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vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/27/13 6:02 AM
hi everyone;

i've attended a 10day goenka retreat last month. unlike my previous retreats, this one went quite tough for the first 6 days. i had to deal with lots of agitation and boredom. i even thought about quitting once or twice, but after the 6th day everything went smooth and enjoyable.

all in all, i was happy that i attended the retreat, learned lots of tricks that i missed before and my meditation got better...

just about 1-2 weeks after returning home, i woke up with my left eye-sight decreased. i had this illness before and i knew that symptom; it was called "ssr" and was solely related to stress and bodily tension.

just about the same time i had the shingles. again closely related to stress...

i know that stress related illnesses don't come up as soon as you have stress or tension. they show themselves after subjects of tension pass away and your body loosens up. i also have no other source of tension or stress in my life, i have a good job, lovely girlfriend, i sit daily for an hour... i am not stressed out at all. that's the reason i can't think of anything other than that 6 days of struggle to be the cause.

now i feel literally intimidated to go for another retreat, even a small one for the weekend.

any suggestions or anyone with similar experiences?

thanks.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/27/13 11:26 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
any suggestions or anyone with similar experiences?

thanks.
Yeah.
Good job. You are listening and hearing, keep on with it. Don't suffer needlessly. Simply do what is best for you and everyone else in the given conditions and carry on. You have found a limit to the wellness of a task, so simply stop and rest. Then slowly and more gently work up to somewhere close again with this new wisdom in mind and see what else you might discover along a gentler path. I have pushed harder and broken down even more. So, not much more to say, you have the insight and knowledge you need to be more cautious already. I have learned many painful lessons no differently. They are simple lessons but we are not so simple beings. If you need someone to agree with you about our various limitations as human beings, I do, completely.

be and continue to be, so far as possible, so far as you know, so far as you can, well.

nathan

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/27/13 6:56 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hi there Utkc.

From me, in my first long retreat, I went a bit crazy on trying to achieve, on trying to concentrate-on the rising and falling and on trying to see the truth. Or maybe on hoping to see the truth, not much you can really do about this if what you really want is attainment, because even if you say to yourself to relax and take easy, your likely to realise later that you didn't.

Reaching a new level or deeper levels of relaxation in the practice, will massively develop the practice. when you realise this through experience you'll be committed to this understanding.

To improve vipassana, you need to improve momentary concentration. Alan B. Wallace says in hi book the 'Attention Revolution', that, the foundations of the house of concentration are relaxation the walls are stability of the object/keeping the mind on the object and lastly clarity of the object/or vividness of your apprehension of the rising and falling of the breath. Along with this three tiered hierarchy is another idea. That you need to balance laxity and excitation. Laxity is balanced with clarity and excitation with relaxation. Be careful not to get confused by the first model and the second model/map. the first is talking about developing the practice deeply to completion, and the second is talking about balancing problems in the practice as you develop.

If these ideas are integrated into you practice you'll find a lot more ease with the practice, try them out and slowly through experience you'll realise their relevance and finally allow your self to relax because relaxing i better from the development of insight and momentary concentration.

One good thing to note, is that when you can't see the breath clearly, note that and don't force your focus into seeing the breath clearly but just note that.

O- this idea the breath being seen clearly can be applied to the desire to see the sensations clearly as you scan the body, or look at at part of the body!

Finally the reason your scared and are having problems from stress is or has to be that you are trying to hard! There are levels of letting go in this field of trying to hard!

Kind Regards Neem.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/28/13 9:29 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
@triple think
thanks for your reply. the problem is, i still don't know how to meditate with ease and with a relaxed attention. any suggestions on sources to read or onine teachers to ask will be greatly appreciated.

neem nyima:
not much you can really do about this if what you really want is attainment, because even if you say to yourself to relax and take easy, your likely to realise later that you didn't.


i can't say that my sole drive is attainment. most of my meditation sessions, i just resolve for a quiet mind and unbroken attention. will check wallace's book. thanks for the advice.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/29/13 3:04 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
i can't think of anything other than that 6 days of struggle to be the cause.

now i feel literally intimidated to go for another retreat, even a small one for the weekend.

any suggestions or anyone with similar experiences?

thanks.


Retreats are stressful! That is kinda the point. You are put in a stressful situation that is so stressful that you really want to quit, and most of your normal ways of dealing with stress are taken away from you.

So my suggestion to avoid stress on (and post) retreats is avoid stressful retreats! You could try a more touchy feely one where, for example, where metta type practices (and being kind to yourself) are more of a focus. So this might not end up being straight up vipassana but it will have its own benefits. And obviously shorter than 10 days will be less stressful.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/29/13 6:26 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
@triple think
thanks for your reply. the problem is, i still don't know how to meditate with ease and with a relaxed attention. any suggestions on sources to read or onine teachers to ask will be greatly appreciated.
Depends.

From experience, 10 day Goenka Style, full of newbies is a chaos festival, no silence, no peace, can't much be so - conditions. Mostly detoxing. Get away from all effluent and defilement, find a very quiet retreat center w/ old timers and just shut up when there, take long walks, in nature if possible to burn off some ignition, back to investigation and relaxation alert and attentive.

Any futher, in this space, fire away, what do you know that does relax or make sharper?

John C. Lilly's - Sensory Isolation Tank - Dude wrote the book, hard to find tho. Like the dolphin work to... up to darpa-er days. Sad. The tank is usually a real good and safe preview of it what gets like when the two are working well. If you can find one these days...

