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pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/15/14 4:26 AM
Hi everyone, I was hoping somebody may be able to weigh in and let me know whereabouts they think I may be on the path.

Summary: I sit about 40 minutes each days early in the mornings; experience immediately a lot of body sensations and vibrations, and this continues along for the entire sit. Concentration is fairly good, most days I don't struggle with thoughts too much(or at least note them). It's pleasant, and it's always felt pleasant. So where is the dark night? Have I bypassed it and gone straight into EQ, or am I not even past A&P yet?

Background: Been playing with spirituality for over ten years. Mainly it has been some form of mindfulness or other but I can also include self enquiry, journalling, emotional processing, bodywork and Feldenkrais (eg. mindful) movement and a few others. First real Vipassana was a Goenka retreat 6 years ago, found MTCB 2 years ago and went on a Mahasi retreat. I haven't been entirely consistent, playing around with various other styles of meditation and concentration. Practice inbetween has been I used to be pretty depressed, a typical angry and anxious young man, hence the struggle. I'm now fairly happy in life. I feel like I have progressed a lot but I can't be sure where I am on the path(if at all).

I'd say I've got ok concentration, very good body awareness, and feel I have had a number of insights from my previous practice. But I'm seeking that all elusive stream entry and I'm sure I've not reached it, and would like to know how far off you think I may be.

Typical sit: Go straight into body awareness; tingling hands, other significant areas of tension/sensation quickly breaking into fast da-da-das. My posture feels good and I'm at a stage where I really enjoy sitting for 40 minutes, but pushing it boredom and a sense of going nowhere creep in. *I rarely experience any type of dark night experience. The jumping from feeling to feeling happens fairly continuously, thought patterns I can catch, and stay fairly aware throughout. So given that it's so comfortable am I possibly in equanimity? Or I just haven't passed the point of A&P yet?

My own theories are:
a) previous practice has given me the ability to cut through dark night which is why I don't experience it. Perhaps I am able to process quickly, or just have developed enough equanimity or concentration to see me through. Working against this theory definitely still experience 'unwanted' emotions and stress in daily life. Is it even possible? 
b)I'm still at the bottom rung, and have been doing something wrong. A kick to the ego but if it's true it is what it is I guess.

I feel I've been at this long enough to get past the bottom rung and some experiences seem A&Pish, and certainly feel a lot of equanimity. But I just can't translate my own progress to the maps. I don't experience dark night, as I said before, not in meditation anyway. Vipassana feels like a haven for me mostly.
So any ideas on how to diagnose this, or to proceed?
Thanks

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/15/14 11:10 AM as a reply to Sam s.
[quote=Hi Sam

Sam ]Been playing with spirituality for over ten years. Mainly it has been some form of mindfulness or other but I can also include self enquiry, journalling, emotional processing, bodywork and Feldenkrais (eg. mindful) movement and a few others.

 2 years ago and went on a Mahasi retreat. I haven't been entirely consistent, playing around with various other styles of meditation and concentration. 



I think is better to be consistent with the technique you practicing with. Your descriptions what actually you doing is not so clear and shows you are also not sure what you are doing. If you do this on a retreat then it is just waste of time and the teacher can not guess your progress as you not follow the instructions. 



I really enjoy sitting for 40 minutes, but pushing it boredom and a sense of going nowhere creep in. *I rarely experience any type of dark night experience.
 


When boredom and other uncomfortable sensations arise you should not stop others you won't progress. Those difficulties are the fuel of the practice. If you enjoy for 40 minutes what happen after? If you get up while it gets hard then stream entry is far away. Try to set a timer for 50-60 minutes and see what sensations arise. Can you handle them?
(You can try a sit before you go sleep...still enjoyment?) 

Of course if you enjoy the practice it is also good and not a problem but I don't think so people jump so easy over the dark night (but can be I don't know)

I would recommend to come back to the basic noting technique and do it more consistently for a while (facing difficulties) then the conditions will be more clear so maybe you can guess where you are.

Cheers
NM


RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/15/14 2:37 PM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Hi NM,
Thanks for your feedback. Yes I see your point. I could try harder, sit longer, work on mindfulness when i don't want to, etc...which if I'm honest with myself I've mainly picked it up when I've wanted to, when it feels nice. On retreat I found myself zoning out during the long sits which was a missed opportunity. I'll follow your advice and see what comes of it.
Thanks again
Sam

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/15/14 7:35 PM as a reply to Sam s.
Hi Sam,

if you into noting technique then I also recommend to read Mahasi Sayadaw's book on the practical stuff and try to follow the exercise.
It is quiet strait and clear.
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/mahasit1.pdf

(try to stay with one object (like rising-falling movement of the abdomen) is almost a must.
Mental labeling helps a lot to come back to pesent if you lost easy in mind (everybody does it is normal))

good luck
NM

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/16/14 2:03 AM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Hi NM,
Thanks I will look into it. I have tried several different noting systems, the ones described in MTCB, Kenneth Folk, Shinzen Young, mainly using choice less awareness as the object. Are you suggesting sticking with one object? It wasn't clear on the Mahasi retreat I went on, I think it was to start with the breath and if something else draws you to go with that(but I'm probably not doing the teacher justice). Thanks for the link I will check it out.
Sam

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/16/14 4:40 AM as a reply to Sam s.
Of course I can tell only what worked for me. 
If you make a habit to stick for one object you can't really go wrong. It is fine to jump from one object to the other but it is not so easy when things get difficult in mind (anger, boredom, thoughts, fed up with the stuff etc.). Then you can lost easy. 

