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Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity

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Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
stream entry fruition high equanimity
Answer
5/29/12 12:55 PM
Hey,

I am relatively new to insight practice. I've only known the basics of what it is for a year, and I've only been practicing consistently for about three months.

Although I have only practiced insight meditation formally for three months, I beleive that in the past I may have got myself into soft jhanic states. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. I don't know. Basically, I started paying very close attention to all physical sensations while walking, and doing so after synchronizing my breath with my gait and stabilizing my gaze on some distant semi-constant object(or just the same place in my visual field).Whatever I was doing, I think that I had some A&P's.

Anyway, I started doing this sort of walking meditation very methodically every day about five years ago. I kept it up for a few months at a time, but eventually lost the discipline after becoming so attached to it that I rendered it ineffective.

For the past three or four years, my experience seems to match most descriptions of The Dark Night that I've heard of(although I must admit that almost all of the info I have on this stuff came straight form MCTemoticon, with the exception of things like visions of one's own corpse and stuff like that. Apparently that's a by-product of intense insight practice at high levels of concentration, right? Im not sure.

Since I started doing insight practice near the end of February 2012 my experience has changed significantly. I think that some of this is due to the fact that I've matured emotionally, but most of the difference seems to come from the practice.

Hmmm... Where do I start? A year ago I was living at a big Yoga retreat center on a beautiful campus up in the mountains of New England, eating very good healthy food, being exposed to loads of new stuff, and hanging out with a bunch of fit yoginis(the gender ratio is about 4 women for every man, and I'm a straight guy, get it?). Sounds good right? I was completely miserable. With very few exceptions I was unable to really enjoy anything I did because I was in such a state of struggle and internal friction; hopelessly attached to things like exercise, which in addition to building my confidence and making me feel good in the conventional sense, used to be "meditative"

I lived like that for several years. Then I heard About the dark night and thought "is that what this is?"

This is no longer how I feel. Many unpleasant things that were a problem for me at that time are still going on, but now I feel that I am abiding in a state of peace that is not disturbed by them. One thing that I should mention is that sometimes I fear that I am hiding in indifference. Perhaps that is true to a certain extent SOME of the time, but the feeling is like "oh dang here's something I used to get upset about, but it doesn't bother me. Is that Okay? I guess it is..."

Now, as long as I meditate every day, I am not bothered by my psychological "stuff", but my attention is significantly broader and sometimes I experience phenomena as vibrations. Not all the time. It depends on how I'm practicing, but I find that if I stop what I'm doing and take a minute to check in with what's going on, I can perceive the sense field panoramically and in a way that sort of scintillates. This is especially true with bodily sensations and in the visual field. I notice that body feelings are made up of little blips, that colors seem to include aspects of all other colors, that edges of objects or lines seem to be buzzing but not in a way that changes their shape or position in space relative to each other, and that I am VERY sensitive to retinal imprints left behind when I stare.

Sometimes I drop into this state very deeply without even trying. Other times I have to work at it. Samatha stuff is challenging and seems to run against this general current of impermanence I feel now, but it's actually a little bit easier than it used to be.

There have been a few times where I stopped practicing for a couple of days in a row and I noticed that I experienced anxiety, sadness, and disgust in that order. Specifically, things got murky and one day there suddenly arose a deep primal fear. It happened while I was having a comfortable conversation with my parents. Instead of automatically attributing it to my current situation, I followed insight meditation advice I've heard and just sat with it. After examining it fully for about 45 minutes, it passed completely. Then there was some down time that lasted from late that afternoon until the middle of the next day. I became extremely melancholy and began to wonder what the point of existence is. Misery is the one that really gets me, so it kind of kicked my ass. After half a day of that I sat and meditated some more. I realized again that the sadness was not due to anything specific in my life. Content was not responsible for it. I then goy really annoyed. I was like "FUCK THIS!!!" I got some good food and then ran around outside for awhile.

After practicing for another day or so, I got back into what I suspect is the stage of Equanimity.

Then, very fascinating things began to occur. I sat down to meditate and felt irritated. Concentration was difficult, so I started using binaural beats("The Dive" by Holosync/Centerpointe, does anybody have experience with this?). That helped a bit, but after a while I just sort of realized that it wasn't necessary and that the act or searching or striving was annoying me. I shifted my attention to the investigation of investigation itself and a sense of wonder arose.

