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Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville

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Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/28/12 10:20 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/28/12 10:22 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 8/29/12 3:44 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Yadid dee 8/29/12 4:22 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 8/29/12 4:26 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 10:47 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Dodge E Knees 8/29/12 11:18 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Some Guy 8/29/12 12:02 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 12:36 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville N A 8/29/12 12:56 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Steph S 8/29/12 1:39 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 4:05 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Steph S 8/31/12 1:50 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 6:39 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Zyndo Zyhion 9/6/12 6:15 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/9/12 9:56 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 12:51 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Dodge E Knees 8/29/12 1:42 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 3:38 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 8/29/12 4:54 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 8/29/12 5:08 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 8/29/12 7:26 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 6:33 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 4:17 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Some Guy 8/29/12 5:15 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 4:26 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Some Guy 9/11/12 12:46 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Zyndo Zyhion 9/14/12 8:36 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Some Guy 9/14/12 9:30 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 9/15/12 2:44 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Zyndo Zyhion 9/18/12 7:00 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 9/18/12 4:05 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/14/12 6:31 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 9/15/12 1:48 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/18/12 11:38 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Tom Tom 9/19/12 2:31 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 4:14 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville This Good Self 8/29/12 6:50 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 8/29/12 10:29 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Richard Zen 8/29/12 6:17 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 6:21 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Richard Zen 9/5/12 8:02 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/9/12 9:47 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Richard Zen 9/10/12 9:01 AM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/11/12 12:26 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville This Good Self 8/29/12 7:43 PM
RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville Daniel Johnson 9/5/12 6:34 PM
Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/28/12 10:20 PM
You can see my other thread for where I was at pre-retreat.

Day 0: Feeling kinda ordinary, but also having lots of difficult memories flash into mind and then twinges of "negative" emotions coming after the thoughts and memories. Somewhat unpleasant, but also happy to be on retreat.

Day 1-3: A combination of feeling quite ordinary (like a sorta "this meditation isn't doing anything. It's not working" kind of regularness.) along with dark night type of difficulties (misery, despair, painful memories, etc.)

I was noting away for these days, doing my practice, but I had very few moments of any type of concentrated state of mind or any altered states or anything like that. It felt like I could just walk away and I'd be the same as when I arrived. This led to many thoughts of doubt in the mind, but I quite stricly noted them as "doubt, doubt..." etc. I think my noting was pretty strong, obviously not continuous 24 hours a day, because the mind would wander, with lapses of concentration. But, bringing the mind back to the object was pretty quick and easy.

I felt a lot of pain, anger, misery, disgust, hatred, depression, despair, hopelessness, and lots of painful memories. Lots of thought loops struggling to try to figure things out.

While at the same time, I'd say that these thought loops are quite noticably less "sticky" than they were in previous retreat. This seems like a very tangible benefit because the thought loop would last a shorter duration before letting go, and the level of strain or tension associated with such thought loops was considerably less... leading to less suffering.

Nonetheless, there were thoughts of suicide, deep depression and despair and quite a bit of hopeless agonizing suffering.

Day 4: Vipassana day...
This is quite typical for me on day 4 of a Goenka retreat, I will get very tense leading up to the 90 minute vipassana instructions, and then afterward relax into a much greater state of ease. Things turned around by evening, and I was feeling quite calm, and present

Day 5: First day of reaping some rewards
At this point, it became clear that the practice had been working to some degree. The negativity of the previous 4 days appeared whispy like waking up from a nightmare or dream. In this was the insight of anicca. Effemeral, changing phenomena.

I was quite at ease, and continued to note very consistently throughout the day. It required roughly the same amount of effort to continue to apply the mind, and not drift off into thought. With each retreat, I learn more about right effort. I know that CCC is fond of claiming that MCTB has overemphasized effort, but it is clear that a very very strong and determined effort is necessary. The problem, as I see it, is that the effort is not at all what I thought it was. And, I don't know if there was any way i would have known what proper effort would be without doing tons of practice. The effort now appears as a sort of peaceful vigilance. It is completely without strain, striving, judgement, craving, or anything. It is simply sitting by the mind like a parent sits by a restless child. When the child wanders, bring it back. When the child wanders, bring it back. But, there is never a sense of fighting the child. I experience this now during the difficult (Dark Night) stages, as well as the more peaceful stages. The drama of an inner fight has so greatly diminished since I began practicing three years ago.

Day 6: Another painful day, but not as bad as before.
Again, I was clouded with doubt, confusion, stuckness, etc. I noted it with strong determination. There were perhaps some thoguhts of suicide and despair, but the overall tone wasn't as tense as before.

Day 7: Perhaps the deepest into peace and stillness
Quite at ease and calm. I continued to work to keep the mind directly at the moment of experience. I got some sense of things synching up, but everytime I put attention on trying to allow the mind to synch with itself, this usually led eventually to wandering thoughts and daydreaming. I got better results just from patient noting. There were many insights on this day. I was surprised to learn so much about the nature of thoughts and what was there which I had never seen before.

Day 8: Started to have more thoughts about going home and finishing the retreat
My mind became more restless. It wasn't nearly as painful as the first three days, but I still had some difficulty. I continued to note diligently throughout the day.

Day 9: Mind was now very restless with wanting to get out of there, wanting to go home, planning for what I would do when I left, etc.
I continued to note it all quite diligently.


Overall, it doesn't seem too dissimilar to the last dozen or so retreats that I've been on. I learn a ton of stuff, many insights, and I come out a changed person for sure. The mind becomes less "sticky" and more clear. No idea how any of it relates to any of the maps.

I guess what I can relate to is similar to the discussion in the Hurricane Ranch podcasts. I notice that there are all sorts of phenomena in the mind which can be noticed and thus "disembedded" so to speak. It seems that my practice is like a systematic deconstruction of everything that arises and passes in experience, breaking it down to observe all the little sensations and phenomena. However, I don't know how this would relate to the supposed stream entry/fruition. According to the Hurricane Ranch discussion, it seems the total deconstruction of the entire field is associated with 4th path. So, what then is the threshold for 1st path? Is there some quantity of experiences which must be seen clearly in order to advance beyond fruition? It seems like this process will go on for quite some time, as it proceeds in small chunks at a time.

Another note, I still haven't become aware of some of the things which I guess become apparent in the equanimity nyana.... like "space." I still don't know what space is or how I would note it. When in a more equanimous state, I note things like calm, silence, quiet, peacefulness, looking, investigating, clarity. I also note things that aren't as clear, like: blankness, movement, change, shifting.

Although I don't know what equanimity nyana is supposed to be like or when fruition would come.... it still seems to me like it would take years more of practice to be able to get to what I imagine that state would be like.

I imagine it being like the whole mind is arising and passing without fragmentation as formations. (never seen a formation). I imagine there being a strong equanimity and concentration in noticing the formations, and I imagine the mind observing in this way for some time before slowing down and shutting off for a blip (fruition.) Is that anything like how it happens? I don't know. Sometimes it seems like people describe it more like they were just ho-hum going about their business, doing whatever and all of a sudden: blip! And, if that's the case, then it seems more like it'd be a matter of luck than of years of practice.

Anyway, I don't really do it for the maps (which seem to be somewhat overemphasized here), so I don't need this to get too heavily into a discussion of maps and fruitions and what not.

The bottom line is that I learned so much more about how my mind works, and in this process of learning, there is greater freedom. I guess, for now, that is enough to keep me going back.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/28/12 10:22 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
By the way, I have no idea how someone could go through three days worth of retreat-style dark nighting while doing at-home practice. Stretched out, that'd be like maybe a couple weeks of extreme dark nighting while meditating a couple hours a day. Crazy?

I may just stick to vipassana on retreats and do more actualist practice when I have to be functioning in the world.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 3:44 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Although I don't know what equanimity nyana is supposed to be like or when fruition would come.... it still seems to me like it would take years more of practice to be able to get to what I imagine that state would be like.


Why do you feel it would take years of more practice to reach equanimity from dark night or to get fruition? You are already there. Just sit daily enough to get into equanimity and stay there. If you're sitting in equanimity for weeks on end you'll eventually get a fruition. Increase your daily sitting time to stay in equanimity so it is your baseline. If you don't fall out of equanimity (or only once in a while), you will definitely be getting a fruition in the near future.

Day 6: Another painful day, but not as bad as before.
Again, I was clouded with doubt, confusion, stuckness, etc. I noted it with strong determination. There were perhaps some thoguhts of suicide and despair, but the overall tone wasn't as tense as before.

