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is this emptiness?
Answer
12/11/20 7:04 PM
Hello,

I hope someone can help me with this. One or 2 months ago I was meditating, felt very deep and quiet and it was noticed that there was only space that was beyond "me", meaning that space was me and the physical barriers were just gone and that lasted intensely for a day or two. In that period, it is very difficult to explain but it was felt or perceived that although everything is boundless "space", there were objects seen by my eyes and perceived, though just like a hologram: objects are there, but in some sense only "space" is perceived where objects are, as in some sense they are not existent, however I can still feel them and interact with them, as they exist but do not exist. The intensity of the episode has gone away but now with a little attention I can still perceive that "boundless space", and objects are "non existent" and just "space" if I'm not interacting with them. It is like more than objects, things are just an experience and not "inherently existent". Is this emptiness?

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/11/20 8:22 PM as a reply to A. Mendez.
Hi A.,

I don't want to judge but emptiness isn't a precept or a quality of perception. With respect to perception, it is basically a realization that perception itself is driven by clinging, and that clinging is driven by perception. That is, that clinging and perception co-arise, so neither has any real and lasting essence.

If you want to explore emptiness in your meditation, I'd suggest checking out the book "The Seeing the Frees" by Rob Burbea. Rob gives some meditation exercises for cultivating insight into emptiness. Rob describes the kind of experience you relate as one step on the path to realizing the emptiness of the perception/clinging co-arising nexus. I just reread the book after a couple years, and was struck by the quality of Rob's instruction and his deep insight.

Hope that helps.

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/12/20 4:22 AM as a reply to A. Mendez.
A. Mendez:
Hello,

I hope someone can help me with this. One or 2 months ago I was meditating, felt very deep and quiet and it was noticed that there was only space that was beyond "me", meaning that space was me and the physical barriers were just gone and that lasted intensely for a day or two. In that period, it is very difficult to explain but it was felt or perceived that although everything is boundless "space", there were objects seen by my eyes and perceived, though just like a hologram: objects are there, but in some sense only "space" is perceived where objects are, as in some sense they are not existent, however I can still feel them and interact with them, as they exist but do not exist. The intensity of the episode has gone away but now with a little attention I can still perceive that "boundless space", and objects are "non existent" and just "space" if I'm not interacting with them. It is like more than objects, things are just an experience and not "inherently existent". Is this emptiness?

Hello, Senor Mendez, and welcome to DhO! You've picked a marvelous place to dive in, I must say, with this question. "Is this emptiness?" as question, koan, or mantra, will keep you interested for eons, in my experience.

Strikingly, in Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, the first edition's chapter 28 was entitled "Was That Emptiness?" In the second edition, that chapter ends up being chapter 32, now entitled "What was that?" Daniel explains: "I changed this chapter's title from 'Was That Emptiness?' since I have realized that 'emptiness' is a loaded term that is variously interpreted in different Buddhist philosophical systems. These interpretations are then refiltered, distorted, and misinterpreted by some of those who study and expound on these tenets. Adding to that, the generally negative connotations in English of the word 'emptiness' increases the confusion, which is why I have changed the chapter's name for this edition."

I would recommend reading that whole chapter in MCTB2, for starters. It will put your question in excellent context.

I would also take heart from this, from the same chapter: "The first and perhaps most important point is that from a certain perspective it is not an important question if you are practicing well and will continue to practice well, as good practice moves things along."

Speaking personally, and pragmatically, I would say that in a broad sense, "emptiness" is something we begin to get a sense of through the assiduous observation of the Three Characteristics of impermanence, suffering, and no-self, anicca, dukkha, and anatta, in everything that arises. It may be going too far to suggest that "emptiness" is what begins to make us truly and deeply miserable, terrified, etc., at the entry into the "Knowledges of Suffering," the dukkha nanas of the Dark Night. The entry nanas there, "Dissolution," sort of implies this: what we believed to be solid and reliable melts away, and it freaks the fuck out of us. In this same vein, from one angle Equanimity would be achieving some viable degree of acceptance of what has dissolved, an acceptance that deepens into peace with "emptiness." But that's just my two cents worth.

Again, welcome to the sangha here, and may your path through emptiness, by way of emptiness, to arrive in emptiness without ever having departed from it, be full and rich and fruitful.

love, tim

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/12/20 5:11 AM as a reply to A. Mendez.
Hiya A,

At a guess and based on your brief descriptions, this sounds more like either Knowledge of the Arising & Passing Away or possibly Knowledge of Equanimity territory.

It'd be helpful to know more about the specifics of your practice and what you were doing prior to the arising of this experience.

