Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Loren Tyler, modified 10 Years ago.

Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
I recently read MTCB and it inspired me to begin really knuckling down with the meditation practice, which I have dabbled in for about 5 years, alongside Tai Chi and alot of dedicated martial arts practice, and some psychedelic experimentation, through which I attained a very extreme A&P event almost 2 years ago.

My two major questions are contained in the subject to this post. My self diagnosis after reading MTCB is that I reached Equanimity after almost two years in the Dark Night just a few weeks before I read the book, though I had no formal insight meditation practice, mainly just training concentration states and energy work. However, I did write almost every day, purely as a form of self examination, not as a record of my neurotic 'stuff', but in an effort to attain as heightened a perspective as possible and notice the patterns in my own thinking, and process the A&P event. This led to the discovery of an ongoing cycle that I don't see linked to the Theravada progress of insight maps, but as a regular cycling fluctuation in the content and perspective of my own thought over time, which also seems to possess the fractal quality of cycles within cycles.

Equanimity arrived with the realization that the desperate conceptualizing was all aimed at regaining the clarity of the A&P, that that was unhealthy, followed by the uncharacteristic lack of desire to record every insight or concept I had, lack of rushing to work my way out of my daily commitments by trying to become a millionaire, a sudden lapse in a long term chocolate addiction, ability to meditate for long periods of time again, etc...philosophical arguments lost all their importance and I could feel that I had moved my center from the memory of the 'miracle' of two years ago.

So the first question is, do you think the progress of insight has to be a product of 'microscopic' attention? It seems to me that there are obviously enlightened mystics from western traditions that attained that through attention that likely never counted vibrations per second...I'm convinced that Vipassana is probably the most direct route, but also that I have definitely progressed through several stages where my only insight practice was introspective writing, though certainly accompanied by morality, concentration and energy training.

The second question is about the cycles. I started to notice a pattern about 9 months after the A&P, where my ego would 'rise' and seem to dissolve over a period of weeks or months, depending on the cycle, and at the climax I would have the scary experience during meditation or a psychedelic trip (I used to take mushrooms every 6 months) of being torn apart, accompanied by an intense Kundalini rush, that left me completely relaxed and at peace. Then over the next few weeks or months, the ego would seem to 'descend' and solidify, until it would climax by it making itself noticed either to just myself or embarrassingly to others, and I would strengthen my efforts to see past the illusion of a unified self, until my next experience of being torn apart. So I bounce between these poles, of my ego being dissolved by forces that seem outside myself, and then dissolving it from the bottom up myself.

Sorry about the ramble, almost finished. In between these two poles I noticed, that there are 8 major stages, each with accompanying interests, and perspectives. For example, immediately after the experience of being torn apart, I feel perfectly centered for a week or two, then concepts just pour out of me, abstract philosophy, diagrams, accompanied by convincing clairvoyant abilities (most of which are explainable as aspects of heightened synesthesia), then academic interests, reading about the traditions, philosophy, followed by politics, martial arts, division of all kinds, and then unification interests, such as relationships, sex, renewing friendships, what the future of the internet will look like, mandalas, unified networks of all kinds, and then onto imagination, desire to write fiction, and review what I have written, interest in time, and then finally I land on earth, and it is all about finances, career, exercise. I then travel back up through the 8 stages, in about 1/6th the time, in what I have come to call the internal cycle, as each stage relates much more to myself, whereas the descent was more about social implications and epic ideas.

The stages present themselves not only in content but also in the metaphors I use while writing, and in the symbolism in my dreams. It's not a smooth spectrum, entry into the next stage is usually accompanied by a vivid dream featuring all the symbols of the stage I'm entering. The last point of interest is that they speed up to a climax point, where after completing one cycle of 'descent' and 'ascent' that might take 6 months, I will do it again in 8 weeks, and then 3, and then a week, until I have a few days of doing it daily, until a climax point, usually accompanied by some major life upheaval and intense clairvoyance, and then begins the long ascent back over a period of about 3 months. So while I have had increasingly smaller cycles of ascent and descent in the 9 months before, that seems to make up a larger cycle of descent before the climax and beginning of the return.

