Advice on path?

Tom R, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 12:34 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 12:34 PM

Advice on path?

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/28/21 Recent Posts
Hi all,
 
I'm new to DhO and thought this would be a good question to ask the community and some of the more experienced practitioners. I've been feeling a bit confused how to approach this newly presented problem. My questions are at the bottom if you'd like to skip.
 
A little bit of history...
I've been meditating for about 14 years on and off. I recently figured out I had taught myself to meditate and jhana back in the day when I had an interest in lucid dreaming. After slipping out of that interest and into a 3-4 year ego dark night, I rediscovered meditation to pull myself out of the particularly bad habits avoidance had led to. Only for the past 6 months have I had a very dedicated practice of 1-3+ hours daily and really discovered how to build upon the lessons and continuity of practice for the long term. I've never had a teacher since the pandemic situation has made in-person practice very difficult to find. I thought I would take advantage of this opportunity from a different perspective and see what I was capable of myself. This has led me to the following.
 
I have used both MCTB and TMI for guides. I have followed both guides side-by-side through my whole process and benchmarked their characteristics individually over the past 6 months. Sunday 7/18/21 I had a particularly obvious desire for deliverance stage followed by re-observation after that night's meditation. The next day there was a clear state shift from re-observation into EQ during the meditation. This aligned with both characteristics described in MCTB stage EQ and TMI stage 9. The next week and a half or so (until recently) I was working on letting go and total pacification of the senses on a consistent basis. I've really been challenged with letting go completely, but have had some extraordinary insights leading up to the event on Sunday 8/1/21. I fell back a couple times and had to clean up some of my unfinished business in the dukkha nanas during this time.
 
My practice over these few weeks has been as follows:
-Body scan head to toe (2-4 mins)
-Metta meditation (2-4 mins)
-Well-wishing meditation (2-4 mins)
-Samatha jhana 1st to 4th (approx. 10-20 mins, use the equanimity to lead into vipassana)
-Vipassana meditation until session end. This usually consists of choiceless awareness, meditating on the watcher and mindstream, sprinkles of self-inquiry, and Shinzen's do-nothing meditation depending on the feel of the mind and previous sit.
 
Last week, I had rapid insights into formations and how literally everything going on in my mind was a mental concept. Some of these were the concept of body and the sensations tugging on it, the narrator of thoughts, and the mind space I am sitting in itself. I've had this skullcap sensation on and off this whole period where my brain feels like it is rewiring. On Wed (7/28/21) the really interesting stuff started happening. I found if I strictly observe without expectations or intentions and let the attention be choiceless in the dreamy mindstream, insights will arise and awareness will become very clear when they do. This led to several floating and nearly being sucked into a black hole experiences, and one nearly being pulled out of my body into a pure white light (touched upon a new jhana or near miss event?). During all of these there were tiny threads just barely holding me to my body which I could tell where unresolved lessons I needed to address. I worked on these and noticed that every time the conceptual body and mind tries to control, avoid, rush, or cling to anything that disagrees with the outside world there is suffering generated. There were also periods of forgetfulness during sits -- like I couldn't remember what I was doing or who I was.
 
Since I hit EQ, I had made an intention on achieving SE by end of the month before I had to physically go into work full time. This meant adding the mental issues generated by city driving, low time, and back pain. On Sunday 8/1/21, I had trouble sleeping. I could not stop meditating as I was too aware of my every mental process. I finally managed to drift off and then at 1:34am I became aware of a vivid scene in my dream. I sat in a dark room writing at a desk by candlelight. I had a creepy feeling of being watched by "something intelligent" behind me and slightly to the right. An idea just popped into my head that said "let go." Something just allowed me to  and as soon as that happened during the following second a bright light vortex behind me with a black hole at the center sucked me into it. This was accompanied by a bliss wave and a lights out experience. I woke up noting a feeling like something was different. I just went back to sleep with lots of random lights flashing in my peripheral vision like I get in A&P.
                The following day at work I noticed cycles of anxiety and maybe slight fear hit me several times through the day. If I just shined awareness on them they went away. It was also easier to drop into being mindful and noticing my mental constructs when I noted them.
                The following meditation, when I finally was able to sit again, started out completely different than I was used to. All my sensations were waves as soon as I closed my eyes. I noted A&P type sensations and re-gained ability to enter into light formless jhana (missing since I hit dukkha nanas). I noticed this and said, if I am cycling I'm going to follow it through to validate the experience. Sure enough I stepped through all the familiar phases from A&P to EQ with a damn obvious entry into EQ (since I was just there for 2 weeks). However, since I was in a dream when this experience happened I wasn't sure exactly how I let go to cause [this potential fruition] to reoccur after a 2hr sit. I assume this could have something to do with expectations and excitement (ill-will) as you can probably see from my questions.
               
