No clue whatsoever!

Joshua Earon Little, modified 9 Years ago.

No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
Hey, I'm very happy to have found this forum and this thread, I really hope you all can help me!

My question is sort of twofold, first I'd obviously really, really appreciate being diagnosed but also, and although unrelated to the forum I'm posting in, I'd like to know if I'm practising vipassana correctly on account of never having actually met any Buddhists, been to a retreat or really having ever had any profound vipassana discussions.. My experience with Buddhism through literature and forums has always been more about the religion than insight, frankly and unfortunately. I think a lot of my problem is that all my experiences aren't by the book, and this is probably due to the fact that my approach isn't by the book either.

I started meditating over a year ago without really knowing what to do, I would focus on a fan, actually, and after meditating frequently and for a few weeks I experienced something weird (great rapture, intense body orgasm, sometimes accompanied by a rapid spinning feeling, blah blah), Googled it, and I think it was the first jhana. This went on for a while, while I thought this was profound at the time it was just concentration meditation, the good thing is that I've developed good concentration.. after getting into formless jhana territory for a bit and clearly being a jhana junkie it got much more difficult to attain jhanas, and then I had a fit of destructiveness and stopped with Buddhism in practise and on the forum I'd frequented. I don't know what was up with that, maybe I was being an ass, maybe I got into some Dark Night stuff, dunno.

Anyways, after having had a long philosophical bent for these last few months, and then tiring of that suddenly Buddhism came to demand my attention once more. This time with more vulnerability I think, as I was capable of admitting my faults and starting from scratch making the first vipassana jhana my goal.

Either that philosophical bent I had is marring my meditation with delusions of what insight is or it has greatly facilitated my practise. My approach has been a no-self one, I start off trying to calm my mind (and I like to concentrate on a fan still when my mind wanders too much, I just suck at the breath) and I focus on, basically, discovering that I am purely awareness. I try to divorce first the sense doors from myself, then feelings and such, emotions and mind objects, etc. with the latter bits getting difficult, then I will get meticulous and focus on things like noticing the back of my eyelids, then the act of noticing and then the act of deliberating to do these things, deliberating to deliberate, etc. At this point I descend through what I believe are jhanas, however, this Dark Night junk doesn't affect me. And since I've never read an approach to insight quite like this I don't know if I'm doing it right? Anyways, this approach will allow me to dip in and out of pure-ish awareness here and there, and I try to remember that feeling intuitively and bring myself back to it, as, for example, deliberating to not deliberate is counter productive, it only takes you so far. Another point, like in Daniel's book I'll note that I'm using memory, or at a certain point being too aware that I'm in the present means I'm probably a split second in the past.

So.. after a bit my awareness of space and time seems to dip in and out, sometimes for several minutes or more.. I think that might be a formless jhana, dunno. Anyways, that leads to last night, I seemed to have hit a wall, normally the jhanas present themselves with a bang, like I've shifted into them, rather, last night, it was more like a slow evolution. I was meticulous, my craving for them, the bliss from them, the interestingness of the formless, the wonder, deliberation, it was all no-self to me, I wanted to discover who I really was, the awareness. It seemed like I hit a wall though, I just rested in this place that reminds me of descriptions of the sediment in a lake floating to the bottom, leaving pristine water without a ripple. I was wondering if that was the fourth nana? But I thought it was beyond (I usually characterize the A&P with seeing little lights and junk, rapture and something around the body orgasm sort of feelings, deep in the form jhanas), but I don't want to get ahead of myself, as I'd be pissed to discover I'd only made a fraction of the progress I thought I had. Well, I was thinking, maybe I'll try one last thing, since I always progress through meditation with the lens of no-self, let's try impermanence. Honestly, I thought it sounded less profound and too obvious. Well, my mind starts chugging along again very rapidly, and suddenly, and this might sound cheesy? It's like I come face to face (yeah, its formless) with my awareness at loooong last, and I clearly see who I normally associate myself with, but without, as Daniel would say, all my "stuff", just the bare kernel of this guy I've always associated with since a little kid. He hasn't changed much. But it's just an association, a fiction, I see it practically, at the core, far deeper than all the other layers of "stuff", here lies the deepest layer, the association, and then I clearly see dukkha finally, I see how I grasp for it. It becomes as clear as day, interesting because philosophically it makes clear sense too, not beyond the imagination, but I guess to clearly see it makes all the difference. Then it occurs to me to do something Daniel said, combine the no-self and impermanence into one. BANG! It's like an ultra-jhana feeling, a coldness descends upon me, my heart is racing, it's like I nearly merge with infinity or something, it felt like I completed what I was trying to do.

