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This is stream entry? - thread#237

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This is stream entry? - thread#237
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3/9/17 4:59 AM
Hi there!

edit: I just noticed this became way more lengthy than expected.
I have marked the most important part with the key description of what happened during practice.


I guess, I finally have something to share, so this is my first practice report here.
Some background: I guess I stumbled into A&P about 2,5 years ago without formal practice.
Later I did the Goenka basic course, but left somewhat disappointed. I guess it didn't even get me up to A&P.
After that, I did the basic course in mahasi style vipassana earlier this year, which led me to (low?) equanimity.
Unfortunately, I didn't know the maps back then, and due to low faith failed to progress further. Not clearly being told about SE waiting ahead, I failed to consistently practice after the retreat and fell back to the beginning of the PoI.

After reading MCTB in May this year, I decided to take up practicing again, and started an at-home retreat in June (which you can do there by telephone, having completed the basic course), to which I will now refer to as simply " retreat".

I finished the course a few days ago and am quite confident this was SE, but if it isn't then I'd like to be pulled back to reality. Also I'm about to largely cut practice time for now, and if it wasn't SE, then this will push me back to the beginning of the PoI again, right?
However, if actually this was SE, I hope this report serves as motivation for people to see that actually it can be this simple and straightforward.
Also, I think that this report may be somewhat different from many of the other reports here.

START of main report:

Here we go!
I started with 2 hours per day for the first few weeks. (It is a slightly modified noting practice, 50% walking & sitting.)
After 5 weeks, I increased practice time to up to 6 hours a day, because I had to finish the retreat earlier (external circumstances). After about 5-6 weeks, I had crossed A&P territory, got into dissolution. After crossing A&P I completely laid aside the maps and decided not to look at them for the rest of the retreat. I think this was the right thing to do.
The dukkha nanas took me the other 2.5 weeks (crammed in one week). Amidst the most beautiful weather and intense summer temperatures, I was experiencing fear, disgust, misery and anger (aka desire for deliverance?) quite clearly. The contrast was quite hilarious.
At the end of week 8, equanimity showed up. Obviously, it wasn't as mature as was expected, since I was told to do an extra half-day until I started the determination phase (2 days meditating without sleep).
Up to this point, I was amazed at how predictable the whole process is. Still, I wonder, whether I was scripting parts of it, or suppressing possibly exciting parts of the experience. There were lots of thoughts about the process and which stuff should be appearing or not - also I was often disappointed, when phenomena appeared, which didn't quite seem to fit the current stage. (which was mostly at the beginning of sittings.) Precisely following the teacher's instructions ensured that this did not become a major hindrance.
Thus, equanimity stabilized further. At the first day of determination, I wished for the "phenomena of the arising and passing" to appear as often as possible.
I'm still not sure what this is about, and why it's not mentioned in MCTB (or I'm blind).
I think, Mahasi Sayadaw himself talks about this thing here, but this is just blind guessing. (see the chapter about equanimity)

Sometimes the rising, falling, touching, hearing, etcetera, together with the whole body may disappear and one is only aware of the mind arising and passing away.

It happened regardless, oftentimes manifesting as slight physical movements/muscle twitches, and a few times with the mind - something similar to a flash of white light interrupted the whole field of sensate experience.

On the second day of determination, before every sitting I wished for "the state of meditation without perception of external stuff" to appear for 5 minutes. (later 10 minutes etc.)
In the first sitting, I was unsurprisingly impatient for the thing to happen, thus nothing happened.
During this day, I noticed the stage changing slowly: I was expecting for formations to arise in a slow and gradual way and I thought vibrations would overtake.
Instead, it felt like nothing happened at all. Meditation became more and more ordinary. I became somewhat insecure. Finally, it felt like I wasn't meditating any more - no, I was simply going around slowly, occasionally calling things names. The rest of reality (outside meditation) seemed both strangely familiar and strange at the same time. In hindsight, all this is probably what high equanimity is all about, but as it didn't match my expectations, I was rather surprised. Which may even have been helpful.
Often I wondered why I should continue. Somehow I managed to not make into some ego trip, but just reminded myself that it was fundamental suffering which I wanted to leave behind.
All the time, while sitting, the mind started to do real strange things, imagining strange content, but without really buying into it, but without a distance to it, too. I don't know whether to call them visions, hallucinations, dreams or whatever. I also don't remember any content any more. Maybe those were the things which in MCTB are described as well, but at that time I ascribed all of this to the sleep deprivation.
In the first sitting, this thing happened after about 5 minutes:
I had a vision (dream? hallucination?) of pirates on a ship capturing me. They announced, that they would throw me overboard, right into nirvana. (wtf, lol.) I'm not sure as to exactly when this vision occurred, but apart from that what I remember is this:

