Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

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Noah Bretnall, modified 19 Days ago.

Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 17 Join Date: 11/22/20 Recent Posts
HellO DhO emoticon

I hope all is well with your practice, and your life is going swimmingly x

I've come back to this wonderful community once again from the onset of a new experience, and would like to put the feelers out about the particulars; Hopefully, we can engage in some experiential or phenomenological relations, investigations, or discussions, maybe even some mapping, or philosophical inference drawing, or whatever else you'd like to say, all feedback is welcome.

I'll outline my practice profile briefly then get into the juicy bits.

Habits of Practice:
 - I've been practising for about, 4-5 years, which makes me blush for some reason.
 - I've done three 2-week retreats with Sayadaw U Pandita Jnr, number four is coming up in a few weeks.
 - I sit, these days, on average once a day. However, this is not always evenly distributed over the seven days of the week, as on some days there is no formal sit, and on some other days, there is more than one sit. I've stopped timing the meditations (as in using an end bell) and they last anywhere from 10min to 40min.
 - I do a lot of practice in motion, it would seem, and my days are sprinkled with moments of more or less intentional/deep practice outside of the formal sits.
 - I do a lot of conceptual work, also (I'm a philosophy student...kinda comes with the gig). I tentatively call this 'contemplation' and it looks like reading or listening to teachings and going off into solitude to ponder what appears to be the main takeaway, feeling that out, and integrating whatever the result happens to be. What it doesn't look like is papañca, funnily enough, and is a bit more like pointing out teachings with gradual (or sometimes sudden) results. This is a bit of undefined practice space for me, and so I can't really describe its precise effects, however, what I can say is that it has helped the general smoothness of the occurrence and integration of insights, increased their unpredictable arising, and has contributed substantially to the overall defanging of thought that has been going on as a broader arch of development.

Techniques of Practice:
- I very much enjoy vipassana and just hop into that way of practice in almost all of my non-formal practice and is, as alluded to earlier, in the Mahasi style. I have hit a point where the noting is too slow to note what is noticed, and so the technique is usually completed in internal silence, so to speak.
- Since my previous post (which ended up as a 1st path or equanimity inquiry, to summarise), from the counsel of some other practitioners, my formal sittings have been directed toward shamatha. I have noticed a huge improvement in the capacity of the mind to concentrate and become singular. Nothing that I'd call Jhana has arisen yet if that's important.
- Only recently, after 'contemplating' Alan Watts' talks and Dogen's Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, I've started practising zazen, which, I must say, has been potent...I found that a lengthy zazen sit is a good transition into shamatha practice, and the first time this was done was the first time a nimitta began to form.

New Experience:
I'm going to use some more loose language here.

Have any of you ever experienced what feels like a gradual, and then sudden, 'release', with existential fears that once seemed so paralyzing dropping away, and then this emerging into/arising of a very profound, 'burning' peace? It's difficult to understand because, although it was peaceful, it was, at the same time, quite difficult to be in that place? Hence burning love! As if you were shifting between two completely different ways of being, as if you were sometimes caught in the middle as you oscillate?

The strange thing is that this peace was unprecedented for me, as was the level of surrender within, and that there was still a positive afterglow from the experience, despite the tension that was present. The tension wasn't exactly gross, but it was pervasive and latent.

Do practitioners have to, on occasion, acclimatise to these deeper states? Is this possibly some form of overshooting? When one is engaged in some form of purification (by which I mean progressively releasing deeper and deeper tensions of the mind), are these releases expected, or usual? Does it have something to do with the recent zazen practice?

All of this arose during a writing session for journal practice, and I will share the small portion that had come out before this whole dynamic/state arose because, who knows, maybe it's relevant? *for context the initial writing was on the topic of to-do lists...hehe*

I find aspects of my life at odds with one another. I find my thinking and evaluating of what is worth the time and energy of my life to be tempestuous and confused. I find the whole approach [of to-do lists] to be laborious, cumbersome, unnatural and ironically unproductive. I find the means of these ghoulish, dangling ends [incomplete goals], to be somewhat inauthentic, somewhat forced.These three questions, of how should one live, how could one live, and how would one live, are so very perplexed by the seemingly reality of relative choice, the ensuing calculations, and the positing of an undefined entity as the chooser, the agent, the doer; Following the chosen, participating in the arena, pursuing what it is to be done. Life is fundamentally participatory, there is no game, there are no players, there is only play, therefore to lean in is the way. “Life is lived forward.”One could ask of how much one’s planning gets in the way of the plan. But, what even is it, for something to get in the way, if there is only the way?Like waves, I fall between two worlds.
The underlined bits are what immediately proceeded this burning peace, and felt distinct from the rest of the body. 