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/12/20 7:21 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
Hiya A,

At a guess and based on your brief descriptions, this sounds more like either Knowledge of the Arising & Passing Away or possibly Knowledge of Equanimity territory.

It'd be helpful to know more about the specifics of your practice and what you were doing prior to the arising of this experience.
Hi Tommy,

My practice at the moment is sitting and being aware of being aware, observing arising/passing or "expanding/dissolving" with self inquiry. Particularly the night that happened, I believe it was a guided meditation where the focus was something like physical limits and boundless space.

And thank you for your replies also Tim and svmonk, everything is greatly appreciated!

AM

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/13/20 9:42 AM as a reply to A. Mendez.
My practice at the moment is sitting and being aware of being aware, observing arising/passing or "expanding/dissolving" with self inquiry. Particularly the night that happened, I believe it was a guided meditation where the focus was something like physical limits and boundless space.

Thanks for the additional information! That seems to suggest that it was more like a 4th ñana thing than direct experiencing of emptiness, although there can certainly be glimpses of that along the way. Knowledge of the Arising & Passing away can throw some very interesting stuff into the mix, so please don't be discouraged. If you're able to become aware of that boundlessness then you're doing something right, so keep at it.

With regards to your practice itself, it may be helpful to distinguish between observing the arising and passing away of phenomena, and the more coarse-level expansion/contraction phenomena relating to the process of imputation of self.

Hope this helps, practice well.

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/13/20 1:53 PM as a reply to A. Mendez.
Sounds a bit like soft fifth jhanic state. From MCTB Ch 28 Formless Realms:

"Formless realms with eyes open?” you might reasonably ask. Yes. Here we get into interesting territory when it comes to categorizing meditative phenomena. There is something I term j4.j5, meaning that we are really in the fourth jhana but have tuned strongly to its boundless elements while not detuning entirely from form, achieving some hybrid that sits on the boundary between the two. Many eyes-open experiences that have vast, seemingly unitive aspects are like this. However, a rare few with strong concentration can shift attention to spaces that have truly detuned from what is around them in ordinary visual terms and to the vastness of a wholly different space from the ordinary material one, yet with eyes open.

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/13/20 3:29 PM as a reply to George S.
In a similar vein, speaking of the fifth jhana, Thanissaro Bhikkhu says, in With Each & Every Breath, "To become adept at staying with the perception of infinite space, you can try holding to it even when you’ve left formal meditation. As you go through the day, replace your inner focus on the breath at a spot in the body with a focus on the perception of “space” permeating everything: your body, the space around the body, other people, the physical objects around you. Hold that perception of space in the back of your mind. Whatever’s happening inside or outside your body, it’s all happening in the context of that perception of space. This creates a great feeling of lightness as you go through the day. If you can maintain this perception in the midst of your daily activities, you’ll have an easier time accessing it and staying steadily focused on it each time you sit down for formal meditation." (https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/WithEachAndEveryBreath/Contents.html)

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/14/20 12:14 AM as a reply to Martin.
Martin:
In a similar vein, speaking of the fifth jhana, Thanissaro Bhikkhu says, in With Each & Every Breath, "To become adept at staying with the perception of infinite space, you can try holding to it even when you’ve left formal meditation. As you go through the day, replace your inner focus on the breath at a spot in the body with a focus on the perception of “space” permeating everything: your body, the space around the body, other people, the physical objects around you. Hold that perception of space in the back of your mind. Whatever’s happening inside or outside your body, it’s all happening in the context of that perception of space. This creates a great feeling of lightness as you go through the day. If you can maintain this perception in the midst of your daily activities, you’ll have an easier time accessing it and staying steadily focused on it each time you sit down for formal meditation." (https://www.dhammatalks.org/books/WithEachAndEveryBreath/Contents.html)
Thanks Martin,

Since that "shift" this is what I have trying to do off the cushion, being aware of the spacious quality of what is, though in times it is difficult to maintain especially with interactions that need your full attention but it has been quite interesting. 

Thanks agnostic and Tommy for your help also. Everyone has been of great help and I appreciate it

AM

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/14/20 3:27 PM as a reply to A. Mendez.
To take Martin's sound advice a step further...

As you go through the day, replace your inner focus on the breath at a spot in the body with a focus on the perception of “space” permeating everything

Try placing the focus at the spot around four-finger widths below your belly button. There's a really interesting spaciousness that opens up by doing this. Don't force it, just gently become aware of that space, rest in it and you may find it easier to cultivate what Thanissaro Bhikku is pointing to.

Edited to add: With practice in continually placing awareness in that spot, you'll find it much easier to maintain it in everyday life and during conversations, etc.

