RE: 4th Path

Will G, modified 27 Days ago.

4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
This forum has been a really valuable resource for me over the years and helped me make quick progress. I hope this post may help others do the same.

I started practicing Vipassana in 2017 in the hopes of overcoming low-grade depression that I had had since late childhood but that really began to cripple my functioning by early adulthood. I’m 28 now. Some gateways into dharma were interests in philosophy, art, music, and regular use of psychedelics, particularly psilocybin. Some of my first relevant experiences occurred shortly after starting to practice but were facilitated by psychedelics and painting, and fell into the “no-mind” category, which is to say they involved the prolonged disappearance of any sense of self or awareness, followed by a vivid re-congealing of self-identification. I also had an experience on psilocybin years before I started meditating that was very scary, in which I thought I had dissociated or lost my mind, but looking back was actually similar to some of my experiences in 3rd path. I’m mapping my progress to the Progress of Insight/MCTB maps, but throughout the process I was much more focused on specific insights, and besides the fact that I was clearly cycling through the stages, the actual path moments usually weren’t obvious. That being said, knowledge of the maps relatively early on was helpful, and I think it actually made me progress faster. My assessment is just based on my own experience, and best guesses. I’ve never had a teacher assess me.


A+P
- Jan 2018

This was easily the most intense experience of my life up until that point. It happened after reading Sam Harris’s book Waking Up, specifically the chapter on Douglas Harding and his book On Having No Head, in which instructions are given to turn attention back on itself and directly notice the absence of a self in the centre of awareness. I had been practicing Vipassana to the best of my knowledge for about 6 months by that time, for 20 minutes a day, but had no real idea what I was doing. I immediately saw what was being pointed to, and understood its significance. The ensuing experience, which far outpaced my insights by that point, lasted over a week and was similar to my much later experience of 3rd path: intensely luminous, unsupported, bouncy, effortless and utterly liberating. The way I felt during this week would, for better or worse, serve as a benchmark from which to compare every other experience I would have over the next two years. It provided me with a taste of a goal I knew was possible, and a doorway into understanding descriptions of more advanced territory. The psychological ramifications of these insights and event were huge. Gone were any traces of depression, existential angst, and much of the general social discomfort I had dealt with since childhood. I felt like I had just done years of therapy in a few months of meditation practice. I highly recommend Sam’s book and app for anyone starting out.


I Am
- 2018

I hadn’t yet found a map that described what had happened, and tried to recreate the experience for weeks, cycling back and forth through the insight stages. Eventually, whenever I would sit, my body would quiver with stray energy: spasms, jitters, tensions, piti, etc. I finally decided to follow a one week online intro to Dzogchen retreat with B. Alan Wallace that I condensed into 3 days to try to attain some kind of stability. The main practice was shamatha and the concentration object was the space in which thoughts arise, which I found to be very effective. After around 3 days of following along for 4-6 hours a day, I reached a point of total stability and clarity which I could then pretty consistently reproduce on demand. This felt like the logical endpoint of shamatha practice. A kind of door had been opened in which non-conceptual certainty about the sense of being was immediately accessible, accompanied by a subtle pressure in my head that was initially a bit alarming, as I had never felt any sensations there. From then on I could direct my attention to this sense of I Am at any time, and it felt more real than anything else in the world, like an absolute unchanging presence. Now, looking back, it contained the seed of what might be described as luminosity, or the clear perception of something happening vividly on its own (in this case, a non-conceptual thought), aware from where it was, instead of an imputed subjective vantage point. If I had to learn shamatha again, I would probably use Culadasa’s model (TMI), but I didn’t know about him at the time.


Stream Entry - 2018

This didn’t strike me as a very significant experience, probably because the first a+p was so intense. In fact no notable shift on my path ever occurred directly after a cessation, but that isn’t to say they don’t reset the mind in a way that helps move things along, I still have no idea what they do. I felt like there was a good chance I had already had one before the first time I noticed it clearly, and I can’t say that I noticed much of a change in perception, other than maybe a kind of relief that I had definitely had one and was making progress. Generally around this time I was sitting around 40 minutes a day, focusing on shamatha and jhanas, but my access to them would have been ‘soft’ and I really had no idea what I was doing, other than following what felt good and letting myself get absorbed into the highest plateau I could sustain. I had a conceptual understanding and some insight into no-self but it wasn’t very clear.


2nd Path - 2019 - 2020

I didn’t notice a significant path moment, or care much about the maps at this point. My concentration was strong, the first four jhanas had become more distinct, and fruitions happened occasionally when I sat for long enough. I was sitting for one to two hours a day, and was more interested in Dzogchen than anything else, yet I seemed to be on the cyclical path so well mapped out by the Theravadins. I read As It Is (vol. 1&2) by Tulku Urgyen and my practice in daily life consisted mostly of obsessively repeating the glimpse of the centreless nature of awareness as often as I could remember to. Occasionally when my shamatha was stable I could walk around in a state of sensory clarity/luminosity for an hour or so.

One significant shift that could have been 2nd path was a sort of letting go of the tendency to hold things, to refer back to the sense of I Am, or non-dual glimpses. Practice became much more about whatever was always already so, and there was a greater sense of synchrony.

I started experimenting with Actual Freedom inspired practice, inducing “pure consciousness experiences” (PCE) by focusing on sensate experience using the prompt “How am I experiencing this moment of being alive?” The first time it happened was really extraordinary and unlike anything I had experienced. I would say it basically follows a similar logic as jhana: using the pleasantness of the senses to create a feedback loop that increases concentration and becomes self-sustaining, but doing it off the cushion and focusing on the visual field. This worked surprisingly reliably over a period of a few months, in which I would induce a PCE sometime after my morning sit, or on my bus ride to work, and it could last in a kind of soft form for as long as a few hours. I would describe them as experiences of non-dual luminosity in which the objects of attention bubble into existence, alive on their own side, free from an observer and effortlessly integrating anything that would normally feel like a separate background into a seamless flow in which the movement of attention is continuously tracked/synchronized. I felt like I had two distinct mind streams: one in which the intensity of the sensate world was brought to the foreground and everything was clear and simple, and the other in which I was just my confused contracted self again. Since I still didn’t have much understanding of what these experiences could have been pointing to, I mostly thought of them as altered states, and I eventually lost my ability to induce them. The desire to induce them also felt contrived and began to fall away, because on some level I knew that what I was looking for had to be true of all states.

Around this time I read Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind over and over and also started playing around with Koans. I have no idea if this is how they are supposed to function, but Mu, a single syllable peppered into my sits, was a far more concise object than the breath, and seemed to define the possibility of a higher resolution of concentration, pointing in its own way to the possible 1:1 parity between sensations and my knowledge of them. Mu is its own knowledge of itself: an atom of luminous manifestation that sets itself up in stark contrast to anything that still seems bound by a subject-object dichotomy.
I went through a phase of realizing how identified I was with sensations in my head and face, which really felt like the crux of the knot of perception, and deconstructed them systematically in sits and throughout the day, as though I were rewiring every single nerve ending. The muscles in my face would often break out into frantic twitching. I was painfully aware of the sight of my nose and glasses almost all of the time, as though they were stains on my visual field. One thing I thought was ironic and annoying was that the stronger my concentration got, the stronger the pressures in my head got, which had been getting stronger since the I Am realization, and gradually moved closer to the centre of my head, with occasional sharp pangs. It felt like a very ‘physical’ process that I absolutely couldn’t ignore, and was constantly reminding me of ‘my’ location inside my head.

I went through a phase of obsessing over diet and exercise, thinking this would help my practice. Exercise probably did, but in retrospect I would have adopted a minimum effective dose approach. Tinkering with various supplements was also a distraction, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.

Once I got about as concentrated as I could in daily life, which was, on many days, seemingly nearly unwavering mindfulness, and still didn’t seem to be getting anywhere in terms of lasting perceptual shifts, I sort of gave up and resolved that everything was already ‘it’. I was still practicing but getting bored with cycling, and basically at a standstill as far as insight was concerned. My default state, it seemed, was not much different than it had been over the past two years. My practice also felt very dry, like it was lacking all the release, joy and ease of some of my first experiences. I did have glimpses around this time of what was to come, but they were rare and never seemed directly related to my practice.

Looking back, a lot of confusion around a mistaken interpretation of non-duality could have been avoided. I think this is a huge stumbling block for people. I had been looking for some kind of merger or union with a reified field of consciousness to occur by sustaining concentration and attention on the lack of a centre in the visual field. This seems to be a trap of most direct pointing or awareness based teachings, particularly if you start thinking ‘emptiness’ is pointing to this lack of a centre. The idea of a merger, in which two sides of a duality are subsumed into one, is a much more intuitive fantasy than understanding the meaning of freedom from the extremes of existence and non-existence (i.e. reification), but ironically the desire to subsume just reinforces the reifying tendency. In fact, every glimpse I had of ‘luminosity’, the closest experiential correlate to my idea of non-duality, was just the unrecognized suspension of reification, in which things are simply allowed to shine however they are, free from imputations of existence and non-existence. I was still similarly confused about the self, expecting that everything I associated to it (proprioception, intentions, self-referential thoughts, etc.) might somehow fall away.


3rd Path - Aug 2020

This really felt like a door opened up in my mind that I easily could have missed or never found. In the weeks leading up to this shift I suffered from intense anxiety and episodes of shortness of breath which I had never experienced before, and am almost certain were related to an intuition of the fact that my experience of the world was about to change completely, but were probably also compounded by uncertainty around the beginning of the pandemic. I had been laid off of work and had tons of time to practice. I had been looking online for clues about how to move forward, mostly in threads on the DhO about 3rd path.

I revisited the excellent ‘Awakening to Reality’ blog, which I already knew of but hadn’t read in a long time, because most of it didn’t make sense at the time. I came across a link to Greg Goode’s Introduction to the Emptiness Teachings pdf on the ‘Thusness 7 stages of enlightenment’ page. This was the first time I read an analytical explanation of emptiness other than the chariot analogy, which always just seemed too much like a matter of semantics. I realized that I never really understood the specific insight that emptiness was pointing to, but instead took it as a description of the centrelessness of awareness, as in the headless-way glimpses (this is the trap of interpreting emptiness teachings through the lens of awareness teachings, which Goode himself once fell into). Goode’s description of emptiness as the lack of inherent existence, not just of the self but of any object of perception, triggered a perceptual paradigm shift. Inherency of existence was like a belief or axiom so deeply engrained in the mind that it could never be questioned, let alone surface as a thought, and was inaccessible as an object of investigation. By suspending it, through this first insight into the co-arising of mind and world, or the ‘sourcelessness’ of phenomena, I was overcome by somewhat familiar but rarely accessible qualities of experience at a much higher intensity and consistency. Similar to the PCE, the main qualities were: luminosity, lack of agency, unsupported-ness, effortlessness, intimacy and a kind of sweetness for lack of a better word, like I was walking through honey. The difference was that it was way more stable and thorough, because it was based on understanding. This insight into dependent origination was like an intuitive sinking-in of the fact that consciousness was neither a mind in here nor a world out there, and that neither of those designations actually existed in themselves, they had just been assumed all along. Even if there was really a world out there and a body here inside it, as a matter of experience, the two were indissociable. This came along with the understanding that every act of perception was itself a link in a causal chain that was both participatory and yet couldn’t possibly unfold any differently, and as such, was endowed with a kind of perfection. What remained was a kind of radical intimacy with and as the world. Knowing itself to be itself through and through, there is nowhere for it to go astray, nothing for it to guard or hide. This was deeply liberating, but initially also a bit scary, because any notion of a ground that could be abided in is seen through, but so is the painful habit of creating separation by constantly referring back to one.

