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A&P
Answer
8/25/11 3:58 AM
I have obtained and read - once - Daniel's book and have a question about A&P. I think I experience arising and passing away, but it is not in the explosive terms described in the book. I experience myriads of shimmering vibrations, quite soft, nothing is steady and when I look at things or people they are not steady either, just full of tiny shimmerings. This is as near as I can get with words. This can happen on the cushion, on the loo and most frequently after a long walk with the attention on sensations in the body. In between there are lots of more uncomfortable sensations, especially in the head and jaw which are there in the foreground when formally sitting and there in the background all the time and it only takes slight attention to bring them
to foreground. There is also a sort of beat in the body as if the ground is not steady which I thought was the heartbeat, but when I checked it is much slower than than my pulse.

I am so grateful to Daniel for the book and all those who extend their help to others. I have had years of pat answers to my questions and answers that do not fit my experience at all and it is illuminating to have some explanation of what is going on. The oft repeated exhortation to 'be happy' in the Goenka courses never seemed to fit.

RE: A&P
Answer
8/26/11 12:50 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel Kathleen Strange:
I have obtained and read - once - Daniel's book and have a question about A&P. I think I experience arising and passing away, but it is not in the explosive terms described in the book. I experience myriads of shimmering vibrations, quite soft, nothing is steady and when I look at things or people they are not steady either, just full of tiny shimmerings. This is as near as I can get with words. This can happen on the cushion, on the loo and most frequently after a long walk with the attention on sensations in the body. In between there are lots of more uncomfortable sensations, especially in the head and jaw which are there in the foreground when formally sitting and there in the background all the time and it only takes slight attention to bring them
to foreground. There is also a sort of beat in the body as if the ground is not steady which I thought was the heartbeat, but when I checked it is much slower than than my pulse.


hi hazel,

welcome to the dho.

in your introductory post, in this thread (post now deleted), you indicated that you spent many years practising with enthusiasm in a well-known vipassana tradition. you also indicated that you have already passed through the stage of arising and passing away and experienced its culmination, which daniel ingram calls 'the arising and passing event' (and which culmination, in the tradition you practise(d), is mapped to the following insight stage, bhanga nana - the stage of dissolution). however, you did not indicate that you have reached the stages of path and fruition, and indeed, nothing that you wrote demonstrates that you have. hence, it is no surprise that you do not experience grand, powerful vibratory phenomena, as the arising and passing event only tends to occur once - or at most a few times - within a path, and spending years diligently working on one path - going through its stages again and again - tends to wear down its explosive and/or exciting vibratory qualities. as far as i am able to tell, you have spent your years of enthusiastic meditation working on, but not completing, first path (the path of stream-entry), and so more quiet experiences of arising and passing away are the case for you.

as for a dharma diagnosis: the quality of experiences you have described both here as well as in your now-deleted first post indicate that you are in the insight stages between the stage of arising and passing away and the stage of equanimity regarding formations, collectively known as 'the knowledges of suffering' (which ingram refers to as 'the dark night'). to be more precise, i think you are hovering somewhere around the later stages of desire for deliverance or re-observation, owing to the nature of the aches you experience, the fine and unsteady vibrations you are sensitive to, and the difficulty you have continuing to sit still past a certain point. however, for further confirmation, would you please describe in greater detail the pulse you find in your body which you mistook for your heartbeat? this will help determine whether you are in the first or second half of the 'dark night' stages, which discernment you may find useful - there are different interesting things to look at about each.

some good details to provide: where in the body do you tend to experience the beat? how prominent / fascinating / distracting / attention-catching is it? does your attention beat 'with it', or 'against it', or anything of that sort? does its occurrence ever pervade your other sense experiences besides touch - do you ever hear (or 'hear') this beat, or see (or 'see') it strobe?

one further question: when was your most recent retreat or period of intensive practice?


