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A confused newcomer
buddylist
Answer
1/21/10 4:59 AM
Hey everyone. I'm Sindre, and I'm new here.

Recently, my interest in enlightenment in general was on the passive side of the spectrum. In short: I'd heard the others talk the talk, and in the process I'd failed to do much more than occasionally act as a propagator for said talk.

And walking the walk? That was a bit further down the line.

However, all of this has changed now. Since I'm here, I guess that qualifies as talking the talk. As for walking the walk? That's what I've come to discuss.

Another summary: recently, my life took a nose dive into the gutter. Some of my longest standing friendships were dissolved by controversy regarding what said friendships were really about; my relationship to my family, and my father in particular, started fracturing; my self-destructive tendencies - failing to sleep properly, abandoning schoolwork for meaningless short-term gratification, sitting still for too long at a time - reached a peak...

All that shit is why I started doing stuff properly, rather than maintaining the 'lazy observer' state of mind I'd adopted. I organized my reading into meaningful blocks rather than have it be a matter of intellectual consumerism and boredom-alleviation. I started planning how to work this all out. I've even started the work itself, though in very small manners.

Last night, I was up late reading a book. I figured I'd do some meditation practice, perhaps as a way to justify the fact that I was still awake at that point. What did I do? Concentrated on my breathing, while reading. After a while, I slipped into a state of hyperawareness (by my own standards, anyway). I'd notice a rash on my cheek, tensions in various parts of my body and other physical phenomena, all of this while reading and maintaining the focus on the breath. All in all, I was pathetically pleased with myself.

But I didn't think my success was anything special, in the grander scheme of things. What did surprise me is the fact that the state I mentioned is still active; still present. As long as I'm not extremely absorbed in an activity (part of writing this comes to mind), or actively using my breath (e.g. speaking), I find perception encompassing both my present focus and my breath. And it won't stop. And I'm starting to have all sorts of wondrous realizations, large and small: this line of thinking is a logical fallacy; that emotion is caused by this etc. And most of all, I'm starting to wonder: what on earth is this?

Right. Hopefully you didn't find all that self-exposure too drab. Any lucid ideas about what this is or could be would be highly appreciated.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/21/10 10:17 AM as a reply to Sindre Eskel Aspaas.
Sindre Eskel Aspaas:

Last night, I was up late reading a book. I figured I'd do some meditation practice, perhaps as a way to justify the fact that I was still awake at that point. What did I do? Concentrated on my breathing, while reading. After a while, I slipped into a state of hyperawareness (by my own standards, anyway). I'd notice a rash on my cheek, tensions in various parts of my body and other physical phenomena, all of this while reading and maintaining the focus on the breath.

But I didn't think my success was anything special, in the grander scheme of things. What did surprise me is the fact that the state I mentioned is still active; still present. As long as I'm not extremely absorbed in an activity (part of writing this comes to mind), or actively using my breath (e.g. speaking), I find perception encompassing both my present focus and my breath. And it won't stop. And I'm starting to have all sorts of wondrous realizations, large and small: this line of thinking is a logical fallacy; that emotion is caused by this etc.

And most of all, I'm starting to wonder: what on earth is this? Any lucid ideas about what this is or could be would be highly appreciated.

One word: mindfulness.

You programmed the mind by telling it to pay attention to the breath, and it did. Simple as that.

What did you think enlightenment was anyhow? Something esoteric and mysterious?

It won't be Buddhist enlightenment, though, until you add in the insights which the Buddha brought to light. The tilakkhana (the three characteristics), paticca samuppada (dependent co-arising), the purification of view (ditthi visuddhi), the importance of the five spiritual faculties (the Indriyas) in training, the fourfold analytical knowledges (patisambhida-nana), etcetera.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/21/10 11:38 PM as a reply to Ian And.
On a similar note, while this is a very "What was that? What is this?" sort of a website, I think more interesting is what you do with it, such as try for stream entry.

Can you see all those sensations that make up those things come and go?

Can you see the sensations that seem to make up an observer come and go?

I suggest you use what you have developed to further your insight development.