A nice big tub full of magnesium salts in a hot steamy pitch dark room. pref. it body temp. in a pinch. If you are entirely suspended you need about 6 inches of water, not enough to roll over, see to any open skin, cuts, sores, before you hit the salt or that is all you will know. Should be floating steady on your back with no roll over, not touching the bottom.

Pro tank has about 600 lbs of salt, so, check your building supports if not on solid concrete base over solid earth.

Get the use of a good one and you should be OBE in about 15 min.

I think they are about 3000 USD used, but fully functional last time I checked online

The high tech unit would be larger than circular to cancel out terrestrial rotation, et all, if you really need to get beyond orbital range. All would have filters and circulation, silent, like a fish tank.

be sure there is someone attentive nearby
To nudge you very subtly just a tap or two on the lid should do and get you out in about 60 - 120 min first time.

I think Robin Williams said he swears by em, I had a blast off!

plain jane version, any comfortable surface flat on back, dark, silent, relaxed attentive to breath. I have done concrete, not recommending it for you. A nice lawn, putting green is sweet, midnight, summer, stars and a clear sky, just soak it up.

Witch reminds me need an add, Moody Blues in tripleplay.

hmmmmm kthunkin
smilez
triplethunkin onit

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
11/29/13 10:02 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hello again,
I can't say that my sole drive is attainment. most of my meditation sessions, i just resolve for a quiet mind and unbroken attention. will check wallace's book. thanks for the advice.
Well if your not trying to get anywhere, or even wishing for the attainment. It may be a be easier. Thought there must be something you want? Or why did you start mediating. You don't sound like the kind of person who is a bliss bunny, chasing better more blissful experiences. I'll presume, your a person who was curious and sort of fell off the deep-end. And now it worse if you stop and only a bit better if you keep going?

I still don't know how to meditate with ease and with a relaxed attention. any suggestions on sources to read or online teachers to ask will be greatly appreciated.


Well, I'm not going to tell you the answer, and the fact is your going to get different answers from different people, on how to deal with this. I want to do my best, even though brief to encourage your to see the simple pattern of choices you can make about what to do with what is happening to you. Which may be, that you have entered into the dark night, which is mentioned, obviously in Daniel Ingram's book and with the most clarity of any Buddhist text!

So your choices are to develop vipassana or shamatha or both. Or, to do your best to distract yourself from your experience, by doing activities that are absorptive, like computer game, reading, watching tv series, etc. These are distractions and they make you pay for doing them to much. Because though you basically want to turn off and don't want to feel sensitive, in other words you wish to disconnect form the body. Other activities that will help, but take discipline are yoga, chi gong, walking and exercise. These will get you to inhabit your body in a positive manner. In conclusion, if you avoid stuff, it builds up, but alternatively if you work with stuff, stuff gets more sensitive, which requires you to maintain your physical disciple and meditation as part of that disciple.

Now, as for the practice there are many different way of doing the two kind of practices, be that one or the other or both. But I will try to explain an clarify what it means to do each one, with an emphasis on understanding what the practice is doing. Id like you to consider what are the benefits and the downfalls of each practice, so that you can chose for yourself what to do for yourself.

As you asked, here are some good books: A path with a heart, by Jack Kornfield; The Miracle of Mindfulness, by Thich Nat Hahn; In this very life, by Sayadaw U Pandita: The attention revolution, by Alan B. Wallace; Mindfulness bliss and beyond, by Ajahn Brahm, A new earth, by Eckhart Tolle; Focusing, by Gendlin

Vipassana: is adaptable or it teaches you to be adaptable. Vipassana is a tolerance, acceptance or going with the flow, based meditation. Because of this it is easier to integrate into daily life with with mindfulness. That means its easier to do and doing it, kind of means accepting shit as it arises. That is vipassana, being with and accepting what arises, because its better than reacting to it unconsciously! Vipassana is developed upon two things, investigation and concentration, which ironically enough are the same two things as in Samatha. What this means is that, even though you are doing vipassana, you can use these two parts in different measures as you require. To deal with different difficulties that may arise throughout the practice. Though the phrase, dry insight, is used as a synonym for Vipassana, still within Vipassana there can be a hard/dry style or a soft approach to Vipassana.

Harder: means pushing into the uncomfortable object, seeing deeper into it until it starts to change, it mean focusing more on the unpleasant sensations through out the whole body and trying to see them change. It means investigating pain and how the mind reacts to in and continuing to sit through that pain as mere sensation. Harder means seeing through the identification with the unpleasant sensation and watching it pass until the mind becomes calm and tranquil.

Softer: within Vipassana means staying with the rising an the falling of the breath at the abdomen (there are other ways but this is best, an thats another 500 words), utilising Wallace's approach to concentration of relaxing, stabilising and clarifying. By relaxing and sticking with the breath, in walking and sitting and in all daily activities, our mind begins to slows down, it becomes calmer and less reactive, there is a feeling of calm within the mind, because we don't allow our mind to wander and worry. And because we stay with the bare sensations of the rising and falling of the breath. We stay more in the present moment with the body relaxing and watching the rising and falling of the breath. Yes even that can be hard for a beginner to do, but thems the breaks. Softer means calming the mind on the rising and falling of the breath, using momentary concentration, until is becomes easy for the mind to investigate unpleasant sensation, because the mind is calm throughout, and therefore they change more easily.

