Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

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Dhammadinne T Swedenaye, modified 11 Years ago.

Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 4 Join Date: 1/28/10 Recent Posts
I’ve recently found this website and am happy to see how much practical knowledge that is contained within these forums. Thank you all for contributing to that : )

I have a question that I’ve been analyzing through readings of Daniel Ingram’s book but still haven’t been able to pin down. And I also have a question regarding Shamata practice that I think some of you will be able to answer. A little history to explain where I’m at.

I’ve been meditating on and off for the last 15 years but all that seems like I was just playing around compared to when I became a monk after last summer and got serious with it. Nothing compares to continuous and steady practice. Things went really fast and I have experiences with the Jhanas although I have troubles staying with them for longer than short periods. The afterglow is still really good and helps with the Vipassana meditation.

About a month and a half ago I actually stopped reaching for the Jhanas and instead focused completely on Vipassana. The reason being that I got such serious pressure inside my head while becoming focused that I was afraid I’d get a brain hemorrhage. Basically I get the pressure many seem to be describing just before I enter the Jhana but then while entering it gets out of hand and tinnitus starts blowing in my ear and hairs stand up. In the end it’s like my brain is fastened in a clamp and every little movement makes it jump 20cm in any direction, or at least so it feels. This doesn’t only happen while sitting but sometimes I walk around with it all day and even though it’s incredibly easy to stay present and mindful with all that energy it gets rather exhausting after a while. Especially since many times, as soon as I close my eyes to go to sleep I automatically go into Jhana practice and my mind gets as energized as if though I just drank a cartload of red bull.


Question is, how do I handle this pressure or energy that keeps building inside my head? Instinctively it feels like I haven’t mastered how to handle that much energy yet and that in due time it’ll get better, but any tips and tricks would be appreciated! It has gotten better lately when I’ve let go and let the Jhanas arise. Seems that the buildup is wider than before and I think that if I would simply try, going into Jhanas would be much easier now, at least I get to entry point faster.


Second question is regarding completing first path.
I was at a 10 day Vipassana retreat just before Christmas (after I stopped the Shamata practice) and had some progression with my insight meditation. Equanimity was strong and every time I had the feeling that nothing worked I referred back to Daniels book and other posts were everyone says that this is the point one should simply keep on keeping on and so I would break through.

On day 8 I entered what I’m guessing must have been some kind of dark night albeit, condensed. For two hours after one sitting I was “trapped” lacking a better word in a state of absolute pointlessness. Difficult to put into words, it was as if though I entered a different room and my mind wasn’t my own. Anything I would think of would contain so much impermanence, dukkha that there was no point in doing anything at all. And after all there was no one to experience it so why do anything at all? It wasn’t that I was depressed, I didn’t see the point of doing anything since there was absolutely nothing to hold on to. Had I not read Daniels map of the 16 steps one goes through I might have gotten a bit worried but after a while I accepted it and went out to walk.

I think there was a short period of accepting the whole thing with some kind of equanimity and feeling fine but if so we’re talking minutes. Then all of a sudden while walking I thought I was hit by lightning because there was a brief flash of light. I could feel that I felt completely different but at the same time nothing was different. There was a really strong sense of equanimity and instead of pointlessness everything was simply ok just as they were. About 2-3 minutes later there was another flash and I almost broke noble silence to ask if anyone else saw it because there was only light and no boom so it couldn’t have been the thunder which would have had to hit right in front of me to be that bright.

After this the last two days felt kind of pointless, I couldn’t really see the meaning of sitting down, I wanted to walk around and experience things. Also thinking about what had happened distracted me. That was a month and a half ago and I do feel like everything is different yet nothing on the outside has changed. I see the three characteristics much easier and my relationship to body and mind is changed.

