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First taste of Vipassana

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First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/5/15 8:13 AM
Reading through through MCTB and through the development of my concentration ability through samatha jhana practice I've developed a certain fear towards progressing on the path and on to the dark night.

On the other hand I've begin to see pure samatha practice as kind of a dead end not just on path terms, but also in terms of personal development.

I don't know if there really is a way around it. I've previously developed this notion about being able progress on the personal development track without developing th path beyond a certain point, but now with my increased concentration ability it seems the meditation I used to do is in fact potent enought to bring about vipassana jhanas and probably more.

I'm, not really sure what to do next considering what I just dicussed.

In any case I did do a 30 minute meditation into impermanence today by concentrating on the physical sensations.

I was able to stay with the physical sensations and their movement almost exclusively without inteference of thought loops or other senses.
First I was doing this in one location and noticing the movement there, but then I began to add other locations in to the mix and it seem liked I could stay with all of them at the same time and track their movements. Although it was varying which locations were active and which were not.

Around 10-15 minutes in (the point where I would usually attain the 1st samatha jhana) I experienced something new. It had a certain 1st samatha jhana quality of piti to it but it was flickering. I got scared about it and pulled out.

I continued the meditatition, but my mindfulness was vaning and I wasn't tracking the sensations as accurately and as fast as I could. At some point I noticed this and started picking up again. Towards the end of the 30 minute sit I started to attain to something again, but this time it wasn't so abrupt and felt "cooler". It was bit like when doing samatha practice and the state is deepening and at some point again there was this state shift, but as I mentioned it wasn't as abrupt and I was able to ease myself into it. Upon entry I felt a huge number of tiny vibrations simultaneously on my upper lip and with remarkable clarity. I was in this state maybe 1 minute before the alarm rang.

I'm wondering if this was access concentration taking place or 1st vipassana jhana. Reading MCTB description of the first nana "Knowledge of Mind and Body" this didn't seem to be it.

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/5/15 9:32 AM as a reply to mikko.
hi mikko,
to my mind it sounds more like your are indeed building up your vipassana momentum and are getting into 3Cs territory.  the ramp up in your ability to notice fast tiny sensations and the almost automatic pull into that stage is a common indicator methinks.  the scary feeling can pop up when hitting this territory as it can when jumping from jhana 1 to jhana 2.

so you've read the disclaimers...you're practicing...remember, its not always easy to stay on one side of the vipassana / jhana fence..it can be a blurry line.

peace

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/5/15 3:15 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
I've done only samatha Jhana meditation these past few months with 1 or 2 samatha vipassana sessions out of the 4th samatha jhana. So I don't know how much momentum I've built, but I guess there is a vipassana aspect in samatha and vice versa.

I'm bit confused about the "nana" model and how it relates to experiences while meditating and on the other hand when you're not and are out and about living your life so I posted a question here: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5646505

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/5/15 6:29 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
Now, I'm wondering whether this was such a good idea after all.
I have trouble sleeping because once I close my eyes "meditation" happens. I drop into some states and I'm afraid of being "swept away".
Although it may seem counterproductive in path terms I'm wondering if there is a way to back out of this since I've not crossed the A&P event. I've only gotten my feet wet and already running into all sorts of issues.

Giving up meditation entirely seems like drastic move, but then again just doing samatha jhanas might further me on the path whether I want it or not. I don't really know at this point.

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/5/15 6:33 PM as a reply to mikko.
Hi mikko,

It might be helpful to consider why you're following the path Daniel Ingram lays out if you're afraid of it.  What exactly is your purpose for meditating, and why do you feel MCTB is right for you?  (You don't have to answer me here, I'm just suggesting it as a personal exercise.)

Here are some important things Daniel lays out:
- His path does not end with the elimination of suffering, it ends with a perceptual shift.
- His understanding of things like anatta, non-duality, emptiness, and luminosity does not necessarily match up with other definitions you may have read.
- His path involves a "can of worms" where, once you pass the arising and passing away, you can't go back (according to him).
- His path adds extra stress and suffering into your life, and this is something you never escape, instead it's said to be "less sticky" at the end.

