Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

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jhana sais quoi, modified 5 Years ago.

Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/10/15 Recent Posts
Hiya DhO!

Oh man have I been procrastinating with this post.

I have two questions that I’ll ask right now, and provide the details below:
1) There was an extremely energetic experience during what I think was EQ during my first Goenka 10 day retreat in July 2015.  Was it stream entry?
2) Is finding myself in a seemingly new A&P stage a useful tool in diagnosting the preceding path / fruit?
 
I understand there is some variability in how cessation / fruit is experienced or at least stored in memory, and that it’s quite easy to miss.  Whatever happened, described below, does not fit any standard map that I’ve come across, yet several indiciators suggest that the path is complete.
 
Here’s what happened, in some detail.  Since the morning of day 6 at the Goenka retreat, I had been in a pretty easy, sometimes boring, largely neutral stage, with easy access to refined concentration—I’m pretty sure it was EQ.  I’d been hitting this stage regularly at home before the retreat, after going through a pretty wild A&P and milder DN in early 2015, but on retreat it was getting much more refined, with the whole body opening up with extremely subtle, liquid-like sensations, with lots of bodily-bliss if I went looking for it.  During the afternoon group sit I was getting bored sweeping from top to bottom and bottom to top over & over again, so I sat with the breath for a minute.  I didn’t feel particularly concentrated. I was aware of where I was, and sort of waiting for the session to end.  I had no intention of getting a cessation right then—I guess I implicitly thought samadhi, piti, and sukha were lacking—although I hoped to reach stream entry before the retreat ended.  Suddenly, my attention moved from my nose to include the entire top half of my body, everything above the hips, seemingly automatically.  Everything in this “attention bubble” seemed to disappear, like all the sensations that had been easily noticeable were absent.  “Disappeared” is exactly how my mind interpreted it, not “numb” or “blank”.  My heart rate and breathing picked up, and my heartbeat grew thunderous.  I thought my heart might explode, but it seemed intuitive to try to expand the attention bubble to include the rest of my body—so I did, despite the apparent danger of bursting my aorta or whatever, and I was consciously trying to quiet my breathing so I didn’t disturb my neighbors.  As the attention bubble grew to include my upper and lower legs and then feet, a surge of bliss arose in four or five contracted points around my abdomen (earlier, I had “discovered” discrete bliss points along a central line from the lower abdomen to the top of the head—chakras?), and there was a feeling of an electric surge behind my left eye, almost like out some neural circuits that weren’t needed anymore were being burned out.  It was over quickly, and the strong bliss completely faded, yet I was elated (which took about 3 months to fade).  I described the experience to a friend as “my whole body disappeared into an imaginary bowl I put on my head, and then I had 5 kinds of orgasms simultaneously.”  I guessed that that must have been it—stream entry.  I made a resolution to continue practice, and to develop in service to other people/beings. I repeated the experience several times, more mildly and without the surge behind my eye, but failed to notice any sort of cessation or gap.  I came home and compared notes to other practitioners here (by lurking extensively), and haven’t seen a convincing account of such a violent, energetic event being shown to be stream entry.  I grew pretty comfortable in stopping short of drawing a conclusion, but suspected that it really was it.  What do you think, fellow DhOer?  If you’re interested and have a lot of time on your hands, here are some accounts of similar events in what is supposed to be high-EQ: onetwo, and three
 
I may have cycled a bit after that, but with poor clarity, so I wasn’t too sure exactly what was going on.  Soon, the retreat ended and concentration returned to normal levels, meditation seemed to stagnate for several months, with some nice concentration (shallow samadhi was effortless, deeper samadhi could usually be uncovered within an hour) but little new insight.  Then, in February 2016, after having exhausted the time I set aside for some probing psychological work, I set my intention to uncover new insight territory.  Reality, which sometimes has a crazy way of conforming to intentions (as long as there’s a huge degree of surrender, not an intention to control but an intention to allow) did not disappoint. Within a week or two of two hours per day of practice, I found myself experiencing the unmistakable signs of A&P—bright light, easy concentration, energy, little need for sleep, and rapture.  It wasn’t as dramatic as my first A&P (I like to think because I was a little more seasoned in vipassana) and there were some marked differences, but it was unmistakable nonetheless.  I can think of two possibilities: 1) I hadn’t hit SE in July, and had backslid to 1st path A&P or (2) I had hit SE, and this was 2nd path A&P.  So what do you think, fellow DhOer?  Is a seemingly-new A&P a sure sign of having completed a path?
 
