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Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey

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I think it would be enormously helpful for new practitioners to be aware of what it actually took folks to get it done [achieve 1st Path], and very important to get a record of this.

1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/5/13 10:06 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


I had only been meditating regularly for five months. I took an 8-week MBSR course and transitioned that into a hardcore vipassana practice after reading MCTB.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?


Choiceless noting: note whatever sensation predominates, at least once/second, but sometimes much faster. Sometimes just noticing, esp at the A&P and in High Equanimity. Sitting or walking, didn’t matter.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?


About two hours/day of formal practice.

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?


Not really. I would note while driving to and from work, and I’d go for walks at work during which I’d note. But there were plenty of times where I was no more mindful than your average person.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?


Straight up vipassana. I never bothered with samatha until after I got 2nd path.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


None.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?


The only real “block” I had - if you can call it that - was going for the A&P. I second-guessed myself, so I’d take my foot off the gas right when I should have gone over the top. I freaked out a few times during dark night, but nothing really stopped me or even slowed me down significantly. I had singularity of purpose, so I wasn’t going to give up.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path?


That’s easy: my teacher. I worked with Beth Resnick-Folk. Kenneth Folk gave feedback, too.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?


Nothing really. When I look back on it, it was a marvelous experience, and there’s almost nothing I would change about it. Once I got over the A&P, the only real “mistakes” I made had to do with not paying close attention to the present moment. But you’re going to make that mistake. There’s almost no avoiding it. The only way you really learn the method is by using it, slipping up, experiencing the consequences, and getting back on track.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?


The best advice is to find someone who has done it and to work closely with them. Find someone you can work one-on-one with every week or every two weeks. If you can only work with someone once a month, do that. It makes an enormous difference.

And ONLY talk about enlightenment with that person. I don’t mean get into some weird, compartmentalized, effed-up relationship with someone. What I mean is, write your own version of the dark night declaration from MCTB - the one where you swear to a no-bleed-through policy - and stick to that oath. This ensures you won’t screw up your life, but it also ensures you won’t waste your energy or your time having discussions that aren’t going to get you closer to your goal. In fact, I would avoid places like this, too, unless you really don’t have someone to work closely with, only because you need singularity of purpose to accomplish this task, and you don’t want any part of your mind preoccupied with sorting out signal-to-noise.

Stream-entry is a wonderful, amazing experience. I don’t just mean the “blip” - which is anti-climactic anyway - or even just review (which is quite awesome). My whole journey toward stream-entry is something I look back on very fondly, dark night and all. You learn so much about yourself by doing it. Life becomes so clear and intense while you’re going for it, because you’re dedicating so much of yourself to the present moment. It’s hard to do that without letting in some pain, but it’s also almost impossible to do it without letting in some joy, too. So, drink deeply! :-)

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/5/13 5:54 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

Roughly a year and a half of Mahasi-style noting almost every single day, for roughly 30 minutes to an hour a day, give or take. Less frequently, but fairly regularly practicing samatha as a tool to refine concentration, as well.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?

I actually, and quite intentionally, stopped sitting meditation for a few weeks before Stream Entry hit me. I was deeply immersed for the first time, in a process of "Direct Pointing" and Self-Inquiry with a couple of good guides- that had me on fire, and I was utterly consumed by those techniques. (Don't know if I'd recommend this for everyone, but at that time it was exactly what was needed in my situation, and of course I resumed sitting meditation thereafter.)

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

As I mentioned, zero hours of sitting meditation on the actual day of. There were always other practices going on, though: sila, mindfulness, and relentless Self-Inquiry almost every minute of the day. Previous to this (anomalous) period, however, there was always at least 30 minutes of sitting a day, and more often an hour.

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

Yeah, pretty much continuous practice of mindfulness as taught by Kenneth Folk, even throughout Re-Observation, though it took on a very effortless dimension then, and has continued to, honestly. The power of mindfulness is sometimes easy to overlook, but I would always try to see, feel, hear, smell, the world around me clearly, directly. Still do.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?

Usually about 15-20 minutes of samatha, up to the 3rd or 4th Jhana, then settling into some heavy noting for 30-45 minutes. That was pretty much always the general ratio, but occationally I'd spend a solid hour just seeing how "deep" I could get those jhana states, or, on the other hand, how clearly I could note the movement through nanas.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

One five day retreat the first year of practice, and an eight day retreat the next year. Both were at Mushroom Culture institutions, but I carried my copy of MCTB at all times, and that was basically the Teacher for me at those retreats.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

Self doubt: "What if Vipassana isn't the technique for me?" "What if I'm not special enough to make real progress?" "Why does everyone (at DhO and KFD) make such rapid progress and not me?" (A suspicious amount of Me-ing going there!)

