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11/4/11 12:41 PM
I've been having some trouble meditating lately, big troubles indeed. I'd work my way to what I thought was Equanimity only to be back at square one within a few days, this is: travailing through the first 3 nyanas, slowly, hitting A&P sporadically and finally getting to Equanimity, barely enjoying it before it is stripped from me. I've been very confused, frustrated and downright neurotic about it lately. The last two times, in the depths of this frustration, I've suspected that the Dark Night was manifesting itself in my daily life (or maybe I was just being an ass?), something interesting as it doesn't do so while meditating. After spending large portions of the last two days before yesterday meditating for nearly five hours each day and noting diligently between sessions I crawled my way out of the slump. The last meditation last night I was able to count each nyana one by one. I realized that what I thought was equanimity all along as probably Reobservation (or perhaps some low and weak Equanimity?). I find this confusing since it's supposed to be a "wolf in sheep's clothing" but then again I do a lot of samatha work, maybe that's the reason? In this new territory my first realization is, "This is the unconditioned!!". It was full of a certain sort of bliss, my entire body was completely dissolved, whereas in the previous nyana it really seemed so.. I remember my right arm feeling like it was on the left side and the left on the right, very strange, until finally they disappeared. My consciousness became infinite, the background of Equanimity was very opaque with a bit of energy, similar to A&P but very different, and with a clarity of mind and energy more characteristic of not meditating, unlike the chaos of A&P, if I remember. I would switch between counting my breath and noting the bliss and the changing/conditioned aspects of Equanimity until it's quality began to change. I think I remember the whiteness disappearing and the bliss disappearing, I remember wondering if it was slipping away, I remember noting my desire for stream entry, my anticipation, tranquility, investigation, reflection, etc. Eventually I felt I ought to just surrender, it wasn't working. I'd try to surrender, count my breath, and repeat. Finally I gave up, I was near opening my eyes and then I feel like I'm being sucked into a vacuum for a second, I see a narrow slit of blackness engulf me for a second, then a nyana shift and the whiteness was back, I was blissed out again with high energy, and I swear it seemed like there was glitter around me, like the white was twinkling. I was blissed out for a couple hours, it was amazing.

There's been maybe two other "what was that" events before not unlike this, but the quality of this meditation was pristine, each nyana presenting itself clearly, a distinguished Equanimity, a bold and memorable black appearing for a second, then a nyana shift into twinkling blissland.

Am I getting ahead of myself?

RE: Uh?
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11/5/11 12:57 AM as a reply to Joshua L..
Your descriptions are interesting, and whether or not you are confusing various insight stages for other ones will remain to be seen.

The big trick is that when things are changing rapidly or there is big stuff going on it is hard to tell what is what in the short term.

The standard advice is let it settle or just keep practicing and see what shakes out and holds up over weeks or months, etc.

Regardless, the standard advice is to just keep paying attention and see what happens, realizing that sometimes your analyses will be right and sometimes wrong, but the experiences and insights were what they were regardless of whether you label them accurately, so don't worry about that, as the advice remains constant throughout.

Keep us posted on what your impressions are as a little more time has gone by if you wish.

Sounds like fun stuff anyway.

Daniel

RE: Uh?
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11/7/11 11:43 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks for the advice, all I can say is the following, and it frankly probably isn't helpful, but I really hope it might be.

I have this very annoying pattern that causes me a lot of neurotic frustration. I spend a week or a few extra days working my way up into formless territory from first nyana, nyana by nyana, finally hitting dissolution but never with any fear or obvious signs of post-dissolution. Sometimes I will notice distinct, fearless shifts after dissolution, sometimes not, sometimes my eyes cross or tense up quickly and it seems like a shift when it's not. During these times I get very depressed and feel like I've screwed up my practice somehow as I witness my fruitless efforts. Eventually after I get into formless territory its only a couple of days till it the practice peaks because I seem to have great noting skills when my mind cooperates and can sit for over an hour, whereas when I seemingly lose all my progress no matter how diligently I note or concentrate there will be no results, like trying to start a fire with two pieces of plastic being rubbed.