The repercussions of this insight weren’t yet thorough as a matter of experience, but as with any insight, it couldn’t be unseen, and old habits of thought and abiding-style practices were left scrambling to make sense of themselves in its wake. The highs and lows of the cycles were very intense and distinct, and I had to avoid pushing myself too hard, since the stronger the A+P, generally the more difficult the DN. Waking up every morning felt totally uncertain, like I had no idea what exactly I would be waking up to, since there was no more ground under my feet and only a tenuous understanding in it’s place. This lead to a whole range of distorted experiences as the ramifications of the insight were being integrated. The line between excitement and anxiety was thoroughly blurred. Concentration no longer made sense, because relaxing and easing off seemed to strengthen it. My experience alternated between states of ‘one-mind’, in which awareness seemed to be experiencing the world as itself, and ‘no-mind’, in which any sense of awareness disappeared altogether, as in the Bahiya Sutta (In the seen, just the seen). This was mixed in with a significant amount of fear, shortness of breath and some heart palpitations, as though my body had become the world and there was no way my human lungs could contain enough air to sustain it. I felt like I had to learn to breathe from scratch, or rather remember how to breathe automatically again. There was a period after a week or so where all my bodily sensations, particularly the breath, underwent a rewiring process and were no longer grasped at as mine. I felt like I was free falling through sense-data, with a fair amount of grasping at air. I probably could have benefitted from a more dedicated shamatha practice but at the time it probably seemed too dualistic and I was more concerned with exploring this new territory. Every new A+P seemed to present something that could have been final in a way, and yet each one was surprisingly distinct. The world was, at times, overwhelmingly vivid, and had an intensely self-ironic quality, like everything was simultaneously a window and a mirror.

I exchanged some emails with Soh of Awakening to Reality who was generous enough to answer my questions and point me forward. I read parts of Rob Burbea’s Seeing that Frees, tons of posts on AtR mostly about dependent origination, and Adyashanti’s The End of Your World. It often felt like I could intuit a void from which everything was emerging, or like my body was a hologram overlaid on the world, itself another hologram. My default state walking around felt similar to the 5th jhana, boundless space. One thing that really struck me about this initial experience and the following developments was the importance of ‘view’ in triggering and refining it, and the insufficiency of non-conceptuality, dualistic vipassana, and awareness based teachings. At this point my conceptual understanding was actually quite clear: there is just this unsupported flow of sensations, none of which could be a perceiver. As Daniel wrote in MCTB, no sensations can observe other sensations. But my experience was not yet entirely consistent with this, and the absence of agency aspect still felt disconcerting.

A few distinct shifts happened in the following months: an emptying of the subtle inherency of attention, the fixation on its linear/sequential nature, which led to an understanding of its disjointedness, an emptying of the sense of presence, which was still being subtly identified with, and an emptying of the sense of time, or that sensations arise, abide and pass at all, in other words, the moment they arise is the moment they disappear. These shifts in understanding and experience all happened after following contemplations discussed on AtR (on anatta, twofold emptiness, transience, non-arising, etc). The blog is packed with insight and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone in this territory. I also contemplated a number of koan-like phrases, like Tozan’s “place where there is no hot or cold” and Dan Berkow’s “Every point on a sphere is a centre”. I wasn’t formally practicing vipassana much around this time, at most two 20 minute sits per day, but its logic didn’t really make sense to me anymore. By this point I no longer felt like I was experiencing time in any conventional sense, and was feeling very ‘done’, except that the intensity of luminosity seemed to come and go, and I had adopted a kind of subtle dispassion and almost removed disposition towards the world. I still had some conceptual hang-ups over wether or not the senses were “fabricated”, which seemed relevant given that more often than not my entire experience would kind of “fade” as Rob Burbea describes as happening when things are seen as empty, and as is described in some of the old texts (one in particular that ends with “the monks didn’t rejoice,” can’t find it now). Culadasa’s framing of fabrication in TMI helped clear this up for me conceptually: all sensory information goes through the unconscious mind and some degree of processing before it reaches consciousness, and as such, is “fabricated”. Following this model, the way I think about the “fading” phenomenon is that things mostly remain in the unconscious when the attention faculty isn’t particularizing as frequently. So my theory is that this phase involved a kind of more consistent pacification of attention in daily life whenever possible, but only because it was still a subtle bearer of inherency, which was perceived as suffering. I think I easily could have gotten stuck here, because the ‘agent’ had been seen through, making any remaining effort of directing attention towards opportunities for insight seem unwarranted, and yet my default experience of the world was felt as a kind disappearance, and this didn’t sit right with me.


4th Path - Jan 2021

I kind of inched my way forward by contemplating dependent origination, thoroughly looking for a ‘source’ or origin of sense perception and trying to merge the flavours of luminosity and fading, which still felt like opposites. When the totally un-graspable, un-locatable nature of phenomena became crystal clear, the grasping stopped. Gradually, over about two weeks of contemplation, a shift occurred in which no-mind experiences were no longer felt as a disappearance, because the flavour of presence had sort of become refined enough to permeate every sensation, and eventually completely merge with them. The last thing to let go of was a subtle fixation or involvement with the transience of luminosity, by recognizing it was always already so. There was a moment where any last bits of doubt or worry about the ‘stability’ of it seemed to vanish, replaced by a sense of completion and ease. It still flipped back once or twice in the following days, initially seemed dependent on sensory clarity, and was accompanied by sharp pangs in the centre of my head. The “flip” moments felt a bit like the shift into a jhana. There were still moments of doubt beyond this point, particularly in a difficult DN that followed.
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While I see this shift as a maturation/stabilization of previous insights, the thoroughness and simplicity of it give it a qualitatively different feel. The sense of total 1:1 synchrony and causal unfolding was even a bit eerie at first, but overall any spookiness was outweighed by simplicity and clarity. For the first time, everything was experienced as consistently and effortlessly alive, because the mind wasn’t relying on traces or echos of things as their actual knowledge, so everything just spoke for itself. It’s not that it stopped forming mental impressions of things altogether, just that it no longer constructed a sense of existence out of them. The high mental bandwidth that seems to be eaten up by the constant reference to these impressions of things to validate them is also freed up and directed back into perception. I realize now what a deadening effect that had on my experience of the world, and I think that could have been a source of much of my former dissatisfaction with life, the sense that everything was dead on arrival, filtered through my reified knowledge of it, reduced to a kind of retelling. With this reifying activity having ceased, there is no more sense of falling out of, or coming back to a desired state. No more inside/outside distinction (it is non-dual, but I would argue only as a side effect of deeper insight, not as something to aim for in itself). Some of the thoughts or emotions that normally would have carried implicit reification still arise, but have no pull, they are totally transparent. A sense of boundlessness or infinitude pervades everything and grows stronger whenever attended to. I am completely absorbed in any activity I engage in, and anything that I may once have considered distraction just feels like more absorption (but still different from the “unification” of shamatha, higher or lower degrees of unification are still possible). When I sit I just feel totally gone, dissolved into spontaneous manifestation, not unlike 8th jhana, neither perception nor non-perception, despite never really entering jhana much anymore (jhana now feels oddly contracted). Talking to other people feels as natural as talking to myself. My body usually feels like radiance in empty space, although there are still energetic tensions and blockages at times. When my concentration is strong, a kind of perfection pervades every moment, as though the phenomenal flow itself were a pure, indivisible object of nature which couldn’t possibly unfold any differently. Compassion (more like unconditional love, or Bodhicitta) is more available and shows up spontaneously, and feels connected to seeing dependent origination in real time. There is a kind of evenness or democratization of attention: nothing holds a special status over anything else, all phenomena are of the same taste: luminous and empty, no more or less ‘reality’ than any other. The attention/particularization faculty is disinhibited and unbound to a central controlling agent, so it is continually creating centres without ever settling, and has this infinitely penetrative quality which is both energetic and still, a bit like a free fall i’ve gotten accustomed to.

While the realization itself isn’t a matter of a particular experience, one of the most surprising things about it initially is the relative consistency of experience it allows, especially after how inconsistent my experiences were in third path. There’s not much subtlety or ambiguity to it. The last thing to come online, that would come and go in the week leading up to the flip, is a kind of certainty, which seems to mostly come from the falling away of discrimination between states, particularly between states of recognition/knowing and absorption/not knowing. This falling away in itself isn’t really a matter of experience at all, just an undoing of the incessant activity of reality-attribution, but it creates a kind of implicit constancy, and with this, everything gets a lot lighter, less substantial, and easier to bear. All of the same strata of mind can still manifest, they just now clearly lack the solidity they previously seemed to have. I can still think neurotic thoughts, get lost in thought, feel the sense of ‘I Am’, etc. but all of it is happening on its own, causally, without fixation, resistance, or the sense that things could have been otherwise. I would also say that part of the sense of certainty comes from a kind of impersonal knowing that, whenever attended to, ‘sees’ presence and emptiness collapsed onto each other in every phenomena, and this has a ‘true-self’ kind of flavour which was quite surprising.

I am still pretty blown away that all of this is possible, and not just possible but communicable, and facilitated by specific pointers. It’s a huge relief to no longer be puzzling over something to resolve in the midst of daily activities: all that matters now is the activities themselves. The awe has subsided, and things now feel quite ordinary in a way, yet still just as fresh and idyllic. How the mind doesn’t develop a tolerance for this is beyond me. The cycles are still ongoing, but my experience is also still maturing. Things seem to be tending towards a more and more thorough no-mind experience, as the constancy of the mind’s recognition of things as just themselves makes any added sense of knowing them redundant, so that habit is gradually being shed. It seems to me that the central insight that really allowed this all to unravel is into the nature of reification, or the mind’s tendency to abstract things moment by moment, and then attribute inherent/real existence to them. Wether it’s the reification of self, an object, or consciousness, it causes a psychological ‘doubling up’ of reality that can’t be anything but dissonant, because the model never actually corresponds to reality: the raw sense-data can never be accurately filtered through the model. That incessant activity is really just the mind building walls within itself for no apparent reason other than, If I had to guess, confusion over what self-preservation and survival ought to look like. That being said, I can imagine reification may have given us some adaptive advantage as a species, and probably isn’t just delusion or an artifact of evolution. I guess we evolved to pass on genes, not to be happy, but I digress…
I suspect I’m far from ‘done’, and probably far from enlightened from a traditional buddhist perspective, even though on the insight axis, I can’t imagine this not being bedrock. I can definitely imagine my day to day experiences maturing and look forward to seeing how things continue to unfold. On an ordinary life level, my priorities are getting pretty drastically rearranged. Many of the ambitions I had seem to have fallen away, probably for the better. I’m thinking of getting a psychology degree and finding other ways to share some of the things I’ve learned.