While simply noting, more stuff seemed to appear. I felt that I noted something, but more sensate experience would just join in unaskedly. This repeated a few times. I had the impression that some patterns joined in to this experience, but I wasn't sure whether those patterns were visual or whatever. For some reason, I didn't really care about them that much. (So those are formations?)
Next, I remember that I was about to note the breath, but somehow the noting just stopped. So I just was with the breath (I'm not sure for how long. It may have been more than one breath, or not.), and felt strangely neutral to it. I think I didn't modify it, nor judge it, nor do anything with it, really. I think that this might be stage 12, conformity, but I'm just guessing by the name, since MCTB's section on conformity contains surprisingly little information.

The next thing I remember is that something felt different. I had the image of a double jagged crack on the background, breaking open to reveal black. I'm pretty sure that this image formed after the event, and was not the event itself, and I remembered it because there was nothing else to remember about it. There was no connection of what happened before to this crack-image, which, I thought, made it seem cessation-like. I was skeptical, and thought something along the lines of "sure that can't have been it? it must be more obvious? surely you must be able to feel the time which has vanished? Also, there was this pirate vision thing, so I must be scripting myself into believing that this was it?" Regardless, I opened my eyes to look at the clock (as instructed) to discover that 12 minutes had gone since the start of the meditation. I felt that the meditation couldn't have possibly lasted more than 5 minutes at all, thus I figured that 7 minutes had vanished. (which is 2 more than the 5 I had wished for.)
I closed my eyes again. Maybe 0.5-2 secondes after that, a bliss wave built up, became really distinct, and faded again. A mild bliss remained though. This thing was warm, pleasant and just there without making too much noise.
I got somewhat excited about it, opened my eyes again and tried to somehow find out, whether this was it. One part of me said "yes", the other one said "careful, don't talk yourself into it and waste the remainder of the retreat!"
I tried to find something which was different. I felt like something really was different, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I started to congratulate myself for attaining to it, but somehow congratulating myself seemed to feel like a bit of a joke. I was instantly reminded of this Shinzen Young video, where he explains that this is one of the downsides of enlightenment.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoAbCgmhqdM
In the next sitting, I found that more than 10 minutes were missing, but I have no recollection of anything happening - the mind had gone off imagining strange things as in the night before, suddenly something felt different and looking on the clock revealed the missing >10 minutes.

During the rest of the retreat, I wished that the thing would appear again (starting to play around with it rather than meditating correctly and thus ruining it), I didn't really have any motivation left thinking it's done, and I had a hard time with the sleep deprivation.

END of main report.

Reflections later on:
After the event I found some gratitude about the thing, the teacher, this "movement". I feel like the "structural crisis" which began 2 years ago after A&P is now over for good, and it's time to return to relative reality for some time.
I have often found myself caught up in a sense of self, and got quite anxious about it. Then suddenly, there is a change, and I'm like "Dude, what are you worrying about? There's no problem here!"

Although the mind is still somewhat neurotic, it seems to have stopped being neurotic about some things, but just which those are I can't actually tell.
Arrogance, insecurity, pride, ... still comes up. But somehow it seems to have lost most of its seriousness, and, when recognized, doesn't last long and doesn't do any damage.
This seems to be an enduring change, which is less spectacular than I hoped. Still, there is much of the sense of "this was necessary. not one minute of meditation was wasted for attaining to this. It's done. Now get on with your life."
It's also quite evident that there is A LOT of suffering left. But its nature seems to have changed somewhat, and it presents itself no longer as an existential crisis of unparalleled confusion for me.
I'm seeing how very beneficial the practice is, and I could imagine that this rest-suffering may gain importance in the future, and then I will try to get more paths/insight cycles/whatever.

