First taste of equanimity?

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John H, modified 10 Years ago.

First taste of equanimity?

Posts: 34 Join Date: 10/8/10 Recent Posts
I believe that I have recently started to reach equanimity in my meditation and wanted to get a second opinion from the more
experienced folks here at the DhO. emoticon

A bit of background:

It's quite likely that I passed the A&P through drugs use 10 years ago (I posted a separate thread about this here: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1172841). During the next 10 years I
practiced several different disciplines, including hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, ashtanga yoga, chi kung and various forms of
concentration meditation whilst trying to deal with the dark night like symptoms I was experiencing. I tended to flit from one thing to the other quite a lot when the going got tough and stopped practicing completely a couple of times, so my progress through these disciplines has been somewhat limited. About a year ago I read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which turned me onto buddhist practices. I began meditating using the instructions from this book for short periods every day (usually around 10 minutes).

I discovered MCTB last summer and decided to focus my practice on achieving access concentration and the samatha jhanas, so that I would be ready to begin vipassana and get out of the dark night. In October last year I started to hit the first, second and third jhanas fairly consistently (I resolved not to get fourth because I wasn't keen on unleashing any siddhis at that time but felt I could have got it if I wanted) and decided it was time to start vipassana. Things seemed to move quite quickly and I had very noticeable symptoms of the three characteristics nana - aching muscles and a really tight jaw arose one meditation and stayed with me for a few days (I must have looked like a bit of a weirdo when I was talking!). Since then I think I have re-passed the A&P twice. Once in early November then again in early January after some backsliding due to a reduced practice over the Xmas period. I've also had some fairly difficult dark nighting in between.

The past couple of months, I have increased my practice schedule. I now do 1 vipassana noting mahasi style sit in the morning for 40-45mins. I have a added a samatha sit in the evening using a Yantra as a kasina object for 20 mins and I've started to do walking meditations on my lunch break, usually around 30mins. I also try to practice as much as possible in daily life but this is difficult because I work with computers and it requires fairly
intense concentration on what i am doing in order to solve problems. I do note when I go to the bathroom etc.

This past week I feel that I have reached equanimity a couple of times in my meditation but it seems to slide back to re-observation as the day wears on and I haven't managed to get a foothold as yet to make it my centre of gravity. My general experience while meditating is:

- I begin noticing the sensations where my body contacts the floor.
- After a while my attention is brough upwards to my upper body and head as it feels that the energy has moved upward. Noting becomes easier at this point and it's fairly rapturous, which I suspect is A&P?
- This tends to give way to an uneasy feeling, with tightness in my throat and chest. (early DN?)
- Folowing this is fast, harsh vibrations that seem rather disjointed and irrating. They remind me of white noise. (late DN?)

In the past week the fast, harsh vibrations have smoothed out and it's like a big space opens up, full of calm and serenity. The space feels huge, as if I was standing in front of the hoover dam or some other wide open space. I become more intrested in the sounds in the background and note the different frequencies of my buzzing radiator and the different engine noises from the cars that drive past. There have been times when distances seem to get a bit arbitrary and it's difficult to localise the sounds in space.

No-Self seems like the most interesting of the 3Cs to investigate at this stage and I have been adding some 'who am i' investigation. I noticed that my consciousness seems to be located in my head and chest, so I was playing around with moving it into my legs and other areas of my body. I had a realisation that my consciousness only exists because
it has sensations to notice. This was an intellectual realisation but interesting nonetheless.

In my daily life I feel kind of 'normal' again. I still seem to feel angry, jealous, annoyed, irritated etc but it doesn't feel as much of a problem and tends not to linger as much as it normally would. I can see why people could get comfortable at this stage and stop practicing as it feels really good compared with dark night.

Does this line up with your experiences of equanimity?

Does anyone have any tips to stop the backsliding - Is it just a case of practicing consistently and skillfully?

Is there anything special required to reach high equanimity?

Thank you if you've read this fairly long post!
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: First taste of equanimity?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
I think you're basically doing fine - keep doing what you're doing, and look into those subtler sensations! But since I wrote a longer post anyway, here it is:

----------------

Very nice descriptions! Sounds like Equanimity to me. I also like how you can identify going through the nyanas during each of your sits. I didn't get the hang of doing that until I was farther in. Getting a sense of all that and the overall progression makes it less likely to get stuck in any particular part.

Just keep practicing. MCTB says to not try to solidify the Equanimity state, since that will be more likely to cause backsliding. Like, don't be afraid that if you investigate it too much, it will go away - investigate everything you see. Not that you seem in danger of doing that.

I don't remember what did it for me, and I don't know much about formations or High Equanimity, but I think you're on the right track with playing around with consciousness. When you notice consciousness, note 'consciousness'. Note the subtler sensations.. note the calm, the peace, the space, the background. If you feel like you want to stay where you are, note that. Note boredom if you get bored of it, etc. I think this is where noting really shines, as it reminds you to stay on track.

You'll find yourself starting to space out after some point, trailing along in some pleasant thought, then you realize you are spacing out and you get jolted back. Note that, too.