​​​​​​​If you live in Montreal and would like to discuss any of this in person, send me a message!




Resources used (roughly chronologically)

Waking Up book and app - Sam Harris
On Having no head - Douglas Harding
MCTB - Daniel Ingram
What is Mindfulness pdf - Shinzen Young
Deconstructing yourself podcast - Michael Taft
Shamatha retreat - B. Alan Wallace
As It Is (vol.1&2) - Tulku Urgyen
Actual Freedom website and threads on DhO
Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind - Shunryu Suzuki
Awakening to Reality blog and ebook - Soh Wei Yu, John Tan
Introduction to the Emptiness Teachings pdf - Greg Goode
Seeing That Frees, Dharmaseed talks - Rob Burbea
The Mind Illuminated - Culadasa (wish I had read it earlier)
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Not two, not one, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 903 Join Date: 7/13/17 Recent Posts
 That was very enjoyable read Will G, and congratulations on all your progress.  It's interesting how diverse the paths are at first, until they seem to converge that in that luminous empty non-dual space, at which point the accounts I have seen all seem to develop substantial consistency, with the possible expection of the rare cases who make the direct deep jump.

Something to keep in mind is that even at the end of the path of insight (standard disclaimer: not-diagnosing etc etc). there is still much that unfolds and develops. Some of this can be all the old contractions slowly finishing winding down. Some is the two stage process of first stopping reflecting karma into your environment (e.g. your loved ones), and then after a while they stop reflecting it back at you, so your environment slowly improves.  Some is taking the new toys out for a drive - deciding which of the six realms you want to be in, and for how long, or exploring various concentration states. Some is ongoing relinquishment of rare contractions, as it takes some time for them to get triggered by their requisite causes and conditions. And some is slow loss of charge in the various energetic systems in the body/mind losing, and familiarity setting in, so that after a review period you become less amazed by the new way of being. 

But do expect there to be a residue of karma/sankhara/programming remaining, because otherwise you would be a blank slate, right? A computer without software. There will also be residual ethical obligations as a householder, but also joy to be found in that residue remaining. Engaging with that reside can also lead emotional arisings - even self-arisings in very rare circumstances. But they don't stick.

There is much more to explore, but hopefully it is all just entertainment now.  :-)  And if it turns out you still have some way to go, well just keep seeing clearly the three characteristics of those subtle concepts that create the perceptual world, and carry on experiencing the joy of relinquishment.  But it doesn't have to be relinquishment from objects, or people. Just relinquishment from craving or obsession.  And once you see love clearly for what it really is, you can enjoy that all the more too, but without clinging.  Love becomes about the other person, instead of about you possessing something.

And no matter how far you go, it is still important to practice the four right exertions, and to be mindful of the snares of Mara. For evidence, consider the endless guru scandals!

Metta

Malcolm

P.S. I actually rate the diet stuff, because it is kind of mindfulness of the smell and taste sense doors.  I don't think it needs to be ongoing, but a period of mindfulness helps to unwind the unthinking contraction in that part of consciousness.  Monastics follow the eating rules.  I followed dietary logging on MyFitnessPal.  :-)  
 
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 1623 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I know you didn't mean it this way Malcolm, but I couldn't help imagining how my wife would feel if she heard me describe her as a "residual ethical obligation" XD

Good stuff Will G. Life goes on, so I've heard :-)
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Hey Malcolm, 

Thanks for your reply, beautifully said and that really resonates with where things are at for me now. There was an initial sort of total release of many of my habits and behaviours at 4th path which wasn't entirely healthy, but I sort of stopped feeling human for a while. I feel more integrated now, more willing to be human as sincerely as possible, since its still the only game in town. Seeing the way I react to things now, and the way others react to those reactions, has been really interesting and i've been thinking a lot more about morality and skillfulness then at any other time on the path. There are clearly lots of energetic 'residues' that seem to be tending towards winding down, but I suspect that process will take years, and may in fact be never ending. I've actually gone back to practicing shamatha more, after finally getting around to reading TMI, as I can clearly see the benefits it has on the energy body, on the clarity of intention in my actions, and on seeing all my conditioning for what it is.

As to your comments on love, I've been wondering about that too, what a romantic relationship might look like, and what commitment without attachment might look like. I actually think I'd be more well suited to being in one than before, because I seem much more focused on caring for myself and others in a very normal, down to earth way now, as opposed to putting all my energy into nurturing some of the more unrealistic expectations and aspirations I had for myself, like I can now finally be a more or less total normie and be perfecly happy being one emoticon Same goes for diet stuff, I find i'm renewing some of my intentions in that area.
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 90 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
Great stuff. Thanks for sharing. 
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Ben V., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 351 Join Date: 3/3/15 Recent Posts
Interesting read! 

​​​​​​​Fellow Montrealer here! emoticon
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Oh nice! We should meet up for a walk some day, if you're interested. I have too few dharma friends. 
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Ben V., modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 351 Join Date: 3/3/15 Recent Posts
Sure!
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello, Will G. Congrats!

I found your comments to be very interesting, but they seem to be lacking descriptions of the real-time phenomenological shifts that occur during path moments and larger, more critical realizations. Can you maybe fill us in on your path moments and what those were like as they happened? I know memory fades, but in my experience, path moments and impactful realizations stick.

Also, it seems some of your realizations are slightly out of sync with the more or less typical path of insight timeline. For example, you talk a lot about dependent origination during third path. In my experience, that realization was prominent much earlier in the timeline.

I'm always interested in the variability of the experiences that different folks have along the way! I hope you're willing to elaborate.

Thanks!
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 659 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Isn't importance of phenomenological shifts depend on what kind of teachings one use?
Being an Arhat means copying others to accomplish end of dukkha and living good moral life. It doesn't have to be one specific flavor teachings which has its own dynamics like perception shifts we tend to concentrate on on DhO. Have many teachers and it will be a strange mish-mash of "insights" (note: what can be called insight also depends on the path) and they might not be entirely focused on what your teachers focused on. Seeing Thusness "I AM" and AF references makes me not expect this case to be very phenomenological similar to eg. someone who did tons of mahasi noting as their main and pretty much only one practice.

As a matter of fact no such perceptual shifts that some teachers describe are necessary to be free from dukkha as neither dukkha originate from perspectives as they say they do nor different perspectives are the only viable solution or even necessary step. I can easily see how creolized teachings along with more contemplative practice might lead to less spectacular shifts when it comes to perception and despite this they might have the same basic effects on not experiencing suffering.

This is because, as I already said it probably more than hundred times, because dukkha originates from abusing nervous system, not from perspectives. It is even possible to use perspectives said to be the worst and as long as nervous system parts used to generate it are switched in timely matter there won't be dukkha. It doesn't need to be always the same way of accomplishing this for it to count. Which of course doesn't automatically makes person an arhat otherwise most people would be arhat at least most of the time but as long as person did their share of practices, found issues, found for them where they originated, resolved these issues and know how to practice to avoid suffering it might as well be considered as such.

That said I am myself interested of Will's answer to your question emoticon
As for my assessment I will wait to see what Will will write and if Will will be there after a week to even bother with it. Somehow they typically disappear when DN hits after A&P that made them write their claims to attainment ;)
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Hey Ni Nurta. 

I appreciate that perspective. I think I always sort of sought to chip away at the cutting edge of my understanding rather than stick to one practice, which is what led me to explore all of these different practices and pointers. I think the path wouldn't be what it is without certain phenomenal shifts, but its true that people seem to go through them in different orders and speak about them quite differently. In many cases, they are just distortions, and the phenomenology at the end of the path need not always be that different than it was in the beginning. In some ways my early experiences actually felt more pure because I didn't have other people's words in my head helping me think through them. I'm all for getting it done using all available means though, and part of that means imitating the closest people we have to teachers. 

I was tempted to post much earlier, and actually started writing 3 weeks after the last shift, but I held off for a few months which was helpful in refining my understanding.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Dear Ni Nurta,

Let's let Will G. provide his/her perspective on my question before we get into whatever it is you are trying to get me into emoticon
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Hey Chris

I was indeed a bit light on phenomenological descriptions, particularly of the first two paths. I think my progress may have been a bit unusual insofar as the first A+P really seemed to come with a great deal more insight and interesting phenomenology than the following two cessations that would be the standard markers for first and second path. I remember thinking the first A+P must have been 1st path when I found the Theravadin maps shortly after, but it was such an overwhelming and all-encompassing experience that it was hard to categorize it neatly at all. As far as I can tell, it was precipitated by insight into no-self. At that time, there was no trace of a center point to experience, which sounds unlikely for just the first A+P. Conceptually though, at least, there was absolutely no self, that much was crystal clear, even though selfing and inherency re-congealed soon after, as I suspected they would. There was a moment during the week or so it lasted when I was just walking to the supermarket and my entire field of awareness sort of came grinding to a halt, fell totally outside of time, blackened and dissolved into whispy sparks of light. Could there have been a cessation in there? Hard to say, but probably not. It didn't really matter to me though. The phenomenology of the following two paths were definitely informed by some of the shifts that may have lasted from that experience, but still paled in comparison. The shifts and realizations around the beginning of my path also happened consistently enough that it was hard to say "this one is definitely a path moment!". I thought it would also be valuable to provide an account in which those first two paths, or at least the cessations, didn't feel like the crux of progress. Also its worth mentioning that my progress correlates a bit better to Thusness' map on AtR then to the 4 path model. Having said that, i'll try to fill in some specifics:

1st Path: Awareness of a 'field' of consciousness, mostly the visual field, that was always already free of a centre, free from the feeling of being behind my eyes. Access to it whenever I intended to. Tracking the movements of attention would imbue its objects with a feeling of immediate recognition or familiarity. Attention was like a constellation of objects overlaid on a background, and that constellation was somehow intrinsically meaningful in that it said something about my drives and desires, and this was the source of its intimate character. Continuous tracking of the objects of perception would have an effect on me subsequently noticing the selfless 'field' more often, and doing so would dissolve into tracking its objects, so the two practices fed into each other. 

