Working towards 3rd path

Working towards 3rd path Mind over easy 6/8/23 8:54 PM
RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread shargrol 5/30/23 7:23 PM
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Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/8/23 8:54 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 5/30/23 2:51 PM

Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
(edit: I changed the title of this thread, and in the process, all the line breaks and formatting disappeared so this first post appears as one big paragraph; sorry about that, will go back later and try to re-break it into paragraphs)

Hello old friends and new friends! About 2 years ago, I made a push for 2nd path and believe I got it, which is pretty cool. I've had a lot of stuff to do and focus on so I resolved not to move on to whatever comes after until a later time. In the past few months, in times where my mind isn't preoccupied with something else, I've found my mind is naturally inclined to meditation/awareness/going towards the insight stuff. I've been in a decent state of mind and mental/emotional stability, and since I've found my mind really wanting to go that way, I did decide to lock in the resolution of opening up the door to whatever the next steps for insight entail. So as I've done in the past, I decided it would be cool to check in on the good old DhO. I might make other specific threads if something seems to merit that, but otherwise I'll probably just keep my posts in here. I think it's natural, but I've often contemplated if I really did hit 2nd path, or even 1st path. I think part of that is due to having generally sporadic practice (I hit stream entry around 2012-13 or something like that, and only went for 2nd a few years ago). I also haven't really been working on concentration practice as much, just mostly inclined towards insight practices. I never had super clear fruitions where it was a rock solid perception of the exact doors I went through during fruitions. I think part of that doubt is based on how I used to feel like they ought to be some supercharged ultra-significant mega-zen inducing experience. But when I started going towards 2nd, I did manage to repeat a few fruitions in a single sit and realized that I was pretty sure they were fruitions, they just weren't the mega-bliss, mega-sage wisdom blast I subconsciously built them up to be. I have some thoughts on what's happening now and going forward, but I'll just recount the work and experience up to this point in terms of 1st and 2nd path: 1st path moment: It was definitely significant! I really like the description of the mind being way less sticky, narratives losing much of their grasp over the mind, and in general, just setting the tone and illuminating the path of insight and what the work is about and how to do it. I got there pretty much solely through fast noting and learning to just stick to the practice no matter what came up, and learning to balance intensity with calmness. After it happened, I was sure, then I wasn't so sure, and I went back and forth, but in hindsight (many many years of just seeing what had changed), it really was a huge and beneficial change in how the mind worked. I really only truly let myself believe it once I was committed to getting 2nd path (or 1st if I messed up and didn't actually get it) and saw with reasonable certainly that I was indeed having multiple fruitions in a sit. I'll get to second in a second, but I wanted to also say, I really love and appreciate the durability and functionality of hardcore, purely 3-characteristic insight grinding as a way to move forwards. I know it's still relevant ever onwards. But as a little note, my life background involved a lot of trauma, and the space between 1st and 2nd did involve a lot of purely "human" and "life" work rather than insight. Pre 1st, there was a lot of setbacks in avoiding actually doing insight work because general life and emotional stuff was always woven into the experience, and it was sometimes hard to balance pure investigation and handling of tough mental/emotional content, with the need to just practice insight no matter what happened. You can't just stunt your emotional maturation and skillful handling of your life and growth and think insight will magically give you the skills and healing you need to grow in the regular human ways. But you also can't let the narrative constantly derail and scapegoat the need to impartially and truly investigate the sensations that make up waking experience. I think getting SE really allowed me to chill out a bit, step back, and see how insight practice and regular human emotional/behavioral maintenance aren't two opposing forces. They go hand in hand, and you might not be able to progress further in insight without really honoring the regular basic human needs and problems going on. Or, it might not even be a wise idea, which really ties in with so many of the warnings about the dark night, how things can go wrong, how it's dangerous to dive headfirst into reality-shredding practices if you aren't solid enough on just being emotionally grounded, mature, having healthy coping mechanisms, having a generally healthy approach to dealing with your stuff, etc...  I happened to do a lot of growing right before I committed to 2nd path. I worked through emotional stuff, learned to love myself a lot more, let myself develop and grow without the mentality of punishing myself for not just using insight practice to make it better. It's as though I thought of vipassana as an all-purpose flyswatter for anything negative, and if I failed to get over it in that way, I swatted myself in the face as punishment. Kind of sad, but also kind of funny. Towards and post 2nd: So when I was deciding to go for 2nd, I really focused a lot on metta, letting a feeling of love and appreciation guide my efforts, and letting self-care/forgiveness/patience/tenderness guide my practice. I really do feel like it was an extremely useful key in progressing! Getting 1st path felt like a really tough and sweaty grind, but 2nd path was actually really not too tough! I did note a little bit, but I mostly just sat and inclined my mind towards the 3-c's, let whatever bubbled up bubble up, and did some gentle inclining towards the perceptions and sensations that came up. It was honestly a pretty easy and automatic process, and only took a month or two. The late stages involved a lot of interest in a mental echo, where I would see a sensation, then see my own mental impression of it or something like that, and my mind seemed to want to land or stick to the impression rather than the initial sensation. I guess this ties into clinging and attachment. There was a tension in this weird echo-dance, where it felt like my mind was in some way recoiling from the immediate sensation. I let myself examine that, tried my best to see that weird disconnect, tried to hone in on the apparent stress and tension around this. In hindsight, this helped me bridge the gap a lot between the theoretical descriptions of 3-c's, to actually observing them in real-time, actually getting closer to insight into the truth of experience, and seeing what the "problem" in the mind is. I also feel like the insights and changes that happen at 1st path really set the mind up to be able to dive deeper and more clearly. Whereas 1st path work was like "I have no idea what the hell is going on but I'm going to just note my ass off until the vibrations happen and nanas happen, I hope this works", 2nd path work felt like it was closer to actually consciously seeing where the tension is coming from, seeing in real-time how the mind is wanting to be somewhere and not wanting to be somewhere else, and actually being able to perceive the mechanisms of grasping and clinging to something. In the later stages, this just kind of turned to a resigned fascination with the whole thing going on, and the process being more and more automatic. It just felt right, and again, having the backdrop of love/vulnerability/acceptance for myself and the process massively helped!  Eventually there was the "pop" and it felt like something out of sync had been fixed. I couldn't really put a finger on exactly how it had changed, but after living with it for a few years, examining my past discussions here on DhO, I feel like I understand what changed a bit more. I used the word emptiness right after it happened, but I don't know if that's really it... The word I would use now would be immediacy. Perception just seems more immediately available. Something discordant about that echo thing seems to be gone, or at least massively reduced. It sounds basic, but the experience of simple sensations like seeing and feeling and whatnot, they just seem more simply and quietly there. It's not like they're more special or radiant or significant. I think one comparison would be that, if experience was a pool of water, I feel like I'm freely making contact with the water without causing turbulence and ripples that were there. It's not mind-blowing, but it truly does feel nice, like experiencing things is just able to happen in a cleaner and non-turbulent way. There's less buggering-up of just simply and cleanly experiencing. I think it feels less significant because it's really a lack of something annoying the mind was doing, rather than an addition of some new and improved mechanism for experiencing. All this simple experience was already happening, but the mind just feels much more willing to let it happen without trying to capture and define it. Or someting like that. But it does feel better, it does feel stable, and in practicing, it does feel like whatever I was trying to accomplish in getting 2nd, does feel accomplished.  Fast foward a few years from probably getting 2nd path- I resolved to not move on to further work, and again, in quiet moments, I find my mind more and more inclining towards figuring out what's still left to figure out. Whatever shift that happened at 2nd was undoubtedly great and beneficial, but the feeling that it's incomplete and that I need to go further has only been growing, which is why I decided to resolve to let myself move on. Mentally, things seem much quieter, thoughts and concerns of what nana or what point of progress I'm at don't really seem to matter, it feels very easy to accept where I'm at and just rest in experience. But the one thing that's unshakeable is this growing feeling of more work that's needed. Sense of self and agency are perhaps diminished, just experiencing things where they're at feels much easier, but there's just this weird and uncomfortable lost feeling. For the past few months, it's almost felt like some low-level constant DN phase going on. There's this weird feeling that while the practices that led me here are proven to be solid, that the very need to practice and even just the notion of practice as I understand it is futile or something. It feels clear that the only thing I can really do is just keep looking at experience. I do want to emphasize that dark feeling though. Again it feels very much in the realm of what DN stuff can feel like, but it's not crippling. It's just this weird, low-level presence of loss, sadness, futility, no-way-forward, nothing-I-can-do-about-it. It almost feels like this very subtle sense of realizing I have some terminal illness or something. Despite these negative tones, it's not distressing or something I feel like I can't manage. That's kind of why I resolved to keep moving on though. Whatever I got, there's clearly something disturbing and incomplete, and it just feels like it's time to move on. This resolution to allow myself to keep working on insight practices was about 5 days ago, and I'm really only now starting to take a deeper look and practice with the intention of furthering progress. But practice feels different- it honestly feels like there is little to no difference between intentional practice and just sitting with awareness. 1st and to a lesser extent 2nd, there was the feeling of "here I go, I'm practicing, and by practicing, I will move on". I know that in the larger sense, there is indeed more to do, but there's a new sense of vagueness, meaningless to practice. There are sensations popping in and out, there is still a sense of experience and me doing the experience, there's the subtle pain of assuming to be the beholder of experience and somehow being outside of it, and the pervasive feeling of there being more to solve, yet knowing there isn't any special thing outside of my experience that I'll find that solves that.  In terms of the 3 characteristics, I think 1st and 2nd path for me involved a lot of focus on impermanence and agencyless, but at the moment I've been getting an especially strong inclincation towards suffering and pain. It seems like at this point, seeing sensations come and go is easier, seeing how my sense of self doesn't have any permanent residence in those sensations is more possible, yet the deep feeling of loss, grief, pain, sadness, seems so ever-present and tied to honing in on impermanence and agencyless. In a strange way, I feel like states and stages have almost disappeared, or at least are much less pronounced. Instead of moving on and cycling through them, I feel like I'm just at some kind of standstill, where I know conceptually that there are insights to deepen, yet I have to just be right here where I am, where there's just nothing to possibly do to solve it besides just remaining at the level of immediate awareness. Whereas the immediacy I spoke of upon hitting 2nd path was cool and helped my perception work more smoothly, it's almost as though this way of experiencing immediacy is somehow dark, depressing, hollow, like realizing the immediacy of experience is actually some kind of death or loss or damnation to something. I didn't really know what to expect and it's somewhat surprising to me how this dark flavor seems to be one of the dominant things to come about, but on a personal level, it's not too much to handle and I still have confidence in just moving forwards. It's probably a good thing in that it does seem to make the impression that all I can really do is stay present with awareness, just continue the practice, just keep investigating and watching and all that. It's interesting how love and acceptance and all that was such an amazing salve and boon to my practice in 2nd path, yet I feel like there isn't really any antidote or approach to practice that could help me move forward at this point. Even though so much of what I've described is negative in nature, there's still a sense that what's happening is healthy and natural, and there is a faith in the process at this point. I know deepening insight isn't just a smooth ride to constantly feeling better and more enlightened and all that, and that the path has a way of kind of propelling itself along in the ways it needs to, so I think I'm taking it all in in a fairly healthy and reasonable way, which is good. It's just a bit of a shake-up to feel like these darker feelings seem to be one of the predominant backdrops for working towards 3rd- especially after feelings of goodwill, love, acceptance, and forgiveness were such a prominent backdrop for the work towards 2nd path. Anyways, it's always nice to check back in here when I'm making sense of practice and especially when I'm deciding to focus on practice more. I hope everyone is doing well, and as always, I'm super grateful for the resources, advice, and conversations afforded by everyone!
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago at 5/30/23 7:23 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 5/30/23 7:22 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Have you done any of the six realms or five element practic es? I have a hunch they might interest you. Good description of both (and more) in Ken McLeod's "Wake Up To Your Life" book. Also free material on on these same topics.
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 5/31/23 3:12 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 5/31/23 3:12 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I'm somewhat familiar with the six realms concepts, though the five elements was new to me. I've never done any explicit practices with either, but I checked out unfetteredmind and read this poem-

It definitely resonated with me and what I've been experiencing lately. Thanks for the pointers! I'm looking into more information on both but I'll probably pick up the book you mentioned as well to check out some more information on these practices. 

On the five elements, the descriptions of feelings of aversion, fear, loss, falling, and the sense of trying to realign myself in some way to contend with what I'm feeling and experiencing, all this really left an impression on me and resonated with things going on in my mind/practice. I'm going to do my best to work on paying attention to these feelings and sensations, trying to let them be, looking for the aversion and clinging that might be occuring. I get the sense that there's still some deeper/more subtle levels of surrendering left to do in order to help clear things up. Sits have been pretty difficult and challenging, but at the same time, it's still been fascinating and encouraging to keep at it and continue figuring things out.

On a more practice log type note-
I feel lately like my sits are kind of just pure DN type stuff, but I did notice that there is possibly an A&P event going on, though it's probably the least pronounced I've ever noticed. Just a few minutes in, there's the slightest shiver/more pronounced fast vibration stuff going on, but the majority of the sits seem to be squarely in DN stuff like I've described. Progressing through vagueness, quietude, unease, doubt, strong impressions of aversion, feelings of desperation and really wanting to get past all of this stuff, then what I've often described as the feeling of the mind being a swarm of frantic and angry bees. It's okay, it's still workable and I don't feel like anything is happening that's throwing off the practice and I'm still confident in the ability to work with the practice and experience where it's at. It's just a lot, and it's been awhile since I felt confronted with such difficult stuff within insight practice. Regardless, I just plan on continuing to show up and doing my best emoticon

While I'm practicing, I do my best to let go and surrender, to keep gently examining where all this is coming from, etc... but there's very clearly still this deep subtle level of holding on to something, some sense of rejecting what I'm experiencing, a feeling of the solution I'm looking for clearly not being in the moment to moment experience. A feeling of the current moment to moment experience being bleak, empty, hollow, without any kind of specialness or grace... This weird feeling of- "I'm surrendering to this moment, but this moment is still unsatisfying, bleak, void of any insight or recompense... so what more do you want from me???" Theoretically I know this isn't right, but even so, it's still there. I just plan to practice and sit with this, keep looking to why it is I feel that way, keep looking to see where that resistance is, keep trying to see the moment of experience as clearly as possible no matter what feelings or impressions are present...

Outside of sits/general thoughts and impressions-
I've noticed that despite the negative flavors, it feels like what I could describe as tenderness in the heart is bigger lately. I laugh more, I cry more (something that's pretty infrequent for me), I feel like I'm more sensitive to the joy and pain in the lives of those around me. To be honest, recently I was just sitting and thinking how hard life is for friends and family around me, and it completely reduced me to tears. There's just a lot of stuff going on in the heart area, in ways I feel like I haven't really felt before. Psychologically and emotionally, a lot of stuff has been bubbling up, sometimes with what feel like breakthroughs in feeling and understanding, processing and accepting things that have happened in the past, etc... These things don't come up in sits really, but it surprises me how much stuff seems to be flowing there in weird and intense ways. It seems to be only for the better to feel love/compassion/empathy grow and expand, and to more deeply honor and acknowledge experiences in my life and connections to those I love and co-occupy life with though! It also feels good and right to be able to work on the balance of doing my best to practice, while also allowing the more human elements of my life breathe and flow, rather than try to cork one side in service of the other. I've tried to keep my efforts as a meditator and my efforts to just be a better me separated in the past, and I feel like I'm learning more about the ways they're integrated, how there isn't anything wrong with that as long as I do my best to show up for both elements in the ways needed.
Aeon , modified 3 Months ago at 5/31/23 7:26 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 5/31/23 7:26 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 213 Join Date: 1/31/23 Recent Posts

Thought I would link these, for the off chance you haven't already seen post collections for wisdom about 3rd and higher paths.
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/1/23 3:20 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/1/23 3:20 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Thanks aeon, super helpful! I saw these a long time ago but lost track of where they were, definitely gonna do some checking in. 
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/1/23 8:09 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/1/23 5:45 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts

Yesterday was honestly a super tough day as far as DN characteristic stuff goes. I was proud though, even though I was going through the motions and doing my stuff, playing my games, watching shows or whatever; even though there was a lot of negative feelings, I was able to keep my footing and realize the flavors I was experiencing weren't true assessments of everything sucking. DN cycling was apparent after my last sit of the day- lots of strong fear, feelings of wanting to renounce stuff in my life I know I actually enjoy and care about, weird feelings of there being serious health issues in my body, weird paranoia, etc... it was really intense but I think I made it through the day while still staying grounded and keeping mindfulness and curious attention regardless. By the time I went to bed, I felt a bit more grounded.

Sits the last few days have been tough- just feeling like I can't pay attention, like I couldn't effectively concentrate, constant drifting off, etc... but I kept sitting with it, taking little breaks when needed, reconnecting with the gears shifting kind of approach (if concentration seemed bad, switching back to basic noting, if it seemed better, moving closer towards choiceless awareness type attention, etc...), which helped. A lot of the sit activity revolved around really just trying to remain present in the moment, and allow myself to really surrender to whatever came up. 

I felt a bit more vitality and mental capacity. It felt like the weight of the DN type effects was diminished a lot, which is of course nice! 