After the opening post I could hit 3rd jhana the next day but couldn't surpass it, the next day only A&P and then nyana by nyana it crumbled and last night I couldn't even hit a jhana, or at least there was no obvious shift, but it has been worse before, perhaps today will be the anticlimax? At it's worst I can't even note, there my mind won't allow for concentration. I don't understand this pattern at all. My motivation gets better as I hit higher states and I may begin meditating 3-5 hours a day when I'm post-A&P, my meditation progresses until I'm in what really seems to be deep equanimity and then it a "wtf?" moment happens, it has maybe half a dozen times now, each time is more intense culminating in the opening post, only to be inevitably followed by losing all my progress. At this point I'm a good noter and I have great concentration. I remember in my last equanimity I counted my breath to 50 before a subtle thought arose in the background. Now I'm hard pressed to hit 10, and regardless there's no jhana, I feel very embedded in my experiences too, ugh, it's like the opposite of stream entry. If anything ever since that day I've lost my neurotic self-control and constant analysis, now I'm bare it's leaving room for impulsive thoughts and negativity, like when I was a teenager. But this is part of the reoccurring pattern.

RE: Uh?
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11/7/11 4:29 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I'm now feeling very Dark Night-ish. I was thinking about what your suggestion that I may be confusing stages of insight. Regardless of what happened it would appear I'm in the Dark Night. I know the feeling because there's no external reason I ought to feel this way and I certainly want it to end as juxtaposed with a more typical (probably somewhat victimized) depression.

I posted something related to my meditation plight and I obviously didn't listen when TJ Broccoli gave me an impeccable response.

Being that you're the Daniel Ingram, I'd very much love any advice you have to offer, however succinct. Broccoli's advice was something to the effect of stop analyzing it and simply practice, to keep noting, which was implied to be an act of the present rather than of the past or of future anticipations; and most importantly that anything new, however crappy, is good, on account of that very novelty.

RE: Uh?
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11/7/11 6:06 PM as a reply to Joshua L..
Don't forget, she is also the TJ Broccoli, and her advice is truly of great value, as she is a rare and deep practitioner. I personally hope to learn a few things from her when she comes to visit in December.

Alright, if you need more:

Ground attention in the body.
Where is the stress?
Is it really all stress and tension or are there little good bits also you don't want to admit feel good?
Exactly how does it move?
Exactly where are its edges?
How do they change? How painful or difficult is it, really?
How exactly does it cause attention to move in space and why?
What is attention?
What is space?
How much of your current experience field is actually a problem, even in the worst of it?
If warm, furry, singing Muppets suddenly descended on you in a great pile while you were meditating, would you still be stressed out and if so, why? This last question is probably the most profound.

Daniel

RE: Uh?
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11/8/11 12:37 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hey thank you!

I do have one last little question..

It should first be understood that I did anticlimax yesterday, my meditation downright sucks, actually it wasn't mediation, more like me sitting on the cushion for ten minutes till I began (day)dreaming, many times, each provoking an insatiable frustration afterwards and yet the meditation was all this normally hobby ridden dude wanted to do, even though it was certainly going to massacre his peace of mind. Erm, anyways..