Daniel promotes himself as a holder of a "final" truth - or a unifying principle behind all religious and psychological experience.  This is not really the case though.  Daniel simply has a lot of faith in what he's experienced over the years and has projected this onto other systems and understandings - even when practitioners of those other systems have disagreed with him and his interpretations. This kind of "one religion" idea can be very persuasive, especially when combined with his aggressively confident writing style, but it is not "truth," just his opinion - which is good to remember.  If you want to pursue his system, then do so by all means! However, if you have been convinced by his writing that he is the holder of a final truth, that's probably worth investigating considering your trepidations about what he has told you. Can you really make a life practice out of something you fear?

As a footnote, if it isn't clear from my post, I disagree with Daniel's belief that "all enlightened beings cycle" through states of misery, despair, and disgust, and I personally haven't experienced the stages he lays out in spite of regular meditation. You have nothing to fear from jhana or from following the advice laid out by the Buddha in the suttas - and this advice does not result in stagnation in my experience. The Buddha himself said his path is, "good in the beginning, good in the middle, and good in the end," so I believe the concept of a Dark Night has come from a misunderstanding about what the Buddha taught.

Good luck with whatever path you choose. emoticon

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/6/15 3:23 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
My purpose for meditating: Stress relief, elimination of anxiety, being able to live my life to the fullest, elimination of suffering (although would have to know what are the tradeoffs), personal development. 

Well, I guess as you said, Daniel represents it like regardless of tradition you go through stages like that. emoticon So it's not whether MCTB is right for me, but whether the Buddhist path is right for me in that context.

I have to say Shinzen Young's writing style is similar, trying to come up with a system that explains all spiritual experience and I have found it very compelling and believable in his case and it makes a lot of sense. It has basically unified my understanding of meditation and personal development techniques I've read and experimented with from other sources. Whenever I watch one of his videos from youtube for example It always seems to make perfect sense and I agree with him almost all of the time. The noting part is something I never particularly liked though. It seems artificial. By that I mean the mental labels rather than just experiencing whatever comes through the sense gates. So if that is still noting than I'm okay with that. emoticon

But in the end Shinzen and Daniel promote the same techniques (like noting for example) so I would presume they lead to similar results. The vipassana meditation I detailed in the first post is from Shinzen Young. The difference is my concentration abilities have improved dramatically due to jhana practice (no doubt) so I was able to go deeper then before. Shinzen details a samatha practice on the sense gates too, but doesn't really recommend samatha jhana practice although I've never seen him speak against it either. He describes it more as sign posts for depth of concentration rather something you should be specifically looking for.

Can you really make a life practice out of something you fear?

Well that is definately not a very compelling proposition that I could go a bit mad whenever emoticon but on the other hand life is also about overcoming your fears. There has been a thing or too said about doing concentration practices too, but I guess that is more in relation to "the powers" rather than just the concentration practice in itself.

I guess I should read more of the suttas then, but I mean how many ways can you interpret "see impermanence, suffering and no-self in everything" apparently quite many. emoticon If "dark night" is then specific to say noting practice rather than some other meditation practices than obviously that would be a good thing to know.

And what other meditative paths are there?

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/6/15 4:28 AM as a reply to mikko.
I agree that Shinzen has similar teachings to Daniel, so if you like his style then Daniel's writings aren't going to lead you astray from that path.

Your comment "but I mean how many ways can you interpret 'see impermanence, suffering and no-self in everything'" is precisely the idea I was addressing with my original post, though. The Buddha did not teach to passively observe these "three characteristics" in phenomena. He actually never said anything at all about phenomena having three characteristics. The Buddha taught jhana, skillful awareness, and the direct modification of the way we think and interact with the world.

I can see by your last post that you're most interested in the Vipassana path though. So good luck, and I hope you find what you're looking for! emoticon

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/6/15 5:29 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
I'm not sure what's the relationship between "mindfulness" and "vipassana" or if the two are the same thing. I have to say that through minfulness practice especially off the cushion I have gained a lot. It has changed my experience of the world and the way I'm able to live my life. It has reduced the suffering a lot too especially in the way of reducing anxiety.

