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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?

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Hello everyone,

I've been meditating for about 10 years. First I was into zen and then became acquainted to vipassana meditation through Shinzen Young, Ayya Khema and Ajahn Brahm.

About two or three years ago my meditation and motivation became more serious and I started meditating at least three hours a day for some time. At the end of last year during a meditation session my facial muscles started to move into grimaces. The same evening lying in bed it began to spread through my whole body, but mainly my arms, neck and face. After a few days theses symptoms subsided. But they returned a few weeks later always accompanied by a deeper level of letting go and letting be. Sometimes I can initiate those movements by just saying to myself: 'let go and let them happen'. But there have not been any other symptoms, like pain, lights, visions, temperature changes and so forth. So I'm not really sure if it is anything like a kundalini process. In fact it seems that the movements are somehow related to some childhood trauma that is beginning to surface lately.

As for my meditation there hasn't been anything special - no nimmitas, no jhanas, no constant awareness of the breath for more than maybe five minutes, no clear signs of any of the stages on the maps. That said, I somehow can identify with some of the characteristics of the stages. But it's more like on a micro level and very faint in comparision to what I have read about it. I don't really have the feeling that I have mastered or fully experienced any of those stages. Still, my meditation has become deeper and more reliable. And my mind mre often becomes pretty quiet, focused and peaceful. And there are those kriyas which, if they are in any way related to kundalini (awakening), seem to indicate that I must be somewhere on the map.

I'm not sure what to make out of these movements and the otherwise rather unspectacular meditative experiences. Could someone help me assess where I might be exactly and what would be a wise next step?

Thank you very much for listening and your help!
Andreas

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/22/14 11:46 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
I have something to add to my first post.

I definitely have come to the point where I see my thoughts and motivations more and more as something that happens instead of something that I willingly come up with. And I see more and more how thoughts are connected to feelings etc. But it's still pretty vague. If I'm not mistaken this might be a sign of the ñana 1 stage (Mind and Body). But in my opinion I've not yet reached access concentration. At least not on a constant basis. Maybe that puts some light on it..

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/20/14 11:38 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
Continue looking at dependent arising and do so in more detail.  By focusing on one part of it and seeing the three characteristics you can develop over time less reactivity to all of them.  (Experiences are impermanent, which means if I ruminate about impermanent things the changes will cause stress, and because it's impermanent there is no you that can truly permanently own anything).  Go through the list and watch the manifestation of the dependent arising in real time.  I know real time doesn't mean much in the ultimate sense but in practice you want to start catching how stress arises in the first place.  Get disenchanted just by not acting on the impulses.  As impulses naturally pass away there's less need to manipulate things.  At the beginning you may need to interrupt what's going on with Right Energy until just being mindful of impulses and letting them pass away is enough.

These talks go into more depth and help show that ultimately perceptions of arising and passing way are just chunking and sectioning off of experience.

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/91/talk/24023/
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9553/
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/169/talk/15836/
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/11929/

The more detail you can note the more free you'll be from what you can note.

Good luck!

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/20/14 12:04 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard, thanks very much. That gives me something to work with. I will also check out the talks.

With kind regards,
Andreas

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/21/14 9:36 PM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
Muscle spasms: nearly always third insight stage, that of the Three Characteristics, interest in Kriyas and the like with the muscle spasms letting up and meditation improving, very likely early A&P stuff. 

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/22/14 11:37 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Muscle spasms: nearly always third insight stage, that of the Three Characteristics, interest in Kriyas and the like with the muscle spasms letting up and meditation improving, very likely early A&P stuff. 
Thank you very much, Daniel. The strange thing is that, although I can identify with some of the things depicted in ñanas 1 & 2, it does not seem very impressive, more subtle sometimes only faint or intellectual glimpses. I imagine those stages to be more impressive and more thoroughly processed in terms of awareness. Am I mistaken here?

For example, I certainly see some cause and effect and the feeling that thoughts and emotions simply arise and are not really controlled by me but I am not sure of the mental pulse thing you wrote about in ñana 2. Might one pass those stages without really noticing them or them leaving a strong impression? Do these stage overlap and sometimes mix up with each other? Sorry, I can't remember having read anything about that in your book or the wiki.

Indications for ñanas 3 or even 4 might be that I've recently added some spinal breathing (pranajama) to my practice intuitively (after reading about it) and am now in a phase where I can sometimes feel mental obstructions and resistance almost like I feel muscle tensions and hence loosen them voluntarily. I try to interfere less with the meditation process and put more energy into the 'observer' than into the 'doer', as Ajahn Brahm would put it. There's also a rekindling interest in (lucid) dreaming.

Whatever, both, your and Richards answers are of great help and investigating the 3Cs more thouroughly is probably the way to go for me now.

Thanks for your help!
Andreas

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/22/14 9:47 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
A few remarks:
1) The stages are no invention of Daniel Ingram, so calling them MCTB1-16 is somewhat misleading. At first I wondered how you got to read MCTB 2 earlier than the rest of us (:
2) Characteristics of the stages don't necessarily appear very impressive. Often you only notice those characteristics when you are out of the stage. Note: On retreat, the effects are often 10 times as clear.
Also, the stages often differ from themselves: let's say you see nana 4 now, or half a year later: they may be so different that you wouldn't even notice them too be the same stage, if you didn't deliberately use the maps to give a label to your experiences.
Also the descriptions of the stages are quite comprehensive: so whenever you are in some stage, you will only experience a (small) subset of the phenomena which are described in the book.
3) Yes, the stages sometimes overlap, and sometimes there's a distinct break. Also, you'll often cycle through the stages up to your 'current' stage.

Summing up: Don't try to map your practice to the book, it won't do you much good. The maps are exceelent to avoid common pitfalls, but they're often a hindrance if you try to use them when everything is actually fine.

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/22/14 11:45 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:
A few remarks:
1) The stages are no invention of Daniel Ingram, so calling them MCTB1-16 is somewhat misleading. At first I wondered how you got to read MCTB 2 earlier than the rest of us (:

Thanks for pointing that out. I just copied the title from the wiki where every chapter has an MCTB put in front. I corrected it in my posts.

2) Characteristics of the stages don't necessarily appear very impressive. Often you only notice those characteristics when you are out of the stage. Note: On retreat, the effects are often 10 times as clear.
Also, the stages often differ from themselves: let's say you see nana 4 now, or half a year later: they may be so different that you wouldn't even notice them too be the same stage, if you didn't deliberately use the maps to give a label to your experiences.
Also the descriptions of the stages are quite comprehensive: so whenever you are in some stage, you will only experience a (small) subset of the phenomena which are described in the book.
3) Yes, the stages sometimes overlap, and sometimes there's a distinct break. Also, you'll often cycle through the stages up to your 'current' stage.

Summing up: Don't try to map your practice to the book, it won't do you much good. The maps are exceelent to avoid common pitfalls, but they're often a hindrance if you try to use them when everything is actually fine.

That sounds like reasonable and good advice.

I always had the feeling that I'm going through repetetive phases with some distinct characteristics resembling the depiction of the nanas. What you say about cycling through the stages makes sense.

Thank you very much for your help!

RE: Am I anywhere on the map or far from it?
Answer
7/23/14 10:05 AM as a reply to Andreas Thef.
After contemplating all your very helpful advice and re-reading some of Daniel's stuff, I started my own log and a few other things and memories came to my mind. If you are interested you can read it here.

BTW, the John Peacock lecture is fabulous!

Thanks again for your great help and inspiration.