One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Zach Mallon, modified 7 Years ago.

One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Post: 1 Join Date: 7/12/13 Recent Posts
Hi Everyone,

I've been lurking here for a while, but this is my first post. My question pertains to how one progresses through the cycles of insight. In MCTB, Daniel talks about how he's experienced A&P territory and been in the lower stages of insight thousands of times. He mentions how one can reach some low version of equanimity and then 'fall back down.'

At the same time, he talks about how people can be 'Dark Night Yogis' for years and years. If these Dark Night Yogis have stopped practicing, or stopped practicing effectively why do they stagnate and not 'fall back down' to some state below the A&P?

Reading this forum has greatly helped my practice, so thank you.
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tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
Howdy Zach,
welcome!

So to your question: If these Dark Night Yogis have stopped practicing, or stopped practicing effectively why do they stagnate and not 'fall back down' to some state below the A&P?

If one is pre path, by definition, each meditation session starts "below" A&P.

If one is consistantly practicing or on retreat one can stay bouyantly above the A&P from session to session. I think the reference to "falling back" refers to equanimity.

It takes a bit of effort to work one's way up to that level and it is very common to spend much time and energy getting up to that point. If after all that work, in retreat for example, one doesn't close the deal (Stream Entry), falling back to below the dark night stages is very common.

I write from my personal experience.

I hope this helps.

tom
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Julie V, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 82 Join Date: 8/17/10 Recent Posts
I don't think I came up with this conclusion until recently. For me, now I can see that everything we (or at least I) do has that cycle whether we knew it or not. So in a way, there is no falling back. We are always cycling through them. This will sound very differently from what has been advocated here in general, but I think to reach any paths, everything in your life really has to come together when we really face with our desire and fear and what brought us to meditate in the first place. Just my personal observation, which could be wrong and different from what others experience.
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Jen Pearly, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
I'm pre-path, as far as I know, and my mediations start at the A&P, never at mind & body anymore. I remember what mind & body was like, but it has been gone for a long time now (2 years). I'm really unclear about how "falling back" works. MCTB2 should clarify this topic.
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Jason Snyder, modified 6 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

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I've been hovering around Dark Night - Reobservation - Equanimity now for about 6 months. The lowest I ever start from is A&P, and I often start from ReObservation or even Equanimity if I have been particularly mindfull during the day. 
Mike, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 10 Join Date: 1/12/16 Recent Posts
Also a (former) lurker, thought I'd revive this thread: 

1) I've read some conflicting opinions here about whether the A&P is inevitably a "point of no return." Suppose someone were to cross the A&P, enter dark night territory, and then stop practice completely (which I'm sure happens often enough). What percentage of these folks would then regress all the way back to Mind and Body (that is, to a pre-practice baseline)? In MCTB Daniel seems to be of the opinion that after your first A&P you're "on the ride" whether you want to be or not, while others seem to think that a person who stops practice will gradually return to a "normal" baseline. Which is it? 

2) This probably happens less often, but: what if a Stream Entrant were to stop practice entirely (at least for a time)? Is this not really an option, because cycling will happen regardless? 
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Mike:
Also a (former) lurker, thought I'd revive this thread: 

1) I've read some conflicting opinions here about whether the A&P is inevitably a "point of no return." Suppose someone were to cross the A&P, enter dark night territory, and then stop practice completely (which I'm sure happens often enough). What percentage of these folks would then regress all the way back to Mind and Body (that is, to a pre-practice baseline)? In MCTB Daniel seems to be of the opinion that after your first A&P you're "on the ride" whether you want to be or not, while others seem to think that a person who stops practice will gradually return to a "normal" baseline. Which is it? 

2) This probably happens less often, but: what if a Stream Entrant were to stop practice entirely (at least for a time)? Is this not really an option, because cycling will happen regardless? 

Welcome Mike,

I think you might be taking the maps a bit too seriously. They provide a very useful help in many cases, but they are by no means hard and fast, absolute rules. So are these questions of yours just interesting for you because of general intellectual curiosity, or are they relevant personally, for example because you yourself are on the spectrum of what MCTB calls spontaneous A&P, dark night yogis, and so on? Or maybe you are worried about whether it is worth to take up meditation practice, given all the side effects, and you don't know if you will be able to "quit", so to speak?

In the former case, practice will certainly help you make up your own mind about it. Browsing this forum too, to see the plethora of different experiences.