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

Yep, teachers and guides. I worked with Kenneth Folk a handful of times, and he really helped sharped my techniques up and fill in the gaps of understanding when it was absolutely crucial. Friends and guides on this forum, KFD, and elsewhere were also invaluable to progress. Reading a lot of Buddhist history, the Pali Cannon, and even good old Zen poetry were really informative and helped create a larger picture of theory and practice. Also, keeping a phenomenological log of practice is a good thing for many reasons.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

I wish I knew that it was not just possible, but probable to achieve 1st Path when good practices are in place. I wish I knew how very body-based, and therefore applicable to anyone with a nervous system, Stream Entry is. I also wish I'd known to just not take it all so damn seriously!

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

Well, to paraphrase the Buddha himself: "Work with dilligence for your liberation." Doesn't get much better than that.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/5/13 6:57 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) I started from scratch with Daniel's book when I asked a friend for a recommendation on where to start with meditation. Took about 3 months.

2) Straight up Mahasi

3) Weekdays an hour, sometimes upping it to 2-4 hours split throughout the day on weekends.

4) I paid attention in a more relaxed way during the day & didn't really note things, more or less just a looser bare attention style.

5) No samatha experience, just vipassana

6) None

7) Forcing it in Equanimity. So instead I went with a more of a laid back whatevs, this is fun, IDGAF mindset.

8) Mostly just this website, a few phonecalls with the same friend who recommended MCTB.

9) I probably would have started practicing samatha to get into the habit of adding that to practice and also for more clarity to prime the mind. A good split is to start each sit with samatha and then move to vipassana, which is what I do now. I also would have started reading the suttas back then. It was a few months or so after getting stream entry before diving into those.

10) It's not that big of a deal. Take it day by day. Have fun.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/6/13 11:24 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1. Sporadic at best for 15 years, then 9 months of MCTB-style practice.

2. Choiceless noting.

3. On average, 2. Whenever I could take a whole day I would sit 7-9 hours. I did that maybe 5 times on the way to SE.

4. Not even close.

5. Dry Vipassana

6. I'd done 2 Goenka courses many years prior. If nothing else, they gave me the sense that I could really practice.

7. My biggest stumbling block was misunderstanding the maps and how one progresses. I thought since I'd had A+P before, I didn't need to expect anything before getting beyond it in practice. I ended up stuck in a very mild A+P for a long time, all the while thinking it was EQ. I stopped noting in favor of "open awareness." Also, I was keeping a journal at KFD and expected somebody would correct me if I was wrong. Someone did - after 4 wasted months. So, I also had a problem understanding how forums work. IME, if you need a question answered, it's better to start a new thread for it, rather than expect people to follow your journal.

8. I had 2 skype lessons early on. Mostly I read the forums, especially the classic practice threads at KFD.

9. It might have helped to know more about bringing practice into daily life. Metta is one way. Reflecting on questions and obstacles through shamatha practice is another.

10. I'm a big believer in noting - especially since seeing the difference while stuck in A+P. When using open awareness, I made zero progress. As soon as I started noting again I zipped through the nanas and hit SE in 2 months. I notice lately more and more people at DhO wanting to get stream entry by means other than noting. I think that's a mistake. Read the journals. Look at the data. Noting works. Believe it!

(EDIT: An addendum to number 10 - I also see more criticism lately about the whole notion of using maps. The pitfalls of map obsession aside, these guidelines have been indispensable to countless people in making radical changes in their lives. As conveyed through MCTB and the fora, they have been the inspiration and practical basis for a lot of successful practice. I think it's a shame to see that message getting diverted through purist criticisms about the "right way" to practice, and misguided statements about fascination with states. Hard-core dharma works. Ignore the naysayers - or rather take their best and leave the rest.)

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/6/13 11:03 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

Getting to equanimity, then sliding back (i.e. the sense of progress over many sits), into the dark night, and even to A&P. Then again up to equanimity... it felt like an out-of-balance wheel, with not quite enough momentum, almost turning a full revolution, but stopping and turning backwards. Leading up to 1st Path, I took Tarin's Reformed Slacker's Guide to heart and resolved to sit and otherwise practice as much as I could. I made a sheet of paper with a 10x10 grid (100 days) to tick off each day as a motivator.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?

Noting my behind off, alternating with diving into samatha jhana.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

About two hours sitting, and noting whenever I was walking anywhere. Since I work at a computer, I set up a "typing break" software to remind me regularly to rest my wrists, and I used those short breaks as well. Eating mindfully. Taking showers mindfully (i.e. noting whenever I remembered to). In my lunch break, I took (and still take) walks outside, doing lazy walking meditation (not pacing back-and-forth, but noting as I walked and looked around).

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

See question 3.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?