As I implied, I've been accustomed to using intuition, whether this is good or bad, I don't know, probably both, and my intuition has taken me this far and last night my intuition told me I got what I was seeking, but the ego (Daniel doesn't like this vagueness huh? ;) ) is a powerful thing. It sounds like a number of different nanas in one. So I'm very confused.. I had a lot of afterglow from it last night, but after waking up I'm basically the same, though I'm different in my conviction of no-self and I feel like the ultimate goal is to make that experience as fresh and strong as possible as often, I wonder if enlightenment is to be that permanently? Dare I say, was that a fruition? Or was that just A&P? Or just some nutty nana?

This was a bit long and often irrelevant, hehe, sorry about that. I'd realllllly appreciate any help please!!
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hi Joshua,

Welcome to the DhO.

Your meditation sounds closer to shikantaza than vipassana. There's a lot of speculation and guesswork in your post which makes it difficult to get a good look at what's going on in your sits right now. It's not helpful to your practice and, if anything, ends up being a colossal waste of time; this is said from experience 'cause it's exactly what I did at first.

As for the diagnostic side of things, the only thing I could say with any certainty is that you've crossed the A&P, which equates to the 2nd vipassana jhana. I would be skeptical of claiming stream entry without more phenomenological details of what happens during your sits as there are points along the way which can seem like you've attained a fruition, but actually you still haven't crossed the line. A few of the things you say through your post suggest that you have not attained to this stage of enlightenment. Getting stream entry seems to be about getting up the momentum to get to, as I've seen it so wonderfully described elsewhere on here, "escape velocity" and landing 1st path and so a solid, precise and disciplined practice will undoubtedly get you there.

If you really are getting into the formless jhanas then you're getting to the 4th vipassana jhana a.k.a. Equanimity, which may also account for the way awareness of space and time dips in and out in the way you've described. If this is the case then there's a very good chance you will get 1st path with continued practice. Your lack of progress right now may be down to solidifying this into a samatha jhana, it's a common thing to happen but is easily avoided if you continue to accurately investigate phenomena, including sensations implying "intuition", and observe the three characteristics. Which brings me to this....

Well, I was thinking, maybe I'll try one last thing, since I always progress through meditation with the lens of no-self, let's try impermanence. Honestly, I thought it sounded less profound and too obvious

None of the three characteristics are anything less than profound!! To take this view is a huge mistake; seeing how every single sensation is impermanent, empty and unsatisfactory, including those sensations implying that there is "you" there to experience this as it happens, is what does the damage. You can choose to examine one of the characteristics more closely, sure, but observation of the 3C's is the core of good insight practice.

Start up a practice thread and describe the phenomenological details of your sits, avoid any speculation or guessing, just describe what actually happens as this will make a more accurate diagnosis, or as close as you're going to get on an online forum, of where you're at.

Best of luck and I look forward to hearing more.
Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
Hehe, yeah, I'd be skeptical of claiming stream entry too, it was just such a unique experience. I'm very glad you think I've gone beyond the A&P!

I don't have any clue what escape velocity means, a search didn't help emoticon

I really don't know how to know if I'm in a formless jhana, it honestly just seems to be the most logical way to describe the experience. The most interesting thing is that the final stage of a sit usually involves more awareness and deliberating than earlier in the sit, in the middle there will be some of that "rabid dog" investigation and vibrations, that will slowly solidify and after much more investigation and changes in meditation characteristics I tend to hit a wall, that wall I described as a placid lake, where thoughts are so subtle and yet I don't fail to investigate but I get nowhere.. well, I did the first time, which inspired this post, but the last two days -> nowhere. Just a damn wall.

You know, that meditation was only 40 minutes, and the last two were 30. The perception of the duration of time of the wall is hard to determine as time more or less tightropes between hardly noticeable to non-existent but I want to say maybe 10 minutes or so I rested there--at this point I will usually stop. Is that bad, should I stick it out longer and wait the wall out?

Come to think of it, that rabid dog-like investigation will sometimes imply a coming headache, or at least the feeling of an uncomfortable strain, is this normal? Maybe I could try that during this wall? That torturous concentration (a bit melodramatic of me). Maybe another problem is that I don't entirely understand the difference between shamatha and vipassana meditation, do the lines sometimes blur? On the gross level it seems obvious, but when my self-identification dwindles it seems the methods of both blur except for some very subtle, intuitive investigating.. which complicates things, as how do I cease that and not be in shamatha? This is the concern of the other guy's (N A's) response.

