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Equanimity or...?
Answer
12/27/11 11:29 AM
I am new to the concept of mapping and (for better or worse) trying to get a little sense of where I could be (while also observing how quickly such thoughts imbalance my mind by applying too much importance to goals and progress on the path).

A quick summary of my history of practice:
My formal practice began Fall 2010 with a 10-day Goenka retreat. Prior to this I had spent ten to fifteen years (since I was an adolescent) with an intellectual appreciation (and - so I thought - "understanding") of Buddhist philosophy, but very limited meditation practice. [As a side note, perhaps important: having now begun to read Ingram's book and description of the stages, I may very well have spent those years already in the DN.] Back to my current practice...
That first retreat was the most challenging thing I've done in my life and I believe I sat through deeper pain than I'd ever previously experienced anywhere (everything from the feeling of knives piercing my spine, to knees and hips tearing apart, to my head imploding). The sensations came very quickly and intensely for me: a constant barrage of severely unpleasant gross sensations over a cacophony of intense subtle sensations of varying frequency. There were many emotional breakdowns of both low and high extremes. For the most part I kept almost entirely to the schedule of 10-12hrs a day sitting. Things gradually became somewhat easier toward the end and upon learning metta practice, I felt like I was an explosion of radiant love energy. I left the course feeling lighter than I ever had in my life and attributed it to flushing out past sankharas - essentially, I thought - the equivalent of years of therapy in 10-days. I had an immediate feeling that I'd found my path. I left the retreat and a week later was back to work a course as a server.
Until May 2011, I maintained my practice with usually from one to two hours a day and found it (oddly) easy if not desirable to maintain the five basic precepts. I then sat another 10-day, during which there were some rollercoasters and physical pain, but nothing that seemed to really destabilize the "core". By the end of that course, all I wanted to do was sit and never move. Back to daily life it became even easier and highly desirable to sit twice a day for an hour each and maintain the precepts.
November 2011 I completed another 10-day which was similar in many ways to the second except there were physical pains that I thought I had "dealt with" on my first course. This time, however, they seemed not such a big deal and lead to the insight that I'd been having expectations for my practice to progress linearly towards uniform subtle pleasant sensations in the body, but that it really was about just accepting everything as it is no matter what. I also began working much harder at continuity of sensation awareness throughout the day between sitting sessions.
Two weeks later I sat an 8-day Satipatthana course (which finished on Fri, Dec 23rd). Some "storms" came and went, but - once again - nothing that could really destabilize me. For the course I also had an individual cell which I used about 7-8hrs per day. I definitely felt my practice "deepen" during this course. I worked very diligently on continuity of practice and (on the last day - metta day) I was doing walking mediation and began to feel the subtle sensations throughout my body a little while moving; when I stood still for a moment, they were almost as intense as when I sat with my eyes closed. I left the course by bus and found it extremely easy to meditate without moving for the 4-hr ride despite the hubub of the bus.
The past two days have definitely been an interesting experience for me. The continuity of practice has continued with little deliberate effort. With few moments of lapse I tend to feel subtle sensations in my entire body throughout the day regardless of what I'm doing. I've found my head unusually rather "empty" of thoughts. The constant awareness of sensations has me feeling a bit detached from the mundane but very much at ease. I've only been sleeping about 5hrs a night, and meditating 1.5-2hrs before and after sleep - with no real "need" or desire to move.
Last night, thinking maybe I am in Equanimity, I decided to see if I could take a dip. I experienced some strange disjunctures from one type of flowing sensation to another; at one point I thought of the duality of thoughts and sensations and experienced an odd "unifying" type event that led to very, very soft subtle flow and ease. But nothing that I would even question as taking a dip. Mostly I could see myself trying too hard.

Soo.... still not really sure where I am. Only being trained in the Goenka technique, I've always given importance only to the sensations and always move quickly from thoughts back to sensations. I also have had no real concept of "stages" on the path, other than Goenka's talk of bangha (which I'm not really sure if I have experienced... maybe my experience last night?).

Well, I probably could go on and on, but maybe that provides enough of a sketch to get some advice on where I may (or may not be). Though I'm still observing that all this thinking about stages may just be too much of a distraction for me.

Thank you for any input.

with Metta,
Sam

RE: Equanimity or...?
Answer
12/25/11 4:45 PM as a reply to Sam Crabtree.
Sam Crabtree:
Last night, thinking maybe I am in Equanimity, I decided to see if I could take a dip. I experienced some strange disjunctures from one type of flowing sensation to another; at one point I thought of the duality of thoughts and sensations and experienced an odd "unifying" type event that led to very, very soft subtle flow and ease. But nothing that I would even question as taking a dip. Mostly I could see myself trying too hard.


