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Lights, bliss, and.. something else?

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Lights, bliss, and.. something else?
Answer
10/4/12 7:50 PM
About a month ago, I began a more intense noting practice, noting aloud with eyes open, usually 40 minutes per day. A few days ago, I recorded this report of a sit:

Initially, slightly effortful, distracted by other things I need to
do. Continued noting. Thoughts that it wasn't going to work, i.e. I
would not obtain some preferred state and would just experience
effort the whole time. Noted these as 'craving'. Feelings of
irritation and annoyance with the noting and having to sit, noted
as 'aversion'.

Slight dryness of eyes, and desire to close them. Noted, and kept
eyes open for the most part without too much trouble.

After maybe 10 minutes, began noticing light flashing in periphery
of vision. Maybe 20% of my field of vision in the center was clear
with the rest veiled by pale flashing light. Similar to sensation of
going into dark movie theatre from bright sun, but that sensation
covers entire field of vision. Some easing of effort.

Suddenly, noting stopped completely and I was in a different
state. Tried noting, and found it seemed important to note slowly,
in a whisper. After a minute or so, stopped verbal noting and just
paid bare attention.

Little problem remaining concentrated. Earlier distractions
gone. Noticed sensations in the mouth for a while, e.g. the feel of
the tongue against the teeth, etc. Played here for a minute or
so. For the most part, bare attention predominantly on visual
sensations. Bright sunlight outside streaming into the room over the
shoulder of statue of the Buddha. Slightly blissful, quite pleasant
in general. Dryness in eyes completely gone, whole body
comfortable. Sitting very still, erect, and stable without
effort. Flashing colors also gone, and vision seemed clear.

Became aware of a kind of opening in the center of my visual field, through which I
could somehow 'go'. To go there would require strong concentration,
because it seemed to be disturbed by external sensations, especially
sounds. I began to apply effort to go there. There was a sense that
if I managed to go through, my perception would be significantly
altered and there would be a vast increase in clarity and
connectedness. To go there would require a kind of forward
'movement' through space that would cause the opening to
enlarge.

Doubts kept arising, about whether I would be able to stay
concentrated enough to complete this 'movement'. These doubts
themselves interfered with the 'task'. I had a sense that the
'task' was important, and something that ought to be pursued, but
those kind of thoughts made it less stable and more difficult to
stay with. However, I continued to make progress. Spatial perception was
affected in an expansive manner. Something (myself?) was expanding
into a larger place.

Eventually, some external sounds happened, and I noticed irritation
arising. In attempting to avoid the irritation and get back to where
I had been, the whole thing collapsed and I was back in ordinary
consciousness. Resumed noting, which was as before without
effort. Disappointment. Irritation at the source of the external
sounds that interrupted me. Unable to find equanimity with respect
to the interruptions.

Then just ordinary consciousness, and the sense that the mediation
was over. The bell had not yet rung, but a sense that it was over. I
looked at the clock, and there were 6 minutes to go
until 45. Recently I have been doing 40, but had decided to
do 45. All the thoughts of other things I had to do today came back,
and I decided to call it enough.


This 'suddenly I was in a different state' thing had been happening frequently. In the different state, there is much less effort, and the feeling that I could sit for hours. Usually when it happens, the noting slows down to once every 5 or 10 seconds, and I have the sense that I should just whisper. There's no physical discomfort, just calmness and stillness.

However, since this event a few days ago, it seems to have stopped happening. My practice feels as though I have slipped back many months, and there's just effort to keep noting without falling asleep or being distracted.

RE: Lights, bliss, and.. something else?
Answer
10/5/12 2:17 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
Most likely A&P (if a bit jhana heavy, with the slow-variant of the A&P predominating) fading to Dissolution.

Watch for what comes next...

Daniel

RE: Lights, bliss, and.. something else?
Answer
10/5/12 2:39 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you, Daniel. I will indeed keep watching.