So I finally read Practical Insight Meditation yesterday. I figured it was time, especially on account of the above. In general, it destroyed my mood worse than ever and left me with a mild headache for some reason, but I did it throughout the day many times and it was quite different than normal. First and foremost I was focusing on insight rather than looking for milestone markers. Before it was like shifting gears in a semi until I'd hit what I could only assume was equanimity, and it was profound, but I never really consciously thought, "Wow, so that's how the causal network functions, and here I am, right now, spinning the gears!". Rather it was simply a vague intuit of the three characteristics, "Well, I'm so in the present it would appear that time isn't being perceived, and I can see all these mind moments, boom boom boom boom, I guess that's supreme impermanence, and since I'm this heap of aggregates and on account of that very impermanence there's no self and hence when embedded we arrive at dukkha". But now with Practical Insight Meditation I'm really deliberately focusing on dissociating mind from matter, then really trying to see how all things are preceded by my intentions and then I'll focus on the full gamut of the breath's or diaphragm's in and out or rising and falling: intention, sweeeelling, intention, stops.. intention, deflaaaaating, intention, stops.. etc, I suppose I combine this with that dialogue above and attempt to fine tune it till A&P. I didn't reach A&P, but I think I reached the 3 characteristics yesterday, it's hard to tell, the approach is different. At one point I stopped rigorously noting because my mindfulness was weak and I sort of spaced out, and it seemed to shift into a samatha state, and I realized its similar to my normal meditation, with that shift the internal lights became brighter, whereas with the dry vipassana it's darker and there's never any shifts, just progressive one-pointedness (and, well, there is opaque whiteness, just not as vivid, as another tell-tale sign, which, in me, begins at 2nd nyana and increases in luminosity in the 3rd and shines in the 4th, then disappears midway, probably when U Pandita believes it's the 3rd jhana, digressing..).

RE: Uh?
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11/15/11 12:57 PM as a reply to Joshua L..
I'm definitely good now, actually I read the MCTB's section on Impermanence and practiced the exercises and rose out of pit I was in, then after having done some reading of Kundala's I realized I was definitely in Reobservation.

Could anyone help me on this question I have now please? I've for a while felt a swirling energy around my nose and I began noting it finally. A huge pressure of a knot of energy built up. I no longer had to note, it was astonishingly easy to concentrate on it one-pointedly while simultaneously being aware of the 3 characteristics. As the pressure intensified I started cycling until at the climax I was immediately before A&P, I felt the energy rising toward my third eye and I was in A&P with a feeling of resolution from the discord. At the crown of my head I hit dissolution, and then it descended again, although I couldn't really feel it until Reobservation where it felt exactly like Cause and Effect, as it "unclogged" and worked downwards I was in Equanimity and it was accompanied by 4 quick and very intense body bliss waves like orgasms. I've been able to reproduce this many times in the last few days. Is this okay or is incorrect? It seems to leave me feeling very mindful and once I hit equanimity, although the accent is different, the result feels the same at that point, equanimity is equanimity. Or not?

RE: Uh?
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11/16/11 11:33 AM as a reply to Joshua L..
Hi Joshua,

This is an interesting thread. I'm glad you decided to take these experiences public.

Also, I'm glad you are reading PIM. That book helped me more than any other, in terms of getting stream entry nearly three years ago. I even bought a hard copy (it's worth it!).

From reading your last post, it sounds like you were getting deeper into the Equanimity stage than you had been before. That's good. The mini-bliss waves aren't necessarily a sign of anything important, as far as I know. They are just another thing to note and then let pass (as the late Ajahn Chah instructed - "Know, then let go.").

It seems like part of your frustration with the cycles is that they are not as straight forward as you thought they would be. Insight meditation is like any other skill, so of course there's going to be times of taking huge steps forward, and times of falling behind. There are "on" days and "off" days. It's not like taking a walk down a path from point A to point B. So yeah, it's frustrating, but this is how it's SUPPOSED TO WORK. This is how it goes for just about everyone. So, I think you can afford to chillax a bit. I know that sounds too simplistic for anyone trying to get out (and stay out) of the Dark Night stages, but it's good advice. Try to laugh it off if you can. You'll certainly have a good laugh after getting Path.

Suggestion:

When equanimity shows up again, make an effort to keep noting. But, it might help to keep your mind on neutral phenomena, like the rise and fall of your abdomen (which is usually neither all that pleasant or unpleasant). With this as your anchor, you can notice the arising of grasping and aversion in contrast, and then note it, and then let it go, and then go back to the neutral sensations. The key is to just keep thing going, without trying to get anywhere. It may even get boring, which means that the pairwise poisons of greed and aversion are back to work in a subtle way. Make friends with the boredom. Make friends with whatever arises, actually. Let everything in, and let it stay as long as it would like. Then, go back to the neutral stuff, noting and paying attention to the Three Characteristics.

