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Practice log of Stuart Charles Law

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Practice log of Stuart Charles Law
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12/5/12 5:25 AM
I am forced by circumstances to make another entry here at Dh O. Today under "What was that" i asked a question about Samadhi verses access concentration, and i'm on at "New kid on the block ... @ 60". Now i have another question relating to access concentration. This afternoon after three hours sitting so far for the day (in 1 hour lots) i was looking out from my rear balcony when i slipped mentally side ways and was suddenly viewing the world as if through the eyes of one in a Day Dream and this has persisted for some 2.5 to 3 hours now. Can anyone answer... Is it possible to be awake and functioning --- then slip into something i would describe as light to medium level access concentration. All this whilst walking, making a cup of tea, general pottering about but all in an altered frame of mind.

Any explanations ...

RE: Practice log of Stuart Charles Law
Answer
12/5/12 4:59 PM as a reply to Stuart Charles Law.
Stuart Charles Law:
This afternoon after three hours sitting so far for the day (in 1 hour lots) i was looking out from my rear balcony when i slipped mentally side ways and was suddenly viewing the world as if through the eyes of one in a Day Dream and this has persisted for some 2.5 to 3 hours now.

Can anyone answer... Is it possible to be awake and functioning --- then slip into something i would describe as light to medium level access concentration. All this whilst walking, making a cup of tea, general pottering about but all in an altered frame of mind.

Any explanations ...

Depending on whose instruction you've been following (as well as certain other factors involving ideas that you have accepted as being "true"), what you experienced is not an uncommon occurrence. Various types of seeming "altered" states can pop up over the course of one's practice, providing some meaning and encouragement to the practice. Just simply observe them, but do not become attached to them.

Are you familiar with the Pali term passaddhi? This term refers to the experience of calmness or a "profound inner peace" that generally can accompany a good meditation session. In particular this can occur after a meditative session wherein the peace acquired during the meditation period carries on afterwards. In general, this is considered a good sign.

If it "feels" like an altered frame of mind, this could just be the way you're mind is perceiving this experience.

Way back when, when I first experienced this phenomenon, it would last for about 45 minutes to an hour before gradually fading away. That was during a time when I was meditating about 2 to 3 hours a day three times a day on a private retreat. As time and my practice progressed, the time duration of this "calmness" that followed sitting meditation gradually grew longer and longer, expanding to about 3 hours between sits such that it eventually encompassed the entire day. This coincided with the development of mindfulness (sati) which became easier and easier to maintain throughout the day.

Your description of it being like a "light to medium level access concentration" is what makes me view what you've described in this way. I never used to think of the passaddhi I developed as being like "access concentration," but I wouldn't rule out that description, either. If you can connect this phenomenon with an increase in mindfulness, I think you're onto something.

RE: Practice log of Stuart Charles Law
Answer
12/6/12 9:15 AM as a reply to Ian And.
It sounds absolutely wonderful. I could use some of that right now.

RE: Practice log of Stuart Charles Law
Answer
12/8/12 10:39 AM as a reply to Ian And.
This "altered mind" has persisted now for some days. Right now as my eyes come up to the computer screen i can't read the words ... my eyes had spontaneously gone to soft focus such as i have when meditating, i was in the zone again. The lightness or heaviness of this experience has moved back and forth over the past couple of days, when i would have expected it to have gone due to the re emergence of an ear infection. I have achieved samadhi at each of my sits since it's first appearance about a week back now. Not all to the same depth but definitely samadhi never the less.
The re emergence of this altered state right now could be because my body is anticipating an hours sit, due now ... ...That was an even stronger sit than the previous 2 or 3, felt some sloth and torpor but forced my eyes back open and curtailed that.

Ian, you asked in your post
depending on whose instructions you've been following
The short answer. None.
I'm stumbling through this like a blind man. Coming upon the Dharma Overground has been like a breath of fresh air. I feel a little less alone, but still looking for guidance. Working through MCTB and hoping that that's IT!

On a very subtle level, how i am perceiving things is beginning to change. I'm no longer afraid of the things you guys are saying that i need to pursue, such as there being no self and the fact that this is all just one big on/off vibrating experience ... something akin to string theory. Hell's teeth, i've come a long way and most of it alone.

And yes indeed i had been noticing what you've called passaddhi for about the last 5 to 6 months and watching how it was developing. I even made the hopeful observation in my meditation diary that it would be nice to reduce the gap between occurrences of passaddhi to nothing ... join them up.
I still have not quite figured out what passaddhi is. If it is "profound inner peace" that would be why it's so unfamiliar, as peace has alluded this 60 year bag of bones, and profound ... well.

