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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Sold as "stream entry" - but what was that?

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Dear DHO members,

I have been reading here for a long time, it is indeed time to share my first real insight practice experience with you in hope for getting some constructive feedback:

I had been on an intensive Vipassana retreat for 15 days at this center: Dhammacari Vipassana Meditationszentrum
This was by far the most demanding thing I've ever done.

Some background: I did Samatha practice (Anapansati) on and off over the last two years but did not practice for over half a year before the course. I wanted to avoid Vipassana until I felt I was ready. In retrospect, I realized that my imposed strict separation of concentration and insight was quite impractical, as there had been many occasions where I accidently got into insight territory.

To this course I went with the intention to finally start with Vipassana and get some momentum for further practice. I had absolutely no idea that it is intended to pass through the sixteen stages of insight in this 15 days course. I was more than suprised as I heard my teacher saying this in a roundabout way and he was surprised as well that I picked up this topic and started a discussion. (I never thought this could be possible and am still skeptical.) Strong skepticism accompanied me over the first three days and I guess my teacher was having a hard time with me as I used every report time to discuss my views on this topic. He told me that my book knowledge could turn out to be a hindrance for me so I should let go and have no expectations.

I tried to keep my report free from speculating about stages and interpreting experiences.

The overall advice and practice was staying in the present moment, being mindful and noting all the time. I did not manage to follow this advice all the time, but progress was not bad. I had my problems first with noting every sensation three times, because I felt this being not sufficient when things speeded up. I was told to just note "knowing" when perceiving many sensations in short frequency but I switched to choiceless awareness and just acknowledging sensations without mental note most of the time. I also tried perceiving 3c as often as I could. I did perceive vibrations almost every sitting from day 3 on, except when stated otherwise (like being lost in thoughts or the like). After one week, my teacher kept repeating: "No worry, no doubt, no expectations, just present moment." Yes, the first three had been my major hindrances throughout the course. 

I did not take notes during the first three days, my short notes start with day 4:

Day 4: (since evening report: 40 min., quadripartite step, two touching points)
Late evening session: Walking: Terribly tired, many times unable to keeping my balance, poor concentration and mindfulness, feeling exhausted. Sitting: Many tingling sensations all over the body, predominantly arms, back of the head, face. Body literally twisting to the left. After 30 min. noticed nascent giggling, first tried to refrain from laughing but was soon rocking and snorting with laughter, lasted over 10 min. Originated out of nothing, wasn't joyful but hilarious and slightly hysterical. When it stopped a cold crept into my body and I felt a bit anxious, chattering of teeth started until I went to bed 15-20 min. later.

Day 5: Walking: Tension around shoulders and third eye area. Sitting: Experienced predominantly tingling sensations and vibrations. Normally, after a while of sitting, sharp sounds would startle me and cause unpleasant vibrations in the instant after hearing, not so this day. Every sound echoed on my skin as enjoyable shiver waves. Breath became more and more mechanic and pumping. Upcoming dizziness was every time disrupted by a bright flash at the upper part of the visual field. Last sit before report: Harsh flash of energy up the spine with a half-strong explosion in the head, light third eye pressure. Only noting three characteristics.
(evening report: 50 min., quadripartite step, 6 tps)

Day 6: Sitting pattern throughout the day: First minutes crap - head pulled backwards, back pain, many thoughts coming up, hard to find touching points, itching - perfect posture, feeling light and well concentrated, easy to find tps, very few thoughts, tingling, shiver waves, vibrations - good posture, bored, losing interest, getting lost in thoughts.
Sit before report: Good momentary concentration, repeatedly made it through to 6th tp, after approx 30 min.: head harshly bent backwards, being literally drawn backwards (posture), feeling sucked into blackness/space, heart started racing, fear was overlayed with curiosity, tried to keep on noting breath/sitting/tps but heart racing got predominant and distracted me, lasted 1-3 min. Teacher said: "…it can bite…curiosity kills the cat. No sight seeing, so do not explore that stuff but keep on noting."
(evening report: 60 min., quadripartite step, eight tps)

Day 7: Session after breakfast: Crying while mindful prostration without reason. After lunch: More crying (now personal stuff involved). Overall feeling tone: Impatient, frustrated, low concentration abilities and mindfulness, sad, hurt, lost in thoughts and feelings, increasing anger, aversion. While every sitting: Many small flashes/explosions in the head that instantly catapult/draw me back (from thinking) in the present moment. Crystal clear presence in this moment (only short-lived though). It feels like a not properly working machine is switched shortly off and on again to get it back to a cleaned working modus.
(evening report: 60 min., quadripartite step, ten tps)

