the response I got was maybe, maybe not. I practiced half heatedly for a week then left retreat again. Over the next few weeks I didn't notice review fruitions and I didn't notice cycling so I wrote it off as something other than stream entry.

A few months later I started noticing an odd phenomena. At first I thought it was me being startled or falling a sleep and jerking awake but it wasn't that. It didn't happen when I was really sleepy. It seemed to happen when my attention was soft and there was no efforting or grasping. Often, it would come just as a very light dreamy state fell over me. Now I didn't notice the entrance to the event because I only seemed to get it when I was spaced out and not looking for it. But what I did notice was a sense of reality or consciousness re-engaging. I wasn't seeing reality drop out directly but it was obvious that there was a drop out when reality would come back in. I began to suspect these were review fruitions. I spoke with Kenneth, relayed my possible stream entry story and these weird moments of reality re-engaging itself and he seemed pretty convinced that I had experienced stream entry and was having review fruitions.

As mentioned in my other posts, when I started my next retreat at Forest Refuge, the first few days were filled with many review fruitions. And after completing path at FR, the fruitions became much stronger and easier to spot. I usually experience it as all 6 sense doors stopping and starting but when it starts, sensations are either too strong or to weak for a moment and then consciousness either quickly shifts up or down to the right level of intensity. Now off retreat I can still see them but they are much more subtle. I don't have as much control over them as many post stream enterers do but I'm learning.

-Lee

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/14/09 1:46 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Yeah!

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/14/09 5:55 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Great reports, thanks Lee, and well done. This was particularly interesting for me:

Lee G Moore:
A few months later I started noticing an odd phenomena. At first I thought it was me being startled or falling a sleep and jerking awake but it wasn't that. It didn't happen when I was really sleepy. It seemed to happen when my attention was soft and there was no efforting or grasping. Often, it would come just as a very light dreamy state fell over me. Now I didn't notice the entrance to the event because I only seemed to get it when I was spaced out and not looking for it. But what I did notice was a sense of reality or consciousness re-engaging. I wasn't seeing reality drop out directly but it was obvious that there was a drop out when reality would come back in.


I think I know exactly what you mean. I've got it a few times whilst just lying down or resting outside of formal sitting, with very loose awareness. Then out of nowhere there's a sudden jerking awake, sometimes with a loud click or some kind of "impact" and then I'm back . It's happened on a few different occasions, sometimes two clicks quite close together. It's really made me jump once or twice. I have had more subtle winking outs, but I couldn't miss the clicking ones!

Up to now I wasn't sure what these were but I guess they could be review fruitions. I haven't experienced them in a while.

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/14/09 9:33 AM as a reply to Dan Bartlett.
Dan Bartlett:

I think I know exactly what you mean. I've got it a few times whilst just lying down or resting outside of formal sitting, with very loose awareness. Then out of nowhere there's a sudden jerking awake, sometimes with a loud click or some kind of "impact" and then I'm back . It's happened on a few different occasions, sometimes two clicks quite close together. It's really made me jump once or twice. I have had more subtle winking outs, but I couldn't miss the clicking ones!

Up to now I wasn't sure what these were but I guess they could be review fruitions. I haven't experienced them in a while.


That's pretty much what I noticed as well. As I started the FR retreat, I noticed a certain type of sound would tend to trigger fruition. The Forest Refuge wood in the hall or my room would occasionally make a certain kind of clicking noise. Not too loud, not too soft and just long enough to see the arising and passing but not long enough to form an illusion of continuity. If the quality of attention was soft and unforced, then the mind would experience the sound fully and concurrently without effort and then boom fruition. It was amazing how often that same quality of sound would do the trick.

As I experienced more intense fruitions, there was often a momentary sensation of intense acceleration or deceleration. Sort of like going into or coming out of warp drive on Star Trek or FTL on BSG

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/15/09 7:48 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Lee, I hope you will consider spliting off the stream entry story and maybe saying more about how you found right effort. I feel like I could learn a lot from your experience. I'm pretty sure my over-active inquiry at my last retreat kept bouncing me back into lower nanas. I don't know if it possible, but it seemed like I went through several A&Ps. I've been struggling with finding the right balance of active noting and "actively participating" with what arises -- for lack of a better expression. In any case, I really appreciate the story and admire your persistance.