My question then is; did I enter equanimity and stay there which then might have had a profound effect on me which in turn explains why I feel so different. Or did I experience fruition when the lightning hit? At first I thought it must have been fruition since I felt so different the second it happened. But at the same time I might have simply used that as my excuse to get out of the Dark night (if that was what it was?). Not that I consciously would be able to do that but I acknowledge that my mind could use that as a significant event and kick me out of whatever state I was in. Also talking against fruition is that the equanimity part must have been short to the point of minutes, although I don’t know how long theses states usually lasts?

I realize it doesn’t make much of a difference what it was since it had a positive effect on me even if it was going through A&P. But if anyone could shed some light on this I’d enjoy hearing about it.

With metta
//Dhammadinne
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Before offering any kind of comment about your rambling discourse, I have a couple of questions. Your answers will help myself, as well as others here, to get a little better understanding of the context of your specific circumstance. In the beginning of your statement, you mention:

Dhammadinne:
I’ve been meditating on and off for the last 15 years but all that seems like I was just playing around compared to when I became a monk after last summer and got serious with it.

My first question is as regards your mentioning becoming a monk. Are you associated with any particular Buddhist group? The verbiage you use would suggest a Mahayana background.

If you are indeed with a Buddhist sangha, don't you have a preceptor there (a meditation or Dharma teacher) with whom you are able to discuss these matters? Or are you on your own? I'm trying to understand just what your living circumstances are so I can have a better picture of the context in which you are involved.

Also, have you established any kind of practice habit that involves reading the discourses of the Buddha, either in translations from the Pali canon or translations of any of the Mahayana scriptures? Reading the discourses would certainly give you a better context for establishing your Dhamma practice. It just seems strange, considering you mentioned being a monk, that reading or study of the discourses never came up in your statement.

In peace,
Ian
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Ian And:
Before offering any kind of comment about your rambling discourse, I have a couple of questions.


Ease up mate! That's a bit harsh and unnecessary.
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Dhammadinne T, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 4 Join Date: 1/28/10 Recent Posts
I'm newly ordained within the Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka. As you might know they focus heavily on literal knowledge rather than meditation. When we study the discourses it’s more the ones that help the general public and not so much about meditation, yet.

I do have a very good teacher who helps me, and we are looking for a temple that is more focused on meditation in combination with studying the texts, rather than the other way around which is the norm in Sri Lanka. As far as my earlier practice goes it’s been on and off before, a little here, a little there but never sticking with it for longer periods and no clear insight meditation. I spend most of my time at a meditation center outside of Kandy where I do have a schedule that could be described as mostly Goenka style. Currently I’m temporarily back home in Europe because of family matters but will be going back to Sri Lanka again mid march.

I hope this helps to clarify the questions you had.
With Metta
//Dhammadinne
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Ian And, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 782 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thank you for indulging my questions. Your answers help me to better understand your actual situation. Having been a monastic myself, I am familiar with the kind of "pecking order" that evolves in such situations, notwithstanding Nikolai's ignorant comment. And I do not want to be stepping on anyone's toes who is in charge of your training. If you have a meditation teacher who is experienced beyond at least second path, normally I would defer any inquiries to him as he should be qualified to answer your questions. But, if he is still working through the training himself...he may not have the level of experience to help you. I asked the questions because I am not there with you in order to obtain their answers first hand, and so I have to rely upon you to fill me in.

Dhammadinne T:
I'm newly ordained within the Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka. As you might know they focus heavily on literal knowledge rather than meditation. When we study the discourses it’s more the ones that help the general public and not so much about meditation, yet.

There's nothing wrong with focusing on reading and understanding the Dhamma as it is taught in the suttas, as I'm sure you would agree. But, yes, I think it should be combined with actual meditation practice which helps develop and cultivate mental abilities. If you have an opportunity and are able to obtain it, I would recommend reading Bhikkhu Nanamoli's translation (as edited by Bhk. Bodhi) of the Majjhima Nikaya, as it contains a veritable gold mine of information (much of it in the footnotes) about meditation. Along with that, if you can obtain a copy of Ven. Analayo's book Satipatthana, The Direct Path to Realization, you will put yourself in good stead and in position to be able to figure out much of this for yourself, with of course some timely help from your friends (teachers/guides) as needed.