2nd Path: My longest lasting path, with a huge range of phenomenal experiences. The beginning of a lot of energetic/kundalini type stuff. The first nuggets of 'luminosity', and working with jhana more directly. Mostly increasing concentration and consistency of the practice permeating everyday life, such as shamatha persisting steadily throughout the day. My first tastes of an awareness that doesn't fluctuate as much in dependence on attention, but stays more consistently aware of everything. Before this awareness depended on directing attention to awareness. First changes of my relationship to time, seeing that the glimpses of a selfless awareness occured in time, not seperate from a sequence of attention that was always already particularizing, doing its thing on its own. Reduction of my sense of agency in terms of taking a backseat to this process: with consistent PCEs being the culmination of that insight. Lots of chipping away at my self-image, emotional transformations and breakdowns, tears, letting go of bad mental habits, and mourning the loss of apparent chunks of myself. Bumping up against the limits of the awareness of awareness type practices, looking for answers in strengthening concentration. Mysterious glimpses of effortless non-duality that would strike out of the blue and last an hour at most, which always caught me off guard because they only occured when the new "insight disease" I had developed was at bay, which was hardly ever. Confusion around the goals and their feasibility. What could I possibly be missing?

3rd Path: The medium was swapped out, like I got pulled out of an aquarium I didn't know I had been in, as a result of the emptiness contemplation. A definite path moment, directly correlated to a conceptual breakthrough like the first A+P. There was nothing more "I" had to or could "do". The end of the sense of there being a doer, the beginning of something really much more thorough and invasive in terms of the total lack of agency, with lapses in this being the exception, not the rule. Striking, continuous, effortless marvelling at luminosity, like the PCE was my new baseline. All the senses were merged into a single acivity or 'sense door'. Feeling of peering through the fabric of reality, of being on the verge of breaking through to some next level of sublimation with an Absolute at any moment. Expansion of the size and scope of awareness, like I was suddenly in a much bigger room all the time. Lots of energy imbalances, pushing the limits of my now effortless and continuous concentration. Occasionally watching myself fall asleep while remaining conscious. Pervasive sense of clarity but also seeming solidity of everything at first. Eventually seeing things as empty all the time caused them to fade really quite dramatically, to the point where I sometimes felt like I was walking around barely conscious, holding on by a thread. Eventual total dispassion with the senses, bopping along totally untouched and unphased by life. Equanimity with being at the mercy of life. Often feeling 'dead', like I literally died, and was haunting the world. Things were still luminous in the sense of happening on their own 'side', but not really vivid very often anymore. 

4th path: If 3d was being pulled out of an aquarium, 4th was like realizing, not only am I now in the air, but everything is also made of air, if that makes sense. There is only one "thing". Attention and awareness stay perfectly synchronized, acting always as one. With the centre having dropped out, there is a total disinhibition of attention, free to fall or sink into every nook and cranny of existence. Collapse of luminosty and fading: I guess you could call it an integration of presence and no-mind. 'Objects' are presence, nothing isn't presence. Things literally feel brighter, beaming with light. The mind is usually very still, lots of rumination just dies out, and remnants of it feel quiet and uninvasive. Sense of vastness is buoyant, all encompassing and precedes any specifics of attention at all times. Deep sense of stillness amist the most chaotic of activites. Everything is fundamentally OK on the deepest level. Attention actually has a hard time convincing the body-mind to act on anything, because the usual inherency it comes packaged with is just gone, so the mechanics of it being a kind of carrot on a stick are laid bare, but also marvelled at once again. The clear, inevitable cause and effect of things can be very raw and mechanical feeling, like you've gotten off one ride but gotten on another, that you'll never, and could never get off of (but in fact, have always been on). Nothing can be dwelled on, it's there in your face, and gone before it could be modified, improved upon, or even appreciated, and this is the very source of its sheer liveliness, and you actually wouldn't have it any other way. You're trading an illusion of distance for forced liveliness. Somehow amidst all of this there is still a sense of freedom: many of the same kinds of freedom I felt myself to have before, just seen as having dependently arisen. I still feel like I can poke around, look for blind spots that might not be totally awake yet, or set intentions and act on things.

I hope this provides some phenomenal meat on the insight oriented bones I laid out in the first post. I'm happy to try to elaborate on anything if you're interested!

Will
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will G
Everything is fundamentally OK on the deepest level. Attention actually has a hard time convincing the body-mind to act on anything, because the usual inherency it comes packaged with is just gone, so the mechanics of it being a kind of carrot on a stick are laid bare, but also marvelled at once again. The clear, inevitable cause and effect of things can be very raw and mechanical feeling, like you've gotten off one ride but gotten on another, that you'll never, and could never get off of (but in fact, have always been on). Nothing can be dwelled on, it's there in your face, and gone before it could be modified, improved upon, or even appreciated, and this is the very source of its sheer liveliness, and you actually wouldn't have it any other way. You're trading an illusion of distance for forced liveliness. Somehow amidst all of this there is still a sense of freedom: many of the same kinds of freedom I felt myself to have before, just seen as having dependently arisen. I still feel like I can poke around, look for blind spots that might not be totally awake yet, or set intentions and act on things.

Sounds to me like Will might be cured of insight disease :-)


 
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spatial, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 609 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
This is interesting. Can you talk about your desire to reach 4th path, as an object itself? How did it change over time?

​​​​​​​Also, when you say the doer was gone after 3rd, do you literally mean you could no longer experience a sense that you were making things happen, no matter how hard you tried?
Will G, modified 25 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
I didn't really have a desire to reach 4th path per se, but I did have a desire to stop being obsessed with insight, and curiosity about what the fuss was all about. At 3rd path, I briefly thought I had reached it, but the thoroughness and consistency were lacking: my experiences were wonderful but kind of all over the place. 

What i'm calling 3rd was the beginning of really seeing all the way through the doer, and towards the end of 3rd it was basically consistently gone. I suppose any remnant of doership would have gone unnoticed, which is part of what makes it so sneaky. I definitely could not intentionally feel like I was making things happen, apart from intentions arising spontaneously and leading to action. No matter what the intention though, it's source remains fundamentally mysterious, so in a sense its just a matter of seeing intentions arise clearly and demoting them from their special status of somehow being outside of causality. What's really particular is that now I can have "lapses" where I'm not "mindful", but without the impression of doership re-congealing either during the lapse or after it, nor is there a sense of being "back" on return, but just... more. So once it's seen through fully, the impression of doership will just stop, you won't need to remain concentrated at all times to keep it at bay. 

Hope that's helpful!

Will
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spatial, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 609 Join Date: 5/20/18 Recent Posts
Yes, this is helpful. Thanks. It's the "re-congealing" I was wondering about. This makes sense to me. I want to write more, but there's no point. It's cool to read someone else's perspective on this stuff.
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 659 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
@Chris
Yes emoticon

@Will
I like how you describe things. It shows you are well read but it doesn't seem you are just quoting books looking left and right and more like saying results from your mind influenced by books. Not sure if I captured distinction in understandable words or if it is clear why this matters but it does matter to how person feels and what interactions can be had. Someone who even did have some experiences but it was mechanic scripting is not very good to have any conversation with vs someone who had their own experiences inspired by books. Such person not only has something interesting to say but also it feels like they might be interested in hearing something.

Purity in insight has its advantages, especially when after you feel you attained something you open book and recognize things you found yourself, it sure feels pretty good, especially for the ego ;)

When it comes to your descriptions of paths I need to read deeper. Certain descriptions of your 3rd/4th path I find quite interesting. I did map somewhat similar things to 2nd but you seem to go deeper in one direction I actually liked myself quite a lot but somehow moved away from it rather quickly which I kinda regret. That doesn't mean anything by itself because not everyone seem to do the same things, especially at later paths. There is a kind of specialization which happens and by the time person claim 4th path they seem to have found their local minima, a sweet spot if you like. I will certainly give better detailed response after I have deeper read (for now just skimmed through it all)

In any way, while at it if you could give even more detailed description of your sensual perception. Being eyesight focused I am interested in any changes in how you see things and changes in visual perception, but also feeling of body. Do you feel any space in the mind? Anything else to note about perceptions? Not necessarily related to self.

ps. That doesn't matter but I do consider myself fully enlightened, in traditional supermundane sense. Only thing left for me to do is to pull Chris in to singularity, just do not tell him ;)
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Ni Nurta
ps. That doesn't matter but I do consider myself fully enlightened, in traditional supermundane sense. Only thing left for me to do is to pull Chris in to singularity, just do not tell him ;)


I doubt that a fully enlightened person would say such a thing - 8th fetter ;-)
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Ni Nurta
I think the words used to describe this stuff are important and we should use the best ones we've got, even if that means using someone else's, because they'll serve as pointers for people, which I relied on quite heavily in terms of triggering insight. Clarity in language is like a project that needs to be worked out collectively and refined over time. I'm glad my descriptions resonate with you.

I've got a few questions for you. What do you mean by specializations? and local minima/sweet spots? It's something I've been curious about, how experience will continue to change after 4th path depending on practices. I'm curious what you mean by full enlightenment, and assuming that's beyond 4th path, what practices may have led you there.

I'll try to go deeper into phenomenology in a reply to Chris that I might take a bit longer to write.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Will, G., thank you for your extended response. I'm still wanting more phenomenological details, but that's okay. I'll be just fine without them  emoticon

Best of luck!
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
 Only thing left for me to do is to pull Chris in to singularity, just do not tell him ;)

​​​​​​​So Ni Nurta - you can't you see me waving at you from deep inside that singularity?  
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
Vision:

No more sense of seeing out of my eyes. Change to the sense of depth: the perception of far away objects doesn't feel any further away then the perception of close ones. I hardly ever pay attention to the sight of my nose or rims of my glasses anymore, thank god, because they dont feel like consistent unchanging objects anymore, every moment of paying attention to them is just its own moment. The sensory periphery (not just of vision, but maybe most obviously there) always feels like it occupies the exact same mental bandwidth, and this, i think, is the source of the sense of total stability at 4th, and maybe also the sense of there being a kind of void or source of everything: that allocated 'bandwith' is always 'on', even when it doesn't have an object, and that 'onness' is sort of felt at all times, and doesnt seem to be dependent on concentration/unification of mind. Another way I have thought about this recently after reading Culadasa's description of the the passage of information from the unconscious to the conscious mind, is that the conscious mind is always poised at the unconscious's door, so instead of feeling itself to be in relation to a world out there, it knows itself to be in relation to the unconscious, hence the feeling of there being a single sense door, the flow from the unconscious to the conscious, and the sense of there being a source, the perpetually receding unconscious. As a matter of experience though, there's no sense of being in relation to anything, just vivid presence of whatever is appearing. That is just a model obviously, but I think it helps make sense of the shift in phenomenology. It also makes sense of the erosion of the sense of time and space: they are bypassed in a way, no longer imputed, the flow of data is just nakedly itself. The great release that comes at 4th also comes from knowing that while you're alive, that process cannot help but be ongoing, so you no longer need to be on guard, or even alert to perceive things (insight disease), perception just unfolds by itself, and feels infinite, because that 'passage' is always ongoing, and has 'one taste', its motion always feels the same.