Well I guess you could say that it has not been due to meditation alone, but meditation has been a catalyst that has enabled me to have new experiences that have changed me in profound ways.

Before discovering samatha jhanas I was mostly doing off the cushion mindfulness (or presence) meditation. I usually meditated 15 mintues on the cushion in the morning and then for example when going for a walk focusing on the visual field, sensations in the body, sounds around me. (Focus out in shinzens terms). I didn't think meditating on the cushion would be as productive as gaining new experiences in the world.

Maybe your "skillful awareness" is exactly what I'm talking about. Could you expand on that a little bit?

and the direct modification of the way we think and interact with the world. I'm not sure I'd agree on this, but maybe you could expand on this a little bit as well? I'm more on the view that by becoming a "better person" however you define it your actions are going to change too. I would not start going against how I feel I should act. I guess this would be a long dicussion explaing this, but it's more on doing how you think versus doing how you feel. Right brain vs left brain. For a good treatise I would recommend http://www.amazon.com/The-Master-His-Emissary-Divided/dp/0300188374

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/7/15 2:07 PM as a reply to mikko.
Decided to go more samatha-vipassana route for now based on:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1286373
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/onetool.html

After a couple of sessions I'm liking it. It's different from just trying to get to jhana via absorption.
And the jhana achieved in this way is more encompassing. Encompassing the whole body and it feels more natural.
At the same time I'm noticing internal talk threads, thoughts, physical sensations and so on.
It really helps to build  up mindfulness. I'm basically doing anapanasati with a renewed understanding.
When I was driving to work today everything felt very smooth almost liquid like, I guess that's equanimity. And also mindfulness was at very good level throughout the day. 

Just now I had another session and descended down to 4th jhana this way. It took me very little time to get the 1st jhana. It was like when I started I had really good mindfulness already and after the first few breahts it was like I was already there. Well it took some time after that, but still. When I got down to the 4th jhana it continued to deepen and I had the experience of the hardest 4th jhana I've ever been in. Everything started to disappear, but I started hear this "buzzing" and I felt pressure in my head which wasn't very nice. I think I was getting absorbed too deeply. It didn't feel right.

Well for now I feel like I'm on the right track and will continue to investigate this approach further.

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/9/15 12:42 AM as a reply to mikko.
Just had another productive morning session of anapanasati.

Once I gain some calm through establishing mindfulness and calming the breath I start to see the internal chatter and tensions of me wanting to be in Jhana and needing to be in jhana actually preventing me from gaining furhter calm and get to


"[5] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' [6] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' [7] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.'[4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' [8] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

steps 5 and 6 and attaining 1st and 2nd jhana. I would say the 2nd because even after I my attention wonders elsewhere the jhana persists.

I got to step 8, but couldn't quite figure out to calm the mental fabrications. I think it was still productive to be able to perceive them. At this point they didn't really have much tensions associated with them in the body and it was more subtle, but it was still there.

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/10/15 8:34 AM as a reply to mikko.
Decided to post on Dharma diagnosis about my latest sit since I thought that would be a more appropriate place for those questions. You can find it here:
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5650036

RE: First taste of Vipassana
Answer
1/11/15 3:17 AM as a reply to mikko.
Masturbated last night first time in a 3 or so weeks. Stayed up late and once I tried to sleep and closed my eyes this "meditation" started to happen again. At times I felt my body pulsating on something like 5-10 hz frequency. At some point my forehead felt very tense like a solid block rather than relaxed. There were also other experiences of entering into "Meditatoin states" concentration deepening and "things" happening. So I opened my eyes tried again etc. At some point I just passed out I guess but I didn't sleep more than 4-5 hrs which really isn't enough.

During the day I had experimented with accessing concentration states while in my daily life. Just keeping the breath in the background and being sensitive to sight/bodily sensations or other things. I was able to access at least access concentration probably even 1st jhana.