Others can give better advice on the next part, but I heard to look out for vibrations and things, as that can get you into observing formations? Perhaps others can clarify. I never really was able to put the 'formation' label to anything I experienced.

Also not sure about this advice, so others chime in if they feel it's wrong: don't focus just on one of the 3Cs, but look for the others, too. In particular, maybe you should look at pairs of them? That is how the doors manifest - one being in the foreground, and another in the background. I think most of my fruitions have been no-self & impermanence, and I like that pair - not too painful =). So maybe when you are focusing on no-self, realize how those sensations are impermanent, as well. Or if you are getting bored, focus on suffering too. Less pleasant, but gets the job done too.

As a side note: I don't believe 4th jhana will have spontaneous siddhis happening. Intent seems an important part of siddhis, and without intent, I believe nothing will happen. It also seems like 4th samatha jhana and 4th vipassana jhana (Equanimity) go well together.

Actually, about intent - I think intent is really important for stream entry, too. Allow yourself to do it, allow yourself to do it quickly, and with that intent in mind, keep practicing. I mean pure intent, not "Oh I wish I could do it! Grr!" I really like Trent's posts in this thread if you wanna read more about it.

Good luck, have fun!
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John H, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: First taste of equanimity?

Posts: 34 Join Date: 10/8/10 Recent Posts
Guys, thank you both for taking the time to write such detailed replies! I'll reply to Beoman first then Tommy after...

Beoman Beo Beoman:
I also like how you can identify going through the nyanas during each of your sits.


I seem to notice checkpoints - A&P, Early DN, Late DN then EQ. I don't really notice the first 3 nanas, nor can I differentiate between the DN nanas. But you're right, it's useful for identifying where I should be putting my attention..

Beoman:
When you notice consciousness, note 'consciousness'. Note the subtler sensations.. note the calm, the peace, the space, the background. If you feel like you want to stay where you are, note that. Note boredom if you get bored of it, etc. I think this is where noting really shines, as it reminds you to stay on track.


This is good advice, I'm not so good at noting the subtler sensations, so I will try to focus my energies here.

Beoman:
Others can give better advice on the next part, but I heard to look out for vibrations and things, as that can get you into observing formations? Perhaps others can clarify. I never really was able to put the 'formation' label to anything I experienced.


I can't say I've noticed any vibrations, or at least, I haven't noticed me noticing any. emoticon One strange thing has started to happen with my visual field. If I stop moving around and just look at an object, could be a wall a table or anything really, then it looks kinda fuzzy. Almost as if I am watching a de-tuned TV channel. It's like nothing is completely stationary, everything is flickering like an old movie. I'm not sure it could be classed as vibrations but it is kinda strange and intriguing. I could probably do a whole meditation just looking at it (which I might actually do one day).

beoman:
don't focus just on one of the 3Cs, but look for the others, too. In particular, maybe you should look at pairs of them? That is how the doors manifest - one being in the foreground, and another in the background. I think most of my fruitions have been no-self & impermanence, and I like that pair - not too painful =). So maybe when you are focusing on no-self, realize how those sensations are impermanent, as well.


I like this, seems like it could add another dimension to my practice.

beoman:
Actually, about intent - I think intent is really important for stream entry, too. Allow yourself to do it, allow yourself to do it quickly, and with that intent in mind, keep practicing. I mean pure intent, not "Oh I wish I could do it! Grr!"


I have been resolving to get stream entry, even though I know it could be a little while away. I haven't been to worried about stream entry up to this point, my main focus has been getting out of DN but as I get closer to SE, I can see myself starting to want it more and more, so I'll keep your advice in mind.


Tommy:
If your noting sensation at this level, and with enough clarity to examine it so closely then it'd be a surprise if you didn't get stream entry in the next few weeks.


Now that would be nice!

Tommy:
For me, the journey from Dissolution to Equanimity is easier if you just surrender to it, accept what's happening and allow that acceptance to mature into High Equanimity. There's a formless realms kinda thing that can happen here which you may be able to recognize from your yogic practices, particularly if you've worked with yantras or the tattwas as kasina objects, so just observe, note and note some more until you get that all-important first Path.


I don't think I've experienced the formless realms yet, I imagine it would be quite an experience, especially with eyes open yantra meditation! I take it they crop up at this stage because formless realms use the 4th jhana as it's basis?

Tommy:
There's a lot of shit talked about the siddhis in traditional yoga texts, but they don't, or at least they're not likely to, just happen without intent and also require quite a solid jhana to really get them working. There's always the risk that they can show up during the stages of insight, as Beoman points out with 4th samatha and Equanimity, so don't be afraid of them, they're natural side-effects to the process which eventually need to be addressed but there's a time and place for that.


Thanks, I think my main worry was due to a bit of dark night paranoia. Felt like I had enough on my plate without bumping into angels and demons! lol

Tommy:
Having this resolve will leave you free to explore these jhanas without worrying about accidentally bi-locating to your neighbours bathroom while they're in there.