Day 7: Perhaps the deepest into peace and stillness
Quite at ease and calm. I continued to work to keep the mind directly at the moment of experience. I got some sense of things synching up, but everytime I put attention on trying to allow the mind to synch with itself, this usually led eventually to wandering thoughts and daydreaming. I got better results just from patient noting. There were many insights on this day. I was surprised to learn so much about the nature of thoughts and what was there which I had never seen before.


This is dark night -> equanimity (stuckness, confusion, despair -> peacefulness stillness).

You're already there! Don't wait for another retreat! By that time you'll be back in the dark night, then you'll meditate up to equanimity again and then the retreat will end before you get fruition again.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 4:22 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:

This is dark night -> equanimity (stuckness, confusion, despair -> peacefulness stillness).


Obviously just speculating here, but don't you think this could also be A&P?
got better results just from patient noting. There were many insights on this day. I was surprised to learn so much about the nature of thoughts and what was there which I had never seen before.


Although I experienced A&P several times as mind blowing, it also came several times as a kind of deep calm and immense relaxation.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 6:50 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:
It is simply sitting by the mind like a parent sits by a restless child.


This is a nice description and it reminds me...

I used to have a Grandma who would sit nearby me, and whatever mood I was in, whatever my behaviour, whatever profanity came out of my mouth, she would just sit peacefully and attend without judgment. There was no effort to change me. That's a real gift and I'll never forget it.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 10:29 AM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:
I used to have a Grandma who would sit nearby me, and whatever mood I was in, whatever my behaviour, whatever profanity came out of my mouth, she would just sit peacefully and attend without judgment. There was no effort to change me. That's a real gift and I'll never forget it.


Yeah, and in a way, don't you think that requires more effort than being a scolding parent, or a neglectful parent?

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 10:47 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
Why do you feel it would take years of more practice to reach equanimity from dark night or to get fruition?


Obviously, I don't know where I am or how long it would take to reach some place which I have no idea what it is.

But, going on what you wrote.... getting to equanimity in daily sits and staying there for a few weeks until fruition. I think that would take years more practice. Eqaunimity (if that's what it is) comes and goes as it pleases. It's not some thing I can just go into. It's not like I just sit and start at the A&P and rise up through the dark night, get into equanimity... etc. like other people describe. It's more like: I sit, and a bunch of stuff happens, and then the sit is over. And maybe some peaceful stuff happened or maybe some not so peaceful stuff happened. And, not in any particular order that I can discern.

Tom A Vitale:
You are already there. Just sit daily enough to get into equanimity and stay there. If you're sitting in equanimity for weeks on end you'll eventually get a fruition. Increase your daily sitting time to stay in equanimity so it is your baseline. If you don't fall out of equanimity (or only once in a while), you will definitely be getting a fruition in the near future.


I like your enthusiasm. I've been told this one so many times now, and I've done just as you say. Keep sitting in daily life.

The idea that I might not fall out of equanimity (or only once in a while) is awesome. I'm not sure what kind of meditation prodigy could achieve such a feat, but I guess maybe I don't have the genetics for it.

I don't even stay in equanimity while on a retreat, meditating 12 hours a day. How much can I increase my daily sitting time to do it while not on a retreat?

Tom A Vitale:
You're already there! Don't wait for another retreat! By that time you'll be back in the dark night, then you'll meditate up to equanimity again and then the retreat will end before you get fruition again.


Definitely, over the last few days since the retreat, I've spent a lot of time in the Dark Night, with perhaps a few dips into equanimity here and there. (assuming that's what these pleasant and unpleasant states are). So, I don't think I am "right there." And, like I said, I've been told this so many times now... and I've tried the advice to continue sitting at home, and basically the momentum eventually fizzles and the dark night material just makes life so much more difficult to function.

Maybe this is the dark night talking, but it is difficult when people here who obviously have a gift for meditative achievement give advice as though everyone else will also be a prodigy. For whatever reason, it seems that my mind is not as skillful at meditation. To me, this seems normal: not everyone has the genetics to play in the NBA, or to run a 4 minute mile. I have been fortunate to have genetic strengths in so many areas of life. Clearly, I make more progress than some people who meditate, but I think the DhOers some how neglect to see that they have a talent. I believe the Buddha referred to it as "dust in the eyes." Although, he probably would've accounted for it more by past lives and karma than genetics. (anyway, a small rant, but would love to hear what people think about it.)

By the way, I hope this doesn't come off as though I'm rejecting your advice. I appreciate the advice and appreciate all the comments. I was mostly trying to explain and clarify things.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 11:18 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Hi Daniel,

Tom:-

You're already there! Don't wait for another retreat! By that time you'll be back in the dark night, then you'll meditate up to equanimity again and then the retreat will end before you get fruition again.

Tom has a good point here, if you can reach EQ, it would be a good idea to continue gently doing vipassana at home until it becomes your cutting edge. In the process you may even learn to breeze through the DN every time.

I take it you've been through this many times over, and heard it all before, but just in case...! Do you do much concentration practice? I suggest you take some time to do dedicated samatha practice and really develop it, then when you are more confident, have a samatha session directly before you try vipassana. Dry insight can hurt sometimes, but a little jhana beforehand really seems to grease the gears and make the whole experience more pleasant.

The DN doesn't have to last forever or be a living nightmare. After I first passed the A&P, I spent a few weeks in pure samatha, mainly because I was scared of the DN, but then when I finally sat for vipassana, I made it right throught to EQ the first time. Once you've made it there, just keep gently doing it over and over: the mind knows how to do it now.

I really admire your fortitude in persisting when many others would have long ago given up. Good luck, keep it up.

Dodge.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 12:02 PM as a reply to Dodge E Knees.
Have you ever worked directly with a teacher in the Mahasi tradition? It seems like going to repeated Goenka retreats and not getting stream entry is par for the course - although you were doing noting.

I kind of doubt that you innately lack talent. That might explain why some get it in 6 months and some in 5 years, but 13 years.... Something just doesn't add up. I wonder if an experienced teacher working with you first-hand could figure it out.

Are there other instances of people practicing so doggedly for so long without fruition? (I really hope this doesn't turn into a Vipassana-bashing thread.)

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 12:36 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
J B:
Have you ever worked directly with a teacher in the Mahasi tradition?

Well, I don't know if Kenneth Folk counts, but I did phone calls with him for a couple months. I also spoke with Dan Ingram on the phone and he gave me some good tips.

J B:
I kind of doubt that you innately lack talent. That might explain why some get it in 6 months and some in 5 years, but 13 years.... Something just doesn't add up. I wonder if an experienced teacher working with you first-hand could figure it out.


To be clear, I haven't been doing noting practice for 13 years. I crossed the A&P without doing any meditation at all, just eyes open contemplation of life's mysteries. For about 5 years, I did all sorts of practices like yoga, tai chi, thai style anapanasati, self-help. I probably tried out over 50 different traditions. I narrowly escaped at least 3-5 cults. After about 5 years, I decided to focus more on life skills and did more self-help and psychological transformational work for the next 5 years. I rarely meditated during that time. Then, I did a vipassana retreat and for the last 3-4 years i've been doing vipassana. For about 2 years, I did Goenka only... and I think that took me from DN to equanimity (my guess). Then, I tried a few other vipassana traditions and have been doing noting for the last year or two.

I also wonder if an experienced teacher could help, but Kenneth told me that it wasn't working and suggested I find another teacher. I don't really have the money to afford a teacher, and I don't know really know who I would turn to who teaches this stuff. I asked tarin a few months ago and he told me to go to Daniel Ingram. So, we had a phone call which was helpful.

I'm open to advice.

But, on the other hand.... why is it so hard to believe that it might be accounted for by a certain predisposition? Everyone is different, why is it that we would expect any one particular person to follow any particular pattern?

On my retreat, I spoke with one guy and he said that for 20 years, he had been getting into some type of shamatha state where he was blown out with white light, completely absorbed. For 20 years, he said he wandered through traditions, never being able to make progress, because he would just get blown out by the absorption and nothing would change. Then, he found Goenka and has started making progress. But, I can't even imagine ever getting to a state where I could be absorbed into white light in such a deep state of concentration - maybe in another 20 years? He obviously had a talent for absorption which i currently lack, but he lacked the ability for doing insight. So, it was an interesting example of how different all of us are.


J B:
Are there other instances of people practicing so doggedly for so long without fruition?


Not that I know of. I would be interested to hear if there are. Of course, there are also the possibilities that I am:
1) Not past the A&P... and still in the first three nyanas
2) Well past stream entry and lost in some later path.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 12:51 PM as a reply to Dodge E Knees.
Dodge E Knees:
Tom has a good point here, if you can reach EQ,


I'm not sure, but as far as I know, I can't reach EQ. EQ happens sometimes. I don't seem to have any ability to reach it. Not that I'm aware of.