In the second case, knowing something more about your practice and what your goals are will get you better answers emoticon
Mike, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 10 Join Date: 1/12/16 Recent Posts
Oh, this is personally relevant. I've had a daily (but not diligent) practice for years. I recently upped the intensity, had what in hindsight was probably some kind of A&P event (but nothing more intense than things I think I've experienced before), then had had what I would describe as sudden "insight into emptiness." This has changed my walking-around consciousness in some very positive ways, but I also find myself feeling a lot of grief / fear / existential anxiety. Sometimes (a few times a day?) I get into a state that feels like equanimity, though even there there's an undercurrent of fear. 

So I guess my underlying concerns in asking the above question were: 

1) Is stopping practice really not an effective "escape-hatch" for someone like me? I mean if I weren't feeling up for going for stream-entry just now. It sounds like the consenus is: maybe it is, probably it isn't (though it might lower the intensity of the negative feelings). 

2) Does this experience really improve post-stream entry? When I'm in the depths of this stuff it's hard to find solace in the idea that post-stream entry I would still spend part of every day feeling pretty miserable. But maybe the experience of that changes in some fundamental way. 

3) My third concern is that maybe I've inadvertantly gotten SE without knowing it and that "this is it." This thought is upsetting but it also seems like the least likely possibility (I don't recall any clear cessation event nor any period of great relief following it). 
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Mike:
This has changed my walking-around consciousness in some very positive ways, but I also find myself feeling a lot of grief / fear / existential anxiety. Sometimes (a few times a day?) I get into a state that feels like equanimity, though even there there's an undercurrent of fear. 


Might well be the A&P again. Even before Stream Entry, when you sit down to meditate, the tendency is for stages to repeat themselves from the lowest nanas up to the highest one you have experienced so far. Continuing practice unlocks the following stages. If you are paying a lot of attention to your emotional / mind states during your everyday life, you could be mimicking this effect without having attained SE in the first place, I believe.

Or you could just be a bit emotional and / or bipolar and be noticing it just now. It's not like all emotional people are sotapannas after all emoticon 


Mike:
1) Is stopping practice really not an effective "escape-hatch" for someone like me? 


That's something you can try. It's not like you cannot start meditating again if you see that stopping cold turkey wasn't the right thing to do after all emoticon

I have stopped formal meditation for a couple of months more than once - but I was doing general awareness in everyday life pretty regularly. Stopping non-formal practice after you have started, crossed the A&P and got some insights, like you say you have, is not that easy really. You will find yourself thinking about what happened to you, what it means, and you will end up integrating it in your everyday life some way or another. I regard that as practice too. So stopping in the fullest sense of the word would require commitment not to even think about what you have experienced, blocking the thought when it comes up... that sounds like advanced practice to me too emoticon

It is a bit like wanting to unlearn to ride a bicycle, if you ask me.




2) Does this experience really improve post-stream entry?


For me, and for everyone I know claiming SE or above, yes. The "suffering less, noticing it more" applies to all the stages really, not just 4th path.



When I'm in the depths of this stuff it's hard to find solace in the idea that post-stream entry I would still spend part of every day feeling pretty miserable. But maybe the experience of that changes in some fundamental way. 


The feeling of "wow, I am experiencing all the physical symptoms of fear / sadness / anger but I do not feel any emotional involvement in it" is a common one for stream enterers. It's like having more of the rollercoaster and less of the emotional in the emotional rollercoaster.



3) My third concern is that maybe I've inadvertantly gotten SE without knowing it and that "this is it." This thought is upsetting but it also seems like the least likely possibility (I don't recall any clear cessation event nor any period of great relief following it). 


It is possible but unlikely. Cessations can be phenomenal, terrifying, but also a bit underwhelming in my experience. Whatever the case, integrating the useful insights you have got into your everyday life and learning to use them in skillful ways could be a good goal at this point in your practice, whether you keep "sitting" or not. emoticon 
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Last but not least:
then had had what I would describe as sudden "insight into emptiness."

feel free to elaborate emoticon
Mike, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 10 Join Date: 1/12/16 Recent Posts
I was in the airport (of all places) and suddenly started to see, in a really visceral way, the emptiness and transparency of my consicous experience, saw myself as part of that emptiness, etc. This was cool at first but pretty quickly started to get fearful. 

With regard to my walking-around experience, I would say this: whereas before I had what I would describe as a strong intellectual understanding/conviction of the ultimate emptiness of self and world, my gut-level instinctual map of things was still for the most part "I am a separate self-particle in a world of separate object-particles," or whatever, though on an intellectual level I knew this was false. Now "emptiness" is much more prominent phenomenologically. Sometimes this feels empowering and sometimes this feels very frightening. I also sometimes reach a point (often after sitting, actually), where I feel OK with the emptiness and almost "normal," though the fear (mostly a fear of sliding back into fear, I think) remains in the background. 