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

I am so grateful to Daniel for the book and all those who extend their help to others. I have had years of pat answers to my questions and answers that do not fit my experience at all and it is illuminating to have some explanation of what is going on. The oft repeated exhortation to 'be happy' in the Goenka courses never seemed to fit.

understandably... 'be happy' doesn't fit very well for most practitioners stuck in the dark night.

tarin

ps- as many of the stages of insight were discussed in this post, here is a quick english-pali reference for those stages, for whomever may be reading who may find it helpful to have:

the stage of arising and passing away - udayabbaya nana
the stage of dissolution - bhanga nana
the stage of desire for deliverance - muncitu-kamyata nana
the stage of re-observation - patisankhanupassana nana
the stage of equanimity regarding formations - sankharaupekkha nana
the stage of path - magga nana
the stage of fruition - phala nana

RE: A&P
Answer
8/26/11 2:55 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Hi Tarin Greco,

Many thanks for your reply.
I was exploring the actions button and inadvertently deleted a post then could not work out how to undo

I am under no illusion that I have completed a path, just more unsure now that I have actually experienced A&P.

I have journaled my last sit to try to answer your questions as accurately as possible.

Mood before sit - enthusiastic, curious
posture - seiza bench - time 1 hour
resolve - to distinguish between physical and mental sensations as in Daniel's book - never done this before - notable lack of success!
Focus - kept out of head and concentrated on left upper arm - first noticed tight lump like a small potato and this resolved into little darting sensations about 3 per second

Little discursive thinking - mostly about what to write down after session
Odd drifting thoughts passing from time to time

Noticed heartbeat with slight movement of body at each beat, sounding in ears together with a higher pitched sound in ears somewhere between ringing and a hissing

Underneath a slower more wavelike beat - like sitting on a raft with a little wave rocking it - felt along legs on floor, in butt on bench - a light feeling in body as if cushioned.

Maybe around 20 minutes in sensations began to pile up in head and jaw and a bright white light begins. The light is not continuous like a white illumination - more like myriads of tiny points of light that sometimes streak together, sometimes it is a whole field and sometimes like waves coming in from each side of the head. The sensations are strongest inside the head - in the area behind the top of the nose, in the jaw and on the top of the head. These increase in intensity and there is the occasional shiver of the body. The pleasurable wavelike feeling is out of awareness and it is difficult to maintain attention on original focus - the heartbeat intensity increases. There isn't an impulse to stop this time, but there is a slight inclination to see how much time is left - resisted.
The heavy pressure continues and a slight bubbling in the solar plexus - like lava plopping - a line of heavy, though flickering sensations joins up from solar plexus to upper lip to top of head - head feels like a balloon being blown up and I'm waiting for the pop. No pop again as sit ends and spend 5 minutes on metta bhavana sending loving kindness to all beleaguered parts. Walking back from sit still aware of pressure in head - though much reduced and when I stand to look at the flowers the wavelike motion is felt under the feet as if the ground is gently swaying and also in the face.

retreat question - last 45 day in 2006, last ten day in 2008 - avoided since with on and off meditation, no samadhi to speak of in sits, much agitation and huge pressure in head especially when trying to sit or trying to sleep.
In last month have increased time - at least two hours per day, sometimes four to six. Sensations are still difficult, but equanimity much better.

Was prompted to stronger determination by what Daniel would call a 'bleed' when my reaction to a trivial incident caused distress to my sister in law and husband - resolved to take myself in hand.

I am so grateful for your interest and help.

RE: A&P
Answer
9/3/11 1:01 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
The intense pressure in the head seems now to have gone - there was no cataclysmic resolution! it just isn't there any more. I had one sit where the wavelike feeling wasn't there, there was just busy vibrations all over, no real pattern to them, no real centre. Last few sits have been peaceful with fairly muted sensations but very aware.

A peculiar experience is repeating - in one sit it happened three times - It is a split second thing - the body doesn't actually move but there is a sense of a sudden drop with a sort of whooshing sound in the ears, then things continue as they were.

Having read descriptions of things in MTCTB and in DhO I am tempted to think I am passing from re-observation to Equanimity but perhaps this could be like reading up symptoms and then thinking one must have cancer?

