Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 7/13/15 6:20 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/13/15 6:20 AM

Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts
Hi everyone
I was wondering if anyone could offer any advise or a sense of where my practice may be in maps outlined in MCTB? As well as the best way to proceed from here.
I have practiced for about 20 years in Buddhist tradition largely doing shamata practice, but increasingly more vipassanna in the last 8 years.
Around 10 years ago I think I had an A&P type experience while observing the 3 characteristics on a retreat. It was very energetic and blissfull and had much in common with a 2nd jhana type experience.
Around 2 years ago in addition to the other meditations I was doing, I did some direct pointing via the LU website. This culminated in a clear awareness that no  there was no self, though involved no cessation of experience in the way that fruition was described. Though the lasting effect was that I no longer experienced things as a sort of separate entity sitting behind experience.
This was wonderful for a while, but in the months that followed I began experiencing severe insomnia as well as periods of utter terror and panic, largely around death and dying. It was very visceral, as if I was dying. I did have some health issues that got worse in this period, which continue to this day. The fears were not entirely irrational,  in that I do have some health issues, but the reactions were highly disproportionate to the actual reality. I had never really experienced much anxiety or depression in my life until this point.
To get a handle on this I stopped meditating for about 6 months, convinced the practice had brought it all on. After about a year I began doing more chanting and shammata practices like Metta and Karuna Bhavanna. These really helped as I gradually developed more stability and felt a little more sane again.
I gradually pieced together a regular practice again. About 3 months ago I suddenly noticed an ability to  move through the jhana’s much more easily. As I had never really been able to do this. Over the coming weeks I got much more familiar with them, being able to get to about 6 or 7 over the course of about an hour. This could happen consistently most days.
But the terror and panic was periodically emerging again.
This was when a friend, familiar with the stages of insight, suggested I could be cycling through to dark nights.
I re-read the material on these stages and it was like looking in a mirror. So I asked myself wether or not my jhannic experiences may in fact have been more nanna than jhana. As since doing the direct pointing, there has always been some sense of things not being self in my experience much of the time.
So as an experiment I decided to sit with the fear and see what happened. Sure enough, it broke out into a deep equanimity. Like a cool vast lake. I then noticed that this would then cycle and move around into a much warmer extactic state, around 2nd jhana, then into 3rd Jhana. It was in the 3rd jhana state that an experience of dukha would really intenisify. Like a kind of existential angst
I found that if I just sat, experiencing the sensations of pain and fear, really allowing them to be felt and just surrendering to them. Then they would sort of dissolve. But when this happened its like the whole self structure associated with that bundle of sensations would go with it. What resulted was a sort of deep equanimity emotionally, awareness would be clearer, outside and inside not apparent. Consciousness would be very big, with little or no sense of a separate self there at all.
This pattern became highly regular. Sometimes I would notice myself going through stages of this type throughout the day. Periods of physical heat and bliss, then periods of terror, then periods of non-duel equanimity.
While this sounded like the stages of insight outlined in MCTB, I had doubts and I was not really diligently noting or doing anything really. It was, you could say ‘choiceless awareness’. When I speak of moving through the jhana’s, it was more like awareness was of an open type, not in a narrowly focused way, as is sometimes done in jhana practice. In fact, it felt intuitively uncomfortable to force the mind to narrow.
It was only when it moved passed the 2nd Jhana stage into what felt like 3rd or 4th Jhana, that the insightful element of the state would sort of present it’s self.
It was more like a gradual and progressive release of dukha, as levels of dukha were seen, they would drop off like layers in an onion or something.
But once into 3rd jhana, sensations would be felt very deeply to be suffering and not self.
Often if I only relaxed and stopped investigating I would drift into the lower formless jhanas.
I should say that by this time my sitting had gone up to around 1-2 hrs a day on average.
A few days ago while in the open cool equanimous phase. There was a moment when I thought initially I had jolted out of sleep. Experience went black, just like when one nods off to sleep. Historically its highly unusual for me to have any trouble with sleepiness in meditation. Then the thought occurred, ‘was that a fruition’,  could that have been it? It seemed very understated if it was.
I then noticed a wave or pulse of bliss, about 2-3 secounds after the experience. I also then recollected that just before it happened, a millisecound before, it was like a plane or flat table that sort of fell away sideways, then the ‘sleep’ jolt.
After the bliss, experience was proundly at ease and clear. There was nothing going on at all, no tension no self mechanisms or emotional actviity. There was also no investigating or drive. Just clear no self experience.
Part of me figures, that could not have been it. Surely….
But it did feel like something was different afterwards. Lighter, clearer somehow. I did appear to cycle twice off the cushion that day, but no fruitions (this was yesterday).
So I decided to test it in the suggested ways.
The thing is I was moving into the jhana’s fairly easily anway, so that did not seem to offer a clue.
Unfortunately I have not been able to repeat the fruition this morning. I made it to higher equanimity ( I think). But no cessations. This left me feeling it may not have been a fruition after all.
In fact, I can sort of feel a slight anxiety about repeating it. Hoping to do so in the hope that it really was a fruition. But this feels somewhat counterproductive.
The only real change seems to be a kind of lightness and presence of a no self perspective, sort of without trying.
I guess I am feeling a little confused. Partly, I don’t know wether what I was doing in the first place was the cycles of insight and not just jhana practice. But also wether or not this loss of awareness was a fruition and then what to do about it either way, if that makes sense?
Any comments, gratefully received,
Noah, modified 7 Years ago at 7/13/15 11:05 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/13/15 11:05 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
If it was a fruition, you will be in knowledge of review, which has its own sub-stages of maturation, just like individual samatha and vipassana jhanas you have experienced.  The simplest way to break the review phase down is to see whether you experience rapid, uncontrollable cycling for about 2 weeks and then the cycling slowing down to the point where you can't even meditate over the course of the next 2 weeks. 

