Help me map- Stream Entry?

Ben Sulsky, modified 3 Years ago at 11/14/19 4:04 PM
Created 3 Years ago at 11/14/19 4:04 PM

Help me map- Stream Entry?

Posts: 158 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi all, I originally posted this thread under 'Claims to attainments', but decided to X-post it here to perhaps get some more eyes on it.  Didn't know where to post originally since it's a tentative claim to an attainment that's still relatively new.  It would make mapping 2nd path a lot easier if I had increased confidence this was SE.  Not terribly fussed in a practical way, going to keep sitting either way and see what comes up.  Ben


I've been practicing from books, specifically MCTB2 and Practical Insight Meditation, doing Mahasistyle noting as my primary practice technique. Secondary practices are concentration states with the breath as an object, metta to brighten things up, and more wide open vipassana when it seems appropriate; typically in what I'm mapping as equanimity or higher. A big limitation of my practice is not having a teacher and not going on retreat, and I'm hoping that by dipping my toe into the DhO I'll get some experienced eyes on my reports of my practice. My heart-felt thanks to all of you for reading and writing!

I think I hit SE on Oct 7 2019, so about 1 month ago. I began practicing according to the path outlined in MCTB/MCTB2 around October 2017. Oct 2017-present I estimate I put in around 1000-1300 hours of formal sitting practice, and some larger amount of less formal practice. More recently that's 90min-4hours of formal sits per day at home, in the past more like 30mins to 1 hour of formal sits. It's a constant balance between frying myself and making progress that varies with the part of the path that's happening. I'm going to try and be as brief as possible but please ask questions and I'm happy to answer in detail. I'm going to focus on phenomenology, raptures, and various perceptual shifts because MCTB2 seems to think these are best for diagnostic purposes.

The overall plan was to get some basic concentration skills, develop great noting technique and reality test this stuff. I'm working mostly with Ingram's model of awakening which isn't as neurotic about defilements as the Theravada, but they're more or less functionally identical for 1st path purposes anyways.

I think I entered n11, equanimity, in around late fall 2018, and ended up staying there for ~500 hours of formal sitting practice. There were just a million cul-de-sacs I had to go down and learn from. A big shift happened when I dropped the effort dramatically. I was moving attention with lots of energy across all six sense doors as if by moving the noting fast enough somehow I could catch enough sensations that reality would flip and understand itself and I'd “get SE”. I knew intellectually this was the wrong approach but it's easier said than done and it took a long time to back away and let things happen in the right way; I'd had a lot of success powering things through to get to equanimity which made some unskillful habits deeply ingrained. At some point, the noting itself became totally effortless and went “out there.” The image I have is of a bunny where its nose is twitching almost out of sync with rest of its body, it's as if attention was just attending to the primary object (tip of my nose) on its own, without “me” doing anything at all. Once the noting went “out there,”and seemed to proceed on its own, practice became more relaxing and sustainable and I was able to not try. Over the next say 20-30 hours of practice the divisions between sense doors and what was inside andoutside got more and more confused; though none of this was particularly intense or even exciting and I had no particular expectation that I was making progress relative to the previous 500 hours I'd spent farting around equanimity. During one sit I felt particularly weird and I'm not sure exactly what happened. I remember more vividly getting up from the sit and staring into the mirror and just thinking “holy shit that was intense” and breathing out of my mouth a few times to calm down. Reality seemed extraordinarily vivid and intense, but crazy shit happens all the time meditating so I didn't think too much of it. At the time of the sit I didn't feel that experience was “cut off like a creeper” or anything like that, I didn't have a clear sense of conformity knowledge, path knowledge, and I didn't have an experience or memory of the 3 doors or fruition. Given I was expecting to have some of these experiences it didn't cross my mind that I had just stream entered until the following day.

The vividness of reality didn't go away. Also, the mind seemed to have a new found clarity and calmness to it that made the mad rush of sensations coming in bearable and exciting. This all happened to an extreme degree and it became apparent that something was different. The mind wanted to just immediately and effortlessly do insight. During an ~80min sit the following day I went from the A&P through all the nanas into another weirdo equanimity state that I'm now thinking is probably fruition. Given that traversing this territory took ~1200 hours the first time; going over it in 80min was awesome and made me think “well, maybe that was SE after all”. Some of the nanas were experienced a bit fancier than the first time around, for example in Reobservation I'd have some quick mental images of being pulled down a dark watery hole by a giant squid and less physical pain or mental pain. The A&P would sometimes go purely visual and manifest as a giant very fast vibrating cross made up of points of light across the whole visual field; this would last for awhile. In n11+ things got even more open and effortless, there was a very clear high state that only lasted a few seconds where reality seemed very “clear” and all 6 sense doors seemed kind of experienced at once in a balanced way; maybe this is high equanimity. Then after that things just get confusing and I have no idea what happens next except stuff happens. This goes on for some unobserved amount of time, and then the visual field and other senses pop back and are recognized in roughly the normal way and an intense energy/bliss wave blasts through the body and that's it. Then things are quiet, relaxed and malleable for awhile, concentration states are easiier than usual but not as attractive, and eventually the A&P comes again. Taking the term from MCTB2, I took to calling this post path state “Ferrari brain”-- really fun and kinda crazy, doesn't turn off.