Having started out looking at western traditions, I am familiar with skrying in the Kabbala, and planetary symbolism and correspondences, and actually the 8 classical planets fit perfectly with the content of the stages...but having traditional symbols to link my experience to doesn't validate my experience or help me understand it. While I'm sure many will say that have simply deluded myself into seeing a pattern, and then systematized it, and hypnotized myself to the point that my experience follows the course I've laid for myself, I have tried paying no attention to these macro concepts for about a month now and today it was just so obvious I figured I'd check in with you guys and see if anyone had noticed anything similar. I wouldn't be writing if I hadn't been thoroughly honest with myself and still had this seemingly objective fact stare back at me. I'm a highly functional 24 year old, I'm not trying to indulge in my own fantasies here, I try to be as objective as possible and think I may have simply looked for a pattern where others have not thought to look, since it is most easily revealed by introspective writing over months and years.

Thanks for your patience, if anyone made it this far. emoticon
By the way, when I use the term clairvoyance I am not implying the existence of a transcendent dualistic non-physical realm, but a period of intense synesthesia.
Bernardo Vasconcelos, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 40 Join Date: 11/19/09 Recent Posts
Do you have a goal in mind?
Loren Taylor, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
Hi Bernardo, yeah I'm aiming for non duality like the rest of you...but I'm new to this approach and I'm just curious to see if noting practice leads to the same kind of patterns of content, and if they are thought of as being of use in insight practice, or if they should be considered more as an aspect of the powers. Sorry if that seemed like a pointless ramble, I hadn't hit equanimity, just another A n P. Think I need to pick an approach and just do it into the ground, since I've been through the A n P several times now, first through psychedelics, then tai chi, then just philosophical contemplation, and then meditation, but I think the tai chi really appeals to me the most. I hate to be a 'dharma tragedy' who is just really energized but without any real insight, but plenty of people seem to think of it as a powerful path to enlightenment, and it appeals to me as a visual artist and a martial artist. Any thoughts?
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I can understand where you're coming from having come from a mainly kabbalistic background myself, particularly your awareness of symbolism occuring. It's common to become aware of these patterns and symbols when we work exclusively with one system for a prolonged period of time as they usually manifest in dreams, astral work and through synchronicities.

If you're skrying the sephiroth then you must have a strong grasp of the symbolism involved so seeing them show up in your own writings etc etc is only an extension of this integration. As for noticing this symbolism showing up in a cyclical manner, in my experience the same will happen when you explore any system of attainment with genuine commitment. Validation of spirtual technology isn't something we can approach from a purely intellectual viewpoint, it's only through experiential knowledge that we can say whether or not these techniques have any "objective" worth to us as individuals.

You sound like I did a few months ago trying to correlate 4-Path terminology with your previous, Western tradition based experience so, to save you a bit of time, I'd suggest waiting till you've had the chance to practice vipassana for a while and to familiarise yourself with the terminology used on here before trying this. It's only after regular practice and integration of Theravadan symbolism over the last few months that I'm coming to be able to translate terms from kabbalistic maps and that's with over ten years of experience.

Hitting A&P while working with psychedelics is fairly common but it's a really unstable and difficult path which, while not appropriate within Theravada, has value and is deserving of more study rather than knee-jerk reactions which are so common. Funnily enough, these negative reactions mainly come from people with little or no experience of this field. Having been down that road in the past I can confirm that a non-chemical approach is more rewarding but less immediate, and far, far easier to integrate.

I don't know how useful any of the above will be for you but I'm trying to sneak in a posting from work so I haven't had the chance to really come up with specific advice. Good luck with your journey and welcome to DhO! I'll try to get another, more thought out posting in later on tonight.
Loren Taylor, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
Hey thanks for the thoughtful response...I really kind of stumbled onto the kabbala without formally skrying, I didn't start with the symbols, but I can understand now what kabbalists mean when they say that the sephiroth is just the framework, and that you come to understand the characteristics of each sphere through your own practice. But I still see it as more useful to observe what aspects of your life are effected by each sphere, and notice recurring metaphors, as opposed to charting lists of symbols as in 777. A bottom up approach I guess...But I am but a lowly lowly beginner emoticon It became more than a curiosity to me though when I became able to predict what kind of issues or events would be coming up in the next few weeks or months based on how long the current cycle was taking, and so it came to have a practical purpose; I can't delay it, but it is similar to Daniel saying in the book that you can plan your spiritual progress so as to avoid dark nights at inconvenient times, it serves a purpose for me as a map of meaning and content.

