Post-A&P or Post-Stream Entry? Next step?

Joe Yu, modified 6 Months ago.

Post-A&P or Post-Stream Entry? Next step?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
About 1 year and a half ago, I was on an intensive vipassana retreat.  I was plagued by back pain.  However, one evening the pain suddenly dissolved into a thousand tiny pieces, and I entered a joyful self-sustaining concentrated and clear state of mind, which propelled me into what I think was A&P.  The sudden speed and detail with which I could see/note was awesome; the breath dissolved into an amorphous cloud of tingles and waves, and seemingly everything I attended to would dissolve into smaller and smaller pieces too. 

It felt like I could discern individual moments of experience, and could literally see the links of dependent arising playing out in real time.  Raw sensations would appear, usually with positive/negative/or neutral valence; followed by a mental concept of the sensation, then either craving or aversion toward that concept; then the thought "I" want, or "I" don't like that -- which became more thoughts, and the end result is dukkha.

It became clear that I could stop this chain of events by noticing and then letting go of the craving or aversion as soon as it arose. 

When I could do that successfully, the concept of "I" would never arise.  And life kept on going just fine.  It turned out that I never needed an "I" to function at all.

Well, initially it was cool, then it became terrifying.  As in "wait, if I'm not real, then where am I?".  I was freaking out and struggling to stay in one piece.  After some guidance from others, I saw to let the fear dissolve the same way as everything else.

At some point later, I noticed that the 'void' in between moments of experience felt really nice.  There was a thought/realization that hey -- "everything" goes into and comes out of that same void -- including me.  Therefore there's nothing that I could possibly need that I'm not already fundamentally connected to, and so, I don't have to feel lost or lacking ever again.  Everything was a-ok.

Of course, the nice feeling did not last, and the powerful ability to dissolve and dissect things also didn't last.  But that series of insights made it so obvious what the Buddha/Buddhists are pointing to, that it feels like I can never un-realize it, unless I were to lose my memory or become really sick or demented.

After this point, I would say that my life when back to "normal".   But the amount of suffering and discomfort in life has become super obvious.  I often feel very claustrophobic and shitty in comparison to the expansive, clear, peaceful "a-okay-ness" that I can also be.  But the coping mechanism or "strategy" that I end up using to deal with the suffering, is actually to go back to distracting myself with pleasurable activities.  Even though it doesn't really help, and part of my mind still knows that it's never going to help. 

Life often feels pointless, and tiresome, and I feel like it would just be easier to be non-existant.  Granted, my job is a medical resident, so life usually is tiresome, sometimes pointless, and sometimes just don't have the energy to talk to another dead/dying person's family, or work 24hr shifts, or 10 days in a row without being able to care of myself also.

I have also lost a lot of motivation to do formal meditation practice.  The basic habit of practicing is still present, so I still have moments throughout the day where I remember to wake up, relax and open again, but I rarely feel like sitting.

This is a ridiculously long post, but basically I have 3 questions:
- 1) Is it normal to feel shitty?
- 2) What's a way ahead from here?  It feels stuck.
- 3) Was this stream entry? Or A&P? Does it matter?

Thank you.
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Zachary, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Post-A&P or Post-Stream Entry? Next step?

Posts: 196 Join Date: 3/16/18 Recent Posts
Hi Anonymous, welcome to DhO. Sounds like you had a good retreat. It'd be more helpful to know what's going on in your practice at the moment, especially considering all this happened a while back. It's also hard to make proper diagnoses without more context and information.

The advantage of something like a practice log is that it allows one to more easily see the development of one's practice and reported experience over time. Starting one of these might be a useful thing to do at this time. Do you have a teacher? What else is going on in your practice right now? 


About 1 year and a half ago, I was on an intensive vipassana retreat.  I was plagued by back pain.  However, one evening the pain suddenly dissolved into a thousand tiny pieces, and I entered a joyful self-sustaining concentrated and clear state of mind, which propelled me into what I think was A&P.  The sudden speed and detail with which I could see/note was awesome; the breath dissolved into an amorphous cloud of tingles and waves, and seemingly everything I attended to would dissolve into smaller and smaller pieces too. 

3C's into A&P.


Well, initially it was cool, then it became terrifying.  As in "wait, if I'm not real, then where am I?".  I was freaking out and struggling to stay in one piece.  After some guidance from others, I saw to let the fear dissolve the same way as everything else.

Dissolution into Fear Nana.


At some point later, I noticed that the 'void' in between moments of experience felt really nice.  There was a thought/realization that hey -- "everything" goes into and comes out of that same void -- including me.  Therefore there's nothing that I could possibly need that I'm not already fundamentally connected to, and so, I don't have to feel lost or lacking ever again.  Everything was a-ok.

Possibly EQ or something else. Hard to say without more context or information. 


After this point, I would say that my life when back to "normal".   But the amount of suffering and discomfort in life has become super obvious.  I often feel very claustrophobic and shitty in comparison to the expansive, clear, peaceful "a-okay-ness" that I can also be.  But the coping mechanism or "strategy" that I end up using to deal with the suffering, is actually to go back to distracting myself with pleasurable activities.  Even though it doesn't really help, and part of my mind still knows that it's never going to help. 


Life often feels pointless, and tiresome, and I feel like it would just be easier to be non-existant.  Granted, my job is a medical resident, so life usually is tiresome, sometimes pointless, and sometimes just don't have the energy to talk to another dead/dying person's family, or work 24hr shifts, or 10 days in a row without being able to care of myself also.

I have also lost a lot of motivation to do formal meditation practice.  The basic habit of practicing is still present, so I still have moments throughout the day where I remember to wake up, relax and open again, but I rarely feel like sitting.

Sounds like classic Dark Night™ cycling stuff.
Anonymous Person, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: Post-A&P or Post-Stream Entry? Next step?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 8/9/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for the response, and suggestion to keep a practice journal; I'll do that!  May end up using this thread.

I haven't had a formal practice since that retreat.  Prior to that, I'd had a daily sitting practice (45mins once or twice a day), weekly sangha, and a few weeks of retreat per year for about 4 years.  I'd also done a couple of long retreats, including a 21-day, and 5-months of unstructured retreat while living/working at a Zen monastery.  Most of the time, I had teachers and sat w/ sanghas in the Zen lineage of Thich Nhat Hanh.  I've also really enjoyed the pragmatic dharma scene, and Daniel's book, as well as Culadasa's, have been huge influences.

For about the past 1 year or so, though, I have only been practicing informally, by which I mean remembering (or realizing) throughout the day that I'm contracted around a thought, feeling, strong emotion, desire, or whatever.  Then my response is to try and identify what I'm stuck on, whether there's a palpable craving/aversion, or sometimes just establish mindfulness on an available anchor until the sticking point loosens up, awareness expands, boundaries and identification drop away, clarity arises, and a feeling of "okayness" and warmth pervades.

I have mostly stopped sitting formally over the past 1 year; theres a resistance to it.  I stopped practicing w/ sanghas as well this past year.  I have to say I don't have good insight into why.  I think part of it is exhaustion from work, not having enough sleep, or enough mental or emotional capacity to be present w/ difficult things.  I also feel a little bit like I'm in limbo, a little directionless, and don't know how exactly I'm supposed to be.  I have also been easier on myself this past year, won't push myself as hard as I used to -- in all parts of life. 

I've recovered some sleep and started to regain some practice momentum these past few weeks though.  Listening to meditation-related podcasts, talks, and fitting in 5-10min sits here and there, in addition to the informal practice.

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