If I can shoot around in the dark and ask a lot of unrelated and numerous questions, is it bad that I don't experience any dark night junk? I believe I got a bit freaked out over a year ago but that was surely more on account that I didn't know about jhanas and I'm not a mystical person, it took me off guard, and well, the other day I experienced it during my first meditation or two after reading MCTB, but it only lasted for a minute or two, it was once, and only after that book which leads me to wonder if I was projecting my hopes onto my meditation. Of course I'd like to think I'm not that guy, I normally am not, but again, I want stream entry pretty badly, I wouldn't put it past my ego.
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
I don't have any clue what escape velocity means, a search didn't help

Sorry about any confusion caused there, I actually read something by Vince Horn, Buddhist Geeks founder and all 'round good guy, today where he describes this better than I can:

One could liken this process to that of a rocket ship taking off from Earth on its way to another planet. At the beginning of the launch the rocket ship must use most of its fuel to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth. But at a certain point, with enough thrust and momentum, it will achieve what’s called “escape velocity” where the ship is going fast enough and has gone far enough that it has escaped the gravitational pull of the planet. At some point, once it gets far enough into space it takes very little energy and effort to continue moving (as there is much less resistance). Stream-entry is like attaining escape velocity.
http://www.vincenthorn.com/2008/12/07/the-importance-of-stream-entry/

The most interesting thing is that the final stage of a sit usually involves more awareness and deliberating than earlier in the sit, in the middle there will be some of that "rabid dog" investigation and vibrations, that will slowly solidify and after much more investigation and changes in meditation characteristics I tend to hit a wall, that wall I described as a placid lake, where thoughts are so subtle and yet I don't fail to investigate but I get nowhere.. well, I did the first time, which inspired this post, but the last two days -> nowhere. Just a damn wall.

Possibly Re-Observation into early Equanimity, if this is the case then it's all good and now it's just a matter of investigating the subtle sensations still being noticed. Look at what's implying any sense of an observer, investigate this and see if it behaves any differently to any other sensation, look at what's implying that there's still a "me" there to be experiencing this as it unfolds. I think that you've got some strong concentration skills but this is what could be preventing you from exploring further, if you solidify this ñana, insight knowledge, into a samatha jhana, a concentration attainment, then you'll miss a lot of really subtle stuff happening which can make the difference between getting a path and not getting path.

You know, that meditation was only 40 minutes, and the last two were 30. The perception of the duration of time of the wall is hard to determine as time more or less tightropes between hardly noticeable to non-existent but I want to say maybe 10 minutes or so I rested there--at this point I will usually stop. Is that bad, should I stick it out longer and wait the wall out?

Drop any attempts to keep track of the duration of time as this will distract from the practice at hand. Set a timer, sit down, shut your eyes (if that's what you do) and don't open them again until the alarm goes off. Before you sit down, try making a resolution to notice as many sensations as possible for the time you intend to sit for and then stick to it. One of the best bits of advice I ever got was from Tarin Greco and it changed my practice massively so I can recommend this highly: Mindfulness before your arse even hits the cushion, even if it's only ten minutes or so before you sit just start gently paying attention to what's going on right now, just basic 'Mindfulness 101' stuff, being 'tuned in' to this way of observing reality before you sit formally will save you time on preparation or getting into a groove.

Come to think of it, that rabid dog-like investigation will sometimes imply a coming headache, or at least the feeling of an uncomfortable strain, is this normal?

This is a tough call 'cause I went at it like a rabid dog constantly, to the point of being imbalanced and experiencing psychotic breaks, so it's not an approach I would readily recommend although fast progress is possible. Headaches and straining aren't unusual, in fact I associate a lot of bodily discomfort with the 3rd and 10th ñanas so just sit with those feelings and notice them. They will pass, 'cause that's what they do, so watch how this happens.

Maybe another problem is that I don't entirely understand the difference between shamatha and vipassana meditation, do the lines sometimes blur? On the gross level it seems obvious, but when my self-identification dwindles it seems the methods of both blur except for some very subtle, intuitive investigating.. which complicates things, as how do I cease that and not be in shamatha? This is the concern of the other guy's (N A's) response.

It's generally quite complicated anyway, the old texts don't make a distinction between vipassana and samatha, and once you're in Equanimity then you're in a mix of samatha/vipassana anyway so it's not a clear call to make. I did straight up Mahasi-style noting all the way, only bringing the samatha practice later in my progress, so I don't want to confuse you or give you unhelpful information that could mess up your practice.

I'll post a few links at the bottom of the page to some sites which might help you with this.

If I can shoot around in the dark and ask a lot of unrelated and numerous questions, is it bad that I don't experience any dark night junk?