As to what it is? This leads to that makes me think Cause and Effect. Strong, automatic mindfulness makes me think A&P. Serious troubles with family, etc rings of Dark Night, but order, context and more info would help.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/22/10 7:30 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
First of all, I wish to thank you both for taking the time to answer my question and elaborating upon it. It's very gratifying to have a place to go with these questions, and more gratifying still to actually get responses to them.

Now, to address the questions you posed in your replies...

What did you think enlightenment was anyhow? Something esoteric and mysterious?


No. Not in the slightest. If examples like Gautama himself are any indication, I'd expect it to be an increase in clarity when it comes to the understanding of reality. As you say, though, it does have a rather long 'tail' of preconditions. This is a structure I have yet to grasp fully, so I won't pretend to understand enlightenment.

I know there's a lot of ground to cover. I'll do my best to describe what I'm standing on with more eloquence.


Can you see all those sensations that make up those things come and go?


The state disappeared when I reached a certain level of fatigue (I slept four hours the night before I wrote the query, and something like five hours the night before that). It may have been unrelated, but it seemed to be a result of the mental capacity it would take to maintain it simply fading. That said, I still have a rather vivid recollection of the state.

I'd say the opposite, actually. All sensations gained a curious constancy. That is to say: I would find myself unaware of my breathing at times, but faintly (yet somehow profoundly) aware of the fact that I was indeed unaware. A sort of paradoxical feeling. This would shift back and forth; aware of breath, aware of lack of awareness of breath, aware of breath etc. Not on a breath by breath basis, but in intervals lasting a few minutes.

One more thing, that may be related: after the fading had happened, I found myself in another mystifying state. Somehow, I retained a little of the acuity the meditation had left me with. But everything seemed slightly surreal. I suppose I could illustrate it best with an example. I walked past a woman on the road while this was going on. I found myself observing every detail of her walk with an alarming actuality. Like I somehow saw it all more clearly than I usually would. Yet I couldn't shake the feeling that her walk was artificial and false. That people don't really walk like that. This sort of perceptual game kept panning out for a few hours, until I receded into a quite normal state of overall tiredness.

Can you see the sensations that seem to make up an observer come and go?


This one is trickier... During the state described in my first post, I wouldn't say that's the case. However, during the following state, I found that my awareness would occasionally be drawn into the object. Like the observer faded, and the perception remained. Like the breath, this also fluctuated. Aware of not being aware, aware of being aware, aware of not being aware...


Serious troubles with family, etc rings of Dark Night, but order, context and more info would help.


I'll provide an elaboration on this in the near future. Right now, I'm feeling up for some rest.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/23/10 3:02 PM as a reply to Sindre Eskel Aspaas.
I should mention that most things people describe here with a real "Wow, I had so much clarity!" vibe with a sleepy phase that follows tend to be the A&P with dissolution following.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/25/10 6:31 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
A couple of things, then.

First off, I'm going to go ahead and consider this question answered, even though it isn't really (in the strictest sense). Since I now have a framework for what I'm looking at, I'm going to go ahead and educate myself on the A&P and so on, to avoid encumbering y'all with questions that have readily available answers. I'll be sure to come calling again if I need more help, though.


As for this:

What did you think enlightenment was anyhow? Something esoteric and mysterious?


I felt that my original answer wasn't quite as nuanced as it could and should be. The question did raise an important point, which I could have been missing completely. Indeed, when I first got into spirituality (using the word in very general sense, here), I was far out on the "invisible auras and unicorns - or demons and spirits, as the case was - that have absolutely no bearing on any practical areas of life, and certainly no hope of providing lucidity through continued practice, which may also drive you into frothing insanity as you lose your already tenuous grip on reality" side of the spectrum. I quit that shit when I realized what I'd gotten myself into, though. So, to answer the implied question: yes, I do know the dangers of having no clear sight of what I'm doing.

Once again; thank you for the help and this site in general.

RE: A confused newcomer
Answer
1/25/10 12:57 PM as a reply to Sindre Eskel Aspaas.
Check out MCTB, found here on the wiki, at my site www.interactivebudda.com, and, for those who want a print version, available at the standard places.