Both: so within the Vipassana path we can also use the forces of insight and concentration to manage the practice.

Oh, there is one last book that might be a good place to start, that is Living Buddhist Masters, by jack Kornfield. which shows the different ways the teaching of the buddha have been interpreted, by give the practical meditation instructions of a few different masters. So Vipassana can be done a few different ways. Besides Goenkha's style, which he has actually already changed since he received it from his teacher. When you read the Satipattana Sutta, you get a sense of the different ways you can practice, but when you read it by different traditions you get to see that it can easily be interpreted in different ways and most of them are valid.

Samatha: Is the idea that we will develop the path through concentration and when the concentration is really high and the mind is clear we will use that clear mind to develop investigation. Samatha is a purely soft style (but it's a primary binary with vipassana rather than a secondary binary, as within the harder and the softer above which are the children of vipassana) it is called soft because it develops pleasant feeling, such as calm, joy, bliss and these qualities make the practice pleasant easy and soft. But actually its not quite as simple as this because there is also a soft and hard with samatha.

Hard: is breaking through the pain barrier until you become absorbed on the object. Pain if it doesn't break you beacuse you give up or because its to much for you to bare, for periods can strengthen alertness and attention. So sitting for long sits, is staying up all night, and persevering through adversity is quite common in the thai samatha tradition of Ajahn Mun.

Soft: In contrast to this Wallace's Tibetan approach really takes thing easy. This can lead to a slow progress if not done carefully and properly.

3rd point: The soft, hard concept with Samatha isn't as clearly defined in-terms of a binary, so I'll start a third point. On the development of Samatha, you can run into some real problems just like with Vipassana. Because in the earlier & middle stages a lot of mindfulness & investigation is required, to balance the laxity and excitation, while doing anapanasati: breath at the nose. Also the practice requires and relies on solitude or alternately on keeping the mind calm and neutral throughout the day and in between practice sessions. Wallace talks about how in the middle stage of the development of the practice in samatha, people can have some really unpleasant phenomena arise. And it takes a certain tolerance and acceptance to move through this stage. Conceit and flippin out can be a problem, because you feel so good, that you feel god like or enlightened, then the state shifts into a conceit high, and you don't even realise that you've lost your bliss & calm at first, because its a kind of hyper and magnanimous state, where thoughts of changing the world for the better will start, and this is very exciting! Also, at the middle stage, all this meditation and letting go of thoughts as they arise, and staying with the breath, and returning to the breath, and balancing laxity and excitation: can mine the depths of the unconscious mind and you can have a real blow out, it brings up shit. Which is a real reflection of the aspect of investigation that is subtlly developed in this practice.

Working with both vipassana and samatha, can be as easy as doing a Metta practice or some breath base concentration practice before you move on to you vipassana practice. In one session or one day or over ten days like when you do anapanasati for the first three days in a Goenkha retreat.

So for a quick start her is my summary of the attention revolution and the essence of the the development of samatha/shamtha from the tibetan style of practice!

Kind Regards Neem.
P.s. I hope I have offered more clarification than confusion, by going so meta on you? Also it nearly 3am now so the writing may be a bit messier near the end, pleas forgive.

Notes from, 'The Attention Revolution' by B. Allan Wallace, on The 10 stages of Jhana in the Tibetan Shamata Yanika Tradition.

"the sequence of shamatha training begins with relaxation, then stabilising attention., and finally maintaining relaxation and stability while gradually increasing vividness… If you want to develop exceptional vividness, first develop relaxation, second develop stability, and finally increase vividness. Between formal meditation sessions, it is vital to maintain a high degree of mindfulness and introspection throughout the day" pg.68.

"Psychologists have found that the time generally needed to acquire expertise in a variety of high-level skills is five to ten thousand hours of training in a discipline of eight hours each day for fifty weeks in the year. This is roughly the degree of commitment required to progress along the entire path to the achievement of shamatha." pg. 66.

1st stage: "directed attention... is simply being able to place your mind on your chosen object of meditation fro even a second or two. If you are directing your attention to a... complex visualization, this may take days or weeks...But if your chosen object is your breathing, you may achieve this stage on your first attempt.", pg.13.

2nd stage: "In the 2nd...stage, continuous attention, you experience occasional periods of continuity, but most of the time your mind is still caught up in wondering thoughts and sensory distractions." pg.30. "For most people.., the problem is...excitation." there are, "...three levels of excitation. The 1st is called coarse excitation, which we typically encounter during the initial stages of attention training. The 2nd two levels of excitation, medium excitation and subtle excitation, become apparent only during more advances stages of attention training." pg.29.
"...on the second stage, although you experience periods when your attention was continually engaged with the object for as long as a minute, most of the time you were still caught up in distractions." pg.43.

3rd stage: "When you reach.., resurgent attention, during each practice session your attetnion is fixed most of the time upon your meditative object. By now, you will have increase the duration of each session beyond the initial 24mins to perhaps twice that." "When you reach teh 3rd stage, your attentional stability has increase so that most of the time you remain engaged with the object. Occasionally there are still lapses where you when you completely forget the object,.. The third stage is achieved only when your mind remains focuses on the object most of the time in virtually all your sessions. " pg.43. "...coarse excitation is the predominant problem during the third stage of attentional development." pg.47. "The further you progress in this practice, the subtler the breath becomes. At times it may become so subtle that you can't detect it at all. This challenges you to enhance the vividness of attention." pg.48.