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/19/09 9:58 AM as a reply to beta wave.
beta wave:
Lee, I hope you will consider spliting off the stream entry story and maybe saying more about how you found right effort. I feel like I could learn a lot from your experience. I'm pretty sure my over-active inquiry at my last retreat kept bouncing me back into lower nanas. I don't know if it possible, but it seemed like I went through several A&Ps. I've been struggling with finding the right balance of active noting and "actively participating" with what arises -- for lack of a better expression. In any case, I really appreciate the story and admire your persistance.


Hi Beta Wave,

Apologies for the slow response here. As far as right effort goes, I wish I had a good answer for you. Finding right effort is a never-ending challenge. Many great experienced practitioners say that you never really get it in a permanent sense. Mostly the pendulum swings between too little and too much and occasionally you get into "the zone" for a little while. I will say the times I have found "the zone" of right effort has usually been after a retreat period of over-efforting followed by a short break and then going on another retreat. For Stream Entry that was a 26 day retreat followed by a one week break. For my latest path that was a 10 week retreat followed by a 1 month break. But that's just me. Your mileage can and will vary.

Also, you certainly can go through several A&P's. In my experience, if you have gone through the progress of insight enough times without gaining path, the stages can get a bit screwy. Falling back and jumping around stages was common for me.

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/22/09 7:53 PM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
No worries Lee. Thanks for getting this conversation started! It might ultimately be futile to try to figure out guidelines for right effort, but I’m interested in attempting it. (It strikes me that this conversation might also be related to the post by Daniel about someone who spent 3.5 months on retreat working within the dark night.) My experience pales in comparison, but my 15 day retreat went essentially like this...

It started very smooth and it felt like I hit the ground running. The first few days weren’t a struggle at all, just consistent noting. If I drifted away in thought, I could bring back to the breath without much drama or secondary thoughts about drifting away. On day three or four I started having more strong raptures and mild visions of golden lights and mild bliss on occasion. The first time it happened I thought maybe AP. For the next few days and momentum seemed to increase and it seemed like I was going through an increasing pattern of basic noting, rapture, tranquility and very clear noting... which would lead to another slightly more intense rapture, and so on. There would be one or two of these bigger rapture events a day, usually in the morning and/or evening. After about 11 or 12 days, I had another rapture that really was orders of magnitude more complete than any of the others. It was preceded by a very very immediate/elemental awareness of one sensation of breathing (that included a sense of self), awareness of the mental recognition of that, and then a mood of some sort or another (unclear)... and then there was a little confusion of where I was followed by the massive wave of love/bliss. In the aftermath, my body felt like it was being guided by intuition, not me. It seemed like I had a sense of what being without a self would be like. At the time I figured it could have been stream-entry. Then, a half hour later, I was absolutely overwhelmed with a wave of shame and guilt. It’s hard to understate this, but it felt like I had just done the worst thing ever. I am pretty used to dark night emotions/emotionality, and there were low moments that certainly came up during the retreat, but this was just orders of magnitude more awful. I felt beyond my limits and then some. I backed off then and thought about what happened, thinking that maybe I had never been in the dark night and this is what it was really like. But then I acknowledge I had been pushing pretty hard and this seemed like a counter reaction to all of that. So I just carried on with the basic schedule of practice, but without the intensity. With just a few days before going back to work, I just focused in on grounding and integrating and healing as much as I could.

I'm having trouble determining if this was just cycles of APs or if only the latter was a true AP. I'm trying to determine if I was forcing my noting practice way too much, too much effort, and was essentially going through the lower stages of Mind and Body, Cause and Effect, Three Characteristics, A&P... and the A&P experiences were just getting stronger and stronger as the retreat progressed.

My theory now is if high-speed noting is introducing the sensations of doing something at high speed (sensations of speed, sensations of effort), then that’s an indication that it’s too much force and not being aware of sensations as they are naturally arising. Based on that, I’m doing much more gentle meditation, allowing awareness to open up more. It feels like I’m consistently hitting some weak jhana states now during sits... maybe because I’m really letting go of progress now and enjoying not striving. This practice seems to be progressing and meditation is interesting again after giving it up for a while after the retreat. .

