Sphere and Ground

Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
I want to relate a set of experiences that occurred in the past and have begun again recently. Comments/pointers etc on this experience would be welcome.

The experiences resulted from a particularly focused time of daily mantra practice; A simple English word that I would begin in the morning and continue throughout the day at every possible moment. Those times I couldn't use the mantra I would attempt a simple mindfulness.

As the mantra built up force and intensity it offered many interesting insights and perceptions. These insights and perceptions would repeat themselves again and again, day after day. I won't say much about the insights beyond that they mostly related to my physical lodging within reality. It was clearly evident how much I was attempting to get out of, and ahead of, 'now' so as to control reality before it 'hit' me. From this observation, both the fundamental need to surrender, and how to do so, were very clear.

The changes in perception weren't quite so easy to come by and only emerged each day some hours into practice. I'd like to share them in the chance that others have had, or know of, the same or similar perceptual experiences and can provide some comment.

The most interesting of the perceptions arose several times during this time wherein the perception of a sphere enclosing a central core came to be predominant in my awareness. The sphere corresponded to my attention and the enclosed core the object of my attention. ie. my body and the physical surroundings.

At the same time as this sphere enclosed the central core, it also emerged from and rested upon that central core/ground. These two aspects flowed into each other in a ceaseless round. The more my attention was employed the stronger and more apparent in form became the sphere. And the stronger the sphere became, the stronger became the ground enclosed. And as the ground/core enclosed became stronger and firmer it served as a better base for the sphere to emerge from and rest upon.

It was evident that attention affirmed the object of attention which in turn only provided a better footing for attention. In short, a feedback relationship of mutual reinforcement.

Over a period of about two months of intense practice the sphere and ground peaked in two separate experiences: One was running up the stairs to work and finding myself, at one and the same moment, in this marvelous duality of feeling both absolutely earth, and absolutely air; a feeling of being totally solid and grounded, yet also literally completely weightless. One of those ordinary, yet extraordinary moments.

The other moment was again running, - this time through my favorite forest - and, observing the flow of energy moving between the sphere and enclosed ground, I began to observe the duality of the connection break down. In some fashion the relationship between sphere and ground began to transform so that they remained distinct yet no longer two. 'Not one, not two', as they say.

Unfortunately, I couldn't hold my focus, and wasn't able to stay with the process of transformation nearly long enough to really see what was happening, let alone allow the process to see itself through and stabilize at some new point. Something in me just flipped out of the attention necessary. Which might have been fine if I'd gone on and spent the next few months in equally intense practice..

The opportunity/motivation to practice intensively petered out and I didn't experience the same again for a good two years until this summer when inspired by this site and others I began to use a focused mantra again. I've also started a noting practice. The perception of a spherical reality has returned at times. Now, though, it is happening in relation to equanimity, which is unexpected and very cool. Total equanimous engagement, over extended periods, with whatever emotions and physical feeling states arise, seems to have the same effect as an intense vibrational mantra sounded out through the body.

I have some questions: Has anyone else experienced this sort of dynamic sphere/ground perception and its build up through stages? Does anyone know of a tradition/teacher that speaks of reality in these perceptual terms? Stephen Bodian is the closest example I've found. In his book 'Wake Up Now' he writes of his awakening in these terms:

"Instead of being centered in my body-mind where I had thought I resided, I suddenly realized that I was actually this global luminosity, this awake, aware space in which the body mind and everything else appeared - and this "globality" , this "one bright pearl" (as Zen master Hsuan-sha called it) was the only reality, timeless and ever-present."

Although, this is plainly of a rather higher order than my experiences, and lacks the same sphere/ground dynamic, I'd be interested in any comments on parallels.

Any suggestions as to where to place my experience? How I should proceed?
Trenton Hoag, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground (Answer)

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Damon C.:
How I should proceed?


I am not familiar with your experience in the way that you're describing it, but perhaps someone will come along later that will be. Snippets of your account that suggest various stages of insight; territory that points to potentially being A&P, Dark Night, and Equanimity. Progress continues in the same fashion it always has: investigation of the 3 characteristics to gain insight into their various relationships and ways of manifesting. Read MCTB (etc.) and know the stages, traps, and so forth. Goals and resolutions to the point of "I need to see what this is all about," and other desire-driven motivators kicking you down the path are also a good idea.