These stages will happen automatically, regardless of your chosen technique or effort practice.  If it was SE, in about a months time, you will have started over, you won't be able to penetrate past the 1st jhana/1st 3 nanas.  It will take weeks or months to get back to the a&p.

Best of luck,
Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 7/14/15 4:13 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/14/15 4:13 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts
HI Noah

Thanks for taking the time to respond. 

I will see how things work out and see if I can notice the things you point out.

I don't know how quick is quick cycling. But I think I am going through between 3-6 cycles a day. In about 10 minutes of sitting I am through to what feels like equanimity. 

i have had a few more of the discontinuities. I will briefly describe them a little more. Though they aren't happening every time I meditate. I had 3 yesterday and 1 today out of two sits. The last yesterday was lying in bed. tablets not working well. Please ignore text at bottom of page.

So, it's like experience becomes whispy and dream like. Sometimes pressure builds up around the forehead like 

generally experience becomes whispy or dream like then, very light forms sort swirling. Then sometimes pressure builds up at my forehead like it's going to burst. This kind of repeats a few times. Then it's like for a moment I distracted. Then there is a physical jolt and I am then aware of a discontinuity having happened. A blacking out rather like sleep. But only for about a tenth of a second. I would have expected it to be longer?

Then, there is a complete physical release like all the tension just drains out and. Pulse of prleasure through the body.Experience is then effortlessly crystal clear, no striving, stress or emotional activity. There is a sense that pressure was building up and is now released completely. 

But it this doesn't happen every sit, sometimes pressure builds up in the head and nothing happens, the result is a slightly frustrated feeling after the sit. 

My only doubt really, is that they don't happen every sitting and they are remarkably uneventful! And much briefer than I thought. Like a train going along a track and there is a sudden jolt because of a gap in the rail. 

But the clarity and emotional release that follows is wonderful. 

Actually the one I had in bed was the longest, but still so so quick. If I wasn't looking I would miss it!

thanks again
Noah, modified 7 Years ago at 7/14/15 10:33 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/14/15 10:33 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
That sounds like how I hear it commonly described by dho users as well as my teacher.  They have always been a lot more subtle for me.

3-6 cycles a day is relatively a lot.  My teacher always said it would be even more in Review A, but my experience was around 3 to 6, and not 8 to 10.

Please keep posting, I'm interested to see if Review symptoms pan out for you in a traditional way.  You probably have at least 10 more days of this rapid cycling.
Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 7/15/15 2:16 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/15/15 2:16 PM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts
Hi Noah

Thanks, I will keep posting, it feels like a good way of clarifying what's going on.

In terms of frequency, I wonder if this depends on what you are doing. I notice if sitting in mediation, there can be 3-4 cycles in an hour. but all this has happened outside of retreat, so I am working and doing stuff with my kids most the time. so off the cushion cycles are much longer. 

i noticed how I hit two dark nights since Sunday that went on for 3 or 4 hrs.Yet the moment I sat to meditate they dissipated in 10 minutes. I think not being able to bring mindfulness to them in that very direct way seems to drag them out.

I also noticed that I often only notice the dark nights whilst working, as the A&p is very pleasant and I just feel clear calm and free in the equanimity phases. In a way the other stages don't attract your attention as much as they aren't painful. 