Over the next week or 10 days cycling like this happened continuously. The cycles would go fast when I was formal sitting, and slower when I was doing normal daily life things, and very slow if I was say in a crowded bar with music blaring. Intentions wise, I tried to mix it up between hardcore Mahasi style investigation and chilling out. During formal sits I'd try and investigate the sensations in equanimity that led to the end of these cycles and perhaps fruitions. I was never able to clearly experience the three doors. I don't know when equanimity ends, a door begins and ends, and when a fruition starts and ends. I was only able to investigate equanimity up to a certain point, after which all of the sensations seemed to go off and do their own thing, and “I” was almost zoning out. A couple of cycles I thought I might have felt almost a “bubble” in the swirling of sensation that may have been a fruition but I'm not confident. Even so, I started mapping this part of the path to Review because of the Ferrari brain effect, the quick cycling of nanas both on and off the cushion, the strange experiences leading to the bliss wave at the end of each cycle, the starting of cycles at the A&P, and the astonishing confidence, speed, and control going through the nanas.

During review of first path I was able to linger in a given nana when concentration was strong, but I wasn't able to jump to a given nana or subnana at will out of order. I wasn't able to control duration I don't think although the fruition-y state seemed to last different amounts of time as measured by my clock.

It's also worth mentioning this part of the path was just wonderful and as MCTB2 says, made the A&P feel like “dry toast”. I spent a lot of time taking random walks, talking to friends, and just low effort human-ing and watching reality do its thing. There seems to be a sustained reduction in suffering and sensations are perceived differently, though there is still very much a center. I felt very enthusiastic about practice, that I had gotten something, and that doing the higher paths now or sometime soon was a great idea. Cycles would happen in as short as 30mins, stopped counting them at some point. After around 7-10 days various shortcomings of the path became apparent. Not so much consciously via reflection, it just kinda happened. Still grasping, still a center etc. In hindsight maybe this was mind and body of second path (there's a bit of disagreement here between MCTB2 and PIM, Mahasi says 2nd+ paths begin at the A&P while Ingram says they start at Mind and Body. This seems very unimportant and mostly a matter of terminology). Cycling seemed less attractive and amazing. At some point a formal sit resulted in some wide, thick, syrupy vibrations in the center at the rate of 3-6 per second that seemed different and more clear. Around this point the cycling stopped. Shortly thereafter (say a couple hours of practice) got some body shaking action, loads of centered energy and a much different version of the A&P with the double dip shift that I had read about but didn't experience in 1st path or any of the review cycles. Since then I've been off to the races on 2nd path, currently ping-ponging between various subnanas of equanimity and reobservation (I think), which sucks a lot but so it goes. The cycling action is gone now and the experience of sitting is similar to what 1st path was like-- have to sit with a given nana for as long as it takes.

I didn't get stuck in between paths and didn't consciously feel that I had the opportunity to keep reviewing first or push forward with second. I just didn't make any formal resolutions really and let reality unfold and do its thing and when the shortcomings of first became apparent, second path just started and I went with it. I think this might have been because I was feeling incredibly confident and happy in the glow of completing first and felt on top of the world. It might have been a good idea in hindsight to let review last a lot longer but that wasn't an option at the time. 

So, questions. Does this sound like SE? My rough plan (constantly subject to change and reality testing) is to keep doing what I'm doing until 2nd path, then probably take a fairly long time improving concentration skills in preparation for 3rd? Mahasi and Ingram both seem to think some serious concentration is near indispensable for 3rd+. I'm trying to remedy my solitude problem by making this post and finding some online Dharma discussion, and by going on retreat in the fairly near future (example, I have various hangups about mainstream meditation culture only exacerbated by reading MCTB2 and various pride problems since reading and practicing at home has been such an amazing and rewarding adventure so far. I also have moderate back issues and meditating in excruciating pain for a week doesn't seem fun or productive. On the other hand, it seems weird and narcissistic to just sit like a hermit forever and spin narratives about my own attainments, so I should probably get over it at some point and I probably will.

Apologies for spelling/grammar, I typed this out on a word processor first and cutting/pasting wreaked havoc with it.  I've tried to make it fairly readable.