Nick O' Log Vol. 2

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Nick O, modified 1 Year ago.

Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts
Thought I'd share my recent retreat experience at Mahasi-lineaged Tathagata Meditation Center, as it contains a lot of insight stage references. Let this kick off volume 2 of the practice log that I will aim to be more consistently practice oriented.
 
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It had been a year since the 2nd completed insight cycle. There were some openings throughout the year while working with Dhammarato but I found myself getting distracted with career-related stresses and general apathy. A couple weeks before the retreat, after hitting a low point, there was some sort of reinvigoration and I entered the retreat with re-engaged confidence.    

As my mindfulness power increased, the first three days of the retreat were choppy like light passing through a fan blade as it begins to spin faster and faster. I was met pretty quickly with intense leg pain. I thought I had become flexible enough to sit on a cushion through a retreat but the chondromalacia in my knees flared up and I was forced to retreat into a chair after the first week. 

At one point, focusing on the pain in my left leg pushed me into a familiar state where the room starts spinning. As the pain grew, the floor gave way and I was left spinning disconcertedly downwards into a void. Other familiar experiences included feeling the body disintegrating and dissolving into space with the sensory image of hands being twisted and mangled.

At some point I moved (seemingly backwards) into A&P. Light reflecting off the Buddha statue in the dim meditation hall during evening sits transformed into spotlights moving across the eyelids. Occasionally a light source would appear off to the left or right side with a blue or yellow filter like a dimmed stage light not too far in the distance. Soon enough, the delusional gooey euphoria delighted the mind. A bit of sexual fantasy, madness and roaring ecstasy followed. Even though this was all familiar territory, perceived as empty and not too visceral in a sense, for a short while I was fooled again. Fool me twice, shame on me!   

There was a relieving exit of light and energy into the obvious "Dissolution" stage and from there made relatively quick progress through the harsh electrical currents of the following stages into “Equanimity" where I paddled around for a couple days. A cyclical 1 hz horizontal oblong wobble of space started to occur (Interestingly, I once experienced this phenomenon on LSD). The wobble sent me stumbling off balance one night during walking mediation. The phenomenon continued throughout the retreat and even in the days afterwards.   

As the signs of "High Equanimity" presented themselves, I noticed something new and very difficult to describe. At a point, the walls of space became angular like being inside an origami figure and started collapsing inward rapidly until they were upon the observer. For a fraction of a second, space became two-dimensional before opening up again in reverse. It happened once per sit and became less and less perceivable with each pass.  I wondered if these objects were the “formations” described in MCTB.  

Shortly after these objects would disappear, heightened clarity would bring about a buildup of energy in the forehead. I knew I was close but it took me a few sits to find it. Finally, on the second sit of the eighth day I got a short flicker of a cessation and the wash of “completeness” followed.

For a couple days I swung hourly between glorified satisfaction and tender uneasiness. I was able to review and get a few repeat cessations, the deepest of which happened immediately after leaning back in a chair to rest. I was becoming quite exhausted from massive releases of energy especially after attempting to test drive my mind’s power to it’s limits. There was immense power yet little control.

There seemed to be a new highly defined, virtually centerless and crystal clear quality to the visual field. The adjustment, however, wasn’t fully seated. There were quick subtle flashes of the mind trying to revert to the old way of seeing like a camera lens not quite getting in focus.

On day nine or ten while sitting outside, I made a meditation object out of this uneasy fear that had been paying regular visits. Upon giving the object attention, it moved off out of my body and started to dissolve. This brought about a realization that this was "Mind and Body" of the next path. The first nana in my experience seems to present itself as a puzzle to solve or a theme for the path.

The shock waves of path completion had faded and I found myself back to work on the next path. There was the ratcheting up of concentration in "Cause and Effect" followed by my arch nemesis, the opiate withdrawals of "Three Characteristics”. The A&P was thankfully not nearly as powerful. By day 12 I found myself back in “Equanimity”. 

The next path fruition occurred in the morning on the 13th day. While the stages of this path occurred with less intensity, the cessation was much more noticeable than the previous and strangely startling. I flinched. There was a refreshing release after this one. It was as if all the drama, highs and lows and out of phase/focus quality of the previous realization had blown away. I sat there somewhat bewildered by how normal the experience had become in just a couple minutes. The sine wave between joyousness and uneasiness had calmed. Nevertheless, the mind was pretty fried and I spent the last 24 hours of the retreat taking it easy. 

I met with the abbot, Sawyadaw U Thuzana four times during the two weeks for interviews. He acknowledged my progress but did not comment directly on the map theory I referenced to explain my experiences. He would simply nod, smile wide, giggle warmly and say in his thick Burmese accent, “yes, yes Nicolas. Precious moment, Nicolas".

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Being slightly overwhelmed by the increase in intensity of the senses, it took a few days to adjust. Sense information is now undoubtedly centerless and of higher definition and depth, especially in touch and vision. There's still the appearance of an observer and doer but it's as if the mental image of my head has been partially erased with less of a mechanism of self-reflection. Suffering is as well more highly defined, obnoxious and unacceptable which gives rise the inspiration to stay consistently mindful and cultivate joy - And that brings up an interesting observation: In a sense, insight work makes suffering more intense but it provides the skills and a relationship with senses to step out of the way of it. It's as if the process of awakening gives more responsibility and skill to gaurd against suffering, because if you let it in, it really trashes the place!  
 



   
SigmaTropic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 146 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
Nick O:
  
Shortly after these objects would disappear, heightened clarity would bring about a buildup of energy in the forehead. I knew I was close but it took me a few sits to find it. Finally, on the second sit of the eighth day I got a short flicker of a cessation and the wash of “completeness” followed.