Dodge E Knees:
it would be a good idea to continue gently doing vipassana at home until it becomes your cutting edge.


I'm not sure what you mean by cutting edge, but from my understanding of the term, EQ is my cutting edge already. So, what do you mean by that?


Dodge E Knees:
In the process you may even learn to breeze through the DN every time.


I suppose this may happen eventually. It is certainly easier now than it was 2 years ago. Still, it's no breeze. And, this process of learning to breeze through the DN doesn't seem to be progressing at any incredible rate that I would expect breeziness in the next few weeks. Maybe in a few years it could be a breeze? It doesn't appear to just be some thing that can be willed into existence.

Dodge E Knees:
Do you do much concentration practice?

No, I don't currently do concentration practice. I have practiced such things in the past.

Dodge E Knees:
I suggest you take some time to do dedicated samatha practice and really develop it,

I suppose that could be another option. My experience shows that samatha practice aggravates the Dark Night just as much as vipassana. Anyone else notice this? At any rate, how long would it take to develop it? A couple years? I've put many hundreds of hours into samatha, and don't feel like I have yet developed it into a practical tool that I can use for any practical purpose.

Dodge E Knees:
Dry insight can hurt sometimes, but a little jhana beforehand really seems to grease the gears and make the whole experience more pleasant.

That's never worked for me. But, maybe it's just because my samatha skills are underdeveloped.

Dodge E Knees:
The DN doesn't have to last forever or be a living nightmare.

Well, it is what it is. I'm not going to argue with it or tell it that it should be something else. I'm more interested in what i can best do to deal with the situation.

Dodge E Knees:
After I first passed the A&P, I spent a few weeks in pure samatha, mainly because I was scared of the DN, but then when I finally sat for vipassana, I made it right throught to EQ the first time.

Incredible! I still can't even fathom how a person's brain could adjust to such a rapid change of perspective. You truly are a dharma prodigy. Be happy.

Dodge E Knees:
I really admire your fortitude in persisting when many others would have long ago given up.

Thanks. Perhaps some day when we have the Dharmys (an annual award ceremony for Practical Dharma practicioners)... i will win the award for most persistent. But, then again... I'm not sure i have much other choice. The only other options I can think of are:
1) Turn all my attention to career and relationships, and just try to do fun stuff all the time and develop the ability to not think about my inner world or do any inner exploration. Try to block it all out.
2) Suicide
So far, both of those options seem worse (and maybe also requiring greater effort) than just keeping on with the persistence, and keep doing the work that I find in front of me. Even if I work at it my whole life and die 50 years from now a chronic dark nighter, well... I hope at least i can just say that i gave it everything I had.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 12:56 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:
I also wonder if an experienced teacher could help, but Kenneth told me that it wasn't working and suggested I find another teacher. I don't really have the money to afford a teacher, and I don't know really know who I would turn to who teaches this stuff.

I'm fortunate enough to have a very technical Mahasi teacher where I live, running a weekly meditation group. He doesn't charge anything except dana. I have only recently discovered this and it's really great so far - phone calls hardly compare to structured weekly instruction and being able to ask technical questions face to face. Hopefully you'll be able to find something like that. The guy is Burmese, and it seems that most Mahasi teachers in North America are Burmese immigrants. If you can't find a teacher nearby, maybe try to do your next retreat at a Mahasi center instead of Goenka?

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 1:39 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:

Of course, there are also the possibilities that I am:
2) Well past stream entry and lost in some later path.


That's actually something I thought of a while back when reading one of your posts. I was like, I wonder if this guy has actually already landed stream-entry somewhere along the way - but for whatever reason just doesn't recognize fruitions. You have continually mentioned various baseline changes and insights that you have gained over the course of your practice. How about being as detailed as possible in describing here any major perceptual/baseline shifts where it was clear some aspect of suffering was gone and didn't come back, some aspect of or way of attaching to/relating to phenomena changed and didn't come back. What is your day to day perception like currently? How is it perceived that "you" do or do not seem to "relate" to phenomena? What things about suffering and sensations are really obvious all the time? What still seems like a mystery? What aspects of phenomena or reality seem especially interesting or what types of sensations/feelings are you very curious about investigating? Recurring themes/questions about experience you're naturally drawn to, etc.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 1:42 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
This meditation stuff really isn't all bliss and roses is it? I've obviously got off very lightly so far, but even so, I've never considered recommending it to any one I know, or really even talked about it much. I feel even more reticent now after reading your dharma history.

I'm amazed Kenneth Folk couldn't do anything for you, but maybe a teacher face to face in the flesh would be a better option.

Daniel Johnson:

1) Turn all my attention to career and relationships, and just try to do fun stuff all the time and develop the ability to not think about my inner world or do any inner exploration. Try to block it all out.


I'm sure I don't need to tell you that probably wont work, but seriously, having some fun is a good idea. Don't the AF crowd talk a lot about cultivating felicity and wonder? That is also one of the benefits of samatha: even if it doesn't further your insight, at least you feel good for a little while afterwards.

Take care.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 3:38 PM as a reply to Dodge E Knees.
Dodge E Knees:
This meditation stuff really isn't all bliss and roses is it? I've obviously got off very lightly so far, but even so, I've never considered recommending it to any one I know, or really even talked about it much. I feel even more reticent now after reading your dharma history.


Yeah, I don't recommend it to anybody either. I have another friend who has been struggling with Kundalini for the past few years and now is in such discomfort that he can no longer work and is asking for charity. I may put up another post here sharing his story.


Dodge E Knees:
I'm amazed Kenneth Folk couldn't do anything for you,


He said something like he didn't think our personalities were a good match. I suspect we were both projecting things onto each other. Communication was difficult for some reason. Although, I will say that what I was able to learn from him was very helpful. Most of the foundation of my noting practice is based on what he taught me.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 4:05 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
I wonder if this guy has actually already landed stream-entry somewhere along the way - but for whatever reason just doesn't recognize fruitions.


That's what Jill said to me also.

Steph S:
How about being as detailed as possible in describing here any major perceptual/baseline shifts where it was clear some aspect of suffering was gone and didn't come back, some aspect of or way of attaching to/relating to phenomena changed and didn't come back. What is your day to day perception like currently?


I find it difficult to respond to these questions. I kinda wish I knew the answer.

Steph S:
How is it perceived that "you" do or do not seem to "relate" to phenomena?


I can't find any "me" anywhere that is relating to things. My experience of "my self" is that I observe movement patterns in my psychology, as sensations or as thoughts or feelings, and they occur as a sort of mechanism of selfishness. Like, right now there is this story about how "I" am trying to figure out this meditation thing, and so "I" am writing here and looking for some answer to some problem. There are various thoughts, there is a sorta narrowing of attention with a certain focus, and there is the narrative. There is also a feeling tone of searching, clinging, straining. It doesn't particularly occur as though it is me... because I don't know what that me is that would be it. But, it doesn't occur as not me either, because it definitely is acting like a self.

But, when I am not looking, and I am just living my life... these patterns of a self continue all the time, quite engagingly. At times they are sorta all-consuming, where it is as though I am completely embodying this self.

None of it really makes sense to me. I can't really remember a time when I ever believed in some sort of self, like a spirit or soul residing inside the body. Maybe a long time ago?

I can't recall any time where I had an experience of no-self, or the self being in abeyance, or some non-dual state or anything like that.

Definitely there is the activity of a self, here, in my experience. I can't find a center to it, or the source of it. It seems causally linked, like a flow of reactions in the mind.

Well, that is the best I know how to describe it anyway. It is all quite confusing, and unclear.

Steph S:
What things about suffering and sensations are really obvious all the time?

Suffering is generally unpleasant. Sensations are changing. I guess. Another difficult question to answer.

Steph S:
What still seems like a mystery?


Lots of things seem like a mystery. What is this... this universe thing? Why is it so difficult for human beings to get along with each other?

Steph S:
What aspects of phenomena or reality seem especially interesting or what types of sensations/feelings are you very curious about investigating?


I've been fascinated by observing thoughts and the more subtle movements of the mind, because they often are so mixed up and jumbled about what they are. I'm also very curious about how to relate with other people without being manipulative, mean, selfish, petty, hypocritical, etc. And, I'm surprised by how difficult it is.

Steph S:
Recurring themes/questions about experience you're naturally drawn to, etc.


I don't know. I think I'm not great at finding recurring things in experience. I'm drawn to all sorts of stuff. Right now, I'm mostly curious about what I'm doing with my life.