'You' can't make a 'dip' (cessation?) happen . 'You' just set up the conditions for it to do itself. When in a place where there is a lot of equanimity towards the processes of the mind and body, what happens to the mental focus? Are you aware of the mental phenomena arising and passing or are you ignoring it for strictly paying attention to sensations? Are you contemplating or paying attention to the quality of one of the 3 C's of the sensations at all times? Or just paying attention to sensations only? Are you aware of sensations and how they are related to any mood/affective mind state, subtle or gross, that is arising? Can you pay attention to those physical factors that support the arising of affective moods to the point where affective moods seem to not arise and all that is seen are the sensations manifesting the 3 C's?


Soo.... still not really sure where I am. Only being trained in the Goenke technique, I've always given importance only to the sensations and always move quickly from thoughts back to sensations. I also have had no real concept of "stages" on the path, other than Goenke's talk of bangha (which I'm not really sure if I have experienced... maybe my experience last night?).
.

I talk about some of my own experience with stages in the Goenka tradition here. Read the comment section of this link as well for very valuable advice from yogis who give advice on progressing with the sweeping technique.

Well, I probably could go on and on, but maybe that provides enough of a sketch to get some advice on where I may (or may not be). Though I'm still observing that all this thinking about stages may just be too much of a distraction for me.


Knowing about the stages is only helpful when one feels lost and confused as to what to do. When one knows what to do practice-wise, one need not worry about stages but just keep practicing. Knowing about the stages is only helpful if it aids one in continuing to practice skillfully.

Nick

RE: Equanimity or...?
Answer
12/27/11 12:25 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thanks for the reply, Nick.

I'll try to answer a few of your questions:
As far as the focus, I've found it exceptionally easy to concentrate during daily life and, during sits, I am able to stay "focused" on the object of meditation (sensations), but sometimes the concentration feels unable to unify and remains wider or more diffuse. With mental phenomena I've begun to treat thoughts more like sensations, simply observing their arising and passing without attention to content, whereas previously I would simply divert my attention immediately back to sensations. And with everything I always try to remain with an understanding of anicca as Goenka suggests. My awareness of sensations as related to moods and emotions has been (for me) uncharacteristically adept; in fact, I've had the sense that I now know what it really "feels" like to experience these different emotions, i.e. the waves of sensation they manifest as. At the same time I find myself simply appreciating the arising of these different emotions without any noticeable attachment.

Thanks also for the reminder not to get caught up in worrying about particular stages. I've noticed my thoughts about such things starting to return to a more balanced state as I've continued to remind myself of the fundamentals (experiencing all sensations with an understanding of anicca). And my practice seems to be continuing skillfully (especially since I found myself investigating the mental states that arise in relation to the intellectual questioning that led to my first discussion post). The information on your link was also helpful and I've begun observing the act of observation along with the rest of the sensations. I'm still finding it remarkably natural to maintain nearly continuous awareness of sensations in daily life (often to the point of feeling subtle sensations throughout my whole body while carrying on other activities) and I've been very curious about "integrating" this awareness with the portion of awareness applied at the other sense doors simultaneously. I'm not finding much concern with "where I'm at anymore" as the practice moment to moment has reasserted utmost importance.

- Sam

RE: Equanimity or...?
Answer
12/27/11 1:25 PM as a reply to Sam Crabtree.
Sam Crabtree:
My awareness of sensations as related to moods and emotions has been (for me) uncharacteristically adept; in fact, I've had the sense that I now know what it really "feels" like to experience these different emotions, i.e. the waves of sensation they manifest as. At the same time I find myself simply appreciating the arising of these different emotions without any noticeable attachment.



Seems like you know what you are doing.

Here's a little experiment if you wish to do something else.

When a mood is experienced, try seeing all of the factors that seem to be coming together to compound/give rise to the 'mood'. You are aware of the bare sensations with their feeling tone (neutral, unpleasant, pleasant). Now become aware of why a mentally felt sense of 'mood' is jumping off of such vedana.

Is there a mentally felt sense of 'me-ness' or presence or self or location (in the world) or 'being' or existing that seems to accompany/overlay/jump off of the vedana experienced?

Does it feel like 'I' is experienced as a tangibly mentally felt experience that accompanies a 'mood' or IS the mood itself?

Perhaps watch the mentally felt sense of existing/being/me-ness/self/location/presence with the view that it has 'come to be' and it will manifest as this mood or that mood, with this flavour or that flavour and eventually will drop away if looked at dispassionately.

While doing this, you can keep the vedana seemingly acting as a support for the mood/felt sense of existing within the field of attention as well. See what happens when you watch this process of compounding of a 'mood'/felt sense of exisitng dispassionately. Try seeing the vedana from an angle where the mentally felt sense of exisiting/mood drops away and there is no sense of existing nor mood but just vedana. Play around with cause and effect.

How does one cut the fetter of identity view? By looking closely at that which is being misread/mentally felt as a sense of existing/being/me-ness/self/presence/location to see that it (the compounding of the aggregates) will show its arising and cessation.