Requiring noticeably less sleep!!!

RE: Practice log of Stuart Charles Law
Answer
12/10/12 10:14 AM as a reply to Stuart Charles Law.
Hi Stuart,
I'm 60 y/o also, and have been at this for over 32 years. So, I've got a few years experience on you. But even so, what you are pursuing is eminently doable at your age. If you can maintain a clear (and unclouded) mind as you are undergoing the process.
Stuart Charles Law:

Ian, you asked in your post
depending on whose instructions you've been following
The short answer. None.
I'm stumbling through this like a blind man. Coming upon the Dharma Overground has been like a breath of fresh air. I feel a little less alone, but still looking for guidance. Working through MCTB and hoping that that's IT!

That's good. That means that your mind is not being clouded by preconception! Which means that what you are experiencing is crystal clarity without the waters being muddied. In other words, if you have no expectations, it's easier to experience what IS. What is happening in this moment, that is.

With regard to MCTB, if I were you and wanting to keep my mind clear, I would only use it as an inspirational piece. What Daniel has to say about the amount of grit and determination one needs in order to "get over the hump" is true, and in that light, perhaps some of the meditation tips may be useful. But beyond that, I would be careful attempting to cloud your mind overly much with the maps he's presented.

You are much better off reading the translated Pali discourses and attempting to discover how the original path was meant to be traversed. In that regard, your 60 years of experience will come in handy if you just apply common sense to what you are reading. My recommendation would be to start with the Majjhima Nikaya. If you find that helpful and inspiring, go on to the Samyutta Nikaya and the Anguttara Nikaya; these are the two oldest volumes of the Pali canon, and they contain much useful information with regard to actual practice.

The hardest part is attempting to align the Pali terminology definitions up with your own first hand experience so that you can understand what is being communicated. In that regard, we now have plenty of native-speaking Westerners who have traversed this path (Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Nyanaponika Thera, and Bhikkhu Bodhi come to mind) enough to be able to trust their definitions of these Pali terms. Prior to that, we were having to rely on either Eastern practitioners who weren't proficient in the nuances of the English language attempting to provide us with definitions (which oftentimes may have been misleading) or Western observers and writers who may not themselves have been practitioners attempting to translate the Pali terminology without having any first hand experience in the practice enough to be able to be more accurate in their translations of this subtle terminology.

Stuart Charles Law:

And yes indeed i had been noticing what you've called passaddhi for about the last 5 to 6 months and watching how it was developing. I even made the hopeful observation in my meditation diary that it would be nice to reduce the gap between occurrences of passaddhi to nothing ... join them up.

That's a common aspiration among those of us who have experienced this phenomenon. If you are able to attain samadhi to the level of absorption (dhyana), you will find that this will greatly assist you in attaining this goal, as it will help to condition the mind to remain longer in a peaceful abode, well after a formal sitting.

There are also "skilful means practices" that can assist one to retain or regain this peaceful abode in one's daily waking consciousness. One such practice involves paying attention to the breath (outside of meditation practice) in order to regain a peaceful demeanor. You've heard the phrase "take three deep breaths" as advice being applied in stressful situations? Well, the same works for any time that you feel your mindfulness slipping and the mind beginning to wander. Simply by applying attention to the breath (as though, and in the same way, one would during a meditation sitting) can bring back that experience of passaddhi, rendering the mind at ease and in peace. You may even sense the sensation of pressure in the brow (or temples) as a "sign" (nimitta) that your concentration and mindfulness have returned.

Stuart Charles Law:

I still have not quite figured out what passaddhi is. If it is "profound inner peace" that would be why it's so unfamiliar, as peace has alluded this 60 year bag of bones, and profound ... well. Requiring noticeably less sleep!!!

If you read any of the Pali dictionaries, you'll find that it's been defined as: "calmness" or "tranquility," "repose" or "serenity." And those are all good definitions as far as they go. My own personal definition is the one I quoted to you, or a "profound inner peace." When compared with the "monkey mind" of discursive thought that so many Westerners are familiar with, this inner peace does indeed seem to be "profound."

And, yes, needing less sleep is a by-product of spending time in samadhi. Many meditators, myself included, have experienced this phenomenon. It's been said that for every hour spent in samadhi, you can subtract needing an hour of sleep. Pretty nice tradeoff, wouldn't you say!