Man, I find your questions so difficult to answer. I don't think I did a very good job answering them, but I thought I would give it a shot. It's very confusing for me, and it all just keeps shifting and changing.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 4:26 PM as a reply to Yadid dee.
but don't you think this could also be A&P?


Yes, it could also be three characteristics -> A&P. I stated it this way because of his earlier post where he stated he was "deep in the dark night" when practicing before the retreat. However, it's entirely possible that he was actually "deep in three characteristics," especially if he had just started intensively practicing after some time off.

Regarding statements about whether Daniel has already attained stream entry, that is possible too, as in my experience, progress is not entirely clear until things have been repeated many many times and then there is a better idea of what was going on when looking back in retrospect.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 4:54 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
I'm not sure what you mean by cutting edge, but from my understanding of the term, EQ is my cutting edge already. So, what do you mean by that?


I think he just meant equanimity next will become baseline, while now it is cutting edge. High equanimity would be your next cutting edge while low equanimity would be your next baseline. All of this talk is largely irrelevant and it is the dose of sitting time (without floundering in too much content) that is going to get you there. Like you said, perhaps you need a higher dose of sitting time than some other people.

However, it seems your mind tends to spins in a lot of content? Is it possible you could practice more samatha/access concentration sitting so that you can sit without your mind wandering into too much content? Are you able to access 1-4 samatha jhanas? (soft or hard versions?). One option would be to stop doing insight practices and learn to access the first 4 samatha jhanas (if you are unable to currently do so). In my experience, concentration can also amplify the stages of insight so that the next time you go on retreat the stages may be much more obvious and clear. I was able to access 1-4 samatha jhanas before I started doing insight practices.

One benefit of doing this would be that this would "suppress your hindrances" and may give an apparent alleviation to your "insight disease," so long as you keep sitting everyday and bathing yourself in the jhanic bliss and are able to keep your hindrances suppressed throughout the day. Though you would have to keep sitting quite regularly to keep up the suppression.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 5:08 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
But, I can't even imagine ever getting to a state where I could be absorbed into white light in such a deep state of concentration - maybe in another 20 years?


If you make concerted effort to sit for several hours daily, 1-3 hours, (forgetting insight for now) then I doubt it would take more than a year to get 1-2 soft samatha jhana (isn't the first samatha jhana a prerequisite for doing insight practices?). Once you get those then 3rd and 4th would come shortly after.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 5:15 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
... Then, I tried a few other Vipassana traditions and have been doing noting for the last year or two.


Ok, that clears up some. The expectations for results that people have here, far as I know, really only pertain to the noting practice. Whether or not that is the practice for you I have no idea, but I would say it's a little premature to decide it just doesn't work for you. Part of your sense of exasperation is based on all the years of searching that came prior to that.

Practicing to your edge every day seems like good advice. Personally, I find low EQ to be the trickiest stage. It can feel like no progress is being made for months.

Given your obvious predisposition to intensive seeking, it seems unlikely you have not passed A+P at some time, imho. More likely that you have gotten stream entry, although, even if you were never aware of cycling or cessations, I would think you would have more confidence in your path. How are your concentration skills? That would be an indicator.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 6:17 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Have you tried Shikantanza or noting "gones"?

Return to the source

I find the more I "do" the worse it gets. Noting sometimes helps but it often interferes with thoughts. It's nice to allow thoughts to arise and passaway by just looking at it as opposed to noting "thoughts". Don't add or subtract from automatic thoughts. Just allow all sensation to be as it is in the foreground and do less to examine other than just paying attention for it's own sake.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 7:26 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Here is another idea:

Have you considered trying to listen to binaural beats while you meditate? Such as downloading something like "holosync" software? I've only used these kind of things in probably a dozen sits, but it does seem to really help in sticking spots. Make sure to listen with headphones on only.

You'll really start understanding the koan: "the sound of one hand clapping" by doing this.

Try these links:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fmwkv6znFJo

http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?54739-Free-and-Accurate-Binaural-Beats-Alpha-Delta

Here is an old thread on this forum about holosync:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/598077

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/29/12 7:43 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:
C C C:
I used to have a Grandma who would sit nearby me, and whatever mood I was in, whatever my behaviour, whatever profanity came out of my mouth, she would just sit peacefully and attend without judgment. There was no effort to change me. That's a real gift and I'll never forget it.


Yeah, and in a way, don't you think that requires more effort than being a scolding parent, or a neglectful parent?


I'd definitely say it requires a lot more insight into human behaviour and a lot less effort. She knew resistance was a futile exercise. The ego wants to resist, wants to control, but the skill is in letting things ride. Mostly I was a well behaved kid, but when I had my moments, she'd meet it with Presence. I'd settle down immediately because.... well, what else can you do when met with presence? It transforms you.

Just saying I think you have the right approach with that analogy.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
8/31/12 1:50 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.

I can't find any "me" anywhere that is relating to things. My experience of "my self" is that I observe movement patterns in my psychology, as sensations or as thoughts or feelings, and they occur as a sort of mechanism of selfishness. Like, right now there is this story about how "I" am trying to figure out this meditation thing, and so "I" am writing here and looking for some answer to some problem. There are various thoughts, there is a sorta narrowing of attention with a certain focus, and there is the narrative. There is also a feeling tone of searching, clinging, straining. It doesn't particularly occur as though it is me... because I don't know what that me is that would be it. But, it doesn't occur as not me either, because it definitely is acting like a self.


Break down "patterns" more. This can help you especially with your intent mentioned below. There is a reason these "patterns" are appearing jumbled and mixed up. What is it that makes it seem like one thing causes another? What makes it seem like any two (or more) objects are related to create a pattern? What is a pattern? How is it assumed that something is a pattern?


I've been fascinated by observing thoughts and the more subtle movements of the mind, because they often are so mixed up and jumbled about what they are.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 4:14 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
However, it seems your mind tends to spins in a lot of content?


I don't know. How would you quantify "a lot"?

Tom A Vitale:
Is it possible you could practice more samatha/access concentration sitting so that you can sit without your mind wandering into too much content?


It sounds possible to practice more concentration sitting. I don't know if it would allow me to sit without wandering in content.

Tom A Vitale:
Are you able to access 1-4 samatha jhanas? (soft or hard versions?).


Not that I know of. But, I suppose it's possible.

Tom A Vitale:
One option would be to stop doing insight practices and learn to access the first 4 samatha jhanas (if you are unable to currently do so).


I suppose this might be an option. How does one learn to access the first 4 samatha jhanas?

Tom A Vitale:
One benefit of doing this would be that this would "suppress your hindrances" and may give an apparent alleviation to your "insight disease," so long as you keep sitting everyday and bathing yourself in the jhanic bliss and are able to keep your hindrances suppressed throughout the day. Though you would have to keep sitting quite regularly to keep up the suppression.


hmmm... suppression and apparent alleviation. Not the most enticing sales pitch.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 4:17 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
If you make concerted effort to sit for several hours daily, 1-3 hours, (forgetting insight for now) then I doubt it would take more than a year to get 1-2 soft samatha jhana (isn't the first samatha jhana a prerequisite for doing insight practices?). Once you get those then 3rd and 4th would come shortly after.


Can you direct me to some peer-reviewed studies to back up your time estimate? (just kidding, I know those papers don't exist.)

I'll say this much, I've probably spent more than a thousand hours on intentional samatha practice so far (mostly anapana). I don't know the method you suggest or where you get your data, but I am very skeptical of your one year estimate.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 4:26 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
I would say it's a little premature to decide it just doesn't work for you.


To be clear, I have been saying quite emphatically that noting practice does work for me. That is why I have been doing it. It just doesn't seem to yield the same results which other people report.

Jason B:
Practicing to your edge every day seems like good advice.


First off, I've found no way of practicing to my edge every day. Some days the edge comes, some days it doesn't. For instance, I arrived at the cutting edge of practice maybe twice during this 9 day retreat. And, that was practicing all day from morning to night.

Unless, perhaps, you mean practicing to that day's particular edge. That is more or less what I did for a year or two. I think it was useful for making progress in insight, but difficult to maintain functionality in the mundane activities of life.

Jason B:
I would think you would have more confidence in your path.


In terms of confidence of the path, it may sound weird but I think I'm pretty confident in terms of my path. When I read about stream entry and the end of the fetter of doubt in the path, I used to think that this one was crossed off the list many years ago. For me, it seems like the A&P event of 13 years ago eliminated any doubt about the path, in a general sense. I have doubts about techniques, theories, beliefs, opinions, etc.

Jason B:
How are your concentration skills? That would be an indicator.

I don't know. How do you measure concentration skill?

