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seeking some advice from advanced practitioners

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Hi

Hoping to get a little guidance from those who might be further along the path than me. I'm trying to work out if my path is going in the right direction, and which path to take and aggressively commit to at this point. I'm experimenting at this stage, and trying to see what fits best for me.

Practice history: 3 years of twice daily meditation, for about 15 minutes each time. This has for a large period been meditation on the breath, using a mantra (I am here now, synchronized with breathing). Huge amounts of spiritual reading - Eckhart Tolle, Rupert Spira, Francis Lucille, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Ramana Maharshi. Completed the Presence Process by Michael Brown 3 times. Probably about 1.5 - 1.8 years of the meditation practice was AYP - Advanced Yoga Practices by Yogani (spinal breathing pranayama and deep meditation). Constant aggressively breaking myself down and dis-identifying.

"Attainments"

Experiencing myself as awareness within which perceptible forms arise (had a few experiences of this)
Dissolution of all emotional reactivity: I'm just calm. Pretty much 99.9% of the time. Totally unruffled and not bothered by anything life spews up. This is from being very emotionally reactive at one point.
Deep inner stillness in background of all perceptions
Ecstasy and bliss: There's now a general tendency to experience ecstasy and bliss fairly frequently, for no reason at all, simple things like watching it rain, or seeing sunlight often tend to activate this sort of joy
No self: Started to see the image of body in the mirror, just experiencing this as a clear perception in consciousness, not my body, not me, just an image in consciousness
Addiction breakdown: used to enjoy occasionally getting intoxicated with alcohol, that has seemingly totally dissolved now

Here's where I am at, my perspective, and what I am doing:

1. Even thought there is all this calmness and bliss, I have no interest in pleasant or unpleasant experiences, I'm not trying to be happy, I'm trying to let the I that wants to be happy die. Sincere extreme longing to die, I just want a system which will fucking kill me ASAP, I do not care about the casualties along the way.

2. My practice is currently the following:

Inquiring into experience

Looking at all perceptible experience, and asking myself, can I be a perceptible experience?

Asking, can a perceptible experience be aware?

For example, if we believe the body is aware, and a separate me, looking at bodily sensations and asking, are these sensations aware?

Looking in the mirror and seeing an image of a body, and asking, is this visual image aware?

Who am I? What is aware of perceptible experience?

etcetera

Repeatedly activating and then remaining intensely conscious of suffering / pain body

For anyone not familiar with the presence process it’s basically this:

You cease all the activities that distract yourself from your core suffering: intoxicants, mindless distractions, thinking etc

You cease all emotionally charged / reactive behavior.

You just sit with, and watch your suffering. You watch the resistance to suffering. You no longer try to do anything about your suffering.

This is in summary a practice that takes you deeply into suffering, dropping the mental stories attached to your suffering, and perceiving the suffering directly via your feeling capacity.

Sitting with the suffering and breathing regularly, ceasing to distract yourself from it, feeling it deeply and fully.

Letting all of it float into your awareness.

Meditation

Twice daily breath watching with repetition of “I am here now in this”.

Total dis-identification

Entire personality structure, emotional patterns, thought patterns are constantly noted and observed, and there’s very little identification with them.

3. At present, I find it very hard to take any action to maintain my life. I’m financially successful from working hard in years past, but now, I’d be more than happy to just lose everything. Earlier in my life I did all the stuff your meant to do to get happy: financial success, wealth, attractive girlfriend etc etc and it didn’t do anything, so if it goes, who cares. It might sound unbalanced, but I’m basically just calmly letting everything go to shit, and chuckling as it does. Not sure if this is wise or unwise, but I can’t motivate myself in any direction other than hardcore spiritual practice, which is a burning obsession.

4. Apart from the fact that I’m deliberately and consisting throwing myself into the dark night (and it’s become easier and easier to remain intensely peaceful and kind of ecstatic whilst simultaneously experiencing intensely painful emotions), on a day to day level, life is just pretty damn easy because of the deep peace and equanimity inside. I guess you could say I actually am an example of “living in the Now” or whatever that vaguely garbage statement means.