It's easier said than done, but it works. Remember, it's not so much about WHAT you experience, but more so how you RESPOND or RELATE to experience that really gets things moving.

Helpful?

-Jackson

RE: Uh?
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11/17/11 12:35 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Yeah, thank you very much.

Recently my practice began to falter again, but in all fairness I've been investing more time in other hobbies than mediation so that's expected.

I read this page from the Aloha Dharma (along with his other pages on the path) and found it enormously helpful a couple days ago. I started noting again and now it feels like I'm not as concentrated as I'm used to yet I begin cycling. While like this I clearly notice at least the Fear nyana (I usually don't notice Dark Night side effects, only a progressive dissolution), in me it is like anxiety and an adrenaline rush feeling. Interestingly when I resolve to focus on that energy (as described in the above post) or anything really my entire experience of the jhana changes. The first thing that rings a bell and makes sense is the description of soft and hard jhanas. If I didn't know any better, I'd be wondering if I'm not now acquiring dry vipassana abilities whereas my practice was before so ridden with concentration that I can easily and viscerally solidify things into hard (maybe samatha?) jhanas. I don't know what's up, but it feels like progress and it still seems that all paths lead to the same Equanimity. I've noticed with the vipassana feel I'd get lost after Fear and in wanting to try something different to get things in gear I'd wind up in a hard jhana and eventually through a haze pop out into Equanimity. I suppose I really need to focus on that aversion of feeling lost, the desire to switch gears, my neurotic impulse to discover what nyana I'm in, et al.

One good thing, that article made it clear that whatever my new "cutting edge" is, I'll be cycling to and from it for now on (I do remember reading that in MCTB come to think of it). This would explain a lot of my questions.

1. Q. How do the dukkha nyanas affect my non-meditative life? A. I'm cycling, thus they are affecting my life.
2. Q. Why am I only sporadically feeling Dark Night-ish? A. Only then am I cycling through those nyanas.
3. Q. What's up with that state of feeling like a shaken up, unopened soda can? Complete and absolute discord like this Shostakovich tune? Which come to think about it is preceded by a looming storm cloud that can be perceived to approach and then pass overhead, ever worsening, to which this is all a culmination? A. I've cycled up to Reobservation.

Although the answer to question #3 isn't confident. As it seems induced after having hit Equanimity, then having crap mediation for a couple days, and then desperately trying a cram session, which fails miserably, and which probably wasn't in the third jhana or maybe even first, but nevertheless seems to induce this nyana after meditation. After induced I'm useless. A discordent wreck, restless, no focus or resolve, wandering around the house randomly thrusting my body on things wishing to find a suitable place to disappear only to realize that I must immediately go meditate to alleviate the tension, which will probably fail, however failure is no option in this nyana. It's great motivation to persevere.

Does that sound right? Am stuck in Reob?

RE: Uh?
Answer
11/17/11 1:15 PM as a reply to Joshua L..
Joshua L.:
One good thing, that article made it clear that whatever my new "cutting edge" is, I'll be cycling to and from it for now on (I do remember reading that in MCTB come to think of it). This would explain a lot of my questions.

1. Q. How do the dukkha nyanas affect my non-meditative life? A. I'm cycling, thus they are affecting my life.
2. Q. Why am I only sporadically feeling Dark Night-ish? A. Only then am I cycling through those nyanas.
3. Q. What's up with that state of feeling like a shaken up, unopened soda can? Complete and absolute discord like this Shostakovich tune? Which come to think about it is preceded by a looming storm cloud that can be perceived to approach and then pass overhead, ever worsening, to which this is all a culmination? A. I've cycled up to Reobservation.


I think that's a good working estimate for where you're at.

Joshua L.:
Does that sound right? Am stuck in Reob?


