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Curious about your post path(s) experience

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While I'm dropping in and posting a bit, and reading around, I have a curiosity about post-path experience. I am a big proponent of your-mileage-may-vary, and in this vein, I'm wondering if anyone would be willing to shed light on how their post-path experience compared to what various dogmas predict will happen post-path. Some of those dogmas include:

-Increased compassion
-Eradicated depression
-Less sadness
-Better decision-making
-More skillful actions, thoughts, etc...
-Improved morality
-Generally speaking, better moods, less worrying


I was particularly interested in a post I read where people were debating about what happens after path. Someone had relayed a quote where someone explained that after path, energy is freed up that then goes to feeding tendencies and conditioning already present. I'm struggling to find the thread so I'm just paraphrasing.

Anyways, cheers. I just thought this might make for good discussion material!

Your fellow ass-hat, 
Kellen

RE: Curious about your post path(s) experience
Answer
9/30/14 4:55 AM as a reply to Mind over easy.
For context, I'm confident in having landed 1st path. Claiming 2nd doesn't seem totally outlandish, either. In a word? Unsatisfying.

When I first set out, there was a real tension between worldly and spiritual pursuits. A bit like having one foot in the canoe and another on the dock -- precarious at best. It seemed as though I should commit to one or the other, or fail spectacularly at both.

This never actually resolved, but after landing a path it did shift -- and magnify. Rather than being seen as some kind of conflict between worldly / spiritual, or even interior / exterior, that same tension was now caught up within perception itself. In all likelihood, it was all along. It's as though I've seen through dualism enough to feel sick "within" it, but not in any way complete enough to rest "outside" of it. One foot in the canoe, one on the dock.

So for now I sit, trying to look at these feelings of deep dissatisfaction and tension that are themselves embedded in the looking itself. If that sounds like fun, I can absolutely recommend stream entry.

RE: Curious about your post path(s) experience
Answer
9/30/14 11:53 AM as a reply to John M..
Great response; exactly the kind of data point I was interested in seeing!

Not getting too into the dilema of whether or not I experienced SE a while back, working from the hypothesis that it was, I can relate to your experience. For me, there was a similar driving itch in practice. It was a duality between my meditation life and my conventional life. There was a tendency to feel as though all the problems in my conventional life would just vanish in a cloud of bliss upon gaining path. However, upon what I suspect was path, rather than solving the issues of my conventional (or meditation) life, the issues were seen in a different light. It seemed as though the angst about the issues was the problem itself. That is to say, I was experiencing all my issues and shit as a problem occuring to an agent, and that I was working under the premise that if I could just pop the SE cherry, the issues would disappear with the self. But since there is no self to actually remove, and never was, the issues, and the experience of self, was largely unchanged. What did change was the relationship between self and the issues. Although there was much initial relief for months, I realized that the issues were still there, the sense of self was still there, and that my breakthrough was not some magical get-out-of-suffering-free card. Shit still smells like shit, and it is unpleasant.

In accordance with what you report- I was greatly relieved when the relationship between self and outside conditions changed, and a lot of stress did seem to be permamently dropped, but even within this realization of the nature of sensations, the sensations themselves don't disappear. Identification with all the patterns of sensations does seem to be much less and the sense of self doesn't have the same constricting, asphyxiating, deterministic quality, but nevertheless, even if I can come to terms with sensate patterns and accept seeing them... they still suck. 

Said in another way, the side of "self" seems diminished, and the field seems more uniform and integrated, but there is still a sense of suffering in the field that is tied to an even more elusive and ill-defined "self" side. There isn't the same interest in rearranging and eradicating sensations- they are just sensations doing their thing so the desire to change them and the stress associated with that is reduced. But there is still a tension within the field, where the ill-defined "self" side of sensations is still seemingly affected by the way the field is playing out. Whereas before the goal was to transcend the reality of sensations and patterns, now the problem is clearly in the relationship to the field, how there is a fake quality to this relationship, and what I am doing to actively support this delusion that there is some "other side" that can possibly transcend the field of experience. So the trajectory of practice seems much more clear- to integrate all sensations and stop investing in the artificial side that poses to own and receive experience. This is good, at least, to have a clearer understanding of the root of the issue.