If you don't have contact with either of those two resources, there are some online resources of which you may avail yourself. The Thai Forest Ajahn Thanissaro Bhikkhu is one very trusted resource that I often recommend to others. His book Wings to Awakening in PDF format is excellent as well as his other online book Mind Like Fire Unbound. You will find some interesting thoughts of his (with reference to the suttas) regarding the process of entering absorption if you read the passage Precepts & practices through to the next section break at "Doctrines of the self". It might help you to see more clearly into a process you may use in order to enter jhana more smoothly and without the rough edges you describe.

Dhammadinne T:

I do have a very good teacher who helps me, and we are looking for a temple that is more focused on meditation in combination with studying the texts, rather than the other way around which is the norm in Sri Lanka. As far as my earlier practice goes it’s been on and off before, a little here, a little there but never sticking with it for longer periods and no clear insight meditation. I spend most of my time at a meditation center outside of Kandy where I do have a schedule that could be described as mostly Goenka style. Currently I’m temporarily back home in Europe because of family matters but will be going back to Sri Lanka again mid march.

Ah. Well, that explains why you chose to pose a question here. That's what I was confused about. You're not with your teacher.

First, let me ease your mind regarding the pressure that you experience inside your head. This is normal for a meditator to experience. And, no, unless there is some physiological malady that you are unaware of, you shouldn't have to fear triggering any kind of brain hemorrhage. I experience the same kind of pressure you are recounting, and so I know what you are experiencing.

But the kind of thing you describe as having occurred as a result of practicing for entry into absorption seems to strike me as perhaps having a psychological origin. It depends upon how you react to the pressure that you experience. For myself, I always used the pressure as a nimitta (a sign) that I was entering absorption, and so I welcomed it. Sometimes it did get pretty intense, but not very often. Usually, it stayed on the good side of not developing into a headache.

Ideally, what you are endeavoring to achieve with absorption is a quieting of the mind (of the mental chatter and so forth that can go on) such that you experience the peace of passaddhi, which as your teacher should be able to confirm for you is a "mental calm and tranquility" (what I like to describe as a "profound inner peace") that proceeds beyond the formal meditation session itself (kind like the way you described in your initial post). In order to arrive at passaddhi you have to calm all mental formations and just "be" in the peaceful space which results. This begins with calming all formations as a direct intention during meditation while maintaining that intention afterward. Ideally, you should be in a physical atmosphere (meaning secluded and peaceful) that is conducive to this as you are first learning how to accomplish this.

Dhammadinne T:

Question is, how do I handle this pressure or energy that keeps building inside my head? Instinctively it feels like I haven’t mastered how to handle that much energy yet and that in due time it’ll get better, but any tips and tricks would be appreciated! It has gotten better lately when I’ve let go and let the Jhanas arise. Seems that the buildup is wider than before and I think that if I would simply try, going into Jhanas would be much easier now, at least I get to entry point faster.

You've actually answered your own question here. To help yourself enter absorption in a more smooth manner, pay attention to the pleasant feeling or sensation of entering into absorption and just "let it happen" in the beginning. Later, as you gather more experience and realize that you have more control over this process than you first were aware of, you can take control of the process through initiating a strong intention beforehand to enter absorption "softly" so to speak. Ideally, this should also help to alleviate the strong sense of "energy" that you talk about with regard to the pressure in the head. That pressure should never be more than just on the doorstep of a headache. If it is going to occur, it should be firm but bearable, and not distracting. It then can become a harbinger of the development the mental ability of concentration. That's how I use it. It lets me know that the mind is now fully concentrated on any subject or object I wish to avert it toward. This is a good thing, as it allows for "seeing things as they actually are," or the development of sampajanna (otherwise translated as "clear comprehension" or "clear seeing").