See question 2.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

I did a couple of self-led, 1-day home retreats, where I alternated sitting and walking meditation (1 hour each) during the day.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

I thought fruition was an experience. I was looking for strange experiences, donut-shaped doors and the like.

Fruitions are insight-producing, not experience-producing. (Duncan Barford's words - he's right!)

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

I read the Sutta Pitaka (the four major nikayas, plus a lot of the Kuddhaka Nikaya) cover-to-cover in German translation.

Another resource that was very inspiring to me was The Baptists Head, a website by Alan Chapman and Duncan Barford, where they recorded their experiences with the enlightenment process from the point of view of the Western Mystery Tradition. I found it very encouraging to see how they "independently reproduced" so many of the results described in MCTB. I also contacted Duncan and exchanged messages with him, "good spiritual friend" style.

Tarin's Reformed Slacker's Guide (linked above) was very useful to me. He also coached me during the weeks before stream entry.

I listened to Dhamma podcasts and audiobooks a lot - I have a commute of about 40min each way.

Jed McKenna's books were very inspirational - to me, they were like MCTB with only the "lightning bolt" chapters.

I briefly worked with Kenneth Folk, a year or so before entering the stream. He gave me advice on visual meditation objects, and I hit 4th jhana during that time. That was before he set up as a professional meditation teacher.

As a child, I received a bit of teaching from my mother's meditation teacher. I don't know what tradition she worked in, but it was basically a technique of Progressive Muscle Relaxation and then a guided visualization. Just a few sessions.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

That's kind of tricky, because who knows what would have happened? What worked for me, worked, after all.

The big intellectual "oh my!" moments were when Duncan told me about the insight-producing fruitions, and when Tarin asked me to investigate the sensations making up the sense of space during meditation in equanimity.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

Just one? emoticon find good "spiritual" friends with whom you can share your practice.

Some more good ones: practice a lot, don't underestimate off-cushion mindfulness. Study the maps, and see how the descriptions match your experience (not the other way around!). Set up a resolve prior to each meditation ("may I reach X stage/state"), evaluate after each sit. Don't confuse content (such as weird experiences like the three doors) with insight.

Oh, and if you can manage to spend some time with someone you consider enlightened, do so! I don't believe in "transmission", but there's that effect on the mind when you see how ordinary enlightened people are, how they go to the bathroom and have unsophisticated political views and wear hipster glasses or unfashionable jeans, or mispronounce technical terms, or don't know the maps by heart, or don't believe in the gods, or talk a lot about Jesus... In short, how they have their idiosyncrasies and imperfections. That takes a lot of pressure off the self-improvement department.

Oh, and surrender. That doesn't mean "give up", it means "see it how it is, not how you want it to be". If it helps, surrender to a symbol such as the Buddha or a deity or saint or teacher. Or surrender to the present moment, or the universe, or the field of sensate experience.

Consider how you would know that you had entered the stream. What if it happened at night while you were sleeping? How would you know? How would your SO know? Parents, colleagues, friends? (Maybe do this as a writing exercise now and then).

A toilet can be the seat of awakening. It's possible to use a remote, little used toilet stall at work or at school for sits. Lots of weird emotions and sensations come up. But be nice, and don't block the toilet for hours emoticon

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/6/13 1:07 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

I had done some centering prayer in the deep past, and had probably gotten at least access concentration without knowing what it was. Then in December 2010 I read MCTB and decided to do it. I cast about for an approach for several months, and sometime in the spring of 2011 began working with anapanasati. I managed to access jhana, then switched to noting in late May. After that it was mostly noting.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path ?

Mostly noting in the earlier stages. Once I got to high equanimity it turned into open awareness. I did some Mahamudra noting (Kenneth's technique) but mixed it up with four-foundations noting.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

About an hour and a half to two hours. I would try to sit any chance I got. About two weeks before, however, I had minor surgery, which put me out of commission for several days. I think the break was an opportunity to regroup.

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

I tried to. I did a lot of mindful walking during the day, for example, and also attempted to be mindful during driving and other such activities. But talking to people, reading, and working on the computer were difficult to do with the same quality of mindfulness.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path?