4th stage: "called close attention… due to the power of enhanced mindfulness, you no longer completely forget your chosen object,.. your sessions may now last an hour or longer, your attention can not be involuntarily drawn entirely away from the object. You are now free of coarse excitation." pg.59. "While your attention is no longer prone to coarse excitation, it is still flawed by a medium degree of excitation and coarse laxity. When medium excitation occurs, you don't completely lose track of your object of attention, but involuntary thoughts occupy the centre of your attention and the meditative object is displaced to the periphery." pg.62.

"Bhante Gunaratana"'s, "description of the Vipassana view of mindfulness in his book, 'Mindfulness in Plain English'." is a "bare attention,.. is present-time awareness…if you are remembering,.. that is memory. When you become aware that you are remembering… that is mindfulness."33" this "description is representive of the current Vipassana tradition as a whole, it is oddly at variance with the Buddha's own description of mindfulness, or sati: "And what monks, is the faculty of sati? Here, monks, the noble disciple has sati, he is endowed with the perfect sati and intellect, he is one who remembers, who recollects what was done and said long before."…it is weel known that the Pali term sati has its primary meaning in 'recollection', or 'memory,'… in addition to its connotations of 'retrospective memory,' sati also refers to 'prospective memory,'" pg.60-1.

"Buddhaghosa…wrote: "Sati's: characteristic is not floating; its property is not losing; its manifestation is guarding or the state of being face to face with an object; its basis is strong noting or the application of mindfulness of the body and so on. It should be seen as like a post due to its state of being set in the object, and as like a gatekeeper because it guards the gate of the eye and so on. "quote 36 " pg.61.

5th "stage… called tamed attention…you find you can take satisfaction in your practice, even though there is still some resistance to it… Free of coarse excitation, you must now confront another problem that was lurking in the shadows of your mind all along: coarse laxity… the symptom of this attentional disorder is that your attention succumbs to dullness, which causes it to largely disengage from its meditative object… attention fades,.. that leads down to sluggishness, lethargy, and finally sleep. This is a peaceful state of mind, so the ignorant may mistake it for the attainment of shamatha," pg.77.
"In addition to the… problem of medium excitation-…-you now have the task of recognising and counteracting a medium degree of laxity,.. having achieved the third and fourth stages with the power of mindfulness, the fifth stage is achieved by the power of introspection, is… monitoring the quality of your attention,.. so that you can detect more and more subtle degrees of laxity and excitation." pg.78.
"Buddhaghosa drew this distinction between mindfulness and introspection: "Mindfulness has the characteristic of remembering. Its function is not to forget. It is manifested as guarding. Introspection has the characteristic of non-confusion. Its function is to investigate. It is manifest as scrutiny."quote 45 " pg.79.
"Buddhist psychology classifies introspection as a form of intelligence (prajna)," pg.79.

6th "stage, known as pacified attention… is achieved by the power of introspection, and by now you no longer experience resistance to the training. You must still be on guard against… medium laxity, in which... the object of mindfulness,… is not very vivid. In addition, you… ned to be able to detect subtle excitation, in which the meditative object remains at the centre of attention, but involuntary thought emerge at the periphery." pg.99.
"At times when we become fixated on something, our mind become very small. Trivial issues loom up in our awareness as if they were very large and important. In reality, they haven't become large. Our minds have become small. The experienced magnitude of the contents of the mind is relative to the spaciousness of the mind." pg.99-100.
"Throughout the development of shamatha, even at this relatively advanced stage, a myriad of emotions and other mental and physical conditions may arise,.. One of the more common challenges in this practice is the emergence of fear… As lapses between thought occur more and more frequently and for longer periods, your awareness hovers in a kind of vacuum devoid of personhood… Another emotional balance that may crop up at any time throughout this training is depression, which may be related to a deep-rooted sense of guilt and low self-esteem… treat them like any other mental event: watch their emergence, see how they linger, then observe them disappear back into the space of the mind. Examine them with intelligence,.." pg.100-1
"The Vajra Essence emphasises… Everyones mind is unimaginably complex… Here is a list of just some of the kinds of meditative experiences cited… that may arise during this training, especially when it is pursued in solitude for many hours each day, for months on end: 57 " pg.105.
The impression that all your thoughts are wreaking havoc in your body and mind,
A sharp pain in your heart as a result of all your thoughts,
The ecstatic, blissful sense that mental stillness is pleasurable, but movement is painful
The perception of all phenomena as brilliant, coloured paticles
An inexplicable sense of paranoia about meeting other people, visiting their homes, or being in public places
Such unbearable misery that you think your heart will burst
There are many more.

7th stage, "fully pacified attention… as your mind settles more and more deeply… there is nothing … to attach to…. the seventh stage is achieved by enthusiasm: the practice itself now fills you with with joy… Having overcome the medium degree of laxity, subtle laxity remains, in which the object of mindfulness appears vividly, but you attention is slightly slack… subtle … laxity… is detected only in relation to the exceptionally high degree of vividness. Subtle excitation also occurs from time to time." pg. 117.
"You have become highly adept at balancing and refining your attention, the rest of the journey to the realisation of shamatha is all downhill… the mind has become so refined that your meditation sessions may last for at least two hours with only the slightest interruptions by laxity and excitation… Now you don't even prefer thoughts to be absent. Instead of deliberately letting them go--banishing them from your mind--you let them be, without deliberately influencing them in any way." pg.118.