I'm not convinced yet that the cycle should be mapped onto the four path model at all, since it seems to deal primarily with the content of my experience, as opposed to a cycle of insight, and while they'll obviously overlap I'm hesitant to attempt a direct correlation. I'd be curious what your thoughts are on this. I suppose my changing relationship to the content can be taken as a mark of progress in insight, when you come to deal more directly with the overarching patterns themselves as opposed to their effects in your life. I guess my idea of a bottom up approach to the kabbala is just the voice of a beginner that can't see the point in working with the symbols themselves yet. But its still better than playing with a bunch of symbols without seeing their relation to your daily circumstances...which seems to be the trap caused by having so many cool metaphors to get lost in with the western magical approaches.

As for psychedelics, no AnP has been as powerful as that one, I was having lucid dreams of beings rearranging the geometry of my light body and waking up and being able to pinpoint the difference it had made, the others were mainly just long periods of non dual where I was effortlessly centred, etc...But! Even though psychedelics pointed the way I don't really think of them as part of my path, more just an enriching aspect of life. Like a lot of tai chi practitioners, I discovered chi on mushrooms, but I stick with tai chi to develop it, I don't go back to the mushrooms every time I want to make a chi ball.

Like I was saying to Bernardo, I think I'm going to really develop the tai chi as my major practice, I think it suits me better as an artist and a martial artist, and also appeals to my taste for magical traditions, basically ritual magic without props, which they usually say are just for beginners anyway.

Anyway, don't want to ramble.
Have you incorporated eastern and western traditions in your practice, or do you just stick to vipassana now?
Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling (Answer)

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Yeah, the whole kabbalistic tree is like a mnemonic system for interpreting phenomena, and 777 is like the glossary for it! I think that studying the kabbalah is a lifetime of work but it's such a content-heavy system that it takes considerably more work to gain insight, in the fundamental sense, within it compared to vipassana.

Your own cycling sounds very personal and idiosyncratic, so I'd agree with avoiding trying to map it to the 4-Path system. It actually sounds like a sort of personalized system of divination so, if it's useful to you, do what works!

How your own awareness of this "cycle" (inverted commas just to differentiate between your own personal cycling, and the progress of insight) coincides with the cycles of insight I have no idea but I wouldn't get too fixated on this. There's a time and a place for dealing with content but during insight practice is not it, maybe start noting the thoughts and feelings which arise when you become aware of this cycling and see what's experiencing this. Look at the possibility that, as you've put quite a lot of effort into keeping track of these cycles, you may be scripting yourself into certain experiences due to the idea that "this is the way it's happened before" and so you come to expect it. I don't know if that's the case, it's just a suggestion but there's a lot learned about the fundamental nature of reality from being aware of what's happening during these phases at a sensory level.

Symbolism is content, it's not that it's not useful sometimes but it's worth remembering that this is just the finger that's pointing at the moon. The whole kabbalistic system is like having some sort of mystical OCD but the sensations which make up the frantic acts of mapping and correspondence are where the real insight can be found. The only remotely useful correspondences between this map and that of the Theravada that I found were:

Mind & Body = Malkuth, or possibly Yesod,
A&P = Tiphareth.
Dark Night = Da'ath/The Abyss (emphasis on 10th ├▒ana, Re-Observation in the Abyss)

I seen some discussion about mapping the 1st - 4th Path's to the sephiroth above the Abyss but I find it difficult to figure 2nd/3rd path as somehow resolving within Chokmah, given that Stream Entry could be considered equivalent of Binah, and Arahatship being the equivalent of Kether. There's a whole world of mess to get involved with there which is why I've stopped trying to map my previous experience to the map I currently use to examine my practice as, unless you're a very skilled and scholarly magician with a lot of experience in both systems, then figuring this stuff out will just give you a headache. emoticon

Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of love for magick and it's practical application but my Path has led me to vipassana which has given better results and an experiential understanding of reality which I only glimpsed before. Maybe I was just a shit magician, who knows! emoticon

When it comes to the chemical approach, I hear you loud and clear. I've experimented with stuff from salvia divinorum to 5-Meo-DMT, but, for all the awesome or terrifying experiences, nothing has brought the same permanent changes in perception I've found through noting and concentration, but they've all taught something about how "I" perceive reality and opened some doors which I suspect would have remained closed otherwise. Either way, it's all totally impermanent, unsatisfying and not-self, which is what we're looking to see in every sensation with the techniques most commonly used on here. I believe that Kenneth Folk, another wonderful teacher who's site you might enjoy, encountered the A&P for the first time while on LSD so your experience is something fairly common. What's important is that it's led you to where you are now!

Like I was saying to Bernardo, I think I'm going to really develop the tai chi as my major practice, I think it suits me better as an artist and a martial artist, and also appeals to my taste for magical traditions, basically ritual magic without props, which they usually say are just for beginners anyway.

Oddly enough I'm a self-taught artist who practiced Tae Kwon Do for about ten years! It appears there's a few similarities in our stories here and I can certainly relate to your attraction towards ritual magick.....it looks really cool, visually and imaginatively! Ha! If you're interested in checking out a more pragmatic approach to magick, check out Chaos Magick, it's not a very relevant "magickal current" anymore but there's a similar attitude towards the sanctity of tradition, ritual and all the trappings as you'll find in the hardcore, pragmatic Dharma movement. Do what works for you, that's the only real advice I could give to be honest.

A quick point here also, the use of props within ritual seems to be mainly psychological. Just like the incense, the robes, temple configurations and suchlike, they're all aimed at bringing the mind to focus on certain basic concepts appropriate to the ritual itself e.g. the elemental symbolism of the dagger (Air), pantacle (Earth), cup (Water) and sword (Fire) and their associations with psychological faculties of the intellect, reason, intuition and will. It's not so much that they're "for beginners", the physical object ceases to become necessary once one can "tune in" to what's being symbolized without requiring the object itself.

Don't ever worry about rambling if we're having a conversation, I could talk the hind legs off of a donkey. emoticon

Keep us updated on what's happening for you and hopefully we'll see you more regularly!
Loren Taylor, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Equanimity without Formal Practice, and Unusual Cycling

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/6/10 Recent Posts
Well I don't know what forum etiquette is like here, if someone is going to make me move this conversation to another thread or something for getting off topic, but I have some more thoughts on it anyway...

Yeah clearly the usual skeptical response to finding any sort of patterns in experience is that you will find what you are looking for, once you have a model in mind, and so I've done my best to test its objectivity. What makes me take it seriously is that a) I started by noticing the patterns themselves first, and drew my own distinctions in the process before noticing that it was suitable to correlate it with the planetary symbolism and the kabbala, I didn't just apply an arbitrary symbol system to my daily life...and b) I've tested it partly by going months without considering it at all, and then reading back through my diary and finding the pattern unbroken. Obviously any systematic interpretation of reality will alter my perception of it, but then again, just because my attention has been drawn to a new aspect of reality doesn't mean it doesn't have objective validity, just like noticing something new about the physical world.

However, I have stopped paying too much attention to it, because my goal is to be able to incorporate all of my interests each day, to become more whole, as opposed to waiting until the time is right to pursue certain interests effortlessly. To internalize what had initially presented itself as an external force, I suppose. Its like Pico Marandola's magical efforts to free himself from his own horoscope, but its more like an internal astrology.

Yeah one of the things I've noticed about the A&P is that symbolic meanings are revealed intuitively, the first time it happened I was really scrambling for explanations and symbols, and it was immediately clear that I was in Tiphareth.

I read Kenneth's description of his first A&P, mine was similar, except backwards. I didn't notice any ascent, it was more like I thought the trip was just about over, and then I just blanked out completely, then became conscious of nothing but being conscious, and then descended through pure fire, networks of information, and then forms emerged from the fire, and on and on until my body returned. Then I did nothing but walk, write and lucid dream for about 8 days.