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/15/20 4:56 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
This was useful to me thanks. I haven't really paid attention to that spot before because it's a bit of a no man's land, sitting between two strong energy areas. But yeah just like you said, there's a nice bit of space there and it's good to have somewhere to anchor that spaciousness other than the head (which is where the space elmenent is "supposed" to reside, but I have strong kundalini stuff up there which tends to dominate).

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/16/20 11:10 PM as a reply to George S.
agnostic:
This was useful to me thanks. I haven't really paid attention to that spot before because it's a bit of a no man's land, sitting between two strong energy areas. But yeah just like you said, there's a nice bit of space there and it's good to have somewhere to anchor that spaciousness other than the head (which is where the space elmenent is "supposed" to reside, but I have strong kundalini stuff up there which tends to dominate).
Useful to me too, it happens the same to me. There is a tendency to have a "center" in the head so having some "decentralization" is helpful. Initially, for me it was more visual but now is more sensory, perceptual and tactile. One of the ways I have been exploring it is perceiving space as things go away from my perception, for example when you have a pen in your hand and drop it, it is like it completely disappeared into that space and only space remains in its place even if you can see it, and another way for me has been trying to "dissolve the body" in space, if that makes any sense to anyone

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/17/20 10:10 AM as a reply to A. Mendez.
A. Mendez:

another way for me has been trying to "dissolve the body" in space, if that makes any sense to anyone

I find it an interesting exercise to sit staring at my body and ask 'how do I know this is my body?'

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/17/20 10:57 AM as a reply to George S.
agnostic:
A. Mendez:

another way for me has been trying to "dissolve the body" in space, if that makes any sense to anyone

I find it an interesting exercise to sit staring at my body and ask 'how do I know this is my body?'

One of the first forms of meditation I did (although I didn't know it was meditation at the time) was this... when I was a kid I would sit and ask, "How do I know I'm alive?" or, "How do I know this is real?" and, "Are we really alive? What's going on here?"... and I'd kind of sit there and dwell on it and get totally awed by the simple fact that life seems like it exists, but that I couldn't really prove that it was real. Maybe I was a weird kid, but I totally remember doing that. 

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/17/20 11:55 AM as a reply to Steph.
I used to do similar sorts of things. I would stare at familiar objects until I couldn't tell what they were any more. I would repeat words in my head until they lost their meaning. I would try to catch myself falling asleep. When I woke up I would determine not to move and watch to see which urge won out. Guess I was a weird kid too. emoticon

RE: is this emptiness?
Answer
12/17/20 2:54 PM as a reply to Steph.
Steph S:
agnostic:
A. Mendez:

another way for me has been trying to "dissolve the body" in space, if that makes any sense to anyone

I find it an interesting exercise to sit staring at my body and ask 'how do I know this is my body?'

One of the first forms of meditation I did (although I didn't know it was meditation at the time) was this... when I was a kid I would sit and ask, "How do I know I'm alive?" or, "How do I know this is real?" and, "Are we really alive? What's going on here?"... and I'd kind of sit there and dwell on it and get totally awed by the simple fact that life seems like it exists, but that I couldn't really prove that it was real. Maybe I was a weird kid, but I totally remember doing that. 



from "the complete works of chuang tzu" trans burton watson:

https://terebess.hu/english/chuangtzu1.html#16




Nieh Ch'ueh asked Wang Ni, "Do you know what all things agree in calling right?"

"How would I know that?" said Wang Ni.

"Do you know that you don't know it?"

"How would I know that?"

"Then do things know nothing?"

"How would I know that? However, suppose I try saying something. What way do I have of knowing that if I say I know something I don't really not know it? Or what way do I have of knowing that if I say I don't know something I don't really in fact know it? Now let me ask you some questions. If a man sleeps in a damp place, his back aches and he ends up half paralyzed, but is this true of a loach? If he lives in a tree, he is terrified and shakes with fright, but is this true of a monkey? Of these three creatures, then, which one knows the proper place to live? Men eat the flesh of grass-fed and grain-fed animals, deer eat grass, centipedes find snakes tasty, and hawks and falcons relish mice. Of these four, which knows how food ought to taste? Monkeys pair with monkeys, deer go out with deer, and fish play around with fish. Men claim that Mao-ch'iang and Lady Li were beautiful, but if fish saw them they would dive to the bottom of the stream, if birds saw them they would fly away, and if deer saw them they would break into a run. Of these four, which knows how to fix the standard of beauty for the world? The way I see it, the rules of benevolence and righteousness and the paths of right and wrong are all hopelessly snarled and jumbled. How could I know anything about such discriminations?"

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