Was that a cessation?

Sean M, modified 26 Days ago at 11/4/23 6:49 PM
Created 28 Days ago at 11/3/23 11:31 AM

Was that a cessation?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 5/26/19 Recent Posts
(edited a few times because I can't get the font size to show correctly... if it doesn't work my apologies to your eyes)

Hello all! I was hoping I could get some feedback about where I am at in my practice. I recently had an experience that I would be inclined to call a cessation, although I am trying to remain skeptical.
I feel a bit bad writing so much here so I’m going to break it down into three sections: 1) The experience I am primarily concerned with. 2) Days leading up to it. 3) Overview of my practice history. My questions are about Section 1 primarily, so Sections 2&3 are optional reads.

Thanks in advance. I don't usually get to talk about this stuff, very much looking forward to any feedback! emoticon 

Section 1: The experience in question
10/29 – Woke up and had the thought “this is going to be the best Sunday of my life”; I felt like meditation was just going to happen naturally today and that something notable may happen. 2 hour sit (maybe a record for me) in the morning. Later on had another sit where I was focusing on incorporating any “problematic” self-life feelings into my overall sensory field in an all-encompassing way. Was “surfing” my full sensory field to track it closely. Also added an aspect of “shutting down” any trying to make myself more aware, as that was seen to be an illusion. Started to have a few expansive “wow” moments where everything would open up really wide. Then I had a few moments where I would seemingly nod off as if falling asleep, though I did not feel particularly sleepy and felt relatively alert. I would sometimes feel some sudden joyful energy or some innocent laughter.
Then, a very fast strobing of my vision and a sound (possibly mentally generated) of a fan/boomerang going “wah-wah-wah” and sort of impression of a “wooshing” (this is really hard to describe) toward(?) me. An analogy I wrote down is that it felt like getting knocked out by being punched in the face. My vision went from the typical closed-eyed colors to pretty dark in an instant. I was left feeling a bit frozen, raw, with my mouth agape, heart beating real fast and thinking “no f*cking way”. My mind instantly interpreted it as a cessation, and I felt like I had done what I had sat down to do (not sure if this was a natural feeling produced by the experience itself, or a feeling following my interpretation that it was a cessation). Out of curiosity I stayed sitting and realized that so many of the tensions and mental talk that would usually comprise my sense of self had died down by a lot and were hard to find at all (this has come back in the days since). Some fine trembling of my forehead for about a half hour after. Sitting seemed to happen on its own.
The next couples days, I felt a serene confidence and great engagement with people at my work, though with a bit of background anxious energy. When I sit to meditate now, it seems pretty ordinary except that I will get spontaneous feelings of joy, often swirling pleasantness in my stomach, and sometimes I will have these uncontrollable spontaneous exhales where I seem to let out some amount of energy. This may be somewhat related to me wondering if the experience will happen again, as my memory of it is of it being somewhat jarring/violent so I think part of me is bracing for a reoccurence, while also wanting to replicate it. The existential need to meditate seems to have died down quite a bit, though I still find myself sitting when I can, and things seem to happen pretty naturally on their own. About 5 days later, I am starting to have feelings of sadness and frustration come back up, but I just sit with it and it isn't a big deal. I have noticed a desire to want to take a break from meditation and "rest here" for awhile but I am quickly feeling like may  not be much of an option.

-Could this have possibly been stream entry or genreally a cessation?
-Is this possibly just a jhana-related or A&P-like phenomenon? If what I have been through so far is only just getting to A&P, I am not looking forward to this dark night! This uncertainty is part of why I am posting here.
-Is there any value in trying to take a break from meditation, or at this point is it reccomended to continue with the same amount of sitting (1 have recently been doing maybe an average of 1 hour per day).

Section 2: Condensed notes from days leading up to event:
9/30 – Very inspiring session, very easy to investigate sensations while noting, had some buzzy feelings. Very easy to disidentify from previously troubling sensations and I was able to dissolve some tightness that had been in my chest for awhile. Woke up in the middle of the night with buzzy ripples spreading throughout my body, with sparks shooting around in my vision. Honestly, I thought maybe this was an A&P but I wasn’t in the mood (lol) so instead of letting things happen I distracted myself with my phone until I felt I could go back to sleep.
10/5 – In days since, breath has started to feel far away, and tension in forehead when trying to concentrate. Open awareness feels better, as the feeling of needing to move attention to “find” objects seems to just create tension elsewhere.
10/16 – For awhile I have had mental unease that made 15 minutes of sitting feel like an hour and I can’t ever settle, however today started with a guided koan and then just tried to intuitively stay present without trying to grasp or control anything, and it led to a pleasant sit of ~50 minutes.
10/21 – Last couple days feeling lost, every attempt to stay present feels fruitless, while letting go seems to lead to distraction. Feelings of despair, wanting to “get out”, anger, sadness. Non-dual guided Michael Taft meditation today put me in a better place of openness, though a bit vague.
 10/26 – Finding some footing, balancing between “doing nothing” and noting in choiceless awareness. Noting feelings of “internal screaming”, restlessness, boredom, impatience.
10/27 – 1.5 hour of just sitting in open awareness. Trying to effortlessly see every arising so that nothing can become a hindrance. Relatively easy.

Looking back at these notes makes me feel like I had been moving through insight stages, however I recognize that scripting could be at play here, and I am surprised that things would progress this quickly outside of a retreat setting.