Since this, I’ve repeated this whole process again (with some minor differences, like the time elapsed between the initial energetic event and the new A&P was only about two weeks) so it’s hard to place myself anywhere more specific than between 1st path A&P to 3rd path DN.
 
I appreciate any responses here, and am hugely grateful to the DhO community!
 
All the best!
jhana.sais.quoi
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Mind over easy, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 218 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Man, I'm bummed because I just had the most beautiful 10 paragraph post and I was ready to post it, but then I remembered why I always write my posts in notepad, because I somehow hit back and then lost the entire post. Nothing like blabbing on about my own wonderful and insightful stream entry experience and then wiping the post away and feeling like I need to slam a toaster with a sledgehammer then punch a hole through my wall. So uh... hopefully that isn't indicative of me not having gotten stream entry ;) hah hah.

Anyways, from everything I read, it does sound a lot like stream entry to me.


I'll start with a technical description of my own stream entry experience, which happened a few years back.


I had hit the point where I was easily and consistently hitting EQ in my sits. I was also at the point of really, really wanting to hit stream entry, from the bottom of my soles to the top of my ass-hat. I was sitting for something like 5 or 6 hours a day in total, and constantly noting throughout the day as often as I could. In one of my sits, I was sitting in EQ, focusing on no-self, and also on impermanence, which is kind of just inherent in a practice where you're watching sensations arise and vanish. Then suddenly, there was this quick, intense moment. There is normally the sense of this-side being the recipient of the perceptions on that-side, even though it's really not possible to perceive things on this-side, because that makes them on that-side by definition. (spoiler alert, there isn't this-side!) Well, what happened was in a very quick and sudden fashion, it felt as though this-side was completely gone, just leaving the field of experience, with no sense of center point. It was an extremely shocking feeling, somewhat similar to when you suddenly feel like you're falling through your bed but then you're awake and it's over in a second. Anyways, this happened in less than two seconds, maybe less than one. Then, there was the feeling of experience being very blank and quiet for a second, like an engine running so quietly you can barely hear it. Then there was the classic experience of the bliss wave. For me, it felt like there was mist that was released somewhere beneath me that sort of diffused and filled up through me. It was gentle and refined. I've spent a decent amount of time in the first 4 jhanas, and have hit up to 6, and the feeling was definitely not related to those states. It was kind of that classic, "whoa, what was that, was that it?" kind of thing. But the thing that was suprising was how quiet and nonchalant it was after it happened.

I feel like there is a tendency to anticipate stream entry as some god-like, dramatic moment where perception is drastically different, along with expection some sort of emotional or mental perfection. But what was so suprising was the lack of the "wow" factor. It was just so simple and anticlimactic. Now for the record, I don't think that stream entry can't be that way, but I can only speak for myself and of the accounts I've read. Check out Nikolai's description of stream entry; he reports a lot of "fireworks" and such during his stream entry event, but concedes that it wasn't typical. 