Whereas pre-breakthrough, the meditation consisted of working with aversion and attachment to beliefs, pleasant and unpleasant sensations, just building up mindfulness to see sensations play out without getting frustrated or bored, now practice seems much more vague, much harder to pin down what it is I'm trying to do. It's like equanimity towards sensations was acchieved to some extent, but now there are much more formless and non-local sensations that I have difficulty tracking down. I'm getting more abstract now, but it seems like the field was filled with artificial divisions between all the patterns of sensation. Then, the breakthrough involved seeing some of those dichotomies break down and seeing the whole field in a more uniform way, a way that didn't habitually give so much energy to feeding aversion and desire, separation and division. This was nice (honeymoon period perhaps) and I didn't really worry about much at all. But then the new threshold seemed to make itself clear, the limitations of the realization. I would explain this as patterns that still occurred, stress that still resulted. The quote "suffering less, noticing it more" comes to mind. I view it as cutting a tree down starting from the very top. Things open up and you make progress, but the tree is still alive and well, and the roots are still in place. And it continues to grow if not tended to. 

While I view stream entry as a permanent shift in how the field of perception is processed, the principles of causality still apply, and a minor step in integration does not even come close to dealing with the root of the dualistic split. The more aware and open you are to the patterns of sensations that the field consists of, the better of a position you are in to deal with the aversion and desire, and artificial division between the patterns, but on the flipside, the more you are aware of the suffering that was previously ignored or "shut out". Suffering less, noticing it more. It places more responsibility on you to continue to work on dealing with the patterns of sensations that are poorly perceived, the ones that seem more vague, the ones that still imply a self in relationship to the rest of experience.

I'm getting long winded now! I guess the point of this thread was, in a way, to gather data to support the idea that stream entry (and possibly beyond) aren't necessarily a cakewalk where you're naturally sucked into a linear dharma-track where things just fall into place and make sense, with great bliss and all that. Not that there isn't some truth to it, but I sometimes get a sense of a "dharma-lite" version of things where the hairier aspects of the process unfolding are left out, where confusions and suffering are a sign pointing against progress.

It feels good to write this all out; it definitely helped me sort out my own progress and remind myself of what I am attempting to do. Let me know what you think!

RE: Curious about your post path(s) experience
Answer
9/30/14 6:20 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Much of this resonates, though I'd hasten to add that I haven't had much meaningful success in comparing pre and post path.

Am I experiencing less stress, less reactivity, less contraction around a perceived center? Well, it depends largely on when you ask. If we're talking about low EQ sotapanna watching television vs. DN worldling paying his taxes, then sure! But it seems hopelessly arbitrary to take my present experience -- which is constantly shifting on the basis of cycles and circumstance -- and attempt to distinguish it against cherry-picked memories, which are themselves fallible and entirely subjective. Do you see what I mean?

I think on some level, conscious or otherwise, I had expected something more experientially concrete. Some kind of A I could hold up and compare with B. This hasn't at all been the case.

RE: Curious about your post path(s) experience
Answer
9/30/14 6:53 PM as a reply to Mind over easy.
Not to disappoint, but the one that made the big difference was the one that totally untangled the last knot of perception. Until then, trouble of all sorts was much more possible.

Increased compassion: yes, true, actually much more obvious to me after the first opening at stream entry, no idea why. The funny thing about compassion is that sense of the quavering of one's heart in response to the suffering of others: actually less obvious now in some ways due to some other factors, such as more equanimity, but still there, just less painful now than it was when it was first coming on strong.


Eradicated depression: I haven't generally been that prone to real depression (not eating, not sleeping/much more sleeping, lots of life dysfunction, anhedonia, etc.), so I am not sure. I do know plenty of people who have had serious depressive problems into the middle path territory. There is something about the last untangling that solved something related to things sort of like depression, severe despair, that kind of thing, which are really emotions, not actually depression (which to me is sort of a bigger, longer thing).

