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Opinions welcome
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4/27/19 5:13 PM
Hi everyone !

I’ve benefited a lot from reading posts on this forum for a few months, and now I thought I’d come to participate a bit.
 
So, here is a description of the hour-long sit I just did.
 
I just decided to very gently investigate whatever would present itself (no verbal noting at all, no effort, no intentionally getting attention to be fast and sense everything that happens), as i’ve been having the impression that I’ve been “chasing states” and trying too hard to make sense of what was happening in my meditation lately. So, just sitting nicely, very quietly, in my room. As usual when I get in this kind of laid-back attitude, what happens is that I become very keenly aware of sounds. So, I’m just listening to sounds, gently staying with them, while trying to be clear about the difference between the sound perception itself, the mental echo, resonance or memory of it being created in real time in the mind, and the sort of background, mental visuo-kinesthetic sense of the room I’m in and of my body in it, which is also there.
Very nice, effortless, open awareness. Since I’m weary of not thinking about what’s happening and particularly, of any mapping taking place, I just note away thoughts like “this feels jhanic, might be in the AP with a 2nd shamatha jhana flavor.”

After a while (I do note when it feels like it makes sense to note), the way in which continuity and identity is being constructed mentally becomes more and more apparent : there are sensations, and at the same time, this seemingly all-encompassing mental construct, made in real-time based on these sensations, which, if I’m not careful, seems to be the same as them. This has been a central object of inquiry for me the past few weeks, and the fact that it has to be “seen through” again and again at each sit, that this obviously artificial sense of solidity and identity just reconstructs itself naturally however removed it might have become after an hour of meditation, has become a subject of frustration in my last few sits.

So this time, wishing to let go of aversion, in the same laid back fashion, I just quietly see what I see, and that’s that. A state shift happens after some time. At the beginning of the shift, there is this familiar sense of the hands disappearing and somehow pulling appart, and this just starts to pervade everything. The mental body-image itself, having been repeatedly seens as just a construct, has become very peripheral and insubstantial ; the body sense (perceptual) itself has changed dramatically : it feels like it has expended enormously, that its boundaries have somewhat disolved, and yet there’s a tremendous sense of weight across the whole field, almost unpleasantly so.Yet I still hear very clearly and distinctly, though sounds seem like they are farther away.

The sense of self is now very different, and it starts being investigated actively : no more does it appear like there’s an entity there, only sensory things happening, and as I look for the sense of watcher, things fade more and more. This has been a pattern for me : I get into this space where asking a certain question, like “where am I ?”, or “what is time ?”, just triggers this fading of perception, and at the same time means I’m able to see everything sort of happening at once. It always goes along with a pervading sense of anatta. I’ve wondered is this is “formations”, and I do think so, but it’s always happened after I start to investigate in a very broad and inclusive way for me, never through fast vibratory qualities.

I stay in that state(stage ?) almost until the end of the session ; what I do is to gently try to make the sense of identification dissolve by directly seeing that whatever is observed cannot be me. In the past, this has brought me to very interesting places, creating this crazy instantaneous loop where the act of “seeing such thing as not me” is being instantaneously seen as “not me either” starts to happen, also triggering an all encompassing sense of ... fading. This does happen here, though not as much as it could, and at some point, I get a little bit of fear, because the sense of self starts to unravel and it feels like disappearing completely is just a step away, but then I just note : fear, heart beating. The solidity/heaviness and (not really) boundarilessness does fade away near the end, and it kind of just feels like everything is normal. Then I question my identification with certain sets of sensations, which has formed itself again, and it kind of goes back into that different mode. And voilà, the alarm goes off (sounding quite distant), I emerge very calm, and upon seeing myself in the bathroom mirror, just start laughing thinking “this stuff is so weird man !”
 
Right now I feel very relaxed and almost giddy, with a mild sense of things appearing “unreal.” The last few sits (I’ve been doing 1h morning 1h evening since last Sunday, where I meditated for 8h. Otherwise, I try to do at least 1h a day…) had not been like that : rather, there was this frustration at not being able to reproduce the profound states of vastness and clear seeing of anatta that seemed so close from being “it”, and almost a sense of ill-will at this mental constructing of the sense of self ! Haha ! But this is very recent, and I think I’ve found a solution already.
 