Asides from the technical signs, I think the most telling sign you hit stream entry would be the lack of something, which I'll try to describe. Personally, pre-stream, I felt as though the mind was a claustrophobic kind of hell that I had to somehow rearrange or modify through meditation. Ironic, because through meditating and hitting stream entry, I realized that the activity of the mind is really not as big of a problem as I thought it was. The problem is actually when there is the sense of self imputed in experience, where it feels like there is some entity that is being pushed and pulled by the mind. The feeling that "you" are being affected by mental activity is the root of the insight problem. So I found my mind to be acting generally as it was before. The difference being that there was suddenly this sense of the activity of the mind somehow being impersonal, without the claustrophobic sense of this-side being affected by what's going on on that-side. I think the community hit the money with describing post stream-entry mind as being less "sticky". It's as though thoughts and emotions don't have the ability to push and pull you around, because there is some inherent understanding that the thoughts and emotions don't have any objective existence and they don't describe some objective reality of your life. They're just thoughts and feelings occurring, and they don't actually reach out and touch you, they just do their thing and vanish. The actual cause of the claustrophobic feeling is the pervasive sense that thoughts and emotions are actually pointing to some objective reality which we feel responsible to deal with or have control over. But they're really just like stars in the galaxy. You can locate Pisces or Aquarius or various constellations, but really, they're all just stars in the sky that aren't actually connected. In the same way, there are thoughts and feelings occurring, and we have a habitual tendency to constantly assume that we are the center point for all these sensations. Basically, there is this tendency to think that our thoughts and feelings point to some objective reality, when in truth, thoughts and feelings are just occurrences of sensations, with no link or connection to some ultimate reality. So when people report that the mind is less "sticky" after stream entry, I think what they're really saying is that the claustrophobic rhetoric of there being some objective reality vanishes to some degree. 

I think that the honeymoon is the result of enjoying the new state of the mind, where even though things continue as normal, there is some obvious sense of the stress of the rhetoric of "self" being gone, or rather, the stress of the rhetoric of "objective truth and reality" being gone. I also enjoyed a three-month or so honeymoon period. I also noticed that it seemed like the space of my head was empty. Very hard to describe this, but it was pervasive for about a month or so. Like it felt like my head was spacially wide open. I don't know what that's about, and I'm not sure if that disappeared or if I just got used to it. 


In the Buddhist canon, there is the claim that after stream entry, the attachment to rites and rituals vanishes. I think this is also a decent sign to judge yourself by. I'll try to put that description into modern terms in the way that I understand it. Pre-stream entry, it felt as though there was some inherent quality to the world as though there was some fancy, pseudo-conscious way the world worked. Like, if I do enough bad things, the world will somehow get me back for it. Or, if I am a good boy and do good deeds, that somehow the world will justly reward me. In fact, I think this is how a lot of people view karma. But really, there are just immediate, domino-like consequences for actions. There isn't some invisible meter that slides back and forth based on how you act. Sure, if you behave in a certain way, you'll experience certain consequences. If I'm kind to other people, odds are they will be kind to me. But the fallacy comes in with thinking such as: I'm a good person and I do good in the world, so why is tragedy happening to me? Or, oh that person is such an arse, so why do they get nice things? Or, oh, this spiritual person just did some bad action, so they can't possibly be spiritual or enlightened. I think it really falls in line with Daniel Ingram's criticism of the Enlightened behaviour model, saying that enlightened beings can't act in whatever way. To me, attachment to rites and rituals, really just means assuming that actions, behaviours, and symbols have some ability to change or define objective reality, if that makes sense. Which is a moot point when we reject the idea of perception pointing to some objective reality. Perception is just perception, and thoughts about what objective reality is, and how things affect objective reality, are just more perceptions. 


I highly respect Daniel Ingram's work, and the work of all those who map out the territory and shed light on how progress typically plays out. But in the end, the important thing isn't how your experience conforms to the experiences of the maps, or of other people. Though they are incredibly useful and functional tools that help us go further down the path and to understand where we're at, I think that the more subtle aspects of how your experience changes are the most telling sign of whether or not you got path. I didn't have the ability to catch myself having blips during fruitions, and while I'm pretty sure I was able to induce a few fruitions after stream entry, the most convincing and satisfying answer I have for myself is just simply that I know for myself that there was a permanent change in my view of my mind, which led to much less stress and a more mature understanding of what this life is.