So that’s the story. Any diagnosis, observations, or advice?

p.s. It's nice writing this months later after the emotionality of it all has passed.

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/27/09 3:20 AM as a reply to beta wave.
hi beta,

im recalling back to when i was in that annoying phase of cycling back and forth from equanimity, darknight, 3 characteristics. That was the time when getting stream entry was a must and just the cycling back and forth really sucked and im sure you can relate.

I dont know if we're describing the same thing when u say noting too fast. I had this dilemma where i had bright lights in my head and then a single point in the middle, and the mind seemed to naturally incline to focus on that with force, like I was flexing a muscle, which caused some tension, and i didn't know if I was doing it right, as it felt forced, like you're describing.

That stage came in those times, then never again after Stream entry. If i remember correctly, its when i was trying to get back to equanimity.
It's like i was cycling thru the jhanas muscling my way in, and to get to equanimity, it was "finding the right button".
I still ended up sort of doing it, as the flexing feeling kept happening, but i became more conscious and did it softer, thus changing the analogy to "instead of flexing muscles, just sort of feeling and pushing the right button"

During these times, and before stream entry, what i feel worked for me was thinking of reality as "aimless, signless". I was also making my reference for noting, my body, and the physical world, as it was surrounding my body.
When I heard a noise. I thought of it as it's distance away from my body, and as its physical movement that caused that vibration to produce noise.

on signlessness,
Apparently, the day I got stream entry, and after that until now, its been the strongest change in my perception (on the day) and most joyful, or coolest experience. Seeing the world as signless, seeing the body as an animated carcass. So, also, coincidentally, that was the concept I was also focusing on before stream entry.

ps sorry if the post isn't direct.
Hope it helps in any way Take it easy

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
9/27/09 6:55 AM as a reply to Dark Night Yogi.
Thanks Mitch, that does sound similar. Your "flexing muscles" sounds similar to my "too much effort' and it all does seem to relate to trying to force/hold a static feeling of equanimity.

Reminds me of holding the reins in too tightly and having the horse shake it's head (A&P- like rapture), not because it's being disobedient, but just because it needs room for it's head to move around naturally as it walks. Heh, and that saying "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink" seem appropriate, too!

Thanks for aimless, signless -- I'll think about that.

RE: End of 8 month sabbatical
Answer
4/23/17 2:43 PM as a reply to Dan Bartlett.
Dan Bartlett:
Great reports, thanks Lee, and well done. This was particularly interesting for me:

Lee G Moore:
A few months later I started noticing an odd phenomena. At first I thought it was me being startled or falling a sleep and jerking awake but it wasn't that. It didn't happen when I was really sleepy. It seemed to happen when my attention was soft and there was no efforting or grasping. Often, it would come just as a very light dreamy state fell over me. Now I didn't notice the entrance to the event because I only seemed to get it when I was spaced out and not looking for it. But what I did notice was a sense of reality or consciousness re-engaging. I wasn't seeing reality drop out directly but it was obvious that there was a drop out when reality would come back in.


I think I know exactly what you mean. I've got it a few times whilst just lying down or resting outside of formal sitting, with very loose awareness. Then out of nowhere there's a sudden jerking awake, sometimes with a loud click or some kind of "impact" and then I'm back . It's happened on a few different occasions, sometimes two clicks quite close together. It's really made me jump once or twice. I have had more subtle winking outs, but I couldn't miss the clicking ones!

Up to now I wasn't sure what these were but I guess they could be review fruitions. I haven't experienced them in a while.
Hey, about 8 years later, but what the heck.

I think I've had the sudden jolt thing you describe a few times, I tended to assume it was just me nodding off, but recently it's been slightly different once or twice, and the other day I heard/felt a kind of snapping sound that was quite loud from inside my head. I don't believe I've had any kind of fruition yet, which would mean it can't be a review fruition.

Belated thanks for the report Lee! It was very interesting.

Thank you!
Answer
10/7/17 10:55 AM as a reply to Lee G Moore.
Thank you!