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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Formations? Fruitions? Unkowing events? Frustration from missed Fruitions?

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Hello all. I have finally decided to come here for help with diagnostication, as a good friend of mine has been suggesting for months now. I would also like to share my experiences because there was a thread somewhere in which Jenny asked other forum users to describe Formations, so I am contributing indirectly to it. I will dig up that thread too, if I find it.

Basically, I would like some help with the Big Question: did I get SE? Are the things I experience Fruitions?

Background. I am currently in the process of "reviewing" where I am progress-of-insight-wise. I may have got my first Fruition a few months ago during a retreat, then I basically stopped "formal" meditation for a few months - except for cultivating jhanas in daily life, like while driving, shopping, having a conversation, and so on. Because of complications in daily life, because Dark Night, and so on. I am restarting to meditate these days.

Equanimity, Formations? Recently I have started meditating formally again. I consistently reach what I believe is high-equanimity. I start to perceive reality in terms of what I believe are Formations. By this I mean: after some tension and re-arrangement of perceptions (low-EQ?), the different sensory channels start to sync up (mid-EQ?), and touch, sound, space, "self", background and so on start to come up together as "highly syncronised synaesthetic bubbles" of which I can see the arising and passing away more or less clearly. All the time, however, there is the lingering feeling that there is "something missing", something important about perceptual reality that I am unable to see clearly enough in each Formation. At this point there is a huge feeling of tension and anticipation. As if something BIG is about to happen. As if I just needed to look harder, more clearly to get to "something".

Fruitions? Occasionally, I believe I get Fruitions. They have a varying degree of clarity. At their clearest I would describe them as being (brain-) dead for an instant. I do not know if they are Frutions, because they do not fit all the criteria from MCTB. What makes me think they are Fruitions is:
  • 1. When very clear, it feels like being dead for an instant. (If anything, they remind me of entering anaesthesia and then coming back immediately.) This holds for maybe 10% of these events though.
  • 2. Generally, but not always, the progression of nanas is like the maps say (but see below).
  • 3. There is a very clear feeling of "what the fuck was that", and I try to recollect what happened, but there is only a before and an after, not an in-between.
  • 4. The two "sides" of the blip are very different, like mismatching pieces of a puzzle. The part before I would describe as very Vipassana-ish, the part after as very Jhana-ish. It's as if reality came back "together" in a pure, pleasurable, meaningful way after all the messy, slightly unsettling, perception-of-reality-shattering Equanimity and Formations candidates I have described above.
What makes me doubt that they are Fruitions:
  • 5. 90% of the times, the feeling of being "dead for an instant" is not clear. Particularly because often I find myself in a very "dark" territory, in which perceptions are already quite murky (Nothingness aspect of Equanimity?). At those times, the "further cessation" of brain activity is not as spectacular, and I start to wonder "have I just spaced out for an instant, or was that It?"
  • 6. The Three Doors are nowhere near a good matching description of what I experience. In the lead up to the Fruitions(?), investigation of Impermanence and/or No-Self is a crucial factor (if I do not investigate those well enough, I end up either in 4th Jhana or back in the Dark Night), but there is no very clearly definite moment in which one (or two) of the Three Characteristics "jumps" at me with the level of clarity or detail that Daniel describes in MCTB.
  • 7. Sometimes these phenomena have come "by surprise", without a clear lead-up in terms of the succession of nanas. Something like (on retreat): I wake up at night, I feel refreshed and ready to meditate. I start to meditate, and within two minutes... BLIP! Out of the blue, felt like I was DEAD for an instant.
  • 8. I do not usually get a bliss wave (but see point 4 above) except maybe once.
So are those Frutions or not? What would be the best way to "explore" this question?

Cycles.
 Occasionally, I do notice that I spontaneously cycle from A&P through the Dark Night and into Equanimity while walking around, having a chat and doing my daily activities, but I do not get spontaneous Cessations after those cycles. Sometimes this happens several times in a single week or maybe even in a single day, but at other times, I do not notice that at all for weeks.

Quasi-cessations? Unkowing events? I generally get several "near misses" on the way to Equanimity, or during Equanimity. A common point to get one is what I call mid-equanimity, when the different "sense channels" begin to "synchronise" and Formations(?) start to come up. These near-misses feel like quasi-fruitions: not as a complete shutting down of brain activity, but more like a very dark passing cloud, lasting a fraction of a second, but with a faint feeling of "something being still there" still remaining. The two sides may occasionally feel slightly different (like going from 3rd Jhana to 4th Jhana, or from low to high Equanimity). Are these what Daniel calls "Unknowing Events" in MCTB? (Note to Daniel and Jenny, the description of Unkowing Events is not at all clear to me from MCTB-1, I have talked to other people about what they understand Unkowing Events from MCTB to be, and we generally disagree, so that may be a part to clarify better in MCTB-2).