5. But I’m still not dead. I didn’t completely and irrevocably realize my true nature (at least I don’t think I did). Also, my experience is definitely not non-dual. It’s common to experience witnessing on some level or other, sometimes intensely experiencing myself as consciousness within which perceptible forms arise. But the experience is definitely dualistic in some sense.

I’m rather confused about where I am. I could stop now and just enjoy a life lived with deep inner silence, no worries, and considerable bliss. But as I said, I really have no interest in pleasant or unpleasant experiences, I just want to die, or whatever, permanently. I have no motivation to act in life, or to do anything people usually do to be happy (other than my penchant for reading thrillers and playing computer games).

Any ideas and suggestions from people who’ve been here and moved on are welcome.

Thanks,

Josh

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 12:38 PM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
I feel like I identify with your situation, and I don't have a lot to add. Just wanted to throw a +1 in there, and to let this thread serve as a reminder for me that the niether the buddha nor Ingram never promised any sort of blissful existence once you were 'done', and that the idea of being 'done' is a non-starter.

I describe this feeling in myself as, 'waiting to die'.


A bunch of advice bubbles up that I almost begin to type out, but it all seems too vague and too cliche... so i'll try just one tidbit from my personal experience

I find that practicing piti/jhana has been incredibly difficult, unrewarding and frustrating for me while feeling this way for the past year or two, so I took that as a sign that I needed to focus on that.


My 2 cents.

-max

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 12:51 PM as a reply to m m a.
ok thanks dude.

I know there's no such thing as done, but I feel like Enlightenment is the new beginning I want to die into.

This whole thing is really about the meeting of the infinite, changeless, timeless with a finite reference point - the experience of a single body/mind. The journey to fullness of this expression is probably infinite.

But there definitely seems to be a death that occurs, or maybe several of them, leaving the ego structure mortally wounded or worse, and that's what I'm longing for. Life without a center.

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 2:58 PM as a reply to m m a.
m m a:
I feel like I identify with your situation, and I don't have a lot to add. Just wanted to throw a +1 in there, and to let this thread serve as a reminder for me that the niether the buddha nor Ingram never promised any sort of blissful existence once you were 'done', and that the idea of being 'done' is a non-starter.


The absence of mental suffering or even its temporary absence (of all mental unsatisfacotoriness) is the bliss of absence. Bliss I say.

Though it doesn't mean you wont stub your toe in the morning, get a toothache, get cancer, get hit in the balls once in a while, but a bit of physical reminding what it is like to haul round a body is all it is. But 'bliss' is a word I would use to describe the absence of any 'object/subjective reaction' mental overlay. It's just not an emotive type bliss. Bliss of absence.

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 3:05 PM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Sounds like you're on the right track. You may find this sutra helpful.
...even though a noble disciple has abandoned the five lower fetters, he still has with regard to the five clinging-aggregates a lingering residual 'I am' conceit, an 'I am' desire, an 'I am' obsession. But at a later time he keeps focusing on the phenomena of arising & passing away with regard to the five clinging-aggregates: 'Such is form, such its origin, such its disappearance. Such is feeling... Such is perception... Such are fabrications... Such is consciousness, such its origin, such its disappearance.' As he keeps focusing on the arising & passing away of these five clinging-aggregates, the lingering residual 'I am' conceit, 'I am' desire, 'I am' obsession is fully obliterated."

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 3:43 PM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Total dis-identification

Entire personality structure, emotional patterns, thought patterns are constantly noted and observed, and there’s very little identification with them.


A possible route to further on progress is to investigate why the mind still has such emotional patterns arising to note in the first place. Why are there certain thought patterns. Looking into the causes for such things will provide you with a means to progress. How does the mind create mental 'objects' from the 6 sense doors (eyes with sight, ears with sounds, tongue with taste, nose with smells, body with inner and surface touch and mind with thought) and then subjectively react towards them?

