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Stream entry or not?

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Stream entry or not?
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6/1/20 3:12 PM
Hi! 

So very briefly I thought it would be helpful if someone with many years of experience in the "mappy" terain of Therevada insights could help me out to figure out where I am on the map and where to go from here. 

I hit the A&P in late may last year, and the entire summer was classic deep dark night (fear, misery, etc), that damn near ripped my life appart. But with a full frontal war (meditation 1-2 hours every day, vacation time/sick leave, therapy and also SSRI) it did in the end dissappear. I clearly hit very high equinimity at a relatively early phase (but this for me was not the end of dark night). After that followed several weeks/months of continued dark night, but towards the fall of 2019, it ebbed out in a rather equianimous state where every meditation sitting just went really well. Sometime during January 2020 I hit Jhana 5 during a meditation (pure beginners luck). Sometime during feb/march a close friend of mine most likely hit stream entry through a poiinting out instruction provided by Loch Kelly and described it to me as a profound insight. So I lisened to the same instruction and after that, I did see pretty profoundly the lack of self. There was a sensation for a few hours of "going down a slide" when you were a kid, like butterflies in the belly and a sense of everything just ariving in its place automaticlaly. Almost a bit funny. But this only lasted for like a day and the only lasting effect is that it is easier to se not-self when I pay attention now. 


Other significant evelopements after the above: I now finally see "the headless way" when I use Douglas Harding's instructions. 

But this does not feel THAT profound to be honest. I mean sure, some things have changed but Dukkha is still totally there and I am really not mindful most of the time and I often get lost in thought etc. 

So the question is: was this stream entry? Or am I fooling myself? Is there some test you can do? 


Other info? No retreats. Have a family/kids and a job etc. Used to meditate at most 2 hours per day, but these days more like 30 minutes. Been meditating in total roughly 2 years.  

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/1/20 8:25 PM as a reply to Olof.
I'm wouldn't be able to say, but my guess is that people who might be able to say would need more info. For instance, how did you know you hit A&P, did your dark night occur with the formal order, and so on? 

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 4:07 AM as a reply to Martin.
Martin:
I'm wouldn't be able to say, but my guess is that people who might be able to say would need more info. For instance, how did you know you hit A&P, did your dark night occur with the formal order, and so on? 
Ok thank you for the input. Totally understand if no-one has the time but I thought I would try to provide as much details as I can. In this case, I had a very strange blinking of lights during an open awareness sitting on May 25, 2019. I had to stop the meditation because I was freaked out. (What the f... was that!?). A very clear sense of signigicance followed and I became increasingly obsessed with the dharma. All of the sudden I would constantly listen to dharma talks etc. All of the sudden, I did not want to eat meat, and it was difficult to ignore suffering. There were several strange feelings of everything being different (not the same as before), and this was constant. Then, 1-2 weeks after May 25, came intense feelings of fear and misery for several weeks that seemed to come out of nowhere, and there was no way of stopping it (absolutely aweful). Disgust was not a major theme for me for whatever reason. Around one week after the start of this negative cycle came an intense longing for everything to just be over and almost immediately followed heavy equinimity for one day (litteraly the biggest sense of relief in my life). After that everything gradually ebbed out and became pretty good by fall, when all of my sittings would have equinimity. The other significant developements as set out above, I don't think I can describe with more detail, because even tho I remember A&P and dark night vividly, I remember the moment that might have been stream entry a little less vividly.The most significant feeling was the complete letting go of control so that it felt funny in my stomach for a day or so (like when you're on a roller coaster sort of, but less intense). 

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 11:47 AM as a reply to Olof.
Thanks, Olof. That is clearer for me anyway. I don't have SE, in fact, I am not even in the neighborhood but I have been at this for about 15 years and there are some things I can do, like sustained attention and the rupa jhanas, so I have a bit of a sense of what the lay of some of the land is. The sort of experiences that you describe in relation to A&P do seem to happen quite often with improving concentration, as does the attitude shift that you experienced after that event. That does not rule out full-fledged A&P followed by dukkha nanas and SE, but I think that it is not impossible that you may be dealing with a similar but less definitive progression. That would be good news because, if dukkha is still there and mindfulness is not strong enough to overcome being lost in thought, it would be nice to think that there is room for the various tools of practice to work. One option would be to put a pin in the question of SE and address the dukkha and papanca (I'm thinking this might be what you are pointing to when you say you are lost in thought) straight on.

Do you do much concentration or metta practice? Are the precepts easy or hard to keep? Is there somewhere you might find a teacher or a formal sanga (hard with lockdown, I know)?

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 3:30 PM as a reply to Martin.
did your dark night occur with the formal order, and so on?


