what happened / where am I?

Jenny Lomas, modified 10 Years ago.

what happened / where am I?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 2/26/11 Recent Posts
I'm happy to have found this forum, and am also half way through reading MCTB which is engrossing!

I've been meditating about 2 years, though quite casually for the first 18 months doing only 30 mins daily, concentrating on the breath. I did 2 x 10 day vipassana retreats in 09. In Sept 2010 I did 3 months vipassana retreat at IMS and have been more serious about progressing since then. The 3 month retreat really brough on both my meditation - can easily get into access concentration now - and also experience of no self and impermenance on what felt like a meaningful level at the time (although since leaving the retreat, these experiences / insights funnily enough have faded).

Currently I am doing 45 mins meditation twice a day and I had mainly been doing Insight practise with noting, but since starting reading MCTB I've been concentrating just on the breath with an aspiration to experience first jhana. I can quite easily get to access concentration (my interpretation, this phrase wasn't actually used by the teachers at IMS) and after a short while the breath typically gets very subtle and almost disappears... also the feeling that "I" am breathing is gone, and breathing is just happening - though often i can sense rather than feel ithe breath; it's so subtle. At this point I usually naturally move to choiceless awareness and try and stay present, coming back to the breath or sounds when i get distracted by thoughts. On a "good" day I can stay more or less present for 45 mins, though many sits are still more like coming back over and over...

Last night I got good access concentration after 10 mins, and stayed with it for perhaps 20 more mins. I've recently been very aware of sensations particulary in my face and head - pulsing, flickering sensations that last a fraction of a second. I felt very relaxed and contented, and having read a bit about first jhana I focused in on the pleasant feeling. Then something happened like a WHOOSH - my heart rate sped up, by breathing was quicker and shallower in the top part of my chest and I had amazing feelings (rapture?) in my chest and head.... at the same time, though my eyes were closed a sense of very bright lights, moving and pulsing, not steady. I tried to just BE but it was too hard to resist noting and analysing the sensations, also, noting how amazing it felt and wanting it to continue. The state lasted about 3-4 mins max, then I came back to access concentration for another 10 mins or so.

I went to bed about 30 mins later, and had very vivid dreams which felt half like a dream and half like a meditation experience. Can you meditate in your dream, or was i just dreaming about meditating?!

This is my first post here, so just wanted to reach out for any feedback and comments...

Also, since starting MCTB and reading some of the many posts and info here, I am aware that i have some fear about Dark Night, which ties also into a subtle fear I've had for a while about getting "stuck" in a unpleasant meditation without anyone to guide me to safer waters.... Sometimes in meditation i feel like I can get very, very, very deep and calm, my body can feel like the most heavy rock and it's actually hard to come out... can anyone say something about this? It was fantastic being on the 3 month course at IMS which such amazing teachers, and I miss the opportunity to discuss my practise, hence I'm pleased to have found this forum.

Sorry for the rambles and all the unneccesary info that's slipped in.

Best to you all,

Jenny
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: what happened / where am I?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hey Jenny, welcome to the DhO!

Your background in practice sounds pretty solid so I'll give my two cents worth on what's happening just now.

I can quite easily get to access concentration (my interpretation, this phrase wasn't actually used by the teachers at IMS) and after a short while the breath typically gets very subtle and almost disappears... also the feeling that "I" am breathing is gone, and breathing is just happening - though often i can sense rather than feel ithe breath; it's so subtle.


I'd be more inclined to think that you're getting to at least 1st jhana already, I made a similar mix-up too so it may be worth looking more closely at what's going on when this happens. What's going on with bodily sensation when this is happening?

Last night I got good access concentration after 10 mins, and stayed with it for perhaps 20 more mins. I've recently been very aware of sensations particulary in my face and head - pulsing, flickering sensations that last a fraction of a second. I felt very relaxed and contented, and having read a bit about first jhana I focused in on the pleasant feeling.


It's highly likely that this is 1st jhana if you're just working with the breath. What else are you doing in your practice right now?

Then something happened like a WHOOSH - my heart rate sped up, by breathing was quicker and shallower in the top part of my chest and I had amazing feelings (rapture?) in my chest and head.... at the same time, though my eyes were closed a sense of very bright lights, moving and pulsing, not steady. I tried to just BE but it was too hard to resist noting and analysing the sensations, also, noting how amazing it felt and wanting it to continue. The state lasted about 3-4 mins max, then I came back to access concentration for another 10 mins or so.


The fact that you've had a fair amount of experience with vipassana in the past, and have a meditation routine going on at present would lead me to suggest that you may very well have crossed the 4th ñana. Knowledge of The Arising & Passing, particularly given your next comment....

I went to bed about 30 mins later, and had very vivid dreams which felt half like a dream and half like a meditation experience. Can you meditate in your dream, or was i just dreaming about meditating?!