As to my practice since the event:
I haven't done much.
I feel very unmotivated and often at the bridge of interrupting. Thinking goes along the lines of "dude! this thing is done for now! it was the right thing to do the retreat, but now it's really pointless! go back to your life and do something meaningful! there's absolutely no justification for doing the practice now! reduction of further suffering can wait" I never had those kind of thoughts during the retreat.
If I was to guess which nana it was... I don't know really. Maybe no nana at all. Or it may be dissolution, which would fit MCTB's descriptions. Or Mind and Body, equanimity or some stage that doesn't feel too spectacular.

Do you think there is any possibility that this is NOT stream entry? Some notes here:
-I don't have any clue about jhanas or concentration practice at all, so I can't use this "jhana jumping test".
-the probably-fruition happened 5 days ago. The notion that that was really IT hasn't wavered a bit since.


Anyway, assuming that this WAS stream entry, I have a few things which I feel may be useful to share:
-It actually IS possible to attain to SE in just a few weeks of time and you do NOT need to be on retreat to do it! (Although it certainly is far less spectacular with less side effects and ASCs.)
-This doesn't feel extraordinary or grand. I'd rather say it feels right and obvious. Which doesn't make it less valuable.
-Practicing with a teacher's guidance is just so valuable. I could never have managed this without. Correction of mistakes, warnings & encouragement are all three essential!
-Concentration practice isn't necessary for first path AT ALL! Dry insight practice works and can be very effective!
However, I don't have a clue why this specific technique leads to SE that fast, and whether this has any actual disadvantages.
-Most of the thing wasn't really intense (except the last 2 days), probably since it wasn't done in a full-time retreat center. I think that this may help some people get through A&P and the dukkha nanas with less devastating effects.
-I was faced with the decision of finishing up the insight cycle vs. fixing conventional life. I heeded Daniel's advice and decided to do insight first. This was in the face of depression-related anxiety and a whole host of related psychological problems. The anxiety was a bit hard to take, but eventually none of this proved to be a serious obstacle! Sincere desire to end fundamental suffering was absolutely enough to do the job!
I think that this was absolutely the right decision. I feel that dealing with the relative reality issues will be MUCH easier now.
-One of the most disturbing things right now is that I can't really convey any of this to anyone I know in person. Which sucks BIG TIME. Even the few people who assume that I'm not talking total nonsense can't really get what this is all about which is just so fucking sad. I didn't actually get too evangelical when on A&P, and now seems to be a much more appropriate moment.
-The maps are essentially useless after you know the important points (A&P is fun, but don't stop, stage 3 and 6-10 suck, but don't stop, stage 11 is boring, but don't stop). It's best to lay them aside. The expectation/scripting thing gets really unnerving, unavoidable as at is.
-I'm a bit confused with the notion of resolutions. At the beginning of the retreat, I used a simple wish to come as close to SE as possible. Is this just the same concept?
-I want to thank Daniel & this community for this awesome work. I'm not sure whether I'd ever have completed the progress without the faith which knowledge of the maps gave me.

RE: This is stream entry? - thread#237
Answer
8/5/12 6:05 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Not an expert so I didn't want to reply, but since no-one replies I'll give my 2 cents.

1) The jhana jumping test is totally fine; just find the time to stare at a disk (or anything solid for what matters) for some hours every day; if that was stream entry you will find that your concentration has improved a lot, the mind gathers really quickly, and after sometimes it will become kind of "locked" to the object you are looking at, and eventually plaesent sensations will arise in your body, then you just close oyu eyes sinking in them and, ofter sometime, you will probably figure out by yourself.
Something on this:
-If you are in EQ jhana will come very naturally regardless, so not a definitive stream entry test.
-However, regardless, jhana are a very good idea.

2)Cessation for the first time goes something like this: normal meditation, then a very short, totally different from usual meditation "strange" experience (the entrance, as described very accurately in the 3 doors chapter of MCBT) and then a clear discontinuity, a gap in the normal stream of consciousness, and then you are just back; you can't remember anything "inside" the gap, but somehow you know for sure there was a gap. You can re-read the "Was that emptyness?" chapter in MCBT for more info.

3)The repetition test is obviously the more obvious, but you may belong to the small part of stream guy who don't repeat the experience until 2nd path.

