Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Andy R, modified 5 Months ago at 1/16/24 11:37 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/16/24 11:37 PM

Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/16/24 Recent Posts
Hi all,  

Thanks for your time and attention to this, and I'd appreciate any suggestions for practice or guesses about path. 

I started practicing qigong (moving meditation/samadhi/concentration style meditation) in about 2013/2014.  Early in my practice, I had an experience which was similar to a formless jhana (infinite space or nothingness perhaps).  I started developing a lot of energy/qi/ P'iti that was easily accessible and my concentration and spacious awareness increased.  I had multiple energetic experiences including following one qigong session, it seemed that I could not verbalize for several hours.  I could cognize and I was walking around the city but was in utter mental stillness and peace, broad awareness. 

2018- I started going on Vipassana retreats.  On my 2nd weeklong retreat, after following noting of 3 characteristics for several days, in a guided metta session I had an experience in which my consciousness seemed to drop from my head to my heart and then my heart seemed to open and radiate light outwards until my body and beyond was filled with light.  I'm guessing this was a type of A&P event, versus a fruition but not sure.  The following two weeks were incredibly spacious, joyful, blissful.  Ever since that event I have been able to feel emotions in a somatic way, such as my chest would tighten if I said something harmful about someone or I would feel warmth in my solar plexus when connecting with friends,  the strength of the sensation varies but essentially this somatic has been a consistent change.

Nevertheless, about 2 weeks after this retreat I likely started going through a dark night phase in which negative emotions were extremely intense, and I suffered period of depression, misery, grief for the sorrows of the world, despair, numbness, apathy over several months maybe a full year.  Throughout this period I wasn't using traditional insight meditation techniques so much but relied on compassionate communication and empathy buddies to notice emotions, the transience of emotions, etc.  Eventually I got to a place of equanimity but I think I started refocusing more on qigong/samadhi/concentration practices and other modalities versus taking the equanimity to a fruition point.

During the beginning of pandemic in 2020 I was furloughed for 6-8 weeks and had another lovely spacious, mindful, heart holiday type of period.  I played a lot with mindfulness and vedena; actively turning unpleasant sensations into neutral or positive ones.  And I also played a lot with energy, I could essentially summon P'iti to my hands just by calling on it, and most of the time I can still do that to this day.  I practiced a lot of metta practices during that period too.

In 2022, I went on a 3 month retreat.  My focus for retreat was to explore the jhanas and after developing some concentration I was able to play in the samatha jhanas 1-4 almost at will for the first 2 months, I got into the 5th Jhana but could not get beyond that point.  It was lovely and inspiring, another heart holiday period.  I seemed to develop a temporary special power which went away after this period.  I had some powerful insights around how intention shapes attention and perception and how reality is constructed by the mind which were very liberating.  Towards the end of the retreat I started to play with looking at annata or emptiness.  In meditation I would look at an ache and see how the pain was made from sensation and how sensation, vedena, attention and consciousness were all intertwined and I would label them as empty and they would fade.  I would play with viewing all images and arisings as empty and dependently arising and they would fade until there was just a very minimal sense of myself as a subject.  Again, upon looking at the characteristics I would see fading again and again, but not sure there was any cessation or fruition. 

I just read MCTB and had never seen the maps before which inspired both curiosity and urgency , and am curious about where I am at on the path.  I fear that I may have taken a jhana junkie route a bit and would like to know what I could do to deepen insight, although I'm not totally sure what difference it would make as a lot of suffering and dissatisfaction has been greatly reduced in my life.  I would also like to start teaching more qigong (which is clearly another discipline) and I'd like to be clear about where I am at from an insight perspective.

Since 2013 I have developed in the following ways:

-Access to energy, qi, P'iti is usually very strong and consistent but can wax and wane at times, seems like a strong suit
-Fairly spacious awareness, powerful concentration and mindfulness, that also waxes and wanes, seems like a strong suit
-I rarely get utterly trapped in papanca.  Sometimes I choose to think about complex relationship or vocational issues and I start to suffer from that but there is usually some awareness that I am choosing to think about those issues, or those thoughts arise and I choose to follow them, eventually I can back out or cut them off if I choose
- If I think about things that I truly desire, there is suffering to a degree, if I drop those things then desire and suffering lessens but life is a bit drab.  I'm having a somewhat difficult time skillfully relating to desire
-Overall greater contentment, less harshness with myself and others, less urgency/impatience/disatisfaction
-Significant degree of emotional fluency including the ability to properly grieve
-It seems that this is a great list and that I'm suffering less but maybe I'm just noticing it more, as I feel there is more work to be done, not sure what it is tho
- I am not walking around in daily life with a non dual awareness or seeing the fluxing flow of all things, I have not dissolved a centerpoint/subject although perhaps gotten very close to that in meditation. 