At this time I was sitting in a room with a mirror on the wall. I looked around the room, and wherever I let my gaze rest for more than a few seconds, I was overcome by the feeling that there was no seperation between "myself" and what I was looking at, but in a way that didn't exclude the background. It seems like the act of stabilizing my gaze brought on an experience that was like a dissolution of boundaries between forms. I think was having unitive experiences with throw pillows. I got up and began to stare at myself in the mirror from across the room. Fear and wonder arose together. I got closer and stared deeply into my own eyes. I felt a very complex wavelike sensation roll up my neck and into the back of my head. The "wave" was made up of very intense vibrations that occured faster than I could count and they felt like both cold and pressure, like my head was contracting into my body. As I stared at myself in the mirror, I thought "what IS that?" The image staring back at me looked small and scared. I imagined it aging; hair greying, skin becoming wrinkled. It felt a bit like the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The cumulative imprint on my retinas made everything look just like a field of undifferentiated flux.

Then the thought "is this it?" popped up. I began forming future oriented thoughts and I guess buying into their content, getting exctied that I might be on the brink of Stream Entry. As soon as that started the whole thing unraveled. The experience reversed itself and ended exacly as it began, but backwards.

Now, when I meditate well on impermanence for at least twenty minutes, similar experiences arise. The same chilling/contracting wavelike sensation occurs with a sense of awe and anticipation, but the anticipation seems to defuse the process and it ends quickly. It happened yesterday in the break room at work. I happened this morning in a meditation room. Each time it happens it becomes less exciting but my resolve to fully investigate it grows.

What's going on? Does anybody feel confident that they can give me an explanation of what's happening, or even better, recommend a strategy for dealing with it in practice? Obviously the title of this thread implies that I think I'm getting right to the brink of my first Fruition. Do you think my analysis is correct?

At this point I understand that continued practice is the most important thing. I also am beginning to realize that my experience of the present moment as it actually is now contains all I need, but in a way that is more direct and less theoretical. The desire for an explanation of this stuff has waned considerably, but I still figured it might be good to ask the community. Honestly, I can still detect a desire to be somehow recognized for "my progress"

If you can, please use your own thorough experience of insight territory to poke holes in my reasoning and set me straight. Perhaps I'm running into a consequence of fixation on maps. Any thoughts?

With gratitude for this resource and for all that I've discovered.

-Andy

PS: It's funny that in MCTB Daniel described the difference in vibrations between earlier stages and The Dark Night as being like switching from Elvis to complex dissonant jazz. That's exactly how my taste in music has evolved through all of this.

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
6/7/12 11:56 AM as a reply to ND.
Sounds good, but as I have learned, this stuff will come and go as it will, and what comes of it will come, or not. You are doing the right thing to investigate it, in my opinion. Investigate whatever comes up, whether it is mundane or fantastic.

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
6/7/12 1:20 PM as a reply to ND.
Hi Andy:


Samatha stuff is challenging and seems to run against this general current of impermanence I feel now, but it's actually a little bit easier than it used to be.
This is a point of logic and is made by the thinking attribute of mind (such cognition is a useful attribute, but one that does not need to be used exclusively or to draw conclusions). Concentration practice is just a training to let the mind become free of it's constant thinking-emoting ramparts. When those ramparts become transparent, or even drop away, the mind can perceive otherwise. Ultimately...it can just see things as they are, without hindrances, kleshas. You probably read a lot of the padas of Patanjali during your yoga time?

This is no longer how I feel. Many unpleasant things that were a problem for me at that time are still going on, but now I feel that I am abiding in a state of peace that is not disturbed by them. One thing that I should mention is that sometimes I fear that I am hiding in indifference. Perhaps that is true to a certain extent SOME of the time, but the feeling is like "oh dang here's something I used to get upset about, but it doesn't bother me. Is that Okay? I guess it is..."
In my opinion - which pails in comparison to your actual attention to your own mind - this is equanimity: it feels good in comparison to "dark night" and one still experiences dissatisfaction. It is an excellent base upon which to begin a gentle concentration practice.

Why? Because an equanimous mind takes up objects reasonably: it is willing to just to the simple practice, simply. It is unlikely to try to push meditation into a hard, high, fast gear (e.g., it does not get the Friday night idea to take stimulants and be "free" by Sunday...it is just calmer and willing to do the practice as set forth); even if a funky event happens, the equanimous mind is less likely to have a psychotic break (in my opinion, which is not "expert") - it can handle the strange/jarring meditative events and the concentrated doses of "normal" mind like fear and depression - all the same old painful thoughts may arise, but a person is getting to a place where they know to call for help, to practice or just let the thought-feeling arise and pass, without madness, like this excellent practice:
There have been a few times where I stopped practicing for a couple of days in a row and I noticed that I experienced anxiety, sadness, and disgust in that order. Specifically, things got murky and one day there suddenly arose a deep primal fear. It happened while I was having a comfortable conversation with my parents. Instead of automatically attributing it to my current situation, I followed insight meditation advice I've heard and just sat with it. After examining it fully for about 45 minutes, it passed completely.