This is not an absolute diagnosis, just a rough guess based on what you've said so far, made by someone who's probably got less practical experience of these techniques than yourself. The meditating in dreams thing is pretty much the norm when crossing the A&P, and the sorts of sensations you're talking about experiencing at present sound as near as damn it to Dark Night. What you're saying about feeling very deep and calm during this period is similar to the sorts of sensations I note during these stages, an "eerie stillness" is how I'd usually describe it. Does that sound similar?.

There are some incredibly skilled practitioners on here who will be able to give advice on most problems you're likely to encounter so just ask a shitload of questions and get involved! Tell us a bit more about your practice and what's going on for you, there's a great community on here and a lot of support, honesty and technical talk that you won't find elsewhere so stick around.

Good luck with whatever comes your way.
Jenny lomas, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: what happened / where am I?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 2/26/11 Recent Posts
Hi Tommy, thanks for your post, it's great to know that there are people out there!!

I'll try and answer your questions

I'd be more inclined to think that you're getting to at least 1st jhana already, I made a similar mix-up too so it may be worth looking more closely at what's going on when this happens. What's going on with bodily sensation when this is happening?


I am aware of body sensations as they arise, but they are like points of sensation in my awareness rather than "my knee", "my head" - like stars in the night sky to borrow a phrase from Joseph Goldstein. I can see them come and go, and can see my attention pick them up one at a time. When I'm aware of a sound I stop being aware of knee pain for example. Typically they last less than a second, or with continuing sounds, I tune into the parts, or layers, of the sound.

I
It's highly likely that this is 1st jhana if you're just working with the breath. What else are you doing in your practice right now?


Always in sitting meditation, up until recently I would sit and wait for the mind to calm and open staying initially with the breath, and then do noting practise / choiceless awareness. Being aware of the 3 characteristics of what arises (this is more a mental exercise, I'm not saying I've deeply got these insights!). Just this last week I've been trying to stay more just with the breath. I'm not sure what else to add....

What you're saying about feeling very deep and calm during this period is similar to the sorts of sensations I note during these stages, an "eerie stillness" is how I'd usually describe it. Does that sound similar?.

I wouldn't actually describe it as eerie, and somehow it's more physical. Or should I say, it's a mental projection on a physical feeling, that my body weighs 100 ton and is literally pressing into the earth, which of course can't really be true. Also feeling like my body shape is distorted - the sensations of my hands in my lap feel like they are 10 metres apart from each other rather than one on the other. It doesn't make any sense, hence feels a bit freaky.

There are some incredibly skilled practitioners on here who will be able to give advice on most problems you're likely to encounter so just ask a shitload of questions and get involved! Tell us a bit more about your practice and what's going on for you, there's a great community on here and a lot of support, honesty and technical talk that you won't find elsewhere so stick around.


This morning I feel good. Calm, happy and also pretty concentrated - not just in my sit, I mean more tuned into the moment and less lost in mental noise than usual. Thoughts are very much in the background and not really bothering me. My first sitting was easeful and concentrated!

Thanks again! I will stick around indeed, and am already very grateful for your quick response and feeling of support!
Yours,
Jenny
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Beoman Claudiu Beoman, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: what happened / where am I?

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Welcome Jenny!

I'm inclined to agree w/ Tommy that you have entered the 4th nyana, the Arising & Passing Away.

Jenny Iomas:
I've been meditating about 2 years, though quite casually for the first 18 months doing only 30 mins daily, concentThe 3 month retreat really brough on both my meditation - can easily get into access concentration now - and also experience of no self and impermenance on what felt like a meaningful level at the time (although since leaving the retreat, these experiences / insights funnily enough have faded).

experience of no-self & impermanence sounds like 3rd nyana, Knowledge of The Three Characteristics.

Jenny Iomas:
I wouldn't actually describe it as eerie, and somehow it's more physical. Or should I say, it's a mental projection on a physical feeling, that my body weighs 100 ton and is literally pressing into the earth, which of course can't really be true. Also feeling like my body shape is distorted - the sensations of my hands in my lap feel like they are 10 metres apart from each other rather than one on the other. It doesn't make any sense, hence feels a bit freaky.

i think this is more of 3 chars - suffering, in this case, where everything is a bit weird and doesnt make sense and is somehow unsatisfying.

Jenny Iomas:

Last night I got good access concentration after 10 mins, and stayed with it for perhaps 20 more mins. I've recently been very aware of sensations particulary in my face and head - pulsing, flickering sensations that last a fraction of a second. I felt very relaxed and contented, and having read a bit about first jhana I focused in on the pleasant feeling. Then something happened like a WHOOSH - my heart rate sped up, by breathing was quicker and shallower in the top part of my chest and I had amazing feelings (rapture?) in my chest and head.... at the same time, though my eyes were closed a sense of very bright lights, moving and pulsing, not steady. I tried to just BE but it was too hard to resist noting and analysing the sensations, also, noting how amazing it felt and wanting it to continue. The state lasted about 3-4 mins max, then I came back to access concentration for another 10 mins or so.