It was all vipassana at that point. And it was all open awareness. I would begin with breath counting, three sets of 10, to get focused.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

I had a 3-day retreat in May, an 8-day retreat in August, and a 4-day retreat in late December. Stream entry occurred mid-January.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

I first got to Low Equanimity by the end of August. It was the most comfortable I had ever felt in my life. The school year was starting up, I had new courses to teach, I was chairing a major committee, and life was full of accomplishment and satisfactions. I thought I had it made. So--you guessed it--I slacked off. And you can probably guess what happened next: the dukkhas returned with a vengeance about 3 weeks later. I spent two months slogging around in them until I got back to Equanimity by late November.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

I took advantage of this forum and KFD. I skyped with Kenneth, Beth, and Ron Crouch regularly. I also have a local sangha and a local teacher, who tends to disparage maps and such, but is very good in talking through the actual stuff going on in meditation sessions.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

That there's light at the end of the tunnel. I had a dreadful time in both Dark Nights, the first one in the summer and then the later, even more wretched bout of it in the fall.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

To remember that this practice really does work. Also, people take different amounts of time with it, because of a variety of factors. I got jealous of people who took less time than I did, then tied up in knots trying to figure out what was wrong with me. All the usual stuff.

Also, there's a certain focus I had in pursuing first path that I've not experienced since. I was on a do-or-die mission. Once I got it, I was initially knocked on my ass by the fallout (that period of emptiness of self), and since then I've been a little more laid back in working through the other paths. I've gotten two since then (just got third New Year's Eve) and they seemed to be almost disappointingly easy in comparison. The absolute commitment that drove me during 2011 is something I kind of miss, although I would not want to do it over for anything.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/6/13 1:09 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:
I think it would be enormously helpful for new practitioners to be aware of what it actually took folks to get it done [achieve 1st Path], and very important to get a record of this.

1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


I had started sitting using simple watching the breath approximately a year earlier, to cope with anxiety. However I'd also had six years of intensive religious practice a decade earlier, with an emphasis on surrender, devotion, trance work and prayer. Though I had completely abandoned all spiritual practice for the intervening decade, in much later hindsight I realized that earlier practice had set off several rounds of A&P/dark night back then, and taught me a fairly high level of concentration.

Alan Smithee:
2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?


I started out doing mindfulness of breath until a few weeks before 1st path, when I contacted a teacher and began noting instead.

Alan Smithee:
3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?


By that time my sitting had increased to 30 minutes every few hours all day (I was working from home, would take a break from work every 3 hours or so to sit again).

Alan Smithee:
4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?


By then practice had a momentum off cushion for me, so I felt I was in a near constant state of fairly intense mindfulness. Working from home alone meant it was fairly easy to be very absorbed in what I was doing, working in silence, but I also payed attention while out and about.

Alan Smithee:
5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?


Not super applicable, as I didn't use that terminology or follow specific methods until just a few weeks before 1st path, when I was told by my teacher to use Shinzen Young's simple noting ("touch" "feel" "image" etc.).

Alan Smithee:
6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


Had not done any meditation retreats. Had gone to some talks or afternoon meditations at Buddhist centers now and then. In my previous religious practice I had had retreat-like periods of disciplined behavior, austerity or semi-isolation lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months as part of initiations. To this day I have been on fairly few retreats and all of them very lightweight.

Alan Smithee:
7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?


I don't think there was one. I felt very naive about the process. I just practiced like it was the only thing that mattered, and my practice fairly quickly caught me up and carried me along in a way that felt pretty much out of my control. I see a fair number of people spend a long time in the doubt phase ("will this practice really work? am I doing it right? maybe I should read more about it") and I never really went through that with this particular phase of practice. On the other hand I had 40 some years of life behind me and had gone through spiritual adventures in the past, so perhaps I'd worked through that phase already.

Alan Smithee:
8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?


I got a huge amount of motivation and inspiration from reading DhO and The Baptist's Head forums at that time. It demonstrated there were dozens of typical human beings who weren't monks who were waking up.

Alan Smithee:
9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?


Nothing really. I think it worked itself out just as it needed to.

Alan Smithee:
10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?


If you feel the desire for awakening, then sit like your hair's on fire - fill every free moment with practice. And have fun with it! It's a strange adventure! One on one conversation with good practitioners is really good for you. Recognize that doubt and fear are just more stuff to observe. Every single hindering thought or distraction is more fodder for meditation. Everything becomes evident via direct experience, and direct experience comes from sitting, not thinking about sitting or thinking about why you aren't sitting.