In comparative terminology, in my opinion, this is where you are 'after' the fast flowing vibrations have finished in the insight jhanas of late mastery which has a later stage that models or is a micro-cosm of actual high equanimity. The evidence for this in terms of self diagnosis is, are you alternating between fast flowing vibrational states (the mini dark night of late mastery) and peaceful spacious states; not totally refined though. Then at peak experiences, intermittently getting to a peaceful spacious state of great ease of body that is only lasting 2 or 2 ½ hours, before a come down effect comes into place, where you go back to the alternating of the first two.

8th "stage, known as single point attention… You can now sustain … highly focused attention, free of the imbalances of even the subtlest laxity and excitation for at least three hours or so. Only the slightest degree of effort is uses at the beginning of each session to ward off these obstacles, and you continue in you practice motivated by the power of enthusiasm… the overall quality of this state of samadhi is on of stillness." pg. 131.

9th stage "known as attentional balance. You as now able to maintain flawlessly samadhi, effortlessly and continuously for at lest four hours. Due to the power of deep familiarisation with this training, you can slip into meditative equipoise, free of even the subtlest traces of laxity and excitation, with no effort at all… If for some reason you discontinue the practice, your will find that laxity and excitation erode your attentional equipoise… Contempatives who have achieved this ninth stage of attentional balance describe the quality of this experience simply as perfection."pg. 143.

This is access concentration and one can sit for at least 4hrs with pliancy & ease.

10th is Jhana

I state, these last 3 levels are hard to acquire and very subtle and directly applicable to letting go into high equanimity.


Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond:

These notes about Jhana from Ajahn Brahms book are basically how the Theravada Samatha Yanika tradition views Jhana: There are 7 stages of Jhana in the Thai Shamata Yanika Tradition. These are not page referenced or quoted as above, and where my notes at the time to help me get a sense of how to practice the technique of jhana as described in the book.

Stage1:
Present Moment Awareness: Be here now, listen, look, feel body awareness.

Stage2:
Silent Present Moment Awareness: Bring the mind to the now, free from the past, future & elsewhere. Sense the space & silence of mind.

Stage3:
Silent Present Moment Awareness of the Breath: Spacious silent Awareness, in the now relaxing the body, starting to follow the breath. Breathing in the now calmly…Breathing out the now calmly, allow the natural breathing.

Stage4:
Full Sustained Attention on the Breath: Attentive moment to moment awareness of the in & out breath.
This is reached by letting go, relaxing into the attentive moment, not through forceful attentiveness
You do not do reach this stage the mind does. this is where the doer, the major part of one's ego, starts to disappear & unity and peace start to become present.

Stage5:
Full Sustained Attention on the Beautiful Breath: The beautiful breath is when we maintain the unity of consciousness by not interfering the breath which will begin to become subtler, smooth and peaceful. Take time to saviour the sweetness of the beautiful breath (as Piti needs to be developed). You do not do anything, if you try to do something at this stage, you will disturb the whole process, from now on the doer has to disappear. In the later stages the breath will become very subtle and eventually disappears, all that's left is the beautiful, the mind is now taking the mind as its own object.

Stage6:
The Beautiful Nimitta: When one lets go of the body, thoughts and the five senses (including awareness of the breath) so completely that only a beautiful mental sign remains. Also the Breath and Space can be a Nimitta though this is not described much in this book. Some see a white light, some a gold star, some a blue pearl, for others perception chooses to describe this in terms of a physical sensation such as intense tranquillity or ecstasy; these are not physical perceptions associated with the body or the eyes.

Qualities of the Nimitta:
1) It appears only after the meditator has been with the beautiful breath for along time.
2) It appears when the breath disappears. (Some argue this is merely the perception of the breath which has become extremely subtle others that it has stopped all together)
3) The external 5 senses are completely absent.
4) It only manifests in a silent mind.
5) Strange but powerfully attractive.
6) It is a beautiful simple object.

If the nimitta is dull or unstable, flashing and disappearing in both cases one should go back to the previous stage.
The weak nimitta is caused by not enough depth of contentment and wanting, let go of the doer and enjoy, let the mind incline where it wants, which is usually the centre of the nimitta. If no nimitta arises after the breath disappear and instead peace, space, nothingness or emptiness is left, (this is not jhana) this could be because there isn't enough piti or sukha. Within the calm-space, cultivate the contentment into delight, delight is generated by letting the energy flow into the knower, strengthening present moment awareness, which will increase bliss and then the nimitta will appear. It is possible the nimitta is a feeling nimitta, of strong bliss, but this nimitta is more difficult to gain access to jhana with (in this situation space may be associate).

Stage7:
Jhana: Attention gets drawn into the centre of the nimitta or the the light expands to envelope you, let the mind merge into bliss, then let the jhana occur. The obstacles of exhilaration and fears need to be subdued in favour of complete passivity to attain.