Less sadness: Hmmmm... That is a trickey one. I think the one odd thing about the increased awareness that comes as we go along is that we get more in touch with what is happening, and emotions are part of that, and so it is easier to perceive sadness for me than it was before, so I actually notice much more of it, lots of little blips of sadness happening often, but they are minor parts of a wide field and substantially less trouble than before, sort of like little blue dots on a large pointilist painting. Fear is similar: mammals are almost constantly dealing with little subtle bits of fear that most of the time we don't notice, until you get really, really good at noticing things, and then it is obvious that lots of little bits of fear are part of nearly eveything, even just walking down the street.

Better decision making: very selectively, yes. It is much easier to decide upon mental modes in realtime than it was before. So, better emotional decision making, better attentional decision making, better restraing of speech, better modificaiton of action, true in general terms, as there is more awareness of these things, which helps to bring more intelligence to them. So, to some degree, yes. Better stock investing? No, I don't think so, at least for me.

More skillful actions, thoughts, etc: see above.

Improved morality: This is a really hard one to answer. My personal moral code has generally been pretty strict before and after and that hasn't changed. Is it easier to take into account the feelings of those around me as I am not so caught up in just my own stuff? Yes. Does that improved morality? I think so. Beyond that, it is hard to be certain. It is hard to tell what is just getting older and more mature from what came from dharma practice, as it has been 18 years since I got stream entry, and comparing mid-20's to mid-40's is difficult, as it has been so long and so much has happened. I do think that more awareness helps us to generally live the life we want to live moment-to-moment, to catch and modify impulses before they translate to less-than-ideal behavior.

Generally speaking better moods, less worrying: yes and no. As Bill Hamilton used to say, "Suffering less, noticing it more." Meaning, there are so many little micro-moods that flit through, and there is awareness of them to a degree that it far beyond what I had before I was really into meditation practice. Thus, as noted above, I am aware of little bits of subtle fear and irritation and the like to a degree that makes them much more obvious, but at the same time they are much more fleeting, much more just a small part of a much larger field of experience, much more just things that happen and vanish, like ripples in space rather than some huge thing that the mind habitually contracts into. Actually, it seems that the sort of mental contraction that cut off huge tracts of experience and shut down basic kindness and intelligence isn't even possible like it used to be, which is definitely a lot better.

Some of these changes were gradual, some sudden, but the thing that helped the most was that last fundamental flip-over.

Daniel

RE: Curious about your post path(s) experience
Answer
9/30/14 7:45 PM as a reply to John M..
John M.:
Much of this resonates, though I'd hasten to add that I haven't had much meaningful success in comparing pre and post path.

Am I experiencing less stress, less reactivity, less contraction around a perceived center? Well, it depends largely on when you ask. If we're talking about low EQ sotapanna watching television vs. DN worldling paying his taxes, then sure! But it seems hopelessly arbitrary to take my present experience -- which is constantly shifting on the basis of cycles and circumstance -- and attempt to distinguish it against cherry-picked memories, which are themselves fallible and entirely subjective. Do you see what I mean?

I think on some level, conscious or otherwise, I had expected something more experientially concrete. Some kind of A I could hold up and compare with B. This hasn't at all been the case.
This is a good point. For me though, it is still possible to recall how mental energy was being used to do something that it isn't anymore. I suppose the distinction I'm trying to make is between situational suffering and... existential/grasping/avoiding suffering. I think the term mental overlay may apply here. Even without the mental overlay, there is still a body and brain that have unpleasant sensations. But I feel like I can definitely say that there is another type of suffering that is reduced when the habitual relationship to sensations is modified (permanently). I'm starting to see SE as more of a direct realization of the work that must be done, rather than an attainment that is impressive or good enough to rest at. I mean, if SE reduced suffering to a great extent permanently, then wouldn't many more people be tempted to stop there? Like Dan was saying, like Bill Hamilton said, "suffering less, noticing it more". Maybe the reason it is considered to be the true point of no return for working on further paths is because it is the first point at which you are truly aware of all the dukkha you are authoring and the other truths of agencyless and impermanence, the salvation to the problem itself.

@Dan
Thanks for the data points! I wonder how many are disappointed to find that SE isn't the incredible solution they thought it would be. And 2nd path, and 3rd... and for the anagamis out there, 4th and 5th and 6th and 22nd... emoticon