If you comfortable to stay in present with the breath (rising-falling movement of the abdomen or at the nostril etc) which is a good object then you will be able to cut off the complicated stuff easier.
So as long you are on the cushion don't give to much credit for the arising phenomena (all are impermanent, unsatisfactory, arise without controll), note it then come back to the body. (first feels very boring. mind wants to stay with the nice sensations and avoid the bad ones)

Daily mindfulness is also very useful. Try to stay in present as much you can with the bodily sensations and avoid lost to much in thoughts. It will help a lot.

To tell you the truth I got really progress when I started to go for retreats. At home I was not so successfull. My sitting was just like doing something. But teachers say whatever effort you gave before to be mindful will support you. Everything counts. So keep doing.      

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/16/14 9:47 AM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Thanks for your continued responses NM. I'm a little confused though when you say stick with one thing; does it not become concentration meditation? What I remember on my retreat was to start with the breath and use it as a base, then when the mind wanders, let it stay on whatever it's wandered to until it disappears, and then come back. Is this what you mean?

Unfortunately I won't be able to go on retreat again for some time. Perhaps a home retreat at some point may become possible but for the next few years I have to make the best of things.

Thanks

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/16/14 11:00 AM as a reply to Sam s.
Sam s:
What I remember on my retreat was to start with the breath and use it as a base, then when the mind wanders, let it stay on whatever it's wandered to until it disappears, and then come back. Is this what you mean?
Yes, but this stay with it until it disappears can be tricky because soemtimes they just don't disappear. Impermanent means that they are in constant change. So they can disappear or they can be even more stronger.
e.g.:
you feel pain: sometimes is quick but sometimes can stay for long and can be more and more intense.
or you hear a sound: can be quick like a car went away but if somebody turn on the tv next door or somebody talking then it won't disappear
or thoughts: easy to see the change in them but the risk is high to be lost if you stay with.

Your goal is not to make them disappier! It is very important. You don't have control over them. More important to see that they are in constant change (moment by moment) or they cause suffering or arise without control (you don't want them but they are there). So understand the 3 Charakteristics in them. 

Thats why I sad first is better just note them then come back to the basic object. But you need practice for this. As mindfulness get stronger you are more able to cut them off and not get involve in them. This won't happen overnight. 



I'm a little confused though when you say stick with one thing; does it not become concentration meditation?

eg. If your object is the breath. There is a rising-falling movement of the abdomen. When you note rising is one object when you note falling is another one. If you are aware of this then it is vipassana, if you just aware of the breath as one object and don't care what is happening around you then it is samatha. don't worry to much about this, they will mix up anyway.

If you go for vipassana I higly recommend mental labeling first!
And if you don't know what base object to use then use the rising-falling movement of the abdomen. This is the best.

So when you sit down. Start to note "rising" then "falling". Movement should be in line with your labeling. Don't force the breath, follow as it happen. 
If you hear something note "hearing" 3 times. Same with "feeling"; "thinking" etc. then come back "rising"-"falling".
Keep going like this only for 20 min (set a timer)   

hope it helps

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/17/14 7:56 AM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Regarding the first part of your response; what you've described is my observation and this is what I was allowing myself to do, go along with the train ride, eg. get on at breath, next stop tingly hands, now passing through memory, etc etc.. I didn't think of it as you put it 'the goal is not to make them disappear', I thought I was trying to sharpen my concentration to notice when it happens? Perhaps I am unconsciously forcing them down instead, which is a question I need to ask myself.

But at least I thought what I was doing was Vipassana, or at least the 'choiceless awareness' version as is popular with many teachers today. I know there are various types of Vipassana as taught by Goenka, Mahasi,
and many variations of objects to stay with, and that the goal is to
penetrate the object. I see your point also about getting lost when I take this approach, however I feel as though I have a flow, and it feels productive and good. For example, 40 minutes may seem like a short time but I used to struggle with 20 minutes (despite having been on several ten day retreats before where an hour was the minimum).

I don't wish to seem unappreciative of your guidance but I'm not sure if I want to disrupt my current method by changing what I do now. If I try Vipassana as you described also I fear I will just do my usual thing, and not do it whole heartedly which of course is necessary. You are dead right when you point out my inconsistency, and I am certainly going to increase my sitting time, and begin practicing mindfulness when my mind doesn't want to. I am also going to work on making my noting much stronger and consistent throughout each sit. I think if I can get up to 1 hour+ then perhaps I will be in a better place to know whether this is the right choice or not. If I've made the wrong decision, I will come back and try it your way.

Thank you for the conversation it has been valuable for me, and I will come back to it and read it again in a short time. I hope you don't feel as though I've wasted your time. Best wishes,

Sam

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/17/14 10:11 AM as a reply to Sam s.
Hi Sam,

thank you for your response. Sorry for the misunderstanding it was my mistake now reading it again I see better.
And yes 40 min is also enough. Shorter but more "focused" sit is better then longer "daydreaming". 
I am happy you find confidence again in what you are doing! This is the most important.
So I think if you are doing it consistently it is good to go.

One more thing. I found Daniel's advise with the resolving also very helpful.
If you write this on a paper and read before sit then helps to be more consitent 
during the time you sit:
“I resolve that for this hour I will consistently investigate
the sensations that make up reality so as to attain to liberating insights
for the benefit of myself and all beings.”


Sorry again for causing confusion.   
No it is absolutly not waste of time and I like to talk about practical things. We learning also from misunderstandings and mistakes. 
Keep going and see what is going to happen! 
Best wishes
NM

RE: pre-A/P, EQ or anything?
Answer
7/18/14 4:54 AM as a reply to Noting Monkey.
Hi NM,

you've certainly helped me a lot to clarify what I need to do in my practice, and provided helpful guidance, so no need to apologise at all. I may need to fine tune my approach as you suggest, but I definitely need to build consistency on and off the cushion. Thanks for the advice regarding resolving, I will try this next time I sit. Best wishes,

Sam