Where am I?

Alex S, modified 5 Months ago.

Where am I?

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/8/20 Recent Posts
Hey all,

Firstly, I want to introduce myself. I've been lurking for a while (a few years?), read MCTB a long time ago but didn't want to venture into the insight world, then came back to it and started actually doing insight practice. I finally decided to create an account on here to share some ideas and hopefully get some more direction to my practice.

I started meditating around 7 years ago because I wanted to improve my cognitive abilities, and for most of that time did concentration practices (anapanasati) almost exclusively. It caused me a lot of frustration because while I felt more calm, it wasn't giving me the cognitive benefits I was hoping for, and for the most part I felt the same. While I believed that insight practice could help reduce my suffering, it wasn't really my goal at the time. I definitely had some interesting experiences - blissful Jhanas, feelings of being out of body and vivid visuals to name a few. But none of them were permanent and ultimately I wanted some kind of shift to my baseline which would stick.

So fast forward to a few months ago - I decided to give insight practice another try. I was going through a difficult time after having been disappointed by people and things I was basing my happiness on, and decided I was done with it. My motivation for practice changed from wanting cognitive benefits to just wanting to be consistently happy, even if it meant I didn't achieve all my other life goals. So I started doing Mahasi-style noting quite intensively. I very quickly got into a territory that felt quite new - it was calm, spacious and it was very easy to focus on what felt like everything at once. I now think this was probably equanimity. I wasn't expecting anything special to happen so soon, but after about a week of noting, one day during my sit I just kind of merged with the sensate world. There were a few "near-misses" where it felt like I was building up to a big realization, but I would drop back down, and eventually it happened - my body/self which previously felt separate from the rest of reality came together with everything else. I couldn't sleep properly for a few nights after that. I had a lot of energy, and my awareness felt wide yet I felt very calm. Most importantly, it stuck - I'd never experienced anything like it before and this was now my new baseline.

Fast forward to today - I now think that breakthrough was Stream Entry, but I've had other realizations since then and what I would assume to be more fruitions. I'll just skip over that stuff, as I don't think it's hugely important, and explain how I currently experience reality. The afterglow of SE (or whatever it was) calmed down after a while and my energy levels went back to normal. The perceptual shifts are still there, they're just not as new and exciting any more. My suffering is greatly reduced and being diffusely aware of my body and sensations is now my baseline. I do occasionally drift off into thoughts, but when I do, I'm aware of them immediately or shortly after. I feel like I'm part of the rest of my experience - physical sensations, thoughts, vision and the rest of it. But there is still some lingering suffering. I still experience stress at work, and it arises in the form of tension in the body paired with thoughts. Again, when I become aware of the stress it tends to dissipate shortly after. Rather than noting like I used to, it felt natural for me to start doing open awareness meditation - I just pay attention to everything in my experience, particularly any suffering and identification. It's starting to feel more and more like I'm not control of things, and that is both scary and a relief. I can kind of just go on "autopilot" and let things unfold by themselves, but this isn't yet my baseline. I definitely wouldn't say there is no agency, though the frequency of feelings of agency is starting to reduce. When I observe something (such as thoughts), I notice that the sensations arise by themselves and so I can't be in control of them. But when I don't observe them, there's still the feeling that they're created by "me". Maybe this is a kind of unconscious habit / identification that still needs to be properly seen through. I'm not quite sure how to integrate this "autopilot mode" with my normal mode of perception that I use in daily life. Intellectually I know that there is only one reality, so my experience shouldn't be different while I'm meditating or being more aware, but experientially that's what I'm noticing. I guess more practice and constant awareness should help to tip the non-duality and non-agency into my daily life. Any thoughts or suggestions? Thanks for reading!