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"We haven't located us yet"
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10/26/11 3:08 PM
Recently having read MCTB, I've been monitoring my practice closely for some clue as to where I might be on the Insight map(s). I've been meditating for over 15 years, and have had numerous experiences, both related to practice and not, that relate to insight stages (A&P events, Dark Nights, Equanimity, you name it) -- not having been familiar with insight meditation, I just had no way of categorizing them.

I had an extra day off work on Monday so I devoted it to a full day's retreat just to see what came up -- basically trying to determine whether or not I had already attained first path and was cycling (as I understand it, one can cycle through many of the stages in a single sit after having attained a path -- please do set me straight if I am wrong), or perhaps hadn't reached this point yet. Didn’t get much in the way of clues as to where I was on the map, but the concentration (and noting) led to much better moment-to-moment awareness than on any other retreat day thus far.

The next morning, however, something notable did happen -- I was doing my regular sit as usual, moving up through the jhanas, noting thoughts and sensations arising, existing, passing, etc. When I slipped into what might be 5th or 6th jhana (where the breath is a small pinprick in the center of vast space and consciousness), things got interesting. A door seemed to open and I approached the space in a much “heavier” way. The space was suffused with "electricity" for lack of a better term. Things were "crackling" (though not in an auditory sense). For all intensive purposes, this vast sphere might have been filled with a vast electrical storm (though obviously, no real thunder, lightning or noise). Parts of my head started to twitch. There was a bit of shallowness of breath and at the end of the sit a definite speediness in the heart center -- feeling a bit "cracked out". On the drive to work, could not concentrate on the podcast I usually listen to. Eventually opted for rock and roll. At work, felt like I had drank waaaay too much coffee. Something was definitely up.

That night (last night), sat for another hour -- moved through jhanas to 4th jhana (as diagnosed on another thread on this site) and just noted. Very stormy – lots of itches, twitches, waves buffeting me about, vibrations, pulses, more discursive than usual. The jhana was still pretty comfortable, and I didn’t seem to be hung up trying to get to a better level of tranquility. Just basically “looked”. Still was pretty speedy/wound up.

This morning, I did my usual sit; was surprised that when I got into that boundless space jhana the same door was accessible again. I deliberately approached it but did not go through – I needed to wrap up the sit and get to work. I tried to familiarize myself with the point of access. Got up and was clearing 9 inches of snow off my car when I got the call that school was cancelled on account of weather. Went back in and continued the sit. Worked up through the jhanas and was surprised again – no access! So I sat in the boundless space jhana, trying from time to time to locate the “door” so to speak. Then I got it (after about 40 min) – access was definitely via the outbreath and then successive outbreaths (this outbreath was different, a little "pinched", very difficult to describe). The experience this time was just as electric and heavy but much smoother and less chaotic. Smooth waves rather than a crackling storm. Definitely fit the descriptions related to kundalini awakenings -- felt like being plugged into an electricity source, waves of heat, but still very smooth compared to yesterday). Post sit, still have a bit of that speedy feeling. At this point, it seems like this space is accessible if I want to go there (not that I'm getting hung up on that -- I don't expect that to continue to be the case).

This sounds a lot like A&P to me. My question is "which" A&P? Still first path? Between paths and maybe cycling? Second path A&P? (I've had those speedy-feeling "blowouts" (followed by dark night symptoms) in the past, just never connected them with my practice due to the way in which they arose and not having any familiarity with insight meditation)...Many thanks to anyone who reads and comments...Peace.

RE: "We haven't located us yet"
Answer
10/27/11 6:30 AM as a reply to T. Merganser.
I wish this stuff was easy, but in this case probably not.

Trying to determine what you have may take time, some regular practice of trying to see if you can Review, and some steady working with someone who has a good solid basis in experience sorting this stuff out.

There are so many grades of stream enterers:

Stream enterers who are untrained, came to it without retreats or technical meditation backgrounds, who can't get Fruitions, or, if they can, don't know they can.
Stream enters who are trained, and yet can't get Fruitions.
Stream enters who are trained and can get Fruitions, but routinely mis-identify them as something else or identify other things as them.
Stream enterers who are trained and can get routine Fruitions, multiple Fruitions, all 3 doors, etc and identify them correctly.
There are stream enterers who cross the A&P of second path but fall back and get the old Fruitions from steam entry but mistake it for second path.
There are stream enterers who have crossed the A&P of second path and now can't get Fruitions at all due to that.
There are people who crossed the A&P below stream entry and think they are stream enterers but are not.

And the list goes on and on and extends up to the higher paths with similar permutations...

Thus, the likelihood of quick and easy answers when you have long practice and a lot of poorly identified experiences and the skills you have is low.

A retreat where you just practice well, noting or something like that, and over some weeks see what happens may help clarify things, if you have the time and resources for that. Otherwise, resolutions to just see what you are capable of and with good, steady, clear mindfulness may help.

Helpful?

Daniel

RE: "We haven't located us yet"
Answer
10/27/11 5:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
That is helpful, thanks -- figured it wouldn't be an easy diagnosis after so much history.

I am seeing more signposts along the path though -- got *another* day off work due to weather and did 2.5 hours of practice today. Access to that kundalini source already seems closed, and dark night symptoms are making themselves known -- slight paranoia, feeling a bit "spun out", an urge not to practice (desire to do physical activities, be out in the mountains, etc. much higher than desire to practice now -- usually those three are about equal, relatively speaking). Mahsai Sayadaw's observations that "...one tends to feel that body-and-mind as the object, and the consciousness noticing it, are very crude, low, and worthless. By noticing their arising and disappearing he gets sick of them...his contemplation is associated with disgust. So he becomes lazy to contemplate" is ringing true right now.

While sitting today I found myself in a couple of pretty awesome samatha jhanic states (very hard versions of what I have been lead to believe are 4th and 6th). It was real nice, but of course when I came out, the dark night stuff was right there. Which got me to thinking -- insight practices are the quickest way through the dark night, right? (The samatha jhanas, while awesome, basically seem like avoidance behavior). Then, which is the best samatha jhana to practice insight from? I suppose it varies from person to person, but I'm reading Kornfield's A Path with Heart, in which he says insight is practiced from access concentration and one must leave the absorption states behind for this (at least, that is what he initially says -- I haven't finished reading). For my part, I do most insight work 3rd and 4th samatha jhanas. Someone else suggested that 5th jhana is a good place to do it, but in the formless realms I find that I can't do insight practices so well -- my awareness is just too "spread out."

Anyone have any thoughts here?

Many thanks. Daniel, if you are still reading, I can't thank you enough for writing the book. This is not my first "dark night" and I can't help but think of how much easier it would have been in the past had I known what the hell was going on.

RE: "We haven't located us yet"
Answer
10/28/11 11:02 AM as a reply to T. Merganser.
Update: Answered my questions re: practicing insight in samatha jhanas via a cursory re-read of the "Concentration vs. Insight" section of MCTB.