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Oochd's practice thread
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12/16/14 12:48 PM
 
A bit of background: Have been meditating for about 8 years, initially started at a Zen temple in Rome, but after leaving rome starting basing my practice on Gil Fronsdal’s dharmatalks at audiodharma.org. Have sat about 9 retreats (including 3 Goenka ones, a couple at Spirit Rock and the Insight Retreat Center in Santa Cruz, but also a week at Shwee Oo Min monastery in Yangon and this summer two retreats in Thailand).
 
By my reckoning I may have been in DN for almost two years, perhaps longer. (at a retreat at IRC things had become extremely easy and blissful – making me think I ‘had’ it – only to collapse into deep depression in the weeks after).
 
Finally discovered MCTB, and this summer sat my first retreat with the maps and models in the back of my mind, as well as the strong determination to see each and every sensation arise and pass away with no let up. At the 10 day (well only 7 real meditation days) retreat at Wat Khao Tam (highly recommended btw!) on Koh Pangang the stages unfolded quite predictably. On day 4 hit A&P, the most blissed out I’ve ever been, pure vibratory joy, with things predictably falling apart on day 5. Seemingly no meditation ability, a lot of anger coming up. Then on day 6 everything became easy and equanimous.
 
One walking meditation, a fellow yogi from Ghana with beautiful traditional dresses was standing nearby, and to me seemed like a pure deva. This latched the thought into my mind ‘she must me a deva that came here to witness my stream entry’ and with that a feeling of certainty that I would indeed reach stream entry, probably that very day, came over me. Perhaps delusional, but I do believe that strong beliefs and intentions can have remarkable effects on practice.
 
Shortly after that as I came to my turn in my walking meditation, I stopped, there was a sort of flickering, and when I started walking again my self was gone. There was still egoic thought, but somehow there was no longer any ‘me’ there. This state would last for three hours, and then I took a nap to find on waking up that my old self had re-appeared.
 
The rest of the retreat was not very eventful, but in the days after I was still able to tap into this ‘no-selfness’ state from time to time. I sat another retreat on Koh Samui, but really disliked the teacher, couldn’t really settle, and it felt like mostly a waste of time.
 
So my guesses are that a) I hit stream entry and started cycling after that or b) just hit high equanimity and fell back into the DN.
 
What’s for sure is that I no longer doubt the truth of the Buddhist paths, or believe in a real self (even though it’s back in ordinary life).
 
Currently seem to be cycling through the stages again. Last week was a quite pronounced A&P (seeing sensations arise and pass away so quickly and easily throughout my body and senses, random giddiness and good mood, reduced need for sleep), which now has turned into dissolution again (sleeeeeepy!).
 
My current working assumption is that I indeed mistook high equanimity for SE, and now have to work myself up to EQ again for another shot.

RE: Oochd's practice thread
Answer
12/16/14 2:40 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
Congrats on progress as progress is progress. 

Keep practicing and inclining towards that 'no self' experience/insight. Steep in it for a while. Resolve to experience it again and again. Explore it further. See what happens. 

RE: Oochd's practice thread
Answer
12/21/14 7:01 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
Short update:

Currently sitting about two sits of 30 minutes each a day, although the meditative state seems to basically come up throughout the day. As soon as I sit down I immediately enter a deep equanimity with a wide sense of concentration. At the same time there is the feeling of a lot of energy moving through my body. With every breath swirls of energy are twirling throughout my system. It actually feels like an intense psychedelic trip sometimes, and yesterday it almost felt like it became ‘too much’ and the pleasure became too intense.
 
I’m currently reading Bob Burbea’s Seeing That Frees, and his descriptions of emptiness seem somehow very intuitive and straightforward to relate to. The reflective exercises in the beginning of the book seem to be releasing a lot of deeply held tension.

RE: Oochd's practice thread
Answer
2/17/15 9:54 AM as a reply to Oochdd.
So new update:
 
At the time of my last update I was going through some intense peak experiences surrounding practice. As soon as I hit the cushion would usually immediately fall into some kind of Jhana (never really had a knack for concentration, so this was kind of interesting), had quite a lot of somatic release (weird tremors and shaking, etc), and really clear and direct experience of no-self. Also spent quite a lot of time just standing around my apartment laughing at everything.
 
Reading through Burbea’s book was at times almost a psychedelic experience: the energy flowing through my body, the thoughts, feelings and headspace was very familiar to my experiences on psychedelics, although in this case induced by simply reading some instructions in a book.
 
Especially the instructions on the 7-fold reasoning were very easy to do, and the results very apparent. I definitely felt very enlightened.
 
At first all the energetic stuff, the sense of feeling enlightened, etc, made me deduce that it could have been an intense A&P. However so far at least although the more intense effects have leveled off, it has not descended into DN territory.
 
Instead the insights into no-self seem to be stabilizing, and more easily accessible throughout the day. Indeed the mind seems to naturally incline towards a meditative state throughout the day, always investigating experience, perception, sense of self, performing the 7-fold reasoning, etc.
 