Anyway, think I have a clearer way of explaining my difficulties transitioning into pure vipassana. I am continuing with it, but as a compliment to the tai chi. I've noticed that my entries into non dual awareness usually come through awareness of the true self, or all-as-self, as opposed to not self. I feel like I'm walking across myself, that I'm seeing myself in others, etc...and this is accompanied by a feeling of lightness, like I'm an avatar character of my self that I control, and the world rolls under my feet as opposed to me walking across a static surface. Well that made me think that the three characteristics are only one polarity of the spectrum, and that insight is also gained from noticing not only that all is self, but also from investigating permanence and healing, as opposed to impermanence and suffering. Its the Parmenides versus Heraclitus debate of nothing changes versus all is change, and Heraclitus himself said the way up and the way down lead to the same place.

When I say investigating permanence, I mean discovering the similarities in all phenomena, as opposed to noticing the differences until you've reduced everything to vibrations. I certainly benefit from noting vibrations, but at this point it seems like its only half the game, and Ingram mentions in the book that after you've refined your attention intensely enough, higher dimensional forms start to emerge, which give the impression that the present is always made of slices of higher dimensional forms. Now, maybe I misunderstood, but I wished he said more about it, because when I read that it felt like I was just approaching from the other side, by noticing these over arching forms and then trying to refine my attention, but I picture it like I'm grinding myself into dust to through over them to reveal their true form, since you get a clearer representation of invisible objects by throwing flour over them than by throwing bricks.

As for suffering, I think it's reflected traditionally in the alchemical panacea, that cures all ills and grants immortality and freedom from want. Whatever you imagine this to be, I think looking for it leads to you get real familiar with suffering all the same. So I think there's something to this idea of the western flip side to the three characteristics, but again, most magical practitioners get lost in cool images, when actually its still all about investigating the three characteristics.

It seems that there is a sensory bias in how each approach investigates the characteristics though, both insight systems rely on language, in the broad sense of words or sounds or images, to break down the witness into sensations, or show that they are part of a greater whole, but they branch into different symbolic preferences. Obviously if you are noticing higher dimensional forms, you can't symbolize them effectively with a beep, like you can with a vibration on your fingertip. You need images, and scents, music, etc. Well I've been through periods where my thoughts and emotions were revealed clairvoyantly in images and sounds for months at a time, without any psychedelic input, and I was terrified until i recognized that this alien reality corresponded to my interior experience. It started with me getting images of scalpel blades flying at my eyes, and it freaked me out, until I noticed that it had to do with me staring people down subtly, whenever some male ego tension arose in a conversation with someone where there was tension between you in your gaze, I would notice this image/feeling of the spikes to the eye. But I noticed what I was feeling was my own output. And this continued, until everything had a form, if I was giving well intentioned advice, it was a like a giant flower blooming at high speed in my chest, if I thought I wanted to punish someone, a creature like an alien face hugger would come flying at me. It was synesthetically self consistent and basically acted as mind mirror.

Sounds crazy, but the fact is that it forced me towards purifying my intentions. And I couldn't help but be aware of them, because they were present visually whether I liked it or not! Obviously these are considered psychotic episodes. And if I hadn't investigated it earnestly, and recognized it as myself, then they would have been. But having worked through it, I see it as enforced noting practice with a bias towards the visual. In MTCB, Daniel talks about seeing angels and other weird forms after visualization exercises, and just sort of puts these down to the powers, that you can investigate or not. My point is, it seems that although everything is considered to be a valid object for insightful investigation, visions seem to be written off as distractions in the eastern approaches, when perhaps further investigation would reveal their relevance to insight practice, with the benefit that once they become consistent and stable, insight is inescapable.

Although I love Austin Osman Spare, I'm less interested in Chaos Magick because so far I've been mainly looking for insight through self consistent synesthesia, as opposed to conferring meaning in a completely relative sense. In my experience there are plenty of magical forms to discover without constructing them yourself, and they have the benefit of being somewhat objectively valid, or at least effortlessly consistent. And I think the complete relativity of Pete Carroll and other modern commentators isn't necessarily present in Spare, its just been interpreted that way.

Anyway, plenty more to say but that's definitely enough for this morning! Glad you don't mind the ramble, I have no one to lay this out to and I don't usually spend any time on forums.