Any comments appreciated

RE: A&P
Answer
9/3/11 8:40 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel Kathleen Strange:
Hi Tarin Greco,

Many thanks for your reply.
I was exploring the actions button and inadvertently deleted a post then could not work out how to undo

I am under no illusion that I have completed a path, just more unsure now that I have actually experienced A&P.

i would venture to guess that there is virtually no chance you have not experienced a&p. further, as you report below in this post, you have sat at least one 45 day course in your tradition, and though you would know the actual workings of your tradition's more deeply-committed (to the tradition) circles far better than would i, i am under the impression (please correct it if it is mistaken) that people who have not been determined to have experienced the stage of arising and passing away (followed by the stage of dissolution) are not allowed to sit the entire 45 day course, and so i would also venture to guess that the senior teacher conducting that course determined the same. of course, practically speaking, this being your progress of insight, what stages of the map you have or have not experienced is your call alone to make.. but it is worth knowing that a good pass through re-observation has a way of encouraging one to doubt that one has made any significant progress.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

I have journaled my last sit to try to answer your questions as accurately as possible.

Mood before sit - enthusiastic, curious
posture - seiza bench - time 1 hour
resolve - to distinguish between physical and mental sensations as in Daniel's book - never done this before - notable lack of success!
Focus - kept out of head and concentrated on left upper arm - first noticed tight lump like a small potato and this resolved into little darting sensations about 3 per second
Little discursive thinking - mostly about what to write down after session
Odd drifting thoughts passing from time to time

Noticed heartbeat with slight movement of body at each beat, sounding in ears together with a higher pitched sound in ears somewhere between ringing and a hissing

Underneath a slower more wavelike beat - like sitting on a raft with a little wave rocking it - felt along legs on floor, in butt on bench - a light feeling in body as if cushioned.

Maybe around 20 minutes in sensations began to pile up in head and jaw and a bright white light begins. The light is not continuous like a white illumination - more like myriads of tiny points of light that sometimes streak together, sometimes it is a whole field and sometimes like waves coming in from each side of the head. The sensations are strongest inside the head - in the area behind the top of the nose, in the jaw and on the top of the head. These increase in intensity and there is the occasional shiver of the body. The pleasurable wavelike feeling is out of awareness and it is difficult to maintain attention on original focus - the heartbeat intensity increases. There isn't an impulse to stop this time, but there is a slight inclination to see
how much time is left - resisted.

did you notice any depth to the points/streaks/waves/field of light? were they entirely flat, or were they curving or wrapping or distorting (say, in a concave way) so as to present a kind of dimensionality to the field, as if the visual phenomena were happening all together in one continuous formation?


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

The heavy pressure continues and a slight bubbling in the solar plexus - like lava plopping - a line of heavy, though flickering sensations joins up from solar plexus to upper lip to top of head - head feels like a balloon being blown up and I'm waiting for the pop. No pop again as sit ends and spend 5 minutes on metta bhavana sending loving kindness to all beleaguered parts. Walking back from sit still aware of pressure in head - though much reduced and when I stand to look at the flowers the wavelike motion is felt under the feet as if the ground is gently swaying and also in the face.

does this (section of your writing i bolded) indicate that you have previously experienced a 'pop' subsequent to similar sensations in the past?


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

retreat question - last 45 day in 2006, last ten day in 2008 - avoided since with on and off meditation, no samadhi to speak of in sits, much agitation and huge pressure in head especially when trying to sit or trying to sleep.
In last month have increased time - at least two hours per day, sometimes four to six. Sensations are still difficult, but equanimity much better.

Was prompted to stronger determination by what Daniel would call a 'bleed' when my reaction to a trivial incident caused distress to my sister in law and husband - resolved to take myself in hand.

your above descriptions strongly indicate either the stage of desire for deliverance or re-observation, though the answers to my questions above may clarify the matter further, as well as provide context for further discussion beyond a diagnosis.

tarin

ps your latest post does indicate the transition from re-observation to equanimity regarding formations, yes.

RE: A&P
Answer
9/4/11 6:04 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Hi Tarin,
I'm grateful for your full replies.