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 6:21 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
Have you tried Shikantanza or noting "gones"?

No, I haven't. I looked at that article, and it looks interesting. I'd like to try it when I get a chance. I also find that the more I "do" the worse it gets.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 6:33 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
Have you considered trying to listen to binaural beats while you meditate?


I used to do that a lot more. I would listen to hypnosis CDs a lot too. Like I said, I've tried a whole ton of stuff. I will look into downloading some of that stuff again.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 6:34 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
C C C:
it requires a lot more insight into human behaviour

Is insight passive, active, both or neither? (In your opinion)

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 6:39 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Break down "patterns" more.


Oh god, the patterns too? Is there any end to this breaking things down thing? emoticon

Steph S:
What is it that makes it seem like one thing causes another? What makes it seem like any two (or more) objects are related to create a pattern? What is a pattern? How is it assumed that something is a pattern?


dunno, but I like the questions.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/5/12 8:02 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
I'll put it to you this way. When talking to an instructor he told me that when I'm in equanimity I should stop noting. Stream entry happens on it's own. The equanimity I enjoyed with noting wasn't half as good as when I stopped noting and just paid attention to as many senses as I possibly could at the same time. It's almost like the noting represses thoughts too much and zooms in on the trees when you can allow the forest in the foreground. Noting did help all the way up until equanimity and I'm sure those who are skilled at it can go farther. (Eg. Noting more than one sense at the same time). If being present is easy for you then just watching the natural senses and relaxing in them (because there's nothing that needs to be done because they are automatic) should smooth out the "I got to get equanimity!" stress. Thoughts can be automatic too but you don't have to repress them with noting or add stories to them. Just let them drop. The only doing is to pay attention to what's arising and passing away and letting go of the graspy tension in the skull when the bubbling attachment strengthens. When you let go you are in your senses again. The way I am now (it probably will change more) I feel like the imperfections of my vision (grain/60 frames per second) and my other senses (notice how vision is dominant) are like a veil or blanket over my entire experience where I feel slightly connected with the atmosphere. It's right there in front of me all the time but the dependent origination is so quick that 3D desire/aversion object focus takes over and it's back to the normal chasing hunting mentality, which at the minimum is slightly stressful. When equanimity starts getting boring the brain seems to get tired of the chasing and naturally wants to let go. This means it's getting more normal. The elation and release from prior shifts is less intense now and more comfortable like a new habit is settling in.

Shikantanza is almost like a non-meditation meditation. For me that subtlety is helpful.

Good luck!

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/6/12 6:15 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Hi Daniel

I experience similar problems on my last 13 week retreat in Malaysia with Sayadaw Dr Sunanda. Yeah its a lot of dark night for a bit of equanimity. I started working with some samadhi trying to increase my level of concentration to 'really' get into high equanimity.

Having received advice that I should be able to sit for 4 or 5 hours if I'm in High Equanimity, but only really getting 2 and half at best, on best days. The samadhi did make things easier and I like the idea from Michele McDonald that practices like Metta or any Samadhi Practice can be good places to have a rest from the intensity of insight. Though some days I just can't do any Samadhi only insight occurs, lol can't escape! Or take a short cut up to Equanimity on the back of concentration, might sound like a bit of a cop out but who gives a fuck when your going crazy!

I personally have reached the conclusion that my concentration isn't good enough. Also it can be annoying feeling that upward pushing sensation of late mastery with its full intensity and tension a lot of the day or low equanimity, not to mention just dark night. And this idea that its all so static seems a bit full of shit, equanimity can so easily be lost with shifts in perspective, and even gained and turned from re-observation into low equanimity. Its all a bit of a seesaw, we don't cycle up like perfect stream-enterers. Though there are lulls in the cycle, falling back to pleasant states of low mastery or sitting on the high edge of a cycling of late mastery when everything breaks apart into peace and space mimicking high equanimity but still lower down on the fractal or sitting on the fence between the two, I realise I requiring more concentration to actually keep it there or cross it over or deepen it its full blossoming state. But as for the real High Equanimity, the plan is to continue working for a period in the morning on Access Concentration using Allan B Wallace's map and then moving on to Insight when the minds a bit sharper. But its not all smooth sailing, as sometime I can't do anything but insight and have to ride it up dry through the dark night or sometime the mind just isn't sharp enough and its going to be a dark night day. Keep at it bro full commiseration's on this fucked up amazing shit. Its there waiting for us maybe another 3 months or 6 or even another year or 2 but its there! Neem

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/9/12 9:47 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:
I'll put it to you this way. When talking to an instructor he told me that when I'm in equanimity I should stop noting. Stream entry happens on it's own. The equanimity I enjoyed with noting wasn't half as good as when I stopped noting and just paid attention to as many senses as I possibly could at the same time. It's almost like the noting represses thoughts too much and zooms in on the trees when you can allow the forest in the foreground. Noting did help all the way up until equanimity and I'm sure those who are skilled at it can go farther. (Eg. Noting more than one sense at the same time). If being present is easy for you then just watching the natural senses and relaxing in them (because there's nothing that needs to be done because they are automatic) should smooth out the "I got to get equanimity!" stress. Thoughts can be automatic too but you don't have to repress them with noting or add stories to them. Just let them drop. The only doing is to pay attention to what's arising and passing away and letting go of the graspy tension in the skull when the bubbling attachment strengthens. When you let go you are in your senses again. The way I am now (it probably will change more) I feel like the imperfections of my vision (grain/60 frames per second) and my other senses (notice how vision is dominant) are like a veil or blanket over my entire experience where I feel slightly connected with the atmosphere. It's right there in front of me all the time but the dependent origination is so quick that 3D desire/aversion object focus takes over and it's back to the normal chasing hunting mentality, which at the minimum is slightly stressful. When equanimity starts getting boring the brain seems to get tired of the chasing and naturally wants to let go. This means it's getting more normal. The elation and release from prior shifts is less intense now and more comfortable like a new habit is settling in.

Shikantanza is almost like a non-meditation meditation. For me that subtlety is helpful.


No offense, but this really didn't make any sense to me in any practical way. You're saying that it will happen on it's own and all I have to do is non-meditation meditation and keep doing non-doing until the mind non-does the doing of it on it's own? Sounds to me kinda like you basically have no clue how you got stream entry, and so you are sorta doing an after-the-fact explanation or rationalization to ease the mind which likes explanations.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/9/12 9:56 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
neem nyima:
Yeah its a lot of dark night for a bit of equanimity. I started working with some samadhi trying to increase my level of concentration to 'really' get into high equanimity.

Having received advice that I should be able to sit for 4 or 5 hours if I'm in High Equanimity, but only really getting 2 and half at best, on best days. The samadhi did make things easier and I like the idea from Michele McDonald that practices like Metta or any Samadhi Practice can be good places to have a rest from the intensity of insight. Though some days I just can't do any Samadhi only insight occurs, lol can't escape! Or take a short cut up to Equanimity on the back of concentration, might sound like a bit of a cop out but who gives a fuck when your going crazy!

I personally have reached the conclusion that my concentration isn't good enough. Also it can be annoying feeling that upward pushing sensation of late mastery with its full intensity and tension a lot of the day or low equanimity, not to mention just dark night. And this idea that its all so static seems a bit full of shit, equanimity can so easily be lost with shifts in perspective, and even gained and turned from re-observation into low equanimity. Its all a bit of a seesaw, we don't cycle up like perfect stream-enterers. Though there are lulls in the cycle, falling back to pleasant states of low mastery or sitting on the high edge of a cycling of late mastery when everything breaks apart into peace and space mimicking high equanimity but still lower down on the fractal or sitting on the fence between the two, I realise I requiring more concentration to actually keep it there or cross it over or deepen it its full blossoming state. But as for the real High Equanimity, the plan is to continue working for a period in the morning on Access Concentration using Allan B Wallace's map and then moving on to Insight when the minds a bit sharper. But its not all smooth sailing, as sometime I can't do anything but insight and have to ride it up dry through the dark night or sometime the mind just isn't sharp enough and its going to be a dark night day.


Yes, yes... so, I am not the only one. What you write seems to actually match with my experience more than anything else that anyone else has written.

According to your teacher's standard, I certainly have never entered High Equanimity (4-5 hour sits). I, too, could sit about 2.5 hours at best, but I don't sit that long because I like to keep my legs fresh. On this recent retreat, my longest sit was probably about 1.5 hours with no change in posture.

