Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Justin Fauci, modified 8 Years ago.

Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 8/30/10 Recent Posts
Hello everyone,

First post on the forum, so I'll give you a very quick background. I've been meditating on and off for a few years with my primary practice being zazen. A couple of weeks ago, I opened MCTB and read it again because my practice was floundering and I was getting lost in terms of what I should be doing. I had read parts of MCTB previously, but at the time, I didn't really understand (or care about) a lot of the content - specifically the information about the maps. This time was a whole different story, and I had several big realizations on this read-through, including:

a) I had been meditating with a lack of energy and investigation. Before, I would just sit and watch, but with a lazy energy. I wasn't actively investigating the nature of phenomena.

b) I believe that I've been in Dark Night territory for many years. I've had several AP events throughout my life, each time greatly renewing my interest in spirituality, and then soon after, I would turn my back on it all and not want to practice. Basically, I've "rolled up the carpet" several times along the way.

So after having these realizations, I felt inspired and I started meditating again with a renewed energy and sense of purpose.

Since then, I feel I've made very quick progress. I've been meditating daily for at least 30 minutes, and I try to stay as mindful as possible throughout the day, noting my various thoughts, physical sensations, energy movements, etc.

I think I've reached equanimity, and potentially high equanimity. I was practicing mindfulness almost obsessively a few days ago (off the cushion) and when I went to look at the computer, my eyes twitched for a moment and then I had the feeling of "everything opening up". It was like someone cleaned my head out, and my awareness felt limitless and I was extremely calm, though it was hard to concentrate on anything specific (like someone talking to me). This lasted for about 15 minutes before I came back to my usual self.

The main reason for this post is because today, when I sat to meditate, I noticed the cycles very clearly for the first time, and how they correlate to the jhanas. Now before today, I wasn't even sure I had ever experienced a jhana. Understanding how it all works in cycles made the process much easier to observe.

I'll describe what I went through so you can determine whether or not they're actually jhanas or if I'm just making incorrect conclusions.

Basically, I sat to meditate and starting watching whatever comes up as I normally do. Then my attention felt like it got glued to the center of my mind, with extremely narrow focus. I'm assuming this is 1st jhana. Then, within seconds of investigating the state, it disappeared and opened up to a wider area of focus (like a reasonably wide circle in front of me) that felt very comfortable. Watching that state again caused it to disappear, and moved me to 3rd jhana(?). In this state, I felt like my attention had been pulled at from both ends (left and right) and stretched. Very wide horizontally, very narrow vertically. Continued with the same process, this state disappeared in seconds like the others, and I moved to another state that felt similar to the 2nd. I observed this 4th jhana, watching all the sensations as I was able to, and it started to feel like part of my attention was expanding and another part collapsing, like it could all disappear. I even felt a little fear, and watched that emotion too. Then my body jumped and jerked away, like it was resisting what was going to happen, and I was back at the beginning.

This exact same process occurred over and over again in the same sit - probably about 6-8 times. Effortlessly cycling through jhanas (as I think they were), reaching some climax point, then a jolt of energy that pulled me back to the beginning.

From my description, does it seem like I was passing through the jhanas? Or was it something else? Just trying to get a sense of where I am in the whole process (and at the same time, not obsess about the maps and just let progress unfold as it will).

Thanks for taking the time to read this!
thumbnail
Nikolai ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Justin M:
Hello everyone,

First post on the forum, so I'll give you a very quick background. I've been meditating on and off for a few years with my primary practice being zazen. A couple of weeks ago, I opened MCTB and read it again because my practice was floundering and I was getting lost in terms of what I should be doing. I had read parts of MCTB previously, but at the time, I didn't really understand (or care about) a lot of the content - specifically the information about the maps. This time was a whole different story, and I had several big realizations on this read-through, including:

a) I had been meditating with a lack of energy and investigation. Before, I would just sit and watch, but with a lazy energy. I wasn't actively investigating the nature of phenomena.

b) I believe that I've been in Dark Night territory for many years. I've had several AP events throughout my life, each time greatly renewing my interest in spirituality, and then soon after, I would turn my back on it all and not want to practice. Basically, I've "rolled up the carpet" several times along the way.

So after having these realizations, I felt inspired and I started meditating again with a renewed energy and sense of purpose.

Since then, I feel I've made very quick progress. I've been meditating daily for at least 30 minutes, and I try to stay as mindful as possible throughout the day, noting my various thoughts, physical sensations, energy movements, etc.