The qualities of Jhana:
1) It usually persists for many hours. (Scriptures state proper Jhana or full accomplished Jhana is 24 hrs, I think 10-12 may be enough for the first time.)
2) Once inside there is no choice, emergence occurs naturally when the accumulated fuel of relinquishment is used up.
3) It is impossible to perceive the body, sound, think or perceive time.
4) It is not a trance but a heightened state of awareness of bliss that doesn't move.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/1/13 12:57 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
@triple think
wow... i checked out the isolation tank and it seems to be quite something, but i guess it was my bad not to mention my living standarts emoticon i live in istanbul, we're 16 million people here living in small flats and surrounded by a concrete jungle. so an isolation tank on my back yard is a nice dream for me. i have my own flat, have a seperate meditation room, i can go to 1 retreat every year (that has be abroad because there's not a single meditation center here) and am considered to be very lucky in this country's base standarts.

but i have searched the dho a bit and downloaded holosync. i will try that for a while. you seem to be experimenting on variety of things. any experiences on that one?

and i also plan work with an online teacher for sometime. i can afford 8-10 sessions (they charge around 100bucks per session as far as i know) and see where it leads...



@neem nyima
man! thanks for your long answer, you are very kind...

neem nyima:

Thought there must be something you want? Or why did you start mediating. You don't sound like the kind of person who is a bliss bunny, chasing better more blissful experiences. I'll presume, your a person who was curious and sort of fell off the deep-end. And now it worse if you stop and only a bit better if you keep going?


well... i didn't have any AP moments in my childhood or little hints of altered reality experiences like some people... but i really know what dukkha means. so many times I felt like it was enough bullshit and just wanted to die, because i was too exhausted to take any more of what is called "life". that's how i got into meditation. little has changed after this one year of meditating and 3 anapana / 2 goenka retreats.

neem nyima:

Which may be, that you have entered into the dark night, which is mentioned, obviously in Daniel Ingram's book and with the most clarity of any Buddhist text!


i'm definitely not in the dark night. in fact i even don't think that i'm on the first stage according to the maps emoticon

i ordered wallace's book + mindfulness, bliss and beyond. will read them both and start again. as your explanations, hard vipassana is proven to be not for me as it effects my physical wellness seriously. i am an art director and i'm no good with a decreased eye-sight related to stress. i have to take care of my body first.

nowadays i reduced my meditation sessions to 40 minutes and i do anapana mostly. if i feel calm enough, i prolong the session with another 20-30 minutes of goenka technique. i will take it easy until i recover.

many thanks again.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/2/13 7:39 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hello again.

Seems like a good plan, developing the Anapanasati. If that's what you need to do, then that's best. Also maybe if you want to de-stress, keep with just anapanasati, but maybe do some metta practice too. The attention revolution offers some good advice on how to do that and maybe Mindfulness bliss and beyond, does as well.

The thing to keep in mind about metta is not trying to hard, good will is a nice idea for a lead up into loving-kindness, also it help a lot to do the metta practice properly and as described, in the books.

Trying to push out love can create energy stress. Its and allowing with a gentle encouragement, which is why the word good will is a good preliminary to keep in mind.

Metta & Sympathetic Joy, will slowly help the brain change, into more happy states, its proven! When things start to get a bit easier again or your depression shift, consider if you'd like to explore vipassana again.

Well wishes, From neem

p.s. Yes, it hard to understand a summary of a practice if you haven't a back ground knowledge in it. So maybe my notes, are a bit confusing, they are orientated around working out how you develop in the practice, jhana. And a summarising of those essential points, from the books. I've peaked at the 7th stage for short periods in my practice. Usually 6 would be a particularly good meditation for me, if you measure meditation in terms of pleasant and peaceful experiences. But the centre of my practice experience in jhana is around stages 4 & 5, if you measure my practice by that map. I need to map first, once I understand the map, I just relax and forget about it. But i get pretty obsessed at first about seeing the map in my practice.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/6/13 1:31 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Utku C.:
@triple think
wow... i checked out the isolation tank and it seems to be quite something, but i guess it was my bad not to mention my living standarts emoticon i live in istanbul, we're 16 million people here living in small flats and surrounded by a concrete jungle. so an isolation tank on my back yard is a nice dream for me. i have my own flat, have a seperate meditation room, i can go to 1 retreat every year (that has be abroad because there's not a single meditation center here) and am considered to be very lucky in this country's base standarts.

but i have searched the dho a bit and downloaded holosync. i will try that for a while. you seem to be experimenting on variety of things. any experiences on that one?

and i also plan work with an online teacher for sometime. i can afford 8-10 sessions (they charge around 100bucks per session as far as i know) and see where it leads...


Well, you are fairly close to the Dead Sea...

under the stars...

sounds awesome to me...

then again you live close to volatile conditions.

I suggest high quality ear protection which will screen out all exterior sound, a sleeping mask over the eyes if that is acceptable, on a rock solid non-vibratory surface and a comfortable sitting mat or cushion.

If sitting is uncomfortable try lying down, or standing or walking in a quiet place.

all the best.

be well and happy and ready for whatever life throws at'cha

triplethink / nathan

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/17/13 6:50 AM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hello again, Utku


i'm definitely not in the dark night. in fact i even don't think that i'm on the first stage according to the maps emoticon


Well that may very well be true, but even the 3rd stage or the three characteristics can sometime be really intense if, you have been developing your practice a lot. I was in retreat with this fellow that looked like he was going through hell, for 4-6wks. He couldn't break through the three characteristic to get to arising and passing away.

The third sub nana of equanimity can have some of that too.
three characteristics
re-observation
and the sub-nana of high mastery with the insight nana of equanimity
daniels sub-nana table

So it can be confusing with the first two, as to where the persons at. The main distinction is, has the person had an energy awakening, a kundalini awakening. Or did they hit a point or period in there meditation or experience where they just felt great, like they were floating and everything was perfectly at ease within the body. Sort of like a great trip with the emphasis being on being, bliss and oneness.