Body:

Bodily sensations feel way smaller in a way, like they're no longer being magnified by the sense of ownership. At the same time, its presence is usually felt as a whole rather than one part or another, and it always feels supported by the environment in some really fundamental way. It also often feels like its not there at all though, or like its just a diffuse cloud, definitely never feels solid. ​​​​​​​Proprioception has this always on quality to it as well and, being sensory, it sort of overshadows the impression of space, so even when driving or walking around, it feels like you're never really moving or going anywhere, but more like things are just unfolding in relation to the proprioceptive body.

Hearing:

One interesting thing i've noticed recently is that often when I speak it sounds exactly the same as hearing someone else's voice, there's no sense of ownership or even association between the intention to speak and the sounds themselves, it doesnt feel like i've heard them before they're spoken. As with much of this stuff, a bit creepy at first.

Emotion:

I was never very emotionally expressive, which I used to think was a kind of deficiency, but now I feel even less so in many ways. Although I am more joyful and prone to laughter, even spontaneous bouts of it. I don't ever feel down anymore, melancholic, worried, depressed, at least not so far, but i'm also not interested in overcoming emotions.

Another 'mental' vision thing:

I was really into painting for a while and used to go through life thinking about things to paint, which would usually involve noticing something and then forming a mental inpression of it and lingering or expanding on that impression, letting it sort of resonate internally and provoke associations. It feels much harder to 'hold' anything in that way anymore, the senses kind of crowd that process out with their consistent luminosity, so theres not much of a sense of gaps or interruptions that could be filled creatively, but I think I could probably still cultivate that again if I wanted to. My dreams are still as vivid as ever and very 'creative'.

​​​​​​​There's no sense of things arising and passing away. That framing never really made sense to me conceptually, but I still used to feel like I could 'follow' sense percepts through their 'lifecycle'. Now it just feels like they dont arise or pass at all, and any sense that they did would just be an imputation.

​​​​​​​Part of agencylessness feels like the process that makes intention lead to action becomes so streamlined that there's no gap anywhere in the sequence of events where you could make things unfold differently. So I frequently get so absorbed into the automaticity of simple actions, especially but not only familiar ones, that I can just completely stop paying attention, and those become thorough instances of no-mind, of sublimation, of 'in the seen, just the seen' where i'm just not really there anymore. The opposite of that would be 'mindfulness', feeling like i'm 'here', grounded, there is a sense of knowing presence, of intention, of space, and of there being different possibilities for action in the conventional sense, if not freedom, but the knowing doesn't feel like a knower. I don't take either of these states to be more real than the other, but I am a bit curious about the seeming emphasis in dzogchen/mahamudra practice on sustaining 'rigpa', which from what I can tell, is that quality of knowing discernment, after 4th path. I've had experiences where there's been a sense of total stability of that sense of knowing that feels simultaneous to the vividness of sensory phenomena and doesn't seem to detract from it at all, but feels like it cuts through all of my usual mental processes, conditioning, and conceptualization, without interfering with my capacity to function in the world. This has happened a few times during A+Ps, but never sticks, nor do I really feel much desire to cultivate it. Anyone have experience with this?
​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​Any thoughts or pointers Chris? What are things like in your corner of the singularity?
Stickman3, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 39 Join Date: 1/15/21 Recent Posts
Will G
Vision:

No more sense of seeing out of my eyes. perception of close ones.

That was a fab description you gave in your OP.
You know what, I can't help thinking -
The Holographic Universe Explained
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klpDHn8viX8

"We live in a universe with 3 dimensions of space and one of time. Up, down, left, right, forward, back, past, future. 3+1 dimensions. Or so our primitive Pleistocene-evolved brains find it useful to believe. And we cling to this intuition, even as physics shows us that this view of reality may be only a very narrow perception. One of the most startling possibilities is that our 3+1 dimensional universe may better described as resulting from a spacetime one dimension lower – like a hologram projected from a surface infinitely far away."

??? !
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
It's often felt to me like that might be the case! Or like I could get disconnected from the matrix at any moment and not really be surprised. Fun to think about, but I tend towards not drawing any ontological conclusions from meditation related realizations, the mind is plenty mysterious without getting physics involved.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will, I think the best way for me to communicate my version of all this to you is to link you to my practice log, created in real-time back in early 2010, as I was approaching the transition from 3rd to 4th path, and then beyond. This occurred with the coaching of my then-teacher Kenneth Folk, as you'll see when you read the logs here:

https://www.awakenetwork.org/magazine/10-on-the-cushion/19-chris-journal-part-5 

https://www.awakenetwork.org/magazine/10-on-the-cushion/20-chris-journal-part-6
Alessandro Migliori, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/24/21 Recent Posts
What practices lead up to that?
In only 3 years. O.o
I meditate hours a day since 3 years and i m nowhere close to 4th path as described by you. 
Still feel a lot being inside the head, how do you deconstruct that? 
​​​​​​​Very interesting this thread 
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
The first glimpse I had of not feeling like I was inside my head triggered the first A+P for me. If you can sort of objectify your entire field of awareness for a split second, you'll see that there's no actual experience of having or being inside a head. If you can repeat that glimpse over and over, you'll start to break the spell. That's more of a direct pointing approach, but it can provide you with some conceptual clarity and make the feeling of being inside a head feel more obviously wrong when it returns. Sam Harris's Waking Up and Douglas Harding's On Having No Head are good places to start. The actual meat and potatoes of deconstructing it systematically is a different story though and involved lots of Vipassana for me, following sensations in the head and face as closely as possible, throughout the day, on and off the cushion, seeing how they congeal together into a painful sense of solidity and separation. This is an over-simplification, but by contrasting these two modes, and consistently hunting down the moving centre that the mind keeps creating, you'll eventually see clearly that you can function without creating one moment by moment. 

Hope that's helpful!
​​​​​​​
Will
Alessandro Migliori, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/24/21 Recent Posts
Yes it was helpful.
​​​​​​​How do you do vipassana if i can ask? 
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Maybe start by reading Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated
Alessandro Migliori, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/24/21 Recent Posts
But that it s about samatha,i can t find much about vipassana 
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
That was a nice read Chris, thanks for sharing. Gives me some idea of where you're coming from.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Will G., in one of your comments you said this:
​​​​​​​
There's no sense of things arising and passing away. That framing never really made sense to me conceptually, but I still used to feel like I could 'follow' sense percepts through their 'lifecycle'. Now it just feels like they dont arise or pass at all, and any sense that they did would just be an imputation.

Can you please elaborate on how your experience works if you don't have any arising and passing away going on? I'm not trying to be argumentative but I do find your statement to be very controversial. Could it be that you're just not seeing the process? The arising and passing away of objects (essentially dependent origination) is how human perception works. It's not just framing. It's absolutely fundamental to Buddhism and to seeing through the mind's processing of phenomena to awakening.
Will G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 21 Join Date: 4/7/21 Recent Posts
To me the terms arising and passing imply abiding. Abiding implies existence. Existence implies independent existence. If the moment it arises is the moment it passes, can it really be said to have arisen? This contemplation was crucial in leading me to an emptying of the sense of time, and might actually have been the most important of the last few insights. Before this realization I was basically in a constant PCE but still subtly attached to its 'sequential' nature, and I doubt that any amount of deconstruction or objectification would have gotten me to see through that. Could someone have the same realization without contemplating it that way? I'm sure many have, but there really are very few good means of pointing to our last subtle blind spots, and this seems like a particularly good one to me.

I'll try to get at the reason why the arising/passing framing didn't make conceptual sense to me from the beginning, and why I never practiced noting in the literal sense, using the following analogy. Can you look at a flowing river and say that any part of it is the arising, or that any part is the passing? Is any part of the river not just identical to itself?

I do think this may be a Theravada/Mahayana framing issue, because it doesn’t seem controversial in Mahayana writing.

“ Nagarjuna's very first line in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā:

“I pay respect to the best among speakers who, having attained Enlightenment, has taught relative origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) which is no-cessation, no-origination, no- annihilation, no-abiding, no-one-thing, no-many-thing, no-coming-in, no-going-out; being the termination of linguistic description (Prapañcopashamam), it is the good (Shivam) [Ram Candra Pandey & Mañju, 1999, pp.1]”

​​​​​​​Taken from: http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2015/10/non-arising-of-phenomena-is-most-vital.html

For anyone interested, lots of good writing on the topic compiled over on AtR.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 1623 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Collapse of time, or flow of experience becoming "static", seems to be a common shift at a certain point, whichever way you come at it. It sounds like your experience could be characterized as "instantaneous freeze of the flow over the present moment". I came at it from a macro perspective - my whole life (both past and future) suddenly appeared to be a static line of predetermined experiences which wasn't "going anywhere", but maybe net effect is the same.

​​​​​​​An associated insight was similar to something you say above - I realized that it had always been this way in the past (even when I thought it wasn't) and it would always be this way in the future (even if I lost track of the insight). That's what made it feel like "the final insight", although I'm still open to the possibility that there could be other insights which I've overlooked. And there's still a lot of development on the other axes - psychological and concentration (which I think of as stages 2-4 in the fetter model, whilst the time insight I think of as the final nail in the coffin of self-identity view).

Time collapse was by far the most powerful experience on the path for me, but it only lasted a few days at most before I slowly started getting caught up in time again. I was on a low dose of concentration though and had other stuff going on. It was only a few months ago and now I feel like it comes and goes - it's there if I need it - and it's closely related to clinging. Is your experience of timelessness the same whatever you are doing?

Thanks for the Sutta reference below Malcolm. I always skimmed over that bit before but now it makes lot more sense to me :-)
Alessandro Migliori, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 20 Join Date: 3/24/21 Recent Posts
All these fuckery with time happened to me too.
Really strong, seems final because talking about something to "get in the future" is just no sense lol. 
When it hits really deep shits can get weird, but i think there is the possibility of reifying the present moment and the now, i ve heard that more than once. 
​​​​​​​In seeing that frees there are plenty of exercise for exploring time that way
Will G, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Yes, It feels like time has stood still since I had the insight some 6 months ago. Things are obviously changing, constantly, but not changing in relation to anything but themselves, so theres nothing for the impression of time to establish itself in relation to, if that makes sense. Very peculiar and definitely one of the most pivotal moments of the path, and still one of the most 'prominent' aspects of my day to day experience. I would say something similarly definitive happened to my sense of space with 3rd, although it had already been significantly eroded by that point. These two aspects taken together give everything a kind of "static" quality, as you said, which is what makes things feel like a single, indivisible whole, almost like a 4D object unfolding on a 5D "plane". That things at least feel compatible with pre-determinacy also feels true, but that would be speculation. The other way to look at it though is really just from the Bahiya Sutta perspective, eye-consciousness doesn't come packaged with time inherently, and the same goes for the other senses, including thought etc. So maybe the sense of time comes along further down the 'processing' line?