I think I've reached equanimity, and potentially high equanimity. I was practicing mindfulness almost obsessively a few days ago (off the cushion) and when I went to look at the computer, my eyes twitched for a moment and then I had the feeling of "everything opening up". It was like someone cleaned my head out, and my awareness felt limitless and I was extremely calm, though it was hard to concentrate on anything specific (like someone talking to me). This lasted for about 15 minutes before I came back to my usual self.

The main reason for this post is because today, when I sat to meditate, I noticed the cycles very clearly for the first time, and how they correlate to the jhanas. Now before today, I wasn't even sure I had ever experienced a jhana. Understanding how it all works in cycles made the process much easier to observe.

I'll describe what I went through so you can determine whether or not they're actually jhanas or if I'm just making incorrect conclusions.

Basically, I sat to meditate and starting watching whatever comes up as I normally do. Then my attention felt like it got glued to the center of my mind, with extremely narrow focus. I'm assuming this is 1st jhana. Then, within seconds of investigating the state, it disappeared and opened up to a wider area of focus (like a reasonably wide circle in front of me) that felt very comfortable. Watching that state again caused it to disappear, and moved me to 3rd jhana(?). In this state, I felt like my attention had been pulled at from both ends (left and right) and stretched. Very wide horizontally, very narrow vertically. Continued with the same process, this state disappeared in seconds like the others, and I moved to another state that felt similar to the 2nd. I observed this 4th jhana, watching all the sensations as I was able to, and it started to feel like part of my attention was expanding and another part collapsing, like it could all disappear. I even felt a little fear, and watched that emotion too. Then my body jumped and jerked away, like it was resisting what was going to happen, and I was back at the beginning.

This exact same process occurred over and over again in the same sit - probably about 6-8 times. Effortlessly cycling through jhanas (as I think they were), reaching some climax point, then a jolt of energy that pulled me back to the beginning.

From my description, does it seem like I was passing through the jhanas? Or was it something else? Just trying to get a sense of where I am in the whole process (and at the same time, not obsess about the maps and just let progress unfold as it will).

Thanks for taking the time to read this!


Sounds like it to me, at least the type of 'jhana' that became avalailable after the 1st cessation of the senses/'fruition'/infamous blip, which may be what the 'jerk' and then back to the beginning experience you described. More info needed though. Can you clarify what the experience of the 'beginning' is phenomenologically?

Here are some jhana instructions by Tarin Greco and some pics of what I consider each of the arupa jhanas sort of like. They match your descriptions. 1st, narrow focus with accompanied sense of effort, 2nd, effort drops and the focus widens with more stability, 3rd has the focus go to the periphery of experience, the surface of the skin, the outer periphery of vision, with the sense of equanimity com ing to the forefront. 4th has the focus becaome completely panoramic of the body to the point a sense of a body with 'parts' drops away. The 11th nana, where it is much easier to see the interplay of supposed forgeround and background as simply one mass of experience.


With this access, I would investigate the arising and passing aggregates still being read as 'self' while in the 4th jhana as you described till of its own accord, another baseline shift occurs/something drops.

Nice work.

Nick
Justin M, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 8/30/10 Recent Posts
Nikolai .:
Sounds like it to me, at least the type of 'jhana' that became avalailable after the 1st cessation of the senses/'fruition'/infamous blip, which may be what the 'jerk' and then back to the beginning experience you described. More info needed though. Can you clarify what the experience of the 'beginning' is phenomenologically?


I don't think the body jerk was an experience of cessation - I'm 99% sure of this. I'm aware throughout the whole process. It's just a sudden jolt of energy that feels like someone electrocuted my body for a second to make it jump. Just before that, I experience the expanding and contracting that I mentioned, along with a mix of both fear and excitement. I do my best to maintain awareness at this point, and then the jolt happens and knocks me out of concentration.

The "beginning" that I referred to is just my regular state of mind when I begin to sit. I'm not sure how else to put it. It's like my concentration was broken from the body jerk, and then I have to start over. But starting over doesn't take very long, as my mind finds the first jhana very quickly and then I'm zooming through the cycle again.

I verified this process again last night before going to sleep. Again, I effortlessly cycled through what I believe were vipassana jhanas 1-4. I'll be sitting again this afternoon to investigate more.

One thing I will say for certain is that since re-reading MCTB, I've been looking forward to my meditation sessions in a way I never have before. It's like it finally clicked with me - what I'm supposed to be doing during the sits, and what the goal is.
thumbnail
neem nyima, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
I don't think the body jerk was an experience of cessation - I'm 99% sure of this. I'm aware throughout the whole process. It's just a sudden jolt of energy that feels like someone electrocuted my body for a second to make it jump. Just before that, I experience the expanding and contracting that I mentioned, along with a mix of both fear and excitement. I do my best to maintain awareness at this point, and then the jolt happens and knocks me out of concentration.