Thanks for all the reponses, by the way--I do appreciate it. 
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Mike:

I also sometimes reach a point (often after sitting, actually), where I feel OK with the emptiness and almost "normal," though the fear (mostly a fear of sliding back into fear, I think) remains in the background. 

My first meetings with emptiness were accompanied by not-particularly-nice sensations. Ranging from terror / fear to this dry, matter-of-fact and "scientific"outlook on "me" and all that, to loneliness, kind of like having lost a long-time friend. More cycles and just plain getting acquainted with it has added a much better emotional dimension to my (still very imperfect and partially unstable) anatta / sunyata / advaita glasses, like good friends told me would happen. This might be as good a reason as any for you to keep practicing emoticon 
Mike, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

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neko:
Mike:

I also sometimes reach a point (often after sitting, actually), where I feel OK with the emptiness and almost "normal," though the fear (mostly a fear of sliding back into fear, I think) remains in the background. 

My first meetings with emptiness were accompanied by not-particularly-nice sensations. Ranging from terror / fear to this dry, matter-of-fact and "scientific"outlook on "me" and all that, to loneliness, kind of like having lost a long-time friend. More cycles and just plain getting acquainted with it has added a much better emotional dimension to my (still very imperfect and partially unstable) anatta / sunyata / advaita glasses, like good friends told me would happen. This might be as good a reason as any for you to keep practicing emoticon 

I can relate a lot to this. Loneliness (born of feeling "different") and grief have also been common themes. It's like I'm in mourning for something I've lost. 

But you wouldn't identify your "first meetings with emptiness" with SE, right? Did something seem palpably different after SE? 
neko, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 756 Join Date: 11/26/14 Recent Posts
Mike:
I can relate a lot to this. Loneliness (born of feeling "different") and grief have also been common themes. It's like I'm in mourning for something I've lost. 
Exactly. Give yourself the time (and practice) for mouring to settle.

Mike:
But you wouldn't identify your "first meetings with emptiness" with SE, right? Did something seem palpably different after SE? 
- My spontaneous A&P events were through the emptiness/no-self door. Terrorising and emotionally draining.

- My SE, through the dukkha, door, drastically reduced the frequency of those events. My SE was a semi-spontaneous event stemming from a practice I invented before knowing anything about meditation. I recognised it as (likely) SE only twenty years after the fact, by reading MCTB and starting formal practice, so it had some standard and some non-standard features of SE.

- My second path, which I attained very shortly after MCTB, kind of filled in the gaps of my SE. For this reason I often call both events Stream Entry, although strictly speaking it doesn't make any sense. It did nothing much for emptiness / no self, of which I had mostly a bookish understanding well into second path. This was in 2014.

- I got direct understanding of the concepts of emptiness, no-self and non-duality after practicing some Mahamudra and after a brief, one or two minutes spontaneous event of "momentary non-duality". June 2015.

- Lately I managed to get a fruition through the anatta door, my first one. It damaged part of my notion of self in everyday life, moving my "emotional centre of gravity / emotional point of view" to somewhere outside my body. This seems to be stable and has some interesting effects, including increase empathy and reduced giving-a-fuck (yes, at the same time), a subjective increase in depth perception and is all in all much more satisfying.

Do NOT expect my experience to be a predictor for yours. However, if you are at a point at which emptiness is starting to make sense experientially, and you find yourself attracted to the concept, noticing it in everyday life, and working on it, I won't be surprised if some new aspect of it will "click" when you get your first (next?) path. Explicitly working on the no-self characteristic of perceptions while sitting might nudge you in that direction.
Mike, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 10 Join Date: 1/12/16 Recent Posts
neko:
Mike:
I can relate a lot to this. Loneliness (born of feeling "different") and grief have also been common themes. It's like I'm in mourning for something I've lost. 
Exactly. Give yourself the time (and practice) for mouring to settle.

Mike:
But you wouldn't identify your "first meetings with emptiness" with SE, right? Did something seem palpably different after SE? 
- My spontaneous A&P events were through the emptiness/no-self door. Terrorising and emotionally draining.

- My SE, through the dukkha, door, drastically reduced the frequency of those events. My SE was a semi-spontaneous event stemming from a practice I invented before knowing anything about meditation. I recognised it as (likely) SE only twenty years after the fact, by reading MCTB and starting formal practice, so it had some standard and some non-standard features of SE.

- My second path, which I attained very shortly after MCTB, kind of filled in the gaps of my SE. For this reason I often call both events Stream Entry, although strictly speaking it doesn't make any sense. It did nothing much for emptiness / no self, of which I had mostly a bookish understanding well into second path. This was in 2014.

- I got direct understanding of the concepts of emptiness, no-self and non-duality after practicing some Mahamudra and after a brief, one or two minutes spontaneous event of "momentary non-duality". June 2015.