I just had a nice sit too. Concentration was improved and it was generally easy to stay present and not get distracted. Unlike the vagueness of sits the last few days, I noticed that points in the stages were a lot clearer. The V.J. qualities of mind and body and A&P were pretty apparent. A bit later into the sit, I found myself focusing on how whenever I would get distracted, have a thought, etc... the stress seemed to be more after the fact, in particular, the stress was around how behind my eyes and in my crown area, there's a part trying to hold on to whatever was passed. Like a split second of losing presence would happen, then I would just notice the attempt of my head to hold onto it, then when my awareness came to, my head would almost be at odds with my awareness seeing that it had already passed. 

I've been trying to let presence and each moment happen and be aware of it, and just kind of observe how there is clearly some kind of clinging going on. I feel like I can see basically every sensation I'm aware of pass by fairly smoothly, but there's just the feeling of tightness and holding on specifically in the top of my head/behind my eyes. Everywhere else seems like perception is flowing naturally. So I kind of let myself tune into that specific clinging, keeping in mind that all the sensations that make it up are also subject to the same transience I see everywhere else. It seemed like a good way to go. Even the clinging is part of the complete moment, even the discontent is exactly what's happening, even the sense of my self persisting from moment to moment is part of the moment. Working in that way seems to be helping to get closer to why that tension and clinging is happening in the first place, so I'm feeling decent about what direction the practice seems to be flowing.

At some point I started slightly spacing out, seeing imagery, and at one point kind of having inner vision of just standing somewhere and looking at a painting. Things continued to be spacy and dreamy, and I blipped out and pretty sure I had a fruition. It definitely wasn't a path moment, I'm pretty sure it was almost identical to the fruition I had on getting 2nd path. 

Anyways, it's definitely nice to have a little relief from some of the heavy DN stuff and feel like there are some interesting areas of practice opening up. It's also nice to feel like I'm navigating the practice itself decently well, seeing places that feel like they merit more investigation, etc...
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/3/23 3:57 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/3/23 3:57 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Practice has been pretty unremarkable/uneventful, but seems good nonetheless. On some of the things I mentioned before, I feel like I've been more and more interested in just watching the current moment. I know that's kind of already what the practice is, but the significance of that seems to deepen as I practice. Noticing more how there's this sense of loss, like I somehow missed something in a past moment, noticing stress and tightening around that. Noticing how that instinct to feel like I missed something is at odds with every moment's presence. Letting that stress and tightening be, noticing how even that stress and tightening is still just this moment. Noticing how my own reactions, impulses, feelings, senses of good and bad, instincts to map, my efforts to direct practice, they're all things in the moment, and that it's okay for that moment to consist of whatever it does. Gently massaging the tightness and clinging, trying to bring concentration up to see more clearly and accurately, realizing it's not possible to mess up the moment and allowing that kind of approach to guide the efforts to reduce the clinging.

It's still the case that I feel like I can observe the sensate field doing its thing, besides the tension that exists in the crown/behind the eyes. As I've felt the clinging reduce a bit, I've been gently trying to allow the presence of the rest of the sensate field to coexist with the less-clear sensations around the head, trying to sort of integrate the sense of observer with the sense of everything else being observed... trying to be okay with how the sense of agency feels at odds with the rest of the sensations that come and go more naturally. There's stress in that paradoxical feeling of everything else being clear, but the sense of agency being unclear. Working on allowing that paradoxical feeling to be okay, to not try to change it or defeat it with practice, but just to keep going back to the moment, letting however it appears be okay, letting the stress and tension be okay, etc... It feels like guiding my practice in this kind of way is leading to things being clearer, and helping loosen things up. 

So in summary, the practice has pretty much been focusing on the moment, resigning and relaxing into the moment, trying to keep concentration reasonably good, and just kind of letting the whole moment breathe together no matter how it appears. Seems good! 
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/5/23 6:09 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/5/23 6:09 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I just had a pretty interesting sit-

It progressed as usual, there were the pretty routine tells of progressing up through the nanas, hitting a pretty clear A&P, DN phases, spacing out a bit then refocusing, panoramic EQ type feeling. Getting to around this spot has felt like the current "threshold" for practicing. I've been trying to commit to really making the current moment the practice and feel like I haven't been too preoccupied with mapping or worrying about where it's at, but things presented themself in a clear way and I feel like banking on that language now will kind of help place where things are going on. 

In the later stages of a sit, I've been paying attention to how the sensate field feels relatively clear, relatively easy to see the 3C's in it all, outside of the area of the head/behind the eyes, which feels a bit more solid, feels like there's more resistance to scrutiny, feels like it's just less integrated into the whole field. I've been gently trying to "even out" the sensate field in terms of the stuff that seems clear, with the head/eyes/self area that feels less clear, gently trying to let it be a complete picture.

I've noticed an A&P like event happening in EQ in the past and in my recent sits (I guess it would be like 4.2 using the nana/subnana notation). It happened again in this sit, though it was kind of deeper and more intense, and what spurred it was this thought/impression about how beautiful simple presence is. Then there was a pretty intense, everything and especially the sense of the observer shaking, which lasted about a minute then died down. I kept proceeding as usual, just trying to notice the moment, noticing all the sensations as they presented themselves, trying to keep an even level of concentration and relaxation, etc...

At some point, I dropped into 5th jhana territory, and it was pretty vivid/intense. I haven't really been practicing jhana for a few years, and it's been a long time since I clearly hit 5th jhana type stuff. I still felt like I was in vipassana mode though, it definitely didn't feel "solid" but it was still pretty clearly 5th jhana stuff. So that was interesting, then it also died down a bit. I kept humming along for a bit, though I was probably an 1 1/2 hours into the sit by the time I decided to call it. 

Especially in the later parts of the sit, and with contending with the sense of observer, there's definitely this sense of out-of-syncness, inside-outness, out-of-phaseness, with the sense of observer. I'm hoping and generally feeling like the practice is kind of directing itself naturally and in a good productive way. The observer, the sense of me, the one who is perceiving stuff, seems to be more and more a focus in the later parts of my sits. It seems like continued practice is opening up more clarity into what's going on with that, with where there's subtle knots and resistance and things that aren't seen clearly.

Gently probing around the observer, gently trying stuff with integrating more of the field into the complete picture, gently probing into the resistance and sense of knots and out-of-syncness, that's kind of where it's at. At times I find myself hoping if I'm "doing it right" or whatever, but I feel relatively confident in letting it happen how it happens, and putting faith in the fact that the current moment is always what I should be working with. No matter what direction practice might take, no matter what there is to "do", I'm reasonably assured and kept grounded by knowing that everything I'm looking to figure out or do is only something I'll find out by the exact moment I'm at, that the moment has everything I need, etc... There's the though as well- even if there are no attainments, no maps, no insights, no wisdom, if it's all just kind of made up, all I can truly verify and see for myself is the current moment, so at the end of the day, that's all I can truly do. Just look at the moment, try to see it more clearly, try to balance myself out as I do so, etc...

It's nice to make sense of things and orient myself to some degree having awareness of the maps and stuff, but I'm also generally content with the idea of "stuff is happening, stuff is progressing, so that's probably good". At the end of the day, the core practice itself is relatively simple, and as long as I don't get stuck or hung up, I do feel like I just need to keep applying the practice wherever the ride goes. It's an interesting ride though, that's for sure!
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/8/23 8:51 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/8/23 8:51 PM

RE: My post 2nd path check-in/general thoughts thread

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Note: I think I'm going to rename this thread to something like "Working towards 3rd path" since the initial intention was fulfilled and now it's more or less a journal/practice log in working towards 3rd. I would start a new thread but it seemed to make sense to keep everything I've written together.

I was busy the last few days and missed the mark of doing a sit every day, but got back to it today-

It was a tough sit, and brough up a lot of the inital dark type stuff I brought up in past logs. I did my best to just continue on practicing, without getting lost in the content or buying into the various thoughts and feelings that came up. Much is similar to before, where perception of most things seems fairly immediate, transience/agencyless being obvious. The sense of duality is definitely there though, and it feels like deeply-rooted divide poisons the clarity, casts a dark shadow over the simplicity of sensations, the purity of awareness, etc... Painful dissonance in the act of attempting to gain insight or get somewhere, while the practice itself revolves around truly just simply seeing things as they are. Irony in the fact that the simple truths are right here and free to see, yet the effort to see it involves working through dark, strange, nebulous, discouraging territory. Discordance in applying effort to practice while I know the thing I'm trying to see is already present and that just seeing it clearly for what it is should be enough. Uncertainty in regards to the inclination to ramp up effort/intensity, or to lean further into abandonment to the present moment, and to keep trying to relax everything that feels tense and gently massage the knots of clinging.

Besides all this being the content of the sit, the practice basically involved trying not to shy away from these impressions that were present, to just try to examine the 3 C's of it all, to maintain and deepen concentration, and to gently probe into how the suffering arises. 

Part of this difficulty could honestly just be a bit of backsliding from not doing sits for a few days, or could just be a natural part of the process, but in any case, it makes me realize that I probably should make sure to stay more consistent with practice. I'm just doing my best to keep working with what comes up, doing my best to not look away from what's happening, to not get lost in any weird mental spirals or fundamentally change my approach for practice or regular daily life for that matter. (and trying to avoid the various pitfalls of internalizing a "woe is me, the holy seeker" type of attitude) If this is backsliding, it's a good splash of cold water to the face to respect the practice a bit more and keep my efforts up.  Regardless, it is what it is right now and I know that all I can do is just keep going. Admittedly, it sure can be tough!
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago at 6/9/23 6:05 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/9/23 6:05 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
It's good that we can't really predict how a practice session will go, because that's what makes it applicable to living life. If we can show up and sit through a good sit one day and a hard sit the other day -- never knowing what might happen next -- that's a perfect training for life becuase life behaves the same way. We never know what kind of day, hour, minute is coming next.
Mind over easy, modified 3 Months ago at 6/13/23 5:10 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/13/23 5:08 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
That's true, definitely encouraging to keep in mind during and outside of sits!

Nothing super extraordinary to report in practice... It seems like the significance of cycling and jhanas/nanas feels lesser, compared to the significance of just clearly seeing what makes up the moment. Practice seems to progress itself just fine, random jhanas popping up, cycles playing out, random fruitions, etc... 

I had a sit that felt especially clear and concentrated recently, I felt quite calm and balanced. The first part of the sit involved just going through the basic stuff of getting concentrated, tuning into sensations coming and going, seeing the lack of agency in the sensations in the field. It feels like it's becoming clearer in terms of stuff like thoughts, sense of space, sense of the physicality of where "I" is located... It seems like I'm truly seeing the 3C's with the more mental/spacial stuff. 

I wouldn't say it's something I feel I'm "stuck" on, just something that seems at the forefront of practice- I guess I'd call it the sense of the "watcher", hopefully I'm not misusing the term. But it's just the kind of the weird and paradoxical sense of most sensations seeming to be seen clearly, thoughts clearly just popping in and out on their own, volition itself arising and passing away without anyone doing it, the sensations of spacial awareness being impermanent and just happening on their own, etc... but there's still the sense of the watcher being the one deep inside doing the beholding. Things very clearly seem impermanent and happening on their own accord, and I feel like I have a decent handle on seeing attachment/aversion and getting the mind to calm down and loosen the grip, so to speak. But the fundamental sense of duality, the sense that it's all happening on one side and there's someone watching it on the other is definitely still there.

I'm just going about it in the way that feels right and in line with the rest of the practice- just gently probing into that sense of agency/watcher and trying to see the sensations more clearly, see the nature of them, see if I can notice more subtle levels of aversion/attachment, that kind of thing. In any case though, it often just "feels" like the watcher is outside of the sensations, like awareness/baseline presence is something that beholds the sensations but isn't made up of sensations. It's hard to pinpoint it, the sense of watching feels like it encompasses everything but isn't part of the field, like it's the thing that receives and processes the entire field of sensations. It feels difficult to try to pinpoint the sensations that make up awareness since even if I'm able to see sensations that are part of it, there is still the feeling of just seeing those sensations, but there being a deeper-level watcher that's getting the sensations. It's like I'm trying to keep dialing in the microscope to see it closer and more clearly, but when I try to tune into awareness itself, it's hard to point the microscope at the thing when I'm trying to discern what's doing the viewing on the other side the microscope. 

On one hand I'm just approaching it from the technical point of view of- just keep looking and seeing the sensations more clearly, just keep doing the practice on whatever comes up, including the stuff I wrote about. Then on the other hand, it feels like there's something more significant about the watcher/awareness, something that's not just as trivial as "vipassana this away to get further". Perhaps that's just deeper levels of attachment/aversion that occlude me from seeing the sensations more clearly. It just feels like there's something significant about the watcher and how it feels like I'll always be "behind the glass" if I try to watch the watcher, like there's something fundamentally different required to see what's doing the seeing.

Regardless, the approach has been to just keep paying attention, keep working on smoothing out/integrating the field of sensations, to keep allowing practice to play out, studying the moment closely, seeing the nature of the sensations that moments consist of, and figuring out how to approach the whole watcher thing. 
Bahiya Baby, modified 3 Months ago at 6/13/23 5:37 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 6/13/23 5:33 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 106 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Hey ! Great thread. Very late here so can't get into a more detailed reply. Might chime in a little deeper tomorrow. 

For now: Have you tried just relaxing the watcher? Feel the shape of the thing that occludes you, the shape and feel of being behind the glass. What happens if you relax that shape? ​​​​​​​

​​​​​​​At a certain point the above practice blew my head clean off. It still does.
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 6/29/23 5:19 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/29/23 5:19 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts


I had a lot of commitments, obligations, things requiring brain focus over the last few weeks, though I've felt pretty decent about maintaining mindfulness and inquiry throughout. It feels like things are maturing and progressing in any case... It seems like the implications of the dark, brooding, quiet type flavors that have marked work towards 3rd path have become clearer, insights around those feelings and why it is that way seem to be deepening, the work to be done seems to be getting clearer.

Tiny recap, I believe I hit 2nd path over a year ago, and made the resolution to not move onto working towards 3rd shortly after. Then a month or two ago, I felt it was time to keep going and resolved to allow the 3rd path work to begin. I described feelings of darkness, brooding, quiet sadness, etc...

The work has generally involved just truly committing to the present moment, truly making the focus being on surrender and deepening attention to what's actually happening, gentle probing into attachment/aversion, honesty, acceptance, and just a general sober approach towards making "this very moment" and "whatever sensations are present" the point of focus. From an analyzing point of view, I haven't written off mapping, but from an experiential side, the significance of paths and states and attainments has dropped off, largely in favor of the sense that there is no possible way to move forward outside of deepening awareness of what is actually present. 

On deeper understanding of the general "darkness"-
Contrasting with 1st and 2nd path work, it feels like work towards 3rd is much more "serious". Whereas 1st and 2nd were similar in that it just involved doing the work, building up the techniques, powering up concentration, more deeply applying the techniques, etc... there is a sense that this stage of work simply involves a much more radical and precise commitment to truly meeting each moment where it is... instead of just doing the techniques and hoping for that path moment, there's this cold and sobering sense that I simply need to confront the moment with more honesty, with more focus on presence, with a higher degree of precision and skill, etc... 

I think a lot of the darkness that has surrounded this work is based on familiar refuges dissolving. Concepts and feelings of progress, attainment, comfortable states, equanimity, feelings of peace, feelings of accomplishment, it seems like much of the dark nature has involved honestly reckoning with the fact that even the positive aspects of my identity and progress are more of the same- just sensations occurring, the mind spinning up impressions, a very primal and deep attachment to being the one causing things and accomplishing things, a deep and subtle aversion to letting go of those various conceptual refuges, and this realization that everything consists of the same substrate.

"everything consists of the same substrate"-
Sensations occur, the mind/watcher/experiencer constantly takes these things and thoughts/feelings/concepts arise. All that stuff arises regardless of how balanced/unbalanced/aware/unaware I am, yet the suffering is being more closely seen to be due to the way a deep part of me wants to be causing those things, wants to claim responsibility or identity for the experiences happening, wants to be in charge of or in control of the arising of thoughts and feelings, or lack of. It goes deeper than just attachment to pleasant sensations and aversion to unpleasant sensations... it's a really deep and primal sense of the core/center/watcher/I being seen to really have nothing to do with the field of awareness, yet deeply wanting to be responsible for all experience and sensations. 

I think it's generally so dark in nature because it's just a deeper and more refined insight into the 3c's/the nature of sensations/duality... like the skills and implications of 1st and 2nd path were good and true, but this work seems to involve a much more severe and thorough tearing down and confrontation of layers of attachment and aversion at the very core of things. There isn't anything to "fix" or "change" about the field of experience itself, yet the deepening insight into how primal and central these errant attachments and aversions are is a lot to contend with, in a way that just hits way closer to home, way closer to the core.

I think the change that happened at 2nd path, which I've described as a change of "immediacy of sensations/perception" was a huge step forward, but the limitations of that insight are definitely becoming clearer, in how layers of aversion and attachment are obviously at odds with sensations being more clearly seen as impermanent/not-self. 