And also, because it comes up fairly often in meditation circles: if you have significant mental health issues, deal with them - I've taken anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants in the past, I've done years of therapy in the past. These things can be very helpful for working through crap that can be a huge hindrance to beginners in particular. I think I learned a fair amount of observing how my mind worked in therapy which made noting easier later and helped me be more at ease with scary or sad stuff that came up in dark nights, for example.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/12/13 12:46 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Six years ago I was in a car wreck. It had the appearance of a brutal wreck. At the time it happened and perhaps even more so afterwards. I was sliding on black ice for quite some time. Out of control. I had quite a bit of time to know what was about to happen. The words came: "maybe this is for the best", and I accepted them. You might say that I accepted death. My car smashed into the stationary car in the ditch. But maybe crashed isn't the right word. It certainly didn't feel like the jarring impact of a crash. The crash itself didn't even seem to happen that fast. Then there was a cessation. When I came out of it I noticed that I was seemingly fine. I was also in a very awkward position thanks to the nature of the wreck. I got out, seeing that my greatest injury seemed to a broken nail. Perhaps something internal was injured, like my spine alignment, perhaps not. I was very happy, you might say. Very congenial to the people whose car I wrecked into. It was just great. I was also shaking violently. I see now that this violent shaking was from an opening up to allow energy to flow through me, or at least that's one paradigm. I also began to experience 'no self'. I did not realize that 'no self' could make mistakes. It became what has been described as an arrogant 'no self'. It needed someone to tell it that it was okay to make mistakes, that the 'no self' would learn. It needed someone to affirm that this was a good experience, that this wasn't just me being crazy. My master was not that far on the path though, and so I did not get that. I believe I had another teacher that was, so perhaps I just did not hear. As you can imagine that instigated a difficult dark night of the soul, as 'repressed' this 'no self' due to thought of shame, guilt, and 'wondering if I was crazy'. This lasted for five years. Until I had an insight into equanimity. I didn't know it by that name at the time, but I knew it was amazing and transformative. I used this to attain equanimity with my meditation on the breath, and virtually all of my life. The 'no self' came back. And it was glorious. I had vitality again. I could do anything. My intelligence, my ability to feel connected, my senses, my ability to communicated had become amazing with this combination of 'no self' and equanimity momentum. But I was still arrogant, and inevitably fell into a rather harsh, desensitizing dark night. Much has happened since then. But that's a bit outside the purview of this topic.


1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
I practiced Shaolin Ch'an. It is designed to prepare you for the enlightened part of the path through the rigors of martial training. Not just martial training, the path as a whole is designed as a liberal arts education on steroids, but the temples are gone now, so we leave much of this to universities and schools. While the school is meant to adapt to the student, as a general according to my understanding: It is not till you are very well prepared that they intend for you start your journey to enlightenment. I wasn't that patient. I was also practicing Tai Chi and qigong. I was doing some meditation of some sort too as I recall. Particularly right before I was meditating hardcore, and really doing a lot of meditating on the breath in lieu of sleeping. It's a bit hazy, but some of this was done before and some after entering the stream.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?
Answered above.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?
Hard to say, shortly before it occured I think it was quite a bit though. I would make that a major priority. 8 hours a day maybe?

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?
Accepting death during the car wreck was the booster shot I needed. Sort of like getting a massive dose of mindfulness all at once.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]? It seems like the breathing meditation was balanced but in the direction of samatha. as you would expect. The physical practices... well, I suppose it would depend on how broadly you define the categories of samatha and vipassana.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
I had no retreats. Although, basically being obsessed with meditation and other arts over other things might have made it a pseudo retreat experience. I recall focusing on my peripheral vision, and doing other sorts of 'practices' in daily life that would probably be considered meditation by people 'in the know'. But I was basically just going with my intuition.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?
I don't know. I suppose it was in knowing what I was looking for. For a long time I had this urge to... "become a better person". Something like that. From what my culture told me, modern Christianity was that path, it was equivalent to that path. Then I found that it did not have the rigorous methods I craved for. The methods that would make me that perfect person. I searched for them in psychology and did not find them. I started philosophizing, and had some modicum of success I suppose. I attempted to 'listen to god', which was somewhat effective. Then I found Shaolin Ch'an. After I had been taking classes for a few weeks, our sangha had a meeting. The instructor was to describe the Shaolin path. I fell in love. It was exactly what I had been looking. Concrete methods of improving one's self, and with the fascinating prospect of training in a cool practice too. Unfortunately, this master had some 'hang ups' regarding Buddhism that proved to be obstacles, both for himself and his students. This was probably why he was a 'training master' and not a 'dharma master'.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?
This was long before I saw the MCTB. I suppose a lot of it was our Order's book. I believe that it was after stream entry that I began to be more fascinated with the Yoga paths too. There was a book I read called "Scholar Warrior" that I thought was pretty awesome. I read a lot of books, but most of them were post 1st path.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?
Not a lot I suppose. I mean, needing to know stuff just didn't come up I suppose. Apparently, I knew enough. It was what happened 'after' 1st Path that I really needed to know some things.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?
Maintain good posture. Be healthy. Do the meditation practice that works for you. Experiment. Know enough techniques, that when nature opens up an opportunity you can utilize it. Educate yourself in that way. Know that you just need one good technique. That can take you the whole way. To go on at least one retreat a year, minimum 5-10 days. Alternatively, being obsessive about meditation over several weekends a year could be a substitute. Practice a combination of formal sitting and formal moving meditation to some extent every day for at least 30 minutes. If you can't do 30 minutes, then do ten, but not none. Apply meditation to your daily life. I have described the minimum that you should do. If you want to make fast progress. Then go at this whole-heartedly. Make your obstacles your object of equanimous, sensorial, concentration. Is sleep an obstacle? Then meditate on those sensation you associate with sleepiness, and meditate all night. Is discomfort an obstacle? then meditate on the pain and sit for three hours. Is having to eat an obstacle? Then meditate on the sensation you associate with hunger as you skip meals to continue to meditate. Are distractions an obstacle? Then meditate on them. Alternatively, you can have any other sort of meditation, so long as you are equanimous with that obstacle. If you need to rest you don't need to take a break from meditation. You can meditate on restful states such as muscle relaxation or do Dzogchen, which is restful in its own deep way. You may not start there, but you will get there if you persevere and you have had proper instruction. There is a limit to some of these things. You will eventually have to eat for example. But pushing your limits, as long as you have a willingness to 'open up' to experience and not turn away, this will expand your limitations and cause the constrictions that cage your mind to break apart.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/10/13 9:42 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
I hate to clutter this thread with accolades, but it is one of the most helpful ones I've seen on DHO. Thank you to everyone who responded.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/10/13 10:31 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
Wanted to only get into jhanas and never wanted to get SE etc but landed into very deep insights and DN
and then decided to do insight to come out of it.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?
Mahasi noting