For a couple days I swung hourly between glorified satisfaction and tender uneasiness. I was able to review and get a few repeat cessations, the deepest of which happened immediately after leaning back in a chair to rest. I was becoming quite exhausted from massive releases of energy especially after attempting to test drive my mind’s power to it’s limits. There was immense power yet little control.

There seemed to be a new highly defined, virtually centerless and crystal clear quality to the visual field. The adjustment, however, wasn’t fully seated. There were quick subtle flashes of the mind trying to revert to the old way of seeing like a camera lens not quite getting in focus.

On day nine or ten while sitting outside, I made a meditation object out of this uneasy fear that had been paying regular visits. Upon giving the object attention, it moved off out of my body and started to dissolve. This brought about a realization that this was "Mind and Body" of the next path. The first nana in my experience seems to present itself as a puzzle to solve or a theme for the path.

The shock waves of path completion had faded and I found myself back to work on the next path. There was the ratcheting up of concentration in "Cause and Effect" followed by my arch nemesis, the opiate withdrawals of "Three Characteristics”. The A&P was thankfully not nearly as powerful. By day 12 I found myself back in “Equanimity”. 

The next path fruition occurred in the morning on the 13th day. While the stages of this path occurred with less intensity, the cessation was much more noticeable than the previous and strangely startling. I flinched. There was a refreshing release after this one. It was as if all the drama, highs and lows and out of phase/focus quality of the previous realization had blown away. I sat there somewhat bewildered by how normal the experience had become in just a couple minutes. The sine wave between joyousness and uneasiness had calmed. Nevertheless, the mind was pretty fried and I spent the last 24 hours of the retreat taking it easy. 

I met with the abbot, Sawyadaw U Thuzana four times during the two weeks for interviews. He acknowledged my progress but did not comment directly on the map theory I referenced to explain my experiences. He would simply nod, smile wide, giggle warmly and say in his thick Burmese accent, “yes, yes Nicolas. Precious moment, Nicolas".

   
I'm wondering if maybe this is a terminology thing, but you refer to "path fruitions" as if the last two complete POI cycles were 3rd and 4th path. Is that what you mean to imply here? 
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Nick O, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts
SigmaTropic:
I'm wondering if maybe this is a terminology thing, but you refer to "path fruitions" as if the last two complete POI cycles were 3rd and 4th path. Is that what you mean to imply here? 
Yes, but without claiming attainments - especially of "4th path" - as in the full insight into anatta 4th path. It is my understanding that there can be many full paths completed before the insight of "4th" is attained (as its sometimes referred to as "12th path"). I definitely do not have "4th path" results.

What occured on the retreat was what seemed to be the completion of a path 8 days in (that I had been working on prior to the retreat) and then a review phase that lasted 2 days with cycles and repeat fruitions and then another full cycle (path?) starting at Mind and Body that took 2-3 days to reach EQ again with another more prominent fruition at the end. Could this last cycle just have been a longer review? Sure, but I'm usually able to review the nanas of a prior path during one sit that sometimes leads to a fruition and they typically don't entail long grueling passes through the first three nanas. Also the fruition of the 2nd long cycle untied quite a big knot.

I'm really more interested in the nanas and insight cycles more than "paths" attained. If there is something off in my understanding or terminology, please let me know. It's all rather fascinating.   
SigmaTropic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 146 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
That's what I thought you meant, just wanted to clarify out of curiosity. 
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Nick O, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts
Working on the jhanas again and feeling a little rusty after so much dry work. Deep absorption in them has been quite rare for me but now beginning to get back to experience each of their qualities clearly. 45 minute sits allowing natural progression through each which sometimes leads to a fruition. Going to start varying time spent in each jhana.  

Looking at samatha practice as a way to inspire steady practice through the physicaly demanding work week. May be moving into a far less labor-intensive and more flexible job soon to allow for more time and energy to be devoted to practice. Consider off-cushion practice to be the focus these days in daily life and sitting is just to keep the fire burning hot. 

Noticing less emotional reaction to judgmental or self-critical thoughts since retreat. More letting go of the messyness of work life. More accepting that my job is difficult and that the complexity, nuances and variables involved will lead to things not always going to plan. Taking work less seriously yet building mindfulness to become better at it.

On days off when I keep to myself, I've often noticed the following pattern through the day from morning till evening 
  • wake up (4:30 or 5am)
  • joy
  • coffee
  • comfort
  • reading / internet / hang out
  • meditation
  • nap (11 am)
  • awake with restlessness (noon)
  • go out for lunch, go on hike through the woods
  • restlessness (1pm)
  • questioning my chosen solitude
  • loneliness
  • questioning my chosen life of simplicity and contemplation (2pm)
  • self-critical nonsense
  • consider dating, starting a band, other worldly endeavors (4pm)
  • observe the content sincerely but bring it all back into perspective and..
  • come back to the moment with joy - gladden the mind - enjoy the forest
  • eat dinner (6pm)
  • joy, reading, meditation
  • go to bed happy (9pm)
It would appear that the afternoon brings on a lot of the stuff where I notice the most negativity and questioning life going on and I remember this pattern since childhood. On the other hand, it also feels and unfolds like POI cycling. There's also a part of me, even while sitting here in the happiness of the evening, that wonders if I should be listening to these afternoon voices. So much for unity of mind! emoticon    
  
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Nick O, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Nick O' Log Vol. 2

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts
Holy Insight!

This longing / restlessness / doubt thorn of the afternoon is the gateway through the first three ñanas. No need to fix it, change it or move it out of the way. Just sit with it, study it, embrace it, pour joy around it and accept it. Once the lesson is learned and the 3C's knowledge is satisfied, it goes about it's business. 

The last time through it was fear. This time, longing / restlessness. 

I'm gladly kicking myself for forgetting this so quickly every time!  



 



 

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