Attainments are not criteria for sitting longer courses in the Goenka tradition, nor for appointment as assistant or senior teachers, so the teachers on the seat may or may not have experienced A&P. If one applies for a Goenka course having many years of meditation experience with Vipassana under another teacher one is obliged to sit and be instructed as a new student. To sit a course of 20 days one must have sat 5 Goenka courses plus 1 Satipatthana course and have kept 5 precepts for 1 year + have meditated 2 hours per day for 2 years - to sit 30 all the previous +20days + having served at least one 10 day course - to sit 45 add 2 30 days, the criteria change sometimes, so now to sit 45 in UK you need to be 'actively involved in Dhamma service'. There is a hurdle after 30 days to sit 45 - but this is determined by your apparent well-being and that you are keeping the rules. It has been known for someone not on the list to argue themselves on even though they have shown signs of instability.

The 'pop' comment was, I feel, misleading. It was a bit poetic in that the pressure was like a balloon being blown up and the feeling was like that when you wait for someone's overblown balloon to burst. It never did. It is just absent at the moment without any sort of recognisable resolution.

If I answered the query about the lights it would be from memory only and they are tricky things! If there was dimension it was slight, though I think bands of light flowing past did seem to be as if on a rounded surface. Just now the sits don't have any moving light phenomena - the lights behind the eyes vary with the level of lighting in the space I am sitting in - red glow outside with the occasional darker spot - flat white pinpricks of light with a bit of a shimmer to them in a darkened room.

Although all sits are not the same as in peaceful, settled, good samadhi (obviously!) it does feel like there has been a shift and I am enthusiastic again and scouting out a retreat for myself.

with metta
H

RE: A&P
Answer
9/22/11 10:30 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel Kathleen Strange:
Hi Tarin,
I'm grateful for your full replies.

you're welcome.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

Attainments are not criteria for sitting longer courses in the Goenka tradition, nor for appointment as assistant or senior teachers, so the teachers on the seat may or may not have experienced A&P. If one applies for a Goenka course having many years of meditation experience with Vipassana under another teacher one is obliged to sit and be instructed as a new student. To sit a course of 20 days one must have sat 5 Goenka courses plus 1 Satipatthana course and have kept 5 precepts for 1 year + have meditated 2 hours per day for 2 years - to sit 30 all the previous +20days + having served at least one 10 day course - to sit 45 add 2 30 days, the criteria change sometimes, so now to sit 45 in UK you need to be 'actively involved in Dhamma service'. There is a hurdle after 30 days to sit 45 - but this is determined by your apparent well-being and that you are keeping the rules. It has been known for someone not on the list to argue themselves on even though they have shown signs of instability.

thank you for the informative overview; it certainly answers a long-standing question that many, including myself, have had about why there is so little evident insight within the goenka tradition, despite the amount of practice time its practitioners (are expected to) put in: as the teachers themselves not are sufficiently attained, they do not have the experience necessary to guide practitioners through the progress of insight any further than (the knowledge of) equanimity regarding formations.

the mahasi tradition, on the other hand, implicitly expects that practitioners attain first path within 2-3, or at most 6, months of continuous retreat (after which point ordained practitioners who have at least reached the knowledge of equanimity regarding formations may be 'drafted' off of retreat and put to work giving instruction to beginners). for a practitioner to be appointed a lineage holder (to take charge of a monastery, conduct interviews with, and oversee the progress of, resident practitioners, etc), however, requires the attainment of second path.

i shall mention here that i have no interest in opening a debate on which of the two traditions is better, as having had experience with both i can say that each contains benefits not readily found in the other. rather, my purpose here is to point out the contrast which is now clear in their respective administrative, and not only meditative, methodologies. some effects of this contrast are equally clear: while the goenka tradition has developed in such a way that offers greater accessibility to new practitioners - particularly to indians and westerners - and shows no sign of slowing down in this regard, the emphasis on attainment as a standard for maintaining authority and effecting transmission in the mahasi tradition has led to a proportionately greater number of path-winners. practitioners whose chief interest lies in reaching stream-entry would do well to take note of this.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

The 'pop' comment was, I feel, misleading. It was a bit poetic in that the pressure was like a balloon being blown up and the feeling was like that when you wait for someone's overblown balloon to burst. It never did. It is just absent at the moment without any sort of recognisable resolution.

the transition from (the knowledge of the) three characteristics to (early) a&p and the transition from re-observation to (early) equanimity (regarding formations) mimic one another, and it may be difficult to tell which is which, except by what came before and what comes after, all of which territories are described elaborately in the 'progress of insight' section of ingram's mctb, and more succinctly in the second section of mahasi's 'practical insight meditation'. have you read the latter book?


