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Stuck in Late Mastery

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Stuck in Late Mastery
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8/29/14 11:29 AM
Greetings Fellow Practitioners.  

I just got back into the Asylum in the sense of Hitchhikers Guid to the Universe sense of the phrase, i.e. I left  a 6 week meditation retreat, in Lunas. My next plans of to go be a Kappia/Anagarika at Sayadaw U Pandita's Jr.'s Dhamma Community in Australia, for at least the next few months until he goes on tour, for a few months. 

So one thought that went through my head near the end of my retreat was, investigate the 3 characteristics, as referenced in Ingram's, Hurricane Ranch Discussion. I had been, focusing on an attitude of sinking in to the now, of not trying to purse anything - in an effort to be effortless and stabilise through the transitional period between Late Mastery and High Equanimity. What occurred is that the fast flowing vibration formations smoothed out and became more subtle as I alternated betweens periods of them and more open spacious formations. This seemed to build up a good base of relaxation, for strengthening samadhi/momentary concentration. I also had been holding a more circumferential awareness, kind of awareness taking awareness based perspective. Though I didn't realise that, until I reviewed the Hurricane Ranch discussions and some Buddhist Geek stuff. I'd been doing this to look at the tension/pressure formations that build up around the head and neck, in an effort to dissolve them. Because I’d been stuck and unable to traverse them and see the Anicca. So at first I felt like I was finding a more effective way to traverse this sub strata that seem to follow earlier periods of coarser intense profuse fast flowing vibrations. 
But, I realised it was also an unconscious safe space from the 3 characteristics, this circumferential approach of awareness taking awareness, which like Ingram says in the Hurricane talk is a more inclusive approach to the objects of perception/6 sense doors. So I returned to the practice with a view to investigate the Dukha, and be present with what was, unpleasant.
But, this was positively informed by those past strategies of stabilising a relaxed attitude, being more circular with my awareness and being now and giving up achieving. Those former approaches had helped me negotiate the qualities of the early formations allowing things to become subtler and subtler, stages with in stages, strata within strata, within the Late Mastery. Where, I had softened the tension around the head connected with the flowing vibrations.
I perceived the solution to be, connected with trying to be too direct and penetrate objects to hard and directly, i.e. with a more lower Vipassana Jhana styled approach. So rather than focus in on the heavier formations around the neck to penetrate and understand this strata of insight, I needed to continue to hold this more circular/circumferential awareness to dissolve the heavy formations. But the aspect need to increase the penetration without increasing the penetration, so to speak, was the Dukha/3 Characteristics. Because at this stage you can't try harder, hard effort isn't harder, is just more unbroken and continuous! That's real hard effort at the later stages of practice. This made it soft yet still deep, in other words I kept the openness and looked deeply, yet still softly.
This took me to an edgier place of more consistent alternation, between edgy but ‘subtler’ prolific fast flowing vibrations throughout the body and the open spacious stages. Though now the open spacious stage/s were less Jhanic than before, as well as overall through this retreat, i.e less smooth. 
With this attitude of looking for the suffering while in a state of equanimity. So I felt some small progress has been made more deeply into these sub-stratas of Late Mastery. Which for me has all these layers of sub-stratas within it, at least for me because of my slow pace and lower capacity. So, in my earlier retreat in April I kind of got through the tension block, and in this retreat i continued to develop the open awareness, which I eventually used to reinvestigate on a subtler and more open level. Basically, where my centre of gravity sits/sat within the retreat are becoming more and more subtle.
And like Ingram said in the Hurricane Ranch Talk, there are a limited number of Strata to penetrate, which I had to repeatedly remind myself to counteract doubt. And people like Joseph Goldstein have a body or group of people that have attained stream-entry and Joseph mentioned will one day offer themselves for study to the neuroscientist involved in the Mind Life Institute Studies and other associated studies, who are more interest in studying other things at this point. So Stream Enterers are out there, and it can be done and there are more than a few of them. And also Kornfield, like Ingram, talks about this idea that we slowly get deeper in our ability to penetrated or know the nature of things. So; ‘they’re out there’ and ‘there are a limited amount of strata’ (to penetrate). And if your up in Equanimity like me keep going deeper, there is a bottom and you will sink to it, and drown in the wisdom of the beyond.

Any thoughts on my practice from any experience people? Any people have any questions or help they need are welcome to ask me or the more experience people who respond to 'my practice thread'.    Kind Regards and Well Wishes, from Neem.