I haven't read enough accounts of 4th path to have a sense of how common the timelessness aspect is, but it would be interesting to compare notes.

Can you sort of tap into timelessness whenever you want? Does time otherwise feel identical to the way it did before you had the insight? If I think back to my sense of time before the insight, I think it really depended on the impression that things were happening sequentially, and that some part of me was actively involved in bringing that sequence into existence, even as spontaneous, luminous, and non-dual as it may have been. 

Fascinating stuff!!!
George S, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will G
Can you sort of tap into timelessness whenever you want? Does time otherwise feel identical to the way it did before you had the insight?

When I'm going about my business then time feels pretty similar, although the memory/knowledge of timelessness is usually hovering not far in the background. It only takes a few moments to conjure it back up, and it's definitely a very powerful destresssor to be able to remind myself that my experience can't be any different from what it already is in the present moment - it's the ultimate in acceptance :-) And I've needed it, because "4th" threw up some deep unresolved psychological issues for me! I rushed through a lot of steps on low concentration because I didn't have much meditation time and I was very impatient to see "the answer". As the psychological stuff settles down and I have more time then I would like to revisit some of it in more detail.

What powered the time collapse moment for me was the realization that there wasn't a particular special mental state required to "reach the end of the path". That had been my operating assumption though all the years of seeking - that nirvana was some kind of special mental state to be attained like an extra special jhana or something. When I realized 'oh this is already it, always has been and always will be' then it felt like my mind flipped inside out and some deep-seated tension inside my brain just collapsed.

Since the insight eliminates the need for experience to be anything other than what it already is, I don't feel too bothered that experiences of timelessness or centerlessness or nonduality come and go. Obviously some mental states are more pleasant than others, but gone is the idea that my mental state has to be a certain way all the time for it to be "good enough". When I hear more experienced practioners claiming to have achieved permanent mental states then a little voice in my head says 'maybe I've got this wrong and I'm just rationalizing my low standards', but then I realize there seems to be some tension involved in the whole concept of maintaining a permanent mental state. Obviously it's possible given time and conditions to spend more time in a preferred mental state, but there's always stuff in life that needs to be taken care of and a certain amount of fluctuation in mental states (i.e. samsara) seems to be inevitable for all but the most mythical of beings. But when I remind myself of the timeless aspect then the craving drops and it's like 'oh it's ok, samsara really is nibbana when you accept it for what it is' :-)
Stickman3, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I've been wondering about how people conceive of impermanence.
On a macro level -
Knowledge of change is predicated on memory - the river is different from my memory of it, or from a map of it.
If memory is permanent then you have a yardstick by which to measure everything by, as we do when we measure things day to day.
If memory is impermanent then you can say things have changed, because memory is different from present reality, but you cannot say by how much.

Alternatively, things may be always the same but the memory  keeps changing. How would you know the difference ?

In which case impermanence would be all in the mind.

Generally, concerning rivers, we have maps that tell us how things have changed. But if the maps are impermanent then how can we tell if the river is changing or unchanging, permanent or impermanent ?

And if there is no permanent map or yardstick for anything, where does that leave us (or me, y'all might have dealt with this...)?

Currently in science I think we have an ever-changing world and a memory that is also being rewritten every time it's used.  There's no perfect measuring device. In fact it's hard to see where the idea of permanence even came from in such a world - except maybe by intuition that everything is essentially timeless but our minds add motion and time. (?)

But experience of flow is something different, according to science motion perception is constructed very rapidly and unconsciously by our visual system from discrete sensory snapshots. But there's still some comparison of past and future going on even if unconsciously.

If you gaze at a river isn't the sense of flow made in this way ?

How do we know something has arisen and passed away, that something was there and now isn't, without using memory - either on a macro level, or on the fine grained level of observing vibrations in the energy body ?

And if you're not using memory, conscious or unconsious, then you have no knowledge of change - surely , and voila timelessness ?

?
George S, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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 My sense is that memories do change (or disappear completely or sometimes get invented), but that's quite a slow process relative to the speed with which new memory is constantly being laid down. At least in the longer term memory bank. In the shorter term a lot of trivial stuff is held in memory for a short period before being discarded.

I guess it's theoretically possible that nothing is "really" changing in the present moment and our memory is just being written, edited and deleted by some kind of evil demon, and if that was the case we wouldn't be able to know the difference. But "realistically" speaking, I think memory has been quite well studied scientifically although I haven't looked into it much.
 
Stickman3, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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"I guess it's theoretically possible that nothing is "really" changing in the present moment and our memory is just being written, edited and deleted by some kind of evil demon"

If you're into invocation it's secret name is Rupert Murdoch.

Well anyway, I've read some modern spiritual cosmology in which reality is still and eternal, but appears to be in motion due to the workings of the mind - which can be seen through, and what will G wrote here really reminded me of that, so I suppose this is something people encounter sometimes.
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Not two, not one, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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So ... these alternatives for noting are covered by Uncle Sid in the Satipatthana Sutta.  Taking one small section section ... 

"In this way he remains focused internally on the body in and of itself, or externally on the body in and of itself, or both internally and externally on the body in and of itself. Or he remains focused on the phenomenon of origination with regard to the body, on the phenomenon of passing away with regard to the body, or on the phenomenon of origination and passing away with regard to the body. Or his mindfulness that ‘There is a body’ is maintained to the extent of knowledge and remembrance."

This pattern of four alternative methods of notcing gets repeated for all exercises given in the Sutta. Given the different exercises across the four frames of reference, the options for internal/external focus, and the four alternatives for noticing sensations, there are thousands of combinations of exercises given in the sutta. I think most participants in this blog are focussed on arising and passing away.  Shinzen Young seems to be focussed on passing away at the moment - on vanishings and 'gone'.  My own experience moved from arising and passing away to 'there is', as I liked higher sensory bandwidth this gave me. But also origination is interesting - this is partly dependent origination, but I imagine a meditator could focus just on beginnings and my intuition tells me this would be very very energising.

A couple of other brief responses:

George S - Ouch! Yep calling your BAE an REO would be great way to achieve a rapid change of status!  :-). But yes there is more to it than that.

WIll G - That non-human feeling after path is documented elsewhere - I think by Culadasa, from memory as the emotional system shutting down and then having to reboot as part of the process. I certainly went through that.

Alessandro Migliori - It's almost impossible to maintain a clean break between shamantha and vipassana.  In the case of the TMI, the techniques definitely involve vipassana of the sensations of the breath at the tip of the nose, for example.

What an interesting discussion.

Malcolm

 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Can you look at a flowing river and say that any part of it is the arising, or that any part is the passing? Is any part of the river not just identical to itself?

Why, yes, I can. And so could you, Will. Whether you choose to ignore the arising and passing of each fractious moment, or whether you haven't chosen to develop the perceptual resolution required to see it, doesn't mean that your experience doesn't play out that way. Quite a few Mahayana practitioners have this capacity, too, even though it's not as endemic in Mahayana as it is in Theravada. Seeing the arising and passing away of phenomena isn't required, but if we decide not to we're missing a fundamental and wondrously revealing view of how the mind works. And if we assert this view, this process, doesn't actually exist then we're denying one of the basic tenets of Buddhism.
Will G, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Ok this is interesting. It's definitely possible that I haven't developed the "resolution" to see this, although I still want to think its a framing issue. If you don't mind me asking, how would you describe the phenomenal 'signature' of the arising, and the 'signature' of the passing? Is there anything between them? And is it a latticework of asynchronous arisings and passings or a single sequence? If you'll humour this analogy, if the entirety of our conscious experience could be written in code, would it all be 0s and 1s? Or would every 0 and 1 have an up/down arrow before/after it? ;)
Edward, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will G

...if the entirety of our conscious experience could be written in code, would it all be 0s and 1s? Or would every 0 and 1 have an up/down arrow before/after it?



I'm not sure Chris has understood your question Will (though it's an excellent one), but he seems to have answered it inadvertently as the former, and so yes, this does seem to be largely a conceptual misunderstanding rather than a  perceptual difference between the two of you. What do you think of his reply?
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Chris Marti, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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When you go to the theater and watch a movie, or when you watch a video on your computer, you're seeing this process at work. It's a series of sensory phenomena that are very fast snippets. They're really a series of still images, but mind strings them together to form what appears on the surface to be a smooth, unbroken range of motion and sound. The practice of vipassana can take us into this kind of experience and when we slow down, get quiet and observe with some precision we can see how sensory signals create form, name and meaning as they are processed by mind, for everything we experience. 
​​​​​​​
BTW - I'm not asserting that the mind is digital. I don't know what it is. I don't think anyone does at the moment, but maybe scientists of some sort will figure it out one day. What I do know is that mind is enormously powerful and is able to process signals from our senses with ridiculous speed, gluing snippets of our experience together into what seems to be a continuous flow. It presents the universe to us in a miraculous and mysterious way. We can see both the seamless and the cacophonous snow of our experience. We can see the solidity and what appears to be the permanence of objects and yet we can also see their impermanence and emptiness. We can "see" both cause and effect and yet we can see a mysterious, almost frozen, timelessness.

It's truly a truly beautiful thing.
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Chris Marti, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I'm not sure Chris has understood your question Will (though it's an excellent one), but he seems to have answered it inadvertently as the former, and so yes, this does seem to be largely a conceptual misunderstanding rather than a  perceptual difference between the two of you. What do you think of his reply?

Edward, can you please explain? I may indeed misunderstand.

Thanks

emoticon
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Chris Marti, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Stickman3:
​​​​​​​But experience of flow is something different, according to science motion perception is constructed very rapidly and unconsciously by our visual system from discrete sensory snapshots. But there's still some comparison of past and future going on even if unconsciously.

If you gaze at a river isn't the sense of flow made in this way ?

How do we know something has arisen and passed away, that something was there and now isn't, without using memory - either on a macro level, or on the fine grained level of observing vibrations in the energy body ?

I like the way this is written. Memory (another mind process) is a key to the perception of our experiences. Mind uses memory to make comparisons of all sorts, both spatially and temporally. The process works exceedingly fast and the changes appear as flow,  seamless, what have you, as comparisons happen at a very granular level.
Stickman3, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Chris Marti Stickman3:
​​​​​​​But experience of flow is something different, according to science motion perception is constructed very rapidly and unconsciously by our visual system from discrete sensory snapshots. But there's still some comparison of past and future going on even if unconsciously. If you gaze at a river isn't the sense of flow made in this way ? How do we know something has arisen and passed away, that something was there and now isn't, without using memory - either on a macro level, or on the fine grained level of observing vibrations in the energy body ?
I like the way this is written. Memory (another mind process) is a key to the perception of our experiences. Mind uses memory to make comparisons of all sorts, both spatially and temporally. The process works exceedingly fast and the changes appear as flow,  seamless, what have you, as comparisons happen at a very granular level.
Ah it's very nice of you to say so.
Allow me to wander a bit on this... Let's say we're in our samatha meditation, and we focus on the tingling in our body, and really try to see the individual pixels of tingling come and go.
I've tried to google what the physiology of one single point of tingle is but I didn't really get anywhere, however I assume that it's basically one neural event - in the medical model of things - either one nerve cell in our body or more likely one neuron in our brain firing. Something like that, I don't know what the state of science is on this, but something along those lines.