The dark night was dark for me because I didn't seem at the time to follow any formal order. I am still not sure that it does. It's a new batch of faith every time.

Reobservation in particular

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 3:42 PM as a reply to A. DIetrich Ringle.
Sleeping Buddha Syndrome:
did your dark night occur with the formal order, and so on?


The dark night was dark for me because I didn't seem at the time to follow any formal order. I am still not sure that it does. It's a new batch of faith every time.

Reobservation in particular
Is there anything, other than what goes before and after, that lets you distinguish dark night from depression?

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 6:16 PM as a reply to Martin.
Depression self-refers back to something chemical. Like, for instance, I am feeling depressed right now so I am going to go open a can of soda water and see if that helps.

The dark night just feels more spiritual and adventurous.

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/2/20 8:07 PM as a reply to Martin.
Martin:
Is there anything, other than what goes before and after, that lets you distinguish dark night from depression?


There is the dark night, which Daniel really does a good job of casting on light. Then there is depression. I am not very good at championing this cause as I still take medication. There is a third phenomenon I call prefrontal cortex shut down. I would ask you to pause becuase this one is the most sincere. You might call this playing dead, or the mini dark night of equinimity. But I prefer to tell it as it is and not to sugar coat it. Prefrontal cortex shut down is what happens when the brain can't find any other measure to deal with seeming infractions of reality. Think torture, water boarder, vicious verbal abuse, and it goes on. It could be a ladder. Mostly it is what keeps us on our toes.

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/3/20 1:25 AM as a reply to Martin.
Martin:
Thanks, Olof. That is clearer for me anyway. I don't have SE, in fact, I am not even in the neighborhood but I have been at this for about 15 years and there are some things I can do, like sustained attention and the rupa jhanas, so I have a bit of a sense of what the lay of some of the land is. The sort of experiences that you describe in relation to A&P do seem to happen quite often with improving concentration, as does the attitude shift that you experienced after that event. That does not rule out full-fledged A&P followed by dukkha nanas and SE, but I think that it is not impossible that you may be dealing with a similar but less definitive progression. That would be good news because, if dukkha is still there and mindfulness is not strong enough to overcome being lost in thought, it would be nice to think that there is room for the various tools of practice to work. One option would be to put a pin in the question of SE and address the dukkha and papanca (I'm thinking this might be what you are pointing to when you say you are lost in thought) straight on.

Do you do much concentration or metta practice? Are the precepts easy or hard to keep? Is there somewhere you might find a teacher or a formal sanga (hard with lockdown, I know)?
Thank you for taking the time. I did do classic meditation in sittings of 1-2 hours per day from the summer of 2019 up until march 2020, but I have subsequently cut it down to 30 minutes or so. The meditation sittings I do are usually guided (10% happier app, which includes e.g. Joseph Goldstein or alternatively, Waking up by Sam Harris which includes more fokus on the no-self aspect and pointing out instructions etc..) I find it impossible to find the motivation to do metta, for me it is synonymous to going to the gym and focusing on building leg muscles emoticon. I did fund time for Sangha a few hours every Thursday back in the fall of 2019 and early 2020 (before Corona...). A great teacher here in Stockholm who is a theravada buddhist that spent long portions of his life on reatreat. He offered group sittings and I found it very developing. He now offers virtual sittings with Sangha but it is not the same thing for me. 

The precepts are slowly an gradually getting a little bit easier to keep. I try to focus my intention on right speach, because this for me is the most challenging one. 

Again - very kind of you to offer this input. Thanks!

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/3/20 11:00 AM as a reply to Olof.
Olof:
Martin:
Thanks, Olof. That is clearer for me anyway. I don't have SE, in fact, I am not even in the neighborhood but I have been at this for about 15 years and there are some things I can do, like sustained attention and the rupa jhanas, so I have a bit of a sense of what the lay of some of the land is. The sort of experiences that you describe in relation to A&P do seem to happen quite often with improving concentration, as does the attitude shift that you experienced after that event. That does not rule out full-fledged A&P followed by dukkha nanas and SE, but I think that it is not impossible that you may be dealing with a similar but less definitive progression. That would be good news because, if dukkha is still there and mindfulness is not strong enough to overcome being lost in thought, it would be nice to think that there is room for the various tools of practice to work. One option would be to put a pin in the question of SE and address the dukkha and papanca (I'm thinking this might be what you are pointing to when you say you are lost in thought) straight on.