One can develop a highly equanimous subjective reaction, an equanimous relationship with the fabricated 'object' yet this is still part of the 'object/subjective reaction' mental overlay. The absence of this overlay is something unimaginable and well worth the effort (or no effort) to experience temporarily or permanently if you are stuck on what to do. Take apart, see in real time, and then look on dispassionately at how the mind creates mental 'objects' for another kind of 'object' (me-ness' manifesting as this and that emotion) to arise as a subjective-like reaction to the 'object'. Cease construing 'objects' and the ongoing experience will be pure sense contact, unsegregated, unobjectified, lunging consciousness-free awareness, where it will truly be seeing in the seen, hearing in the heard, cognising in the cognise. Just avoid those who like to kick you in the balls, because getting kicked in the balls still will hurt to buggery.

So to re-iterate: become aware of how the mind construes/conceives/fabricates/creates 'objects' and see what happens when one simply decides enough is enough and replaces the clinging to those 'objects' with dispassion and relinquishing.

If you have access to jhanas, this can be done in them all the way up to whatever jhana you have access to till there isn't anymore 'space' nor nothingness nor neither perception nor non-perception etc as 'object'.

Nick

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/4/12 8:25 PM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Josh J Anderson:
Hi
"Attainments"

Experiencing myself as awareness within which perceptible forms arise (had a few experiences of this)
You have had direct experience of Presence, but do you also have the direct doubtless Realization of Self/complete certainty of Being?

The difference is described in http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2009/09/realization-and-experience-and-non-dual.html

Excerpt:

1. On Experience and Realization

One of the direct and immediate response I get after reading the articles by Rob Burbea and Rupert is that they missed one very and most important point when talking about the Eternal Witness Experience -- The Realization. They focus too much on the experience but overlook the realization. Honestly I do not like to make this distinction as I see realization also as a form of experience. However in this particular case, it seems appropriate as it could better illustrate what I am trying to convey. It also relates to the few occasions where you described to me your space-like experiences of Awareness and asked whether they correspond to the phase one insight of Eternal Witness. While your experiences are there, I told you ‘not exactly’ even though you told me you clearly experienced a pure sense of presence.

So what is lacking? You do not lack the experience, you lack the realization. You may have the blissful sensation or feeling of vast and open spaciousness; you may experience a non-conceptual and objectless state; you may experience the mirror like clarity but all these experiences are not Realization. There is no ‘eureka’, no ‘aha’, no moment of immediate and intuitive illumination that you understood something undeniable and unshakable -- a conviction so powerful that no one, not even Buddha can sway you from this realization because the practitioner so clearly sees the truth of it. It is the direct and unshakable insight of ‘You’. This is the realization that a practitioner must have in order to realize the Zen satori. You will understand clearly why it is so difficult for those practitioners to forgo this ‘I AMness’ and accept the doctrine of anatta. Actually there is no forgoing of this ‘Witness’, it is rather a deepening of insight to include the non-dual, groundlessness and interconnectedness of our luminous nature. Like what Rob said, "keep the experience but refine the views".

Lastly this realization is not an end by itself, it is the beginning. If we are truthful and not over exaggerate and get carried away by this initial glimpse, we will realize that we do not gain liberation from this realization; contrary we suffer more after this realization. However it is a powerful condition that motivates a practitioner to embark on a spiritual journey in search of true freedom. emoticon

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/5/12 6:24 AM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Nikolai:

I completely agree with you about bliss. Bliss simply occurs in the absence of suffering, or the absence of resistance to what is. It's a natural characteristic of the Self, when the process of resistance and seeking is absent. Unlike happiness, which is a positive emotion on the spectrum of negative/positive duality, I think bliss permeates dualities. Actually just reading your mention of subject/object overlay gave me a brief flash of clearly seeing no-self. In fact the first ever flash was reading the Bahiya Sutta

Your advice is useful, and when considering exactly how to apply, could you use some real-time examples to help me see more clearly? I kind of have a feel for what you are saying, but not totally sure how to apply. I suppose part of it might involve looking at the subconscious belief structure via which sensory data is filtered.

Fivebells: Thanks for that, I will read and re-read.