Ask away! Question everything!! Ha!

As I said, I think you've got some strong concentration skills and this could account for the lack of Dark Night stuff. It's not a bad thing at all! There's a teacher called Culdassa who's got a lot of interesting stuff on this and how going through the jhanas rather than using noting may lead to a much smoother ride. I'll post a link to it at the bottom too.

I believe I got a bit freaked out over a year ago but that was surely more on account that I didn't know about jhanas and I'm not a mystical person, it took me off guard, and well, the other day I experienced it during my first meditation or two after reading MCTB, but it only lasted for a minute or two, it was once, and only after that book which leads me to wonder if I was projecting my hopes onto my meditation

Could be, although it's difficult to give you an accurate answer to that one. The whole projecting thing is just one of those things that can happen, don't beat yourself up over it, move on and learn from it.

Of course I'd like to think I'm not that guy, I normally am not, but again, I want stream entry pretty badly, I wouldn't put it past my ego.

I know what it's like to be like that too, I fucked up a good few times along the way and thought I was further on than I was. Sure, it's a kick in the balls to find out you're not where you think you are, but those times proved to be turning point in my own practice as it just strengthened my resolve to get this thing done. Turn all these things to your advantage, you can absolutely do this and to believe otherwise is pointless. It feels good to think that you've gotten this attainment or that jhana, but when it comes down to it the most important thing about the whole thing is that you're reducing fundamental suffering with every single second you practice and it all adds up.

Look at the sensations you're labeling as "ego", are they permanent? Do they last any longer than a split second? Are they what is still observing this experience?

Don't worry too much about terminology and all that 'cause it'll fall into place with good practice, and the best way to learn what the words mean is to experience it for yourself.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Joshua L.:
Well, my mind starts chugging along again very rapidly, and suddenly, and this might sound cheesy? It's like I come face to face (yeah, its formless) with my awareness at loooong last, and I clearly see who I normally associate myself with, but without, as Daniel would say, all my "stuff", just the bare kernel of this guy I've always associated with since a little kid. He hasn't changed much. But it's just an association, a fiction, I see it practically, at the core, far deeper than all the other layers of "stuff", here lies the deepest layer, the association, and then I clearly see dukkha finally, I see how I grasp for it.


I have experienced this a few times, although it wasn't followed by any bangs (I'm definitely pre-stream entry). I got very excited because it's so close to descriptions in MCTB in the chapter about the three doors (you should re-read it if you haven't yet). I'm hoping that seeing it clearly is a sign of being in Equanimity. Still there seems to be a lot of work to be done for a truly centerless perspective - e.g. when it "occured to you" to try focus on both impermanence and no-self, were you aware of this occuring occuring, was it occuring as part of the perceived self or was it still "outside"? Etc....
Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
That's interesting that you ask that, it occurred to me that it implied a lot of dualism when I typed it. It's hard to remember the specifics, I haven't been able to reproduce this state in the last two days, but I there had to have been a self.

I keep hitting something now which was the same thing I rested in before that bang moment, that wall I described, I wonder if it is equanimity, but it's not absolutely beyond space and time, it can be so looking back on it, but it feels like it might be more of a trance or maybe it's that 4th concentration jhana? I'm no good with the difference between these things yet.

Erm.. to get back on track: So you're saying that what I should do at this point is to investigate my center of self? It seems it would lead to not thinking, which I find confusing because Daniel said I shouldn't take that route, though I don't remember the specifics. The thinking is very subtle, it's really about intuitively registering sensations in all the frames of reference. You're saying then that I ought to investigate the intuition and continue through any finer implications of a self?

I hope I'm in the ballpark of what you're saying, and thank you very much!
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Tommy M, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Still there seems to be a lot of work to be done for a truly centerless perspective

This doesn't happen until 4th path, the experiences you and Joshua are describing sound, to me at least, like you're getting into 11th ñana and possibly solidifying it into 4th samatha jhana due to not investigating the subtle sensations still implying an observer.

when it "occured to you" to try focus on both impermanence and no-self, were you aware of this occuring occuring, was it occuring as part of the perceived self or was it still "outside"?

You're overcomplicating this here, everything is always "occurring", try to pay more attention to what is occurring, by which I mean the object currently arising and passing in awareness, not occurrence itself. Look at sensations implying an "outside" to the thing, these are just as transient, empty and unsatisfying as any other.
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Tommy M:
when it "occured to you" to try focus on both impermanence and no-self, were you aware of this occuring occuring, was it occuring as part of the perceived self or was it still "outside"?