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
8/29/14 7:32 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Neem Nyima:
I'd been doing this to look at the tension/pressure formations that build up around the head and neck, in an effort to dissolve them. Because I’d been stuck and unable to traverse them and see the Anicca. So at first I felt like I was finding a more effective way to traverse this sub strata that seem to follow earlier periods of coarser intense profuse fast flowing vibrations. 

Don't take my comment as an advice, simply as an observation that match your experience. When you talk of a tension in the neck, do you mean the back, the side or the throat? When the tension is in the throat, I never have much success by paying attention to it. There are instance where I could move that tension in one of my shoulder and get it released in my arm and hand. Sometimes, it works to stabilize the pulsation and finding a connection with some other tension in my limbs, and have a tension at the periphery released. Stablizing the pulsation and paying attention the the body as a whole is another thing I do in this situation.

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
8/29/14 9:03 PM as a reply to Simon T..
Hi Simon
Stablizing the pulsation and paying attention the the body as a whole is another thing I do in this situation.

Yeah that's what I kind of talked about as a way of working with it. In late mastery, tingling fast flowing vibrations, flow upwards through the body. The anus and pc tighten, there is a flow of tension and release as this waves arise and pass as they start to pass a tension can build up around the back off the neck and around the head. This pushes up into the neck and head and disssolves. Ones experience tends to alternate between these flowing flicker tingling tensions, (like shivers tingles and prickles) and open and light formations of varing depth (there will be states varing within this openness, from light floating, to field like formations slowly changing and small areas of denser formations changing dissolving within lighter fields). Sometimes for periods the the body becomes light and open but the head has heavy pressure tightness flowing changing like caramel. It you look at this to tightly it just become denser within its flow pressures. But widening the attention seems to help this dissolve, so the body become more open and spacious with dissolution. I guess the tension around the head may appear in different place depending on the person.

emoticon, Neem

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
8/29/14 10:43 PM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Neem, have you done any kind of structured bodywork? I got stuck in late 3rd with unpleasant physical symptoms (heart palpitations and nausea) whenever I did vipassana for more than a few hours, so I took a break from vipassana and started Reggie Ray's Your Breathing Body (http://www.amazon.com/Your-Breathing-Body-Volume-1/dp/1591796598). I've been doing just the first exercise, 10-points practice, for a couple of months, and it's amazing how much emotional junk I had to flush out.

The bodywork made me feel depressed and off for the first month and a half; at one point I thought I was falling into a major depression. Instead of backing off I increased the dosage to 3-4 hours of practice a night, and the day after the gnarly depression lifted, the practice started producing blissful concentration. The next day, while reading one of the cases in Gateless Gatecrashers (http://www.amazon.com/Gateless-Gatecrashers-Ilona-Ciunaite/dp/1470028913), I went through an interesting baseline shift (no fruition) that has caused some heavy positive changes. I haven't returned to vipassana yet, but I expect the bodywork will finish this insight cycle when it's time.

Echoing Simon's comment, from what I've seen so far, working with tension throughout the entire body can cause things elsewhere to give way. Also, in the Pali Canon it's said that concentration on bare bodily sensations can give rise to the first jhana. If focusing on body sensations doesn't produce bliss (and instead you feel heaviness, numbness, or crackly pain), there might be some material in the body waiting to be worked through. 

These are just suggestions and standard disclaimers apply. Bodywork is big for me right now so I have a tendency to evangelize, but I can't be sure it's the correct practice in your current situation.

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
8/30/14 1:01 AM as a reply to Zyndo Zyhion.
Hi there, again, Neem.
Because at this stage you can't try harder, hard effort isn't harder, is just more unbroken and continuous! That's real hard effort at the later stages of practice. This made it soft yet still deep, in other words I kept the openness and looked deeply, yet still softly.

The following is an excerpt from here: http://www.gq.com/news-politics/newsmakers/201409/the-last-true-hermit
I am not going to put the subject's name here, just the link, because I don't want to shoehorn this man's experience into a religious buddhist framework, but to me it relates well to the fetter of conceit, the "I am" root (not conceit in terms of personal arrogance):
" [Anon.] became surprisingly introspective. 'I did examine myself," he said. "Solitude did increase my perception. But here's the tricky thing—when I applied my increased perception to myself, I lost my identity. With no audience, no one to perform for, I was just there. There was no need to define myself; I became irrelevant. The moon was the minute hand, the seasons the hour hand. I didn't even have a name. I never felt lonely. To put it romantically: I was completely free.'"