I might check out that Allan B. Wallace thing, although I'm more considering just re-igniting my actualism practice... it seems way more practical given that there are no dark night side effects to deal with, and also since it may be a more direct path to the goal I seek.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/10/12 9:01 AM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
My instructor told me to stop noting because at equanimity all you need to do is pay attention. It's subtle but you simply look at all your senses (including thoughts) and only look at them. You are doing in the sense that you are paying attention but you aren't noting from a fabricated location behind the eyes. Don't add to experience and don't repress experience. Just look at it. I'm not at stream entry yet but I'm already using self-referencing less. With noting I found I was blocking thoughts. By allowing thoughts and just seeing them arise and passaway without any noise from noting it became easier to disembed. You still are technically noting but you aren't word labeling. At this point for me it's just small vibrations so noting has to either lower intensity and increase speed with "dat dat dat" like Daniel does or to just look clearly at the vibrations until you realize that you in your senses is reality and you in concepts is just concepts arising and passing away. The pain of attachment is there and you can release it just the same. I'm not at stream entry yet but I'm getting more results than when I was just in equanimity and constantly noting. It got to the point that I was using my conceptual you as the "noter". AEN also has a book that goes into Dzogchen practice that would explain it much better than I can so I recommend looking at that as well.

Good luck, which ever method you use. emoticon

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/11/12 12:26 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard Zen:

Good luck, which ever method you use. emoticon


Thanks Richard emoticon

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/11/12 12:46 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
Daniel Johnson:


Jason B:
How are your concentration skills? That would be an indicator.

I don't know. How do you measure concentration skill?


In Jhanas.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/14/12 8:36 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Bro, that depends on whether your using a soft & hard jhana map to describe Access Concentration in terms, of a relatively easy attainment. Or a traditional Jhana Map that describes Access Concentration, in terms of being able to sit for at least 4hrs. In B. Alan Wallace's book 'The Attention Revolution' in the Tibetan Shamata tradition, one current unnamed Yogis is described as not being in Jhana and able to sit for 7hrs without discomfort, in the Siddhi of the pliancy of the body. In this Tibetan Map, this practitioner is still in Access Concentration.

There are traditional arguments with scriptural quotes for the paths being attained without Jhana. Not to mention living cultural traditions, i.e. the Mahasi Tradition. In the Mahasi Tradition, High Equanimity is seen as a 4 to 5 hr achievement, keep in mind when I am saying High Equanimity I am using Daniel Ingram's description of Mahasi's Model that elucidates the sub nana's which are very briefly described in, 'Practical Insight Meditation' or 'Progress of Insight', one of the two at least. ( This is the nana's link but it was down that day, so I hope this is only temporary). In that Nana Map the stage of, Equanimity Regarding Formations is divided into 4 categories or sub-nana's. And it is the the 4th sub-nana of High Equanimity, that is concentrated with pliancy of body, to a level of being able to sit for at least 4 hrs.

Some people in discussion have tried to define Access Concentration as a very low level state comparative to a General Mindfulness, i.e. being able to maintain attention without forgetfulness of the object. When using the 10 stage model of Tibetan Shamata this General Mindfulness is the 4th stage in the Jhana Map, and it is the 9th stage that is considered to be Access Concentration.

Below, I have summarised the Thai Map, which is a 'Traditional Shamata Yanika Theravada Map' from Ajahn Brahm's book, 'Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond'. This Map has also been Validated to me personally by the only Monk able to ordain in the Thai Forest Tradition in Australia, since Ajahn Brahm was disqualified from the Thai Tradition for breaking with it. They see the level of General Mindfulness that is described as Access Concentration by some people as merely an earlier stage of mindfulness, also at stage 4.

Before we look at these Shamata Yanika Maps of concentration, I would like to add a link to a Face Book site were someone describes Access Concentration and also they suggested this is the Burmese and true definition of Access Concentration. This description of Access Concentration is indicative of of what some people use to Describe AC within the Mahasi Tradition, but in my readings of Mahasi and Sayadaw U Pandita (there may be something in, 'In this Very Life') this doesn't always seem quite so definitive, and I would gladly receive some quotes that define AC from the Mahasi tradition in this way to affirm to me that they distinctly have this view! General Mindfulness is AC and this is indicative of the kind definitions of it, within this thread and these are quotes from the thread.

What U Pandita and Ingram mean by access concentration is completely different from what Brahm and Wallace do. In the dry-insight tradition, access concentration means only being able to consistently pay attention to an object. This means, the minimum mental stability required to observe the three characteristics.
As you rise through the insight stages, reaching equanimity concerning formations, you may (if on intense retreat) be able to sit for such a long time.
Wallace and Brahm, on the other hand, want you to work on really deep levels of concentration and stability before paying attention to the three characteristics and attaining the insight stages. And that means being able to sit for such a long time regardless of the insight stage you're at.

Neem, it is one thing saying that really high on the insight path you'll be able to sit for a long time, with many jhanic qualities; it is another saying that you have to sit for a really long time for attaining access concentration. They are not the same: 1) in the dry-insight tradition, access concentration is kept to a bare minimum and is used straight away to lead you through the insight stages. (Once you get to high equanimity you will have many jhanic qualities to your experience and teachers tend to push students for really high level of effort at this stage (as a lot of people get stuck here)). 2) That is compleatly different from what Wallace is saying. He wants you to work on really hard jhanic states, which he names access concentrarion, even before any insight stage. That means sitting for four hours before mind and body, cause and effect, and so on.
Your identification of their individual and separate claims is not accurate, as they are not referring to the same thing.


Here are my notes from Ajahn Brahm book:

The 7 stages of Jhana In the Thai Shamata Yanika Tradition

Stage1:
Present Moment Awareness: Be here now, listen, look, feel body awareness.

Stage2:
Silent Present Moment Awareness: Bring the mind to the now, free from the past, future & elsewhere. Sense the space & silence of mind.

Stage3:
Silent Present Moment Awareness of the Breath: Spacious silent Awareness, in the now relaxing the body, starting to follow the breath. Breathing in the now calmly…Breathing out the now calmly, allow the natural breathing.

Stage4:
Full Sustained Attention on the Breath: Attentive moment to moment awareness of the in & out breath.
This is reached by letting go, relaxing into the attentive moment, not through forceful attentiveness
You do not do reach this stage the mind does. this is where the doer, the major part of one's ego, starts to disappear & unity and peace start to become present.

Stage5:
Full Sustained Attention on the Beautiful Breath: The beautiful breath is when we maintain the unity of consciousness by not interfering the breath which will begin to become subtler, smooth and peaceful. Take time to saviour the sweetness of the beautiful breath (as Piti needs to be developed). You do not do anything, if you try to do something at this stage, you will disturb the whole process, from now on the doer has to disappear. In the later stages the breath will become very subtle and eventually disappears, all that's left is the beautiful, the mind is now taking the mind as its own object.

Stage6:
The Beautiful Nimitta: When one lets go of the body, thoughts and the five senses (including awareness of the breath) so completely that only a beautiful mental sign remains. Also the Breath and Space can be a Nimitta though this is not described much in this book. Some see a white light, some a gold star, some a blue pearl, for others perception chooses to describe this in terms of a physical sensation such as intense tranquillity or ecstasy; these are not physical perceptions associated with the body or the eyes.

Qualities of the Nimitta:
1) It appears only after the meditator has been with the beautiful breath for along time.
2) It appears when the breath disappears. (Some argue this is merely the perception of the breath which has become extremely subtle others that it has stopped all together)
3) The external 5 senses are completely absent.
4) It only manifests in a silent mind.
5) Strange but powerfully attractive.
6) It is a beautiful simple object.

If the nimitta is dull or unstable, flashing and disappearing in both cases one should go back to the previous stage.
The weak nimitta is caused by not enough depth of contentment and wanting, let go of the doer and enjoy, let the mind incline where it wants, which is usually the centre of the nimitta. If no nimitta arises after the breath disappear and instead peace, space, nothingness or emptiness is left, (this is not jhana) this could be because there isn't enough piti or sukha. Within the calm-space, cultivate the contentment into delight, delight is generated by letting the energy flow into the knower, strengthening present moment awareness, which will increase bliss and then the nimitta will appear. It is possible the nimitta is a feeling nimitta, of strong bliss, but this nimitta is more difficult to gain access to jhana with (in this situation space may be associate).

Stage7:
Jhana: Attention gets drawn into the centre of the nimitta or the the light expands to envelope you, let the mind merge into bliss, then let the jhana occur. The obstacles of exhilaration and fears need to be subdued in favour of complete passivity to attain.

The qualities of Jhana:
1) It usually persists for many hours. (Scriptures state proper Jhana or full accomplished Jhana is 24 hrs, I think 10-12 may be enough for the first time.)
2) Once inside there is no choice, emergence occurs naturally when the accumulated fuel of relinquishment is used up.
3) It is impossible to perceive the body, sound, think or perceive time.
4) It is not a trance but a heightened state of awareness of bliss that doesn't move.