Dhammadinne T:

My question then is; did I enter equanimity and stay there which then might have had a profound effect on me which in turn explains why I feel so different. Or did I experience fruition when the lightning hit? At first I thought it must have been fruition since I felt so different the second it happened. But at the same time I might have simply used that as my excuse to get out of the Dark night (if that was what it was?). Not that I consciously would be able to do that but I acknowledge that my mind could use that as a significant event and kick me out of whatever state I was in. Also talking against fruition is that the equanimity part must have been short to the point of minutes, although I don’t know how long theses states usually lasts?

This is difficult to answer over the Internet as I do not have access to you directly to ask other qualifying questions and to obtain your response. But, what you hypothesize to have occurred may well have occurred. If it did, what you describe afterwards indicates that you need more maturity with the Dhamma in order to overcome the somewhat unwholesome effect of "indifference" which seems to have transpired. What I'm endeavoring to differentiate between is the difference between "evenmindedness" or upekkha and an "indifference" or "not caring" toward phenomena (if you can understand the subtlety that I'm describing). Evenmindedness implies being neither too joyous nor too depressed by outcomes (having an evenminded outlook with regard to phenomena), whereas indifference (in the way I am using it here) implies not caring for the outcome at all, being rather cold and aloof and disinterested.

With regard to the last points brought up in the quotation above, and as a point of interest, it is advantageous to know and to understand that often (if not always) fruition attainments only last for short durations in time. When I first "entered the stream" in a way that was unmistakable to me, I experienced a few moments wherein I KNEW what I was realizing was a profound realization. It lasted but a few moments (based upon the mind's affectation to the emotion of what was taking place) and then gradually faded over time. I was never again to experience such a profound moment surrounding the thought of having "entered the stream." I couldn't even recreate it with all the intent in the world if I wanted to. It was a "once in a lifetime" moment. But the memory of that moment lives on in my mind. This is not something that is easy to describe, and unless one has experienced it, one may not recognize what I am referring to.

I hope that helps you to begin making some sense out of the experiences you have described. It sounds as though you are making good progress. Continued reading and contemplation of the discourses should help in your maturity and to smooth out the rough edges of your practice, and to bring you the final realizations you seek.

In peace,
Ian
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Yeh, sorry Ian. You give consistently good advice. i just reacted to the heavy handed feel of it is all. Just a personality trait of mine. My bad!
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Just a quick guess based on a read of your post at 4am after a long day:

pressure in the head makes me think 3rd ñana
tinnitus makes me think that also
lights make me think A&P
stream enterers tend to talk about a lot after that: profound mental power, cycling, repeat fruitions, ease of calling up jhanas and ñanas, and I don't see that written about here.

Just guesses. Good luck in your practice and glad to have you here.

When you say Vipassana, what do you mean?
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Dhammadinne T, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 4 Join Date: 1/28/10 Recent Posts
Thank you Ian for the advice on Shamata practice, insight stages as well as the book tips, I’ll make sure to pick some of them up before I head back.

Daniel when I say Vipassana I’m mostly talking about Goenka style scanning although I’ve had some limited experience with noting also. Meditation definitely has gotten easier and different after, but I can’t tell if that is simply because it was a successful retreat or because of what happened. How do people usually experience the fruition part, or can it even be called an experience since there is no one experiencing? The aftereffects of things like this seem to me to be the best indicator of what happened.

Thank you all for the input and if anyone else has any opinions feel free to jump in.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Re Fruitions and the Three Doors, see here:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/MCTB%20The%20Three%20Doors?p_r_p_185834411_title=MCTB%20The%20Three%20Doors
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Dhammadinne T, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Regarding 1'st path or not and Shamata "pressure"

Posts: 4 Join Date: 1/28/10 Recent Posts
Thx Daniel,

Really good read

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