- Lately I managed to get a fruition through the anatta door, my first one. It damaged part of my notion of self in everyday life, moving my "emotional centre of gravity / emotional point of view" to somewhere outside my body. This seems to be stable and has some interesting effects, including increase empathy and reduced giving-a-fuck (yes, at the same time), a subjective increase in depth perception and is all in all much more satisfying.

Do NOT expect my experience to be a predictor for yours. However, if you are at a point at which emptiness is starting to make sense experientially, and you find yourself attracted to the concept, noticing it in everyday life, and working on it, I won't be surprised if some new aspect of it will "click" when you get your first (next?) path. Explicitly working on the no-self characteristic of perceptions while sitting might nudge you in that direction.

Thanks, this seems to correspond to my evolving understanding of things. I haven't seen much about this, but I think Culadasa has perhaps the most sensible take on all of this that I've seen. He talks a bit about it here: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D827IfICpOY

He also explains elsewhere (I believe here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/jhana_insight/conversations/topics/2805) that dry (or drier) insight practices tend to lead to these wrenching experiences partly because they involve deepening insight into imperanence and suffering before putting much of a dent in "no-self." So you end up with the feeling that you're a "self" floating around in a world of empty appearances, which naturally isn't very pleasant. But he says that different practice modalities attack things from different angles, leading to different (and less arduous) progresses of insight (involving insight into no-self prior to, or perhaps simultaneously with, suffering and impermanence). This all makes a lot of sense to me, and I've been going through his new book. 

So given all this I think I'm of two minds (so to speak) about this situation: on the one hand it seems like the thing to do is to work on deepening samatha and also working on having a deeper experience of no-self, which seems would go a long way toward alleviating the severity of these experiences (are there other approaches to this other than Mahamudra?) On the other hand I wonder whether it wouldn't be better to stop practicing, let things "settle" as much as they're going to, and then try to approach practice in a way that leads to insight cycles that are less harsh. I recognize the potential naïvete of the latter approach, but it doesn't seem impossible in principle. 

EDIT: 

- Lately I managed to get a fruition through the anatta door, my first one. It damaged part of my notion of self in everyday life, moving my "emotional centre of gravity / emotional point of view" to somewhere outside my body. This seems to be stable and has some interesting effects, including increase empathy and reduced giving-a-fuck (yes, at the same time), a subjective increase in depth perception and is all in all much more satisfying.

Interestingly, I can already relate to this, and it accounts for pretty much all of the positive effects I've noticed following this experience. This at least in part is why I've suspected that I've gotten already gotten SE and am just having trouble integrating it. 
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Noah, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: One the Nature of Cycling and 'Falling Back Down'

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Mike:
Also a (former) lurker, thought I'd revive this thread: 

1) I've read some conflicting opinions here about whether the A&P is inevitably a "point of no return." Suppose someone were to cross the A&P, enter dark night territory, and then stop practice completely (which I'm sure happens often enough). What percentage of these folks would then regress all the way back to Mind and Body (that is, to a pre-practice baseline)? In MCTB Daniel seems to be of the opinion that after your first A&P you're "on the ride" whether you want to be or not, while others seem to think that a person who stops practice will gradually return to a "normal" baseline. Which is it? 

2) This probably happens less often, but: what if a Stream Entrant were to stop practice entirely (at least for a time)? Is this not really an option, because cycling will happen regardless? 

2) Stream entry is permanent and irreversible.  There is no way to go reverse the benefits one gains from it.  The benefits will vary from person to person, and will be subtle but evident upon examination.  

1) For either a Stream entrant or one who has crossed the A&P (which is also called 'deep insight' in the Vipassana tradition), my guess is that a wide variety of examples/options are possible.  A major factor is one's degree of awareness of the maps.  The more one knows about something, and expects it to be a prevalant effect, the more it will work.  This can be in one's favor, or work against someone.  However, either way, the effects of completed insight cycles are real beyond this 'placebo,'  I can say for sure.

Here are some elaborations on 'my guess' about possible scenarios:

-someone knows about the maps, but stops meditating, and forgets about them, and experiences a greater degree of moodiness than before (the cycling), but doesn't analyze it

-someone knows about the maps, and keeps meditating, and keeps thinking about them, and keeps trying to map themselves (i.e. many DhO participants)

-someone doesn't know about the maps, and meditates for a long time, but gets shitty instructions, and never crosses the A&P

-someone doesn't know about the maps, and meditates for a long time, and gets good instructions, and crosses the A&P, and experiences a greater degree of moodiness (the cycling), and doesn't know why

I have no idea what percentages/proportions of the population this would fall into, but these are my thoughts regardless.

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