However, honestly, that does not look like stream entry to me. Usually, for example, in the days after you should be able to experience very clear and rapid cycling during the day. I'd like someone more experienced than me on this one, though.

If you want to clear your mind another thing I would raccomand is this: try to gain momentum doing fast noting (2-3times per second), until the nana you are in will be clearly revealed. You won't know if that was stream entry, but you will at the very least have a little more clarity on what is going on now. Also, fast noting in EQ is very conducive to jhana. And you if just stare at something for some minutes, you will find that fast noting comes very naturally and easily.
This was just to point out that does not have to be a one-or-the-other thing...

Hope it somehow helped... bye!

RE: This is stream entry? - thread#237
Answer
8/5/12 6:04 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
Something else:
-Sitting crossed legs is not necessary at all; I know you know, but I think it's worth repeating it; you can do it on a chair, or lie down on the bed. It's totally fine, maybe even better, because you mind is less distracted. If you want to keep you ability to sit on the floor for a retreat, you can just sit on your heels.

-Don't know how long you are practicing now, so many of what I suggested might have no sense at all. However, I think it's important for you to decide clearly what you want to do right now, in regard to practice. Maybe you want some clarity over what happened, in wich case my last advice I think is good. Maybe you don't really give a shit: eventually you will reach cessation, and then you will know if that was or was not stream entry, but by now you can really put the thing totally aside. Or maybe, since you know that the thing can be done in retreat time you can decide to put insight away and develop a strong conentration via jhana, mantra or anything, so the next time you will go on retreat you will have a very very strong foundation. Or maybe you want to keep the thing going, aiming for more cycles, aiming for getting paths off-retreat, wich is totally possible, but requires a lot of informal practice...
Once you will figure that out you will act consequentially...

Bye!

RE: This is stream entry? - thread#237
Answer
8/10/12 11:52 AM as a reply to M N.
Hey

thanks a lot for the advice!
To clarify:

2)Cessation for the first time goes something like this: normal meditation, then a very short, totally different from usual meditation "strange" experience (the entrance, as described very accurately in the 3 doors chapter of MCBT) and then a clear discontinuity, a gap in the normal stream of consciousness, and then you are just back; you can't remember anything "inside" the gap, but somehow you know for sure there was a gap. You can re-read the "Was that emptyness?" chapter in MCBT for more info.


Yeah, re-reading the chapter 2 times was the first thing I did at the end of the retreat.
I think that the description (also yours) fits the event I experienced quite well - the only thing that is missing is a clear memory of the three doors. There may have been something strange, but I don't remember anything about it.

I did meditate a few more times since that, but every time the mind was so noisy, that I couldn't determine what nana it was at all. In normal day life it's quite similar. I noticed a few times, that I automatically noticed more things, and sometimes spontaneous disgust. This may be signs of cycling, but I wouldn't be too sure of that.
Anyway, my impression is still, that the thing is done. The fetter of self-belief seems to just have vanished. The perception of self is still there quite often, and more so if I don't meditate, but it will mostly dissolve whenever noticed.
I thought that this was probably the most important thing to judge SE / non-SE.

-Sitting crossed legs is not necessary at all; I know you know, but I think it's worth repeating it; you can do it on a chair, or lie down on the bed. It's totally fine, maybe even better, because you mind is less distracted. If you want to keep you ability to sit on the floor for a retreat, you can just sit on your heels.


Yeah, sitting cross-legged isn't even the problem. The only problem is walking meditation. Which is bad enough, because leaving this out means taking all the effectiveness out of sitting meditation.

-Don't know how long you are practicing now, so many of what I suggested might have no sense at all. However, I think it's important for you to decide clearly what you want to do right now, in regard to practice.


Yeah, I noticed that I don't know and that this makes the meditation much harder to be done correctly.
Since I feel that the thing is done for now, I want to focus on a few things other than awakening, while still getting the benefits of meditation, such as relaxation and a calmer mind.
By the way, I can't see what would be the benefits of jhanas. If the thing can be done with dry insight in short time, then why bother?
I think that at some time, I will go to retreat again, and then I will see, whether the nanas behave different than they did in the retreat I just finished. This will probably tell me, whether this was stream entry in hindsight, or if this was just an unusually intense and somehow irrevocable insight into no-self other than SE.