Probably. I would say that you're "getting stuck in Reob," not that you're just stuck there in general. But, I get from the context of your post that you have an idea of how this cycling stuff works. This is good stuff to to be aware of!

I must sound like a broken record, since I point this out all the time, but there are two ñanas that people tend to get stuck in: 3rd (Three Characteristics/Comprehension) and 10th (Re-Observation). Unless one is really familiar with just how each of these stages uniquely present for them, the only way to know which one you're in is to see how you come out of it. If you're stuck in 3rd, there will usually be some kind of energetic build up and release (A&P) that spits you out into dissolution (5th ñana). If you're stuck in 10th, the shift into Equanimity is much less eventful. For me, it's always been more of a loving acceptance rather than a release, though both A&P and 11th ñana bring relief from the previous stage.

In my opinion, the worst thing you can do in response to entering the 10th ñana is to try to make it go away. Resistance is the fuel that keeps the Re-Obs fire burning. Practicing an inviting attitude toward the discord of it all, and relaxing into the process, is the best cure. And, it's really the lesson to be learned from that stage, or at least one of them. Whatever you do, don't fight it, and don't ignore it. I'd say "don't chase after it", but that isn't usually the problem. Most of us usually try to avoid discomfort.

Keep up the good work!
-Jackson

RE: Uh?
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11/21/11 2:54 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Hey, you're referring to fighting the nyana while in meditation right? Like don't resist to get to Equanimity?

..

My meditative life is like a soap opera. One second it's good, the next second it's crap.

Honestly, I've really been wondering if I hit stream entry already or not but I didn't have the gall to ask again and so candidly. After reading and rereading so many descriptions over and over I'm quite certain that two or three months ago when I picked my meditation back up from nearly a year's absence that I quickly wound up at Cause and Effect, very quickly went into A&P and chilled there for a couple weeks, and it's important to know that I could more or less regularly hit my new cutting edge nyana each meditation, I had an A&P event which I wondered was stream entry, then I came to these forums. Within a week or so I began feeling dissolution feelings after the A&P, but never negativity, I found a panoramic awareness to be intuitive so I had no problems breezing through it, although I have been and am still a bit confused as to why I didn't.

This led into what I thought was Equanimity, but then in the last couple weeks and I believe posted in this thread I claim that I discovered it was reobservation. Actually, after reading the Aloha Dharma page, I strongly believe it was low Equanimity. Let it be known that this being my new cutting edge I hit this almost every meditation, that those meditations could last for an easy 1.5 hours and that I was very satisfied afterwards, although sometimes slightly lethargic, other things after any random energy bursts I might characterize myself as being spritely after meditation. I have such trouble describing the feeling of my allegedly Equanimity, but my body was almost nearly gone, and my body felt diffused more or less into the background, sometimes I can sense a bit of a vague outline here but mostly not, but attention was pristine and things came to me rather than me seeking and noting them. I didn't note either, only observed, and it seemed only natural to begin observing my emotions, sanskaras, and progressively more philosophical notions like who the observer was or my notion of space and such, it's important to know that I did that not because I thought it'd be useful but because it was the only thing left to observe. Slowly this would lead to a feeling of merging with the background or sometimes of reality phasing out, as if dimming. Sometimes things would strobe and I'd wonder if it was formations. Things got so subtle that I was no longer observing anything I can describe, maybe I'd just focus on my breath or in deeper states just focus on focusing, focusing on the nothing, but in the deepest it wasn't very conscious. This led to a "what was that experience", then I'd be pumped on life, wonder if I had fruition, and anticipate amazing meditation, but the meditation would be crap, but then within three days I'd get back on track and once I hit the A&P the momentum was astonishing. I really began to learn each nyana well. If I counted my breath by 5 I was in Mind and Body and by 15 or 20 I was at A&P and within 10 or 15 minutes at Equanimity. About once a week or week and a half I'd have a "was that finally it" experience, and then crappy meditation.. this happened three or four times, not sure.