So I just started up practicing insight meditation again:

Currently when I sit to meditate I can have sits where I am noting 3 characteristics and 7 factors of awakening are strong, I can have sits where I'm experiencing kriyas, I can have sits where I'm experiencing drowsiness, I can have sits where there is a lot of stillness and its easy to see the sensate factors bubbling up and going away and the sense of sujbect seems very small if not fully transcending the this/that duality, the sits seem to be quite variable. And I'm practicing in the context of daily life versus being on retreat.  Not sure if I'm back in a Mind-Body phase or an Equanimity phase, it doesn't seem to be A&P or dark night.

Any guesses about attainments of path or suggestions for practice are appreciated. 


Bahiya Baby, modified 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 2:42 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 2:42 AM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 519 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Hey, Welcome !!

My practice suggestions would be keep it up and keep a log here on the forum. 

A continued dialogue helps with diagnosis and the deepening of practice. 

Keep investigating them three characteristics emoticon

shargrol, modified 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 5:39 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 5:33 AM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 2518 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Andy, what an adventure! Nice to have you here.

Where did you do the three month? Have any other teachers that worked closely with you offered a diagnosis?

It's good that you are restarting practice. That will quickly demonstrate where you are at, so like BB said, keep giving reports and it will be much easier to diagnose where you are at.

Sounds like you've read MCTB so you probably know this, but just as a foundation for discussion...  It's possible to clean up a lot of psychological content and still be slow to hit SE and other paths. These people are are wonderfully good and sane people. It's also possible to stumble into SE and and even second path comparatively quickly while still having a shocking amount of psychological baggage to deal with. This people seem like gifted meditators but they often crash and burn during the road to third path.  To me it sounds like you are more in the first group. Ultimately no big deal which group a person is in, each has it's strengths and weaknesses. The first group has a lot of the benefits but they feel like they might not be making lots of progress, the second group overestimates the progress that they are making and are often in denial about what remains to be done.

Another foundational thing to remember is that during a single sit, it's possible to go up and down the nanas about three or even four times during a single hour sit. So people don't really hang out and stay at a nana, but rather move through a range, up and down, many times during a day. So saying someone is at Mind-Body or EQ is really just a short hand for "their highest point after getting well established tends to be going up to Mind-Body or EQ". It's not a ridgid step like climb through the nanas, in fact it can sometimes go confusingly round and round -- so much so that mapping becomes a distraction and the meditator just needs to focus on doing the practice and not trying to map themselves.

Another foundational thing to remember is that SE and second path are very similar in the style of practice that needs to be done: classic vipassina. (Yes, I know there are lots of great practices out there, but honestly vipassina is the approach that works most of the time.) This involves seeing and knowing body sensations as body sensations, emotions as emotions, thoughts as thoughts... and during EQ it involves objectifying the sensations, emotions, and thoughts that seem like "being a meditator". Another way to say it is that SE and 2nd Path are very "meta" type pursuits, where even the sensations, emotions, and thoughts of the pursuit itself are seen as sensations, emotions, and thoughts. Many many many many people do not get this pointer and they keep doing basic meditation from the position of "being the watcher" or "being the do-er" and they fail to objectify the sensations, emotions, and thoughts involved with watching and doing. Hopefully this makes some sense, but feel free to ask a question if this is confusing. 

(You can imagine why most people don't get this instruction -- if they get it too early, then they kind of kill their meditation before it can really become established. So a person needs to first do a lot of meditation "watching" experience and "doing" mindfulness, but once those habits are well in place they need to go meta and investigate being a watcher and being a doer. A good sign that those habits are well in place is that they can somewhat easily rest in EQ. But now they need to vipassinize even the sensations, emotions, and thoughts of EQ!)

Jhana people tend to be very good at objectifying experiences "out there" and that can lead to the first few jhanas and even boundless space... but the later jhanas of boundless consciousness, nothingness, neither perception nor perception are hard to obtain because this "internal feeling of being consciousness" has never quite been objectified. 

Now obviously I don't know where you are at, all I have are your words on the page, but my guess is that you hit a bit of a wall with fully resting in EQ and objectifying even the act of meditation itself (???) Who know, I'm also possibly/probably wrong, so take it with a grain of salt.