So, to me, much of the focus on body and tension, this is still about mind attached to mental objects (e.g., making/needing a personal relevance of any scrap, deep rooting in "I am" despite knowledge of no permanent self, no permanent anything --- only arising and passing and causality streams). That's natural and normal. One thinks they can, as you write, go "deeper". Really, there is just personal possessive awareness attached to mental objects. Those little bubble makers that we have as children: it's like the bubble wand is watching all these bubbles blow out of it and thinking, "I am detecting more and more subtle bubbles and one will be 'It', the great release." The great release is just knowing what one is and seeing what is as it is. So I agree with you: you cannot try harder, and I would say, too, there is no deeper going. Just figuring out the release of from seeing things clearly: sentience and its variable perception. So, yeah, there's tension in the body; one works it out, but not to look into those bubbles for anything special or deeper or unlocking; that is the self-mind specializing events for itself, like needing a small book or a birth certificate to exist and encoutner in outer space. To me, what you're writing is about keeping a self-secure place of self-relevance; detection work about tension which is really just a behavior happening to maintain sense of self-awareness. What are your thoughts on that?

This is why "motionlessnes" is the perception of the awareness without a self-view filter. There is no volition, no gratification seeking, the body itself actually goes about apt works-- say, driving home-- and awareness, when not experiencing volition/gratification seeking-- these personal manipulations of all objects-- awareness in this selfless state is not moving. On the other hand, awareness when personal is always moving because it is a hunter of sensate gratifications, taking hold of and directing awareness into sensate gratifications. That personalization of awareness, a hunter of gratifications (including the gratification of avoiding things), is surely a good survival enhancement/feature to the body's mechanical methods. But awareness that is just awareness has no sense of movement-action or detection; the sense of movement arises from an attracted awareness, like an insect moving to light. When there's apersonal awareness, the body (including brain function) then carries out very basic, adequate survial duties; the brain stem is not turning off its alertness to threats or problems. This is not my ongoing reality, but I can see now why others have reported it sometimes as "motionless" or "still".

Anyway, as a relative newbie, I just wanted to share with you that I think there is no "deeper" bubble. One just for a while feels that more and more subtle bubbles are arising and passing, and that may be true. But I think the key is to know that this is the nature of mind and to be okay with letting go of possessing them in anyway. One challenge in of nibbana is that while ""This is peaceful, this is excellent, namely the stilling of all prepa­rations, the relinquishment of all assets, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction" (M I 436, MahàMàlunkyasutta), there is no agency to experience "peaceful" or "excellent". But in hindsite, I am refreshed by having been in that mental state, albeit briefly, like seeing just the quarter moon, not the full moon, as a sutta goes. Still it is not my ongoing state, but I have conviction that I would not be a heartless, lazy person if mind went there completely. It also seems a bit selfish and useless when viewed in a Western lens or Mahayan lens of prosocial aims, though I know the argument against that view, too.

Your thoughts?

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
8/30/14 1:05 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Nice post Katy.

I want to add a little reminder of the "fuck it" spot in mid-equanimity, which can create tension, especially in the head. It's sometimes better to just forget about the whole thing, eat sweat food, watch a movie, read a book, etc. If someone has already one foot on the other side of the mini dark night, after the energy drop-out, this part can be crossed that way. Once the other side, walking meditation become possible again to increase concentration.

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
9/4/15 11:47 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Thanks Katy. Who is this happening to? Or 'who is' on the in and out breath has been on of the main tools of mindfulness, I've been using. In the hurricane ranch talks Daniel puts forward a few models. The limited strata, idea, which is that you cycle enough time, or possible up to equanimity each day and eventually you get through. Or Kenneth clarified the idea that, you see through or penetrate the strata and then it's resolved: easy to pass through again. There may have been a third idea too? But I've been using, who is and knowing is, from a position of integrating the different gears. i.e. Awareness-Noting mode, that Vince is working with atm.
Kornfield does though in his talks in After the Ecstasy..., talk about the feel through it tension  and emotion in the body an mind process which some practitioners, apparently have found success with. But, that was in part developing the ability to be with it fully, experience without reaction or grasping or catch vedana.
But then again like Daniel says they really have limited, research body. So who knows? But, yeah the non self referential awareness perspective, is definitely a primary tool for alternate consciousness construction. 
Thanks though, helpful right now in retreat, will stick with it, as described in my other new thread. 

RE: Stuck in Late Mastery
Answer
9/4/15 11:34 PM as a reply to Simon T..
Thanks Simon, my centre of gravity is before and in it, still. But nice to know.