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Putting myself on a map

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Putting myself on a map
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9/15/12 3:49 PM
I'm new here and I'd like to introduce myself and get some guidance.

I've recently (within the last six months) started undertaking a more or less regular practice of meditating, and I've had some successes, which have been very rewarding and which have further motivated my practice. But I'm interested in getting some feedback from people who know the territory. Essentially I want to feel a bit more like I have a sense of where I am on the map: I know where I feel like I am, but since I'm doing a mostly solo practice, I would benefit from guidance. I'm going to describe my practice and then a bit about what I've noticed changing for me and some remarks about what I felt were achievements. I welcome any input you might have.

My daily practice consists of getting up and sitting for a period ranging from 15 to 45 minutes (depending on how much time I have on a particular morning). I either meditate with eyes open or closed. If I meditate with eyes open I choose an object that has some interesting contrasts, stare at it for a given period, till the lines of contrast begin to waver a bit, there are shifts and movement, and then the lines of contrast "highlight" and can float. Various sensations can come along with this; shooting bits of pleasure, waves of color, etc. If I sit with eyes closed I focus on the breath, the composite sensations of the body at rest, and then notice the flow of colors that play, eventually, behind the eyelids. I think I'm attaining the 3rd or 4th concentration jhana, but I'm not sure.

I try to squeeze in a walking meditation during lunch, if I can. But it is not an intently concentrated meditation: I apply a more diffuse focus and walk around, trying hard to grasp the play of perception on the "periphery" of awareness. This brings with it diffuse sensations of placidity, tranquility, etc.

And I try to do a reclining meditation of around 30 minutes or so before going to bed. I can do this for an extended period, and usually have make a decision to stop focused awareness and go to sleep. Unless I am exhausted, which happens.

The rigorousness of this varies with what life throws at me, but in general I get at least an hour of meditating in daily. I recently did my first all-day retreat, and will do more in the future.

Now, for some of the results I've noticed. At a certain point, I noticed a general quieting of thinking, or that the content of my thoughts was getting less "sticky." It may have been tied to getting access concentration, but I'm not sure. Whatever the case, after I'd been working on my focus for a while, I noticed that I found myself less and less inclined to be swept up in the content of my thoughts (whether anxious one or fantastical ones or whatever). That sort of distraction went from being my usual state of mind to something that happens a handful of times in a day, and is something that I remark happening. I've begun noticing some changes in my perceptual "seizing" of things, and I have become attuned to pulses of "energy" that flow through my extremities to my core and such. I've noticed pleasant "floaters" of color that I can pick up when I let maintain vision on an object. These are very pleasant things, and I enjoy them.

I had my first rapturous experience (probably an A&P) years ago when I was meditating because I was taking a class on Eastern religions. At that time I identified it as "the perception of heat" and thought, "well, that was very, very nice." But I didn't maintain a practice then and probably slipped back, because I had another rapturous experience (which also fits the bill of an A&P) when I started meditating regularly. The afterglow from this lasted about two weeks, was very much like an intense body buzz, and I thrummed with energy that moved in waves through my body. This was followed by an experience of distilled, tentacular terror during a sitting. Recently things have been quiet in the bodily experience front during sittings: no pleasure of rapturous intensity, no knife-like stabbings of negative emotions.

I think I've reached equanimity on the map. I believe this because recently when I was meditating with eyes open, I noticed very intense vibrations in the visual field, and focused on them; they became more and more intense, almost painfully so, and then suddenly everything ceased vibrating and my body was suffused with a profound sense of peace. Again, very pleasant, very nice.

Anyway, that's what I'm doing, in broad strokes. I'd like to get some feedback, guidance, etc., since I'd like to continue stepping toward fruition.

RE: Putting myself on a map
Answer
9/15/12 10:13 PM as a reply to Jake D..
Tentacular terror: very nice description! I like that...

I agree: you probably have gotten to Equanimity, though recurrence of A&P is sometimes possible also, just to add the standard caveat.

Advice: notice space, notice volume, notice everything all the way through that volume, all the way through your head, notice what is noticing, those sensations that seem to be you, notice that they are part of space, notice how they shift in response to that sort of question of what they are, notice what that new pattern of sensations is that seems to be noticing them, notice the physical and mental sensation all together, but broadly, widely, flowingly, allowing subtle tensions to show and resolve themselves, allowing the wide open thing to finally synchronize and disappear!

Read the section on the Three Doors. Incline to vanishing. Incline to comprehend everything as it happens all at once. Incline to a discontinuity that is not any of that but is found by simultaneously comprehending and getting into everything, like really buying into the whole thing, really feeling the honest, whole, human thing, the wanting, the tension, the center itself and all the rest, not with great effort, not with totally slack effort, just normal, ordinary, non-disruptive effort, like it was as easy and normal and natural as it actually is. Just staying on anything subtly fluxing in a volumetric way is good, regardless of what it is. Integrate more and more of what feels like your side into the whole field of what is being comprehended, doing this gently and easily, including that tendency to try to integrate things.

Nice work.

RE: Putting myself on a map
Answer
9/18/12 6:18 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hey Daniel,

Thanks for the pointers. I hadn't really been focusing on the "spatiousness" of the delivery of sensations, and I did and may have "fallen" (upwards) out of the concentration space I was in into something like the descriptions of the 5th samatha jhana. But I'm going to see if I can repeat it before I go patting myself on the back.

Also "inclining toward vanishing" I think is helpful.

Anyway, I'll sit with this for a couple of weeks and see what happens.