"Stuck" in Equanimity?

Daniel T Johnson, modified 11 Years ago.

"Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
I recently returned from 50 days on retreat here in India. I'm not sure what to make of all that happened (which, of course, was a lot), and not sure where exactly to go from here. Also, not sure if maybe I might be "stuck" in something I'm not seeing. So, I wanted to just post here and clarify a little. Sorry if this is long, but I would love some guidance, etc, as I feel a little bit vulnerable like a little child after 50 days of no talking.

Having been "diagnosed" on this forum before, it seems that I passed through the Arising and Passing about a year ago (for the second time, perhaps), and was working Dark Night energy up until about last fall. Which would put me in Equanimity.

Reading the stuff on interactivebuddha.com about the Equanimity nana, this is what I can say matches my situation:

"Finally, we really begin to understand and surrender to the truth of things."
- Yes. The first few days of my retreat were a complete surrender, deep deep surrender.

"All of the “stuff” that the Dark Night may have brought up may still be going on, but somehow it has lost its ability to cause real trouble."
- Totally. it seems to come and go at times, but never troublesome.

"Equanimity is much more about something in the relationship to phenomena than anything specific about the phenomena themselves."
- Yes, it's a very calm do-nothing type of relationship for me.

"Equanimity can have sort of a rough start, strangely enough, as well as some mildly painful and irritating sensations"
- Yes, except not just "mildly"... some very very painful and irritating sensations, and still continuing months later. But, like above, not very troublesome.

"it is very tempting to solidify it into the fourth samatha jhana"
- I have no idea what the fourth jhana is, but sometimes I have just sat around for hours feeling my breath and being totally content while doing nothing in particular. Not sure if that's a "solidification" or not.

"not investigating the qualities of this stage, such as peace, ease, and a panoramic perspective, causes failure to progress and makes falling back to Re-observation more likely."
- I don't understand the "falling back" principle. I don't really get what that means. But, I think there was a moment prior to this retreat when I realized I wasn't investigating grattitude... and that's when I realized that there was a whole shitload of stuff like peace, ease, etc that I wasn't investigating. I think I'm still learning to investigate this stuff.

"the true nature of even more complex, inclusive, subtle and fundamental things, like space, awareness, investigation, wonder, expectation, anticipation, peace, ease, questioning, and those sorts of things in ways that cut through the center and include the whole background and foreground as well."
- Can't say that I'm really experiencing this type of stuf, or maybe only at a beginner level. I catch these things arising in my experience but am not piercing through to their true nature, just sorta vaguely noticing them.

"This early stage can feel very familiar and “normal,”"
- I spent a lot of time on retreat feeling very normal.

"Sometimes the early part of stage 11 can produce a real sense of freedom in the conventional sense, freedom from cares, worries, and even responsibilities and social conventions. One may sometimes feel that one is simply beyond everything, and it must be admitted that this is a wonderful feeling. It tends to fade quickly enough on its own, but it might be possible to get caught by it if one stopped practicing entirely."
- I think I went through this mostly by now. It did kind of fade on it's own.

"their spiritual path being much less of a Big Holy Deal."
- Yes, somewhat... but also that's why I'm posting because I'm a bit concerned that if it's such a not big deal, then why am I practicing? And, a sense of pointlessness sometimes arises around this, I've been investigating "pointlessness," but it's still a little vague what that is.

"the meditator is able to sit for longer and longer periods of time"
- I think this started to happen around November of last year, but then it seemed like I was hurting myself because I was sitting so much, so I haven't been sitting long periods anymore. (See the note about pain, above)

"and begins to clearly perceive the Three Characteristics with spaciousness and breadth."
- Yeah, and my mind seems more inclined to percieve the whole of experience than to dwell on an object of meditation for too long.

"There are rarely if ever the spontaneous physical motions and odd breathing patterns that come with that earlier stage. "
- I didn't have much spontaneous stuff in either, but still I get some of this stuff now.

"there is often a single double-dip unknowing event, with one being halfway down the breath and the other at the end of that breath, very soon after the shift from Re-observation to Equanimity."
- No concious experience of any kind of "unknowing events" as far as I can tell.

"fear of madness and death is not uncommon at this stage, but usually does not cause too much trouble"
- Yeah, I've had some of that.

"A related and common feeling in the early part of this stage is the general sense that something big is about to happen, though this feeling is also common before the A&P Event. These feelings are worthy of sensate investigation in a wide and inclusive way."
- I had a number of moments like this, one in which it was almost like I heard a voice calling from "the other side" saying out to me "Trust... Trust..." I must admit that I didn't investigate this as a sensate experience, because it seemed pretty cool at the time.

"Reality can now be perceived with great breadth, precision, and clarity, and soon with no special effort."
- Long stretches of no-effort on this most recent retreat. It was like I could just lie there in the meditation hall and everything would just arise, be percieved clearly, and the pass with no effort. Even when things weren't percieved clearly - the lack of clarity was quickly percieved without effort.