You're overcomplicating this here, everything is always "occurring", try to pay more attention to what is occurring, by which I mean the object currently arising and passing in awareness, not occurrence itself. Look at sensations implying an "outside" to the thing, these are just as transient, empty and unsatisfying as any other.


Sorry if it sounded confusing (probably because of "occuring" being used with two different meanings), but I think that's what I meant. My current understanding is that some sensations are clearly perceived as "sensations", while other sensations, those implying the self, are also perceived, but misinterpreted as being "outside" the sensate field. And as long as they are misinterpreted that way, you're not really "aware" of them - you "are" them. And the objective of vipassana is to eliminate this "outside" by seeing everything as sensations, including things like "it occurring to you to focus on bla". Would you agree with this?

It seems difficult to catch these sensations - whenever I feel I got them, it seems it's really just a memory of them from a moment ago, and there's still "me", outside, "watching" that memory...
Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
N A, I feel you. A bunch of meticulous stuff this vipassana is.

Tommy, thanks a lot for all the attention and encouragement. If I really am in such deep nanas, I find that really, really motivating. If not, emoticon, I won't stop either way.

You spoke about being mindful, and along the lines of what it seems a person attempts during a retreat, to be ever mindful, say for an entire week, month or several, dawn till dusk, was something I tried, maybe ten minutes. You know how the perception of time can slow, for example when bored, while being mindful, it seems to come to a near halt. That was a long, exhausting ten minutes. How people do this for upwards of twenty hours is intense, U Pandita seems to call it heroic, I can see that, geeze.

Well, that wall I was describing, yesterday I felt like I got deeper in a sense, though it was the same wall I think, only it was as if I was getting closer to the goal, much closer. I'm glad you tell me it is true that vipassana and samatha lines do blur, I could see this yesterday. Sometimes I have an aversion to not thinking, especially because of Daniel's book (if I remember correctly), perhaps he said this and I don't remember but it seems rather that not thinking is okay so long as one is actively aware, even though that awareness gets to be pretty subtle business in the deep nanas. On to the point, I hit a very stable nana, whatever nana it be, I could invesitage and sink deeper maybe, but I wasn't about to slip back, I was there for maybe 1.5 hours and I felt I could stay there far longer, something which has never happened to me before, not with that ease, stability and prospective, however, due to external reasons I felt obligated to stop. Stopping aside, is this a good sign? I doubt I'll be at any retreat within the next several years, do you think I still have a shot at stream entry without retreat?

And since you encourage questions, one last important one: nana, with the tilte, is properly pronounced nyana, correct? ;)
Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: No clue whatsoever!

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
Hey, last night the same thing as I described above happened, I really thought it was equanimity.. after a bit I think I broke past it, it got so subtle.. then you know what? I'm experiencing a heat through my body, I'm hot and a tiny bit agitated, my knee hurts, and then my mood plummets. I'm thinking this sounds like Dark Night junk, don't tell me I just hit the third jhana for the first time? But I swear before this I felt 4 distinct shifts into progressively deeper jhanas. After a few minutes I was getting derailed, about to give up thinking I'd deceived myself and then I attempted to find some energy and objectified everything I felt, it ended and then it was the most subtle ever, with a bit of rapture, I had a vague smile. I investigated that awareness, blah... it went on for well over an hour, I seemed it was "blipping" nearly into what I thought would have to be nothingness, I'd always subtly register it though, my intuition told me the blips should last a few more moments.

Um, was I on the brink of stream entry? Or am I just way too over-excited?

..

I just reread the last paragraph in Daniel's chapter on Eqanimity:

"Separating the early stages of Equanimity from its mature stage, there tends to be a “near miss,” moment when we get very close to the fruit of the path, which serves to really chill one out, as it were. From this point enlightenment is likely to be attained quickly as long as the meditator continues to simply practice and gently fine-tune their awareness and precision, paying gentle attention to things like thoughts of progress and satisfaction with equanimity. At some point even this becomes boring, and a certain cool apathy and even forgetfulness arises. Around this part of Equanimity there can arise the feeling that we are not really there, or that somehow we are completely out of phase with reality. Conducting our ordinary business may be difficult in this phase if we are out in the world rather than on the cushion, but it tends to last only tens of minutes at most. The sense that one is practicing or trying to get anywhere just vanishes, and yet this may hardly be noticeable at all. We sort of come back, with luminosity again growing predominant. Then we get lost in thoughts about something, some strangely clear reverie, vision, object, or flight of fancy. By really buying in, we get set up to check out. When understanding is completely in conformity with the way things are, this is called..."

Hmm?