This can be jhana related, but one tends to access a lot of soft jhana state within this period. Did you like sit for three hours without any discomfort and feel like you were floating in space or that you body was perfectly at ease and perfectly calm in the jhana of equanimity and the minds thought almost totally stopped through out that period of the three hours.

And then tragically it stops being so easy to do that again, that's a good sign that it was arising and passing away rather than pure jhana, which slowly gets better and you don't really lose your levels so easily as long as you've been keeping up your practice.

Any way, the three characteristic is and can be a really strong state. i think i got my first A&P at 18 just after I committed within myself to commit suicide. After that I got into Reiki, blissing out and clearing negative energy or became very sensitive to negative states. The world or my environment became an energetic space, in which I was constantly battling for balance peace and bliss.

Take care.
Neem.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/20/13 10:27 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
neem nyima:


So it can be confusing with the first two, as to where the persons at. The main distinction is, has the person had an energy awakening, a kundalini awakening. Or did they hit a point or period in there meditation or experience where they just felt great, like they were floating and everything was perfectly at ease within the body. Sort of like a great trip with the emphasis being on being, bliss and oneness.

This can be jhana related, but one tends to access a lot of soft jhana state within this period. Did you like sit for three hours without any discomfort and feel like you were floating in space or that you body was perfectly at ease and perfectly calm in the jhana of equanimity and the minds thought almost totally stopped through out that period of the three hours.



hello again neem. thank you once again for your kind interest.

i've been meditating exactly for a year now (with nearly 2 months off in total) and just getting familiar with daniel's insight maps. altough i've read his book months ago, these stages start to make sense once you pass them or at least get nearby and have a sense of "what happened before & what's happening now"...

so, let me explain briefly what had happened during and after the retreat, because i really am confused whether if i had passed through an AP moment or have i entered DN, as most of the symptoms fit?.. or possibly just deluding myself to find a logical explanation for my misery and pain?

UNTIL 6TH DAY - lots of frustration, anxiety, restlesness. back, neck & shoulder pain like torture. weak to medium concentration. some sessions were good, tough...

7TH DAY - relaxation, having a bit more comfort in sitting, sessions getting easier. concentration boosted.

8TH DAY - shivering sensations throughout the body. i could clearly see tiny electrical pulses shooting tens per second for the first time. they were subtle. not "blissfull" in terms of pleasantness but still felt quite food. pain was still there, but didn't bother anymore since i could see undergoing subtle sensations even in worst areas. subtle sensations kinda "dominated" the pain. i was supposed to be scanning the body around 10 mins minimum, but i was going 7mins per scan because no effort needed to feel sensations. at night when i went to bed, i could still feel the shivering and sucking sensations as if i was going to be sick (i really thought i caught cold)

9TH to 11TH DAYS: afraid of creating attachment to these subtle sensations. shivering and pulsating sensations slowed down, but still there. occasional spacing out, but my motivation and mood was just fine until the end.

when i came back home, everything started to feel so dull and gray. i was missing my girlfriend terribly during the retreat but when i came back, i felt a disturbing sense of seperation and apathy. not just against my girlfriend, but also my job and my hobbies seemed empty. useless... i've been off to thailand to learn meditation for 6 months and this feeling of apathy was there before and after i came back, but it just got boosted and looks more obvious that something has changed.

this sense of being out of sync with life and everything in it... i sometimes think that i'm in DN, but then i don't recall having past previous stages. what about M&B for instance? I've read the descriptions over and over again, but doesn't really ring a bell...

i am also still sexually active (intensity is lower, tough) and have a couple of things that i like to do, like my art project. i also don't feel disgust or an existential fear. i feel tired, depressed, numb and fed-up with most of the things life. that's why i doubt whether its a DN or not...

i haven't meditated for a week and my illnesses started to heal very rapidly. i'm planning to get back on cushion after i recover completely, because whatever my mood i have before i sit, it elevates 10x after meditation. i am feeling depressed and sad 70% of the time, so i get more miserable and depressed when i meditate, hence the stress related illnesses become worse...

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
12/25/13 10:52 PM as a reply to Ufuk C..
Hi there again, Utku C

7TH DAY - relaxation, having a bit more comfort in sitting, sessions getting easier. concentration boosted.

8TH DAY - shivering sensations throughout the body. i could clearly see tiny electrical pulses shooting tens per second for the first time. they were subtle. not "blissfull" in terms of pleasantness but still felt quite food. pain was still there, but didn't bother anymore since i could see undergoing subtle sensations even in worst areas. subtle sensations kinda "dominated" the pain. i was supposed to be scanning the body around 10 mins minimum, but i was going 7mins per scan because no effort needed to feel sensations. at night when i went to bed, i could still feel the shivering and sucking sensations as if i was going to be sick (i really thought i caught cold)

I'd be inclined, to think you had an A&P event, thought its never certain. This ability to sit through pain and discomfort or alternately strange and unpleasant sensations or both and keep the mind quite calm is quite concentrated. Your momentary concentration was very strong at that point. These electrical pulses, and subtle sensations pervading the body, and also weird shiverings are very much associated with A&P or particularly the later stages of A&P and even dissolution.

In my experience, the clarity of the different stages of insight and the clear transition between the different stages of insight is not always apparent. For me each day, upon awakening in retreat, I would have to work back up through the stages and on different days different stages will be more or sometimes less apparent.
For example the stage of dissolution is very hard to see clearly, one teacher who I believe was an Arhat, was inclined to disbelieve, I had seen that stage so clearly, and I have never since seen it that clearly, since. Many times I miss the transition between different stages in retreat, as I worked through the day.
This is because different stages may be easier to traverse on different days. Depending on ones strength of insight, concentration and also how many times over the last few week I have traversed that stage! For a non Arhat not to mention Stream Enter it is grossly different to the clarity of an Anagami, which Daniel was when he wrote the book. Basically the maps are maps! they are not the territory, so things are not always as clear on the cushion as described by the maps.
Some stages on some days may past in a few seconds or a minute. Lastly the description of the dark night stages, dissolution, fear, misery, disgust, desire of deliverance and re-observation, should not be taken so literally as the words that describe them!
They are states first and foremost not emotional expressions, and within these states one has a tendency towards some of those emotional expressions. So for me for example disgust tends to manifest as hatred and aversion. Fear could be, experienced as a selflessness. Or as a fear of pain and discomfort. You could have misery about, the physical form or disgust with your fear. These stage can be recognised beyond there emotional descriptions and identifications as mere states.

So different people past through different stages in different ways depending of their tendencies, this might mean that for some, they would have a very weak experience of the bliss and oneness often associated with the early stages of A&P. Maybe because their awareness of dukha was a lot stronger than their awareness of anatta or anicca. When a stream enter attains path, they attain it in the aspect of one of the three characteristics, the one that they are most wise of. This is called the door that they pasted through when they attained.

You seemed to get to points in your practice where you could sit for longer periods without mental reaction to pain and at points the pain overridden by a predominant stage of subtle sensations. Did the pain dissolve into these subtle sensations at points before it returned again? Did the pain sometime seem merely like heat and tightness and have and aspect of space and change in its formation?

i am also still sexually active (intensity is lower, tough) and have a couple of things that i like to do, like my art project. i also don't feel disgust or an existential fear. i feel tired, depressed, numb and fed-up with most of the things life. that's why i doubt whether its a DN or not...

A&P is not a distinct stage that you stay in, nor is DN, you can traverse these stage regularly in your practice to the highest point of your development. But you tend to stay around your centre of development.
In the early stages of my development, I was a lot more centred around A&P. So I was able to access a lot more bliss and happiness at intervals, between the periods of intensity, which where for the most part were larger, even during the good weeks and months. But as my centre moved up the stages of insight, I tended to access a lot more peace and calm.
In the later stages of dark night when you are well concentrated, you will have more of a tendency for your concentrations factors (soft jhanic intervals) to manifest as calm, peace and/or space. These states of samadhi can manifest before you have accesses equanimity regarding formation or in other words during dark night. Basically the stages are not clear cut in their relation to intervals of Samadhi. And also the stages are not clear cut in the progression of their development, they are in fact experienced daily as in an up and down way. They have different intensities along with different peaks on different days.

These are tricky things to understand, and they became more apparent to me as a did more retreat. I could be talking beyond your experiential understanding, so it have to read what I wrote more carefully because i am describing a honey you have never tasted, or at least never been aware that you have tasted. There were many times that my teacher in my first long retreat would point out something that I had been experiencing for a while and only in the naming of it did i became aware of it. He would leave me hanging on some point where my minds thoughts had not caught up with my experience, when he would finally tell me. Such as how I perceive the breaths clarity. So there are things going on that you are not aware of! Especially in the context of Insight development.

Take Care.

P.S. Please try and ready around any of my bad spelling or grammar, I'm getting better at writing but i notice a fair few mistakes when i read back over your quotes of my writing.

RE: vipassana vs. stress related illnesses
Answer
1/2/14 6:02 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
greetings neem,

first of all, your english is just fine emoticon and i can say that i've understood 80% of the concepts you had explained. infact, while we're discussing this back and forth, memories about my experiences and retreat days have started to unfold in a rather unbiased way. i started to see that i was mostly expecting fireworks while passing tru certain stages or states. i think that kind of expectation without even knowing it, caused me to miss the experience itself...

neem nyima:

You seemed to get to points in your practice where you could sit for longer periods without mental reaction to pain and at points the pain overridden by a predominant stage of subtle sensations. Did the pain dissolve into these subtle sensations at points before it returned again? Did the pain sometime seem merely like heat and tightness and have and aspect of space and change in its formation?


yes, i've experienced the pain as mere tension, heat, pressure sometimes. other times when i focus on painful areas, i just couldn't locate the pain, as it was in constant flux, dissolving, re-grouping, moving and coming back etc... these were during my well concentrated sessions.

neem nyima:

So different people past through different stages in different ways depending of their tendencies, this might mean that for some, they would have a very weak experience of the bliss and oneness often associated with the early stages of A&P. Maybe because their awareness of dukha was a lot stronger than their awareness of anatta or anicca.


neem nyima:

They are states first and foremost not emotional expressions, and within these states one has a tendency towards some of those emotional expressions. So for me for example disgust tends to manifest as hatred and aversion.


These iterations couldn't be more accurate, i guess. makes a lot of things more clear and understandable for me...

as always, many thanks for your time and patience!
u.