Are these formations?

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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Hi there, I think I may be getting close to synchronised formations in some of my more alert practices, however two things that raise doubts for me are:

1) I sometimes access these "formations" within 15-30 minutes of practice time
2) Accessing these "formations" involves making a conscious decision to experience multiple sense doors simultaneously

With regard to 1, I have somewhere acquired the (rather unexamined) belief that "getting to" Equanimity requires either consistent practice on retreat, or regular 2+ hour sits off retreat. I practice at most two hours per day, split over two sessions.

With regard to 2, I don't have any understanding either way as to whether formations should arise spontaneously or not.

In my practice I specifically widen my focus around the time when I notice that the edges of things have become hard to ignore. This widened focus feels at first like clammering chaos, but eventually creates a feeling of rippling expansion, as sensations from all six doors with their causes and effects interact with each other and I (there is still an "I") watch from a place of spacious calm. Using the spacious calm, and the unified field, I embrace the anxious dark night stuff (or at least, this is how I think of it in my self-diagnosis) to the extent that there is no longer any anxiety or chaos.

Around this time I deliberately turn my attention to the synchronicity (or lack of) between the sense doors. I actually challenge myself to perceive multiple senses at once. When I'm really warmed up, it sometimes seems to me that sensations from each door sometimes occur simultaneously. I even can become confused, noting touch as sounds, smell as thought etc. Not that it *feels* confusing, however, just unified. This kind of awareness continues then, fluxing of course but in line with what I have already described for sometimes for 30 minutes or more, until my timer goes off. I feel like it's the limit of my current practice, and am not sure how to progress.

Could this be the beginning of perceiving formations, or is the apparent simultaneity of sensations just an illusion that occurs for want of noting speed/precision?

If the former, what are some steps I could take to aid investigation of formations?

If the latter, does anyone have any tips as to what I should look for to penetrate this illusion?

Many thanks for all your help,

Jules
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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Just to clarify, when I mention that there is an "I" this is not the conventional I. Most of the conventional "I" has been shed by this stage of my sit through observing the comings and goings etc (3 chars) of thoughts, feelings, perceptions, consciousness. Once I have moved beyond the jittery dark night stuff, this vestigial "I" begins to fade too, until all that is left is a faint identification with the thing that is (supposedly) doing the observing. I am not able to experientially grok the concept of sensations having awareness just where they are without requiring any observer or watcher. I don't quite see how one could experience that. But that's pretty typical: I never see insight coming until I'm riding the aftershocks : )
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Well, those sorts of descriptions typically happen A&P and Equanimity, and which is which is important from one point of view and not from another.

See it sync, feel it sync, all of it, together, noting any tensions, fluxes, etc.

If it is Equanimity, and you are good at that stuff: see everything as object, all of it, including everything that seems to be subject, all through the center.

If it is the A&P: let it vibrate, pulse, rapidly or slowly or some mix of those, all up and down the breath, all up and down through any object, staying on it like a rabid dog, anything arising.

Thus, the instructions are similar and regardless, both are fun.

Keep going with the question in mind: what am I missing? What am I not seeing the true nature of? Space? Intention? Subject? Anticipation? Effort? Analysis? Peace? Stability of perspective? What? There must be something, as if there wasn't, you would get stream entry, so regardless of where you are, that's your standard and goal and, done will, it goes all the way.

Daniel
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Hi Julian,

As Daniel says....what is still being taken as subject?

Your descriptions so well put remind me of what was happening to me just before I got stream entry. Everything that was being observed in that wide focus, taking in every sensations that arose as object.....suddenly there was no more subject and I went through the dukkha door. Sucked up into something and released and then...a "what the hell was that?" moment and then a bliss that left me dazed and happy for a couple of days.

I never completely understood Daniel's take on formations. I got frustrated cos I wasn't experiencing what he described in his book. So I gave up that idea of formations and just went with being equanimous with every physical sensation that crossed that wide focus you describe. After all everything we experience is accompanied by sensations on the body even the illusion of "I".

With that wide focus, the sum of sensations making up the "I" was observed, like a sensation at the throat plus a sensation between and behind the eyeballs plus etc,..which were shifting around and blipping in and out of the bare sensate experience. At times I wanted only to stop those sensations of "I" from blipping in and out. Then after some time I realized that those sensations would arise regardless and thus the job was to see those sensations as they are...just sensations. When those sensations of "I" were included as just other sensations with all the other ones, then there was no more subject and that's when it all happened.

Hope this helps.

Edited for mistakes
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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Hi Nikolai,

Thanks for the information. I too have spent many a session basically doing choiceless awareness of bodily sensations alone. This in fact is where I start to perceive things at the level of "formations" I am talking about in my original post. From choiceless awareness of bodily sensations, I gently start to roll in sensations from other sense doors as they occur.

Your post makes me ponder something I read in MCTB a while ago, that has made me a bit confused. It's a single sentence: "Basic dharma theory tells me that it is definitely not possible to perceive both fingers simultaneously". While I have noticed that there is a flitting of perception from one bodily sensation to another, in sequence, it seems that sensations from other sense doors can be and are perceived simultaneously. For example, a smell and a sound may occur at once, with a niggle in the knee all occurring to my perception at what appears to be the same time. These is the beginning of my "formations".

Thanks for your help,
Julian

Nikolai S Halay:
Hi Julian,

As Daniel says....what is still being taken as subject?

Your descriptions so well put remind me of what was happening to me just before I got stream entry. Everything that was being observed in that wide focus, taking in every sensations that arose as object.....suddenly there was no more object and I went through the dukkha door. Sucked up into something and released and then...a "what the hell was that?" moment and then a bliss that left me dazed and happy for a couple of days.

