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First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/3/12 11:57 AM
Hi folks,

I had a great, new experience back in February, but have been thinking about it since then. Still not too eager to categorize it, but I thought I'd share it, to see if it resonated with anyone else's experience...

I set my timer for 40 minutes of mindfulness of breathing. I achieved a nice, deep calm, fell into access concentration, hovered near first jhana, but only got the slightest taste of it this time. Then the timer went off. I opened my eyes, and the room was in a comfortable twilight. My breathing was slow and even, and something told me to stay with my breath, with eyes open, even though I always meditate with eyes closed.

My visual focus drifted in and out, there was a slight mental shift, and the perceived locus of my awareness seemed to drift a bit forward into the room, and expand slowly to merge with the surroundings. This shift was very gradual, and there was an initial fear resulting from the sense that I was letting go of something important, but that was fairly easily tempered, allowing me to let the shift unfold as it did, if with a bit of wobbling.

And then at its peak, for a fraction of a second, there wasn’t a “me”. The otherwise omnipresent sense of "I" basically ceased, while a sort of non-local, passive awareness took its place. The floorboards, walls, and nearby items in the room became me; I became them. We were one, big, quiet, calm, empty field...with no distinctions and nobody "in charge" (is that ego?). There was still an awareness of the room, but it was sort of an inherent, distributed property of the space itself.

And then a slow drift back to normal’ish awareness began.

On the way "out", my first thought was, "Well then where does the impetus come from for anything to happen??"...and I was reminded of some accomplished yogi’s statements about being pleasantly surprised to see what happens next in their moment-to-moment existence, as if the will driving their own body were an unpredictable externality. My next thought was, “What would it be like to live from this vantage point all the time?”

In the aftermath, there were no fireworks, no fruition/gap, and no grand sense of accomplishment. If anything, the experience was simply novel and unique among my experiences to date, but it did leave me feeling somewhat jazzed and very eager to sit again. Also very eager to tell someone, my wife being the first (and she was very polite in humoring me, as I don't typically discuss my practice with her), followed by some dharma friends. I also noticed in the weeks that followed, that when I sit now, the time passes extremely quickly, and is almost effortless. Sitting for 60-90 minutes is easy, with little or no concerns for getting off the mat. Interesting side effect perhaps: you know how songs get stuck in your head for a day or two? They sometimes get stuck in my head for weeks now. Somewhat annoying, but it could be worse.

And there you have it. Comments on the above would be appreciated, if any of it sounds familiar.

Regards
P

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/3/12 12:30 PM as a reply to patrick kenny.
This sounds very familiar. My first such experience was for a week or so after stream entry, and it was not pleasant at the time, because I became frightened and disoriented. Since then, however, I've had it happen at random moments for several hours at a time. I first noticed it while driving, realizing that my bodily sensations didn't belong to me, but were just sensations manifesting. It was a pleasant sense of spaciousness, with ego identification absent from everything that was coming in the sense doors. When in that state I am perfectly alert and capable of handling everything (otherwise it would be kind of worrisome to have it hit while driving). Another such episode happened when I was in a meeting, interacting with a group of people around a table. It continued after the meeting was over, and I ran into someone who'd insulted me, and felt nothing but pleasant well-wishing toward her. I should point out that the very next day, when I ran into her again in my more "normal" state of mind, I was not wishing her well at all, but longing to tell her off emoticon. In any case, though, you've had a taste of freedom. Enjoy it; there's more where that came from!

Trying to explain this to others is very difficult. My husband, like your wife, nods sagely and says something along the lines of, okay, whatever. He's happy that I'm happy, but other than that, it's hard to get much across.

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/3/12 1:08 PM as a reply to patrick kenny.
Hi Patrick

It's great that you had this experience, and also good that it seems to have marked a shift in practice for you.

There will likely be more shifts if you continue to practice well, but letting the allure of that experience lead you into thought patterns about it is not helpful either in the short or long term. It was back in February you say...time to let it go ;-)

If you want to deepen your insight and move towards allowing nondual awareness to take root, then you need to practise well.

How do you practice well?

By letting go any thoughts of past "attainment" and concentrating on the experience of this moment.

Also, as a minor point, after a shift in practice there is usually a period of stabilisation or integration of the insight, until the "damage done" by the shift becomes the normal mode of perceiving. This can be very noticeable or just a subtle change. Either way, after any deepening, the game becomes subtler.

Keep going emoticon

Thom

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/3/12 1:20 PM as a reply to patrick kenny.
Jane and Thom, thanks for the feedback, it's very helpful and appreciated.

Shortly after this happened, I was motivated to test my new-found meditative stamina by going on my first residential retreat. I spent a week in meditation, and after a day or two of settling into a different rhythm, found it to be quite easy.

Jane: the day after I returned, while driving to work I shifted into a flavour of access concentration, which had never happened before. After a brief "Gah!" moment, I found that driving in that state was superior in every respect.

Thom: thanks for the reminder not to get hung up on past accomplishments. I strive for this every time I sit, reminding myself that "this IS the practice", referring to the sitting and mindfulness. This usually exorcises any focus on past attainments.

Incidentally, it wasn't apparent until I returned from the retreat, but I had established a profound sense of calm that I carried with me like protective armour...albeit armour that gradually deteriorated a little bit each day over the following week and a half, but still amazing to have experienced!

P

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/3/12 10:37 PM as a reply to patrick kenny.
Sounds like this was a non-dual experience. however it is tainted by a dualistic mental model of reality hence the perception of an 'ultimate background' (which I think is pretty common, when people first have these experiences).

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/4/12 11:29 AM as a reply to Thom W.
Hello again Thom,

Further to your point about "more shifts", something else began happening on the week-long retreat I attended, and has continued in my home practice. Whether doing anapanasati or noting techniques, when I am sufficiently focused I experience little, momentary "dips" in consciousness, which are experientially (for me anyhow) akin to snapping to in a classroom, and feeling like you'd just fallen asleep for a split-second.

I'm not sure if these are quite the same sort of "dips" that Daniel refers to in MCTB, but I suspect that they're related at least. Emerging from them will sometimes come with a small, physical jolt, and sometimes be initiated (or so it seems) by a buzzer-like audio sensation, which may just be an overly-focused awareness of my breath. During the retreat, I was worried that it might be too loud a breath, and I was disturbing my neighbours, but this didn't seem to be the case (or maybe they were just very polite). I've noticed that following each such "dip", there is consistently an out-breath, rather than an in-breath. I might experience one or two of these per sit, or if I'm very calm, I might have a series of them in one sitting, as I did last night (6 or 7 dips during 40 minutes of anapannasati).

Thoughts?

Again, thanks to all!
Patrick

RE: First non-dual experience?
Answer
7/6/12 11:31 AM as a reply to patrick kenny.
I addressed the above to Thom, but I'd be thankful for anyone's perspectives and/or insights...?

Many thanks,
Patrick