Do you do much concentration or metta practice? Are the precepts easy or hard to keep? Is there somewhere you might find a teacher or a formal sanga (hard with lockdown, I know)?
Thank you for taking the time. I did do classic meditation in sittings of 1-2 hours per day from the summer of 2019 up until march 2020, but I have subsequently cut it down to 30 minutes or so. The meditation sittings I do are usually guided (10% happier app, which includes e.g. Joseph Goldstein or alternatively, Waking up by Sam Harris which includes more fokus on the no-self aspect and pointing out instructions etc..) I find it impossible to find the motivation to do metta, for me it is synonymous to going to the gym and focusing on building leg muscles emoticon. I did fund time for Sangha a few hours every Thursday back in the fall of 2019 and early 2020 (before Corona...). A great teacher here in Stockholm who is a theravada buddhist that spent long portions of his life on reatreat. He offered group sittings and I found it very developing. He now offers virtual sittings with Sangha but it is not the same thing for me. 

The precepts are slowly an gradually getting a little bit easier to keep. I try to focus my intention on right speach, because this for me is the most challenging one. 

Again - very kind of you to offer this input. Thanks!


That's funny, my sanga also meets on Thursdays and has switched to Zoom. It's not the same, but I find it better than nothing. Having dharma chosen and presented by some else and hearing other people's comments often nudges something in my mind in a way that doesn't happen with reading a book or watching a video.

I also find right speech the trickiest because it happens so fast. It's easy to find myself in the situation of just having said something and thinking to myself, 'that wasn't very thoughtful.'

Personally I could not do metta at all (it felt like pedaling a bicycle when the chain has fallen off) until I got the jhanas (which I got by reading 'Right Concentration' by Leigh Brassington coupled with a weekend retreat). I still didn't get metta after that until a teacher explained that metta is a concentration practice so a lot of the same things that one uses to get into the jhanas work for metta. It still takes some work, but the results are nice.

Taking what you have said in the overall, and going back to your original question, my sense would be that SE is unlikely. It's pretty unlikely, in general, for householders, off retreat. I'm sure it's been done, and no doubt some of the people who have done it are on this message board, but even MCTB points out that it is rare and requires long periods of 3+ hours a day. But as you basically seemed to say you were underwhelmed, I would take that as good news. There are still considerably more benefits coming further down the path.

The results of concentration, in particular, are nice, and I notice that you don't mention that you have a concentration practice. Here is the short version: Pick a thing that demands attention, like the subtle sense of the breath on the upper lip, or the metta mantra, and stick with it no matter what. I would say 30 minutes is the minimum to get concentration going, until you are used to it and can jump in at will. Other than that one thing that you are concentrating on, notice pleasant sensations in the body, if/when they arise. The concentration temporarily prevents the mind from doing its habitual thing, and as the mind's habitual thing is what generates dukkha, you get a break from dukkha, that leaves room for pleasant sensations to arise and, by giving attention to those pleasant feelings, they are amplified. Insight is where the long term payoff is, but concentration pays out right away and provides great motivation for more insight work.

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/3/20 2:00 PM as a reply to Olof.
People here are very reluctant to offer opinions on attainments.  The idea being that misdiagnosing an attainment is so much worse for the meditator than properly diagnosing one. and that there's so much uncertainty in trying to diagnose an attainment over the internet, that all things considered it's not a good idea to even try.  So don't feel bad you're not getting the feedback you're looking for.  

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/3/20 2:13 PM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Ben Sulsky:
People here are very reluctant to offer opinions on attainments.  The idea being that misdiagnosing an attainment is so much worse for the meditator than properly diagnosing one. and that there's so much uncertainty in trying to diagnose an attainment over the internet, that all things considered it's not a good idea to even try.  So don't feel bad you're not getting the feedback you're looking for.  


I would hasten to add that the only opinion you have gotten so far is from someone without the attainment you are asking about. So, on my part, it's a bit like someone describing a place that I have never been to, and me saying if that sounds like that place based on what I've read in travel books.

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/3/20 2:21 PM as a reply to Martin.
Yea I should also add that I don't think this prohibition on diagnosing attainments is terribly rigid.  People are just careful about it.  My temptation is to fire away and take a guess, but I'm persuaded by the culture that this is probably a bad idea !

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/6/20 3:24 AM as a reply to Martin.
THanks for the tips! I will try to integrate some more concentration/metta practice . I was maybe unclear but I did a bit of concentration pratice fall 2019 on staying with the breath and this lead me to discover some of the Jhanas. But somehow I stopped doing that. I think I will revisit some conentration pratice now! take care! 

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/6/20 3:26 AM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
No probs. I am aware that any diagnosis needs to be taken with a pinch of salt in these kind of forums, because its not like spending days at a retreat with a meditatoin master. But I take your point.

RE: Stream entry or not?
Answer
6/6/20 9:45 AM as a reply to Olof.
I hope you will keep posting. I'd be interested to know how things develop for you. It's nice to have a chance to hear what is going on with other people. Although I have my Thursday sangha nobody ever talks about what is going on with them experientially.