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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Would really appreciate a quick diagnostic please...

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Hi - I've recently discovered Dan's book/this site and really struggling to place myself on the maps. Would really value some input please...

In sum, have been practicing daily for about 3 years, from about half an hour a day up to 2/3 hours. I had some sudden physical health issues 3 years ago which are/were the reasons for practice (sudden heart surgery - ongoing complications from this).

My fault completely but initial practice was heavily content focused. the noting i was doing was really just noting the nature of the psychological content that came up in practice, i.e noting what I was thinking. Needless to say this didn't really get me anywhere and just drove huge anxiety.

Fast forward 3 years to now - most of the time I can attain access concentration fairly quickly, daily practice is samatha with breath. Still very content aware and dealing with health anxiety/somatic hypervigillance, but practice most of the time is fairly spacious and free from too much fixation on content unless it's just "one of those days".

Over the last few months I seem to be dropping in to Jhanic like states quite easily - felt normally as a sudden rush of energy/bliss and ongoing intense energy all over body, tingling in feet, whole body awareness, lots of heat/some sweating. After becoming less fixated on the overall experience and just accepting as it unfolds energy waves become even more intense but very stable and I get a sensation of whole body spinning (but no nausea/dizziness). If i accept this without getting too fixated it just develops in to waves of energy which come from me centrally and go beyond me, or my sensed perception of where body ends. In these states i've felt pretty non dual/unative and left with that feeling for a couple of days - but nothing as strong of the same nature beyond beyond that.

I wanted to try and just stay focused on cultivating these jhanic type states for the time being while i deal with health issues, seeing a psychiatrist soon so unsure what that will bring, and then look at vipassana. However, every time I sit i can't help but notice pulsating energy/vibrations around the face/nostrils, whole body or other areas of the body, and these pulses/vibrations move much faster than the breath so i'm finding it really hard to keep focused on the flowing aspect of the breath. i've tried dialling up and down concentration/energy and made awareness of breath wider but pulsing energy waves and vibrations prevail.

Day to day general informal mindfulness requires effort but is best it's been so far. Thought stream drops away of it's own accord fairly often and awareness is purely external/physical. Not trying consciously to note 3 characteristics, but find it hard not to notice them (especially transience of the physical). Perceptive field on the whole feels much wider/stereo and that feels great, but the mega stereo states don't sustain for long periods.

Apologies for the essay, but any thoughts greatly appreciated.

Aaron

RE: Would really appreciate a quick diagnostic please...
Answer
3/14/14 9:35 AM as a reply to A TACK.
Howdy Aaron,
first of all good luck with your recovery. it sounds as though you are choosing jhanic over vipassana practice, correct me if i'm wrong. its a very good thing that you know what you want from all of this.

i am guessing that you want to avoid vipassana for now due to things you've heard or read about the destabilizing aspects of that practice. if that is the case then i further assume that you're not into diving into some of the "dark night" stages and the associated excitement that can bring.

the trouble i see is that these things are not easy to seperate. and, as you will find in Daniel's book, once you pass the Arising and Passing Away (A&P) stage, the next Dark Night stages follow automatically. The fact that some people hit the A&P without even trying suggests that any meditation practices at all increase the likelihood of that happening: vippasana focused or not.

are you meditating to simply relax and be calm or to try for deep attainments?

good luck and keep us posted.

tom

RE: Would really appreciate a quick diagnostic please...
Answer
4/4/14 4:58 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
Howdy Aaron,
first of all good luck with your recovery. it sounds as though you are choosing jhanic over vipassana practice, correct me if i'm wrong. its a very good thing that you know what you want from all of this.

i am guessing that you want to avoid vipassana for now due to things you've heard or read about the destabilizing aspects of that practice. if that is the case then i further assume that you're not into diving into some of the "dark night" stages and the associated excitement that can bring.

the trouble i see is that these things are not easy to seperate. and, as you will find in Daniel's book, once you pass the Arising and Passing Away (A&P) stage, the next Dark Night stages follow automatically. The fact that some people hit the A&P without even trying suggests that any meditation practices at all increase the likelihood of that happening: vippasana focused or not.

are you meditating to simply relax and be calm or to try for deep attainments?

good luck and keep us posted.

tom


hello Tom

Thank you for your reply, excuse my late reply but i wanted to take some time myself to reflect on the questions you mentioned.

You're right in that i've been aiming for jhanic bliss - but as you also note doesn't seem that these things can be easily separated. Certainly i've found as concentration has got stronger I can help but notice the granular vibrations/pulses in each stage of the breath, becomes more of an effort to solidify the breath and keep practice jhanic than not.

i've "gone with" noticing all the vibrations and pulses lately and have felt a shift and i think have stumbled in to insight territory. What i've gained so far from this has been comforting but appreciate to take this further dark knight stuff is inevitable.

Part of me wants to continue just to practice for relaxation/stability of mind purposes, but to do this I think would really mean dialling down the concentration during practice - and this just doesn't feel at this stage intuitively right. plus the pull of attainments and some real relief of fundamental suffering has a strong weight to it.

I suspect, but I'm not sure, that I may be at the A&P point. I mentioned an experience i had today in another post. I've copied it below... from what i have read seems that what I am experiencing lately is more vipassna focused than something jhanic.

Thanks

Aaron

Over the last few weeks I tingle/urge to itch but not quite, really heavily during practice. I might sit for an hour in the AM and similar in the PM and every time i sit the tingling starts. I have been taking a new medicine around the same time as I practice, and i thought the tingling might have even been a reaction to my new medicine - even went and saw my GP emoticon Doing an N1 and practicing at other times independent of the meds i now see that practice is the trigger.

Specifically seems to come on as soon an access concentration comes on line and intensifies with priti.

Over the last few days access concentration is almost instant, tingling and pritti more intense than ever. tonight i sat for an hour and really broke down the sensations of the breath, tons of vibrations/pulses as expected, Priti starting about 5 mins in and became extremely intense as vibrations sped up, or ability to observe them. Then something happened after about 30 mins - almost like the brain had an overload (but it didn't feel this way) heart rate shot up, my eyes just flew open (although lately they feel like they want to open whenever i sit), was more intense than anything i've ever felt before in practice. Then bought myself back by solidifying the breath and doing concentration for the rest of the sit. Jhanic state i got in to then was extremely spacious.

I was in the shower yesterday and had a "reality drop out moment" and then i suppose some insight - the feeling/knowing that i'm really just a bag of sensations experiencing a selection of sensations out of an infinite number of sensations happening at the same time. I guess this is no self stuff? have had the feeling over the last few days of awareness hugely intensifying overall, and especially of mental sensations, and them really being given no more weight than other sensations, noticing how quickly they rise and fall like other sensations. I htink there has been a shift.

Apologies for the rambling post, but feels good to write this stuff down emoticon does this experience sound A&P esque? For me i think this is important, because although interesting, the physical intensity of what happened today during practice and seizure like pritti is intense. Be good to know where I might be now on the map before i venture off in to formal insight territory.