Sitting the the last couple of days has brought more multiple blips, like every 3 or 4 minutes. not sure if I am cycling more rapidly in those periods, or wether they are just repeats. 

I started red by saying the A&P was more Jhana like and less insightful, less noticing of the 3Cs. But this is not the case now, as the characteristics are really clear. I think initially I was just going to 4th Jhana and then doing vipassana, but they are much more clearly resembling the insight nanas.

Anyway, thanks for reading...
Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 7/20/15 3:47 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/20/15 3:47 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts

Just a little update. 

For the last 3 days its been hard to notice the more clearly distinct cycles. There are still these very small black outs or discontinutites that happen perhaps 3-5 times in an hours sit. They also happen when I am in bed for sleep, usually about 5 minutes of laying there. 

But the cycles are very short. They seem to start in low equanimity/ dark night, then any fear vibrations settle after about 5 minutes, experience becomes clearer, finer and less centred. Then more subtle levels of mental actviity are noticed around the forehead. There have been moments of seeing very clearly how these sensations move and are insubstantial, like whisps, dreams or mist. Then there is a jolt, a thought that Oh there waas a blip and then experience is just very clear and free for a while. 

On one occasion the subtle activity became very interesting, as it was seen that it was as if there were two aspects happening, some sensations that were felt to be more self and others not so. There was a part that  felt more like it was 'self' or identified with in some way. This identification sensation was felt as painfull in a subtle way. As this was done it began fading, but the sensation that it was in relationship with faded when it did. Then there was a black cut out. 

What feels different this last few days is that I dont seem to experience a full cycle, its like I start pretty close to equanimity and move through to a discontniuity in about 5-10 minutes. Experience is very peaceful a lot of the time. 

There are still some doubts that these cut outs are so remarkably brief. But perhaps its just an expectation that they should be longer. 

Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 8/13/15 4:52 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 8/13/15 4:52 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts

Thought I would have one last check in.

Its been a month since the first blink out happened. I had roughly 3 weeks of really intense cycling. Initially I couldnt really spot the A&P, which I found confusing. But after many repetitions I realised it was perhaps just very brief, maybe only lasting 30seconds to a minute. But never the less if I analysed it it had many of the features. 

In the last week the sense of cycling is quite diminished and cessations are not showing up much. There is a sense of sort of coming out of a phase. In a sense there is much less going on, experience is more shamata like, peaceful, less edgy and vibrating than it was. 

In some ways this is nice as there is more of a jhana like feel to expereience and when going through the jhana's they feel more peaceful and stable. 

It was as if a certain amount of unsatisfactoriness was creeping in with the continuous cycling...and the frutions somewhat lesss eventful. Sometimes there would be a jolting sensaiton, as sort of sense of a restart, without loosing consciousness though, the frutions were becoming less definate, less clear and dramatic. 

I seem to only be getting frutions now in 7th or 8th Jhana and not that fequently. Sometimes in 8th there is a sort of sense of sinking into a cessation, like being sucked down. Of a progressive relaxation into one. Which is interesting...I wonder if this is the place or area where Nirodha Sammapati happens at later paths. 

In some ways the initial doubts sort of sorted themseleves out. After 3 weeks of constant repetition, there was a sense of 'well what else can it be?'. The perceptual changes feel very profound too. Particularly the lack of doubt about the path and the sense of...well I dont know! I was going to say lack of a sense of self. But its actually somehow more mysterious and hard to define that that...its like space, awareness....that something that was operating before is gone. 

For at least 3 weeks there was a huge reduction in reactivity...very little sex drive....or noticable irritation or reactivity to people. So much so I wondered for a few days if I had actually landed the 2nd path...but I doubt this is the case, as a little more reactivity seems to be creaping back in. As is a little bit of fear here and there. But it somehow seems ok, there is an ease around these emotions. They seem to have a little less traction and are perceived as less problematic. Even though they are there, if that makes sense?

Any advice for the work of the next stage? Or is it a case of just carry on as before?

Thanks again for the opportunity to check in 

Jenny, modified 7 Years ago at 7/15/15 4:06 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/15/15 4:06 PM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
Hi, Barrry,
It was only when it moved passed the 2nd Jhana stage into what felt like 3rd or 4th Jhana, that the insightful element of the state would sort of present it’s self. 

This statement is a dead giveaway that you were moving through the insight cycles. Insight stages and jhanas can be nearly indistinguishable at certain points in the crosswalk, and then they diverge at other points, j3 and Fear being the first real divergence.