Neil

RE: Lights, bliss, and.. something else?
Answer
7/12/13 11:03 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
OK, an update. Sorry, this will be a bit long.

Since my last post, I've continued in my practice. The characteristic feature has been much effort, and much difficulty staying with the noting. Despite my best intentions, frequent days without sitting. My experience of the world has been following a pattern. Periods where everything seems dull and flat, without joy, meaningless, are followed by periods of simple calm. There are also periods, usually lasting no more than a day or two, where I experience a kind of agitated anguish about the lack of meaning, about the difficulty with the work.

During this same period, I've had advances on the medical front. First, my Dr. added a pharmacist to his practice, and after consulting with her I was able to reduce my BP meds drastically. In addition, I found that the Mirapex I had been taking for many years (for restless legs) was actually making my restlessness worse. It did relieve symptoms at night, but I had to pay by experiencing tremendous fatigue and irritability at night, as well as restlessness during the day whenever I attempted to take a nap etc. My Sleep Dr. helped me wean off the Mirapex, and I found the underlying RLS was much less than it had been. Most nights I am not aware of it at all. So I have been able to reduce my daily meds from 6 drugs to 3, which is a huge accomplishment. During the periods mentioned above, of 'agitated anguish' the restless at night is more pronounced. (Don't know whether any of this is related, just including it for context).

Throughout this time, I had mainly forgotten about maps and stages, and was just wondering why I was so miserable. I know that if I was to see a shrink, it would be SSRIs immediately. I don't get pleasure from activities I previously enjoyed. Music means nothing to me, whereas it had been a major source of pleasure before. Blah blah blah, sounds like depression. Not suicidal at all, but frequent thoughts of death, such as myself being killed by wild animals, or dying in a car crash unable to contact my wife because I can't reach my mobile. And always, as I'm dying, thoughts of what a complete waste I had made of my life.

My practice had devolved into half-hearted attempts at noting, with frequent long periods in which the noting stopped, and I was spaced out. Then I would realize I was spaced out, and start up again. I would get up from the sit very dissatisfied. On the days when I sat, probably 4 times a week on average, I would sit for 45 minutes.

All along, I knew I wanted to do another retreat. I decided to sit with Shinzen Young at the end of May. This would be a 6 night retreat. In preparation, I decided to put more energy into formal practice, and switched to 3 sits per day. My goal was 1x 1 hour, and 2 x 1/2 hour sits. Morning, noon, and night respectively. I used Shinzen's methods as diligently as I could. This is what I did for the month leading up to the retreat, in the hope of making best use of the retreat time. I noticed during this time increased energy available for the practice. The prospect of sitting would be accompanied by joy and determination.

A few things happened at the retreat. First, on the first day I was sitting, and felt an unfamiliar energy rising up into the head. It was a kind of warm glow. It seemed to come when I had quietened down to a certain point. It only lasted a few seconds, before giving way to vibrations in the body. At first these were subtle rhythmic back and forth oscillations of the torso. I noticed that if I attempted to relax, the movements would become larger in amplitude, and lower in frequency, until I was rocking forwards and backwards almost violently. I was easily able to suppress them by a slight mental effort, and often it was difficult to tell whether I was causing them, or experiencing them.

Sometimes (seemed to depend on what was happening with the mind somehow) these movements would appear as random jerks & twitches, similar to the feeling when you're in a plane flying through minor turbulence. Everything seems to be shaking randomly. Shinzen, said these movements were Kriyas. Mostly, I experienced them as a distraction, because I had been attempting to focus on something else, usually sound. (I was not doing Mahasi style noting on this retreat).

On about the 4th day, during a sit I suddenly fell into a different kind of concentration. Effort was gone, there was a sudden intense but not unpleasant sense of pressure between the temples. My concentration was not single pointed, but it seemed that wherever I directed it, it was impervious to external stimuli. I found that during the day, this state began to arise more frequently. It seemed that I could enter it almost at will, once the mind was quiet enough. Was happy about this, and was thinking that at last I had made some progress.