Thank you for reading this, whoever you may be emoticon
Any feedback, insight, advice, or empathy is greatly appreciated <3 

Be well, mush love, and may your practice be fruitful!
Noah 
George S, modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 2204 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
When I feel tension concerning an apparent choice, if I look deeper I can often see that it’s just resistance to what is already happening!

Purification also seems to go in cycles for me, with each release bringing some temporary peace before opening up a deeper level of tension to explore ...
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Noah Bretnall, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 17 Join Date: 11/22/20 Recent Posts
Hey George, 
Thanks for reading emoticon and sorry for the late reply, been very sick since I wrote this...toomanychoiceitus...it's chronic.

Yes, after following your pointing I can see this too. There were these images that would arise with the prospect of the choice that were very much tied into my personal narrative and biography, also, and so the choice to do something very simple, such as play the guitar, became something temporal and to the effect of 'put in the hours every day, for three years straight, no breaks, record, go platinum, and play Albert Hall!', with each iteration making the current circumstance less satisfying, and ironically depleting energy and the necessary flow to play the guitar! Samsara is a wheel, as the wise say.

Thank you for your advice, mi amigo, it was helpful <3

I would like to ask you a question if I may:

Have you ever been overwhelmed by an excess of seemingly positive qualities in practice, to a point where the experience seemingly ceased being positive?

That was the main emphasis behind this post, as peace has been arising more frequently, but the peace alluded to in my post was so intense. Which is weird because it was still peace :')

All the best, George
George S, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 2204 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I’ve had experiences where the bliss felt almost overwhelming and I needed to get grounded afterwards, also occasions when things got very peaceful and then anxiety arose. All sorts of weird and wonderful stuff can happen in meditation, but it’s always important to view it all through the lens of the 3 Cs - Is it impermanent? Is it unsatisfactory? (clinging to the passing pleasant or resisting the arising unpleasant) Is it “me”?

Significant progress is made on the path when we take the insights of meditation and apply them to the rest of our life, especially the personal narrative we are constantly curating to frame our experience. Just like you are doing with your guitar example – noticing how clinging to an idea of how we want things to be in the future creates dissatisfaction in the present. The next step if you like is to dig a little deeper into the emotions which underly these narratives of past & future – pride, shame, hope, fear, anger, sadness etc. For example, a desire for outstanding achievements might be driven by a feeling of unworthiness, trying to compensate for feeling "not good enough". Often those kind of feeling blockages can get imprinted at an early age and unconsciously drive a kind of worldview which we is hard to see because it’s the lens we’ve always looked through at life. It can be tough work, but that's where the gold is!
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Noah Bretnall, modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 17 Join Date: 11/22/20 Recent Posts
Hey George!

Apologies for the late reply, I've been really sick recently...

In any case, wow, I've always heard that those more primal and, in a sense, simplified emotions can underpin the mind of the present, and have an indefinite half-life, but for some reason reading that in the context of this discussion shows me a bridge to actually investigate those deeper aspects of those emotions! 

I've been trying to notice these primal emotions when experience gets really congealed and selfy, and boy oh boy, they rise up so quickly! And they are always paired with the narrative and images? I feel as if there's a hint in there ;)

Thank you for the pointing George, I found it to be skilful! emoticon
​​​​​​​
May you be happy, Mi Amigo x
George S, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 2204 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Yeah, it happens really fast, so fast that we don't normally notice it unless we slow down and study it carefully. There's an emotion (pleasant or unpleasant) and within a second there's a habitual reaction (cling to the pleasant or push away the unpleasant) and before we know it that triggers a story in words & images which is an expression and proliferation of the reaction. Dependent origination and realms/elements is a good freamework for studying the process in more detail.
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Dream Walker, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 1399 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Noah Bretnall
HellO DhO emoticon
Hi back

I hope all is well with your practice, and your life is going swimmingly x
Streaming along

 - I do a lot of conceptual work, also (I'm a philosophy student...kinda comes with the gig). I tentatively call this 'contemplation' and it looks like reading or listening to teachings and going off into solitude to ponder what appears to be the main takeaway, feeling that out, and integrating whatever the result happens to be. What it doesn't look like is papañca, funnily enough, and is a bit more like pointing out teachings with gradual (or sometimes sudden) results. This is a bit of undefined practice space for me, and so I can't really describe its precise effects, however, what I can say is that it has helped the general smoothness of the occurrence and integration of insights, increased their unpredictable arising, and has contributed substantially to the overall defanging of thought that has been going on as a broader arch of development.
You totally lost me there....um...do you know the translation such that you can drop that word and expect anyone to know WTF? So its like pointing to vague to define vague.