Then there was some down time that lasted from late that afternoon until the middle of the next day. I became extremely melancholy and began to wonder what the point of existence is. Misery is the one that really gets me, so it kind of kicked my ass. After half a day of that I sat and meditated some more. I realized again that the sadness was not due to anything specific in my life. Content was not responsible for it. I then goy really annoyed. I was like "FUCK THIS!!!" I got some good food and then ran around outside for awhile.
Understandable. You've probably studied Patanjali's padas. He addresses concentration in book 1. Maybe you can use that if you are more familiar and comfortable with his work.
Otherwise, I look to Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's The Progress of Insight: in this dharma it is totally normal to meet with the "fuck this" (dissatisfaction) of the stage of equanimity.

At this time I was sitting in a room with a mirror on the wall. I looked around the room, and wherever I let my gaze rest for more than a few seconds, I was overcome by the feeling that there was no seperation between "myself" and what I was looking at, but in a way that didn't exclude the background. It seems like the act of stabilizing my gaze brought on an experience that was like a dissolution of boundaries between forms. I think was having unitive experiences with throw pillows.
Yes. This is the free sample of concentration. And it arose without your effort or knowlege because you turned attention to your actual thought: you applied thought to thought:
I shifted my attention to the investigation of investigation itself and a sense of wonder arose.
That's insight.

Now, knowing how you set this up - just by minding your mind as object (versus say, anapanasati) your mind freed itself. If you continue to serve like this, concentration will probably continue to occur and less fear will occur. I do think fear will occur less if you work within a system.

Then the thought "is this it?" popped up. I began forming future oriented thoughts and I guess buying into their content, getting exctied that I might be on the brink of Stream Entry. As soon as that started the whole thing unraveled. The experience reversed itself and ended exacly as it began, but backwards.
It's understandable that this would be an exciting event. Just recall that all you did to "trigger" the mind was pay attention to your thoughts with equanimity. You investigated investigation for example. To get caught by a past event (even one just a few hours old) just become more thought-emotion for the mind of thinking.I am hoping to spare you a three-month deliberation here, based on my experience emoticon The mind has other abilities, and one of the most exciting abilities is to see things as they are. For starters, we have the basis for an amazing habit: hello, earth, sky, stars...

Now, when I meditate well on impermanence for at least twenty minutes, similar experiences arise.
I have no idea what this means, but I wonder if you are thinking your way into a contrived noting, "ah, this thought is gone now and it was impermanent...ah, that feeling is gone, ah...hunger comes and goes, ah...).

What's going on? Does anybody feel confident that they can give me an explanation of what's happening, or even better, recommend a strategy for dealing with it in practice? Obviously the title of this thread implies that I think I'm getting right to the brink of my first Fruition. Do you think my analysis is correct?
Continue to place yourself in good locations/times for meditating and do what you did. Start with anapanasati perhaps. Your body-mind remembers that it did something very interesting and rewarding and will show you it again. In the meantime, just follow the breath at the nostrils-upperlip. How does that sound?

If you can, please use your own thorough experience of insight territory to poke holes in my reasoning and set me straight. Perhaps I'm running into a consequence of fixation on maps. Any thoughts?
Too much thinking. Just relax, do what you're doing. Keep your actions in daily life supportive of calmness and friendly relations. The amount you practice (not thinking) correlates to changes in the mind.

Best wishes

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
6/7/12 4:10 PM as a reply to John Hooper.
John Hooper:
Investigate whatever comes up, whether it is mundane or fantastic.

This is some damned good advice. emoticon

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
6/26/12 4:22 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I know this is a bit of a delayed reaction, but thank you Katy! (you too, john and Tommy)

I actually havent studied the works of patanjali very much at all. I mostly just dabbled in asana and pranayama practice, but I intend to read the yoga sutras soon. I'd like to develop a serious daily yoga practice because I think it would be a great support system for this Buddhist Vipassana-Samatha meditation that I'm really into.

It sounds like you have experience in both yoga and insight practice. Am I right? Any good suggestions about how to merge these two approaches?

I want to get into Ashtanga Vinyasa practice and Yoga Nidra/Tibetan sleep yoga stuff. I know to watch out though, because I get pretty future oriented when I start planning all of these things as self improvement activities.