As for whether you had a Fruition, it sounds entirely possible from your description. Were you in Equanimity up to that point? Were you tracking your stages up to that point?

If this happened only a few days ago, my advice is to give yourself a break, let things settle down, and don't drive yourself nuts worrying about getting another Fruition. Some people--I'm one--aren't sure they are getting any Review Fruitions until after second path. Some people don't get them even at higher paths, so Fruition is not the be-all and end-all, believe me. If you got a path, you will have the benefit of that whether you know where you are or not, whether you have additional fruitions or not. Practice goes on just the same, regardless of which path you have, if any.

Do you feel as if you are in a massive A&P now? That's how I am after a path for about a month--lots of hypomanic bliss, rising sexuality, sudden interest in magick, all the A&P basics. It feels glorious in a distinctive way, but I think people vary on this.

Did you notice reality's restarting after the loss of consciousness? Can you remember anything at all unusual about that restart?

If you think you were in Equanimity before the event happened, what makes you think so, specifically?
Barry D, modified 7 Years ago at 7/16/15 5:19 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 7/16/15 5:19 AM

RE: Could anyone advise on where I am at?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 7/13/15 Recent Posts
Hi Jenny

Thanks for your post. I really appreciate your questions, they are definately helping me clarify (sorry dont know how to use quote thing correctly). 

'Insight stages and jhanas can be nearly indistinguishable at certain points in the crosswalk, and then they diverge at other points, j3 and Fear being the first real divergence.'

Yes, its really affirming hearing this. Its very much my experience. Its like your going along having a pleasant time then in the thirds Jhana experiences start to feel very jarring and dukha starts surfacing strongly. 

Regarding the fruitions you said 'Were you in Equanimity up to that point? Were you tracking your stages up to that point?'

Yes, I believe so. I have assumed that I am in Equanmity when I have clearly gone through a more ecstatic 2nd Jnana type experience, followed by a third Jhana experience where lots of dukha surfaces. Then its like in fully experiencing that dukha the self structure starts to evaporate and awareness really opens out, becomes less centred and one has a sense of being very still with very little desire to go anway or be anything. Experience also becomes much more subtle and refined with a sense of much less controlling and resistance. Its like the controlling self has been sort of knocked out of you, by the dark night phase and what follows is peace. Is this ringing true?

Once in this more equanimous state, I think I then moved into high equanmity. Which felt like a shift into evey more subtle levels of awareness. There also felt a shift of attention to higher in the body around the head. It felt like an ever increasing letting go of sensation as basically not self and unsatsifactory. As sort of ever increasing relinquishment and ease. 

So this perhaps responds also to was I in equanmity or not and why I think so. The fruition happened just as experience became almost inperceptibly subtle like swirling mist moving and going in and out of existence, expressing its insubstanitiality. 

In terms of restarting.....So, I was observing this subtle level of sensations and the next thing I as aware of was a kind of jolt, where I seemed to have stopped being aware. It was like the field of experience had been re-set. Awareness had been starting to localise around the forehead, but this was no longer the case. Instead experience was very open and free with very little or nothing other than awareness in it all all. Then there was the the thought 'was that it, what was it couldnt have been, it was so brief...and so on'. Then more mental activity emerged. What followed after that was a kind of pulse or wave of pleasant sensation through the body, starting lower down. Then there was just the most amazing sense of release or weight having been dropped. 

In that open awarenes there was really not much at all going on. But a distincitve sense of no tension...just release and freedom. The likes of which I have never felt. So the clear seeing of sensations prior to the blip, dissapeared on the other side of the blip and it seemed like the process was not going to go back to the moments had moved on so to speak and was doing something different now. 

But these blips are incredibly brief. Perhaps a tenth of a second. I think I expected them to be longer....

They are now repeating, often 3-8 times in an hours sitting. But not noticable throughout the day. 

The after effects were much more notable and than the actuall blip, which seemed shockingly brief and uneventful in its self. So the complete release and sort of stopping of all 'will' was the most distincitive feature. 

A&P effects - Initially after Sundays first blip, the A&P was really distincitve and insight like. Where as before it had just seemed like 2nd Jhana. Now sensations were really displaying themselves in such incredible detail. 

As the week as gone on, this A&P type exprience is gone through so quickly when I sit and just moves on almost straight away to equanimity. SO in some ways I am noticing it even less. But when its there I really recognise it from the MCTB desribptions where as before none of that made just felt like 2nd Jhana. 

Thanks for reading..