Meditation does not fall into jhana territory as automatically, but generally still involves a lot of bliss and rapture. My practice is mostly metta meditation, taking the bliss as the meditation object or investigating where and how the sense of self and mine pops up.
 
In general life feels pretty ordinary, pleasant and a lot less stressful then before this episode.
 
So we’ll see if it lasts, but for now: progress is progress!

RE: Oochd's practice thread
Answer
5/27/15 3:12 PM as a reply to Oochdd.
It's been quite a while so seems time for another update. Since that last update I started working with a teacher, so felt less of an urge to post my progress. But I've been benefiting a lot from other people's practice journals, so figured I should throw in my two eurocents as well.

Since that last update in February I went through some seeming dark night territory in march, which prompted me to get in touch with a teacher (Ron Crouch) for the first time. The other reason is that I suspected that I had hit SE in December, with one of the initial effects being that I lost all interest in SE, but now that the afterglow had worn off I was curious so wanted to talk to a dharma diagnostician so to say.
 
With Ron I learned to actually follow and recognize the nana’s through my sits, and then started consistently hitting equanimity in April. Then in early may the equanimity started to get pretty trippy, as I started to throw more and more stuff (physical sensations, sensations of self, sensations of obversing, mental images, etc, etc)  ‘into the hopper’. One sit while doing this very consistently everything started swirling like crazy, all of perception flickering on and off, and when I came out of it the first thought was “This is it”. However then getting up from the cushion and talking to my flatmate everything seemed extremely normal so first I thought “maybe that wasn’t it”, but then the thought occurred “it’s supposed to feel extremely normal, so maybe this IS it.” Dharma Diagnosing can be confusing emoticon
 
In the days after event I seemed to cycle very quickly through the nana’s, although also got stuck for some time in the DN nana’s. Talked to Ron a couple of days later, and he confirmed that I seemed to be in Review. He suggested that I should try if I could trigger fruitions, and explained how to recognize them when they occurred, as this is usually a pretty good test of having hit a path. And in the week and a half or so after I was indeed able to pull them off pretty much at will whenever I had cycled up to equanimity. (seems to have stopped now again)
 
Happily a week after the possible path (which I now think is probably 2nd) moment I went on a five day retreat. At first the cycles didn’t make any sense whatsoever, cycling up and down randomly, but I was getting a lot of fruitions, and having quite a lot of fun. At some point I did resolve “I will now go through all the nana’s from start to finish and end with a fruition”, and could do so in about 15 minutes. Without such a resolution the cycles were a lot murkier though. Later in the retreat the cycles started making more sense again and lasting longer (over half a day for a full cycle).
 
I also started to play around with the jhana’s. Before I could quite easily access what I consider for myself first jhana (basically call up my A&P experience and make the bliss and piti my object), and sometimes the piti would wear off a bit (second jhana) or become more chilled out still (3rd?). But now I could cycle 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, etc. Also tried the fifth by going up to fourth and feeling space, then expanding it out. Very blissful. Then the sixth by filling the space with consciousness (not even sure what that means but somehow was able to do something that seemed to connect with that description). Couldn’t really figure out how to get to 7th, and couldn’t remember the instructions that I had read on the Hamilton project’s blog, so during a small group meeting I asked the teacher if he had any suggestions. His suggestion: “we’re on this retreat to learn how to do less clinging, so that includes not clinging to jhana’s”. So that wasn’t very helpful emoticon
The next sit that I got to what I call 6th Jhana I tried to turn back awareness on awareness itself, figuring that this might cancel out and result in nothingness. (now realize that I probably mixed up one of Kenneth Folk 2nd gear instructions for jhana instructions). Some weird stuff happened, but would not really be able to reproduce what exactly emoticon
 
Then in the walking period after that sit, I suddenly couldn’t find my center of perception anymore. So I tried to put it back behind my eyes where it belongs. And this actually worked. But then I figured “why not put in in my left hand instead?” Which also worked. “How about my right hand?” Also worked. “How about that chair over there?”, and suddenly I was perceiving everything (meaning body sensation, sight, sound, etc) from a plastic chair. And then my center of perception started jumping around from object to object and I started freaking out. Had some tea and the fear subsided somewhat, as I noticed that putting your center of perception on the object that you’re perceiving is actually a pretty relaxed way of perceiving things. I can still move this center around at will now, but it doesn’t freak me out anymore. (so for example I can put it to left of my body and then all my body sensation appear to occur “to the right of me”. Maybe this is actually normal and a lot of people can do this, but it felt a bit odd to me at first).
 
Since the retreat (which ended about 10 days ago), the Review phase seems to have ended, and I’m making my way up a new cycle. Today started hitting A&P again. Which seems pretty fast, so maybe this is still a (very slow) review cycle?
 
My current self-diagnosis: this last episode definitely seemed like path+review. But if this was path+review I completely recognize it from what I went through last December, so then that was path+review as well, meaning that this was probably 2nd path.
 
In any case, my baseline seems to have improved even further, stress seems to have reduced more, and I can quite easily get into a kind of 3rd gear perspective. So seems like all good things whether it is path or not.
 
Will talk to Ron tomorrow and see what he thinks.