Any way those are my notes about Jhana from Ajahn Brahms book and basically how the Theravada Samatha Yanika tradition views Jhana. And next are the notes from, 'The Attention Revolution' by B. Allan Wallace.

The 10 stages of Jhana in the Tibetan Shamata Yanika Tradition.

(I skipped the first 3 which are aiming rubbing and no there yet i.e. initial application; vitakka, sustained application; vicara and getting it but not at sustained mindfulness)

4th Mindfulness you've finally learned to really meditate: coarse excitation has gone you can maintain you awareness of the object i.e. rising and falling or just attention in the moment with kanika samadhi. the object shifts beneath the thoughts and is held with mindfulness above the thoughts, but not lost.

5th Medium and subtle excitation occur, subtle excitation are thoughts going on in the background also we have coarse laxity meaning you can't stay awake sometimes.

6th There is some satisfaction here without resistance: excitation is subtle, but it you don't use introspection (of laxity & excitation) it may quickly become coarse dragging u back to 4th or 5th lvl. Laxity becomes moderate, meaning the object just isn't clear if it isn't clear you try to hard or you concentration fades for lack of an object and you fall back into with and there is resistance i.e. some difficulty maintaining this pleasant ease.

I should note here that concentration is considered to be built upon relaxation; the foundations, stability;the wall & vividness the roof.

7th Excitation has gone but may return at a subtle lvl. Laxity is now subtle things start to get really good around here you can sit for 2 and half hours or more.

This is where you are in comparative terminology in my opinion after the fast flowing vibration push upwards lifting the body in the insight janas.

8th There is no excitation and laxity, maybe a bit at the start of the sit. any effort but the slightest here may ruin the relaxation, lose the stability and evaporate the vividness.

9th is access concentration and one can sit for at least 4hrs with pliancy & ease.

10th is jhana:

I state these last 3 levels are hard to acquire and subtle and directly applicable to letting go into high equanimity.

Still working on the following Passaged that I gathered from other threads that I have written in, nearly finished! I will start a new thread with this entry once finished!

I have spent the last 2 ten week retreats exploring Jana along with Insight. I believe you can't attain stream-entry without access concentration. After all this time studying and practicing, I've only just put it into perspective in the last 6 months, that is, what the achievement of Access Concentration really is.

Mahasi teachers Sayadaw Dr. Sununda and Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. have both directly told me while on retreat with them, that when one is at the peak of Equanimity Regarding Formations one achieves a pliancy of body that allows one to sit for at least 4 hrs i.e. with great ease of body; they were specifically talking about the final stages or the sub-nana High Equanimity. This physical pliancy of being able to sit for 4hrs is the same equivalent standard of pliancy for Access Concentration within the Samatha Tradition.

Practitioners believing they are opening out into High Equanimity or the final stages of Equanimity Regarding Formations may having referenced Daniel Ingram's Nana Map and believe they have attained High Equanimity (Here are his descriptions of H.Eq.: panoramic, near perfect, airable, peaceful, ordinary, boredom, forgetfulness, balance, deep wisdom seems very natural and ordinary attachment to mastery vanishes, effort to attain or do vanishes, it all happens by itself.).
After the intensity of the fast flowing vibrations associated with the description of Late Mastery have pasted, and if one is experiencing enough of the qualities associated with H. Eq. as stated in the description above, but is still only sitting for two and a half hours, your not there yet.
This is what teachers Sayadaw Dr. Sununda and Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. have both directly told me. Sayadaw U Pandita Jr. is the fellow that helped Daniel Ingram attain Arhatship, he has stated in his book.
Even though the experiences stated above, may fit those descriptions of High Equanimity, I sate that what is occurring is the rising and falling or the micro-cycling of the nana stage of Late Mastery, as it refines within its self toward H. Eq.. At this point one is at the doorway or precipice like state, that sits between Late Mastery & High Equanimity or alternately, sits at Late Mastery's peak after the fast flowing vibration stage is finished.
It's here you experience an openness that mimics the factors of High Equanimity, but it's not there yet. It's this state that you cycle up and down from and refine before you attain the real High Equanimity, which requires more concentration! Or more Mindfulness and more Khanika Samadhi i.e. concentration.

You can't attain Stream-Entry without Access Concentration, a book by Bikku Bodhi that referenced the Sutta's as well the Visuddhimagga stated. Though Bikkhu Bodhi came from a Samatha Tradition he found references in the Sutta's and the Commentaries that support the notion of attaining Stream-Entry from Access Concentration and therefore from Dry-Insight.

The Visuddhimagga which retains the original description of The 16 Stages of the Path describes Access Concentration in a Shamata Yanika way! The Visuddhimagga references Jhana as being a 24 hr attainment when fully mastered. Jhana may be accessed in a shorter period of 8 to 12 hrs and one can chose to shorten Jhana to the time one desires as one gains control of it, also there is the possibility one may attain full Jhana for a shorter period. But it you've attained to Jhana you should be able to do at least an 8 hr sit on another or many occasion, to confirm your attainment of jhana and then begin to move up to 12 hr minimum sits or even 24 hr sits to confirm and fully consolidate the attainment.

Dry-Insight is an ambiguous thing in the Sutta's and Bikkhu Bodhi thinks there are only clear precedents for the the attainment of of the lower 3 Paths in the Sutta's and quotes different Sutta's to show that. I'm not putting all my eggs in the Sutta Basket either. But often after attainment it is easier to attain high levels of concentration Daniel Ingram, states, and else where he also made reference for the need for strong levels of concentration to attain stream-entry.
So in respect to those themes how many Arhats attained without any Jhana, Bikkhu Bodhi state that there are only a few ambiguous references in the Sutta's of anyone attaining full Arhatship as a Dry-Insighter, compared to thousands of references to Jhana based attainments? At minimum Dry-Insight requires Access Concentration as described by Bikkhu Bodhi in his Sutta References.

The Sutta's when referencing Attainment, often refer to period of concentrated where insight is present, sometime this concentration is clearly post Jhanic states of concentration, other times concentration is just stated as being present. So these people are in high states of concentration, very close to Jhana or in post Jhana states i.e. A.C. where they are able to contemplate clearly. Coming from the Suttric position of someone like Bikkhu Bodhi he talks about people attaining Path from Access Concentration, before and after jhana. All the Sutta's make reference and prioritise the need for concentration to attain but an interesting point is that they don't actually distinguish between Jhana and Access Concentration, B. Alan Wallace stated in his book. So therefore it is from A.C. that we are attaining, as described by the Samatha Yanika Tradition. As this is comparative to H. Eq. because good concentration is required for the pliancy of body associated with a 4 hr sit and for attainment within Equanimity Regarding Formations. Also because Jhana is traditionally describe as being devoid of thought and therefore investigation, as total fixation is in place, the ability to investigating changing phenomena must be post Jhana, i.e. A.C. is seen as the platform for investigation in the Samatha Yanika Tradition. Basically I am going back and forward in cross referencing argument.

For Access Concentration to be the bases of the attainment of path it needs to be investigative, it has to change from a fixed object when in jhana to a changing object or one cannot realize anything. This is the state of Samadhi that is described as the basis of attainment in the Sutta's. Access Concentration is not that different from Kanika Samadhi, and investigating in Access Concentration is likely at the same level as High Equanimity, if the investigation is good, actually I believe they are the same. During the development of Shamata over the Ten Tibetan Stages, it is really only in the last 3 stages that one really starts to develop some fixation on an object. And it would be more correct to say that its only in the last stage i.e. Jhana that full fixation is actually achieved. Before then there is a reliance on qualities of investigation to develop the practice. So Shamata cannot be developed without functions of wisdom being developed, this is another reason they are the same.

The level of concentration at High Equanimity using Kanika Samadhi to the level of Access Concentration is 4 or 5 hrs. But one can easily slip into spacious states of Samadhi that I have experienced that are like 5th Jhana: (some would call that a soft 5th Jhana) no body awareness, next to no thought, high lvls of peace, bliss and ease of body sitting for 1 & a half to 2 & a half hrs. This is still not enough concentration, and not at the lvl of concentration described as Access Concentration in the Vissudhimagga and by the Shamata Yanika Traditions. Which brings us again full circle back to me reminding you of the students of Mahasi Sayadaw telling me, of sitting 4 to 5 hrs for High Equanimity and Ajahn Brahm and the Tibetan tradition saying the same time period is required for Access Concentration. What a coincidence, I think not!