Formation frustration? When, during a sitting, I can reach Equanimity, but can't have a Fruition(?), I come out of the sitting with this huge, primal sense of frustration, as of something missing. Sorry for the "adult" example, but it really feels like a frustrating sex session, in which I really wanted to reach orgasm, but couldn't. Whereas, when I do get what I think is a Fruition, stopping meditating feels natural (although generally not necessary). Has this happened to anybody else? Does this mean that I am doing something wrong?

Keep reviewing with the same recipe? To clarify better whether what I get are Formations or not, for example by trying to see better the entrance moment into the event (to see the Three Doors), and to have greater clarity immediately before the BLIP, I am trying to repeat the always the same steps when I meditate, while also working on Concentration, cultivating Jhanas and the ability to "jump" between 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th at will.

Or start a "new direction"? At the same time, I am becoming aware of aspects of my perceptual reality I have not been working on, which might be useful, but which seem to make the thing more complicated. For example, a couple sessions ago, I noticed that I had never noted carefully the "sports commentator", that inner voice which is more or less continuously babbling on, with varying intensity, about what I experience. I started noting it during EQ, and... that was very unsettling, as the commentator started to be included in the Formations, it started to strobe in and out of existence, and that was scary and confusing. So should I start including these new practice ideas, or keep "reviewing" what I have got so far?

Sorry for the very lengthy post

__________________

(Edits: shitty grammar, typos, Freudian slips, OCD, and so on)

Quote from KFD archives:

The first is a momentary discontinuity, a 'blip' in awareness. It is preceded by what feels like a build up of charge between two capacitor plates somewhere in the head (behind the eyes, forward of the pineal gland, about where the pituitary gland is located). There is also the sense of a physical flexing of some structure in the same location. When the charge builds up to a certain threshold, there is a very quick (milliseconds) discharge of energy during which consciousness winks out. After the discharge, there is the sense of the same structure relaxing

Thanks a lot for this quote, Noah, I did not know it. While I do experience this kind of energy buildup / feeling of imminenence, of something that needs to be released, it did not seem to be not localised anywhere in my head (or body, for that matter). I could look into it the next times (although the danger of scripting is, of course, there, with this kind of things...)

What is the context for this quote, btw? Is it a personal experience or something considered relatively universal?

Its just from someone's practice log and then someone else commented on it.  I found it remarkable because it described my experience perfectly.  It just feels like someone's poking my third eye as electricity goes up through my head.

Neko - this is very clear and complete description of experience and covers some interesting points. I dont have any answers for you myself, but I'll be following with interest to see what responses you get. 

Re Fruitions: so many state shifts and other things can mimic them. The real deal should stand out, be complete, be clear, be total. They should feel like a total, out from control, sudden, perfect reset of the whole of the sense field. It is true that as Review goes on and they happen more commonly, the afterglow can become less impressive, but the thing itself should always be pristine and flawless. Even people who get Fruitions may not be that good at sorting out what was just some state-shift, what was just some dip into something formless, what was something A&P related, what was something Dissolution related, and what was an actual Fruition: it took me years and years to be really good at this.

Re Phenomenology of the Three Doors: chasing my degree of phenomenology has vexed many, including people who were very good meditators and were getting Fruitions. I could give many explanations for this, but the one I honestly think is most likely is that I had a mix of fervent obsession with this that burned fiercely hot for years and years and that was combined with what is probably some unusual, perhaps freakish, inborn talent for noticing how various meditative phenomena happen. I was out to prove the shit out of myself and my meditative abilities. Keeping to current forum themes, it was utter balls-to-the-wall alpha-male posturing gone haywire that just happened to be channeled into something extremely skillful. For better or for worse, it looks like emperical evidence shows that, if you want to experience these things with that same level of clarity, you are going to have to work very hard for it for a long time like I did and also be gifted. There is a reason that nobody has ever before written the level of broad, detailed and relatively comprehensive descriptions about these things that I have. I realize that this may sound like staggering arrogance, and perhaps it is, but it is a lot more useful to you than just that would imply, as it is at once a challenge and a warning: the challenge is that it can be done and the door is open to any who want to try, and the warning is that you had better be willing to go through these things thousands of times with a truly fanatical level of care about it over decades to get to the level I did, or you are likely to be disappointed. Given what I know now, I honestly wouldn't bother unless such a project truly calls to the depths of your non-existent soul, like it called to me. Now that it has been written down, it doesn't have to be done again unless you are just that curious and really feel driven to see it all that clearly for yourself.

Re Clarifying things in MCTB: Formations is the section I get more questions about than basically any other part, and we just happened to be working on the section about that right now. We will do our best and post our efforts here before they are printed, such that you can tell us how we did, and, if we failed to make it clear, will try again as best we can. It is a subtle topic that, like the Three Doors, benefits from some mix of obsession, long years of practice for thousands and thousands of hours, and some gift for it. You need not be clear about Formations (or the Threee Doors, for that matter) to get the benefits of insight practice. Just as plenty of people use Calculus, which is moderately advanced mathematics, to good use and yet only a few people really understand the far depths of its foundations and implications, just so it is with these things. As to Unknowing Events: will give that more attention than I have so far. Thanks for the advice.