State of sits-
It's just mostly been more of the same, just continuing to sit, deepen concentration, gently probe into attachment/aversion, open myself up to seeing things as clearly as I can, and to confront the uncomfortable stuff without pushing it away, but just truly seeing it more closely and clearly. It seems like sits often progress fairly cleanly- I sit and progress through nanas, sometimes they're clear and sometimes they're unclear, random jhana stuff pops up, comes and goes, and often times the sits seem to end with a fruition. My last sit seemed particularly insightful, and there was a fruition towards the end that felt particularly deep and shocking, though it certainly wasn't a path moment. It just sort of feels like a process of rinse, wash, repeat... just showing up, letting the practice occur, working on my maturity and balance towards the process, etc...

There isn't anything particularly special or new to report, just kind of mulling over sits, reflecting on things as they come up, keeping my balance, just continuing on and showing up for it all, that kind of thing. It feels like I just need to keep at it, continue weeding the garden, polishing the stone, loosening the tangles, etc... I'm feeling reasonably confident about it, and it feels like insights continue to crop up and deepen, so I'll just keep at it!
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 6/29/23 5:30 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/29/23 5:30 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
One more tiny note-

I kind of got at this, but specifically, it's becoming clearer how there's a specific type of suffering that the mind makes you assume is because something is unpleasant, or because something was pleasant but disappeared, but it's being seen more clearly how that's just a bit of an excuse or scapegoat which hides the fact that the suffering is much more based on assuming authorship of experience, assuming being the one responsible for effort, being the one receiving the perceptions, errantly and habitually trying to insert agency into the impersonal flow of everything, trying to insert agency into cause and effect, etc... that's the much more annoying/grating/dissonant/suffering-involving part of it!
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 6:25 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 6:20 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Mind over easy
One more tiny note-

I kind of got at this, but specifically, it's becoming clearer how there's a specific type of suffering that the mind makes you assume is because something is unpleasant, or because something was pleasant but disappeared, but it's being seen more clearly how that's just a bit of an excuse or scapegoat which hides the fact that the suffering is much more based on assuming authorship of experience, assuming being the one responsible for effort, being the one receiving the perceptions, errantly and habitually trying to insert agency into the impersonal flow of everything, trying to insert agency into cause and effect, etc... that's the much more annoying/grating/dissonant/suffering-involving part of it!

Nice, this really is the heart of it. It keeps coming back to seeing all the ways we instinctually do this. This kind of suffering is sort of self-imposed, either to protect the self by avoiding or narcissitically feed the self through over-ownership/fetishizing experience, but the answer isn't getting rid of the self (NO SELF) it's the actually middle path between the egotism/eternalism of SELF and the nihlism/meaninglessness of NO SELF. Experience is probably best described as not-self, yet it can't be ignored. It still needs to be fully experienced, otherwise we're living in a fantasy in our head and wise action in the world is impossible.

You could almost say that this kind of suffering is a lack of intimacy and participation with experience. The more divorced and self-centered we are, the more the relationship suffers.  It's neither co-dependency nor separation, but the middle path between these conceptual extremes. 

This work is sorta richly tantric. Intimacy and participation.

(It becomes obvious now why the cold and objective "noting" practices make sense in the beginning. Without a very strong foundation of mindfullness and clarity, the tantric style of practice would be too easily corrupted into egotistical indulging. But there comes a point in practice where a new kind of vulnerability becomes important...)

And this is the sort of thing you need to do consistently. Weeding the garden is a great metaphor. 

Sounds to me like you're right where you need to be! emoticon
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 8:26 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 8:26 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Just adding on...

All of this is conceptually kind of obvious, but the real trick is to get aware/sensitive enough to catch it and live it in real time. Otherwise, we can just "understand the model" and how it explains things in the past... but that's it. We might feel a little smarter but in a way, but we still act/suffer the same way.

​​​​​​​It takes dedicated practice to be able to paddle up on the wave of experiance and reactivity and to actually be able to surf it in real time.
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 2:14 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 2:14 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for the encouraging and helpful feedback! 

"...but the answer isn't getting rid of the self (NO SELF) it's the actually middle path between the egotism/eternalism of SELF and the nihlism/meaninglessness of NO SELF. Experience is probably best described as not-self, yet it can't be ignored. It still needs to be fully experienced, otherwise we're living in a fantasy in our head and wise action in the world is impossible."

I'm mulling over this one. Earlier in this work, I was a bit more saddled with the feeling of "I perceive self/the watcher and it's clearly at odds with no-self, I perceive a self and I know this can't be right, but it still just seems like it's there". More practice seems to reveal that the desire to push away the perception of self is also a kind of aversion to the experience of self, experiencing it yet wanting to reject or push it away instead of perceiving it more honestly. Conceptually it feels quite paradoxical, but in practice, I'm realizing I can put a decent amount of trust into the concept of just watching experience as honestly as I can, and looking to untie attachment and aversion wherever it crops up. There's kind of a feeling that I just need to keep that up and eventually once a sufficient amount of that weeding is done, that the insight I'm after will naturally appear. 

"​​​​​​​It takes dedicated practice to be able to paddle up on the wave of experiance and reactivity and to actually be able to surf it in real time."

Well said, and sometimes this really feels like the hardest part, but also the most simple... to just keep showing up consistently and putting in the work! 
Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 3:58 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 3:58 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 4808 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
"I perceive self/the watcher and it's clearly at odds with no-self, I perceive a self and I know this can't be right, but it still just seems like it's there".

The Big Deal is to understand what that experience of self is, just as you would investigate any other object (hint hint). Why is it there? How is it created? It's not the enemy, although there are plenty of practitioners who will try to convince you that you must be eradicated. Truth is, you can't eradicate it, even if you spent the rest of your life trying.

You are absolutely on the right track.
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 5:36 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 6/30/23 5:36 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for the pointer and encouragement!

My sit today-

Things were pretty solid, concentration was good, investigation felt on point, I rose up through stages, etc... But what really stood out is how unexpectedly tough of a re-ob phase I had. I don't think I've ever felt such an intense kick in the ass at any point in practice before this one. Previous to this stage coming up, I was tuning into agencyless, how even though things are happening, there's still this vice grip of assumption of doing. Honing in on this and trying to relax that sensation led to basically what felt like getting the shit kicked out of my entire field of experience. It was really tough, intense, violating, and just generally like stepping into an inferno. It was like a bad acid trip or something like that! It's okay with me; I didn't fight it or spiral out, but it was just simply really tough. I switched over to walking meditation at some point, though it was close to a few hours in so I just did my best to keep with it, surrender and just pay attention as best as possible.

I think the (scorching) insight is just how ultimately wrong the sense of being the do-er is. All of reality screaming intensely that it's just doing itself, with the tyrant inside holding on so deeply to the need to be the one doing it. It really is stressful, it really is erroneous, it really is out of touch with how things are, to have that deeply and desperately held sense of agency and responsibility for experience. I'm not necessarily trying to glorify the suffering, but damn, when all else fails, there's nothing like getting your ass handed to you to remind you that there is indeed something that needs letting go of. It's not just the sense of needing to let go and let the field of awareness be, it's the really violating and burning realization that the field is already doing its thing, and the whole idea that you are doing it is incorrect yet still clearly clung to and creating the suffering.

That was a tough one! But I think it's going to be okay... I think it's often like that, little improvements, little steps forward in clarity and concentration, then with that, just more levels of attachment and aversion brought up to awareness, and continual work at just seeing more clearly and relaxing aversion, releasing attachment, surrendering on deeper levels, etc... definitely a fire and brimstone type sit though! I think I "landed" the sit as skillfully as possible, and I'll keep staying mindful until my next sit, but it definitely provides motivation towards keeping on and moving forward with the work. 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/1/23 5:33 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/1/23 5:33 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Happy to report that I survived the worst of the re-ob/DN phase, sad that all I got was this shirt. 

But yeah, to continue the thread from yesterday, I had a re-ob in my sit that was honestly just one of the roughest and most unpleasant I can recall. Did my best to "land" the meditation session then went out and hung out with some friends. I try to stay cognizant of how points in the cycles can flavor and bias my experience in regular life, but it has to be acknowledged how comically and poetically wrong things can go when you're in a tough mindset. My friends bailed on our plans, I went to a show with music I really wasn't feeling, had to shake down a drunk dude for something he stole from me, ran into a bunch of jerks, etc...

It was still alright though, felt like I was able to keep a decent level of mindfulness, and perspective of the fact that when you're in a tough mental/emotional spot, that things just simply will feel and appear worse. I'm grateful for the maps and for the bodies of work and conversations outlining how a lot of that stuff plays out; it really does help to keep things in perspective! It also felt like a minor win to truly allow myself to feel the feelings I felt throughout the night, my reactions to stuff, acknowledging the bad feelings and the reality of bad stuff, while still staying mindful, not looking to somehow vaporize or think away the emotions, allowing bad to just be bad, not looking for a "way out", etc... It was rough with the re-ob/DN stuff so prevalent, but also from a broader perspective, a decent stress-test. Negative narratives abound, yet the maturity and presence to let them be, not get swept away in the negativity, not try to push them away or buy into them, etc... so that's good.

I was looking forward to today's sit... Being so obviously in the thick of DN stuff I knew it was going to be tricky, but at the same time it helped. Sits have been progressing well lately and it was a really unexpected cold pail of water to the face to suddenly run into the tricky stuff yesterday, but that allowed me to be more prepared and mature about the sit today.

Today's sit-

It was generally a tough sit, though I'm happy to report that concentration and focus were really good. Especially early on, flavors included vagueness, meaninglessness, nothing-happening-ness, nothing-working-ness, eerie fluxing, the sensate field breathing in strange slithery ways, etc... Again sticking to the guns, I proceeded with an approach of "this is what's here now, whatever is present is the practice", which carried the sit. Resignation to what was happening was already kind of intentionally established before going into the sit, but nevertheless deepend and helped carry me through. 

I've been a bit gung-ho with the mentality of "gently weeding out attachment/aversion", which I think is good and has helped, but was probably part of the lesson of the heavy DN sit yesterday. Directly challenging that subtle notion of "I'm getting this", "I'm such a good meditator", "Surely my reward for this is around the corner", "I'm making this happen", etc... Heavy DN/re-ob is definitely good at challenging those subtle notions and shredding those egotistical feelings to bits and laughing in your face at the idea that you are in control of the ride. Thus I think the sit was a lot smoother today having been humbled and already going into it with more of a surrender and watch approach. Increased surrender, sobriety, honesty, resignation, patience, and a healthy dose of resolve to keep going and stay curious, was the crux of the approach. 

It seems like I got up to re-ob fairly quickly in the sit, and felt like my approach and mindstate was better. Despite the vagueries and no-progress feelings, I tuned into the sensations, let things present themselves, allowed the weird band/lens of attention to be what it was, and just tuned into the 3c's in whatever presented. Things became a bit clearer, more coherent, less vague, more spacially open, and generally easier. It seemed like the entry into early EQ was kind of obvious, like the actual shift itself was fairly immediate and the shift in the shape of attention was pretty clear. There was a pretty clear progression through sub-nanas in EQ which was interesting, with concentration being better/clearer than usual in this nana.

I let myself tune into the arising spaciousness and gentle fluxing of the field, gently tuned into the 3c's, and when things felt decently even and panoramic, found myself gently tuning into the sense of self. I felt like I was able to see even clearer arising and vanishing of the sensations that make up the self, seeing them pop up and vanish, feeling that weird urge to solidify and hold onto those blipping sensations that feel like self. It was pretty cool to still feel like I had a strong sense of concentration through these phases because in the past, EQ has mostly been really dreamy and spacey, without as solid concentration to what's happening. 

Anyways, that carried on for a bit and there was a fruition, which again was interesting to see happen with a higher degree of concentration. Within the whole notion of fractals in states and stages, I've also often noticed how outside of what appears in a sit, there's sometimes a feeling of a background/backdrop stage, and with yesterday and today, there's clearly still DN stuff as the backdrop. It was interesting to have good concentration all the way up to EQ and through a fruition, yet still clearly see that DN flavor in the background, to care so little about a fruition happening, to see how there's still a low-level DN presence even through all of that. Nevertheless, it's okay and I'm not here to force practice or experience to take any kind of form, just to do my best to keep showing up for it and navigating it as skillfully as I can!

On cycles and fruitions-
In these going-for-3rd efforts, it seems like there's been a pretty clear pattern of meditating, having some point in the cycle be the predominant background flavor, seeming to pick up new insight/make progress, hitting a fruition in a sit, then running into new territory in following sits. It doesn't really change the main aspect of just doing the practice and navigating skillfully, but it's interesting to see. Just sorta feels like a rinse-wash-repeat thing I suppose. And in regards to the new challenges of DN territory, being confronted with new challenging stuff that hasn't cropped up still seems like a gentle indicator of progress and a chance to deepen practice in a new way. Regardless, one step forward at a time!

Things are still DN-esque in the backdrop but things are nowhere near as heavy as yesterday, which is a relief. Just continuing to practice and trust the process helps!
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/2/23 6:17 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/2/23 6:17 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Today's backdrop- still some aspects of DN, or just tougher emotions, or just general frustrations, etc... but as with yesterday, things have relaxed more, the mentals are more solid, there's more perspective and confidence to move forward, etc...

Today's sit-

Fairly similar to yesterday, although much less negative, much more manageable, easier to stay present, etc... Things progressed, I got concentrated, I surfed the sensate field, mind states came and went, etc... What I understand to be the late DN stages were much less challenging, though the predominant challenge was a minor sense of frustration, not really pinned down to anything in particular... maybe the sense of wanting to progress, the sense of wondering what needs to be done, a purely physical sense of tension, etc... Resignation, bravery, honesty, a healthy dose of determination, and gentle acceptance and willingness to simply examine those sensations was the approach in dealing with it.

Much like yesterday, the drop into EQ was very noticeable, like a distinct click into the widened band of awareness, the feeling of weight being suddenly lessened, etc... Also like yesterday, the feeling of mild frustration and generally DN flavored stuff was still present in the backdrop, though didn't impede the work. My approach has been somewhat choiceless-awareness-esque, though I have been gently directing myself to the sensations that seem less clear. I feel like it was a decent mixed bag of investigating the sensations of space, time, consciousness, my physical location, the feeling of space around where I am, etc... It felt productive, and I seemed to get a better look at those sensations being impermanent, blipping in and out, coming and going, the subtle sense of self-imposed lack of clarity into the 3c's with them. 

I'm pretty satisfied with the steady increase in concentration, ability to stay mindful, not get too lost in thoughts or dreamscapes over the last few weeks of practice. It seems like the sub-nanas of EQ have been very noticeable, with a very clear mind-body (the drop into EQ itself sorta), A&P (very similar to true A&P, yet wider, calmer, vibrations being more like clean sand flowing, rather than intense jarring strobing), the vagueness of the sub-third-VJ, the clean spaciousness of 4th with formless stuff appearing, mild 5th and 6th jhana stuff coming and going. It feels nice and confidence boosting to see some of this play out with more clarity. The additional clarity/concentration has been enabling deeper and more even-keel investigation into all the things in the field that seem solid, examining the more subtle aspects like time and space and presence and awareness, etc... continued probing into the sense of self, trying to see the sensations that suggest a self without trying to eradicate them or push them away, just trying to see more clearly...

As the pattern seems to have been going, eventually I had a fruition and it was pretty clear, fairly intense, and the afterglow was interesting. It felt like in the moments after, reality is so close to synchronizing, the natural presence of the sensate field is so close to being free and self-aware, etc... I know conceptually there isn't anything to change or upgrade and that the true nature of awareness is just always there, but I just know I'm "not there" with it yet, more work to do, more things to weed out. I'm still doing my best to examine the sensations within hoping, desiring an outcome, wanting to get somewhere, wanting to change something, expecations, etc... 

Sometimes I wonder if I should keep sitting after these fruitions, but they usually come in after an hour, hour and a half into the sit, and I haven't really wanted to push my sits much longer, generally just trying to favor consistency over heroics, and do my best to just stay mindful and present in between sits. I generally try to "practice" a bit as I'm going to sleep, but I've been considering doing two sits perhaps. But in any case, things still seeming good, progress is continuing, still just going forward!
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/3/23 5:48 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Last night going to bed-

I kinda switched it up and treated my going to sleep "meditation session" as a chance to just play around, do whatever, not worry about getting it right and do whatever I wanted. I haven't done jhana much so I played with jhana for a bit, called up 3rd jhana, and just for fun, played around with randomly jumping around between 1-3. It's interesting how it's possible to do, but jumping from 3 to 1 was so weird and unnatural. But hey, it was just a for fun session, kinda nice to just play around and do whatever! Had some trouble getting into 4th jhana from 3rd, and kinda switched to a hybrid vipassana/shamatha approach to see what was going on. It seemed to just be that desire to not let go of the peaceful/content factor of 3rd. So I just kind of checked that out, looked at the sensations that make up subtle peace/happiness, etc... 

I've just been so focused on trying to do the work properly that it was actually really nice and helpful to just have a playful session, no expectations or goals besides just doing whatever for fun. I might treat my night sessions more like that, seems like a good switch up from "being serious". Focusing on jhana probably doesn't hurt either, as I've mostly focused on vipassana in my journey over the years. 