At one point I had an intense headache behind one eye. I sat down at the beginning of a sitting period, and quickly went into this new concentration state. A kind of vision appeared to me of a peculiar shape that I was able to manipulate in 3d space. When looking at it from a certain direction, I could see a purple spot. I realized that the spot was a representation of the pain behind my eye. Or it _was_ the pain. Anyway, by focusing on it, I was able to make it expand, and as it expanded, it thinned out, until finally it was very large, and I was inside it, and the pain vanished. I had a strong sense that this was being shown to me, that this concentrated state was something that I could use, somewhat like a tool, and that it was now available to me.

That night, there was an all-night sit. During the night, I had another kind of vision. I closed my eyes, and suddenly my vision was filled with beautiful soft orange light. In one direction there was a pinpoint blue-green light, but if I turned my attention towards it, it would always maintain the same spatial relationship, so I could never look at it directly. I opened my eyes to see if someone had turned on a light in the room, but they had not. When I closed my eyes, the vision returned. I soon noticed that the orange light had structure, and it seemed that I was staring into infinite space. The blue-green light was like a distant star. I became aware of a numinous quality to the experience. There was no sense of physical energy, just a great deal of calm, stillness, and equanimity, and a growing sense of awe. This vision gradually faded over the course of a few minutes.

The remainder of the retreat was uneventful. I was no longer able to enter the very concentrated state. I was mainly aware of stillness and quiet, especially during the final sitting period at night. A lot of equanimity, and no difficulty with the practice, no hinderances were evident. But something was telling me the retreat was already over.

That was maybe 6 weeks ago. Since then, I seem to be back in similar experiences as before the retreat, and yesterday was one of those days of 'agitated anguish' that was particularly difficult. I'm left encouraged by the retreat, and find motivating myself to do the work is somewhat easier. I'm doing between 30 mins and 2 hours each day. A lot of sleep problems, and when I don't get good sleep, the work is difficult. I'm working with the sensations of fatigue and my aversion towards them.

Anyway, sorry for the long-winded report. I'm posting now because it just occurred to me that these experiences I'm having seem to have a cyclical nature. I usually notice this when I'm in the 'agitated anguish' phase. It seems familiar, and I remember "this is just like what happened last week", etc. Yesterday, for example, I had been feeling fine in the morning. I was wondering what to eat for lunch, and realized that although there were many unhealthy things easily available, I just had no desire for them, and actually wanted to go find something clean & healthy to eat. This made me happy, and I was smiling as I went to lunch. I came home, and a minor incident at work plunged me into the 'agitated anguish', a dark place that clouds my judgement, makes every experience unpleasant/miserable. I was finding sounds intolerable, and spent much of the afternoon wearing noise canceling headphones with no music playing, just so I can have some quiet.

RE: Lights, bliss, and.. something else?
Answer
7/12/13 1:04 PM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
Supplemental info:

1. The movements (shaking, vibrations..) which began on the first day of my retreat are now present in one form or another every time I sit, and occasionally when I'm not explicitly meditating, but otherwise still and equanimous.

2. 3 Characteristics: I have developed a strong intuitive sense of dukkha. Random things happen in the ordinary world, and they appear to me immediately as expressions of dukkha. People will ask me for my opinion of some irritant, and I'll have to resist the urge to just say 'dukkha', which would not be helpful to them. Re impermanence: I see this a lot, but it does not feel baked in to experience as does dukkha. Re anatta: I get a growing sense of this, but it's still mainly an academic kind of knowledge. I can look at an experience in retrospect and see there was no self, but that's not a quality I'm aware of at the time of the experience.