Trent
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Mark E Defrates, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground (Answer)

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
Hello Damon:

You are close to describing the way I would describe my awareness. Since I first encountered martial arts and particularly Aikido many years ago I have developed my awareness in terms of a 360 degree sphere. Morihei Ueshiba, who really brought Aikido to the West, even titled his book Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere. Tai Chi Chuan certainly uses this idea, as do many other martial arts, though rarely as clearly stated as in Aikido. In Vipassana meditation I find that in 4th Jhana this awareness becomes quite acute, and in the formless realms, of course, the dynamic sphere will extend to an infinite space. Many of my peak or what I would call enlightenment experiences (the vocabulary is different in the Theraveda maps) were similar to what you describe (one even while running). I routinely develop this 360 degree dynamic sphere when I do banishing rituals (I am a Chaos Magician as well as a Buddhist). I suppose the major difference is that I don't have the central ground that you describe. There's only the awareness.

Even so, and even if this experience of awareness as a dynamic sphere seems really important, I have to say that in my experience it is just a useful metaphor. In other words, it is just the way you are conceptualizing awareness, and useful as that might be it is still a concept. Concepts are still not reality, but constructions of your mind. Buddhist meditation techniques are founded on the proposition that it is possible to experience reality in a direct way, unmediated by concepts. The narrational consciousness, the self, or whatever you favorite term is for the delusional identity, is desperate to co-opt non-self states by any means possible. Imputing transcendent qualities to a conceptual metaphor is as good a way as any.

If you really want to develop this dynamic sphere type of awareness find an Aikideka. Otherwise, as Trent suggests, just continue meditating.

Mark
Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Hi Mark,

I've left you last to reply to because I thought you had the most to say about my experience/s. And, also you appear to know the terrain well. Although, I'm not clear that what you describe is, indeed, so very similar to what I describe. Close enough, perhaps?

Many of my peak or what I would call enlightenment experiences (the vocabulary is different in the Theraveda maps) were similar to what you describe (one even while running). I routinely develop this 360 degree dynamic sphere when I do banishing rituals (I am a Chaos Magician as well as a Buddhist). I suppose the major difference is that I don't have the central ground that you describe. There's only the awareness.


Yes, at any time now, my attention seems to form itself into a container. Yet there is always 'a contained'. And, as described, with prolonged attention that relationship of container and contained begins to reify/thicken up into a very concrete, physical representation. The sense of weightlessness came from feeling entirely suspended within the spherical container of my awareness: that is located at the very center point of the sphere.

Yet, with that weightlessness came a very solid grounded feeling. This is the paradox. What happens when that duality changes nature and really sees itself through? Perhaps only the sphere is left that you, and Stephen Bodian, and Hsuan-sha speak of. That is, if we're all speaking of what can usefully be termed the same thing. I'm not sure.

I wonder where that ground I experience goes? I'd add that in contrast to your own view, I'd say we can 'impute transcendent qualities' to all sorts of things. And quite properly so.

But, yes, you're right, these experiences are not so special. The key is to simply continue exercising attention and follow the sort of cheat sheet Trent offered. These perceptions emerge of their own accord from my practice and they will either continue to deepen and develop in interesting ways, or they will pass, and other developments take their place. Both are fine.
Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Snippets of your account that suggest various stages of insight; territory that points to potentially being A&P, Dark Night, and Equanimity.


This period and some time after was certainly Dark Night. I would wake every morning at 5 or so, and for a period of about 20-30 minutes my life would come to me in the most crystal clear, intensely felt, and seen, bleakness. Just awful intense bleak suffering. Then it would pass/taper off rapidly in intensity and I would be left quite free of it. Almost bizarrely so, relative to what had just passed. In time I actually came to 'enjoy' these periods of intense early morning suffering. Or at least value them. They felt exactly what I think they were - purifying. And there was something organic and trustworthy about the orderliness and regularity of the experience. It stopped happening not long after my girlfriend came to live with me. I remember noting what a difference her presence made to those early mornings. Shame, in retrospect.

I'd like you to say a little more of why you see snippets of potential A&P. Or, where, I should say.

Progress continues in the same fashion it always has: investigation of the 3 characteristics to gain insight into their various relationships and ways of manifesting. Read MCTB (etc.) and know the stages, traps, and so forth. Goals and resolutions to the point of "I need to see what this is all about," and other desire-driven motivators kicking you down the path are also a good idea.


This is excellent advice. I guess that's the useful function of MCTB for those of us who don't relate to it so fully: a template for 'getting it done' with a number of generic aspects that can be applied across the board to any practice. I need to go back and read the relevant chapters, again. And work out my own 'desire-driven motivators. I recall being struck by the way Daniel used his competitiveness. It's smart to use what's to hand to motivate one's practice, even if, ultimately it might seem somewhat 'unworthy'.