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?
non-stop

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?
Yes , throughout the day non-stop Mahasi style noting..except when something required my attention like talking to people or crossing the road.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?
only insight when entered DN..before that only jhana practise.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
no retreats

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?
Having to earn money , interacting with people , breaking the precept of Right Speech once in a while.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?
Reading Dhammapada quotes..they're really inspiring..nah no teachers but had confidence in Mahasi's discourses and words.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?
Hmm..can't complain here coz SE happened pretty fast emoticon

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?
- burning curiosity to see if there is any self in any personality aggregates because thats where we think a self exists primarily
- listen to dharma teachers and read about dharma because thats what can lead to conviction (a factor of SE)

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/10/13 10:38 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
Alan Smithee:

1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


I had no religious/spiritual background. I started doing Shamatha on my own with no instruction other than some books. I crossed the A&P within 6-7 months and had no idea what I had experienced. Found this site, KFD, Buddhistgeeks, etc.. Got a teacher and started noting.

Alan Smithee:
2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?


KFD style noting.

Alan Smithee:
3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?


Not hours. More like 30-45 minutes a day, every day up until Equanimity, then I increased to sometimes up to 2 hours a day.

Alan Smithee:
4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?


Did my best, but was not very actively trying to note, etc during the day.

Alan Smithee:
5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?


Pretty dry vipassana. I would usually start a sit and get good and concentrated before starting noting. I could get into some pretty absorbed states at times (what I would call hard jhanas).

Alan Smithee:
6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?


None

Alan Smithee:
7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?


It was hard for me to drop expectations and let go during EQ. I got freaked out that things got boring, or 'nothing was happening.' Had to realize this was normal and just keep sitting with it and note it.

Alan Smithee:
8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?


Having a teacher is the #1 thing I recommend.

Alan Smithee:
9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?


I think the more ignorant you are, the better emoticon I am glad I had no background. I think things you learn from spiritual dogma seriously get in the way of how it really is.

Alan Smithee:
10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?


Do the practice and quit adding complexity to things. The practice itself (the instruction) is far more simple than a lot of people make it out to be. Talk to people who have actually done it. Get a pragmatic teacher or mentor. Stop reading and sit emoticon

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
1/29/13 9:12 AM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

Prior to encountering the pragmatic dharma community, several hundred hours of mantra (Yogananda), breath counting and Zen/open awareness. A fair amount of relaxation type stuff in there as well.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path ?

Mahasi/Folk style noting, at a rate of about one per second. Less emphasis on the breath than Mahasi.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

One hour a day. Once I got onto noting practice, it took 18 months.

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

No real continuity, but there were certain activities, like driving, where I developed a habit to note or be mindful. I think there are some real possibilities for things like TV meditation, maintaining a 2nd gear/open monitoring practice.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path?