Since I wrote the original post on this thread I've stopped having what I would call near miss experiences. I talked with a friend who I beleive is a Stream-Enterer who said that my description sounded like his experience of Equanimity leading to Stream Entry. He said that I was probably almost at escape velocity and there was likely not much more to do than just let go.

Ironically, this excited me and led to more striving. I ramped up my practice and put in alot of effort. I did that to exhaustion and now i'm at the point where I'm still practicing well but mostly just trying to chill out in a receptive mode, which is actually what I meant by "meditating well on impermanence"

When I do choiceless awareness practice, I just sort of sit back and open up to whatever is happening and let sensate reality present itself to me. I try to observe it in its entirety. When I'm really on a roll my attention is widely diffused thoughout the entire sense field and phenomena are perceived as chunky waves made up of much finer vibrations. Eventually the sense doors begin to feel like they are merging, wit the last one to integrate being the mindstream. I think those "near misses" happened when I almost integrated mental sensation by beginning to completely objectify and synchronize them with activity from the other sense doors.

Hey, thanks again.

-Andy O.

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
6/29/12 1:18 PM as a reply to ND.
Hey, thanks again.
For my part, thank you. Anyone's candid, effortful, gentle, patient practice based in common ethics benefits to me, too.

RE: Supposed "near misses" in Equanimity
Answer
7/1/12 1:05 PM as a reply to ND.
6/29/12 1:28 PM

It sounds like you have experience in both yoga and insight practice. Am I right? Any good suggestions about how to merge these two approaches?

I want to get into Ashtanga Vinyasa practice and Yoga Nidra/Tibetan sleep yoga stuff. I know to watch out though, because I get pretty future oriented when I start planning all of these things as self improvement activities.


I deleted the other post as the silly analogy I chose could be distracting. So, my own cheeky answer was at first gratifying and caused me to smile (though I knew I should give it up for the very reason of feeling the contact therein), then it became stressful, just like an example to the below.

The suggestion I have for myself regarding vinyasa and insight practices is to just look at why the mind is anywhere other than with its immediately local task (e.g., mind wandering during vinyasa, sitting meditation, posting (note to me ;) ). It's not a problem to think about one's plans and their potential futures (that can be quite skillful and beneficial). Yet, both asana practice and meditation (and anything) can become foundations for types of restless departures or foundations of sati (mindfulness here and now).

Restlessness is really the mind thinking it has a gratification somewhere other than in the immediate here and now. (And it may really have a valid gratification for which it needs to leave it's present task of asana or meditation - like going to the bathroom, but mind does not need to leave ongoing sati). If the way in which one is thinking-feeling is actually generated by personality-view though ( and by "personality view" I mean the mind of so-called "small self" in theistic systems and "self" in the anatta system), there will come a point in which the act that was gratifying is also seen for its stressful nature.

So, one is whittling away at one's own way of contacting everything for gratification (through one's thoughts, feelings, sensations) - either for the gratification of a desired avoidance or the gratification of a desired acquisition, because eventually one determines that that craven contact with anything is causing stress. Unbound, one can still make contact, but if the craving, the gratification, is gone, then that contact is totally different, unbound. Little by little the practice is building to this. It starts to show this, naturally. A tall order. So, far, in my opinion and limited experience: very worthwhile. (All major traditions teach against certain gratifying contacts - greed and hatred, for example).

When I do choiceless awareness practice, I just sort of sit back and open up to whatever is happening and let sensate reality present itself to me. I try to observe it in its entirety. When I'm really on a roll my attention is widely diffused thoughout the entire sense field and phenomena are perceived as chunky waves made up of much finer vibrations. Eventually the sense doors begin to feel like they are merging, wit the last one to integrate being the mindstream. I think those "near misses" happened when I almost integrated mental sensation by beginning to completely objectify and synchronize them with activity from the other sense doors.
So, I would keep setting up this practice. And if this practice is becoming dissatisfying at some point, I would study what pleasure and gratification I am getting from it and determine if the practice is causing dukkha or if my assumption of and foundation in any gratification is causing dukkha. After a while it becomes hard to see how the "regular person" is not also very much the "addict"; though the "regular" person manages their addiction of various gratifications better (more in line with, less divergent from the main stream) than the classic "addict", who sticks out more like the raised nail.

edit: 7/1/12
I cannot overstate the value of ethical discipline (not that you need this, just for anyone generally reading and wondering) as that which makes the foundation for these practices (yoga, meditation, peace and wisdom of mind-heart) and their insights. The major traditions (including the ethical secularist tradition) share at least these ethics: non-harm, non-deceit (including non-hypocrisy), non-theft, and non-intoxication (any action or substance that renders one heedless and incompetent with the preceding ethics).