Today's sit-

As the trend has gone, DN stuff/vibes has largely calmed down and it's easier to just chill and sit with the sit, without the unpleasantness/angst/suffering being so in the face. I'm not complaining about that, it's nice and probably good to chill out a bit! More of a sense of acceptance and I daresay, fun/playfulness. I think last night's goofing session helped a bit. It was pretty easy to progress past the A&P event through the dukkha-nanas. Even the experience of re-ob was really not bad at all! It wasn't so existentially threatening, and the weird chaotic buzziness was actually merely cool, it was easy to not get thrown off or feel too much resistance. Acceptance and surrender was good this sit. Expectation and desire for progress was much calmer as well, with it being easier to just simply surf along and let the sit play out.

One new thing- it feels like there's a bit more shamatha flavor popping in and out. I've noticed how there's this sense of knowing I'm doing vipassana, and thus my mind instinctively wants to "blink" away from what it's watching, as though to be like "hey this stuff is impermanent, don't stay on this!". Which is conceptually true in a way, but I've realized that instead of "blinking" or "mentally recoiling" away, it's not necessary to try to force impermanence to happen, not necessary to recoil from more shamatha/solid experience. Asides from getting too locked into jhana or stopping vipassana in favor of getting absorbed, I'm finding I'm able to calm that blinking down, finding that subtle urge to jump away from each moment, realizing it's not a good habit to blink away focus to try to force impermanence. I find myself being more honest and aware of that aversion to solidity. If something feels solid, I found myself not backing away but just letting those qualities exist without mentally darting away. This seems to really be helping, and actually feels like a pretty important thing to have tuned into! It seems like discovering a subtle form of aversion to experience, masquarading as the mind needing to do vipassana and needing to see impermanence and thus not really seeing clearly.

What I think is the nana of equanimity is getting clearer and concentration seems to be more accurate each new sit, which feels nice. What I think is 4vj.3vj (dissolution/dark night substage in equanimity) was interesting to watch. Just basically the sense of spaciousness and very even keel awareness, yet with the subtle sense of vagueness, the subtle sense of "what to do", subtle layers of expectation and desirous movement towards somewhere else. It was not too hard to just stay with it, let it play out, watch it and see little motions of the mind to want to go somewhere and be somewhere else, to expect something to happen, etc... It seemed like the mind kept popping in and out of shamatha, then vipassana, kind of blurry between the two at times, 5th and 6th jhana aspects popping up and disappearing sporadically. 

There was a fruition towards the end of the sit, and the afterglow was really pleasant! Feelings of energized relaxation, gratitude, confidence, and kindling of the resolve/intention to see this through. The sense of "this can be done!". Deep in DN stuff, attempts to generate resolve, to cultivate states, etc... all that tends to go on the backburner in favor of simply resigning, letting things dissolve, letting go, facing the stress and suffering with maturity and patience, etc... But now that things aren't so dark, it's nice to kind of "flex" a little bit, enjoy my mind, enjoy things that can happen in meditation, rest in the fact that I'm not going to mess anything up by being playful, mustering up intentions and resolve, etc... I've rarely focused on or tried to study fruitions more closely, but with how concentration has been lately, it's been cool to be more tuned into how they feel, what it's like before and after, see how the mind feels right as it's coming back online, etc... it's cool! I'm not going to make a focus of it now while I'm more goal-oriented, but in the future I'd definitely like to play around with fruitions more, and jhana. 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/5/23 5:00 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Yesterday's sit-

Tricky, but manageable. Feelings of uncertainty about techinque, some focus on the sensations of effort, trying, the paradoxical sense of knowing I must practice, knowing I must do stuff, but feeling into the layers of attachment and aversion that come with basically any volitional activity. Being okay with it, just continuing to practice and observe the sensations of uncertainty, effort, aspiration, discontent, feeling into the layers of resistance...

Today's sit-

Less tricky than yesterday, generally calmer and more okay with the sense of uncertainty around meditative approach.

For the middle part of the sit, I seemed to be tuned into the premise of causality... Tuning into the observation that every moment that I observe is the result of causes and conditions. It's tricky to describe accurately, but it seems like there was insight into how each moment is just the result of whatever conditions and experiences that came before it. Feelings of comparison to the metaphorical death and rebirth in each moment, the six realms teachings kind of clicking in a deeper way, etc... There was some relief in this insight/noticing, some vindication from the experience of each moment, a sort of logical reckoning I suppose. Each moment is conditioned, happens in a formulaic way, and whatever the moment, I can watch it and not get as caught up in the feeling of responsibility for it. Whether I'm calm or agitated or frustrated or whatever it may be, the moment is just the effect of causes. Simple and makes sense, but I feel like I tuned into that in a deeper way this sit.

Along those lines of investigation, I was tuning into sensations of expectation, discontent, subtle senses of pride, disappointment, confidence, etc... and seeing how they all provide the impetus for each moment that arises. There was a deeper sense of agencyless in this, and a deeper confidence in what seems to be the effort to make, simply observing these sensations coming and going, tuning into how all these mental impulses of attachment and aversion sow the seed for every experienced moment, and gently, calmly, evenly learning to relax those impulses as I see them more clearly.

I was able to calm the mind down a lot cruising along those lines, and though it's not necessarily radically different from how practice has been proceeding, it felt like a deepening of the insight into how I get embedded into experience, how the general idea of samsara works, how it's less scary and more mature to simply see cause and effect, to see more deeply how those impulses of attachment/aversion continually obscure simple perception of the moment, etc...

It's hard to describe conceptually since it's not a huge leap or change in direction in the actual practice, but the experience during the sit was insightful! 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/5/23 6:52 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/5/23 6:38 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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For what it's worth, I have a hunch that this practice might be very interesting to you... but feel free to disregard, you're the best judge...

One thing that I found very helpful, maybe even essential, in working towards 3rd was to basically change my attitude/orientation to practice. To arrive at a cessation the first or second time, there needs to be a sort of slow and consistent directing of the mind to the texture of experience. It can feel a bit like "it, it, it" at times.  (Of course this is very nana dependent, so it's just a generalization.) In the road to 3rd, there is a much greater appreciation of how the mind goes on it's own and we're not really in control. This can be frustrating at times, the mind feels kind of sloppy -- even though the mind is much more sensitive that ever before. So there's the feeling of being skilled, because of the sensitivity, but feeling unskilled because of the sloppy --- so to speak.There's also a sense that "it, it, it" is less interesting than the deeper question of "how". How does the mind decide how to direct attention? How does attention actually occur?

My guess is that you would find it interesting to fully trust that the mind knows where to go and close your eyes and just follow along. This is a very wierd meditation to do, but it is the only way to really discover what attention is. Basically, instead of using attention to see how things arise, you use awareness to see how attention arises. 

To be clear, in this usage, attention is the specific focus of the mind, awareness is the knowing of how attention moves in time. 

In this style of meditation, you take 10-30 minutes to get settled using your normal methods/practices... and then close your eyes and allow the mind to go where it will and you follow along. As the mind moves, notice the quality right at the point of experience that seems to move the mind to the next experience. Generally speaking, you notice how basic attraction seems to pull on the mind, aversion seems to push the mind, and indifference results in a momentary fantasizing until a new object is created that attracts or repells the mind.

There is a little emotional urge right at the point of experience that can be percieved, the fundamental seeds of push/pull/this-is-boring-so-I-need-to-fabricate-something-interesting. Become very interested in sensing these little urges. This is different than an emotion, it's the smallest seed of an emotion, the tiniest emotion, an urge.

And remember, you aren't directing your attention, it goes where it wants.

What often happens (if you're in the zone where such a practice is possible) is that there will be these momentary elemental insights into how the mind fundamentally moves... and in the next second you might drop into a deep concentration state. It will be very strange because in one moment you're doing super precise vipassina and then in the next moment it is as if you've been on retreat for a week and are in deep samadhi.  Both of these experiences seem possible because the instinctual controlling of attention itself is dropped. 

So this practice is all about the dropping of controlling attention and finding intimacy right at the point of contact, right at the point of arising, regardless of where the mind goes. Not controlling attention, but exploring the movement of attention itself as attention moves.

This kind of practice is important because, we have to admit, it really feels like attention is the "I" somehow. Attention feels like something the "I" does. But yet it's possible to watch the movement of attention itself --- interesting! This is a different kind of insight than the arising and passing of objects, which is mostly the kinds of insights that are associated with 1st and 2nd path.

You might also like the advice: "notice how the mind leans". Is the movement of attention leaning "into" this experience or "away" from experience? Don't control what is in attention, just notice how it leans. How is your mind leaning?

You might also like this advice: "notice the natural protection instinct of the heart". (Heart here is also like saying mind.) There is a natural vulnerablity with being alive and aware, and the clinging and aversion is part of this protection instinct. Notice how it sort of makes sense where attention goes, it's part of this protection instinct. See if you can notice/appreciate this in real time.

Hope this is helpful in some way.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/6/23 6:52 AM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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By the way, this is basically training "untethered mindfulness".

As one of my teachers described it: Initially mindfulness is only possible when both the body and mind are calm -- which is why a sitting practice is so important. Then, after the quality of attention is developed, it is possible to be mindful when the body is going crazy but the mind (attention) remains clear/calm. But then, after attention is known as an event occuring within awareness, it is possible to be mindful when the body is going crazy and the quality of attention has degraded... because regardless of what arises, it occurs within this awareness. Mindfulness is untethered, so to speak, from mind objects.  

Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/6/23 6:56 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Thanks for the pointers and advice, I do appreciate it a lot!

This gives me some confidence in my pondering lately of what exactly to do with attention, and also gives me some direction in approaching attention/awareness/sensations. As much as my technique is generally choiceless-awareness-esque, I've never really explicitly intentionally let the dog off the leash, so to speak. 

I was out pretty late last night, didn't really get a full night's sleep, so I was a bit tired going into the sit today. But it was cool to give untethered mindfulness a shot! I sat normally for about 15 minutes then just resolved to "let the dog off the leash" and just watch. Like I said, my focus and energy today is down from sleeping, but whether or not that's a factor, I kinda zoned out a lot in this sit. But it felt promising at the same time, makes me look forward to giving it another shot next sit!

It was interesting to just fully resolve to allow the mind to go wherever it wanted. It definitely felt like letting a dog off the leash. Also interesting to observe how when attention lands somewhere, the sensations arising and passing is still generally pretty clear, but how the movement and nature of attention itself is something less clear and maybe even neglected in sits. In between spacing out and being generally sleepy, I tried to tune into the quality of mind when it moved, noticed the sense of attention being pushed and pulled around, just kind of sat back and enjoyed the show. I'm going forward with expectations but I do suspect I'll have fun with this going forward, especially after a good night's rest! emoticon 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/7/23 6:56 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Today's sit-

Seemingly higher quality, as I had imagined, a good night's sleep and such definitely made things easier!

I proceeded along the same lines as yesterday, taking 15 minutes to sit as I have in the past then letting attention off the leash and just watching it. It's kind of fun, kind of like taking a puppy out for a walk and then taking it off the leash and letting it know you're just going to follow and appreciate. There were tones of benevolence that cropped up, compassion and appreciation for the way attention has the ability to be disciplined and do what I ask it to, yet how it also just does all sorts of things when left to its own devices.

Lots of jumping around, moments of it seeming to return to be like "yo is this still cool? are we still good?", moments of kind of getting lost and drifting off, like shargrol mentioned, moments of jhana/shamatha cropping up strongly, then on to vibration surfing in the next moment, etc... I generally just kind of appreciated it happening. It's not a huge jump in practice technique, and at some points I was left with the wondering of, am I letting attention goes where it wants or am I directing it? Sometimes the line was blurred, but sometimes it also seemed apparent that being embedded in the impulses of attention wanting to go some places, are what make it seem like I'm directing attention and that it's not just naturally doing its own thing without my control. The sense of control as a shelter from the mind being pushed and pulled, the shelter of "me messing it up" as an excuse for not seeing the natural pushing and pulling of attention as just emergent and natural.

It felt good in general though, and I feel like I was generally surprised at how appreciative I was of attention and it's oddness, vibrancy, its ineffable yet seemingly productive/intentional motions in going through concentration, vipassana, spacing out, focusing, honing in, backing up, etc... Even if it's not essential to insight, I just generally found myself admiring and appreciating attention. There's the notion of the disciplined and calculating meditator, the goal-driven and focused path-walker, but then there's the reality of attention in all its chaotic but seemingly benevolent action. I really do like the dog comparison... it's disciplined and trained, it seems to respect and love its master, yet at the same time, it's rough around the edges, it's living and breathing, it's in love with life and enjoying contact with experience, it plays around and wanders and laughs and cries, etc... just something about letting it off the leash and encouraging it to wander brought up a lot of feelings of appreciation and benevolence. It likes to be free and do its thing! But it's not going to just wander off and abandon me or get into peril, its nature just seems fundamentally good!

Amidst those reflectiosn and thoughts, I still tried to stay in tune with the aspects of contact with experience as it occurred, and tuning into the impulses which seem to move attention from place to place. The impulses are detectable and I'll keep honing in on that aspect of attention moving around, I'm sure as usual that further practice will help. I guess I just let myself lean into the admiration/benevolence/compassionate aspects of the sit today. Probably productive in a way... spending so much time on the discipline aspect, it's nice to step back and smell the roses, appreciate the joy of just experiencing freely, that kinda thing. 

Anyways, I guess I still feel like I'm easing into this new aspect of practice, but I'm enjoying it so far, and it seems to take a lot of the pressure of "messing things up" or "not doing things right" away. Attention just doing its thing and it's just my job to watch and let the mind do what it will, etc... 
Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 7/7/23 8:01 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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"appreciate the joy of just experiencing freely"

Yeah ! Awesome emoticon
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/7/23 8:12 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Sounds good, you're in the zone --- nice!
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/10/23 8:48 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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I'm going to omit sits from the last few days since they proceeded somewhat similarly to the last most recent sit or two...

Today's sit-

Progressed nicely, spent 15 minutes or so settling into the sit and focusing, then let attention free and watched. The progression through A&P up to and through re-observation was smooth as it generally has been.

Into EQ-
In making such a focus on watching attention, there was the pondering of- attention often feels like an object that can be watched, but what is attention actually, what could it really be outside of the things attention is noticing? The flux of attention is seen to move around, expand and contract, get blown around by impulses, but what is attention specifically, outside of the experience of the things being attended to? Even though it hums along, it's hard to really detect what attention is separate from the things attention is beholding.

As typical lately, moments of natural inclination to samadhi, strong 4th jhana briefly appearing then attention to vibrations and impermanence next, etc...

The part of the sit that stands out was towards the end, where there was a lot of calm and concentration, yet grappling with feelings of wanting to progress, wanting it to click, wanting to make it make sense, wanting to see the thing I'm looking for, wanting to awaken, wanting to overcome the sense of confusion and see the whole picture correctly.

In approaching these feelings, I did my best to gently allow them to be, to see the sensations that make up both the physical aspect, and the mental/emotional aspects. A deep desire for security, a deep sense of longing, a deep sense of broken-ness, hurting, grief, etc... Rather than the "versions" of this that present in 3rd V.J., there was a strong sense of stillness, evenness, calm, yet at the center of focus was the deep sense of sorrow, loss, etc... I tried to respect and appreciate these aspects, allow them to flow, acknowledge this weird deep aspect of grief, have compassion for whatever within me is feeling this, tried to feel through and watch it happen, etc...

Much of this was centered around the heart. Past just the physical sensations there and the waves of emotion and thoughts associated, it feels like it's a sense of loss, grief, death, inevitability, resignation, etc... I did my best to not look away, to not get too lost in feeling these things out, to just do my best to see it happening, to let myself work through and not resist these sensations, to gently incline myself towards why they are arising. It really does feel like grieving a deep loss, letting go of a deep attachment, acknowledging the death of something special and significant to me.

I wouldn't say I "got through" any of this, and a lot of these feelings are still pervasive, but it doesn't feel wrong or like a distraction from the work/practice, it feels like something that needs attention, compassion, maturation, more letting go, resignation, allowing to open up and be what it is, etc... 

Again, from my best diagnosis and from familiarity with the maps, this stuff seems to occupy 4th V.J. territory which has somewhat caught me off guard, but isn't necessarily troublesome enough that it feels like it's preventing further practice/progress/work. It probably is significant and is just another deeper layer of things to work through. It really is intense though, like an all-encompassing feeling of coming to terms with some kind of death or loss. Very sober, very quiet and maybe even peaceful and even, yet it's very challenging and emotionally intense. I'm trying not to get too carried away with describing the feeling, but a dramatic way to put it could be like it feels like my soul is dying and I'm watching myself work through moving on, honoring and accepting the process with love and compassion, trying to be aware of the sensations and motions this consists of, not getting lost or distracted from it.

Anyways, that's where things are after today's sit. The work can be very bitter and heartbreaking, but it still goes on and I'm doing my best to trust the process and be with it where it's at.
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/11/23 5:29 AM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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This sounds right on track to me. It's a subtler dukka to love to death. emoticon  As you can see, it's a different kind of "working things out" -- beyond a narrative problem, beyond a psychological problem... it's sort of an existential problem. 