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

If I answered the query about the lights it would be from memory only and they are tricky things! If there was dimension it was slight, though I think bands of light flowing past did seem to be as if on a rounded surface. Just now the sits don't have any moving light phenomena - the lights behind the eyes vary with the level of lighting in the space I am sitting in - red glow outside with the occasional darker spot - flat white pinpricks of light with a bit of a shimmer to them in a darkened room.

thank you for your further descriptions.

to return once more to the matter of whether or not you have crossed the a&p: you have.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

Although all sits are not the same as in peaceful, settled, good samadhi (obviously!) it does feel like there has been a shift and I am enthusiastic again and scouting out a retreat for myself.

i see from your recent thread that you will be attending a retreat at gaia house in a month's time. what is the purpose of this retreat? are you aimed at completing path, or something else?

tarin

RE: A&P
Answer
10/13/11 6:18 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
Hi Tarin,
Thanks for getting back.

I hope the info about courses in the Goenka tradition was helpful. Although there is great variability in the assistant, senior and designated 'full teachers' I agree with the evaluation that the courses are most suitable for beginners and those returning students who have yet to cross A&P. The huge attribute of courses as taught by S.N. Goenka is that they are completely free and no-one chases you for a donation. I think their great drawback is that appointment as full teachers is dependent more on the amount of service and potential service given that on meditative attainments. It is also quite a closed system as those practising any sort of energetic healing are only allowed to sit one course unless they give up the energy-based practices and to sit longer courses one must be committed to the practice as taught by Goenka and not practising any other technique.

There is a centre very near me with a long course centre attached, but as I am now experimenting outside the tradition, I would not be allowed to sit longer than 10 days and could not, in honesty, apply and practise in a different way as one undertakes not to before the course starts.

Having now read MTCB a few times and re-read many parts and paying close attention to what is going on in my sits, I can spot that I mainly cycle up to re-observation in an hour sit, occasionally touching on low equanimity. Daniel says that after path one begins at A&P but before path one starts at M&B. I am absolutely ( well 99.99%) sure that i am not yet touching on path, but some sits start with A&P. I take one breath, I am concentrated and there are fine vibrations all over the body. It lasts a few seconds and then rapidly through the dukkha nanas - fear quite recognisable and a long time in re-observation. If I don't touch equanimity in the sit, the buzzy, agitated vibrations are with me for hours after the sit.

The retreat starts on 29th November and as it is expensive, I have saved enough to afford 14 days. I planned to develop concentration, moving from access concentration to whatever jhana I can attain.
I have made quiet time for the 2 weeks before, so that I can increase my sitting time.

I am open to advice, however, this is not written in stone.emoticon

To Daniel - many, many thanks for MTCB - my years of avoidance and suffering have been put in perspective and I am now eager to sit despite the desperate agitation and pain that often recur.
with metta
H

RE: A&P
Answer
10/13/11 11:54 PM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel Kathleen Strange:
some sits start with A&P. I take one breath, I am concentrated and there are fine vibrations all over the body. It lasts a few seconds and then rapidly through the dukkha nanas


I'm also pre-path (I'm pretty sure). Sometimes when I'm really discouraged I even feel I'm pre-A&P due to never being to reliably dissolve stuff into vibrations. Anyway I experience the same thing - vibrations/strobing immediately after sitting down, which last less than a minute before things quiet down.

Now that I think of it, this stage feels more like Dissolution than A&P, because it's very hard to grasp a specific sensation. It feels like attention is not quite working properly. Do you experience this as well? It definitely feels like only the endings of sensations are perceived.

I always assumed that this wasn't Dissolution or A&P or any other ñana but just some transient artifact of the mind settling down into a new task. Anyone else came across this? It does happen pretty much every time for me.

EDIT: Now that I think of it I'm pretty sure it (my experience, maybe not Hazel's) is just a visual artifact caused by the change in brightness as I close my eyes. For whatever reason, this causes the visual field to strobe, which confuses attention making it feel like everything else is strobing as well.