Thanks for responding, Trent.
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Eric Alan Hansen, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground (Answer)

Posts: 128 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Damon; I have been forced to develop some weightlessness when out on the hiking trail and I get so heavy I can't continue. Very much the same way you have described. There is a body of literature dealing with this, but it is scattered. We have discussed some of this on the energy practice thread. Alexandria David Neel wrote the book "Magic and Mystery in Tibet", she was one of the first westerners to visit Tibet and write an account, the book is very old. The Lum-Gom-Pa runners were seen forming a prana ball around their body and using the prana energy to bounce it across the surface. See the other thread.
p e a c e
h a n s e n
Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Hi Hansen,

if there's any direction I was going to be pointed towards, I guessed it might be some form of Tibetan practice. It looks like what occurs with me, however, is really just a form of synaesthesia. (Not sure about that spelling). Namely, that the intent I project with my mind out into physical reality, and the way that the environment comes to be enhanced, which in turn nourishes the attention, is mirrored in my mind by a very tactile, thickly sensate, conceptual model. (which is still very cool, and potentially productive, I'd like to think).

Equally, the way that the two aspects of the model: ground and sphere begin to shimmer along the boundary into something not separate, is, again, a conceptual representation of the fact that my mind is not other than the ground it emerges from. Mind coiling back upon substance, which then shows itself as the very stuff of which mind itself is made. I think I can intuit where it might all go. It would be great if the level of 'synasthesia' could be maintained.

Mark, then, is otm in his view that what is going on. I'd guessed half as much, myself. I was still rather hoping, however, that someone out there would tell me of this exact same practice, and teacher, they were involved in. And, thus give me a track forward. This feedback here, however, is helping to place the experience/s. It's possible I tend towards redundant sensitivity. I'm one of those people to whom, audibly, and coherently, trees talk and glasses sing.

I'm curious. This energy bubble you experienced, emerged where, and in what relationship to you? Can you say?

And, I appreciate the feedback. There's very little opportunity in this world to talk matter of factly about 'weird shit' and place it within an intelligent framework. Or, maybe there is, but I like the framing this message board provides, and I like it that there's something of an energy and magic community present here, as well.
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Eric Alan Hansen, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 128 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Damon: Defrates is right on the money with his diagnosis of the "dynamic sphere" of Aikido and also you see this in Qi Gong as well.

The posts in the other thread I was thinking of were the running, walking, meditation. But you have already discovered that.

"Energy Bubble" (different topic) was a description of the "bumps" or jolts experienced by meditators who have somehow awakened some "kundalini" energy - I think they are like stresses tied in knots in the physical nervous system that just unwind with a sping-like force. They can be sometimes annoying especially if you are sitting with other meditators who have no sense of humor or no knowledge of such things. They manifest as actual spasms of spontaneous movements.

p e a c e

h a n s e n
Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Sorry, Hansen, I can't find the thread - 'running, walking, meditation' - you're referring to.

I am finding it curious that both you and Mark seem to identify 'running', or perhaps simply activity, as significant.
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Eric Alan Hansen, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 128 Join Date: 9/9/09 Recent Posts
Damon: actually you are correct, I was expecting the meditator to experience the dynamic sphere first hand rather than have a suggestion of it planted. Here is the cut and paste of the post. The first half of "Apache Running" was taught to me by Steve Victor. Like I said, all I was after was the passaaddhi (lightness)
h a n s e n

"Apache" Running

The eyes are focused on a bindu point on the horizon, the body flows such that it does not jog up and down so that the field of vision is a motionless as possible. The legs stretch horizontally into the muscles rather than hammer on the joints (important) and the visualization is that you are being pulled upwards from the head. You should experience subtle nuances of meditation-produced pleasure such as piti (rapture), sukha (bliss) and passaddhi (lightness). If and when kundalini energies arise they will produce turgor pressure in the limbs and help maintain the posture.

"Taoist" Walking

Find a moderately challenging hiking trail. The eyes are focused on each footfall, each problem that the trail offers and the best practice to solve each problem, the body flows such that it does not jog up and down so that the field of vision is a motionless as possible. The legs stretch horizontally into the muscles rather than hammer on the joints (important) and the visualization is that you are being pulled upwards from the head. You should experience subtle nuances of meditation-produced pleasure such as piti (rapture), sukha (bliss) and passaddhi (lightness). If and when kundalini energies arise they will produce turgor pressure in the limbs and help maintain the posture.
Damon C., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sphere and Ground

Posts: 28 Join Date: 8/23/09 Recent Posts
Ok, interesting. Sounds challenging. Has echos of Castaneda for me. Not, however, my experiences.

I was expecting the meditator to experience the dynamic sphere first hand rather than have a suggestion of it planted.


No idea what this means, sorry.

Talking of threads, I see you've been active in 'Physical Phenomena and Practice'. An excellent thread. I find it quite inspiring, both for the intensity of the practice, and the adventure of the results (including the healing). And also for the process and progress shown. There's a great deal to relate to. Not least this comment: " That which sees the sparks (aka phenomena) is where it's at." My cue, too, I guess.

Cheers....