RE: Formations? Fruitions? Unkowing events? Frustration from missed Fruitio
Answer
5/31/15 9:10 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Neko,

I'd like to add here something to Daniel's reply. 

Some time ago a friend I met on the DhO and I had the chance to meet Daniel in his natural terrain. In merely practical, quotidien ways, what shines through is he has skills that require tremendous concentration to acquire relatively quickly. This concentration skill is evidenced in obvious ways (typing speed, music composition and sound recall, broad & deep study matter, for examples, to say nothing of his actual career of emergency medicine for long hours and long work shifts day over day, like the medical community at large right now).

Not only is his generosity unstated and quiet, his personal life/ethical discipline is a joy to be around-- but let's just say what I saw in his concentration in daily activities-- seeing his concentration in what could be seen as non-meditative skills completely changed the way I look at the meditation study and my own work. As a result I take very seriously my chance to improve concentration to the benefit of generosity and skill. I have compassion for myself that it is a hard beginning with little evidence, but I can see a change for myself.


Why am I saying all of this? If you have interest in his approach and outcomes to meditation perhaps re-read his above reply here about his level of effort in the practice. I would recommend anyone start off gently and naturally, but I can see from where I sit today in my little retreat times how the interest and effort grows and how someone could fuel themselves as Daniel described and how hard it would be to look at anyone starting out and think they would follow through on that level of action care-fully.


My two cents. Best wishes and good efforts.

RE: Formations? Fruitions? Unkowing events? Frustration from missed Fruitio
Answer
5/31/15 9:42 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
I am endlessly grateful for the discovery of MCTB, Dho, and pragmatic dharma in general.  Daniel's example has linked me to goals which provide unlimited motivation.  And, as has been said by him and Katy, his skills at noticing things in detail and then describing them accordingly are improbably high.  

In my personal meditation experience, most nanas, jhanas, fruitions, reviews, etc. are less dramatic than what I got from the descriptions that I have read.  They are what they are, but it is possible for one to have them and not notice them so much: to 'fly under the radar.'  I think it is important to balance a high standard for meditation attainments with the possibility that they might not be seen that clearly or deeply.  

RE: Formations? Fruitions? Unkowing events? Frustration from missed Fruitio
Answer
6/2/15 4:04 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
@Katy, Noah: I do share your enthusiasm for Daniel's work, even though I have never met him. I am one of those "spontaneous A&P freaks" who's had around a couple thousand of those "events" since I was about six years old. They never made any sense to me until a friend of mine pointed me to MCTB. Up to that point I alternated between fearing that I was crazy, believing that I was enlightened, and "who cares, it does not really affect my daily life anyway". I am extremely grateful to Daniel for sharing all the stuff he has learnt and I admire the way he does it. I'll stop here, I know he doesn't like to be put on a pedestal 

emoticon


@Daniel: Thanks for the answer!

Daniel M. Ingram:
The real deal should stand out, be complete, be clear, be total. They should feel like a total, out from control, sudden, perfect reset of the whole of the sense field.

This is indeed an accurate description of a small subset of the "cessations" that I have had - the two or three I have had on retreat, in particular. Maybe the others are not fruitions, or maybe "in real life" things do not stand out as much.


Re Phenomenology of the Three Doors: chasing my degree of phenomenology has vexed many, including people who were very good meditators and were getting Fruitions. [...] For better or for worse, it looks like emperical evidence shows that, if you want to experience these things with that same level of clarity, you are going to have to work very hard for it for a long time like I did and also be gifted.

[...]

You need not be clear about Formations (or the Threee Doors, for that matter) to get the benefits of insight practice. Just as plenty of people use Calculus, which is moderately advanced mathematics, to good use and yet only a few people really understand the far depths of its foundations and implications, just so it is with these things.


Ok, that is very useful to know. I may be setting standards for myself that are too high for my practice level and/or skill. This may also be related to why my level of practice sucks at the moment, not only from the quality point of view, but quantity too. I do not even meditate daily, and I spend more time analysing (rationally, discursively) what I have been doing so far as opposed to acutally sitting down and practicing.

Re Clarifying things in MCTB: Formations is the section I get more questions about than basically any other part, and we just happened to be working on the section about that right now. We will do our best and post our efforts here before they are printed, such that you can tell us how we did, and, if we failed to make it clear, will try again as best we can. It is a subtle topic that, like the Three Doors, benefits from some mix of obsession, long years of practice for thousands and thousands of hours, and some gift for it.

As to Unknowing Events: will give that more attention than I have so far. Thanks for the advice.

I am so looking forward to the next parts of MCTB-2. emoticon

neko:

Ok, that is very useful to know. I may be setting standards for myself that are too high for my practice level and/or skill. This may also be related to why my level of practice sucks at the moment, not only from the quality point of view, but quantity too. I do not even meditate daily, and I spend more time analysing (rationally, discursively) what I have been doing so far as opposed to acutally sitting down and practicing.


I think this is very common. I have been in this place myself and its good to recognise it, for then you can do something about it!