One word in Pali Canon seems to be especially challenging for translators to convey. This word is "papañca" (e.g. MN18, DN21, Sn 4.11, AN4.173). Some attempts at translating papañca include "exaggeration", "proliferation", "association", "conceptualization", "objectification", and "reification"

Techniques of Practice:
- I very much enjoy vipassana and just hop into that way of practice in almost all of my non-formal practice and is, as alluded to earlier, in the Mahasi style. I have hit a point where the noting is too slow to note what is noticed, and so the technique is usually completed in internal silence, so to speak.
- Since my previous post (which ended up as a 1st path or equanimity inquiry, to summarise), from the counsel of some other practitioners, my formal sittings have been directed toward shamatha. I have noticed a huge improvement in the capacity of the mind to concentrate and become singular. Nothing that I'd call Jhana has arisen yet if that's important.
- Only recently, after 'contemplating' Alan Watts' talks and Dogen's Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, I've started practising zazen, which, I must say, has been potent...I found that a lengthy zazen sit is a good transition into shamatha practice, and the first time this was done was the first time a nimitta began to form.
Hahahaha. No Jhana?. Perhaps that is the whole answer to your experience.
ZAZEN? well that can mean about anything depending on how you want to define it. I'll assume you sit and stare at the wall, therefore concentration with wall as your kasina/ focus of concentration. Big assumption on my part.
How is zazen different from whatever you do that you call Shamatha/concentration?
What is this nimitta that you speak of? when and where within zazen/concentration did it happen and what was your personal nimitta experience like?
I'm not trying to be a jerk here but as a philosophy dude you need to sharpen your phenomenological verbosity instead of words that are varieable and assuming that everyone knows what you mean.

New Experience:
I'm going to use some more loose language here.

Have any of you ever experienced what feels like a gradual, and then sudden, 'release', with existential fears that once seemed so paralyzing dropping away, and then this emerging into/arising of a very profound, 'burning' peace? It's difficult to understand because, although it was peaceful, it was, at the same time, quite difficult to be in that place? Hence burning love! As if you were shifting between two completely different ways of being, as if you were sometimes caught in the middle as you oscillate?
Ya, Jhana. Or nana 10 'reobservation' of the Progress of insight into nana 11 'Equinimity'.

The strange thing is that this peace was unprecedented for me, as was the level of surrender within, and that there was still a positive afterglow from the experience, despite the tension that was present. The tension wasn't exactly gross, but it was pervasive and latent.
Was this permenent or just an altered state that faded(AKA Jhana?)

1) Do practitioners have to, on occasion, acclimatise to these deeper states?
2) Is this possibly some form of overshooting?
3) When one is engaged in some form of purification (by which I mean progressively releasing deeper and deeper tensions of the mind),
4) are these releases expected, or usual?
5) Does it have something to do with the recent zazen practice?
1) sure, then its just the usual.
2) nope. It can be a one off experience in intensity. you might be combining the nana 4 'arising and passing away' with other jhana/nana. If it was a super amazeballs experience then try it again.
3) purefications? ummm, your call. never got a lot of mileage of others putting the whole pure thing on me.
4)shifts from one state of jhana or nana are experienced over time as "usual"
5)Who knows? only you.

All of this arose during a writing session for journal practice, and I will share the small portion that had come out before this whole dynamic/state arose because, who knows, maybe it's relevant? *for context the initial writing was on the topic of to-do lists...hehe*
Ummmm, you lost me. You are writing instead of zazening? both? neither? before? after?
I find aspects of my life at odds with one another. I find my thinking and evaluating of what is worth the time and energy of my life to be tempestuous and confused. I find the whole approach [of to-do lists] to be laborious, cumbersome, unnatural and ironically unproductive. I find the means of these ghoulish, dangling ends [incomplete goals], to be somewhat inauthentic, somewhat forced.These three questions, of how should one live, how could one live, and how would one live, are so very perplexed by the seemingly reality of relative choice, the ensuing calculations, and the positing of an undefined entity as the chooser, the agent, the doer; Following the chosen, participating in the arena, pursuing what it is to be done. Life is fundamentally participatory, there is no game, there are no players, there is only play, therefore to lean in is the way. “Life is lived forward.”One could ask of how much one’s planning gets in the way of the plan. But, what even is it, for something to get in the way, if there is only the way?Like waves, I fall between two worlds.
umm....cool
The underlined bits are what immediately proceeded this burning peace, and felt distinct from the rest of the body. 
ok.

Noah 
Did you have an actual practice question? did you want some kind of diagnosis?
Have you read MCTB and are familiar with Jhana and nana an how they can combine?
Anyway,
Good Luck,
~D
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Noah Bretnall, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 17 Join Date: 11/22/20 Recent Posts
Hello DW,

I appreciate you taking the time to go through my post and providing ample commentary! Thank you for the feedback emoticon

I will respond to each question of yours with more 'phenomenological verbosity', as you wish, to align our understandings of the meanings of these words, practices and experiences. 

I'll answer the last batch of questions first, then go top to bottom.