It's also like having a cramped muscle. If you try to blindly stretch it, it cramps even more. If you ignore it, it stays cramped. What seems to work is gentle motion without trying so hard to "fix" it. Same thing with this phase, what seems to work is gentle, intimate curiousity rather than intellectually figuring it out and making it better. 
Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 7/11/23 11:29 AM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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"Much of this was centered around the heart. Past just the physical sensations there and the waves of emotion and thoughts associated, it feels like it's a sense of loss, grief, death, inevitability, resignation, etc... I did my best to not look away, to not get too lost in feeling these things out, to just do my best to see it happening, to let myself work through and not resist these sensations, to gently incline myself towards why they are arising. It really does feel like grieving a deep loss, letting go of a deep attachment, acknowledging the death of something special and significant to me."

Went through a lot of this myself in the past few months. Make sure to take it easy on yourself. 

I now suspect that this kind of vulnerability is required for higher level practice. I went through a couple of phases of this and I think it was my nervous system adapting to more radical authenticity in my relationship to the moment. It's also I believe the beginnings of some deeply rooted aspects of self being dug out. Grieving the ego death...

It can be pretty heartbreaking. Ice cream helps

All the best emoticon
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/11/23 11:20 AM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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vulnerablity is a great word for it
Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 7/11/23 3:05 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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I used the word “ authenticity” because this period was also very much about seeing the magnitude of honesty and forthrightness in both people and things; music, books, anything produced by others in the way of art and design. Yes, it’s also about one’s own feelings, but these two vectors are very much related. If we aren’t honest with ourselves sensing the authenticity in others is more difficult, maybe even cynical. This is a time to reflect on how we as human beings relate to and are with everything around us. It goes deeper and deeper, until…
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/11/23 5:50 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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authenticity is another great word!
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/13/23 7:43 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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So the day after the recent tough sit-

I had a really unexpectedly nice sit! The mind was generally very even and smooth. And often times the tough sits shake me up and then after there's time to settle and kind of work through whatever stirred up. Then the next day it seems like more progress is made in ways related to the difficulty. Anyways, the sit just felt really deep and equanimious and even-keel. I was kind of in awe at how the hours after the sit felt, just extremely smooth perception, quiet and calm mind and heart, was nice! Then I went on with my daily activities and the "glow" faded but I still felt like decent progress had been made.

Yesterday's sit-

Again was pretty good. I didn't get enough sleep the night before so there was a lot of zonking out, but when I got to what seemed to be equanimity, concentration and wakefulness seemed to be operating well and the sit was nice. Also deep and harmonious and calm. Towards the tail end, I found myself thrown off, or maybe just confronted, with the thinking/feeling along the lines of, I'm doing all the stuff, doing the techniques, investigating all the stuff, I'm so calm and the mind is so precise, yet I haven't done the thing, I'm missing something. Just did my best to look into those thoughts, feel out the disappointment/anticipation/expectation/befuddlement, do digging into the attachments/aversions surrounding expectation, desire to awaken, egotistical aspects of thinking I'm an accomplished meditator, self-loathing related to feeling like I'm just missing it, etc...

The night after this sit there was a really deep, tough vibe. Reflecting on doing everything I'm supposed to, cycles and cycles, ups and downs, peace and calm to frustration and darkness... but in a way that I think was meaningful. Just realizing how futile it is to try to force things to happen, to keep holding onto expectations, to keep thinking I can do it, to even think I have any idea what I'm doing... haha. But I feel like part of the point is that it's a continual process of seeing the futility in previously held notions and vantage points, seeing how there's no conceptual groud to stand on, how "I" can never make this happen. Just a deep resignation of sorts. Maybe kind of the overarching theme of this phase of practice in general. 

Also related to all of this was the general idea of attention, applied attention. After focusing on untethered attention as an object, the line between tethered and untethered attention became blurred at times. At the start of doing that kind of thing, there was a lot of innocent and almost naive enjoyment, the whole "taking the dog off the leash thing", and it was different and cool. But it developed into a sense of confusion around tethered-vs-untethered attention. Sometimes I wasn't sure if I was actually letting attention go, even though it was my intention. Continuing to work at that, it seemed to be the case that it's actually more about the fact that there is attachment to attention, where letting it do its thing revealed identification with it, and that part of the thing to get was that attention is just inherently untethered. I just deeply like/desire for it to be me, which is a familiar theme in the path of breaking down attachment/aversion. Looking at an object, stressing out and thinking/feeling problems with it, realizing it's not actually "me", opening up to and working through the illusion of controlling the object, etc... I feel all those familiar vibes approaching attention as an object. 

In terms of "sameness" of sensations, I feel like that's one of the big roadblocks to seeing moment to moment more clearly... The sameness of perception is hiding in plain sight, behind all the layers of identification and repulsion that exist in things, in this case, attention itself. Subtle expectations and desires for reality to magically reveal itself to be so different than expected, for the sensations of self to disappear, expectations for some kind of mindstate or emotional feeling to pervade sensations upon awakening, etc... all just hiding the simple brilliant clear perception of things for how they are. Reflecting on the five elements descriptions, there are all these intimidating mirages and illusions, but the nature of awareness and perception was just simply there all along, hiding in plain sight, and paradoxically all the tough illusions and mirages even exhibit this "same" nature. Do I get it past conceptually though?

Today's sit-

It was generally a good and quiet sit... Warmed up concentration and calmed down, "untethered" my attention, let things flow. Concentration and vipassana coming and going, pleasant things, unpleasant things, various emotions, etc... I feel like the beatdowns lately have really allowed me to just resign to whatever comes up, which is probably good. Got up to EQ and had success with just staying with attention, watching it move, watching the impulses that take it to and from. I actually felt like I had a good look at awareness being decidedly separate from attention. Attention being just another sensation formation being kicked around in the wind, and held onto or pushed away. The sameness thing comes into play here as well, seeing how the sensations of attention have the same nature of sensations of the body, or thoughts, or emotions. All kind of like symbols on the white board of awareness, tied together by volition, conceptualization, stringing the symbols together to create meaning and understanding. Or like music, just a string of notes that have basically no meaning or resonance in isolation, but near impossible to hear sensibly strung together music and not "hear the music" rather than the nature of it just being individual notes. 

And the general realization, "hearing the music" doesn't really stop, conceptualization doesn't really stop, stringing things together doesn't really stop, the only control over seeing it more clearly is the weeding out of the attachment/aversion/identification with whatever is going on in the music. There's nothing wrong with the music itself, and I feel like much earlier on, the goal seemed like it was to "stop hearing the music" so I could just hear the notes individually as pure meaningless sound. Kind of like the sense of self... It doesn't ever disappear, you can just perceive it more clearly, see the attachment/aversion/identification and the suffering they bring, then change your relationship with it to be healthier.

Anyways, it felt like a lot clicked or became clearer. On the topic of fruitions, I noticed that for the past week or so, sits haven't seemed to have any fruitions, even in hanging out in EQ. Before that, if nothing threw me off, it seemed like sits would end pretty cleanly with a fruition towards the end. None of them felt compelling or like anything had changed, besides maybe the sense that "content" of the current gear of practice had been worked through sufficiently, but generally all have been relatively non-compelling. 

This sit ended with a lot of the classic spacing out in EQ stuff, daydreamy images, losing the sense of practicing, etc... but there was a pretty clear fruition, and something kind of cool is that I absolutely noticed three rapid distinct pulses right before the fruition, which lines up with stuff I've read about the "three doors". Having never really had exceptional concentration, especially around suspected fruitions, it's always cool to have more clarity of what's happening leading up to them.

I'm going to approach it with an abundance of caution and reservation, but I felt a sense of completion and gratitude that I've associated with previous path moments after this fruition happened. This happened less than an hour ago, so there's still a lot of time to let things simmer. But regardless of what it was, I'm just being honest in that it felt different than any of the fruitions that were previously happening in recent practice. Again, just that sense of completion, and a deep sense of gratitude, utter thankfulness, deep relief... quietude, deep restful peace... I'm woefully acquainted with close calls, and wrong calls, so I'll do my best to keep myself reeled in and still practicing, but it's definitely the first moment I've asked myself if "that was it". Luckily time will always tell! But whether it was or wasn't it, it was certainly really nice, very deep, very healing... With how things have clicked in the last few days and especially today, it kind of wouldn't surprise me if it was it. But again, it is what it is and time will pass, practice will continue regardless.

Experience is feeling very calm, perception feels quite pristine and natural, and attention feels good in the way it's flowing around, all good and nice. I've often refrained from using meditation language I wasn't sure of, but I wonder if the sense of sameness in the things in perception is emptiness, or luminosity. I feel sometimes like I'm not "allowed" to use these words, not that anyone is imposing that on me emoticon If this sense of evenness to perception is emptiness, I feel like it's not necessarily a new thing, and maybe even was the thing that was revealed upon reaching 2nd path. Maybe the "emptiness" "sameness" just hits more significantly or feels clearer when attachment/aversion is lessened. Maybe I did it? It's hard not to wonder! But again, more time to let it sit and more practice... Regardless, today's sit seemed good, and it feels like the insights I described are becoming clearer and making more sense, so it's nice and encouraging in any case. 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/14/23 7:29 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/14/23 5:58 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Sounding good. As it sounds like you know, near misses and previous path fruitions often happen as the mind is figuing out the road through the next path's EQ nana -- so keep practicing...

Good job noticing the tendency to identify with attention. Something about it give us a sense of center and control... sort of like how the body was a kind of identity before we started meditating. It's an unquestion belief, until we start looking more closely...

A few ideas:

Maybe explore how luminosity means that "one mind-object cannot look at another mind-object". (This is also relevant to attention. What really is attention if things are inherently luminous?")

Not sure if "sameness" was something I mentioned/suggested, but this framework might _not_ be helpful at this time. Sameness tends to be a kind of conceptual idea that gets applied on top of experience... what you want is intimacy with each and every experience that honors how it vividly displays itself (intimate luminosity). Thinking about sameness often crushes experience into a kind of meaningless/textureless paste, that's not awakening/enlightenment. One helpful idea is that the buddha said (at least, I remember reading this somewhere -- but I don't have the original quote!) something like, there are three comparisons which obscure a direct experience of a thing: thinking of it as being better, worse, or the same. 

​​​​​​​On the topic of better/worse, this is definitely something to notice as you sit and assess progress/ability -- notice how your entire worldview changes when you adopt "my meditation is getting better, I'm making progress" and "my meditation is stalled, I'm falling behind". What does this add besides just the concept/worldview? Definitely be sure to note those conceptualizations. By the way, if someone is doing a 6 realms meditation framework, this is often the realm of the asuras, the ambitious titans struggling to become a god. Or it can be alternating between satisfied god and ambitious titan. (It rarely takes on the desperation of a preta/hungry ghost during the road to third, but it could. Sometimes things do feel that desparate.) ​​​​​​​
Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 3:07 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 11:31 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 106 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
In my experience "Emptiness" was very very obvious when it “happened”. 

Though many of the ways I was experiencing reality on the run up to emptiness approximated different aspects of it, ultimately this was both nearly there and really not it at all. 

I get the impression from reading your last post that you're on the right track. What you’re getting at with untethered attention is great, certainly similar to things I have been exploring and continue to explore.

Emptiness is untethered. There’s nothing within emptiness to tether to (ultimately). The experience of self is the result of the painful friction caused by tethering to and identification with aspects of experience. At least that’s the best way I can say it right now.

So, if I might make a suggestion. Something that really revolutionized practice for me over the last few months -towards experiencing more emptiness naturally in the moment- was leaning my investigation of the three characteristics more heavily towards no-self and spending a lot of time really exploring no-self. Additionally easing back on my investigation of impermanence, which in its extremes can have that "Vippanizing the shit out of things" sort of quality. Something about what I experience as emptiness occurred as a deep integration of the realization of no-self. Such that a good chunk of reality seemed to come and go, without self, attachment or craving. 

(For my sources on the above approach - a book Shargrol recommended to me - Seeing that Frees)

Additionally, another exploration that really grokked emptiness for me had to do with investigating ideas around time and progress. How the phenomena I was experiencing were not-self but also especially how their seeming continuation in time was not self. 

Meaning: My progress through the nanas was not-self. My ideas around future attainments were not-self. My practice was not-self. Etc.

I would recommend this exploration to you if you think it's something you might benefit from exploring.

“I still felt like decent progress had been made”
    - See if you can explore every aspect of this and recognize every facet you possibly can to be not-self. 

“Also related to all of this was the general idea of attention…”
    -This whole paragraph is great. Explore how all these things, feelings, perceptions, phenomena and impressions are not-self.

Also really appreciate your radical authenticity about some of the gnarly aspects of practice. Having a pretty vulnerable day myself. 

Removed: *Emptiness means “empty of self” right.*
Chris M, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 2:37 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Feeling the need to clarify something here:

​​​​​​​Emptiness means having no essence. Not self is about the emptiness of the sense of self. Anything, any object, can be seen as empty, thus self can be seen as empty. All the three characteristics apply to all objects. It’s important to see this or confusion may result, causing us to push ourselves into box canyons.
Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 2:54 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Noted. Let me know if you want me to retract any statements. 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 5:51 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 5:51 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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It's pretty clear I was wrong about that fruition being a path moment, after some time went by it was pretty clear it was just a nice fruition and just equanimity stuff.

My sit yesterday was rough, and my sit today was similar but rougher-

The quality was generally overwhelmingly negative. Re-observation, desire for deliverance, maybe just 3rd VJ stuff in general. Whether it has anything to do with meditation, my body has felt kinda achey and sore, hard to sit, tensions and pains. I haven't done anything unusual physically so I don't know if maybe I slept wrong or it's a combination of natural body feelings and tough mental states. 

Lots of feelings of frustration, of mental exhaustion, confusion, similar stuff to that sense of heart-ache, impossibility, doubt, feeling like I'm just not getting it, bad meditator, etc... I'm doing my best to not buy into it all, but it's undeniably there floating around in my mind and experience. Doing my best to just note it, to look and see how it's further evidence of identification with practice, identification with thoughts, identification with emotions, desire to get it, desire to be doing it right, desire for me to be the one making it all happen, aversion to the (painful) truths of experience here and now. Thoughts and feelings of second guessing that I've actually figured anything out at all, embarrassment at my confidence and pride in any insights I think I've seen, feeling how futile and unsatisfactory any of the conceptual realizations have been, how even if my mind makes sense of progress and practice, those mental constructs provide no actual relief or insight into the picture I'm trying to see.

Feelings of my mind practically taunting me, like "you can see this is impermanent, but look how you still suffer", "you know this is agitation, you know this is conceit, you know this is desire to be, but still, look at you, wallowing, looking at it, making sense of it, yet still running around in circles day after day, practicing, feeling like you get it, feeling like you get nothing, yet no conceptualization, confidence, no mental understanding of insight is offering relief or freedom or clarity", "go ahead and watch these sensations, you're still embedded in this deep suffering, you're still lost and the picture is unclear", "this sense of self, this sense of solidity, this sense of duality, you can look and see that it's an illusion, but look how you still suffer regardless, look how your dedicated careful practice has lead you nowhere but to further wallowing and uncertainty, look how any effort gets you nowhere, look how no effort gets you nowhere".

It's not as though someone was inside my head shouting these things, just trying to approximate the feelings, impressions, thoughts, etc... today's sit especially just kind of squarely occupied this territory and I extended the time a bit too just to make sure I wasn't bailing early, but it was pretty much how it went from start to finish. Which is okay! Just tough. 

I sincerely feel/hope like I'm doing okay in dealing with these feelings, just paying attention to them, balancing concentration and effort with relaxation, but these things just roll through. I've seen it happen again and again in practice, have seen these states come and go, know that sometimes sits are easy and sometimes they're difficult, so as a reality check, I still feel a reasonable objective sense of being okay with it, knowing it's natural and is liable to happen. It's just always tough to go through. I don't actually believe this, but it sometimes feels like being a ping-pong ball the gods laugh at as they bounce me between heaven and hell. I know it's a dramatic comparison but it's also kind of funny too. Just doing best to practice on, shift to noting if really needed, but just do my best to witness it, see it happen, watch without looking away, practice as best as I can, then just keep moving on.

I don't love to be reporting all this stuff but at the end of the day it's just kind of where it's at. I know it's not supposed to be a super easy and simple process, but again, I'm often shocked at how deeply it can cut, how radically the winds can shift, how deeply painful it can be, etc... but I also know there's stuff to be learned, things being pointed to, and while the really tough sits/days are probably not days when breakthroughs will happen, I just kind of shift gears back to trusting the practice, trusting in just watching it and doing my best to see the 3C's, staying mindful of the pitfalls of "believing" or making radical changes to my thinking or approach when amidst the tough stuff. I know that whatever truth there is to see, it's not going anywhere, and my highs and lows aren't going to mess up reality or change the fact that it can be seen and that the practice can still continue.

Reflecting on the past weeks/month of practice, it sometimes just feels like there are a bunch of cycles to the progression, little insights that start to sink in, actual progress being made, then more cycles with more lessons, closer looks at the reality of things, and that they kind of just progressively hit closer and closer and closer to home, and that part of the reason it can be so tough is because it's not a process of building up a fortress that keeps you safer and safer, it's a process of withdrawal, drawing out poison, detoxification, giving up things of value, breaking down walls that feel like safe refuges, etc... 