Of course, the advice to continue practicing is always sound advice. But I think that the speculation and discussion of attaining paths and such is really necessary in this day and age, because even if we mess up and if we're wrong, the fact of the matter is that the enlightenment discussion climate is often one of secrecy, shame, fear, and ridicule. We need to open up these discussions and be comfortable with possibly being wrong, because even though we will be wrong sometimes, it would be orders of magnitude better if we didn't treat enlightenment like some mythical, elusive, near-impossible feat. And while we shouldn't fixate so heavily on whether or not we got whatever path to the detriment of our ability to simply keep practicing, I would love to see the day come where the myth is dispelled that we sacrifice our ability to get enlightened by trying to work out and discuss the technical and experiential details of enlightenment. To me, it almost sounds like "don't talk about getting your degree if you got it, because if the students realize there is a degree to strive for, then they'll never graduate", and "don't think about your path to graduation, and don't notice that there are grades you go through before you get your degree, or else you'll fixate on there being a degree you can get and never get it". I personally went back and forth quite a few times before I decided, yes, that was it. So don't worry about speculating about it and examining what happened. Because if you didn't get it, you just didn't, and if you did get it, being sure or unsure about it won't change the permanent benefit you got from it. 

Let me know what you think, or if you have any questions. Disclaimer- I am a fallible human and this is just my perspective and understanding!

Cheers!
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Don Merchant, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 202 Join Date: 6/9/15 Recent Posts
Jhana Sais Quoi,
Really wish the answer was more clearly evident, huh?! So do many others emoticon. My apologies that I cannot help you determine the answer. But there are those who might be able to help you. Like Mind Over Easy for starters. This place has a great repository of knowledge, help, and encouragement.

Mind Over Easy,
Thanks for your reply. It resonated with me and clarified a few things.
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jhana sais quoi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/10/15 Recent Posts
Don,

Yeah, cartoon captions along the way explaining each meditative experience would be helpful.  I really don't expect anyone to clearly state that the event I wrote about was this or that with 100% certainty--if anyone did, that'd be grounds to be very suspicious of anything else in that post.  My motives for writing the post were more to invite new information, new perspectives, not new labels, although to be unabashedly honest I wouldn't mind some validation.

l'chayim
JSQ
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Eric B, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 187 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
A great piece.  Sorry you lost the first draft; I know that feeling all too well...

Eric
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jhana sais quoi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/10/15 Recent Posts
Mind over easy,
 
Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful response, twice!  I relate to the intensity leading up to your SE event, although some of the particulars are different.  Of course there will be differences between how events are interpreted and stored in memory for different practitioners for similar events, e.g. A&P or SE.  Discerning which differences are substantial and which are just artifacts of different conceptual preferences or ways of remembering or thinking is hard!
 
Asides from the technical signs, I think the most telling sign you hit stream entry would be the lack of something, which I'll try to describe. Personally, pre-stream, I felt as though the mind was a claustrophobic kind of hell that I had to somehow rearrange or modify through meditation. Ironic, because through meditating and hitting stream entry, I realized that the activity of the mind is really not as big of a problem as I thought it was. The problem is actually when there is the sense of self imputed in experience, where it feels like there is some entity that is being pushed and pulled by the mind. The feeling that "you" are being affected by mental activity is the root of the insight problem.
 