By the way, the later two teachers would be saying you need full Jhana with the ability to sit around 8 to 12 or even to 24 hours to attain. But not only are there Suttric references that state otherwise, but there are living traditions that give evidence to the minority of reports in the Sutta's, of people attaining with Dry-Insight. I believe attainment is definitely available to the Dry-Insight practitioner, but only to those who have attained Khanika Samadhi to the level of Access Concentration. This can be either with Khanika Samadhi / Momentary Concentration or Access Concentration Upacāra-Samādhi (which working towards Appaṇā-Samādhi) or both! Because the difference between Kanika Samadhi and Fixed Attention is not that distinct.

Now to clarify an additional point or two, I'm not saying that Ingram's definitions of soft & hard Jhana that can include thoughts are without validity, I don't know, but I definitely wouldn't water down Jhana or Access Concentration to the random experience of Jhanic factors that can arise in the earlier stages of Samadhi. The Jhana/Samata Yanika Traditions are defining Access Concentration in the ball park of 4 or 5 hours, so whatever your so called experiences of Jhana are, they're not really at the required level of the attainment of stream entry if you can't attain access concentration or equanimity to the level of around 4 to 5 hours as I have defined it earlier.
Yeah sure some dude may have attained in 1 hour, that doesn't mean they didn't have access concentration to the level I stated before though. Though for most us, we may have to do the hard work, and if we haven't done a 4hr sit, we probably wont get Stream Entry.

There is a larger predominance in Buddhism of viewing Buddhist Practice throughout the world in the context of the Samatha Tradition, basically the Burmese are the only Dry-Insighter's. It would seem to be broadly ignorant to disregard all other Buddhism's definitions of Access Concentration and Jhana, and the Visuddhimagga that describes Jhana as a very high lvl of attainment. So if you give some relevance to what Shamata Yanika describes as Access Concentration what we get is a clearer definition of H. Eq. that is supported by the scripture more clearly and is built from a base of A.C. or its equivalent level in Khanika Samadhi! What is occurring is a cross reference, where each supports by the other. Because H. Eq. need 4 hrs and the description of Shamata Yanika AC also need 4 hrs, this actually validates both Yanika Traditions.


With Metta & Rejoicing in Enthusiastic Practice,
Neem.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/14/12 9:30 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Ok, well, regardless of how you analyze it, you will find that after stream entry your concentration ability increases dramatically. This is in response to Daniel wondering if he got stream entry without knowing it.

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/14/12 6:31 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Jason B:
Daniel Johnson:


Jason B:
How are your concentration skills? That would be an indicator.

I don't know. How do you measure concentration skill?


In Jhanas.


And if I have no knowledge of ever attaining a jhana, how would I measure concentration skills?

That is to say, it's possible that I have attained a jhana, and some people here claim that if you have crossed the A&P you have at least entered the first jhana. But, that means very little to me. I don't recognize anything in my experience which I can point to and say "that's a jhana."

Do you have a more practical way of measuring concentration skills? Such as the amount of time the mind can stay with an object, the amount of completeness of attention on that object, or the particular ease or way in which the mind stays with an object, etc..?

I think if concentration were a measurable skill, it'd be easier to describe than using some ancient pali word which people disagree about it's meaning.

btw, thanks for your response. emoticon

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/15/12 1:48 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
And if I have no knowledge of ever attaining a jhana, how would I measure concentration skills?


Can you keep attention on the breath for an hour without engaging in content?

That is to say, it's possible that I have attained a jhana, and some people here claim that if you have crossed the A&P you have at least entered the first jhana. But, that means very little to me. I don't recognize anything in my experience which I can point to and say "that's a jhana."


Mind & Body/Cause and Effect/Three Characteristics -> first vipassana jhana
A&P -> second vipassana jhana

However, these are vipassana jhanas and not samatha jhanas. The territory is the same, but the experience of them is different.

Do you have a more practical way of measuring concentration skills? Such as the amount of time the mind can stay with an object, the amount of completeness of attention on that object, or the particular ease or way in which the mind stays with an object, etc..?


If you can keep attention on a "solidified" object (breath, kasina dot) for an hour without engaging/floundering in any content then that would be first samatha jhana. If after sitting like this for a while and attention becomes automatic/effortless then that would be second samatha jhana. The "particular ease" would make it second samatha jhana and not first samatha jhana (as the first samatha jhana involves sustained effort)

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/15/12 2:44 PM as a reply to Some Guy.
Ok, well, regardless of how you analyze it, you will find that after stream entry your concentration ability increases dramatically


Though I had strong concentration skills before path (which may make this atypical), I found that after getting path(s) that samatha/concentration was actually more difficult because it kept getting destroyed by the now automatic background vipassana. Though access to vipassana jhanas is effortless, it was more difficult to access samatha jhanas after path(s).

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/18/12 7:00 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Tom A Vitale:
Though I had strong concentration skills before path (which may make this atypical), I found that after getting path(s) that samatha/concentration was actually more difficult because it kept getting destroyed by the now automatic background vipassana. Though access to vipassana jhanas is effortless, it was more difficult to access samatha jhanas after path(s).


I haven't attained path and that's my experience now? And much more so compared compared to the high periods A&P 14 years or so ago. Some days concentration works well in the morning assuming I haven't done any Vipassana but after I got the vipassana going that day or it got it self going, I can often get nowhere with concentration.

Unusual though to have that affect after path or paths, puts forward a question mark, only one thing in a pattern though?
Loving-Kind Regards, Neem

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/18/12 4:05 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
This is stated in MCTB and has also been my experience. Though one can get good at doing this, but it takes adjustment at first. I also have my reasons for not practicing samatha jhanas much in practice so haven't really spent much time trying. Also perhaps I should have phrased that by saying "before starting insight practices" instead of "before path."

Even when doing concentration practices, these cycles are in the background somewhere. It is possible to ignore them to a large degree for a while when in deep samatha jhanas, though it takes work to do so.


Someone who has not started doing any insight practices does not have this going on, though they have other issues like wandering into content more.

Here when I use the term "samatha" jhana I am referring to "static jhana." "Dynamic Jhana" would be vipassana jhanas. There are various uses for the term concentration, and you can be "heavily concnetrated" in either a vipassana jhana or a samatha jhana (and thus the word concentration does not seem to strictly apply to samatha practice only), so I was mainly referring to samatha jhanas and being heavily concentrated in those.

See http://kennethfolkdharma.wetpaint.com/page/Dynamic+Jhana+vs+Static+Jhana

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/18/12 11:38 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Hey Tom, thanks!

Tom A Vitale:
Can you keep attention on the breath for an hour without engaging in content?


Sometimes. Mostly on retreat, but I think I've been able to do it at home, too.

Tom A Vitale:
Mind & Body/Cause and Effect/Three Characteristics -> first vipassana jhana
A&P -> second vipassana jhana

However, these are vipassana jhanas and not samatha jhanas. The territory is the same, but the experience of them is different.


So, then by your definition I have entered jhana territory.... the one and same territory which is both vipassana jhana territory and samatha jhana territory. However, my experience of jhana territory may only have been the vipassana kind of experience. I suppose it is possible that I have had the samatha experience of this territory. How would I know the difference? [Edit: I just saw the link in the above post to the Dynamic vs. Static article. I suppose that probably has the answer to this question]

Tom A Vitale:
If you can keep attention on a "solidified" object (breath, kasina dot) for an hour without engaging/floundering in any content then that would be first samatha jhana. If after sitting like this for a while and attention becomes automatic/effortless then that would be second samatha jhana. The "particular ease" would make it second samatha jhana and not first samatha jhana (as the first samatha jhana involves sustained effort)


Well, first I don't really know what you mean by "solidified" object.

However, I have kept my attention on the breath for an hour without engaging/floundering in any content - Yes. Quite a few times I have done that. There have been times, as well, when this is automatic/effortless. Mostly such a level of concentration happens more on retreat. Sometimes it happens at home.

Do you have more questions for me?

RE: Retreat Report: 9 days in Kelseyville
Answer
9/19/12 2:31 PM as a reply to Daniel Johnson.
I suppose it is possible that I have had the samatha experience of this territory. How would I know the difference?


The difference would be that samatha jhanas are always pleasant and blissful. So you can be in 3rd samatha jhana and it can be overwhelmingly pleasant and blissful. However, if you are in 3rd vipassana jhana then the experience can be anything but blissful.

Well, first I don't really know what you mean by "solidified" object.


Just that you are paying attention to a "permanent" object rather than an "impermanent" one by ignoring the gaps where the sensations of the breath/object vanish, giving the sense of a continuous object to pay attention to.