Through the tough stuff, again I've just been trying to do my best to practice, to keep my heart open to the experiences and process, to feel compassion for myself, to just resolve to keep looking at the thing no matter the difficulty, to be patient and not expect a linear path of "getting/feeling better and better". So yeah, not really an unheard of post in my log of practice/reflection, but it is what it is. Sometimes it helps to write about it. Anyways, just continuing to practice and work through it. One step at a time! 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 6:00 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 6:00 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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"Also really appreciate your radical authenticity about some of the gnarly aspects of practice. Having a pretty vulnerable day myself. "

Always wishing the best for you in your practice! And I appreciate the sentiment. I know there's danger of practice stalling due to wallowing too hard, letting the tough stuff lead to making radical changes to life and practice, getting stuck, banking too hard on mentally figuring stuff out, etc... but I feel it's also easy to see those who may be more advanced/accomplished as having easily figured it out, hearing about the things that made it click and made practice succeed, but subtly feeling like it was never that hard for them, that there weren't moments of feeling really lost, really discouraged and such. And again, knowing the maps is helpful, knowing the potential for difficulty is helpful, not getting stuck or hung up on thoughts and emotions is important, but the compassionate and realistic side can also be pretty helpful or at least humanizing. I do feel embarrassed sometimes about dropping the heavy logs on the tough moments, as though it's an omission of failure or bad practice, but I just try to be real about it and reflect on it sincerely while still keeping the bigger picture in mind and what my game-plan to keep it in check and keep progressing is. Kinda helps keep me sane I guess emoticon

Sometimes I think about if it were an equivalent problem of physical rehabilitation, even though there are concrete steps to improve the condition, we wouldn't be hesitant to offer love and empathy to those suffering as they make their way through the rehab/physical therapy stuff. I know it's less straightforward in the world of insight practice, and I know we operate out of concern for the pitfalls of getting stuck and ruminating too much, etc... but it's at least heartening to know it can be difficult and that it's not necessary to just pretend it can't be tough. One of the reasons I appreciate Daniel's book and writing so much, just normalizing how the DN stuff can really be that tough and problematic, how it's natural but that it's important to just keep practicing and not go too wild with radical changes, etc...
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 6:21 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/15/23 6:20 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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One more note/reflection...

One part of the difficulty is the fact that I'm really motivated to try and get this done; if I had the time and resources at the moment, a retreat would be really practical and probably helpful. But I'm in between jobs, in the middle of a job search, trying to balance my relationships with people in my life, figuring out what my next practical steps are, that kind of thing... trying to reconnect with my love of playing and composing music, stuff like that. Enough experience has helped me continue living my normal life even through tough points in practice, without doing anything drastic or regrettable, without getting too thrown off... but even proceeding reasonably skillfully and without (too much) collateral damage, I miss being able to lay into my regular, normal life and focus on just being me, feeling my regular joys and sorrows, feeling my normal flow of energy and focus on my life in the practical ways. It's not like those things are impossible while practicing, but it's just a reality that the practice takes a reasonable degree of focus and commitment, tends to inject it's flavors into everything off the cushion, can make living regularly tough when practice is at its most difficult.

It's a balancing act and I'm grateful to have dharma friends to talk about it all, and for resources like MCTB which contain a lot of good advice on the importance of keeping a steady hand in daily life even when practice can be tough. But I'm practicing to improve my well-being, live a more skillfull life, be the best person I can be for myself and for those I love, to just enjoy a fulfilling life and all that, and I know the insight side can be completed and is worth it to do so. It's just sometimes tough making that compromise of dedication and energy to practice when you know your life is sometimes offset or aspects of it get put on hold. 
Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 7/16/23 6:35 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Hey, I relate to so much of this. You've no idea and I'm glad you share it. 

"I don't actually believe this, but it sometimes feels like being a ping-pong ball the gods laugh at as they bounce me between heaven and hell."
-Sometimes paths, cycles, nanas can be exhausting. I have found a lot of the third path territory emotionally quite intense, often feels like I'm getting my ass kicked or the universe is breaking up with me... Writing about it helps.

One step at a time !

"One part of the difficulty is the fact that I'm really motivated to try and get this done;"
- Ditto and while I'm making an effort to reintegrate a regular lifestyle, I have kind of had my life on hold for awhile. 

"I miss being able to lay into my regular, normal life and focus on just being me, feeling my regular joys and sorrows,"
- Yeah, I miss being a regular dude, playing music, drinking beer, all of that. But I've been going through this very intense, very beautiful, very compelling process and -this is hard to adequately describe but- I'm not that guy anymore... and it's not really clear who I am at all. While that can often be quite a nice feeling, it's also hard to understand where I fit... into society, community, regular life. Particularly because as soon as a stage is mastered and becomes comfortable enough to really commit to something else then BOOM you've got the next, cycle, path, whatever and everythings just a bit of a mess.

"the practice takes a reasonable degree of focus and commitment, tends to inject it's flavors into everything off the cushion, can make living regularly tough when practice is at its most difficult"
- Fuck yeah, I'm going to drink a beer. 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/18/23 6:35 PM
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RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Little update- 
I ended up taking a day off just to stabilize and calm down/chill a little after that last little DN tantrum, haha. I did get back to practice yesterday and today though!

Yesterday was pretty odd, still extremely rough, plus having taken a break two days ago, but it was interesting. I feel like the whole day I was just generally thinking and feeling, feeling out the resolve to get it done and commitment to practice, alongside the crushing sense of things not being possible, meditation not being possible, effort being somehow nonexistant, concentration seeming almost worse than it's ever been... but even though it's hard to convey, it felt like there was some sense of insight in the day. I don't know, I guess I just feel like there's "purification" that happens in the tough stuff, just sticking with it and resolving to carry on even when it seems hopeless and unclear. Part of it might be just how chains of good sits and seeming progress stoke the sense of me doing it, fuel the feeling of being the one in control, then that very same investigation leading to success inevitably breaking down/confronting the sense of being a good meditator, being on the brink of something, being the one making it happen and figuring it out. It's defininely kind of an ironic thing, brings to mind that phrase "the stick that stirs the fire and is then consumed by it".

I think that in riding out all these ups and downs, confidence to confusion, there's a general trend for being less satisfied or thrown off by the ups and downs, realizing the goal isn't an "up", and "down" isn't a failure. It's just (sometimes what feels like) endless cycles that reveal more and more attachment to being in control, identification with progress, identification with failure, conceptual fortresses, constant challenges to the sense that you can ever "think your way to success". 

I guess it's sometimes embarrassing to report so many of the negatives, as well as incorrectly thinking I might have done it, but hey... it's a weird task, there's just weird stuff that happens, and I'm doing my best emoticon I'm often reminded how simple yet vital it is to just keep going.

Today's sit-
Was interesting... there was not really much of an awareness of nanas/cycling. It felt as though I dropped into EQ within a few minutes. My main focus was just paying attention to how all these sensations are just arising on their own, how experience is just happening, from the physical/mental sensations, to the sensations implying objectivity, implying "realness", sensations of effort, sensations of this side and that side. Paying attention to how the sensations of effort and self imply that experience isn't just arising on its own. Kind of like the feeling of holding on to the ledge of a cliff, when in reality your feet are already on the ground and "letting go" doesn't mean you'll fall into oblivion. It's clearly safe to let go (relax the attachment to holding onto the wheel and being the one driving), yet there's work to do in continually challenging that feeling of needing to still be gripping. Like being in the passenger seat and struggling to fall asleep since you feel like you're somehow in control of the driving, like it could all crash if you let go, etc...

Interestingly I hit a fruition in like 30 minutes or so. Usually they've been at the very end of my hour or so of practice and I often get up, but I was still early in and decided to keep going, and I feel like I should try to practice more after a fruition instead of being content with that and wandering into the rest of my day. There was another fruition in another 10 minutes or so. I feel like I'm realizing I should do better to consider fruitions just another thing my mind is doing in its quest to "get there" rather than getting worked up about it, wondering if "it was it", letting myself get thrown off into being satisifed or proud of it.

Practice felt very easy before the fruition(s), but I noticed how after the fruition, sensations were just extremely clean, experience was very pristine, and rather than this being a good thing (it's cool, no doubt), maybe it's actually sort of an opportunity to investigate in a deeper way. It seemed actually more challenging to stay in tune with sensations all happening on their own, like there's this "deeper more real reality" that's revealed after fruitions, but in actually sitting with it and keeping my balance, it feels like there's just deeper and more obscure levels of aversion/attachment to control. It wasn't truly disturbing, but in continuing to work on seeing sensations naturally arise, there was a much deeper sense of anxiety/mortal fear to letting go, to seeing those more subtle sensations as clearly arising and passing away on their own, to seeing the even more subtle levels of wanting to hold onto the wheel, to be responsible for reality appearing, a more primal and subtle sense of feeling like I'm holding onto a ledge that I'm unwilling to let go of.

But yeah, generally I felt like there was some maturation in the last few days, and a generally clearer sense of a direction of directing investigation and attention to how experience is just simply arising on its own. Making an effort to stay centered and just continue practicing and maybe even taking advantage of the effects of a fruition rather than just being like "hey cool ok sits done". 

The work goes on...
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/19/23 9:47 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/19/23 9:47 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Another kinda sorta tough day? I have been feeling okay, but my sit was kinda tough and a little confusing. Thinking about how there are all these little aspects of practice tips, techniques, maps, which have all served me throughout the process, helped me make sense of things and move forward. I found myself feeling inclined to just try to drop it all and just sit, often with my eyes just open, and keep incessantly directing myself towards:

"I'm not making this experience happen"
"I can feel whatever, think whatever, feel good, feel bad, but regardless, all this experience in all its forms continues to arise, without me doing anything"
"Wherever my mind takes me, however I'm feeling, whatever my practice is, none of it changes that this experience is just arising, without my doing"
"Conceptualization continues, the feeling of duality continues, the experience of self and agency continues, yet all of these aspects are simply experience arising, and I am clearly not asking for that to happen, not doing anything to make it happen, in utter lack of control of making it happen"
"Even the experience of control, duality, agency, sense of self, space, sense of form, sense of objectivity, these things are all experience simply arising"
"The experience of me perceiving experience is also just experience arising"

Basically just incessantly trying to anchor into that one fact, that whatever form experience takes, when all else fails, I can just keep trying to look directly and stay anchored into the direction of experience arising on its own.

From an analytical point of view, it slightly concerns me to "take practice in a different direction", to not be doing any of the other practice techniques or working from frameworks of practice or directing my attention to specific things, but honestly, there's a kind of end-of-the-line frustration with cycling, with the feeling of endlessly bouncing between peace and certainty and confidence, to powerlessness, lack of ability to make things work, to resignation, back to humility, "good practice", getting back to things making sense, feeling confident, having good sits, etc... There's just this general sense of being fed up with both sides, and that thinking and techniques and frameworks are just ultimately not enough to get it done, that just directly seeing is the only way to make it happen.

In general I feel like the notion of just letting my mind lead the way has been a big aspect of practice in the last few weeks, just trusting in the ability of the thing to happen, trusting in the ability to simply watch the work, keep effort and relaxation balanced, keep concentration decent, etc... I feel like my intuition is telling me this direction is okay, but there's still a fear of missing out or leading myself astray by not focusing more on the classical theory or techniques of investigation. But again, there's just this intense at-odds feeling with anything mental, anything conceptual, anything outside of just really trying to dig in and see experience directly and clearly.

The way I'm practicing is again, basically just, sit down, and just really concentrate, and keep watching experience arise, keep tuning into the fact that I'm doing absolutely nothing to make it happen, from the clearer sensations like simple feeling and sight and hearing, to the more complex difficult stuff like thinking, feeling, feeling doubt, feeling confidence, feeling good, feeling bad, feeling like the center, feeling stuck, feeling progress... just trying to let all of it be part of the thing I'm watching, letting watching be part of the thing I'm watching, and just again and again and again returning to the focus that all these things in awareness are just things in awareness, that the awareness of all these things is happening with absolutely no choice of mine, that experience is just occurring, that nothing I do or think or don't do or don't think can change it whatsoever. 

I know I'm repeating myself a lot, and I know in a sense that this isn't necessarily radically different from the general premise of vipassana, but again, there's just a sense of being at odds with anything being a solution besides that fierce and burning commitment to just see it, to just see the truth clearly, to just see what exactly is happening right here and right now, just see experience clearly, to just work to exclude nothing from the real-time commitment to watch experience happen on its own, without me doing anything.

Does this sound okay? I feel reasonably able to stay balanced and concentrated while I'm doing this, but again, it's kind of borne out of the feeling of nothing else being the solution besides just letting go of any aspect of thinking about practice, cycles, fruitions, techniques, whatever... it just feels like I'll be stuck forever unless I just fully commit to just watching whatever I experience with absolute commitment to seeing it happen on its own. Dunno, hopefully I'm not coming off as too desperate or like I'm trying to radically shift my approach. There's just the inclination to just drop all the mentals and just truly commit to seeing experience come and go. It simplifies things too, no special aspects I should be looking for, no practice specifics to remember, no ideals to hold myself to, no cycles to keep track of, no highs and lows to consider, no expectations of what it should look like, just cold hard experience and the simple task of truly deeply committing to just watching it happen on its own. Just a weird mix of being confident in this, but worried about the notion of "changing up practice". 
Mind over easy, modified 2 Months ago at 7/20/23 4:59 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/20/23 4:45 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Practiced a bit more yesterday, had some interesting experiences...

Again, basically just keeping vigilant and directed towards the line of thinking of-
"The entirety of this experience is just naturally arising"
"This experience and awareness of this experience are one in the same"

Motivation is pretty high... In returning to that line of working, I almost feel like I separate off from the picture of experience and can really see it all just happening on its own without a sense of experience being filtered through some central vehicle of perception. But it's tricky and unstable, like riding a bike, or like trying to do a magic-eye puzzle, or trying to stand really still to catch a glimpse of some animal I need to be silent and still to see and not scare away. Sometimes it feels like I'm getting in sync but my mind gets excited or agitated and I re-center, re-focus, calm down and go back to the main premise of the investigation. It feels like something I can improve and get better at though. It seems possible!

I'm not particularly well versed in various practices outside of the kind of vipassana presented in MCTB, though post 1st and especially 2nd path I suppose the way I've practiced has been a kind of choiceless-awareness type thing, just letting where attention goes being what I examine, along with kind of letting the intuition run the investigation. Again, not really sure on terms, but I feel like this is similar to something like direct inquiry, or like, I don't know, direct seeing or something? But whatever I'm doing, it does feel like a promising lead, feels like a good way to investigate. I guess it's not necessarily a huge departure from vipassana practice up to this point, it's still rooted in balancing calmness, concentration, effort, etc... it's just squarely centered on directing myself to investigate agencyless and impermanence, just more based on trying to see it happen rather than focus on nanas and whatnot.

At the depths of it, it kind of feels like my attention is like a wave that isn't quite synced up to the real-time arising and passing of experience, or something like that... but it feels like the goal of the work is tangible, to just bring myself to a certain degree of stillness while still keeping super vigilant and present to the whole of experience arising and passing on it's own, as well as the notion that experience is awareness.

That's right, right? I haven't really directly beheld it, but experience is nothing but awareness, awareness is nothing but experience, there is no medium of awareness outside of the totality of experience, there is no experience outside of awareness... It's impossible to find awareness anywhere but in experience itself, it's impossible for experience to be found outside of experience... every moment of perception of all experience is synonymous with the totality of awareness.


I find this kind of investigation really promising, it takes away a lot of the pressure of worrying about cycles/fruitions/whatever and just puts the direct seeing of this nature at the forefront of the investigation. Every moment of experience is truly an opportunity to try to see this stuff, no relying on cycles or deeper fruitions or whatever. Though I know on some level all of that stuff is still operating as it does, just that I really want to focus on directly seeing experience/awareness clearly for what they are, without anything getting in the way.

I'm repeating myself a lot emoticon but it just feels like this direction of practice feels right. But in the spirit of being a learner and being appreciative of all the help people have provided, I'm open to any critiques or corrections as far as this current state of practice and investigation process goes.

Edit: one more note-
I like this line of investigation too for this reason: I loved how when going for 1st and 2nd path, noting was a really helpful way to practice off the cushion, but noting just generally feels relatively inefficient for doing this stuff at this point (though can still be useful if I need a way to anchor in if concentration is bad). I've sometimes been a little unsure how to keep mindfulness and investigation going outside of sits lately. But I like that this spirit of investigation doesn't rely on setting up a sit or getting the mind into a certain state to really feel like it's working... I like how it's anchored into the notion that it's something I can look at anytime, that the nature of experience/awareness is always present and I don't have to pamper reality or experience for it to be something I can see. No excuses, no pre-conditions, no set up, just the premise of reality being what it is at all times, and that it doesn't take any setting up to just look at reality and try to see it for what it is. 
shargrol, modified 2 Months ago at 7/20/23 5:37 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 7/20/23 5:37 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
This is all sounding really good.

I had the same doubts about this kind of practice. It's sort of too good to be true: you mean I can just follow where attention goes and that's real practice? In fact, I was on retreat the first time the profoundity of this kind of practice struck me. For some reason, despite hearing this idea a few times already, when the teachers at IMS talked about it -- I finally got it. But I doubted it...

I even scheduled a talk with a teacher and specifically asked "could this practice actually be productive for me?"  

He answered yes and recommended the "watch the way the mind leans, does it lean into experience or away from experience?" practice.

​​​​​​​Hope this helps!
Mind over easy, modified 1 Month ago at 8/3/23 5:43 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 8/3/23 5:37 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
It's been a bit and I just wanted to check in and journal the last few weeks...

