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Diagnose Me Please
6/25/15 6:32 AM
Hi all!

So I really like this community and I really like maps. I they make everything seem so doable and provide great motivation. However, the descriptions of each stage of insight are so seemingly broad, I have no real grasp of where I am or if I am anywhere on it at all! I am also aware of the power of suggestion and want to limit the scripting of experience as much as I can. That said - I've got a few questions:

  1. Where, if anywhere, on the Stages of Insight am I?
  2. What does insight feel like? Is it - "Hot damn! I have this mind blowing insight!" - If it is, then I have none.
  3. MCTB maintains that once A&P is crossed, DN follows everytime. Is it possible instead to drop to Mind/Body instead?

Relvant Info

Attended Goenka retreat approximately 20 years ago as a 12 year old. Went to make my dad happy. Retreat was almost entirely filled with daydreaming, boredom, and sleeping through the morning and afternoon bells. Almost certain no insights were gained.

Fast forward 20 years and was incredibly lonely, depressed, angry, and on the verge of divorce in September of 2014. Made full confessions to all loved ones and friends of all my resentments and the worst things I'd ever done, shattering the flimsy front of perfection and self-reliance that I had tried to maintain for the past 30 years or so. Feelings of great freedom, love, forgiveness, fearlessness followed. Somewhere in there, had a dream that my jaw locked up and body became like a balloon filled with super high energy light that was about to explode. Insights of the blow-your-mind type gained, but all fit squarely in the morality sphere - things like complete honesty, self-acceptance, separating events from my story about them, love, etc. At some point in late December, while in the midst of this super awesome mania, decided to start meditating after not giving it a second thought since age 12. Logic was - distractions/entertainment/socializing hide unhappiness. If I can sit still and be happy, then I can be sure I'm not burying something. Sitting led me to discover MCTB and I've been obsessed with Western/Practical (and some Theravadan) Dhamma since.  

Current practice - 1.5+ hours daily. Roughly 5 - 15 minutes metta, the rest split between Samatha and Vipassana. Noting on and off throughout the day in regular life - not much though. Probably just an hour when you combine it all.
  • Samatha - can drum up decent access concentration (wispy thoughts) consistently with ease. A couple times, I've chanced into something deeper. It was a sort of high-definition clarity without effort. Disturbances/noises came through with clarity, but did not shake the mind/concentration in the least. In other words, the mind did not want to reach out to it. Anyone want to venture a best guess into what that is? Real access concentration or some sort of jhana? Otherwise, I don't often feel many overtly pleasurable sensations or anything I'd count as joy while practicing Samatha - best I can do is mild pleasantness and contentedness.
  • Vipassana - currently noticing great many vibrations all over the body, nothing physical seems to be rock solid. Sitting pains and back aches are there but never static - they shift, pulse, or disappear under investigation. Though there is usually a sense of a body, sometimes the boundaries between body parts seem to dissolve. Experiencing flickering visuals with eyes closed. Even eyes open everything flickers if I look at it hard enough - could be just bad eyesight though. Still get on the occasional thought train and experience boredom and fatigue, but those things are noted quickly and I return to noting the flickering/tingling/buzzing/semi-solid pains. All of this is possibly delusional.

Where Am I?

Here's the thing, if I crossed A&P last year, I've not experienced much of a Dark Night. Life has been awesome. The closest thing to Dark Nightiness is that I notice the endings of things more and more in real life. But it certainly doesn't stress me out. Also, if crossing A&P means I have some deep Insight into Mind/Body, Cause/Effect, and 3C, it certainly doesn't feel like I do. I can tease thought images and sounds from body sensations. I can see a sensation trigger a desire which triggers an intent which triggers an action. I can see nothing lasts, everything is kinda stressful, and I don't particularly control any of it. BUT, it doesn't feel like a deep Insight - more like "Yeah, so what?" - and I certainly don't feel any wiser than before. Walking around, it sure feels like things last, and that there is a "me" in there. 

Sitting was solidly painful a few weeks ago and I didn't want to do it for a couple of those weeks - but I'm a dancer and am building a house, so I don't know how reliable pain is as a symptom. This last week, however, desire to meditate has returned. Sitting itself has become more interesting with the constant buzzing, tingling, and flickering, and pain is no longer solid. But, I don't have any of the euphoria/spectacular phenonmena/mania associated with A&P. My best guess is late 3C or early A&P? Going on retreat in a few weeks, would be helpful to know what to look out for.

What Do Insights Feel Like?

Again, I feel no wiser. "Yeah, so?" about captures how I feel about Mind/Body, Cause/Effect, and 3C. I can see all of those in meditation. At the speed which everything is buzzing/flickering/tingling now, I could also say that I notice the very quick A&P of things, but still - response is "Yeah, of course." If insights should feel like deep, ground shaking truth - I haven't got any outside of the Morality sphere.

Is it possible to drop lower than A&P after having hit it?

Again, life has been pretty great since last fall. And looking back over the past 6 months, I can see more symptoms of Mind/Body, Cause/Effect, and 3C, than Dark Night. Tangent - is anyone else constant typing Dark Knight?


RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/24/15 8:26 PM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
I am not qualified to diagnose anything but watned to say... great write up!
Very complete, and also level headed.

Some of what you describe is pretty relevant to me as well - for example; I went through a period where it was pretty painful to sit, but I just figured... eh I'm outta shape, or have a weak back.
I will follow this thread with interest!

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/25/15 6:35 AM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
Thanks Gordo! That's essentially the attitude I'm taking. Like I said, I really like maps, but since I have no clue if they apply to me, I'm just practicing as well and as consistently as I can.

Peace & love & all that good stuff.

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/25/15 9:12 AM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
Is it possible to drop lower than A&P after having hit it?

Yeah.  Cycling is supposed to occur both on and off the cushion automatically, meaning you will experience side effects of whatever nana you are in at a given time (like minutes and hours, not days and weeks).  Also (just offering the 'theory' I know), you will probably experience the side-effects of your cutting edge more strongly than the side-effects of nanas whose territory you have 'mastered.'

The concept of the 'arc' or the 'jhanic arc' helps me a lot, as does the image of a speedometer.  The idea is that work your way up these stages one by one (whether jhana or nana), up to your cutting edge, and then generally fall back through them in reverse order.  Individual nanas may or may not be detectable on your way up, or down, even though you traverse their territory.
Going on retreat in a few weeks, would be helpful to know what to look out for.

I think mapping others is really hard.  What matters is that you know the territory exists and that you will traverse it with good practice.  It sounds like you meet these two criteria, which form the intentionality element of getting to stream entry.  Another 'mind-set' based element is faith.  Just know that this stuff is the best thing ever and if you keep pushing forward you will improve your mind for the rest of your life!

Also, it is never a bad idea to keep record of specific, experience-based summaries of your sittings in a journal.  If you do this, you will eventually be able to map yourself or others on the dho will be able to do so.  But I'm talking weeks and months of individual sitting summaries.

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/25/15 3:51 PM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
I would invite you to focus on the no-self part of the three characteristics in your vipassana if you're looking for liberation or true insight. It's quite easy, in fact absurdly so. Just look for the self and see if you can find it. Look honestly. Can you find anything that is not just a thought? Nope. So the whole "You" is just a thought, and when you stop believing it, liberation sets in. That's pretty much all the insight you need. ;)

Good luck and have fun. emoticon

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/26/15 7:07 PM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
Thanks for the encouraging feedback from all.

@ Gordo. Yes, consistent practice whether enjoyable/clear/pleasant or not is what got me here. Will keep it up.

@ Mattias. Thanks. I find the "not self" characteristic pretty easy to tune into - on the cushion, at least. Pretty much everything I can observe is some sensation, sound, or sight (imagined, remembered, or otherwise) that is not "me". Still "feels" like "I" exist though. Maybe identifing with the observer? Anyway, I am consciously trying to avoid thinking or rationalizing too much and just observe.

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/27/15 12:30 PM as a reply to Vuthy Ou.
Vuthy Ou:
Thanks for the encouraging feedback from all.

@ Mattias. Thanks. I find the "not self" characteristic pretty easy to tune into - on the cushion, at least. Pretty much everything I can observe is some sensation, sound, or sight (imagined, remembered, or otherwise) that is not "me". Still "feels" like "I" exist though. Maybe identifing with the observer? Anyway, I am consciously trying to avoid thinking or rationalizing too much and just observe.
What is this "feeling" that "I" exist? Where is it, what does it feel like? Is there anybody there feeling it or is it just happeing by itself? Look honestly and closely and just report back what comes up.

RE: Diagnose Me Please
6/28/15 10:14 AM as a reply to Mattias Wilhelm Stenberg.
So, here's what I'm experiencing:

External sight, external sound, internal sight (memory or fantasy), internal sound (memory, fantasy, self-talk/"thought"), physical sensations.

I can say with a moderate level of confidence that none of it is me. Sometimes I get fooled into "thinking" I am my eyeballs or internal-sound, but once that is noticed, it is dropped easily enough and sight becomes just sight and thought becomes just thought. It's pretty obvious that the others - external sound, external sight, and physical sensations - are not me for most of my conscious time.

However, I think I may be identifying with two things -
  1. the sense of volition - whatever is "deciding" to shift attention place to place. Like "I" am making "me" focus on visual field, then to leg, then to face, etc.
  2. vague sense of "watcher" - which may be a more subtle case of identifying with the eyeballs, ears, and skin. 
I am very willing to accept that my perceptual abilities just aren't strong enough to break volition and watcher into component sensations. 

What is also confusing is that In life, on and off cushion, I sometimes happen across a state where sight/sound/sesation is just happening, there is no internal image or sound. But such states, though pleasant, don't strike me as profound. That can't be it can it?

Again, I'm willing to concede that I just may not be noticing the subtle "watcher" or "doer/decider" that is lurking somewhere during those times.

Also, read some of your other posts Mattias - 1) you are an intense dude 2) sorry for the painful journey that you've had.