"Vibrations may become predominant, and reality may become nothing but vibrations."
- Can't say that this really fits. Things occur as just experience arising and passing - if that's what's meant by "vibrations"?

"Vibrating formless realms may even arise, with no discernable image of the body being present at all."
- A couple of very short dips into formless realms, most markedly characterized by a real lack of typical reference points with which to "know myself". Like, just being and experience arising, but no real form of the experience.

"Phenomena may even begin to lose the sense that they are of a particular sense door, and mental and physical phenomena may appear nearly indistinguishably as just vibrations of suchness, sometimes referred to as “formations.”'"
- Not much of this, except what I said above about a couple short formless experiences.

"Until mental and physical sensations fully synchronize on “that side,” there can be a bit of a “tri-ality,” in which there is the sense of the observer “on this side,” and nearly the whole of body and mind as two fluxing entities “over there.”"
- Yeah... he, he... that's weird shit.

"Just keep investigating in a natural and matter-of-fact way. Let this profound dance unfold. If you have gotten to this point, you are extraordinarily close and need to do very little but relax and be gently curious about your experience."
- ** This is where I really had a question. Mostly, this is what I was doing for 50 days,

just relaxing with some curiousity and a lot of loving the truth while experience unfolded. But, it did seem like it was bordering on not-practicing, and since I did it for 50 days without any "fruition" (as far as I can tell), I'm wondering if perhaps more effort is needed, although I'm not sure I could've even put in more effort, since I was in such a deep state of surrender.

"One of the primary ways that the illusion of duality is maintained is that the mind partially “blinks out” for a part of each formation,"
- Just starting to kind of notice this at times. It seems the "blinking" is related to the idea that "I am this experience," or "I am in this experience" or "these are my thoughts." like, without the blink, there can't be this false identification

It seems I'm in Equanimity, and perhaps I just need to keep investigating the things I'm leaving out.
It does seem hard to go back into "normal life" from here, however, as it seems like if I'm close to something (ie. stream entry), then I don't want to get off the cushion. Also, normal life isn't making a whole lot of sense right now because nothing seems super important like it would have a while back.
Also, it seems like 50 days on retreat and not progressing past equanimity would be "slow" by DhO standards. But, for me, somehow it seems appropriate, lots of transformation seems to be occurring, and I don't feel like I'm in a hurry to get anywhere. I also feel some preliminary hints of "maybe it's time to move on," like Equanimity is just now starting to get a little boring, and I'm just now starting to see that it's just another passing phenomenon, nothing to get attached to. But, these moments seem to come on their own, and they don't seem to predominant yet. I imagine that this disillusionment with equanimity would be the impetus to move on to fruition, when the time is right. Or, is this just me rationalizing why I'm stuck here?

Of course, on the other hand, I still think it's possible that I'm way off in my mapping, and actually maybe I'm fully an arahat, or maybe I'm as ignorant as a brick? I don't really know some times.

Help, guidance, encouragement is appreciated.

Lots of love,

the prisoner greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: "Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
sounds like equanimity. are you doing noting practice? when you say 'investigate', what does that constitute?

Daniel T Johnson, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: "Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
Thanks for the questions...
My practice seems to be pretty mix and match, I guess you could say. The only "formal" training I've had is with Goenka and the body scanning. I found that this has limited application however, and have tried to expand my practice to be more inclusive of the Sattipathana Sutta via noting mind, emotions, mental contents, bodily actions, or whatever arises.

But, I think even more fundamental to my practice is more just a search for truth and authenticity, of which I've been influenced a lot by A.H. Almaas. And, I must say that "being true to myself" takes precedence over vipassana if/when the two come into conflict. "Being true to myself" mostly consists of deeply listening/seeing/observing what's really going on in the most real sense in the present moment with direct experience, and noticing any way in which I'm trying to falsify it, control it, manipulate it, etc through the action of the ego - and then let that go where possible or at least accept it with openness. (Basically, I think this still sort of fits in the category of Vipassana, but I guess what I'm saying is that I'm more concerned with what's really going on than I am with "noting" or "body scanning"... sometimes "noting" and "body scanning" doesn't arise in my experience, and so the question is what to do then? Well, I just remain with the awareness of what is arising.)

I guess what doesn't seem like Vipassana is when "being true to myself arises" not so much in the field of awareness, but just in a sense of surrender and letting go and letting everything just be. So, sometimes my practice looks more like just surrendering to what is.

Sometimes, it also looks like "doing nothing" - wu wei. I even have a little inside joke with my ego, where my ego will come to me with a "problem" and say "do something about it!" and I will say, "OK... I'll do something about your problem... I'll do "nothing" about it." And, then I literally do nothing about it, which usually has a pretty profound effect.

Of course, this whole mix-match thing could be some sly plot of my ego to justify a lack of continuity in practice, but I feel fairly confident in it so far. And, I think mostly I'm practicing with a high degree of continuity in terms of just being with my direct experience and not trying to control it. Like I said, though, noting and body scanning comes and goes.