I went to bed about 30 mins later, and had very vivid dreams which felt half like a dream and half like a meditation experience. Can you meditate in your dream, or was i just dreaming about meditating?!

The bolded sections make me think 4th Nyana, the A&P. Being in an awesome state, feeling like its great, not being able to resist noticing how all sensations arise and pass away, wanting the state to continue, vivid dreams... all good indicators.

If it was indeed the A&P you will soon come upon the Dark Night, where things might start feeling quite sucky. Keep practicing and see how it goes. If after a similar experience the flickering fades, the rapture fades, you start feeling very dissatisfied and raw and wanting to go back to that state, then you have likely entered the 5th nyana, Dissolution - and that is actually progress and not regression. Read the chapters in MCTB on the Insight Stages so you know what to expect - particularly A&P (see if it lines up w/ your experiences) and Dissolution (see if that's what happened when you "came back to access concentration").
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: what happened / where am I?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
No probs!

I am aware of body sensations as they arise, but they are like points of sensation in my awareness rather than "my knee", "my head" - like stars in the night sky to borrow a phrase from Joseph Goldstein. I can see them come and go, and can see my attention pick them up one at a time. When I'm aware of a sound I stop being aware of knee pain for example. Typically they last less than a second, or with continuing sounds, I tune into the parts, or layers, of the sound.


4th ñana, you're seeing phenomena arise and pass. I suspect that there's more of a process that leads up to being able to see the sensation come and go as you refer to a few insights which are specific to the previous ñanas. I've put these point in bold to show you what I mean.

What you've said about "continuing sounds", pay closer attention to what's going on here. If you're seeing the 3C's you know that nothing is continuous, so look at what's implying continuity and the sensations which make that up.

Always in sitting meditation, up until recently I would sit and wait for the mind to calm and open staying initially with the breath, and then do noting practise / choiceless awareness. Being aware of the 3 characteristics of what arises (this is more a mental exercise, I'm not saying I've deeply got these insights!). Just this last week I've been trying to stay more just with the breath. I'm not sure what else to add....


If you start with the breath then you've got the perfect platform to go for vipassana or samatha, personally I'm a big fan of taking everything back to basics if you're unsure of "where" you are and starting as if you don't know anything at all. You're already fairly experienced with vipassana and samatha so it all depends on what it is that you want to achieve through these practices. If you've gone to the trouble of doing retreats and establishing a routine then I'd guess you're looking for 1st Path and beyond so get noting!

On the other hand, if you're just looking to work on samatha jhanas then stay with the breath and go from there. Hell, you know all this already! emoticon

I wouldn't actually describe it as eerie, and somehow it's more physical. Or should I say, it's a mental projection on a physical feeling, that my body weighs 100 ton and is literally pressing into the earth, which of course can't really be true. Also feeling like my body shape is distorted - the sensations of my hands in my lap feel like they are 10 metres apart from each other rather than one on the other. It doesn't make any sense, hence feels a bit freaky.


Ok, so my peculiar choice of words is just the way I'd describe a general feeling-tone I get during these stages. Just ignore me. emoticon I can see where Claudiu is coming from with the suggestion of the 3rd ñana but I'd still say Dark Night based on tarin greco's analysis of my own practice thread and pointing out that this bodily distortion is generally more typical of 6-10th ñanas. Also, I'm usually really skeptical when trying to help new people to the site and generally underestimate their, and my own, wherabouts on these maps, but I'm taking your previous retreats and practice into account here and working with the assumption that you've passed the A&P. (Just in case Claudiu thinks I'm just being an arsehole. Which I am, but that's a totally different matter.)

This morning I feel good. Calm, happy and also pretty concentrated - not just in my sit, I mean more tuned into the moment and less lost in mental noise than usual. Thoughts are very much in the background and not really bothering me. My first sitting was easeful and concentrated!


If you've passed the A&P then you're going to be cycling from 4th to 11th ñana until you get your first Fruition a.k.a. Stream Entry. As for where you are now (and based on a guess based on the sensations I usually associate with these ñana and as such is probably riddled with holes and totally unreliable) it sounds like you're probably moving into 11th ñana, Equanimity. If that is the case then I'd say you've got a shot at 1st Path if you just relax into a solid practice, note these positive sensations in the same way you'd note the negative ones, be aware of what is experiencing sensation as it arises and passes. Check out some of the excellent info on getting Stream Entry from people like tarin greco and others on here 'cause I get the feeling that you might just be able to pull it off. Don't crave it, don't clutch at it, just be there.

