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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Pulses, shifts and judders – any advice welcome

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Dear All,

In spring last year I completed a three month retreat where I believe I experienced fruition and notable after effects (link). Subsequently, I experienced a long period of intense dark night that lasted around 4-5 months (link). Whilst my faith has always remained strong, there were occasions when I had to wonder what was going on. However, time and continued practice have made a big difference. Around 6 months after the long retreat I took it in mind to really try and deepen my shamata practice (as advised on here) and a few weeks later, whilst just following the breath, I felt a shift and a deeper unlocking… something finally unknotted and I could breath more deeply… ahh relief. That night I slept properly for the first time in a few weeks.

Since then there has been a greater experience of space than before. Taking useful pointers from Fitter to keep ‘encouraging the nervous system to grow the way you want [following path]’ I’ve used plenty of direct pointing (in particular Douglas Harding’s classic ‘on having no head’) as a way to reflect on not-self. Doing so whilst walking to work, on the bus or just sitting down often leads to a shift in consciousness, into a sense of greater space and clarity, which can last from seconds to notably longer periods.

As these changes have been happening I’ve increasingly felt that things are playing out as they need to. For example, during a one week retreat over New Year it often felt as though ‘I was being meditated’ as opposed to ‘me trying to meditate’. However, I’ve also started to notice odd experiences that I would welcome some advice on. These are harder to describe but include internal ‘pulses’ or ‘shifts’ that last no more than half a second - almost like the brief weightless feeling one gets when driving over a bridge quickly. The internal experience quickly settles down but a little like placing the same poles of two magnets together (i.e. close but forever separated).

This evening after work I had a sit and experienced one of the pulses with my eyes closed and had a sense of visible ‘fog’ passing before the back of my eyelids. At other (unrelated) times, I’ve also noticed that my peripheral vision can ‘judder’ and be more alive than stationary backgrounds usually are. I must add none of this feels unwelcome or unpleasant – actually quite interesting – but also a little strange. At first I wondered if I was cycling again and experiencing fruitions but the pulses/shift don’t have the same hard ‘blib’ (i.e. cessation) quality experienced last year. One other thing to note is sometimes when the pulse/shift is strong enough I wonder if I might faint. This has led me to consider if there is something wrong physiologically but I have to say my intuition dismisses this. Perhaps they are just ‘raptures’ that Daniel mentions in MCTB (p. 67)?

However, I’ve also noticed a deeper and sustained appreciation/ understanding of the Dharma over the last few months and the fact that practice is truly possible. For sure, I still have strongs experience of the dukka nanas but the increased sense of space makes them more manageable, less persuasive and quicker to pass through (and a useful source of reflection). So, overall, awareness is as awareness does and practice continues but any feedback would be welcome!

Thanks very much,

Nick

RE: Pulses, shifts and judders – any advice welcome
Answer
1/21/14 4:37 PM as a reply to Nick Green.
Nick Green:
However, I’ve also started to notice odd experiences that I would welcome some advice on. These are harder to describe but include internal ‘pulses’ or ‘shifts’ that last no more than half a second - almost like the brief weightless feeling one gets when driving over a bridge quickly. The internal experience quickly settles down but a little like placing the same poles of two magnets together (i.e. close but forever separated).
After first path shifting from 2nd 3rd and 4th vipassana jhanas was just like you describe for me. in addition I also noticed 2nd would have pleasant feeling associated, 3rd would have ringing in my ears and 4th would have the visible fog you mention. Fog if there is background light but usually a deep blackening with whorls or sometimes colors moving in from the periphery to the center. After moving up the nanas the hard way...noting my butt off I then usually would just shift up the jhanas to EQ and work from there.
I don't recognize the judder as you describe it....eyes open? bright light? outside looking at the sky? more info needed.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Pulses, shifts and judders – any advice welcome
Answer
1/23/14 3:56 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Ahh, that’s useful to know, thanks very much Dream Walker. As discussed, my sense is that the experiences are practice related and your reply helps confirm that as well as linking them to different phases of the viapssana jhanas. Yes, I experience the pleasant feelings of 2nd, the noticeable tinnitus in 3rd and the visible fog in 4th. (With regard to tinnitus, I found its pitch and volume a strong marker of the nanas on retreat last year that was quite useful).

Strangely, I’ve also felt a stronger pull towards regular noting again (as opposed to just practicing shamata) and your reply encourages me to do so and to keep working back up to EQ. As to the judders, they tend to occur with my eyes open and in daylight. Often, they occur in the periphery of my vision and I wonder if that’s in 3rd nana. However, just the other day the whole visual field shook rapidly, which was reminiscent of experience last year when I was rapidly cycling (after first path) just before another fruition (maybe formations)?

Thanks again,

Nick

RE: Pulses, shifts and judders – any advice welcome
Answer
1/23/14 1:14 PM as a reply to Nick Green.
Nick Green:
As to the judders, they tend to occur with my eyes open and in daylight. Often, they occur in the periphery of my vision and I wonder if that’s in 3rd nana. However, just the other day the whole visual field shook rapidly, which was reminiscent of experience last year when I was rapidly cycling (after first path) just before another fruition (maybe formations)?
I'd guess any vibration associated phenomenon would be 3rd VJ nanas 5-10. Formations happen in high EQ and in my experience it is the attention inclined to a sensation and very arising and passing away with clarity. The passing away is different in that when the object/sensation fades away so does the whole experience....fade to nothing...but not quite. It's so close to nothing but seems not totally as the next formation fades in. Detailed description - Formations - clarification / confirmation / question
Dream Walker:
Here is my take on formations. It can be anything experienced with the 6 senses only it is seen very clearly right before a fruition. So it is no help to identifying when you see one except hindsight. I spent 2 years in review and did the fruition thing several times a week...here is how it went...
Description-
I would be sitting in the sauna and get to EQ then I would feel the heat arise and pass away; get more intense then peak and fade more quickly than the build up (This was slow for me, it builds for like 2 - 3 seconds then passes away quicker like 1-2 seconds). at the bottom of the pass away it would hit bottom with a *thump* into a barrier that was solid but had some give to it like packed dirt. Then consciousness would fade slowly to almost gone and then fade back and this would happen again - Heat arises and passes away again, *thump* , fadeout again, on the last one the *thump* would be a breaking through the barrier into cessation, nothing, totally gone. The experience coming back was instant, consciousness was back, moment to notice, strong in breath and the bliss wave would roll over me.
So the formation pre-cessation that was presenting itself was heat. It was slow and methodical and very clear. If this is not it I totally missed what a formation is....many times emoticon

To clarify the part about hindsight; if you have gotten SE and seen it before you can recognize it again. I just did last December but the formation at that point was not anything I could describe well...the process was the same though and I recognized that.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Pulses, shifts and judders – any advice welcome
Answer
1/26/14 12:13 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
I'd guess any vibration associated phenomenon would be 3rd VJ nanas 5-10.
That sounds about right to me Dream Walker. Overall, high EQ feels much smoother and inclusive.

Formations happen in high EQ and in my experience it is the attention inclined to a sensation and very arising and passing away with clarity. The passing away is different in that when the object/sensation fades away so does the whole experience....fade to nothing...but not quite. It's so close to nothing but seems not totally as the next formation fades in.
Sounds almost poetic, which I like (as well as your longer quote) to describe the ineffable. That’s one heck of a link and plenty to reflect on.

Thanks,

Nick