Yes I get that all the time at around re-observation and low equanimity, I consider it a Kundalini kind of effect (i.e. the opening of an energy blockage) or a micro sleep which is a subtle dullness. This one sounds like the removal of and energy blockage. This happens more to me in insight practice, The trick is to keep you momentary concentration, when things are difficult follow the breath, but with insight, that means continue to investigate the subtle changing sensations in the area of the breath. This is much easier than attempting to deal with the overall intensity of re-observation and dark night associated sensations/formation. It is a much easier way to access equanimity.

Below is a document that Daniel Ingram made, which seems to be hard to find these days, it is a map of the insight stages. Don't take it so chronologically! For example, after hitting a deep samadhi, and exploding into bliss once, which lasted for at least 8hr, and thinking I had attained stream entry, I mention to my teacher at the time Sayadaw Dr Sunanda, that I had perceived dissolution clear, he thought otherwise, as it is very hard to clearly perceive; to actually notice the the subtle dissolution of phenomena. I still believe that I did, but after seeing the dissolution that clearly, but it made me realise that I hadn't ever really seen it that clearly before! Ingram is describing the stages of the path of insight with the clarity of perception of an Anagami, which is when i thing he wrote that, and that is really different to you and me.

One thing I will say for certain is that since re-reading MCTB, I've been looking forward to my meditation sessions in a way I never have before. It's like it finally clicked with me - what I'm supposed to be doing during the sits, and what the goal is.

Keep exploring and learning, consider what I have to say, as you may find out later that some of the stuff I said is correct.
Also the fourth Vipassana jhana become less predominant the long your are in dark night and the more your centre of gravity is steering toward equanimity. I don't really notice it much anymore and get better benefit from samadhi states and samadhi supporting practices i.e pranayama & chi-gong.
Good Luck, neem
thumbnail
neem nyima, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Quickly Cycling Pre-SE, Near Misses?

Posts: 168 Join Date: 8/6/10 Recent Posts
I've been meditating daily for at least 30 minutes

Not that time is the definitive factor, of the attainment of a state of insight, but that's really short for equanimity! Practice doesn't really start until your doing one hour sits.

I think I've reached equanimity, and potentially high equanimity.
Hey it took me ages to realise what i thought high equanimity was actually high equanimity, fortunately I had the help of two, highly accomplished Sayadaw's, who corrected me, and which I eventually came to realise as right.

It was like someone cleaned my head out, and my awareness felt limitless and I was extremely calm, though it was hard to concentrate on anything specific (like someone talking to me). This lasted for about 15 minutes before I came back to my usual self.
Definitely a Jhana like description, some people describe these kind of affects as soft jhana, as 15mins is bloody short. I would hit the space and calm, with no sense of body and sit in that for at least 45, but investigating that, I could pull out of it and return back in to it. Also you can hit equanimity as jhana, and that has a spacious quality that is still present with the body. A pliancy of body will occur, resulting in great easy after sitting for extended periods, i.e. 1 ½ hrs. While on my first three month retreat, I would often slip into these kind of jhanic states alternating between insight and concentration, its the natural result of high effort!
Also i should state, that this notion of jhana is a relative term which can be described as jhanic factors and samadhi rather than jhana. here are some links.

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3626340
http://hkims.org/documents/bodhi-jhanas.pdf
Kamashila's Map

This exact same process occurred over and over again in the same sit - probably about 6-8 times. Effortlessly cycling through jhanas (as I think they were), reaching some climax point, then a jolt of energy that pulled me back to the beginning.
Don't get to caught up in phenomena, just practice. One significant point is that there is a real difference in retreat. I would hit states or point in short practices and could do that sometime consistently. But I found out that in retreat in deep practice there states had to be earned and ceased to become as available. This is because there is a centre of gravity and a peak, and in retreat you are pushing the centre of your gravity (which is usually dark night for me as it is hard to hold equanimity as the centre of your gravity) up to you peak. Its easier to jump around between different insight stages out of consistent & intensive practice.

From my description, does it seem like I was passing through the jhanas?

Some of that cycling stuff you where noticing sounds like moving around through the effects of different soft jhanic states, I prefer to call them factors though. Soft jhana or jhanic factors can be influences just as one can generate metta joy or loving kindness peace calm or equanimity. In the early stages of my practice there was not as clear a distinction between calm and equanimity!
You have some really good grounding in your practice to develop better samadhi and also insight, please look at some of those link above to better understand jhana and some of the different view around it.
Kind Regards neem

Breadcrumb