I ended up somewhat pausing my dedicated sits the last few weeks since I've been a little busy (in a happy way- a friendship recently blossomed into a relationship which has been awesome!). Probably a minor setback to practice and progress, but at the same time, I still have been trying to stay somewhat mindful and steal a few moments to do mini unofficial sits.

It's also been decent in the sense of having a chance to step outside of the more dedicated practice efforts and do some examining, re-read stuff, check in with various resources, and give a little more time and attention to other parts of my life.

Besides the pure phenomenology of dedicated sits and the more direct experiences of insight pondering and digesting, I've found that it feels as though sometimes the little shifts and recalibrations that happen through practice kind of cascade through the other "regular" aspects of my life. Aspects such as:

-Mental health
-Past trauma, painful and unfair events of the past, unfair aspects of life, situations and events that have given me "baggage" or negatively affected the way my thoughts/feelings/understandings/reactions work

It's sometimes hard to tell what's just dedicated practice flavoring life due to nanas/cycling and a general way of seeing everything in relation to whatever is the focus of my mind at the time. To recount a little...

Working towards 1st path (~10 years ago):
It seemed relatively important to keep my "stuff" and insight practice separate, and make an attempt to honor both of them separately. (how well I did that is another story, but alas emoticon ) Focus was primarily on just doing the technique, noting, around the clock, and not getting thrown off along the way. 

Working towards 2nd path(~2 years ago): Seemingly improved faculties of concentration and the ability to loosen on noting in favor of direct noticing. A sense in my intuition that compassion for myself, love, healing, forgiveness, and patience were hugely important virtues, not just in my regular life, but as the grounds for proceeding with insight practice. Incidentally, 2nd path felt quite quick, direct, intuitive, and straighforward, with feelings of love, benevolence, and compassion predominating. It felt like my heart grew a lot in the process!

Current efforts:
I haven't exactly been shy about how a lot of difficult and dark feelings have been a big factor in doing 3rd path work, but usually it hasn't felt like just pure blind needless negativity or suffering. It feels like there's a lot of deep, subtle, and sometimes scary stuff that's gotten knocked around. In contrast to the sense of love and compassion helping a lot in 2nd path efforts, it feels like there's a sense that the same kind of approach falls a little short now. Compassion and love and patience and all that is still well and good, but it feels like there's a sense of requiring more bravery, more directness, willingness to work more deeply into the dark aspects without preference to the emotional flavors in the moment, or the state of mind I'm in.  

I chew on that and feel it out while I'm in my sits, but it really feels like there's a similar theme to my daily life and regular experiences and problems. Again, hard to say anything about causation, but it seems like progress has been made in sits, in working through tough sits and finding balance and improving each day, with a correlated sense of "working through stuff" cropping up. With that, it really feels like my sense of my problems, reactive thought patterns, the way my traumas have shaped aspects of me, they seem to come into more clarity... I seem to be confronted more often with visibility of how things have shaped me, non-ideal habits and ways of thinking, reactions I see more clearly to be explainable but still undesirable.

Sometimes it's a little intimidating or disappointing to see those undesirable complexes and things within myself, but for the most part, it feels like a blessing and positive step to keep working on healing, working on being the best me, having the chance to approach things with more age, experience, wisdom, etc... 

Many of the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and patterns seem interesting to me in the sense that, it feels like I'm able to think through them, understand why they happen, see what experiences might have led to them arising, and make peace with them and not get thrown off center. But it's interesting that they still arise, interesting that the bark is still scary even though they seem toothless. They sometimes feel like ghosts, things that are clearly hollow and substanceless, yet still have an erie and intimidating presence. I used to feel like forgiving, resolving to move on, and cultivating love was enough to lay them to rest, and I still feel value in those aspects. But it makes me wonder what avenues of proactive healing and work still remain.

I'm aware a lot of this is squarely in the realm of regular psychology, therapy, etc... and luckily I've done a lot of work in those avenues, though I know it's a work of a lifetime. But in general I sometimes wonder if it's worth feeling into the sense that deciding to go for 3rd and put in a lot of work is probably related to the somewhat sudden revisiting of healing, thought patterns, reactivity and such. I'm tempted to co-opt the Bill Hamilton phrase "suffering less, noticing it more". 

Regardless, it's hopefully been skillful and productive to lean into my regular life a bit more and check in, and be able to do some reflection on practice. And ultimately, as far as the insight side goes, there isn't anything to do but move forward, and it's nice to know that there's at least a tangible endpoint for insight work, something that can't be said for so many of the other aspects of life. 

On the sit reflecting side, it's been good to let off the gas and get a sense of how active practice flavors my life and how it's different when I'm not actively practicing. Looking at when all this started, I feel like I've picked up more tools, refined my approach to practice, seen some pitfalls and revised accordingly. A big part has honestly just been being humbled... seeing how effort and resolve and determination are essential but also things that can be pitfalls in and of themselves. That sense of effort being the stick that's stirring the fire, and how when it's been so useful, it's something that's harder to part with and also let be consumed. 

Right before my little break, I got really into the feeling of being slightly disenchanted with "vipassana" style meditation in favor of just directly trying to "see" the thing for what it is. It honestly still was a kind of breakthrough to realize the direct seeing was viable, but I've also dialed it back in the sense of realizing that vipassana and the direct seeing approach aren't exactly at odds with each other. Furthermore, feeling like I could make the jump to rely more on direct seeing was predicated upon consistent "vipassana" style sits. I have a better sense of the two "different" approaches not necessarily being opposed, and I have a good feeling about re-approaching dedicated consistent practice with both aspects. Kenneth Folk's Three Gears type understanding comes to mind. Basically, I sense that the dedicated sits are complete practice in and of themselves, but they're also just generally conditioning the mind, keeping concentration honed, keeping a finger on the pulse...

I get the sense that in my road to 3rd, there's a lot of aspects to both practice and my regular experience that have required a little more investigation, practicing and feeling out, tweaking and adjusting, experimenting, stress-testing, tightening and loosening, etc... the sense of finding a lot of little things to refine and recalibrate, yet realizing it's important to not get too stuck on seeing any one variable being the solution. Trying to allow myself to fully embrace the reality of how conditions are important and must be tweaked, but also balancing it out by realizing the solution itself isn't conditional, that the true nature of things isn't something I myself condition or engineer into existence.

Feels good to pause and reflect, to put energy into other things, step back and do some regular life examination, recalibrate a little. I just thought it would be nice to do some journaling of it here to process it and have it to read later. Anyways, it was a nice and hopefully helpful little vacation but I guess I should probably clock back in and get back to the dedicated practice... cheers! 
Mind over easy, modified 1 Month ago at 8/5/23 7:23 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 8/5/23 7:23 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I started doing dedicated sits yesterday, feels good to get back into regular practice!

Yesterday was honestly just going through the motions and getting concentration/focus going again, nothing particular to comment on besides that. Today's sit was nice, it felt like I was able to get back at it and stay concentrated. Had two close proximity sits of around 1h30m. Worked on just dropping to the level of bare sensate experience and staying concentrated. Once I felt sufficiently concentrated and present, feeling decently anchored into sensate experience, I just watched attention do it's thing. It was mostly quiet, low-key, diffuse, simple. It felt easy to just watch attention land on whatever mundane sensations and watch them come and go, feeling like whatever was occurring was "integrated" decently into the entire picture of the field of awareness.

It was interesting to note how even though the practice is just watching sensations and staying impartial, how some sensations such as unpleasant feelings and thoughts cause attention to recoil a bit. They're just sensations and I feel like I'm seeing them relatively clearly, acknowledging and perceiving them as part of the picture, generally seeing how sensations are standalone and not interacting with other sensations. However, attention, focus, still seems to react as though certain sensations are a threat or bad news for the whole field of awareness, like they'll throw something off or disrupt something. With less focus and concentration/experience, there's always the danger of getting too lost in thought or caught up in narratives, but with good concentration and the intention of just watching attention do whatever it does, it's interesting how aversion crops up when certain sensations appear. I just kind of focused on this for awhile, seeing the field of sensations just doing its thing, seeing attention surf around mostly smoothly, then tuning into the whole thing where something wants to recoil or be upset about certain sensations.

Got into daydreamy territory towards the end, had this imagery of some kind of awareness being drawn out from a person, the whole picture looked like it was turning inside out, and either a fruition happened or just a state change of some sort, as it all vanished and I was left with with a smooth and blank, fully present, fully focused field of awareness. I kept sitting for about 15 minutes, watching the mind get back into a noisier/busier state, watched attention wander and sometimes recoil, then ended the sit. 

I didn't really investigate during the sit, but I sometimes wonder what exactly attention is... It's relatively easy to focus on sensations, including sensations of emotions and thoughts, however attention feels less clear. There's just what's appearing in this sensate field, and it sometimes feels like attention is just the name for that current snapshot of what's in the field. It also seems hard to call it the "focus", in the sense of the moment of sensate experience being all there is, not just a camera pointed to some portion of objective reality. It feels like attention is a lens bringing things into focus, despite it being impossible to touch some objective reality since every moment is just experience arising. It's curious how and why there's a sense of attention, focus, feeling like it can move around, as though there's some objective substrate it could somehow navigate. And especially curious why there's a sense of aversion, why the sense of recoiling happens.

It's easier to find that there's just the experience of sensations, and even in thinking about an objective reality, it's also more readily possible to see the thoughts around objectivity as just more layers of experience. Which leads to the question and interesting thing to watch and try to hone in on... what's in here that's tangled up and squirming around, where does that impulse come from, what's not being seen clearly enough or seen through enough that still could cause aversion? I'll be tuning into that in future sits! 
Mind over easy, modified 16 Days ago at 9/5/23 3:04 PM
Created 16 Days ago at 9/5/23 3:04 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Lately practice has been mostly centered around
-Settling in, getting concentrated, tuning into the level of sensations
-Watching attention as it moves from place to place

The three characteristics as well as attraction, aversion, and indifference are the main things surfacing in investigating. There's a clear sense of "not-right, not accurate" to how attention moves around and how it feels. It's not easy to pinpoint the observer, the self going through everything, the one who is controlling or watching attention. Nevertheless, when the mind is averse to sensations, there's clearly a reaction of "I don't like this, this feels bad, I would rather not experience this". Same goes for attraction, where there's a reaction of "I like this, this is good for me, I want this". Indifference as well, "This doesn't do anything for me, I'm not getting anything from this".

In all three cases, the suffering aspect is really clear. Even though it's hard to find an observer/the point receiving experiences, nevertheless these reactions feel unpleasant, cause unpleasant reactions in thoughts and feelings, even unpleasant physical sensations. 

As far as no-self- it feels like the sense of self is coming more from these defensive reactions of attraction/aversion/indifference. Even though it's hard to find any observer, these reactions just come along with unpleasantness, and the unpleasantness is clearly related to how the attention movement is always deeply anchored into the sense that the observer/self is the one doing and receiving the reactions and sensations.

It feels like when I'm better able to tune into attention moving around on a finer level, stick with it, see it more clearly and with more bravery and resiliance, the impact of the suffering goes down, the mind gets quieter, concentration feels steadier, and attention feels like it moves more smoothly and quietly.

It's weird to try to figure out what attention is... Again it's possible to just see sensations coming and going, the impermanence of most sensations is pretty easy to observe. But attention itself feels like a selector/cursor/camera moving around experience. It feels inaccurate since there's just awareness of experience and sensations, but attention feels like it's trying to be some intermediary, a delivery vessel from experience to me, the observer. Again though, it's kind of feeling like attention is just a fig leaf for deep and subtle assumptions of self, the suffering that comes along with it, and the way it pushes and pulls itself around. 

Ideas about samsara feel very relatable right now. Suffering is seen everywhere, the suffering resulting from the mind/attention wanting to assume a self/some center point that experience goes into. As attention moves around experience, there's just a constant cycle of more movements based in the self and the sense that experience is constantly challenging and violating the self. 

In general my practice aim is just to keep watching attention move around, tuning into these moments of attraction/aversion/indifference, trying to see these moments more clearly and precisely, tuning into the suffering/stress that these reactions cause. 

It's definitely been some tough work. I'm staying balanced but there's definitely a lot of challenges in dropping to the level of constant reactivity and the sense of suffering/stress that it brings. It really does feel like tearing everything down, letting go of the comfort of ideas and cycles and experiences, like trying to swim upstream in a rushing river to try and get to the source. In any case though, it's always nice to feel like the direction of practice is clearer and that there's a tangible way forward in practice. 
Ni Nurta, modified 15 Days ago at 9/6/23 2:38 PM
Created 15 Days ago at 9/6/23 2:38 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 1044 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Mind over easyIt's weird to try to figure out what attention is... Again it's possible to just see sensations coming and going, the impermanence of most sensations is pretty easy to observe. But attention itself feels like a selector/cursor/camera moving around experience. It feels inaccurate since there's just awareness of experience and sensations, but attention feels like it's trying to be some intermediary, a delivery vessel from experience to me, the observer. Again though, it's kind of feeling like attention is just a fig leaf for deep and subtle assumptions of self, the suffering that comes along with it, and the way it pushes and pulls itself around. 
What happens when you choose to not use it?
Mind over easy, modified 15 Days ago at 9/6/23 4:51 PM
Created 15 Days ago at 9/6/23 4:51 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
I'm not really "using it", my practice is just getting concentrated and settled in, then letting go of attention and just watching it do it's own thing. 
shargrol, modified 15 Days ago at 9/7/23 6:46 AM
Created 15 Days ago at 9/7/23 6:39 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Yeah, it's hard to understand how attention can be "seen", because most people identify the "I" as the attention. But attention has qualities that allow us to recognize it (clearness, meaningfulness, importance) and so it can be recognized as something within awareness. There's not a lot of data, but this seems to be a possibility when people are in the mature phase of the road to third path. It's almost diagnostic of being post 2nd and pre 3rd.

It also points to another kind of "emptiness". In the road to first and second path, mostly mind objects are learned to be empty (sensations, emotions, thoughts). At this stage, "worldviews" tend to start falling apart and being seen as empty hypothesis about life/reality. Not empty as in meaningless, but empty as being transitorial-ly meaningful or temporarily meaningful. As Mind over Easy says, there is a sense of a lot of "tearing things down".

This domain is also where greed, aversion, and indifference becomes seen with much much more clarity, which is also why 3rd path itself is so transformative. In the road to third path, it becomes very clear how the mind works: the basics components of 1) awareness and attention (background and foreground), 2) how primal urges of positive, negative, and neutral move attention in realtime, and 3) how greed comes from identifying with and needing/clinging to positive, aversion comes from identifying with and needing/clinging to negative, and indifference comes from identifying with and needing/clinging to neutralness. This dynamic can be seen right at the point of experience arising, in that first 1/20th of a second of an experience. There is a diference between a positive experience and a greedy experience, but it is very very subtle and happens so fast. With practice it's possible to tease apart the difference between +/-/0  and G/A/I. 

(Hopefully that also gives you some more ideas for investigation M.O.E.!  emoticon )
Papa Che Dusko, modified 15 Days ago at 9/7/23 9:47 AM
Created 15 Days ago at 9/7/23 9:47 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Love this reply! Thank you S! It sums up stuff rather nicely. Most things do sound familiar to me even though I'm still not seeing all that clearly as I'm traveling barefoot this gravel paved path. Hey!!! emoticon It could be worse if it was paved with laser sharp rocks!!! This gravel ain't that bad. 
Mind over easy, modified 13 Days ago at 9/8/23 11:57 AM
Created 13 Days ago at 9/8/23 11:57 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

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Thanks for the reply shargrol, it's been extremely helpful!

I've basically been balancing these 3 gears in practice...

1. Tuning into the level of sensations, generally speaking, stoking concentration and investigation, generally getting present and tuning into the 3 c's of experience as it presents itself

2. If concentration/investigation is solid, tuning into attention, watching it move around, tuning into attachment/aversion/indifference, tuning into the sensations of the mind being pushed around, investigating the impulses that seem to push attention around in a way that is stressful/in a way that feels wrong/in a way that feels like the current moment is unsatisfactory or missing something... working on getting momentary concentration and investigation stronger so I can see things more precisely and quickly, tuning into the dukkha aspect of attention moving around and slowly relaxing attachment/aversion

3. If attachment/aversion/indifference seem quieter, and concentration/investigation are strong, just allowing myself to dwell in the moment (I think this may be EQ). Dwelling in the calm and undisturbed state while gently remaining curious and perceptive

I'm feeling as though when I put more work into 2, I find myself naturally settling into 3, while in sits but in general throughout my day, especially when I'm not actively doing stuff, when I'm just driving or walking somewhere. It gives me some encouragment that I'm on the right path, that I'm having success in loosening attachemnt/aversion, giving me the sense that loosening the knot enough will allow me to tune into the nature of my experience more clearly and to gain the insight I'm looking for. 

Though I'm trying not to force it or obsess about it too much, I've reflected on what was accomplished in 1st and 2nd path, and how insight into emptiness applies. In working on this path, I've often been slightly perplexed at how basic sensations, especially things like physical feeling and sight, seem relatively easy to see as impermanent, not self, etc... It's left me reflecting on what and why there's still left to work on. For example... I have a thought, the thought could be some combination of images and sounds, the thought sets off physical reactions such as anxiousness, aversion, unpleasant things in general. All throughout, the individual sensations of feeling and hearing and seeing can be parsed out, yet the package deal still has power.