I never completely understood Daniel's take on formations. I got frustrated cos I wasn't experiencing what he described in his book. So I gave up that idea of formations and just went with being equanimous with every physical sensation that crossed that wide focus you describe. After all everything we experience is accompanied by sensations on the body even the illusion of "I".

With that wide focus, the sum of sensations making up the "I" was observed, like a sensation at the throat plus a sensation between and behind the eyeballs plus etc,..which were shifting around and blipping in and out of the bare sensate experience. At times I wanted only to stop those sensations of "I" from blipping in and out. Then after some time I realized that those sensations would arise regardless and thus the job was to see those sensations as they are...just sensations. When those sensations of "I" were included as just other sensations with all the other ones, then there was no more object and that's when it all happened.

Hope this helps.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
As to the nagging feeling that one has seen it again and again and again and again and one is surprised that one has to keep seeing it again and again and again, this can emerge in Re-observation also, as well as early Equanimity, but regardless, it is just a lie that reality tells you: truth is, it is is not an infinitely layered onion or infinitely recursive function: at some point that is the last layer and thing pops, so just keep going, as there aren't really that many from a certain point of view.
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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Thankyou, that is encouraging. After the last year or so of intensive daily practice, plus a 10-day retreat and a 21-day retreat, I had come to the conclusion that Reobservation was my "re-spawn" point if you will ... if my practice slips, I tend to re-attain Reobservation fairly quickly, but it then takes a lot of practice momentum to continue on.

If you could help me understand another aspect of my recent practice I'd be very grateful:

Over the last six months, I have four times had very obvious A&P experiences; amazing unitive waves of experience washing my entire sensory field. Everything was swept up in this choiceless awareness, explicit noting no longer being necessary or possible given the sheer number of sensations I was aware of. These sits were often quite long and brought to a natural end by attaining Dissolution; a feeling that I was no longer even meditating ... that "it" was over and I was just sitting there like a dumb lump waiting for my timer to ring. Unable to stay with the object of meditation for more than a breath or two before starting to think about and make plans for conventional reality.

If an A&P experience occurs during daily practice, what would you expect the next few sits to be like? I find that they apparently start where the previous one left off, (setting aside a little bit of time to attain Access Concentration of course). So the next sit after one of these A&P experiences is apparently stuck in Dissolution. Unable to stay with the object of meditation, forced to return to explicit noting in order to make progress. Standard early Dark Night stuff. Using the practical advice of this community I am able to rise fairly rapidly (within a couple of sits) to what appears to be Reobservation, where I then apparently get stuck again, oscillating in and out of Reobservation/early Equanimity.

Clearly there's something missing as I continue to cycle rather than attaining to High Equanimity.

I note from MCTB that prior to Stream Entry one must always start at Mind & Body for every sit, and work one's way through the 3 Chars to A&P, then on through the Dark Night etc. Would you expect this to include full-blown A&P Events such as those I have just described? If so, then I must be stuck in 3 Chars except for the four definite A&P experiences already mentioned. The only other explanation is that I tend to slide through the 1st and 2nd Vipassana Jhanas so rapidly that I don't particularly notice them, but it seems unlikely to rise through the A&P without noticing it.

I am not helped in diagnostics by the fact that I don't appear to perceive vibrations except within a narrow range of about 4-8Hz. These most often occur in the first couple of sits after the A&P experiences I have described.

Perhaps I think too much about these maps and stuff.

Jules
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Ok, as to starting from ground zero, that is true in the small sense, but in the big sense, things progress.

Thus, technically and if one is paying really close attention, one can see initially small phases post the A&P that are the initial ├▒anas, but they will be highly colored by Dissolution and then Dark Night proper, and the further one gets in the big sense from an insight stage, the less is will be noticeable.

Further, the A&P makes a big shift in things, such that before and after it look very different in the medium-term regarding practice.
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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
Thus, technically and if one is paying really close attention, one can see initially small phases post the A&P that are the initial ├▒anas, but they will be highly colored by Dissolution and then Dark Night proper, and the further one gets in the big sense from an insight stage, the less is will be noticeable.


Thanks, that helps a lot. I had worried that some medication I take (for ADHD -- not every day but as required for work) might mimic some concentration/energetic effects mentioned in the progress of insight. But I went for a couple of months recently without any medication precisely to eliminate it as a cause, and experienced two strong A&Ps within that time. Neither the build up, the A&P, nor the subsequent Dark Night re-runs were noticeably different with/without medication. That helped me trust the things I observe a lot more. Now hearing that previous nanas occur "coloured by" the later attainments, this lines up with what I noticed after the last couple of A&Ps and removes a layer of doubt that was continuing to hang around.

Great support here at DhO as always.

Julian
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Julian Suggate, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Are these formations?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Thanks Daniel,

I have thought about your advice and seeing everything as object has certainly been my approach thus far. It feels like there is just one last illusion that needs dissolving, that of the observer being a self. The "thing" doing the noting. But that last illusion (if it is the last illusion) is a slippery one. It is like a hall of mirrors ... I note that there is a sensation of Subject associated with noting and the field expands pretty effortlessly to observe that "self" come and go outside of all control along with the other feelings like acceptance, wonder, questions and the five bodily sense doors. But the next moment after observing that the noting self is not-self, I am confronted by a deepening paradox: something is noting that the noting self is not-self. I know enough *theory* to understand that this IS where the notion of anatta comes from, but I cannot seem to appreciate it experientially.

I guess I'll keep at it, try and find time and money for more retreats, and see what develops.

Thanks,
Julian