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Where Am I?
Answer
10/13/11 7:47 PM
Hey all,

For the past few months I've been in a bit of confusion as to where I am on the path. I'd had my best guesses but always kept a large degree of skepticism towards any claims and just practiced when I could find the time. The purpose of this thread is to get some alternate perspectives on where I am, and avoid all the biases one might come across when self diagnosing and generally being a lurker. I'm hoping someone on here with experience can help me.

For brevity's sake: very quick rundown of my practice history:

Mid 2010-April11': Pre MCTB. Range of activities, largely unfocused from light dabbling in zen to 2 goenka retreats.Passed A&P during 1st Goenka retreat, likely passed as some point before this also.
After the 2nd retreat I learn about MCTB and DhO.

April11': More targeted goal-oriented practice. Reading a dharma books and meditation material. In here I visit a Thai temple and focus on concentration practice, nailing down 4th Jhana and getting some advice/confirmation from Tarin Greco here.. This takes about a week from access to 4th.

May-July 11': Spotty daily practice with several 1-2 day retreats injected in when I felt 'strangely reactive' (in retrospect these were dark night cycles).Concentration/insight/identification skills improve.

Aug: I run a half day retreat with short sits, comparing my experience at each break with Daniel Ingram's insight hierarchy thread, (among other resources), and following the directions more closely each time. There's an insight thread called "discontinuous events" I can't seem to find anymore, but I basically claim stream entry but am not sure and don't post much after. My main doubts centered around the short time it took (about 4-6 hours of total sit time, just that one day with little momentum before that) and inability to experience hints of an intelligent entity -as described in MCTB- during fruition (and general slipperiness/lack of skill around my ability to call up what I thought were fruitions). However, almost everything else has held up over time: bliss waves, non stickiness of emotions, feeling of a shift that changed everything but nothing in particular, and an intuitive understanding of all of this was didn't seem there back when I was trying to land 1st jhana. I do a few of what I think are review cycles (still unsure), but then am caught up in real life stuff and practice very little for a few weeks. So there is a several-week long gap in practice here.

Sept: Pick up concentration again, and within two days find I can access 5th-8th jhana. I had never really tried before so tried not to take this as confirmation of stream entry. Getting better at identifying jhanic qualities, planning starting AF practice once more real life stuff is cleared out. Doing a lot of HAIETMOBA in daily life and enjoying it. I generally feel great/relaxed and don't think a lot about technical dharma while just getting better at relating to the people/world around me.


Recent/Oct: At some point early in the month I gradually get really really reactive such that I notice a marked shift in daily life causing numerous problems at work. I notice parts of it are similar to previous dark night experiences, and peg this one as such. I also notice by contrasting with background cycling, that this territory feels completely new. One aspect is a persistent 3rd eye headache, that I've read others experience at 2nd path dark night. I'm writing this in a neutral tone but it completely blindsided me.

I work at home, and so can (at a comparatively small cost), reorganize things for short retreats. I do so with some good private advice from another DhO member over skype, and get on a sitting schedule. This was several days ago. Dark night intensified.
I'm grateful there was no bleedthrough. I'm pretty sure I've told nobody in my daily life apart from one DhO member.


Yesterday: I had a particularly undignified reobservation and went to sleep thoroughly beaten/exhausted/hopeless/stressed, but determined and desperately noting hard.

This morning: Has a noticeably lighter tone to it. First sit detailed below.

Sit 1:

Resolve to 4th, intent includes simply staying with the breath to exclusion of all else, so as to avoid
guiding the mind through jhana and letting it 'run the arc'.
Noticing pressure in forehead, 3rd eye headache of moderate intensity.
Thoughts about maps/insight technique in shift from 2nd to 3rd, otherwise few interruptions.
4th arises within 5 minutes, apply effort to pull/stabilize mind as it latches on to expansive senstations of 5th. Take a breath and shift to bare vipassana by breaking down sensations around nostils into smaller and smaller fields of fine vibrations.
Taking each sensation that takes the foreground of attention, holding it in attention, and percieving in order: no-self, suffering, impermanence. No self comes easiest to me, all I do is mentally disembed from the sensation, and "feel" it is not happening to "me" but simply "happening".
Continues for 5 minutes, only thing that stands out is 3rd eye headace seems to be focused into 3 'pressure points', 2 are stable, one slowly oscilates around the midpoint created by the two, travelling diagonally between my top right and bottom left edges of my forehead. The moving point is strongest. I shift away from analysis and think about where I am in the insight heirarchy.
Noting few interruptions, I conclude much of the gross/foreground sensations are included, and I am percieving the 3 Cs. Next step is background.