My questions:
               
Could this actually be SE through a dream-to-conscious experience? I am extremely wary of calling it that without being able to fully validate it. Do review fruitions occur more frequently and easily once the mind is experienced?
 
How much should I practice getting to fruition events in this "potential review" period with my situation? Is it better to completely ignore it or does this pose a problem with losing a chance to master a path's review if the next comes on too soon?
 
How exactly does the next path come on? Can you re-review previous paths indefinitely? Is it just a completely different territory by feel so you can willingly access the old arena?
 
I really appreciate any veteran advice as I don't have a teacher or anyone to discuss these things with.
 
Thanks so much,
Tom
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A Dietrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 12:56 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 12:56 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
It is possible to skip jhanas. But my advice is to stick with the basic instructions for now. I am not familiar with TMI.
T DC, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:21 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:21 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 447 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Tom R

My questions:
               
Could this actually be SE through a dream-to-conscious experience? I am extremely wary of calling it that without being able to fully validate it. Do review fruitions occur more frequently and easily once the mind is experienced?
 
How much should I practice getting to fruition events in this "potential review" period with my situation? Is it better to completely ignore it or does this pose a problem with losing a chance to master a path's review if the next comes on too soon?
 
How exactly does the next path come on? Can you re-review previous paths indefinitely? Is it just a completely different territory by feel so you can willingly access the old arena?
 
I really appreciate any veteran advice as I don't have a teacher or anyone to discuss these things with.
 
Thanks so much,
Tom
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Great write up, sounds like an intriguing experience, and definately possible stream entry.  Might be rare to achieve it in a dream, but these experiences vary widely person to person, and your description of a lights out experience and a bliss wave, as well as the lead up of (significant) practice to the experience, sounds very much like strem entry.

Stream entry can be somewhat subtle, and a general, if somewhat vauge feeling of increased mental wellness and lightness, following a distinct shift in awareness, is a hallmark IMO.  One of the best tools to confirm it, as you mentioned, is an ability to move through the review POI cycle and achieve repeat fruitions.  It can be tricky to get fruitions initially, although it gets much easier with practice - increased clarity and ease working through these stages, which I think you mentioned, is a good start.

Practice getting repeat fruitions as much as you want!  It's a very unique, cool, and pleasurable experience on the path, and a strong meditative confidence booster, no real ill side effects.  ;)  The time after stream entry, when you are still techinically in review, is the best time to practice this skill - the stages are fresh in your mental experience, and you're mentally fully primed to work through them.  Really no reason to ignore it, if anything working with these cycles and getting them down pat likely helps you work through (read integrate) review faster and more effectively, and sets you up to move onto the 2nd path journey with some extra meditative tools in your back pocket.

As far as what moving on looks like, review is functionally the honeymoon of stream entry, during which time we integrate the profound mental and energetic effects of this initial attainment.  Althougth stream entry is an important inital experience of attainment, at a certain point we begin to get over the novelty of our newfound mental peace and joy.  As we start to become more aware of the deeper mental / perceptual issues that remain for us beyond SE, we naturally move on to the new challenges of 2nd path territory.