When I say "investigate," mostly what I mean is a sort of intervention of space and awareness into the normally habitual and rapid pattern of ego activity. That is, I see something that was running unconsciously in the background, and having noticed it, I stay with it and allow it space to unfold however it wants, bathing it in awareness until it passes. Sometimes I am "noting" while this is going on... like: "anger, anger, anger, rage, pissed the fuck off, rage, hatred, burning, chest pain, pain, pain," etc. Sometimes it is more silent. Sometimes it is with "body" sensations, and sometimes it is with sensations that don't have a clear location in the body, but can be clearly identified by my mind (somehow).

On another note, I thought of something more to add:
I tried to implement the advice of Daniel I. who recommended "resolve to stream-entry and just let it happen."
But, I honestly couldn't find the juice for the resolution. Feeling into the intention in my heart, what my being was wanting most wasn't to get stream entry but rather it wanted a fuckin' rest. It's like 10 years of spiritual struggle and now I get to a stage where basically everything's "ok"... I think I'm gonna take a breather for a few. Resting is very difficult for me, as I found that somewhere in my life I had taken a vow along the lines of "I won't rest until all suffering is eradicated." So, a lot of my practice hasn't been so much insight practice as it has been just intentional resting. I just lie in bed and know that everything's ok, and let gravity do the rest. It's phenomenal, and also quite difficult. So, perhaps that's another reason why I seem to be pausing in Equanimity. I can feel a tension even now at the thought of stirring the pot again... like "oh shit, he's gonna go and do the stream entry thing, and everything's gonna get all fucked up again." It seems like a tremendous achievement of kindness on my part to actually be resting for the first time in many many years.

Another note:
Last night, I sat an hour for meditation, and I sat for about 5 minutes continuously with the breath (more or less), then my body was in pain, so I got off my meditation stool, and ended up writhing in pain in bed and crying and moaning, etc. This lasted until about 52 minutes, and then for the last 8 minutes I was totally calm so I got back into a sitting posture and sat the last 8 minutes in peace. Is this what's meant by "falling back into re-observation?" I don't ever notice the fall... but the getting back up again is kinda a bitch. It feels kinda like a purge to get back to equanimity. I think maybe I don't notice the "fall" because usually the way it happens is by me getting lost in thoughts (mostly worries) about "life" and "my future" and all the worldly stuff. And my mind is still somewhat in the habit of thinking that "more thinking will help."

In fact, it seems that a lot of this current growth period for me is about breaking the addiction to thought and being comfortable with the silence.

Anyway, comments and help is appreciated, so Thanks!

- Daniel
the prisoner greco, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: "Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
yup, thats the fall (into re-observation), do it again and again... or don't (by going on to get stream-entry quickly). this is how it works.

in light of this, which appears to be the kinder, more restful, option?

it's your call.

Clayton James Lightfoot, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: "Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 1/21/10 Recent Posts
Its hard to give advice Equanimity is a strange place to be. Stranger if you know the maps and understand what is right around the corner. I know for me this created a lot of craving--which in a sense was necessary to keep me practicing. Kenneth Folk writes talking about the shift from Equanimity to Path, "We now continue to track the progress of our idealized yogi. It’s tempting to make a big deal out of the Path moment. So much emphasis is put on attaining First Path that we imagine there is some secret to it; surely there is some special bit of knowledge or some extra bit of effort required to “get us over this last hump.” In fact, it’s not like that at all. Just as all the previous insight knowledges arose, in order, on cue, the Path moment shows up out of nowhere when you least expect it. It’s a little bit like chewing and swallowing; when you put food into your mouth, you begin to chew. At some point, when sufficient chewing has taken place, you swallow. It’s an involuntary reflex. You don’t have to obsess about whether swallowing will occur or try to control the process. If you do, chances are you will just get in the way. "

I know path happened for me when I was least expecting it. I had missed my morning sitting (which sometimes happens on sundays if I have to go to church). I just sat down for 30 minutes in the evening just because thats what I did. No expectation of anything just sat. Then it happened. I am sure something similar will happen to you... just keep practicing...

Best wishes,

Daniel T Johnson, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: "Stuck" in Equanimity?

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
Thank you both for your support. It's very helpful. I'll definitely keep you posted on the progress. In fact, just reading the responses here has been helpful in my daily practice. Things still seem to be progressing (still chewing, I guess).

A quick question:
I'm traveling from India to the US tomorrow, then I'll be surrounded by family for my grandfather's memorial service. Any recommendations for working in my practice with this busy schedule? Mostly, I feel full of light, bliss, and love right now, so If I'm like this, I can handle family just fine, but with anicca - who knows what might happen. Should I just say fuck it and try to meditate as much as I can until stream entry? On June 1st, I'll have much more free time again.

Also, if anyone is interested in reading about my experience as a whole, I wrote up a little field report and put in on My blogmy blog here:

Thanks again!!!

- Daniel
(what a trip)