But hopefully that gives you some ideas to consider/explore. More practice will definitely reveal everything you need to know. It's simple and consistent and non-heroic practice that makes progress possible. Irregular practice or periods of binging and abstaining from practice is kind of like a car spinning it's wheels out in gravel. It doesn't quite get the same traction as consistent practice.

​​​​​​​Hope this helps in some way, definitely feel free to ignore if it doesn't feel applicable. You know best, you are the closest to your experience.

Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 6:00 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 1/17/24 6:00 AM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
I second this! I started up a DhO account back in November and have been doing practice logs and I've found it very useful for a couple of reasons. The first is that a bunch of seasoned meditators read them and chime in periodically which definitely helps keep me on track. The second is it's actually really useful for me to see how my practice is changing in all these ways that I may not have picked up on had I been dependent of my sloppy meat brain memory emoticon 
Andy R, modified 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 11:28 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 11:28 AM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/16/24 Recent Posts
Thanks all for your responses! 


Is there a specific thread on this site to post practice logs? Do people recommend any particular pragamatic insight instructors? I don't currently have a teacher.


Thank you so much for your generous response! I am immensely grateful.  I would intuit that you made a reasonable diagnosis about hitting a wall in EQ.  I have not had other teachers evaluate my progress from a maps perspective.

I'm excited to get back to basic consistent vipassana practice and see where that takes me! Hopefully I can do this w/o obsessing over maps.

I do think from doing a lot of qigong and Jhana practice I probably have a slight (or more than slight) tendency to manipulate attention when things get really open, quiet, spacious, blissful, I might try to solidify those experiences.  I could do a better job of investigating the sensations of being a meditator, watcher, observer.  I haven't quite been able to observe things like consciousness or attention clearly, especially from a 3 characteristics perspective. 

My most influential teacher has been Rob Burbea from Gaia House who passed away before I ever met him in person but I've been deeply influenced by his book "seeing that frees" and his talks and taped retreat series on dharmaseed.  His dharmaseed series on Jhana in late 2019/early 2020 is amazing and I based a lot of my 3 month retreat on that.  I did self retreat at Kevala WI (Santikaro's refuge) and 2 months at Cloud Mountain in WA on different retreats.  Cloud mountain is beautiful but I didn't resonate much with the teachers there or their practice instructions so I kind of ended up doing my own practice (oops).  Any recommendations of teachers or practice centers would be great!  I probably won't be able to go on another 2 mo. retreat for a while but hopefully I can get some 1-2 week retreats in soon.


Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 11:35 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 11:35 AM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
Yeah we post them over here. Welcome to DhO!

Bahiya Baby, modified 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 4:27 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 4:25 PM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 519 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
We're big fans of "Seeing That Frees" emoticon

I recommend a fella named Roger Thisdell. I spoke with him once and got great advice. He is hip to Ingram/Burbea/etc. Donation based and you can check in as needed. 

Also, if you do end up logging some practice here, you are likely to get some pointers and refinements from us as we get to know you. 
Martin, modified 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 6:08 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/17/24 6:08 PM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for describing what you have been doing. It sounds great. You have seen a lot of important things and gained some useful skills. That's a good place to be on any map.

In this post,

Ed76 shared two very interesting talks by Rob Burbea:

Perhaps you have already seen them. They were very useful to me because, here, Rob frames mapping in a different way. We often see maps being presented and understood almost like scavenger hunt instructions. From A you go to B, and what you find at B helps you locate C, and so on. If you do really well, you end up at Z and you are done. If not, you get to D or G or wherever and that's OK, I guess. But people don't usually ask, what do we get at G or Z? And do I really want the prize for making it there? Would I perhaps prefer F? Could I spend some time at F and then go back to D? Rob suggests that we ask these sorts of questions. 

I am bringing this up because you appear to be at a bit of a crossroads in your practice and because you do have quite a bit of knowledge and skill already, so you may be in a good position to decide what it is that you want to get out of your practice in specific terms (as opposed to generalized enlightenment/liberation, because it's very clear that it's not just one thing) before you move forward towards the next clue on the scavenger hunt. 
Andy R, modified 4 Months ago at 1/19/24 9:45 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/19/24 9:45 PM

RE: Intuitive meditator now hoping for some clarity on path and attainments

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/16/24 Recent Posts

Thank you so much! I hadn't seen those chats with Rob before but I watched both and they were helpful.


I also checked out a podcast with Roger Thisdell which was interesting.  Thanks for the tip!