So OK, one neuron creates one tingle. It comes, it goes. Can we consciously remember one tingle point - or do we perceive this like we perceive the motion of a fly - for example - unconscious construction of motion from saccades ?

And if we do remember one single point, would that just be another identical single point, maybe from a neuron a couple of centimetres away in the memory area ?

Granting that badass meditators might be making just these observations.

Also, that cell might fire again and probably does - so would that really count as impermanence ?
Cells come and go too. But you could say there is some sort of lingering pattern as a cell occupies it's spot in tissue for a while, and winks it's pixel on and off.

OK but maybe it's all really to do with microtubules and all that Hameroff stuff, in which case our winking digital tingle pixel is arising from some quantum thing I'm not qualified to comment on.

I always fancied taking a course in perception physiology just to get into this.
Stickman3, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Lego River - Thinking Particles Fluid
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ine8X2TgHTU
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J W, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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If I might chime in here, it sounds like to me what Will and others are getting at is that there can be a tendency sometimes to take an absolutist stance towards these individual neuron firings/sensations/whatever they are. That is to say, "this" is truly the smallest common denominator of sensate experience.  (Will/others are saying, even these microscopic firings, like everything else, are 'empty' of inherent existence.)

​​​​​​​However, I'm not sure that's the stance Chris is taking.
Stickman3, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Hello, I'm a nerve cell. I wink on and off in your consciousness to let you know something is happening. I'm flattered that you should pay such close attention to me, but I'm also a bit insulted that you say I have no inherent existence. I plainly exist - look here are my microtubules and my ion channels. I'm a living, breathing sensitive being. If you keep denying my existence I'm going to stop all my quantum doodling and stop sending these neurotransmitters to my friends and you won't know what the hell's going on, so I should be nice to me if I were you!
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Chris Marti, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I'm not sure that's what Chris is saying.

That's not what I'm saying. JW  emoticon

I'll come back to this when I have more time to try to communicate what I'm saying, but better than I have managed to do so far.
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Not two, not one, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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So, to add my 2c worth ... I'm not sure the perceptual process is as simplistic as a neuron firing or a binary on or off.  Each percept is constructed as a result of variety of causes and conditions, and represents a nested set of processes that you can dig down into at least several levels, depending on how strong you have got your concentration and discrimination. We never get down to the root cause of it all, because that would be a separate enduring object right? So it is not a process of finding some atomistic logical positive foundational element, but rather seeing the transient nature of perception. Some of this may sound different from Chris but I agree completely with what he said - this is just an elaboration rather than a different view.

Here is the exercise I like to do to make the point.  Sit very comfortably, without having your muscles doing any work. Press your thumbnail lightly into the pad of your forefinger (or if you bite your nails, use something else slightly sharp). After a while, as you sit calmly, you will notice a slight one-second throb of sensation that comes and goes.  Probably the pulse right? Then do it with your other thumb too, so you are getting the same throb in both. Notice whether they are in phase or not in phase. Then flick your attention first on one then on the other. Then notice that with a bit of effort, you can change your attention so the sensations in each thumb are phase, or out of phase.  Hang on!  You couldn't move them in and out of phase if they were the pulse!  So what you are perceiving is actually your attention processing the sense percept, and this process of attentional processing arises and passes away. You can dive deeper, and find the arising and passing away of the throb is actually composed of smaller sets of sensations, that also arise and pass away.  Or you can add a third sensation - say the teeth on the tongue. You can keep adding more and more of these sensations to notice simultaneously. Or you can devote yourself exclusively to the sensations inside the mouth, and notice about 12-20 tiny throbs at different areas, until suddenly you are perceiving the base sensations or sensory frame that you usually integrate into the sense of the 'mouth'.  This is minfulness of the body. As you progress, you learn to notice more sensations simultaneously, and at a finer level of discrimination, until they feel like just a flux, or bubbles, or fizzing. Keep this up for 168 hours non-stop and Uncle Sid promises you become an Arhat or Anagami. 

For completion - you can do this with each of the other sense doors too, or with the emotional process, or the mental process, or the process of fabricating reality from concepts such as time, space, centre, volume, distance, ethics, love, attraction, reaction, resistance, fear and wonder. But when you get the insights, don't recoil, go into them, see where they go, let the dominoes fall, let them cascade, squeeze the honey out of them.

This is also just another way of describing the method in MTCB. 

Love and metta

Malcolm 
Alessandro Migliori, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Would you know a way to make that with sound/music?
​​​​​​​Would be nice, is it possible? 
Will G, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I’m going to see if I can try to make my thoughts on the matter a bit clearer. I’m no expert on Buddhism, so I’m not stating any of this as fact, but laying it out as a series of propositions for the sake of clarity, so you can follow my train of thought.

Arising and Passing are designations describing the process by which things blink in and out of existence. They are pointers, so that we may notice the lack of fixity and solidity of things. There is no arising-ness or passing-ness in and of themselves. Like most things in Buddhism, as far as I can tell, they don’t pertain to ontology. They are part of the “tracking-down program” by which we may come to certain realizations. As anyone who has gone down this path long enough knows, this program really deals a significant blow to an unexamined worldview. However, the point is not to infuse our worldview with Buddhist tenets or technology, but rather to be free from all such views (at least it has been for me). So at some point, the tracking down program itself must be abandoned, with the added difficulty that it now seems based on extremely sound epistemological grounds. So what means does that leave us with?

For some, the process of using such pointers exhaustively may eventually be sufficient, but in my experience, the tracking down program left its fair share of residue, and being pretty analytically minded, it was worth investigating some of the underlying assumptions that may have been implicit in parts of that program, if only to speed up its undoing. I found that there was a subtle essentialist tendency embedded in the framing, and that my experience at the time reflected that subtle essentialism. Could that have been a coincidence? Maybe, but so many of the breakthroughs on my path unfolded in Aha moments where reasoning became insight became experience, that I wasn't going to take the language for granted.

So as pointers, “arising” and “passing” beg the questions: Where? To whom? When? For how long? To my mind, they imply subtle dimensions of space, time, duality, and inherency. So when I say I don’t experience things as arising or passing away, I’m not saying that I haven’t noticed that things blink in and out of existence, or that the apparent solidity and fixity of things can't be broken down into vibratory movements, although I can't say for sure to what extent our experiences of this line up. I’m saying I feel as though I’ve exhausted their potential as pointers, along with the not so subtle residues they left behind, as part of the insight/tracking down program. This is significant, given that there was a relatively long period of time, years in fact, where I basically felt chained to a sequentially unfolding conveyor belt of sensations that I was either seeing clearly or not, in synch with or not, failing to see that I could never not be in synch with it, and that actually felt like it was arising and passing away, and I was treading on it. It feels appropriate to describe the end of that feeling as the end of the feeling that things are arising and passing away, given that both of those words imply a relation, and a better way to describe my moment to moment experience now would be something like Identity? Things are just identical to themselves. For that reason, I feel like the terms more accurately describe "insight disease" than they do the reality that Buddhism is trying to get us to see, and I think this is why terms like "non-arisen" are sometimes used in Mahayana.

Best wishes to you all,
Will
George S, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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That makes sense to me. For me it's a variable mental state. Sometimes the dynamic arising-and-passing nature of phenomena is prominent (that was my experience for most of the path). Sometimes my experience feels static/frozen/timeless (I didn't start seeing that until 3rd path - the title of the book "perfect brilliant stillness" comes to mind). And a lot of the time I'm just not paying attention closely enough to be aware of either! For me there's a soft jhanic aspect - the dynamism is more associated with j1-2/piti (and vj2 = "Arising and Passing" obviously!) whereas the stillness is more associated with j3-4 sukha-equanimity, but I haven't investigated that relationship closely. 
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Not two, not one, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will, first of all thank you for stimulating this thread and sharing your experiences.  I sense a note of finality in your post and so don't exect you to reply further (although of course, who knows!). I can't see anything to disagree with in your comments. You are no doubt aware that your comments express quite well much of the tetrad

Form is emptiness (its just raw sense percepts with somewhat arbitrary human conceptual overlays)
Emptiness is form (even emptiness involves subtle somewhat arbitrary human conceptual overlays)
Form is none other than emptiness (I'll go with - those subtle conceptual overlays are still dependently arising)
Emptiness is none other than form (I'll go with - that appreciation of dependent arising still relies on fabrication of an observer)

And after that, we get into speculation about the origin of the perceptual world, which is one of the four imponderables in Buddhist doctrine - although it is usually translated as the universe rather than the perceptual world.  Things just are. Understanding how they are fabricated into our sense of self and reality and lead to stress is the place of Buddhism. But understanding why they are the place of religion, or of theories about aliens creating holographic projections within which we live, or of Berkleyian proposals of us being just ideas in the mind of god. But it doesn't matter any more, right?

:-)

Malcolm 

P.S. Really happy to chat on zoom if you ever feel like it.  
Will G, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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No finality here! And I do also love to speculate.
​​​​​​​Send me a PM and we can set something up (I haven't figured out how to do that yet).
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I know that people come to this practice from every possible human angle and then employ countless avenues to explore it. I'm all for the variety. My practice started with Zen (Mahayana, of course) and that just didn't suit me, so I switched to Theravada/Vipassana, and that suited me just fine. I do think there is a series of realizations that tend to be processed as a human being wakes up regardless of the path we follow and the methods we use. My path happened to take me directly through the very details of the arising a passing away of phenomena. To say, "That's not what's happening, it's just framing" doesn't settle well. It would be like telling a serious Mahayana practitioner that the phrase "emptiness is form and form is emptiness" is just framing. 

If you read MCTB and agree with the results Daniel Ingram describes, why diminish the process he used to get there?

Best to you all!
Alessandro Migliori, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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What is your understanding of mahayana non-arising, if i can ask? 
Edward, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Hi Chris,

I still feel that there's a misunderstanding here. You seem to be equating 'arising and passing' with impermenance. Will G is not denying or claiming to not perceive impermenance. I think he's saying that although he perceives things coming and going, there is nothing in experience that is simultaneosuly stamped with 'arising/forming' or 'passing/dissolving'.

Did you read the ATR link he posted? 
​​​​​​​
http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2015/10/non-arising-of-phenomena-is-most-vital.html


Ed
Will G, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Chris,
I don't mean to diminish the process, nor deny any of the insights it affords. They are wonderful and I am forever indebted to them. I'm just sharing my experience and best current conceptual understanding for the sake of pointing anyone that may be in a similar position (maybe a bit too attached to the implications of language) forward. I appreciate your input, it has made for a very stimulating and thought provoking exchange!