5th Samatha Jhana?
Answer
8/18/13 7:30 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
I had this experience a few months ago while on retreat, and find the memory of it stays with me. Reading a description of 5th Samatha Jhana (Boundless Space), it sounded somewhat like what I experienced, yet I didn't get there from some other Jhana. I just fell into this state at the beginning of a sit that had been preceded by a period of walking meditation.
Neil Baylis:

I closed my eyes, and suddenly my vision was filled with beautiful soft orange light. In one direction there was a pinpoint blue-green light, but if I turned my attention towards it, it would always maintain the same spatial relationship, so I could never look at it directly. I opened my eyes to see if someone had turned on a light in the room, but they had not. When I closed my eyes, the vision returned. I soon noticed that the orange light had structure, and it seemed that I was staring into infinite space. The blue-green light was like a distant star. I became aware of a numinous quality to the experience. There was no sense of physical energy, just a great deal of calm, stillness, and equanimity, and a growing sense of awe. This vision gradually faded over the course of a few minutes.

When this began, there was no energy that I would describe as either piti or sukkha. There was little desire or aversion. Those arose as I attempted to hold on to the experience, and probably hastened its passing away. When I wrote that the light had some structure, what I mean is that there was a sense that some parts were closer, and some further away, although there was no visual detail separating them. It was a purely spatial sense. The light itself was perfectly featureless, except for the one distant 'star'.

Anyway, my question: Does this sound like 5th Jhana? Can one enter such a state spontaneously from 'normal' consciousness, or must one necessarily go there from another Jhana, (e.g. 4th) ?

RE: 5th Samatha Jhana?
Answer
8/18/13 10:17 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
Hi Neil,

I'm glad you had such a useful retreat---it seems like you had periods of equanimity which word hardly expresses the condition---and that you also experienced some nice moments in anticipation of retreat.


Anyway, my question: Does this sound like 5th Jhana? Can one enter such a state spontaneously from 'normal' consciousness, or must one necessarily go there from another Jhana, (e.g. 4th) ?
My experience is that, yes, a jhana can seem to come out of the blue. Personally, when this happens I also think that the mind had already moved to equanimity before that moment and that before that moment of equanimity one's mind was not too stirred up by thoughts of ill-will, passion, worry, doubt nor too tamped down by gross fatigue (in that moment).

Your repeat experience and study of your mind in stable jhana is what matters, second only to then applying your so-trained mind to your life itself, but I think your own phenomenological descriptions of boundless space are apt. It can create some problems to stamp a seal of approval on people's own views of their experiences, so I'd rather say that you are certainly the best judge of what you think aligns in your experience aligns with some text descriptions. It doesn't read to me like you are forcing a fit. It sounds like you sense you experienced the 5 jhana and in the end your well-trained mind will be what resolves its life within and without dukkha.

RE: 5th Samatha Jhana?
Answer
8/18/13 1:30 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
katy steger:

It doesn't read to me like you are forcing a fit.


Random shaking, jerks and twitches, rocking back and forth...This sounds like what conventionally might be called a fit (or mini fits) to me - though the term kriyas may be used instead in certain meditation communities.

RE: 5th Samatha Jhana?
Answer
8/18/13 2:38 PM as a reply to sawfoot _.
sawfoot _:
katy steger:

It doesn't read to me like you are forcing a fit.


Random shaking, jerks and twitches, rocking back and forth...This sounds like what conventionally might be called a fit (or mini fits) to me - though the term kriyas may be used instead in certain meditation communities.


I think you might be interpreting the word 'fit' in the wrong way. I think Katy meant that it didn't seem to her as though I was attempting to force my experience to fit (i.e., conform to) a preconceived notion of some special state.

RE: 5th Samatha Jhana?
Answer
8/18/13 8:46 PM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
I think Katy meant that it didn't seem to her as though I was attempting to force my experience to fit (i.e., conform to) a preconceived notion of some special state.
Yes, that's it. So thank you for understanding my intended meaning, Neil, and thanks to SF for reminding me to be more careful with language--- putting things into words well/reading is a key challenge to me so it's a good place for me to especially practice sati : ) . Thank you both.