Fresh off 10day retreat. What was this experience?

Anthony Adam Duplanty, modified 11 Years ago.

Fresh off 10day retreat. What was this experience?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 11/20/09 Recent Posts
Hi everyone,
Sorry about the long post and thanks for any input,

I just got back from a 10 day Goenka Vipassana Retreat (my second retreat, first vipassana).
Overall it was a great experience and a wonderful help on the path. I may write about the details of the retreat in the appropriate category later.

For now I am really interested in understanding a few experiences that I had while in retreat.

First of all I want to let 3 things be clear.
1) I have read Daniel Ingram’s book- although I have not committed everything to memory yet ;)
2) I understand that these really cool experiences are themselves impermanent and are possible sources of attachment and can become a deterrent to diligently practicing the path.
3) I have been studying Buddhism for several years and I understand quite a few things conceptually but I am a very novice practitioner when I comes to direct experiences and understandings.

So we started the retreat with 3 days of strengthening our concentration before moving into Vipassana for the remaining 7 days. On the morning of the 3rd day when I was objectively focusing on the breath as it comes in and out (Anapana) and also having a few wandering thoughts, I experienced a very different state of being. All of a sudden my sense of the normal parameters of my body shifted. My sense of my body felt as it I was stretched out really tall. Like I was 100s of feet above everything but still connected to my body sitting cross legged on the ground. At other times I felt as if I was a shadow that was stretched out in front of myself and sometimes as if my head was right where it was but the rest of my body was stretched 100 feet underneath me.

I had been having some pain in my back and legs previous to this state. In the state I could feel this pain just as before but for some reason it didn’t seem to bother me at all. It really was as if I could just stay in this position for hours. I still concentrated on the breath and I still had many wondering thoughts (mostly observations of what was going on). I did feel a bit more concentrated like it wasn’t as hard to be aware of my breath and thoughts anymore, but nothing profound.

This experience lasted for about 15 min. The gong rang signaling the end of that meditation period. So I opened my eyes and came back to my normal state. I was very giddy and started to smile a bunch. I was excited and felt very pleasant and blissfull. This was my very first experience of an obviously different state of being. I have done a few drugs here and there so I wasn’t freaked out or anything. I was just amazed though about how very clearly this was a different experience. It wasn’t a little glimpse or imagination. This was 100% some different state of awareness or perception or something.

Anyways, I ended up having this experience again 3 more times. After those times there was much less excitement and bliss surrounding it but the overall effect was the same. The last two times it happened I was able to do the Goenka-style body scanning with great precision and attention. The last time, though, was a bit different at the end. Rather than my body feeling a bit out of bounds it started to swirl a bit. I definitely felt my head being twisted to my left for some reason( in my mind not in the phisical). If I tried to center my mind to the middle it stopped. But if I let go my head began to twist to the left again. It wasn’t unpleasant or scary but I was starting to question what the hell the point of it was. That was day 7 and I never dad that state experience again and I really want to know what it was.

So what do you think this was? At first I thought it was some sort of out of body astral travel thing, but I wasn’t really out of my body. My body was surely there, it just seemed like my boundaries were radically different and my mind more aware. Then I thought it could have been the first Samatha Jhana but the descriptions I have read about that seemed more about your concentration than your body feeling different too.
Any ideas?

some additional overall input and thoughts regarding the Process of Insight.
I decided to take Daniel’s advice about retreats and aim high. Maybe I was a bit overzealous with that. When I first started having these state experiences I got excited. Mainly because I thought I was on my way to stream entry now baby! But I quickly found that experiences are not exactly these huge stepping stones to enlightenment. Its more about the direct understandings that come with a ton of consistent practice.
Throughout the Vipassana course I had times where I was very discouraged with the whole thing. On the 4th day I was so agitated I was screaming inside my head and almost ready to throw my cushion through the window. Finally I accepted that I either needed to leave or just sit there with it and observe observe observe. I did the later and started to feel that real sense of equanimity that I have read about and was being taught about. It seemed to come and go but the more I relaxed and thought about the three characteristics the more I understood my reality and let loose some of my death grip to things.

I don't remember any big fruitional void of space and time moments but I did feel this a few times:
I understood this whole impermanent, non satisfying, non seperate self emptiness thing for a few moments here and there. In these rare moments I had this sense of, oh wait, why the hell are we so uptight about everything what is the point of creating all this suffering for ourselves, there really is no reason to grasp onto anything- nothing lasts any damn ways!
Then sometimes i felt like:
What the hell is the point of doing anything at all. It all ends and nothing good is worth doing so I should just sit here and wait for death.
It was all pretty intense stuff.

So at the end of the retreat when I was reviewing my experience, I thought of the section of Daniel's book about the Process of Insight.

At first I thought, yeah! I may have made it to the A&P (maybe that was what the state experience was) then the dark night (because of the really pissed off 4th and 5th days) then on to equanimity (because of the good progress that I made on the last 4 days) and now fruition will be coming soon and I can call myself a badass who has attained Stream Entry!

But then I started to think about it more and consider how difficult this stuff can really be to master. In reality, I may have not even made it past the very first stage of Insight (mind and body)!

Like I said this was a great experience. Even if I did not make it to any exaulted states or paths I know I got some lifelong understandings from this and that’s good for me!

Anthony D, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fresh off 10day retreat. What was this experience?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 11/20/09 Recent Posts
i forgot to mention one thing...

So I jump ship in Hong Kong and I make my way over to Tibet, and I get on as a looper at a course over in the Himalayas.

A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock.

So, I tell them I'm a pro jock, and who do you think they give me??? The Dalai Lama, himself. Twelfth son of the Lama. The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking.

So, I'm on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one - big hitter, the Lama - long, into a
ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier.

Do you know what the Lama says? Gunga galunga... gunga, gunga-lagunga.

So we finish the eighteenth and he's gonna stiff me. And I say, "Hey, Lama, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know." And he says, "Oh, uh, there won't be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness."

So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.
Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fresh off 10day retreat. What was this experience?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Hey, nice report.

Body distortion, elongation, etc: all 1st jhana stuff.

The hard pain, frustration, irritation before the blissful stuff, 3C.

The blissful stuff: A&P.

All real territory.

Keep going.

Nice story about the Lama.

the prisoner greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Fresh off 10day retreat. What was this experience?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
i agree with daniel's reply, above, about the body elongation/enlargement stuff being mind-and-body (1st vipassana jhana - the newness of seclusion, ease, and easy concentration stand out), the body distortion and the frustration and the pain all being the stage of 3 characteristics (the twisting neck is a classic feature), and the bliss and ease of body-scanning being 2nd vipassana jhana (a&p territory - probably early a&p, in my opinion).

for rapid progress, i recommend practising at home, whether daily, or bi-daily, or tri-weekly, or weekly, whatever, in an intense way, throwing the momentum of mindfulness against every single fraction of every single second during the practice period you set out (whether 10 minutes or 20 or an hour), and figuring out how to integrate doing this into your everyday life in a way that isn't disruptive so that it becomes a burning obsession you don't forget about for long, or much, or ever. then, when you're ready, take the familiarity that you've already got established with the territory available to you onto another retreat, and use every single available waking moment in the same manner as you used during the practice period at home (as the entirety of the retreat, from beginning to end, will be the practice period), so that you not only deepen your familiarity with the familiar territory but, as the familiarity deepens sufficiently, automatically begin to break new ground. go on retreat when you think you're ready to throw the momentum of mindfulness against every single fraction of every single second for 10 days without stopping.