With regards to "emptiness is form and form is emptiness", I took that to be precisely pointing to the fact that the whole thing is a framing issue! But I really am not very well read in actual Buddhist writings.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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This is significant, given that there was a relatively long period of time, years in fact, where I basically felt chained to a sequentially unfolding conveyor belt of sensations that I was either seeing clearly or not, in synch with or not, failing to see that I could never not be in synch with it, and that actually felt like it was arising and passing away, and I was treading on it. It feels appropriate to describe the end of that feeling as the end of the feeling that things are arising and passing away, given that both of those words imply a relation, and a better way to describe my moment to moment experience now would be something like Identity?

Yep, the end of the "feeling" that things are arising and passing away, but not the actuality of how our very human mind works to create our so-called reality. 

If I might chime in here, it sounds like to me what Will and others are getting at is that there can be a tendency sometimes to take an absolutist stance towards these individual neuron firings/sensations/whatever they are. 

I have no idea of individual neurons and the like, and when folks start talking that way it makes me want to fall asleep. So that's never been my "thing." I think we're really just talking past each other here because we're using imprecise language, some of us relating to certain words one way, others in another way, and that is because of our different reference points.

It happens. 

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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

Posts: 3875 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Edward --
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Will G is not denying or claiming to not perceive impermenance. I think he's saying that although he perceives things coming and going, there is nothing in experience that is simultaneosuly stamped with 'arising/forming' or 'passing/dissolving'.

Sure, and I'm not disagreeing with that at all. There is a view of experience, of the universe, if you will, that is timeless, not arising and not passing away. This, too, aligns with my experience. Again, I think we're just out of sync because we're coming at these things from different perspectives. As I said up-thread somewhere, what we can see from our practices spans vast distances, and has unending variety. Some folks lean toward one view, others toward another. Ultimately, they're all legitimate views.

Maybe part of the problem here is that folks are getting confused when I talk about the arising and passing away process, and are assuming that I'm asserting a specialness of some sort to that which arises and passes. I'm not.  What I'm asserting is that the mind causes this process to occur, all the time, as long as we're conscious. The WHAT (objects) of that process is/are truly empty of any inherent existence. Those things are fabricated from what is actually.... unknown. Where those things come (arise) from and where they go (pass) is a mystery.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Ya'll aware that we're having our own little version of the never-ending Mahayana/Theravada debate? Does anyone think we can put it to bed once and for all?
Edward, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Yup, that's why I was intervening. That didn't seem to be clear to everyone involved initially. 
But it's been a great discussion.
Will G, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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forgive me

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Edward, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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J W, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Chris Marti: I have no idea of individual neurons and the like, and when folks start talking that way it makes me want to fall asleep. So that's never been my "thing." I think we're really just talking past each other here because we're using imprecise language, some of us relating to certain words one way, others in another way, and that is because of our different reference points. It happens.   emoticon
To be clear I was not accusing you of taking this absolutist stance, Chris (and forgive me if I used imprecise terminology there). Nor was I trying to diminish the process described in MCTB in any way, which has been invaluable to me.
​​​​​​​Was simply trying to clear up some of that talking past each other, though maybe it didn't help emoticon
As far as the whole Mahayana vs. Theravada thing, or whatever you want to call it, my view is that it's mostly an issue of semantics and not fundamentals.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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... that's why I was intervening.

Were we saved? Or do we need to go away for a few weeks for therapy?

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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Will - the PM system on the DhO doesn't work - just a head's up.
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Chris,
I don't mean to diminish the process, nor deny any of the insights it affords. They are wonderful and I am forever indebted to them. I'm just sharing my experience and best current conceptual understanding for the sake of pointing anyone that may be in a similar position (maybe a bit too attached to the implications of language) forward. I appreciate your input, it has made for a very stimulating and thought provoking exchange!

With regards to "emptiness is form and form is emptiness", I took that to be precisely pointing to the fact that the whole thing is a framing issue! But I really am not very well read in actual Buddhist writings.

No worries!

If you want to know a little more about my practice history I had insights into emptiness and timelessness long before I had any vipassana-related insights surrounding dependent origination. I thought Ingram was looney the first time I read through MCTB. And... there are pockets of Theravada that are far more like Mayahana than they are Mahasi vipassana noting practices, so the whole thing is a sort of mashhup of Buddhist "stuff." Look into the Thai Forest Tradition, as just one example.
Will G, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Interesting! I'll look into that. I was also curious, have you kept anything like a practice log in the 10 or so years since 4th path? 
Alessandro Migliori, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Could you elaborate on the difference between emptiness and vipassana insight? 
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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JW --

​​​​​​​To be clear I was not accusing you of taking this absolutist stance, Chris (and forgive me if I used imprecise terminology there). Nor was I trying to diminish the process described in MCTB in any way, which has been invaluable to me.
​​​​​​​Was simply trying to clear up some of that talking past each other, though maybe it didn't help emoticon
As far as the whole Mahayana vs. Theravada thing, or whatever you want to call it, my view is that it's mostly an issue of semantics and not fundamentals.

​​​​​​​ I know. My reply wasn't actually aimed at any one person in particular.
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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... have you kept anything like a practice log in the 10 or so years since 4th path? 

Will, I stopped practice logging about six months after the transition to 4th path. 
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Chris Marti, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Alessandro --

Could you elaborate on the difference between emptiness and vipassana insight? 

We've pretty well covered this already up-thread. Why do you ask?

Meanwhile, let me offer this as one way to look at the two, in a very quick and possibly misleading, dirty manner:

- Vipassana investigation shows us how the mind creates the illusion of objects in our perception. It's about seeing that process at work.
- Emptiness is the realization that none of those things have permanence, and while they appear to exist while they arise in perception, they have no inherent existence at all. It's about the objects.

So in a further misleading shorthand; process vs things



​​​​​​​<<The finance person in me what's to say this is akin to income statements vs balance sheets  emoticon >>



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Alessandro Migliori, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Thanks that was clear
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Ni Nurta, modified 28 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Local minima is term from artificial intelligence research and my use here mean that small changes which meditation typically causes won't improve mind state because it is locally the best. Globally there might be mind configuration which is better but it might require quite a big changes. Generally people who meditate a lot and get to what they call 4th path they tend to be in their local minima and which is at already satisfactory level. People who are stuck seems to also hit some sort of local minima, just not at the level that is satisfactory, as are normal people who do not meditate and never change anything. Normally the push which causes people to go out of their local minima is general idea about possible improvement, meditation practices and hints as to what might be the issue to try to change it. Once there are no more hints about possible improvements and the mind naturally wont struggle so much to reconfigure itself. Typically people also stop to practice so much and tend to ease the practice which helps to keep them in their local minima and they can stay there for a long time.

Regarding description of senses.
I was interested for certain effects in visual perception and type of experience of body.
Descriptions point to mostly 4th jhana thus also the beginning of 3rd path.
You do not need to motivate oneself with relief. Noble Eightfold path is sufficient.
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@Chris
Change most of all requires readiness for a change.
Sometimes it is good to stay where the landscape is good, recharge the batteries but at some point it is just clinging.

Three months ago I checked a friend and his ground mind jhana was at 111 binary. Something about his mind state I didn't know was possible before which I found pretty cool. I wonder how I could motivate him to do one step forward without causing any desire for relief/liberation to arise in him as that would be unskillful and dukkha. Any advice? You can PM me.

@George
Doesn't apply to me because I am fully enlightened ;)
There are criteria for that and I got them from the man himself.
I suspect he was constantly saying he was gone because he was going out to support sentient beings XD
George S, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I'm curious, if you're fully enlightened, how you could have let Papa Che get to you so easily the other day ... and then deleted the evidence emoticon
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Ni Nurta, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Maybe it was the one day of the year for writing really stupid stuff?

Besides what you expect from someone who is fully enlightened?
George S, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I don't know, I only know what to expect from non-enlightened people. I assume that if someone was fully enlightened then I wouldn't be able to tell.
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Ni Nurta, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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People have issues and due to some issues never ever being raised leaves everyone pretty hopeless when facing them. Other than that people have solutions and though they differ in efficiency they are just solutions and no single solution is for everything or free from issues for that matter.

What I am saying is that people are often more enlightened than what we give them credit for and they give credit to themselves. Everyone is her/his buddha and often buddha for other people. Some are pretty terrible at it but hey, no one is perfect and no one knows everything and the same goes the other way.

Besides fully enlightened person doesn't even exist. It is an unreachable ideal. Having the ideal and striving for it is as good as you can get.

That said I must admit I am definitely fully enlightened with supermundane enlightened eyes and everything. Imho best question would be: should you care? And I have a feeling you already know the answer to that question ;)
George S, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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Ni Nurta
Besides fully enlightened person doesn't even exist. It is an unreachable ideal. Having the ideal and striving for it is as good as you can get.

I think this is probably the case. I'm just curious how you reconcile it with the view that you are fully enlightened!
 
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Ni Nurta, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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I have five supermundane experiences which adds up to five paths.
One of them was mine to begin with, one I claimed as my own, one came by to me by itself, one I learned from someone and one I invented myself.
Enough eyes to see th... nada nada nada, going too deep exception at line 10
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Ni Nurta, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: 4th Path

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 Somehow my post didn't really explain anything emoticon

The idea is that you have to have some idea that helps sentient beings and realize it.
If the idea is supermundane then solution probably also and most definitely not worth talking about ;)

I personally concentrate more on realizing my full mundane enlightenment and figure out how I can describe neurons getting tired in useful ways. Meaning that people read it or listen to it and more or less know what I mean. It is not like people lack the skills necessary to use it. It is not super complicated stuff to figure out how to do it and certainly anyone who experienced fruitions should have faculties capable of this level of interaction with own nervous system (though maybe I am over(under)estimating things emoticon) and the only reason this is not considered is head filled with nonsense invented by pre-scientific people who were trying to describe indescribable to them things and who didn't focus on anything in particular and mixed everything with things which have nothing to do with anything. Surely today aspects of mind which anyone should know can be described just fine.

Heck, when technology gets a little better and resolution of scans get to where it can be seen that neurons within a brain region shift over time the link between them not shifting fast enough (or at all in case of depressed people... and those who screwed their brains with meditation and are dark nighting) will be found and I will be proven right. I am not even worried about this. Same goes for importance of signaling, activation states of groups of neurons in relation to memory or anything related to nervous system for that matter. What I am worried is that people do not know this already and rely on poetry and practices which look like workarounds for not practicing internal senses emoticon

This is the most important stuff and most important thing to figure out. There lies the issue with sense of self causing dukkha.
Also anyone interested in supermundane part of reality more than nervous system should also know nervous system and how it relates to the rest as it is not something completely unrelated.

​​​​​​​Hope this now explains everything emoticon