An Eternal Now:

No I have not had the realization to which you refer. I am currently using self inquiry as my primary mode of practice towards this: Who Am I? Am I a visual image? Am I bodily sensation? Am I sound? Am I concept? Where am I to be found? These are along the lines of how I pursue this inquiry. Do you recommend additional practices?

Best,

Josh

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/5/12 6:49 AM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Josh J Anderson:
Nikolai:
I completely agree with you about bliss. Bliss simply occurs in the absence of suffering, or the absence of resistance to what is. It's a natural characteristic of the Self, when the process of resistance and seeking is absent.


What is 'Self' in your opinion?


Your advice is useful, and when considering exactly how to apply, could you use some real-time examples to help me see more clearly? I kind of have a feel for what you are saying, but not totally sure how to apply. I suppose part of it might involve looking at the subconscious belief structure via which sensory data is filtered.


Here is a good combo of pointers and techniques to see how the mind 'objectifies' phenomena and how to train the mind to relinquish such a habit and recognise unfabricated awareness without the 'object/subjective' reaction overlay.

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/yogi-toolbox-effective-combination.html

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/5/12 7:17 AM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
Yes, since your path is more on Advaita, I recommend you stick with self-inquiry which I explained in my ebook is the direct path to Self-Realization. It is so that you can trace the 'I' thought (egoity) to its source and then Self-Realization will occur. But don't intellectualize about the process. Self-Realization is a thoughtless, non-conceptual, direct realization. After Self-Realization, you should do other practices and contemplations.

The advise of others in this forum is valuable, however, it is from a different perspective or path. For example contemplating on Bahiya Sutta will lead to a different insight or the insight into anatta.

As explained by Thusness in DhO 1.0:

“Hi Gary,

It appears that there are two groups of practitioners in this forum, one adopting the gradual approach and the other, the direct path. I am quite new here so I may be wrong.

My take is that you are adopting a gradual approach yet you are experiencing something very significant in the direct path, that is, the ‘Watcher’. As what Kenneth said, “You're onto something very big here, Gary. This practice will set you free.” But what Kenneth said would require you to be awaken to this ‘I’. It requires you to have the ‘eureka!’ sort of realization. Awaken to this ‘I’, the path of spirituality becomes clear; it is simply the unfolding of this ‘I’.

On the other hand, what that is described by Yabaxoule is a gradual approach and therefore there is downplaying of the ‘I AM’. You have to gauge your own conditions, if you choose the direct path, you cannot downplay this ‘I’; contrary, you must fully and completely experience the whole of ‘YOU’ as ‘Existence’. Emptiness nature of our pristine nature will step in for the direct path practitioners when they come face to face to the ‘traceless’, ‘centerless’ and ‘effortless’ nature of non-dual awareness.

Perhaps a little on where the two approaches meet will be of help to you.

Awakening to the ‘Watcher’ will at the same time ‘open’ the ‘eye of immediacy’; that is, it is the capacity to immediately penetrate discursive thoughts and sense, feel, perceive without intermediary the perceived. It is a kind of direct knowing. You must be deeply aware of this “direct without intermediary” sort of perception -- too direct to have subject-object gap, too short to have time, too simple to have thoughts. It is the ‘eye’ that can see the whole of ‘sound’ by being ‘sound’. It is the same ‘eye’ that is required when doing vipassana, that is, being ‘bare’. Be it non-dual or vipassana, both require the opening of this 'eye of immediacy'”

and

“Hi Gozen,

I fully agree with what you said. It is just a casual sharing with Gary as he seems to be experiencing some aspects of the direct path.

To me both gradual and direct path will eventually lead us to the same destination. It is rather the degree of understanding we have on a particular teaching. If we practice wholeheartedly, whatever traditions will lead us to the same goal.

Frankly without re-looking at the basic teachings of Buddhism about the dharma seals and dependent origination, I will be leaving traces in the Absolute. In vipassana, there is the ‘bare attention’ and there is the mindful reminding of impermanence, no self and suffering of the transience. It is a very balance and safe approach.