I think this confusion is starting to be seen more clearly as unchallenged or poorly seen assumptions about objective reality, objective existence, objective realness that exists outside of my experience. Generally just realizing that while I can "see sensations real-time", there's more honesty and work to be done on seeing how some collections of sensations just seem more important, more real, how there are still deep-seated assumptions/beliefs around an assumed continuous objective reality outside of my experience.

It's a tricky balance since if I lean too hard into rejecting the actual experience of thoughts and feelings and the narratives and paradigms that make up being in the world, living and being a part of life, I can get too nihilistic, closed off, averse to the naturalness of living, being human, having various narratives that make up who I am on a human level. But if I get too comfortable, lean too far into being absorbed in the narratives and aspects of my regular life and the regular world with its stories, then my mindfulness and investigation tend to suffer, attachment/aversion can become stronger as a result of not seeing things clearly enough.

I've been working on striking that balance of fully honoring my life and the normal aspects and thoughts of being human, while still being comfortable investigating all the sensations, investigating how the narratives are compelling and meaningful, yet still all just impermanent experience manifesting.

Basically thoughts along the lines of-

"The objective outside world isn't reaching out and causing my self to experience stuff, all this experience is simply arising and vanishing, there are just narratives and their building-blocks arising and vanishing in awareness. Tuning into the fact that experience of narratives and self is arising and vanishing on its own doesn't diminish the beauty and value and meaning behind my experience or my life; it just allows me to see more clearly how there are unhelpful instincts and reactions which I would be better off without. The aspects of suffering and impermanence aren't in opposition to the fact that narratives, my identity, my regular life, are worth working on and enjoing in the normal ways. Rather than seeing suffering in experience and looking to trivialize it by blasting it into meaningless sensations, I just need to see the true nature of experience and that it's been that way all along, that nothing is threatened by seeing it more clearly."

It's not always easy and when it's tough it can feel challening or discouraging, but sometimes after just continuing on with practice to the best of my efforts, there's a general feeling of confidence that progress is being made and that it'll be possibe to "do this".

I wish I had a little less daily life stuff/stress and that I could have a more ideal situation to practice such as a retreat, but nevertheless, I know there's no deadline and that even if practice/life aren't ideal or exemplary, I'm just doing my best and as long as I don't do anything super misguided that I can rest a little easier knowing I'm chipping away at it. Sometimes it feels nice to have moments of practice a bit more integrated into my daily flow; reminds me that I'm not meditating in a vacuum or working on something in isolation. Dedicated meditation is useful and practical, but just seeing experience more clearly and removing unhelpful habits from my mind is just a fundamentally good thing to aspire to, not as a "meditative path" but just as a regular and sane thing to do.

Anyways, getting kinda rambly, but that's where things are at!
Mind over easy, modified 9 Days ago at 9/12/23 8:45 PM
Created 9 Days ago at 9/12/23 8:45 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Practice seems like it's been going well!

In the last few days, it feels like practice has been having a positive effect on my daily life as well. There's been a greater sense of being naturally present with what's happening, feeling more at peace in general, feeling very comfortable and okay with the flux of thoughts, emotions, feelings. There's been greater maturity and ease to dealing with negative emotions and thoughts, and a sense of all thoughts and feelings flowing very smoothly. 

If I had to map my sits/general stage at the moment, signs seem to point to EQ territory. Sits are feeling quite effortless, concentration and attention feel very quiet, vast, natural, smooth flowing and clean. There is a wonderful sense of things being very OK. Some of the things that sometimes seem paradoxical and contradictory appear to be much more in harmony. Stuff like self vs. no-self, solidity vs. impermanence, peace and calm vs. unpleasant emotions. These aspects seem to appear and flux in a way that isn't wrong or needing to be solved. 

The sense of self/observer/center-point doesn't feel like such a problem or mistake, though there's room to see it more clearly. Said more specifically, it seems like I'm seeing more clearly how the appearance of sensations and the knowing of sensations are one in the same, how awareness and the subject of awareness are not separate. The distinction between internal and external also feels like it has diminished a great deal. It's been relatively easy to look at specific things like physical feeling and vision and see impermanence/sensations in flux, but it feels like it's becoming easier to see more complex and "deeper" sensations like vague emotions, weighty thoughts, moods, daydreams, as also simply impermanent sensations in flux. For lack of better words or understanding, it feels like the "flavor of awareness" is being detected in both internal and external things, and that the distinction between internal and external is lesser. 

Rather than crushing and supressing the sense of solidity and continuity, it feels like even the perception of solidity and continuity is strangely okay and not something I need to be so wary of. The sense of self, the sense of solidity, they are in a weird way, also just senses that feel a certain way, and it feels like there has been a realization that I don't need to recoil or reprimand my mind for those senses happening. This has been interesting when trying to observe the self directly in meditation. 

I've been doing what feels like "going for the jugular" at times in sitting practice, where I just directly try to observe the center point/observer. Awareness can feel interesting in that there's the presence of sensations, and the subtle implications that there's an observer, but in investigating, all I can find is the sensations of the implication, rather than find the implied observer. In directly trying to observe the observer, it feels like there is a realization that I'm just directly looking at that "flavor of awareness", and that nothing is inherently wrong with the sensations that imply I am watching from some undisclosed vantage point. 

There's a general greater sense of integration across all sensations... Sensations seem to be aggregated by the mind, where there's a constant process of taking the raw experience and conceptualizing with the experience, operating on the level of symbolism and meaning. I think in times of lower clarity/equanimity, practice can feel like an urgent need to stop the symbolism and meaning in order to fix things. In times of greater clarity and equanimity, it feels easier to not be at odds with meaning, symbolism, implication, solidity, narrative, etc... 

I ran into this awhile back before my consistent sitting got inconsistent, but in my sit today, I went through a few cycles of rising up to what I think is EQ, having what I think are fruitions, and repeating a few times. Then, at some point, I rose back to EQ, but had the experience of a pretty intense A&P experience, distinct from the A&P proper in that it was very spacious and panoramic, the mind was much calmer and even, and even with the intensity and energy, it felt like I was still extremely stable, attention was not edgy, etc... If I had to guess, I'd figure this is something along the lines of hitting 2nd path EQ and having 2nd path fruitions, or something like that, then getting into 3rd path EQ proper. It doesn't necessarily matter that much but it's interesting regardless.

Last time I was in this territory, I made the mistake of getting wrapped up in thinking I may have hit 3rd path, but I think I'm just getting used to what EQ feels like, working on digesting and mulling over insight that comes from the new perspective, having the mind process the content of sits and re-adjust. I'm definitely going to take care to just keep sitting consistently and not getting too caught up in whatever comes up, while still enjoying the process. It certainly feels nice to feel much more at peace, calm, collected, compassionate, even-keel in my day-to-day life. I find confidence/reassurance/gratitude in the sense that dedicated sits and their insight is translating to just feeling more stress-free, more mature, more calm and balanced. It's great, and much moreso than 1st or 2nd path work, it feels like the rubber is really hitting the road in terms of how practice is directly helping me be more sane, have a healthier way of operating, having a healthier mind, etc...

Side note, recently, in kind of loosely "practicing" as I go to bed, I've noticed quite a few times how it seems like the mind will be mulling over stuff and I'll kind of wake up and feel like something just clicked insight-wise. I think this might be fruition related, but it's hard to know. Sometimes it just feels like insight "clicks" in the mind at times, even if it's hard to fully put into words what happened. Just kinda cool and fascinating.

Another side note- when what I believe to be a fruition happens, it's interesting to note what it's like going into it. Often times I'll just be very loosely observing things in a way that feels panoramic, gently feeling the field and the sense of observing the field, and it feels like the field is being totally turned inside out, like "that side" is collapsing into "this side". It sometimes presents visually, where the field feels like it's getting sucked into the observer very rapidly, then the sense of an etch-a-sketch being wiped and finding myself with a blank slate. It's fun and cool to just feel how I can instantly hop into a really strong jhana, or just kinda direct the mind to some state in the aftermath. I've always dealt with doubts about whether or not I even ever hit stream entry or beyond, fretting in comparing my own experience with what others report, but seeing these alleged fruitions happen and beginning to play around with them/see them with more clarity and see similarities across them, is confidence inspiring. In a sense, it doesn't exactly matter as there's nowhere to go but foward in my practice. 

I think I have a decent toolbox of meditation approaches built up over the last few months, and I think I just need to make sure to stay consistent and comitted and not get thrown off by any experiences that might come up. I get the sense that I can just keep showing up for practice and things should work out. Cheers!
Mind over easy, modified 9 Days ago at 9/12/23 9:02 PM
Created 9 Days ago at 9/12/23 9:02 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
One more note:

I try to avoid getting too wrapped up in concepts and theory, in favor of just practicing and worrying about "getting the theory" after the insight sinks in. But I can't help but think about emptiness and form a bit, and wonder if my experiences are pointing to those concepts. I know there's danger of scripting and trying to make insights fit in certain boxes when the box itself is less important. But some aspects of what I described make me wonder. I know a lot of this has to do with how EQ territory can seem somewhat mystical, things can seem kind of magical, it can feel like there's a sense of spiritual understanding, etc...

In reference to the paradoxical type stuff not seeming so at odds, part of that revolves around how the perception of solidity and agency don't seem as opposed to the perception of impermanence and agencyless. As the field of awareness feels more integrated and even-keel, it feels like sensations are always swirling around, coming together to create the perception of solidity, coming together to imply concepts and externality and a self, and that these things are just as natural as their dissolution, the way sensations vanish, the way sensations can be seen to be just happening where they are without an observer. It feels like I'm tuning into that flux of things being solid then dissipating, that it's all just kind of natural, that there isn't any problem with them appearing both ways, how there's a natural beauty and harmony to how that's all happening.

Again, these are just kind of impressions, and I'm not intent on really pinning down exactly what they mean; the plan is just to keep practicing and staying curious and keeping consistent. But nevertheless, I can't help but feel like things are "making sense", and that it's fascinating and enjoyable. 
shargrol, modified 8 Days ago at 9/13/23 12:01 PM
Created 9 Days ago at 9/13/23 6:16 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Very nice. That is how it's done. emoticon
Mind over easy, modified 8 Days ago at 9/13/23 5:24 PM
Created 8 Days ago at 9/13/23 5:24 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts

Today's sit was interesting. Yesterday and the day before, the feeling of gaining insight and figuring stuff out was generally compelling and comforting, which is nice to feel! But today's sit felt... very normal, very basic, very non-compelling. There was even a bit of stress in feeling like nothing special was happening, nothing significant was happening. I honed in on this, just examined the sense of expectation, the sense of attraction to ideas about what enlightenment should be, the sense of craving a sense of specialness and significance, noticed how there's a low-level sense of suffering around them. It wasn't too bad though, the sit felt a-ok in general.

I remember this kind of feeling in the past from being in EQ, how there can be a progression from the initial relief and excitement/confidence of getting out of DN territory and suddenly feeling okay, feeling like insight is sinking in, feeling refreshed and renewed... but then dropping into a level where things seem more insignificant, where there isn't a special auora around things, where perception still feels clean and practice feels okay, but things just seem relatively uncompelling. 

In the context of this current work, it feels like a chance to hone in on expectations, deeper-seated views of myself and my merits as a meditator and "spiritual guy", expectations of what enlightenment and awakening will provide, more subtle levels of attraction/aversion, and also a good chance to check in with indifference, something that I think I might overlook and can't notice as well when attraction/aversion are more visible. When things are chill and quiet and uninteresting, there's definitely a noticeable sense of subtle disappointment and disinterest in that. Probably good to examine!
shargrol, modified 8 Days ago at 9/13/23 5:53 PM
Created 8 Days ago at 9/13/23 5:53 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2123 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Straight ahead! emoticon
Ben Sulsky, modified 8 Days ago at 9/14/23 9:51 AM
Created 8 Days ago at 9/14/23 9:51 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 162 Join Date: 11/5/19 Recent Posts
I would be careful about anchoring too hard to the idea that you're working towards 3rd path or that the work you're doing "is working towards third path."

I don't think the post SE territory works in a linear POI way where going through a path from A&P --> fruition results in attaining the next sequential path (MCTB2 talks about this, see  You might go through tens or hundreds of seemingly genuine (i.e., non Review) Paths and therefore it seems difficult to diagnose the moment when one transitions from 1st path to 2nd , or 2nd to 3rd.  I think Shargrol's talk about territory is helpful where you can look at the overall character of the sensations and thoughts being had over a longer period, and with dialogue you might get a better idea about where you might be (is that even helpful?), and also get an idea of the sorts of practices you might want to be doing at which times.
Papa Che Dusko, modified 7 Days ago at 9/14/23 11:45 AM
Created 7 Days ago at 9/14/23 11:45 AM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 2520 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Just plow through it all with noting 20-30 notes a second!

Then go find a cow protecting her calf! 


(sorry, couldn't resist the urge to write this) 

Metta, metta ... emoticon 
Ni Nurta, modified 7 Days ago at 9/14/23 12:51 PM
Created 7 Days ago at 9/14/23 12:51 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 1044 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
I see a lot of "was this a fruition?" and "was this some path path frution?" and nothing about "what is this non-experience in between each experience?"

People are some times are so focused on noticing stuff they forget to actually notice stuff emoticon
Mind over easy, modified 1 Day ago at 9/20/23 3:06 PM
Created 1 Day ago at 9/20/23 3:06 PM

RE: Working towards 3rd path

Posts: 285 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Just checking in again...

Practice has been pretty tough the last few days. I was inclined to interpret what's going on as "backsliding into DN territory", but it seems a bit more nuanced. Sits have been very difficult, with lots of frustration, feelings of powerlessness, feelings of being stuck, just a lot of hellish feelings. At the depths of the worst, and kind of just on a baseline level, it almost feels like a bad acid trip or something like that.

But it's not that simple either... Resolve and determination have been high, the sense of giving into intuition and allowing the process to unfold has been high, and concentration seems like it's actually getting ever sharper. Awareness of the 3 C's seems to be deepening, and seeing impermanence/no-self in more subtle ways seems to be happening. It feels like the knife is getting ever sharper, yet it's really intense and tough to feel like that very knife is cutting myself more deeply, damaging and threatening myself, cutting away deep seated senses of control and security and confidence and reassurance.

In reflection, a lot of this difficulty isn't new, but I'm optimistic about the fact that my threshold of tolerance for getting into this deep and uncomfortable stuff is increasing. I've "given up" or "gotten thrown off" practice many times as tough territory has presented itself, but I'm finding myself able to keep practicing, keep honing in on the 3 C's, keep letting concentration deepen, without becoming too disheartened or losing the will to practice.

Often times it feels like backsliding to feel like I'm somewhere in EQ, but then find myself back in difficult territory. But it just seems like there's more to do, more stuff to see through, that with greater concentration and more precise vipassana, that there's just simply ever deeper and ever more subtle, ever more violating stuff to see through, more knots to untie, etc... so I do feel stable and assured in that progress is still happening and that I'm on the right track. Damn if it isn't really difficult though, to remain brave and determined and focused enough to just keep going.

In recent sits, I've been finding that it really is coming down to the basic tenents of vipassana and 3 C's examination, on a really raw and increasingly violating level. There's just a really deep seated complex of all of these ways I'm trying to be in control of experience, ways in which I'm seeing that I'm incessantly trying to hold onto the sense of being the observer. There are all these different frameworks of practice, approaches of things to concentrate on, specific things to examine, etc... and I feel like it's just becoming clearer how a really basic and radical examination of sensate experience in the classic vipassana/3C examination is what's needed. As much as all these tools have come into play, there's a sense of needing to just do vipassana in the basic and raw way, keep looking for the sense of solidity and see the impermanence in those sensations, keep looking for where there's a sense of controlling and observer and simply look closer and see the 3 C's.

Often times when the difficulty really ramps up, when the practice feels especially hellish, I've gotten a sense of practicing wrong, regression, doing the wrong things, but especially in the last few days, I'm seeing how the difficulty, violating-ness, the frustration, the to-the-core resistance, that these things are exactly what I need to work with when they come up, that they're pointing me in the right direction, that just keeping up with the practice and letting the 3 C's is exactly what I need to do.

I'm finding that even through the difficulty and challenges of these recent sits, there do seem to be these small moments of letting go of control in a deeper way, where experience is seen to just be happening on its own without my control. Through the difficulty, they are kind of small blips in otherwise challenging practice, but they seem to be indicating to me how when I'm able to glimpse the 3 C's in the things like effort, control, sense of center, that things can loosen up enough to let perception just naturally happen on its own with more clarity. 

It sure is some tough work, and there's often a sense of wondering how deep I have to go until I can succeed, but as always, there's nothing to do but continue on. And even through the difficulty, there are signs of progress and increased clarity, so even if the going is rough, there are reassuring signs and a sense that progress is still happening, that I can trust my intuition and just hold to my practice even if things feel difficult. Not that suffering a ton is "the point", but the intensity and difficulty sometimes feels like a positive indicator, like if I'm trying to do something about suffering and figure out why it's happening, that I'm getting better at staring it down and contending with it.