Section 3: Some history/background:
I want to start by making the caveat that my memory is quite poor so sorry for the vagueness. I am 28 now and got into meditation when I was about 20 after reading Waking Up by Sam Haris and being completely captivated by the idea that the self didn’t exist. For a year or two I meditated regularly, just using any sort of guidance I could find on apps, youtube, etc. There was no rhyme or reason really to the techniques I was doing, I was really just playing around while being most interested in experiencing no-self.
Within this 1-2 year period I had several peak experiences that seemed to change me in some way. However, unfortunately I can not recall the timeline that places them in order, so I will just list them as bullets:
  • A night where I meditated in a dream. I sat in the middle of the street and closed my eyes to meditate, then my body started shaking, I levitated and then shot down the street at very fast speed. I woke up with my body buzzing. This now seems to me like textbook A&P.
  • Around the same time period as the previous, some meditative experiences of rushing energy in my body that I described as “orgasmic” at the time.
  • My first experience with acid, I had a profound experience of non-duality where I felt that my self wasn’t there but that I was the stream of consciousness.
  • I was listening to a guided meditation from Eckhart Tolle and he said “The perfect state is the acceptance of now”. A few seconds after he said that, the distance between subject and object seemed to collapse, like as if everything zoomed toward me and I merged with it. This felt as profound as the previous experience above, especially since it was not drug induced. I spent the next few minutes walking around looking at things, feeling like everything was “it”. This experience and the one previous (can’t remember which happened first) felt like the most impactful moments of my life. Soemtimes looking back I wonder if this was a cessation as it was so impactful, but I'm really not sure; at the time I just thought it was a brief glimpse at nonduality.
From this time period I do not recall anything particularly challenging resembling a Dark Night as far as I can remember, maybe just a very brief period with some anxiety, but it was no obstacle to my mindfulness at all. At this time I knew nothing about the Progress of Insight. After all these experiences I would say my faith in mediation was quite high and my belief in the non-existence of the self and the illusory nature of free will was cemented pretty firmly.
For the next 5-6 years my practice began to waver and I would go through long periods of not practicing at all. My depression, which had gone dormant during the those wonderful 2 years, would come back and make it especially difficult to find the concentration to practice well. Single-pointed concentration felt irritating and hopeless, and so instead I would often just sit in open awareness, but quickly get lost in daydreams and would make no progress.
It wasn’t until I started learning about the Progress of Insight that I looked back and thought *maybe* I was in a long dark night, with Dissolution predominating. So it wasn’t until this year that I started being much more serious about getting back into meditation and began doing a mix of concentrated noting and open awareness practices, which eventually led me to the experiences which started this thread.
brian patrick, modified 27 Days ago at 11/4/23 8:53 AM
Created 27 Days ago at 11/4/23 8:53 AM

RE: Was that a cessation?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/31/23 Recent Posts
I couldn't tell you if this was a cessation or anything else, but some of your experiences track with mine just after the realization. Particularly the dream(bullet point in section 3). Different dream, but essentially the same. 

My realization came with no instruction manual, and with zero prior practice at all, and for me the bliss was so tremendous that I was literally useless in life for a couple of weeks. I've since learned that this is not at all the same for everyone, and this thing comes in every stripe imagineable. 

After the switch I was lucky enough to be shown some basic breathing techniques through some very skilled people who just showed up, which helped me ride the roller coaster of ups and downs that followed. There were some very dark moments, and I'm not at all convinced there will not be more. 

I'm going to keep going no matter what. 

can you find awareness? As I began to be able to find it (at first it felt like another entity, in the back of my head) I would just stay there as long as possible and stay mindful. This is when I found Daniel Ingrams videos and learned about "noting." That was helpful. Then I did some concentration work which really helped integrate a bunch of things for me. 
Sean M, modified 26 Days ago at 11/4/23 7:29 PM
Created 26 Days ago at 11/4/23 7:29 PM

RE: Was that a cessation?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 5/26/19 Recent Posts
Hey Brian,

Yeah my intial realizations years ago were also quite strong as you say, and seemingly more profound than my more recent experiences. Trying to map those things is difficult when so many years have passed, and when you have no context at the time. Your cue to look for awareness I have found very useful for shifting to a more non-dual state at times, though sometimes I get a bit too wrapped up in trying to "get it" with that one... in my experience "getting it" seems to be openly resting in the unfindability of it. So to your question, I feel like maybe my answer is no I can't... haha.
I also found noting to be useful; it honestly really revived my practice this past year, after having a long time of floundering. Being able to identify aversion, frustration, disappointment, etc in the moment was the biggest help.
Trying to focus on some concentration work at this time when I feel like I am at a crossroads may not be a bad idea. I have never felt to be that great at directed concentration, but it would be interesting to see if that has changed.

Thanks for sharing your experience. Hope your practice is going well.
brian patrick, modified 26 Days ago at 11/5/23 3:00 AM
Created 26 Days ago at 11/5/23 3:00 AM

RE: Was that a cessation?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 10/31/23 Recent Posts
Despite warnings on the interwebs even from Daniel, I used fire Kasina for concentration. I never had to go too long which is where Daniel says the real "goods" are. I'm not afraid of anything but am just not in a place where I can meditate for 10-12 hours ever. Still, the brief sits I've done with it seemed to help me deepen awareness and allow me to stay with it for longer periods. 

There is something about being able to keep my eyes still that seems important. Eye movement brings thought. 

the feeling of a "watcher" is gone and awareness has fully integrated somehow. I can still be caught up in other peoples bullshit from time to time, but that really only happens on the surface, and always seems to be pointing at some realization I need to realize. So, in a way it's "productive."