Note sensations of clarity, calmness, and relaxed expectation. Low mental noise (phrase in my head was mental silence but that would be untrue given the background analysis I was doing).
Seeing no self in clarity/calmness in the same way as above. At times a visualization arose where the sensation was represented by a tiny point circling the body, with the feeling that I was trying to "shoot" attention on orbiting objects. Successfully getting attention to stay on these sensations with gross physical ones going on seemed consistent and effortless.

Other two characteristics lended themselves to visualizing an aura (one which strangely did not include head or lower body regions) and noticing tension in simple recognition of sensations (suffering), or mentally turning up the focus/resolution such that there were blinking out/sampling problems(impermanence). Perception of clarity, for example, would be seen only as 'quality' (with nothing to posess that quality) and fade in and out.




This is the first 15 or so minutes of a 1 hour sit. I realized the write up could easily be over four times as long, so thought I'd end it here. It gets pretty interesting with sense doors melding into a formation-like experience and some jhana effects in the background I try to ignore.


Because it is fresh in my mind and I've done this long enough to feel confident/assertive, I am sure that I have just passed through the dark night, and am hanging out in late low equanimity. Confidence is starting to return, attention is stabilizing, and hints of formations are showing up, all of which were absent less than 48 hours ago. In any case I feel too much like I'm just chilling out for this to be a buildup to A&P.


I think there are two ways of interpreting the chronology I just wrote up:
-I am currently in 11th nana of 2nd path, trying to land fruition of 2nd path. I believe this is most likely and a lot of my language reflects that, which can hide some biases I am not aware of. The best I can do is make it clear where I'm coming from so someone with more experience can perhaps point me in the right direction if I'm mistaken.
-I am in 11th nana of 1st path, trying to land stream entry. I feel this is unlikely, but know how powerful the mind is in scripting experiences and molding beliefs around them. If you want a potential way that progression would work out, it would peg my experiences in Aug11' as an intense A&P event (supported by my sudden "decision" to stop practicing), and all the reported changes + following month of casual concentration/actualism practice in the bucket of "intense residual A&P" events. I thought this forum would be a good place to test things.

Main thing is I just don't remember September all that well. I was really busy with 'real life' and enjoying myself.
If August was my A&P, this was a particularly long carryover period. If not, I was somehow so distracted I let both the early stages and A&P of 2nd path fly by unnoticed.

Bolded the end in case anyone wanted to skim the "story".


This was the best balance I could strike between providing enough information and taking up the time of anyone kind enough to read and help me out. Please do ask questions if I left anything unexplained. I'd also be happy to write up a full/long sit report if anyone is interested.

RE: Where Am I?
Answer
10/14/11 8:26 AM as a reply to T. Dan S-.
Sze-Hung Daniel Tsui:

Because it is fresh in my mind and I've done this long enough to feel confident/assertive, I am sure that I have just passed through the dark night, and am hanging out in late low equanimity. Confidence is starting to return, attention is stabilizing, and hints of formations are showing up, all of which were absent less than 48 hours ago. In any case I feel too much like I'm just chilling out for this to be a buildup to A&P.


I think there are two ways of interpreting the chronology I just wrote up:
-I am currently in 11th nana of 2nd path, trying to land fruition of 2nd path. I believe this is most likely and a lot of my language reflects that, which can hide some biases I am not aware of. The best I can do is make it clear where I'm coming from so someone with more experience can perhaps point me in the right direction if I'm mistaken.
-I am in 11th nana of 1st path, trying to land stream entry. I feel this is unlikely, but know how powerful the mind is in scripting experiences and molding beliefs around them. If you want a potential way that progression would work out, it would peg my experiences in Aug11' as an intense A&P event (supported by my sudden "decision" to stop practicing), and all the reported changes + following month of casual concentration/actualism practice in the bucket of "intense residual A&P" events. I thought this forum would be a good place to test things.

Main thing is I just don't remember September all that well. I was really busy with 'real life' and enjoying myself.
If August was my A&P, this was a particularly long carryover period. If not, I was somehow so distracted I let both the early stages and A&P of 2nd path fly by unnoticed.



or, could you be reviewing first path?

or, could this indeed be the build up to the second path's a&p territory? your account of forehead pressure - both in daily life as well as your sit report - reads to me most like an account of the 3rd nana (knowledge of the three characteristics).

tarin

RE: Where Am I?
Answer
10/15/11 1:45 AM as a reply to tarin greco.
As always, it seems the best thing to do is just keep practicing. emoticon

Do you think it would be productive if I were to create an insight practice thread and start it with a full description of my what happens when I sit?