RE: A&P
Answer
10/14/11 2:58 AM as a reply to N A.
N A:

EDIT: Now that I think of it I'm pretty sure it (my experience, maybe not Hazel's) is just a visual artifact caused by the change in brightness as I close my eyes. For whatever reason, this causes the visual field to strobe, which confuses attention making it feel like everything else is strobing as well.


While it is true that some of the "light show" type experiences may not be all that significant or helpful, consider this: How exactly do you define a visual artifact? When you are looking at a blue sky and suddenly the sky starts strobing in and out of reality, that's an artifact, right? I mean it's not like the sky is actually disappearing several times per second (your friend standing next to you will usually be able to confirm this). So really, when you think about it, any strong (visual) A&P experience is going to be a (visual) artifact.

We use the word artifact because we assume the world is stable and independent of our observations. Then anything that makes it appear less stable (or in any way altered) to us because of how we relate to it is labeled an artifact. Once we understand that there is no independent, stable world to begin with, we can accept the fact that now we are experiencing the world more clearly because we are experiencing our relationship to the world more clearly, and we don't have to call the altered expecience an artifact anymore, but can instead label it a knowledge or ñāṇa.

RE: A&P
Answer
10/19/11 10:29 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Hi Tarin,

I have read Practical Insight Meditation and refer to it - though my noting is very non-verbal as there are so many sensations all the time and it seems little different from my usual practice - perhaps I am just dropping into old habits?

At the end of hour sits, from time to time I do move from chaotic vibrations to a more settled, easier time just observing sensations, though concentration is not quite so keen.

I don't have a clear idea of what 'equanimity regarding formations' means. I sort of know, but would appreciate a 'words of one syllable' explanation of what is meant by formations. Perhaps its just a semantic thing and I'll go 'duh!'emoticon

much metta
H

RE: A&P
Answer
10/27/11 2:32 PM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel Kathleen Strange:
Hi Tarin,

I have read Practical Insight Meditation and refer to it - though my noting is very non-verbal as there are so many sensations all the time and it seems little different from my usual practice - perhaps I am just dropping into old habits?

noting needn't be verbal. the technique of (silent) verbal noting is aimed at keeping your focus on-target and your attention continuous, as well as to indicate the mental movements which occur when sensations occur and are noticed (which mental movements are themselves also sensations subject to the three characteristics). should your attention already be continuous, and should you already be aware of what is indicated concerning those mental movements, it would be entirely justified to notice the sensations directly. keep in mind that as long as you stick to the three characteristics, insight practice is happening.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

At the end of hour sits, from time to time I do move from chaotic vibrations to a more settled, easier time just observing sensations, though concentration is not quite so keen.

have you thought about continuing to practice through low equanimity instead of calling time at the end of your pre-timed session?

if you choose to change postures after an hour (perhaps switching from sitting to walking or standing, or vice versa), be sure to keep practising just as intently during the moments of transition so that you don't lose the continuity and momentum.


Hazel Kathleen Strange:

I don't have a clear idea of what 'equanimity regarding formations' means. I sort of know, but would appreciate a 'words of one syllable' explanation of what is meant by formations. Perhaps its just a semantic thing and I'll go 'duh!'emoticon


think of a formation as this: when sensations are observed in a way that is full, clear, and distinct, and from a point of view that is also part of the formation.

you may find this recent post from ingram worth reading, particularly as it is relatively succinct compared to the passage on formations in MCTB.

http://dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2298797#_19_message_2304301

tarin

RE: A&P
Answer
10/30/11 3:08 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
thanks Tarin - clearer now - I know I'm not observing at this level yet.

I have two weeks personal retreat booked at Gaia House from 29th November and have the opportunity to practise at home fairly intensely for 2 weeks before that - couldn't afford 4 weeks at Gaia House.

I've also signed up for a 5 week work retreat at Gaia House from late February; this is also a silent retreat.

I have read the reformed slacker's guide and made a schedule for myself around the Gaia House timetable.

I was intending to develop jhanas in the personal retreat and noting practice in the work retreat.

I am open to suggestions and advice from anyone on how to make best use of these amazing opportunities.

peace and joy
H

RE: A&P
Answer
11/28/11 12:40 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
hi hazel,

as it is now only a day before your retreat at gaia house starts and as no one else has responded here, i will throw a few more thoughts in:

1
depending on how you understand the development of jhanas, you may or may not find yourself doing insight practice from time to time. though your (former?) tradition, at public level anyway, draws a distinction between concentration and insight quite clearly, not all do, and how much emphasis a teacher or tradition may place on the separation or otherwise between the two will depend on what that teacher or that tradition's antecedents at some point thought was most useful or most true. from what i understand of your practice history, you have spent most of that time - presumably, many thousands of hours - doing vipassana; should you draw a clear line between samatha and vipassana, the following may apply: it may not be the most efficient use of your time or energy to attempt to direct your attention to a task that runs counter to so much of the foundation you have already laid. some of the best advice i ever got from a teacher while on retreat was 'play to your strengths'. whether that advice was too contextual to be relevant or is more generally applicable (and, in particular, is applicable to you now) is an open question, but it worked for me.


2
you are probably aware that there are texts in the (pali recension of the) buddhist canon which either suggest or clearly state that jhanas can be investigated in real-time and that nibbana can be realised from jhana. most notable among these texts is probably the anupada sutta (mn 111, wherein the account given of sariputta's jhanic journey includes investigation and discernment the whole way through ('whatever qualities there are in jhana - - he ferreted them out...'). a contemporary voice strongly associated with the theravadan tradition has written on this topic. in his essay, bhante gunaratana asks 'Should We Come Out of Jhana to Practice Vipassana?', and in his reply, writes, 'If you want to come out of Jhana to practice Vipassana, then you should not waste your valuable time to attain it at all. You should use that time to practice Vipassana from the beginning.' (there is a context in which he writes this, of course.)


3
one possible practice strategy is to get up to the 4th jhana and then 'switch' from calm abiding to observing the impermanence (or any of the other general characteristics) of phenomena from there.


4
at first glance, the comments i have offered here may suggest that i have either forgotten or overlooked what you wrote about your purpose of retreat, which was 'to develop jhanas'. i haven't - i've only considered that you may have (also) meant, by that statement, that you intend to develop vipassana jhanas ... or, regardless of what you have intended, that you may end up developing those anyway.


best wishes with every precious second of your retreat.

tarin

RE: A&P
Answer
11/28/11 3:22 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
Hi Tarin,

Many thanks for encouragement - advice in other threads seem to be dropping adventitiously into my lap too.

Have been reading m118 and 119 too.

As you so rightly say, the thousands of hours of body scanning make it very difficult for one-pointed concentration on the breath as the sensations are so vivid they often take foreground.

Last sits, I have been with the breath but also aware of the whole body and relaxing head tension on the out breath. I know the sutta says 'breathing in he tranquilizes body formations' and 'breathing out he tranquilizes body formations', but I don't seem to be able to do it on the in breath. I resorted to just relaxing the hands on the in breath which seems OK and I'm not adding tension to be dissipated on the out breath.

Given that I manage to get to 4th Jhana, I intended to continue insight practice with that level of concentration. Whatever happens, even if I only manage a better level of access concentration, the concentrated investigation will be beneficial.

Have re-read the slacker's guide and have my plan worked out, given that I have to offer 1 hour's service per day. Case is packed, cushions and shawls ready, hubbies treats in the freezer, birthday cards and christmas presents made - all with the breath! - I can sit unencumbered today.

with metta
H

RE: A&P
Answer
11/28/11 5:01 AM as a reply to Hazel Kathleen Strange.
Hazel:
Last sits, I have been with the breath but also aware of the whole body and relaxing head tension on the out breath. I know the sutta says 'breathing in he tranquilizes body formations' and 'breathing out he tranquilizes body formations', but I don't seem to be able to do it on the in breath. I resorted to just relaxing the hands on the in breath which seems OK and I'm not adding tension to be dissipated on the out breath.


Im exactly the same Hazel. I have pretty much the same meditation training background as you I think.

Good luck with your retreat. It looks like a great one. I hope to do something similar next year and would love an opportunity to hear your thoughts on it when you get back!