Perhaps I'm just being unusually optimistic, if it's a near miss then it's no big deal and at least you'll get the chance to explore these ñana again and learn more! Whichever way it turns out let us know, but don't put too much thought into figuring out "where" you are right now, and if you do then note what's happening there.

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Good luck and I hope that was of some use to you.

Tommy
Jenny lomas, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: what happened / where am I?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 2/26/11 Recent Posts
Hi Tommy / Claudiu,

Thanks again for taking the time to read and respond.

Actually, I am relaxed about not knowing where I am on the path... I wasn't even especially aware of the stages of the path til very recently. I just naively thought I would meditate and have some pleasant experiences, some not so pleasant experiences, and hopefully improve wisdom and ethical conduct (and therefore be happier) as I went along; practising, reading, and attending retreats. I do appreciate knowing this info though - I can see how easy it is to get stuck at a stage for a whole lifetime without it.

I can get a sense now, having read MCTB and lots of threads here and links, that my expereinces, especially on my 3 month retreat last year, could maybe suggest I have progressed as you've both suggested above, where as I had, with modesty, assumed I was still in the starting blocks.This is good motivation!

Thinking back to that retreat, I had weeks of just experiencing phenonomen as Not Self moment to moment, which was stunning at first but then just became the norm. I was seeing the arising & passing in each moment, was very aware and understood Suffering particulalry in relation to sorting out the mind-made stuff. And re: Impermenance, some days I couldn't give a good report to the teachers cos I was so aware of impermenance that any thought or experience I could recount seemed meaningless seeing it's fleeting and changing nature. Which most days just made me smile. I had many concurrent days of ecstatic highs (energy, tingling, feeling like I was flying/floating, emotional feelings of love and compassion, great energy) and not many lows apart from some days of body pain which I put down to so many hours sitting, and one day of nausea which I put down to eating too much the night before... who knows?! Generally in retreat I was just focused on the moment, not trying to add a story to it, map it to anything I had read or heard, and very much letting go of all experience as soon as it arose. And being on retreat, these things start to seem "normal", where as in the context of living in the world, they are rather unusual I guess. It's certainly not the stuff I shared with friends and family when I came back from retreat.

I've also reflected just today that I have had sensations that could well be A&P events over the last 5 years or so, but not knowing about the path, I never put them in any context about what could / might happen next. I just thought they were isolated "wow" moments of peace / connection. I have never really had any "dark night" periods, though having read the extreme examples from the MCTB book maybe I'm looking out for something huge which for me, wasn't such a big deal. Or I just didn't connect it to the dharma, again, out of ignorance. Likewise with some desciptions of the A&P, I've never had the insane visions / intense lifechanging moments etc that some describe, so initially thought I couldn't have got there yet. But maybe so.

I'm going to continue with my vipassana practise (obviously) and see what turns up next.

I think that reading Daniels book and being very dharma focused this week has intensified my practise somehow, and having read about resolutions and motivations, I guess this could make sense why my meditations have felt different. And outside of formal meditation, my focus / perception is def heightened (did I mention this already? Sorry)

You're already fairly experienced with vipassana and samatha so it all depends on what it is that you want to achieve through these practices. If you've gone to the trouble of doing retreats and establishing a routine then I'd guess you're looking for 1st Path and beyond so get noting!


Yes! I used to think Stream Entry was not possible in this day and age, but now I want to see just how far I can go!!!

On the other hand, if you're just looking to work on samatha jhanas then stay with the breath and go from there. Hell, you know all this already! emoticon


Actually, I was only back to samatha practise as a way of stabilising my attention for progression with insight... I've never really done, (been taught/understood samatha). As you can tell now, if you couldn't before, I am not exactly a good student of the dharma!

If you've passed the A&P then you're going to be cycling from 4th to 11th ñana until you get your first Fruition a.k.a. Stream Entry. As for where you are now (and based on a guess based on the sensations I usually associate with these ñana and as such is probably riddled with holes and totally unreliable) it sounds like you're probably moving into 11th ñana, Equanimity. If that is the case then I'd say you've got a shot at 1st Path if you just relax into a solid practice, note these positive sensations in the same way you'd note the negative ones, be aware of what is experiencing sensation as it arises and passes. Check out some of the excellent info on getting Stream Entry from people like tarin greco and others on here 'cause I get the feeling that you might just be able to pull it off. Don't crave it, don't clutch at it, just be there.


I did check them out, very useful, and thanks again emoticon

Anyhow, I'm rambling. Good luck and I hope that was of some use to you.


Yes, everything's been very useful indeed and I feel motivated and supported and that's just fab! Please forgive my rambling too, it's feels good to talk about this stuff as I don't have anyone here who would have a clue what I'm on about.

Many many thanks, and good luck to everyone,

Jenny