99% vipassana.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

2 week long retreats. The first one got me A&P, I'm pretty sure the second one got me to equanimity. From there I backslid, as I didn't really know what was possible. At that time I thought you'd have to spend decades in a monastery to get anywhere, if you were lucky. Also about 10 half-day retreats.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

Probably doubt. Doing this practice for 17 months, without anything "concrete" to show for it, was really working the doubt. This was only overcome by getting SE. Although in many ways the biggest stumbling block was the mushroom culture. The Zen roshi I had worked with did not tell me jack sh*t. I kind of wonder why they even have dokusan.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

DhO and KFD. Did one session with Kenneth. Read a lot of books, but nothing really stands out other than MCTB.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

That it is very doable, you don't have to live in a monastery, it is not magic, and all kinds of people are getting it done.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

The main thing to me is about maintaining continuous, close attention. Generate an intent to do that, and just keep coming back, keep coming back. Second, knowing that it can be done, that it is just neurological training, i.e. set 'em up and knock 'em down. Finally, when it comes time for SE, become okay with everything, just be there amidst the mystery, without resistance. Make sure you're doing the practice correctly, then just do it and be patient.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
2/1/13 2:55 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
This post should be pinned. Jes sayin.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
2/1/13 3:16 PM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
20 minutes of zazen a day-ish for a few months up to reading MCTB at which point I switched to noting 30 mins a day-ish.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?
Noting which led to experience being horrible enough to make me want to get out of it by not caring about my negative feelings anymore even though they were there (Equanimity), at which point I switched to noticing my own awareness and getting into some formless stuff that eventually led to a fruition.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?
Had just come back from thanksgiving vacation where I got to equanimity (6 hours plane ride there and back spent meditating, a few hours in between meditating instead of watching movies with my family), then a hour or more a day for a few days after I got back as it was fascinating at the time.

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?
Sort of. Generally tried to 'be mindful' and note stuff whenever I cared to.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?
I had gotten to 1st or 2nd jhana by following the breath a few times, but I went at it pretty dry for the most part. Also tried a bit of candle flame meditation (follow red dot after closing your eyes) but it never got very far. In the actual sit that did it I was not noting at all, just trying to notice my own awareness in a panoramic manner which led to a no-self-door fruition ("When the emptiness door predominates with suffering as its second aspect, then a very strange thing happens. There is an image on one side staring back, and then the universe becomes a toroid (doughnut), and the image and this side of the toroid change places as the toroid universe spins. The spinning includes the whole background of space in all directions. Fruition occurs when the two have changed places and the whole thing vanishes." [link].

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?
No retreats.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?
Horribly unpleasnt life-dark-night experiences. See #2.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?
Talking to people on the DhO. No meditation teachers, no.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?
That it was ultimately a waste of time.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?
Don't do it! =). If you want to actually improve your life then there are better ways. If you want psychic fireworks and abilities (I include jhanas here) that don't necessarily improve your life, and might even make it worse (read reports of people dark nighting after stream entry to see what I mean), then go for it, though.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
2/2/13 1:27 AM as a reply to Alan Smithee.
1) What was your meditative experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

About 6 spontaneous A&Ps in daily life without formal training, then one 9-day vipassana retreat with Christopher Titmuss et al at IMS, tried to sit an hour or so each day after that, one 17-day retreat at Bodh Gaya with CT, sat about 30 minutes each day after that, one 14-day retreat at MBMC with Sayadaw U Raginda, sat at least 1-2 hours each day after that, then got it on day 6 of a 27-day retreat at Bodh Gaya with Christopher Titmuss et al again.

2) How would you describe your meditative style/technique which ultimately led to 1st Path [Goenka scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., a combination of techniques, etc.]?

Basically pure noting to power up to the A&P, pure direct vibrations in the A&P, pure noting when fell back in Dark Night, then in Equanimity very direct full-field inquiry with relaxed general noting at times. Was sitting/walking in 45-minutes blocks on that 4th retreat.

3) How many hours were you practicing a day when you finally achieved 1st Path?

Was day 6 of a retreat with about 15 hours/day of practice, something like that, but was noting from the moment I got up until the moment I went to sleep during those phases when I was noting, and then trying to maintain direct mindfulness during those periods when direct practice seemed best (like during the A&P when buzzy, fun vibrational interference patterns covered my body when standing in line for lunch, that sort of thing).

4) Did you maintain continuity of practice throughout the day when you finally achieved 1st Path; meaning, did you maintain mindfulness throughout the day, how and when, etc.?

I stayed on retreat for 21 days practicing nearly every moment I was awake.

5) What was your samatha vs vipassana balance when you finally achieved 1st Path [for example, did you do straight-up vipassana, did you do a combination of samatha and vipassana practices, did you achieve hard jhanas before starting vipassana, etc.]?

Pure vipassana.

6) What was your retreat experience before and leading up to 1st Path?

See answer to question 1) above.

7) What was your biggest stumbling block along the way to 1st Path? How did you ultimately overcome this?

Not knowing what I was doing: overcome by good instruction and straightforward, powerful techniques.

8) Besides Daniel's book MCToB, what texts, resources, etc., were truly useful for your practice and were instrumental in finally achieving 1st Path? Did you work with any meditation teachers?