The final time was my supreme meditation par excellence. I could sense every nyana shift and Equanimity seemed to get deeper than ever, then after all the subtle business, when I thought I was close but couldn't get fruition I gave up and resolved to open my eyes soon, within ten seconds I see a slit of black expand and consume me with a vacuum sensation, this occurred in about a second's time, then it spat me out in a new jhana that reminded me of an exaggerated A&P. I didn't know what the Review nyana bit meant, but I assumed I ought to continue noting or something, but it spat me out within 30 seconds and my eyes opened. This was probably a month ago. I was on such a high afterwards.. that night I kept waking up having what seemed to be A&P event after A&P event.

Then as I suspected my meditation fell apart, but I was conditioned to roll with it and to anticipate an even stronger meditation after the speedbump. That didn't come. Although for a week or so I would sporadically experience this or that nyana with the old feel it's 99% trying to acquire access concentration. Yet I feel like I'm still refining my noting, still learning, better than ever and yet I nearly never break into A&P, it isn't like it was before, I think a couple times I hit Fear, but that was just an adrenaline feeling, maybe not. But it doesn't seem to matter. Equanimity is a memory. I just don't understand how my practice is faltering so much unless I've began a second path. That awkward stage seems like the end of a review cycle and the beginning of new path from what I've read.. and I certainly wasn't looking for it then, I didn't know this stuff, it was all new to me.

I don't know how to explain it but in the last half week I've been so resolved to spark my meditation back up that I've been noting whenever I drive and a lot when I have spare time, it's been getting effective. I've been meditating for 20-30 minutes at a time 5 or 6 times a day now. I've been breaking ground, but it feels like it did before, for the first time, breaking into solid Cause and Effect territory while creeping into A&P trying to get an A&P event, it just feels new now, it didn't two weeks ago. Maybe the last spattered lingering first path nyanas are done plaguing my new path with confusion?

I do feel like I get what the path is about, I was very resolved in those Equanimity stages. Now my confusion is because I seem to get it so much and yet my efforts fail implying that I don't get it at all.. if I got path I do get it, I just need to chill and be confident..

Any advice would be much, much welcomed!

RE: Uh?
Answer
12/6/11 4:56 PM as a reply to Joshua L..
I relearned how to meditate, I worked my way into A&P very slowly with pure, dry vipassana. Half a week ago I crossed the A&P again, I did the first time a couple months ago or more.

Life got to me and I got sick simultaneously, so I feel like shit now, I doubt it's the Dark Night, let's pray not?

Anyways, after reading many things I came to this same conclusion only to see Daniel describe it exactly as I've experienced it:

"What I call “The Standard Pattern” is that people cross the A&P under whatever circumstances, hit the Dark Night, get swamped by it, finally barely touch some weak version of Equanimity, fall back, feel somewhat normal but are living again with the after-effects of the A&P and the Dark Night, being now past the point of no return. They will then tend to cross it again with some degree of frequency from months to decades, re-enter a more full-on Dark Night, and cycle this way until they may finally get stream entry or just die before that part of the process completes itself."

I was noting like a madman, got into the Dark Night, something happened and after a couple of weeks of poor meditation somehow got out of touch with how to note properly, after another couple weeks I couldn't get to any jhanas. Now I know, now it's all a bit different and more intimate, I know what I'm doing more. Unfortunately it's been two days since I've been to the second jhana, I hope that's not revealing of the Pattern. Fortunately, I now understand my neurotic posting above, and that it is quite normal. Unfortunately, I'm dreading the return those discordant, neurotic feelings.

A week ago I processed nearly all information through a dharma lens, I would be thoroughly ashamed to witness my mental gossip and negativity, and dreaded them more, as they presupposed being embedded in my sense of self and were indicative of work to be done, I was also very happy and confident and yet weary of the corruptions of insight. Right now I certainly am not that person, if I don't change I'll turn into that neurotic guy who started this thread. But now I know, now I know!