Did you have an actual practice question? did you want some kind of diagnosis?
My intention was to gauge the experiences of my fellow practitioners of a peace that is intense (as this immediately seems contradictory and interesting).
I wasn't explicitly after any kind of diagnosis, but rather a sort of conversation about this experience from an experiential empathy. Experiential empathy as in people who have experienced something similar.

Have you read MCTB and are familiar with Jhana and nana an how they can combine?
I have read some of MCTB, and only possess a cursory knowledge of Jhana, nana, and how they combine.

do you know the translation such that you can drop that word and expect anyone to know WTF?
'Papañca' in the way that I was taught to use the word means 'conceptual proliferation' or 'to make manifold'. In the sense I was using it, it was intended to explain that the 'contemplation' (placeholder name) I was practising wasn't characterised by some form of intensely conceptual, academic rumination, but involved concept nonetheless. And yes, I have dropped that word many-a-times and had the expectation that anyone would know what I meant by it be proven to be correct ;) Maybe I'm not the only one who could benefit from a sharper 'philosophical verbosity'?

Hahahaha. No Jhana?. Perhaps that is the whole answer to your experience.
I did giggle at this one. Yeah, maybe you're bang on the money!

ZAZEN? well that can mean about anything depending on how you want to define it. I'll assume you sit and stare at the wall, therefore concentration with wall as your kasina/ focus of concentration. Big assumption on my part.
Yeah, fair comment. By Zazen I mean sitting in a comfortable upright posture, breathing from the abdomen, and, without holding any particular object as the consistent focal point of the meditation, I 'just sit', being awake and open to anything that happens to become salient, without getting caught up in it, and more specifically, actively releasing intentions to do something about whatever it is that happens to become salient. Initially, I was trying to not try, which worked very well to relax the body and mind, without dulling them, and then I would slip into 'not-trying to not try' quite by accident, which is just the cessation of the intention to not intend. 

How is zazen different from whatever you do that you call Shamatha/concentration?
Following the previous description, as I was commenting on how Zazen (as I mean it) is a good bridge into Shamatha (also, as I mean it), I would describe what I mean by Shamatha as, after establishing the same posture and breathing, taking a particular object as the consistent focal point of the meditation, and allowing the mind to become absorbed in it, or singular with it. A session of Zazen immediately proceeding this practice seems to accelerate the process, as the mind is already relaxed, and conforms to the object with more ease as a consequence.


What is this nimitta that you speak of?
That's a good question! Phenomenologically, it was the outline of a dimly bright circular shape, and its corona, in the centre of a darker field of vision that was based in either the mental sense base or the visual sense base, kind've hard to tell as my eyes were shut.

when and where within zazen/concentration did it happen and what was your personal nimitta experience like?
It began to form after Zazen, toward the tell end of Shamatha, as the concentration of the meditation increased, by which I mean, the space was more singularly focused on the object. Aside from the cool visual, and more wieldy concentration, there wasn't anything else about the experience that seemed related and noteworthy. There was no emotional or somatic change, there was no boundary dissolution, nor absorption further than this point.

Ya, Jhana. Or nana 10 'reobservation' of the Progress of insight into nana 11 'Equinimity'.
Nice! Could you elaborate on your experiences/insights of these stages, please? It may be important to note, however...
Was this permenent or just an altered state that faded(AKA Jhana?)
No, it was not permanent, it was an altered state, although there was a positive afterglow for a couple of hours.

You're whole 1-5 point answers to my 1-5 point questions was very helpful, thank you for those emoticon I did want to ask you to elaborate on...
never got a lot of mileage of others putting the whole pure thing on me.
...If you felt so inclined.

Ummmm, you lost me. You are writing instead of zazening? both? neither? before? after?
Also fair comment. For the temporal account, I meant to convey that I had been doing Zazen recently, thinking that it might have been a relevant ingredient of the experience to follow which was...burning peace. This burning peace happened to arise during a writing session after I'd finished writing the piece that I shared, leaned back in my eyes, and just closed my eyes for a breather. Within a few seconds, the peace arose and the fear was seen dropping away.

umm....cool
What? You didn't like my journal! :'( No, in all seriousness I thought that it might be relevant because the line of 'living between two worlds' felt oddly relevant to and descriptive of the proceeding experience of 'burning peace'.

I hope that this was helpful in aligning the meanings of our words and, once again, thank you for your feedback emoticon
Looking forward to hearing what you think!

Mush love,
​​​​​​​Noah
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Dream Walker, modified 8 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 1399 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
To be brief, if it happens only once, it was a one time thing.
Don't work it into more than that until its a repeatable thing.
Good Luck,
~D
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Noah Bretnall, modified 8 Days ago.

RE: Burning Love: Holding Unprecedented Depth?

Posts: 17 Join Date: 11/22/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice, D

All the best with your practice,
Noah

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