Like in Zen tradition, different koans were meant for different purposes. The experience derived from the koan “before birth who are you?” is not the same as the Hakuin’s koan of “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” The five categories of koan in Zen ranges from hosshin that give practitioner the first glimpse of ultimate reality to five-ranks that aims to awaken practitioner the spontaneous unity of relative and absolute are meant to prevent leaving traces. (You should be more familiar than me ) My point is when we simply see the Absolute and neglect the relative, that ‘Absolute’ becomes dead and very quickly another ‘dead Absolute construct’ is being created. In whatever case, we can only have a sincere mind, practice diligently and let the mind figure the rest out.

The mind does not know how to liberate itself.
By going beyond its own limits it experiences unwinding.
From deep confusion it drops knowing.
From intense suffering comes releasing.
From complete exhaustion comes resting.
All these go in cycle perpetually repeating,
Till one realizes everything is indeed already liberated,
As spontaneous happening from before beginning.”

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/6/12 11:32 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thanks Nikolai, I read through your toolbox, it was useful.

By self, I refer to that which remains when you have direct experiential knowledge of what you are not. I.e. You are not a perceptible object, of any shape or form, which thinks or acts. What remains is simply consciousness. Ramana Maharshi referred to this as God, or the Self. I know the conceptual labels are not in line with Buddhism, which acknowledges no divinity, but we know there are realized hindus and realized buddhists, the labels matter not. To put it simply, you are that which perceives, not that which is perceptible. That which perceives is not an object. Realization of the "I am" seems to me to first occur on a dualistic level where you have a perceptible experience of yourself as simply a perceiving consciousness.

When we talk about self-realization at this level, it's not just a passing experience, but a first stage of enlightenment where as An Eternal Now describes, there is incontrovertible, unforgettable intuitive knowledge that you are not the ego, and identification with it is severed.

The second stage is realization that there is no divide between perception and perceiver, hence a collapse into non-duality.


An Eternal Now - thanks for your advice!

RE: seeking some advice from advanced practitioners
Answer
6/10/12 1:43 AM as a reply to Josh J Anderson.
I remember what it was like to get very different opinions from various people about what I should do in my practice and where I was.

I am of the opinion that there is a settling, a stillness, a maturation, a simplicity, a naturalness that is unfolding on its own, and that unfolding is itself natural, causal, simple, inevitable (in that nothing can happen other than what does).

There are so many basic practice personalities, and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

Your burning desire to finally die is a strength, in that it brings the investigation, the tolerance for pain, the mobilization of energy.

Your burning desire is a weakness, in that it inherently implies a split, a duality, a now vs a future, a goal vs its realization, which is in one way just the natural analytical process perceiving the sense that there is more to do, which is simply the discriminating function doing what it does in one sense, but there is more there, or you wouldn't be asking the question.

So: action, effort, questioning, and whatever deep down drives those, those are the subtle processes that are very slippery, and yet so familiar that you might not just let the vanishing that happens when they are known occur.

The throwing this way and that: into Dark Night, into suffering, towards death, away from whatever this is: something in that needs to chill and accept, to sink into and relax, which obviously you know to some degree. Tune into that thing that drives it all, that wants something else other than this. Drop down through that, like the wrong direction to go in. Track that down as fluctuations and qualities in wide open space, but with a tracking that does nearly nothing, that disturbs very little and knows what disturbance it does seem to make.


Subtly and gently feel through the inner space images, the visions of what it will be like, the extremely rapid image/bodily twang amalgams that imply accomplishment and failure, greatness and not-done-ness, as something in that or something like it is is not being known clear as it is, on its own, just simply as that, nothing more or less than patterns of qualities in space. These things merged and synchronized naturally (as they always were) with the bliss, the peace, and the rest, as well as the subtle thought-body amalgams that imply those things and whatever "has" or "is" or "knows" those: feel it all.

You already know these things to whatever degree, I suspect, so this may all be redundant, but perhaps something in all that will trigger something useful.

Further, anything that seems to interfere or cause distortion in anything, see past that distortion, and ask yourself what knew it was distorted and what were you comparing it to to know that it was distorted?

Past a certain point something in the letting your-life-go-ness-down-the-toilet-ness is missing something simple and obvious, like a clinging to a stylized image of the death you mention.