I’m curious to hear your thoughts. I’ve had a sense that I’ve been in EQ for a while, though I’m not very sensitive to nanas, and only once had the sense of seeing each classic stage unfold in one session up to a very panoramic and bodiless anatta-flavored EQ. I now feel like I’m stagnating, or even regressing, and today just feel a bit confused. So, I’d greatly appreciate your input, and any advice.

Thank you,

Olivier

RE: Opinions welcome
Answer
4/28/19 6:38 AM as a reply to Olivier Sandilands.
Seems like it could be equanimity, with a bit of formless realm jhana. 

It might be that your stagnating, or it might be the dreamy states that can come before SE.

My sense is there is still a bit too much of trying to >investigate< at the end of your sits. So just a little too much vipassina, you could say. This is totally understandable, because this active investigation is what keeps us sitting and moving through the nanas... but there is a time when it needs to be mostly dropped, leaving the natural curiousity of the mind to take over.

When solidly in EQ, it's time to rely on the natural awareness and curiousity of the mind. Notice how the mind is naturally aware and awareness itself doesn't require any effort. Notice how the mind has it's own curious nature, and will move from object to object on its own. Participate in this process (go where the mind goes) and don't try to force the mind to go somewhere in particular. 

The gentle nudges at this stage are more along the lines of not allowing very subtle resistance to be >fully< experienced. Usually the resistance takes the form of thoughts about practice. Something says "this isn't it, this is wrong"  and we try just a little bit harder to figure it out.  It can be useful to occasionally note thoughts about practice itself. Instead of "trying to make sense of identification" and  "questioning my identification with certain sets of sensations", simply allow that tendency to want to investigate happen and note "practicing thought" or "trying to figure it out thought" or something like that. 

Because you mention the fading aspect a few times, I feel like it's important to mention that this experience is not detrimental to SE, in fact, allow your experience and self to fade completely if that's what is happening naturally. The fading tends to mean the mind is drifting into light formless jhanas, which is a good sign. Let it happen. You don't need normal clarity of mind for SE. Most likely that's you trying to subtly stay in control of things. You have to let go of control.

No one knows how to make SE happen. No one knows when SE will happen. It's beyond your control --- what a relief! If it's beyond control, that means you can really relax.

At this point you have to trust the mind itself to lead to SE. Here's the text from Mahasi's Practical Insight Meditation
https://archive.org/details/bub_gb_M2S-7-lWzHIC/page/n47

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How Nibbana is Realized

Path Knowledge

The ups and downs of insight {knowledge occurring in the
aforesaid manner arecomparableto abird let loosefrom a
sea-going ship. In ancient times the captain of a sea-going
ship, finding it difficult to know whether the ship was
approaching land, released abird that he had taken with
him. Thebird flew In all four directionsto look for the shore.
Whenever it could not find any land, it came back to the
ship. So long asinsight knowledge Is not matureenough to
grow into path and fruition knowledge and thereby attain
to the realization of N ibbana, it becomes lax and retarded,
just as the bird returns to the ship.

When the bird sees land, it flies on in that direction
without returning to the ship. Smilarly, when insight
knowledge is mature, having become keen, strong, and
lucid, it will understand one of the formations at one of
the six sense doors as being impermanent or painful or
without self. That act of noticing any one characteristic
out of the three, which has a higher degree of lucidity
and strength in its perfect understanding, becomes faster,
and manifests Itself three or four timesin rapid succession.
Immediately after the last consciousness in this series of
accelerated noticing has ceased, path and fruition {magga-
phala) arises realizing Nibbana, the cessation of all
formations.
So the point here is in late EQ you let the mind be the bird circling around the ship as it moves toward shore, an at some point the bird itself notices land and leaves the ship and flies directly to land, leaving the ship where it is. You are the ship, getting closer to shore, but you are not the bird. Trust the bird.

Keep your sitting practice, but use less and less effort. You might be close or it might be 10 years away. No one knows.

Hope this helps in some way!

RE: Opinions welcome
Answer
4/28/19 1:11 PM as a reply to shargrol.
"Trust the bird", I love it.

That is very auspicious : you know, that word actually comes from latin avis-specere, an expression which litterally means... bird-watching !

So, this can only mean your message is a good omen ;)

I'll go watch that bird till I see it no more (let's hope that's not in ten years though).

Thank you, Shargrol. I'll post some updates if things develop...