Getting to frution remains an accessible skill basically forever on path.  Further attainments do not change or alter this experience, although as we encounter deeper and deeper levels of mind, the relative profundity of fruition does diminish.  And fruition is always the same, it's not like after 2nd path we now access the 2nd path frution, and likewise with 3rd, or 4th (and beyond).  Higher attainments on the path have unique path moments, and none simply repeat the neat POI ladder style lead up to fruition as with Stream Entry - this set up is unique to the occurance of Stream Entry.  In addition, higher attainments, basically accross the board, do not become wierdly repeatable on-command events.  All the more reason to master fruition practice while still in review - kind of a 1x opportunity.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:39 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:38 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Getting to frution remains an accessible skill basically forever on path.  Further attainments do not change or alter this experience, although as we encounter deeper and deeper levels of mind, the relative profundity of fruition does diminish.  And fruition is always the same, it's not like after 2nd path we now access the 2nd path frution, and likewise with 3rd, or 4th (and beyond).  Higher attainments on the path have unique path moments, and none simply repeat the neat POI ladder style lead up to fruition as with Stream Entry - this set up is unique to the occurance of Stream Entry.  In addition, higher attainments, basically accross the board, do not become wierdly repeatable on-command events.  All the more reason to master fruition practice while still in review - kind of a 1x opportunity.
One thing is that fruitions can sometimes come at inoppertune moments. I had a phase where I was experiencing fruitions that were causing freudian imagry to come up surrounding my mother. I confused what I was feeling and asked to be hospitalized. They put me one depakote which curtailed most of my excess fruitions. Now a fruition is a rare, profound thing again.
A Dietrich Ringle, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:39 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 3:39 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 882 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Depakote is an anti-seizure medication.
Tom R, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 8:50 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 8:50 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/28/21 Recent Posts
 Thank you! An interesting point that I had begun to experiment with a bit. I do agree that I could skip the jhanas.

I found in the later stages such as after desire for deliverance or re-observation, my momentary concentration was getting so great I really didn't need to do jhana practice to get into the mental space for clear insight. I originally did this because I found the equanimity afterglow beneficial to getting me rapidly in the proper state for insight.

​​​​​​​However, I did notice two things when I stopped. One was that after several days without jhana practice I found it harder to enter jhana, so the skill could deteriorate. Jhana was really the first thing I learned as my understanding of an adept meditator grew, so I've been doing it ever since and it just stuck in my practice. The second thing that I noticed was that my insights would stir up emotions in a different way that made it difficult. This is perhaps because I didn't have the equanimity to deal with it at the time. Because of this, I think that going through the dukkha nanas would have been much harder without jhana practice.
 
Tom R, modified 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 9:30 PM
Created 11 Months ago at 8/3/21 9:24 PM

RE: Advice on path?

Posts: 10 Join Date: 7/28/21 Recent Posts

Stream entry can be somewhat subtle, and a general, if somewhat vauge feeling of increased mental wellness and lightness, following a distinct shift in awareness, is a hallmark IMO.  One of the best tools to confirm it, as you mentioned, is an ability to move through the review POI cycle and achieve repeat fruitions.  It can be tricky to get fruitions initially, although it gets much easier with practice - increased clarity and ease working through these stages, which I think you mentioned, is a good start.

I can recognize something like this that I have been feeling. A kind of subtle shift and light feeling. It's too dim to notice at work when a lot of distractions are going on (for the level of skill I have), but when out in nature I can notice a peace and stillness that pervades everything. It seems that it has taken a day or two to sink in. I've been thinking of it as the peace and calm to see through the clouded swarm of bugs as an analagy for the thoughts. I think I may have had a complete cycle today with a fruition, but if it was a fruition it was extremely quick and mild in comparison. I will keep working on this.



Higher attainments on the path have unique path moments, and none simply repeat the neat POI ladder style lead up to fruition as with Stream Entry - this set up is unique to the occurance of Stream Entry. In addition, higher attainments, basically accross the board, do not become wierdly repeatable on-command events. All the more reason to master fruition practice while still in review - kind of a 1x opportunity.

I've been intrigued as to how the process could be so seemingly and oddly uniform. I couldn't find any readings that plainly state it. Thank you for mentioning this about how things lay out ahead and to take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself!