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Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/P again??

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Hi all,

So I'd really love any advice anyone with experience has. I'm starting a 2 week Shinzen retreat this Sunday (12.29.13) and I'm trying to figure out if I would be best served going back to the A/P event or just try to start from where I am.

This leads to the question of where I am. From what I have discussed with teachers, I'm drifting between the Dark Night and Equanimity (I've only had about a 2 hour dip into equanimity but I got a sense of its flavor and can feel that it's simple and possible.

I've done 3 one week retreats since August, passed the A/P at the first and got through the harder parts of the Dark Night on the second. The third was a bit of a mess in part because I didn't have a very sound strategy. But also, I had that confused, antsy, get up in the middle of a sit, thing that come with the Dark Night.

So am I served to try to go through the A/P again? I'm sure I could do it Although its far less dramatic now than the first time. I basically get concentration up enough that I can note anything that comes up in any sense gate as it comes, then I switch to just noting the passings of each of these until this speeds up to a drumroll tempo. A some point it gets so fast that it's just a tone and it becomes like a collective field of passings, like an accelerating white flood of awarenesses.

Then, I get the sense that I've been spat out onto the other side of something and I have more clarity on subtle objects of meditation I have tried to sense in the past.

So, Question 1- should I start there or from wherever I am now? Which is: lately I've just been noting the shape and changing contour of awareness and trying to investigate what is watching that awareness, what is beyond/ outside of it that I can almost sense. Some sense of a black reverse non-world that's pushing and pulling me...)

2 more questions: towards the peak of retreat experiences, I have had moments where everything was falling away and a wave of that black-nothing had me in it's undertow. Everything is breaking apart.; an exhilarating, overpowering, accelerating vacuum was about to break me into nothingness... And suddenly fear arises and poof! I pull away, the wave passes and I'm back in the space I was before I detected the wave.

1. At that point, should I go back and go through the A/P again or try to let go enough to open up to another wave experience and
2. Aside from just trying again and again, can anyone suggest any meditations that help with equanimity with sudden waves of fear/ aversion?

So there are 3 questions here.
1. Start with A/P every retreat (in my case)
2. Start with A/P after failing to let go sufficiently for Stream Entry? And
3. Ways to not be shocked by the sudden experience described above and possible techniques to prepare for this.

Thank you everyone!!! And please respond if you have relevant experience. ;)

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
Answer
12/26/13 4:23 PM as a reply to Janusz Welin.
Howdy!
IMO you can't start from any place other than where you are. Use the technique that got you to where you are as continuously as possible throughout the precious retreat time and enjoy it!

Good luck.

Tom

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
Answer
12/26/13 4:52 PM as a reply to Janusz Welin.
Hi Janusz
You will go through the cycle of insight up to the centre of your insight attainment (this mean the level you most usually are able to reach) and then bring your centre of gravity in meditation, nearer over the course of the the retreat, to your peak experience and maybe eventual even beyond it, all the while at intervals there may also be periods of new peak experience.

This means in retreat, you may get better over time at getting to equanimity every day. At lunch, or while washing, or if things get intense during a particular dark night traversal and you don't maintain your mindfulness and khanika samadhi, your practice will drop back down. So in this way you may move up and down through the insight map, on more than one occasion during the day.

The more familiar you become with the map by meditating through it the easier easier to pass through each individual stage. The individual stages of the dark night are not always so distinct.

The stage of insight are more clear in terms of getting some mindfulness up (zero) then, 1 becoming aware of the the three characteristics, 2 then getting the mind concentrated, 3 then noticing more subtle aspect of the three characteristics and 4 getting the mind concentrated in relationship to the three characteristics again.

That's basically it! Of course, if you've only bee to equanimity once or twice, then you may get stuck for long periods over your retreat trying to get into equanimity and hoping your already there. My advice to you it to get good khanika samadhi at this point and watch the breath, if that is your anchor, with a calmer mind from good concentration the dark night can be a lot easier to get through - to accept and thereby get through. And for me now that my tendency is more toward equanimity, the arising an passing away doesn't present the same peak and drama that it used to. It doesn't last as long, my mind gets calm and concentrated and I watch the rising and falling of the breath and my feet as I walk, and sensations merely become from heavy toward lighter and more at ease throughout the day in retreat, I don't look for the different stage like I used to, I just stay in the present moment with the bare sensations as much as possible, my last one month retreat, last april was the first retreat that was sort of okay, sort of not that bad, sort of pleasant or peaceful. But on some days the mind isn't as calm or isn't as 'concentrated', that's concentrated with the bare sensations, preferably in a smaller location rather than the whole body, which can sensitise you. Preferably in a smaller location like the rising and falling of the breath and the lifting and placing of the feet so you can become more concentrate rather than sensitised throughout the whole body, as with goenkha vipassana which becomes more difficult to do in the later stages of dark night. Because on some days the mind isn't as calm or isn't as 'concentrated', I don't like the unpleasant sensations and therefore I feel more sensitive towards them, so i might have a much harder time getting to low equanimity that day or even calming the mind.

Kind Regards, from Neem.

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
Answer
12/27/13 8:57 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
I totally agree.

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
new question
Answer
12/27/13 1:26 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
Use the technique that got you to where you are as continuously as possible...


Thanks guys! Tom, (and everyone), this leads to another question: once I got to the A/P, the technique I used to get there suddenly seemed pointless. Obviously, it was in fact not. While it felt suddenly pointless, I used it again and went through another A/P cycle (idiosyncratic term, defined below.*) and obscure objects of awareness became more apparent. But continuing to do the technique 'feels' pointless. It feels like a hassle.

(If it's relevant technique is Shinzen's of only noting abrupt passings labeling them "Gone." [The arisings are a sort of considered a given and focus is on passings. Emphasis is on detecting the feeling of 'gone.' Shin says that every abrupt passing has a taste of nirvana within it so one is cultivating awareness of this quality.])

Anyway, it feels pointless. Is this just a function of the dark night tendency to see things as pointless and I should keep going anyway?

*("A/P cycle" - noting abrupt passings until noting accelerates past the ability to consciously track individual sensory incidents. Noting becomes an operation of intuitive tracking below consciousness. The speed of tracking peeks at whatever the vibrational frequency of the object of meditation is. Followed far enough, this results in coming out of all that clarity and speed into 'normal' reality with a deep awareness of the vibratory nature of the structure of my surroundings. Because concentration is so high and so much more is readily available to conscious awareness, it feels that another cycle is harder to realize.)

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
Answer
12/29/13 3:56 AM as a reply to Janusz Welin.
Hi Janusz.

There is a tendency, in A&P and in Equanimity Regarding Formation (High Equanimity) to wonder off, and that's okay. Also there is a tendency during the peak periods of A&P and E.R.F. (Equ.) to adapt and explore your experience (the four objects of mindfulness), which is sort of natural. The important thing is to be aware of your attachment to pleasant, without avoiding enjoying it in an effort to remove the attachment to pleasant. Also to be aware of your attachment to not wanting pleasant states to pass.

The thing with A&P during your peaks, you'll either fall back into the 3 characteristics or forward into the dark night depending on your centre of gravity. This is because, either you wandered to much in your practice and the line between exploring new things and getting distracted was crossed, for to long a period/to many times. Or because of entropy, meaning its hard to keep it up all day long.

But with Equanimity, you only fall back, and this can be, well devastating at points, (he he.) maybe because you only have a week to go... and then three days and you still haven't attained equanimity for a few hours every day, let alone stream entry.

So, yes its fine to not always be totally, just with the rising and falling of the breath, and to explore the changing formations through out the rest of the body! But if the practice isn't developing or if it's getting to hard, then you can or should come back to rising and falling.

In equanimity sometimes the breath becomes very subtle and the mind isn't sharp enough to actually see the breath clearly, there is no need to push it to hard at this point. If you want to increase your clarity, stay 'relaxed', keep your 'stability' of the object, and 'clarity' will come! Increasing attention to gain clarity, can turn to tension very easily.... You will be able to see the breath more clearly despite it being very subtle, with relaxation, stability and clarity in that order.

*("A/P cycle" - noting abrupt passings until noting accelerates past the ability to consciously track individual sensory incidents. Noting becomes an operation of intuitive tracking below consciousness. The speed of tracking peeks at whatever the vibrational frequency of the object of meditation is. Followed far enough, this results in coming out of all that clarity and speed into 'normal' reality with a deep awareness of the vibratory nature of the structure of my surroundings. Because concentration is so high and so much more is readily available to conscious awareness, it feels that another cycle is harder to realize.)


Sounds like your really working it! Is that to get back to it again, if so recognise that, is it because you want to get to equanimity, if so recognise that? The above description sounds very A&P, and a lot of fun, makes we feel a bit wistful. Yep everythings vibrating, (and changing really fast!) and that's kinda cool emoticon.

Maybe, keep an eye on the quality of mindfulness and calm in the mind. Look for the subtle aversion and craving and also for the vedana, if you want to progress? Or just enjoy it while your at it! If you keep pushing to hard, to get there, with the-get to it approach and the investigation, you will start to push your self past these peak A&P experiences, which are quite fun. If you keep the mindfulness and calm of momentary concentration going, rather than trying to get to it, again and again (if that's what your doing?). Then the transition into dark night might be a lot easier, is my guess. Shrug. Also that approach, just works better for equanimity, too.

Take Care. from Neem

RE: Advice Needed - Retreat Starts Sun: do I need to start with the A/
great thanks stream-entry = wtvr
Answer
4/21/14 6:55 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Hey Tom, Daniel and Neem,

I just wanted to post to say thank you. Your input was really helpful. To put it into seriously trite verbiage, wherever you go, there you are. I really just needed to accept where I was, what the local conditions were and just move from there.

With your help I was able to go deeper than I ever have. And a wonderful thing occurred. I stopped caring about stream-entry. At least for the most part. At some point it just took on this air of inevitability. It, and by "it" I just mean some seriously deep insight experiences, just feel somewhat natural and kind of like home. When I went through the A/P I began to get the sense that I was the snake in the garden hose now... the only way out is forward.

But now this whole thing has it's own gravity. I did a day long metta retreat and it was the deepest insight experience I've had. I had a crummy time of sitting daily for a while and I did 20 minutes laying on my girlfriends bed. Also, the deepest insight experience I had.

It's super relieving to feel like stream-entry doesn't matter. The effects will likely be rad, and I'm sure I will enjoy and make efforts to move toward it, but, in and of itself, it feels like a puff of smoke.


I won't droll on. I'm sure I'll have lots of other questions to bore everyone with later.

For now, Thanks!!