I actually hadn't written MCTB when I got stream entry, so I couldn't have read it yet. ;)

I read Practical Insight Meditation until I felt I knew it cold, having obtained it on my retreat at MBMC about 7 months before stream entry. I also read a book called Buddhism in Translations, by Henry Clark Warren: it has some suttas in it. I also had access to the Visuddhimagga for a brief period during that time at a dharma library, and a book called Path to Deliverance by Nyanatiloka. I got meditation instruction from Christopher Titmuss, Sharda Rogell, Subhana, Yvonne Weier, Fred Von Allman, Norman Feldman, Sayadaw U Raginda, the abbot of the Niponji temple in Bodh Gaya (I have forgotten his name), Katie (last name escapes me): had lots of retreat time in Burma and wandered through Bodh Gaya and was kind enough to help me when the Dark Night was at its worst and I had no idea what the hell was going on, Kenneth Folk and Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, in roughly that order. Many thanks to all of them and all the support people who worked to make those retreat happen.

9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

More about the maps and more about how doable it was. Most: how close I had gotten on my 3rd retreat, and how much the Dark Night can screw up your life and what to do to reduce the effects of that between my 3rd and 4th retreat.

10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?

Have faith that it can be done and practice very well regardless of the sensations or stuff: the techniques themselves are so powerful and direct, and for those who can keep to the simple instructions, things can be very rapid. Keep in contact with those who have done it and hang out in person with them when possible.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
11/13/18 10:35 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Every bit of this thread is incredibly motivating...
.
.
.


But when I read this...  Everything crashed. Haha, took some time to recover though.emoticon

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
9) What do you most wish you'd known when you were working to achieve 1st Path that you know now?

That it was ultimately a waste of time.
10) What is your best piece of advice to pre-1st Path practitioners?
Don't do it! =). If you want to actually improve your life then there are better ways. If you want psychic fireworks and abilities (I include jhanas here) that don't necessarily improve your life, and might even make it worse (read reports of people dark nighting after stream entry to see what I mean), then go for it, though.


But anyway, if more people want to add their story, please do. It's been more than 5 years since this thread happened. I'm sure there'll be plenty who did the path since then.

And please don't say things like Beoman did. emoticon (Why does he think meditation is just "improving life"? Some of us are heavily dark nighting and experiencing some of the deepest existential crisis with no way out and hence lurking on the forum in hope for SE. We are not here not to get SE.)
LOL.emoticon

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
11/13/18 4:16 PM as a reply to tamaha.
Hi Tamaha,

I think Beoman was probably heavily into Actualism and down on the Dharma when he wrote that, as were many others at that time. It would be interesting to see how he feels about that now though, as everyone seems to have dropped that practice. I have not seen a pro-Actualism post in a long time.

He has a point though; it is unlikely SE will cure all your ills. You should be aware that post SE, you will be cycling through the DN many more times, and some of those subsequent cycles could be worse than the first time, although you will have better skills to cope with it.

Don't be put off though: forewarned is forearmed!

All the best.

RE: Doing it vs Gettin' It Done/Practice Survey
Answer
11/14/18 1:00 AM as a reply to Dodge E Knees.
Hey Dodge, thanks!

I think Beoman was probably heavily into Actualism and down on the Dharma when he wrote that, as were many others at that time. 
Good to know this!


He has a point though; it is unlikely SE will cure all your ills. You should be aware that post SE, you will be cycling through the DN many more times, and some of those subsequent cycles could be worse than the first time, although you will have better skills to cope with it.
Sure, I'm very aware of that fact. Anyone who has read MCTB, would be aware of that fact. In fact, Daniel goes on to say even Arahatship doesn't solve all the problems. I don't think it is something new on this forum. But as you said, atleast we would have better skills to cope with it. That is the whole difference. DN is not the problem. The problem is that the duality makes us believe that DN is a problem. That doesn't mean one shouldn't aim for SE.
 As mentioned by hundreds of people on this forum, for anyone who has crossed A&P, it is important to know SE would be a much better refuge than simply cycling through the stages aimlessly. The warning should be more like "don't cross A&P, if you did, finish the cycle."

As Kenneth Folk says, 
“Better not to begin. Once you begin, better to finish.”  

Daniel has said this once. I have printed that statement and kept it on my desk! 
Daniel:
When I was in the throws of my early questing days it was really hard to get my life trip together. I functioned pretty well, was able to get up for classes and do homework and the like, but it was tough.

Stream entry helped tremendously. Suddenly medical school seemed possible again, suddenly I could think about working at least 30 hours/week, which seemed a total drudge before.

If you are really in the throws of the thing, a few months of really solid practice some place like Panditarama and getting at least stream entry can really get life back on track. My two cents anyway.