Day 8: First session like day before. Session after breakfast: Crying without reason, thinking about the human condition while mindful prostration, skillful walking and sitting: Noting few thoughts, feeling peaceful, quiet, liking/enjoying, easy to get to tenth tp.
(morning report: 60 min., quadripartite step, twelve tps, 5.5 hours of sleep instead of 6, "Patricia is just a condition.")
Bored until lunch. Interesting lunch experience with acknowledging a lot of aversion and fighting, ended up with the realization of a profound attachment. Next walking: Many thoughts about the illusion of self, ended up with misery and a negative mind state. Sitting: Realizing the impossibility of the touching point method, getting stressed. Growing impatience, a feeling of not caring about anything, and the urge to move on. Last session: Exhausting and extremely stressed because mind is constantly jumping from object/sensation to next one. Mind begins getting lost in thoughts because of poor concentration, switch to choiceless awareness instead. Acknowledging: itching like hell, changing posture, wanting to get up, hurting back and legs, tense, nervous, restless.

Day 9: First session sucked like always.
(morning report: 60 min., quintuple step, sixteen tps, 5 hours of sleep, "Observing the Patricia show.")
During the day (not in order): Right leg asleep - sitting in pain as long as possible, right part of the body aches, pressure around the chest, dump feeling in the face, neck, temples and back of the head, needle-sharp pain, inability to identify thoughts right away, fear and worry about seeing through the illusion of self, itching, many thoughts, hard to concentrate, restlessness, annoyance, sadness (several times on the verge of crying), feeling stuck (how to move on?), ups (peaceful, lighthearted) and downs, cycling.

Day 10: First session: Surprisingly fit and in a positive mood. Walking: Thinking but recognizing it late. Sitting: Better, but still a lot of thinking.
(morning report: 60 min., sextuplet step, twenty-eight tps, 4 hours of sleep, staying in the room except for lunch, "final phase of the course")
Noting "it's getting harder from session to session." Walking: Future thoughts ("when this is over/I'm done with it"). Sitting: Barely getting over the third tp, thoughts, itching, pain, growing frustration about real time experiencing three characteristics of thoughts, esp. non-self (impermanence tends more to feel like a relief), third eye and chest pressure, feeling physically small (while walking), stabbing pain, emotional pain, hard to maintain posture (pain and tension), dullness (while walking). Wish to sit when walking and vice verse. Pretty hard last session (everything previously experienced now multiplied).

Day 11: First session almost like yesterday's last. Feeling miserable when thinking about the upcoming 20h day.
(morning report: "Letting go. Above the conditions. Observing: Not me, all impermanent, unsatisfying and non-self." Was told to do metta practice after every session.)
Session afterwards: Enhanced but unable to feel tps. Next walk: Intense fear, misery and pain. Sit: Sudden change to positive feelings, peaceful and easy. Followed by: Dropping back from positive into neutral, slightly negative mood. Observing the breath noticing that there is a "second breath", something completely autonomous…
(report at 5: Staying and eating in the room, leave room for hot water for tea only, no more shower or the like. paper "first day of determination: 1. recite pali text for finding mercy for yourself, 2. for all other beings, 3. determination: may gross apperceptions of 3c vanish and more subtle insights arise in the next 24h, 4. practice as usual, 5. practice for 24h without sleep and only short breaks.)

Day 12: Having a hard time from approx. 20-5 o'c. Sleepiness keeps crawling in, but almost neutral feelings all night long, only few negative ones. Approx. 45 min. asleep. Pretty fit during the whole day, ex. after eating. Bored sit with slight tension before lunch. Sit after: Head bent backwards, hands vibrating at begin, got till last tp: heart started racing, felt as if at the rim to something, very energetic, tingling and vibrations all over the body, body twisted leftwards. Next walk: Watching feelings arise, noting, vanishing in real time. Realized 3c of feelings. Next sit: Watching bodily sensations arise, noting, vanishing (slow motion body movements). Realized 3c of physical sensations. Got somewhat upset because I thought I was not able to understand "subtle 3c" (in remembrance of MCTB 3c insights), thoughts of "you messed it up, you did not do well enough".
(report at 5: "second day of determination": 1. recite pali text for finding mercy for yourself, 2. for all other beings, 3. determination: Practice mindful walking and wish the phenomenon of A&P will arise during xxx minutes of sitting as many times as it could. - This is counting physical "jerking"="harsh bodily movements". There are three rounds to be counted, all with a reduction of sitting and walking time like 1h w 1h s - 1h w 30 min s - down to 30 min w 5 min s. 4. write down how often you "jerked". 5. practice for 24h without sleep and only short breaks.)
Growing sleepiness around 20o'c. Tougher than first night, hardest time 20-4.30, about 1-1.25h asleep, less neutral feelings, more aversion and wanting. Mind just blanked out when trying to concentrate (during noting and metta). Switched from noting to choiceless awareness, helped a bit.