Hahaha, quality banter! emoticon


Thanks to the two of you for the input and encouragement!
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Beoman Beo Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: First taste of equanimity?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
John H:
I can't say I've noticed any vibrations, or at least, I haven't noticed me noticing any. emoticon One strange thing has started to happen with my visual field. If I stop moving around and just look at an object, could be a wall a table or anything really, then it looks kinda fuzzy. Almost as if I am watching a de-tuned TV channel. It's like nothing is completely stationary, everything is flickering like an old movie. I'm not sure it could be classed as vibrations but it is kinda strange and intriguing. I could probably do a whole meditation just looking at it (which I might actually do one day).

Yeah that happens to me too sometimes if I stare at something too long. Not sure if it is a nyana thing or a jhana thing, but investigating that flickering and space moving around could be interesting.

John H:
I have been resolving to get stream entry, even though I know it could be a little while away. I haven't been to worried about stream entry up to this point, my main focus has been getting out of DN but as I get closer to SE, I can see myself starting to want it more and more, so I'll keep your advice in mind.

Yep you have to want it, but try not think in terms of "it could be a little while away". Here's a particular post from the thread I mentioned earlier:
Trent .:
Consider this: anything that happens is going to happen right now. Whether that now is five minutes from this now, or whether that now is ten years from this now, it is still going to happen now. The future, when it happens, happens now, and the past, when it happened, also happened now. With this in mind, any change you do to yourself, any motivation you find, any intent you have, anything you figure out, is all going to happen right now. It is with this understanding that you may come to realize that time as a precursor to effecting progress is practically arbitrary. The reasons why a person does not progress are never due to time, because time does not run out, nor does it pass, nor does it go anywhere. For instance, it takes a lot of energy to do hardcore insight meditation or to employ the methods to gaining an actual freedom...but this does not mean one needs some amount of time, it means that one needs to sleep and eat adequately to refuel the process. Realizing it has nothing to do with time as some sort of object allows one to stop waiting for some arbitrary chunk of it to pass, but instead allows one to realize and do precisely what one needs to do to continue forward (in this case: food / rest if necessary). For another instance, one does not need time to get motivation for something, it is either that one is actively looking for motivation and finds it relatively fast or that one is waiting for motivation because of time. The person who waits because they think that's the thing to do, simply waits until something motivational slaps them in the face and inspires action (such as waiting for severe emotional pain to enter one's life to spur their practice).

It is best if one treats time as being a non-factor in these matters and to proceed with that as an assumption. And any time that one finds oneself worrying about time or putting things off due to time, it behooves one to investigate just why it is really being put off or being worried about, because the reason is not actually related to time (it is something "deeper," more rudimentary or more precise, something related to the process or oneself, etc).

Waiting only brings more waiting!


John H:
Tommy:
If your noting sensation at this level, and with enough clarity to examine it so closely then it'd be a surprise if you didn't get stream entry in the next few weeks.


Now that would be nice!

See above =). It could happen tomorrow or in a week or in a few weeks or never (if you stop practicing that is).

John H:
Thanks to the two of you for the input and encouragement!

You're welcome!
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: First taste of equanimity?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hey John, thoroughly excellent descriptions and a fantastic demonstration of how useful a decent grasp of these maps really are. If your noting sensation at this level, and with enough clarity to examine it so closely then it'd be a surprise if you didn't get stream entry in the next few weeks. Like Beoman says, just keep noting everything during practice from the touch of your body on the floor to the awareness that's aware of being aware and all that jazz.

What you're saying about what goes on in practice seems correct to me, and it leads nicely into your current experience of Equanimity. Chances are that you're wavering between Re-Observation and Low Equanimity right now, the only push you can really give yourself now is to really sit with the negative feelings, note them as impermanent, unsatisfying and devoid of self and they lose any power.

For me, the journey from Dissolution to Equanimity is easier if you just surrender to it, accept what's happening and allow that acceptance to mature into High Equanimity. There's a formless realms kinda thing that can happen here which you may be able to recognize from your yogic practices, particularly if you've worked with yantras or the tattwas as kasina objects, so just observe, note and note some more until you get that all-important first Path.

Your concentration skills sound solid too, don't worry about the 4th jhana though. There's a lot of shit talked about the siddhis in traditional yoga texts, but they don't, or at least they're not likely to, just happen without intent and also require quite a solid jhana to really get them working. There's always the risk that they can show up during the stages of insight, as Beoman points out with 4th samatha and Equanimity, so don't be afraid of them, they're natural side-effects to the process which eventually need to be addressed but there's a time and place for that. It's more useful, and more beneficial in my experience, to resolve not to access any of the siddhis unless you specifically wanted to. Having this resolve will leave you free to explore these jhanas without worrying about accidentally bi-locating to your neighbours bathroom while they're in there.

Strong concentration is a massive benefit for vipassana, you've got the skills so don't be afraid to work on them. Just take the appropriate resolutions and get exploring!

Good luck and get y'erself into that stream!!

[EDIT: Sorry Beoman, I didn't realise I'd just pretty much given the same answers you did! Ha! emoticon ]