Day 13: Feeling fit from 4.30-after breakfast, getting more tired and heavy. Worried that I do not spend enough effort and energy and therefore not getting it done. Some negative conditions arise, perceived and noted, gone quickly. Neutral mood afterwards. Chasing "jerking" is entertaining, keeps one alarmed. Seeing vibrating tiny particles in the visual field most of the time.
(report at 5: "third day of determination": 1. recite pali text for finding mercy for yourself, 2. for all other beings, 3. wish: "May I find mercy. May all beings find mercy. Should any beings have thoughts of vengeance against me, I forgive them. Should I have thoughts of vengeance against any beings, may they forgive me." 4. practice mindful walking. 3. determination: "Let me experience the state of meditation without the perception of external processes for 5 minutes during this hour of sitting meditation." 5. Keep an eye on the time. Repeat until you are successful for 5 minutes. Then increase minutes to 10, 15, up to 60. 6. practice for 24h without sleep and only short breaks.)
After report lots of negative feelings: doubt, worry, aversion, tiredness, weakness. Hardest time: 23-5:30, about 2h asleep. Much thinking about time after course. Poor concentration, mindfulness, energy & effort.

Day 14: Couldn't get the 5 minutes, more and more frustrated. Anger, aversion, worry, doubt, resignation. Vibrating particles in the visual field are constantly flashing in and out. Vibrations on the skin and sounds are perceived flashing as well.
(report at 3: Letting go. Story about Govinda. Should set my own time for walking and laying meditation until 5 and take a shower - first one since day 11.)
Experienced much emotional pain during metta practice (laying on the floor), crying. Felt heavy, almost unable to get up but pretty light after shower. Realized that I gave up two days ago when I was not able to perceive 3c on a more subtle level. Got instantly calm and peaceful. Neutral mood.
(report at 5: Was asked to keep going a bit more but without pressure, at least one last session with the 5 min. determination before going to bed.)
Set the timer to 30 min. Still felt neutral, calm and peaceful. Nothing during the first 15 minutes. Another look at the clock, shortly after my head started moving forward-downwards in slow motion until it touched the cushion. Must have looked pretty silly and should have been painful but wasn't. Looked at the clock: exactly 10 minutes had passed. Never ever this took 10 minutes. After timer went off, I deliberately repeated the downward moving in the same speed as before and checked time. About 3 minutes. Let's say between the look at the clock and the movement short time passed, 1-2 minutes? Where had the other 5 minutes gone? Was I hallucinating? Sleep deprivation? Brainwashed? Did not care, just felt fine, felt somehow done. Went to bed, wonderful 8h of sleep.

Day 15: Did not get up at 4 but at 5, did one session until breakfast but did not feel the need to do so. Lighthearted, calm and peaceful mood. The female teacher which was back said "congratulations" to me in the kitchen, did not understand why, didn't care.
(last report at 7:30: Again congratulations from my teacher, told me I will now have the time to review, looked at him sheepishly, because I did not believe I finished anything except the course. Remained skeptical like always. Received a necklace with the picture of Ajahn Tong. Had a longer conversation with him about insight practice and the sixteen stages. About the lack of depth of a 15 days course - the impossibility of gaining deeper insights when proceeding through the sixteen stages in such a short time - if this really should be possible - but staying on the surface of insight. He agreed with me on most points I made but was not keen to explain why his tradition is relying on this super-fast but superficial method.)
One last thing to mention: When I left, teachers, the two house manager and an advanced practitioner/friend of the center had lunch and were a bit surprised that I did not wanted to stay and eat with them (the other young practitioner was not allowed to eat in the dining room this day, another one had his determination days, so it would have just been them and me). So when I got to the door, the female teacher said something strange: "Hope you come back soon. There are not many that are as close as you." …bewildered, I left quickly.

From an insight point of view: I mentioned that I gained some realizations into "I am not my feelings and my feelings are not me" as well as "I am not my thoughts and my thoughts are not me" plus " I am not my bodily sensations and they are not me"? That is what I experienced in real time. My so thought self crumbling into pieces - but it did not vanish entirely. I was so afraid it would in the begin and a bit disappointed it didn't in the end. That was what I was aiming for, somehow... 
Well, and I perceived the arising and passing away of sensations in real time. 

For those reading until here: Thanks and apologies for this awful long post. Your comments are highly appreciated.

I did not practice since I left, just did not feel the urge to do so.

Thanks a lot,
Patricia


edit: url properly formatted.

RE: Sold as "stream entry" - but what was that?
Answer
1/30/12 4:26 AM as a reply to Patricia M..
Sounds like a strong course, Patricia. How has it been post course? Any mood changes? Any patterns starting to present in experience? Anything 'out of the norm"?

Nick