Yeah, I feel you on this.  Part of my issue with the ten fetters model is that I feel like my first A&P pretty much took care of the first three, and caused me to be very, very suspicious of thoughts & imagination and sensory data.  I’d say it was like the A&P put one micron between “me” and the six sense doors—which is huge, compared to being totally bound up & suffocated by everything up till then— whereas this event extended the spaciousness to 100 or 1000 microns.  Sometime after this thing, I started being able to look at life not as a burden but as a playground.  I often forget this, but it’s helpful whenever I remember. A few months after the event in question, I was doing a home retreat, and I was walking down a path near a post-industrial waterfront, spellbound by the wrecked beauty of the scene, when suddenly I realized none of it was real.  There was no path, no pavement cracked by hardy grasses and shrubs in muted autumn tones, no cool breeze imbued with VOC’s from the polluted river and exhaust from the two highways nearby, no quiet solitary serentiy—not only was there no-self, there was no-thing, except as imputed by the mind.  I was honestly kind of horrified at first—I wanted to cling to the things in the scene that I thought made it beautiful—but I realized in letting go there was actually another whole level of appreciation with more spaciousness.  BTW, I just mention this other event to relate to and expand on what you wrote about anatta.  I have no idea how this event lines up with the insight maps, but gun-to-my-head I’d place it as occurring between 1st & 2nd, almost like it took a few months for the deep gnosis-like SE insight to find it’s way up to an intellectual understanding.  Nagarjuna and teachings on emptiness made a whole lot of sense after this.
 
I didn't have the ability to catch myself having blips during fruitions, and while I'm pretty sure I was able to induce a few fruitions after stream entry, the most convincing and satisfying answer I have for myself is just simply that I know for myself that there was a permanent change in my view of my mind, which led to much less stress and a more mature understanding of what this life is. [emphasis mine]
 
Yup.  Less dukkha, but more aware of it, to paraphrase Bill Hamilton (i think).  Regardless of whatever state or stage has been reached, there’s still work left to do.
 
Thanks again for taking time for such a thorough response.  Before posting on here, I had no idea how time consuming this was, so now I have a whole new level of appreciation for the experienced members who still post around here.
 
All the best
JSQ
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tom moylan, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
great post and descriptions.  for what it is worth, day 6 has always been THE BIG DAY for me on Goenka retreats. :-)

there is little to improve on mind over easy's comments if anything.  his focus on the post event mind states is right on in my experience.  just to take his one example of the classic, "diminuition of reliance on rights and rituals".  for me this was such a clear turning at some point.  the difficulty in my case was to make sure that it wasn't simply apathy or fatigue.  it was not.  it was a change in perspective, it came from a wiser examined place.  strangely enough, i am currently looking toward advanced vajrayana practices again.  this too is coming from a perspective born of experience.  there are some pretty deep crevices where 'simple' investigational techniques don't seem to be reaching in my case.  it is a kind of non-rational leap into the dark but in the direction of devotional practices to see what is hidden around non-illuminated corners.

that said, your experiences mirror some which I had and could not ascribe to the standard model here.  your descriptions of the energetic events mirror some of my own, to which i look back on as turning points and major shifts.  whether they were 1st, 3rd or whatever path is difficult for me to categorize.

Whatever the case and wherever you are it sounds like you are doing really really well.
Rist Ei, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 500 Join Date: 7/14/13 Recent Posts
Who knows how many circles Daniel Ingram circled before where declared Stream entry. Nevertheless MCTB is a priceless book.

MCTB isn't end enlightenment because it doesn't provide freedom, you will still go to work. In higher sense it means you still have that karma and top of it if yourself doesn't cut it that going to work is not a very good karma then that itself is a sign of not good karma.

Fetters model 1st path is a name of a being like you recognize dog because of dog qualities. If you get suddenly heavenly body extreme purified etheric because of piling up good karma, you still are eligble for falling lower.

Fetter model rules and kick ass, Hurraaay.
Joe, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 5/24/16 Recent Posts
Wow I'm so glad this thread already exists. I'm currently at Pa Auk Tawya in Myanmar, I've been here nearly 4 months and in the last week or so I've gone rogue and started noting as I'm leaving in 9 days and really want SE.

Basically I go to the hall to sit and calm my body, open it up and create a nice pleasant Jhana with the breath (I think #4 but not really sure, it's calm with no rapture) then I pull myself out a bit with a little difficulty and focus more specifically on the flow of sensations. 

I really power the noting and when that becomes clunky I drop the wording and look in the gaps just registering everything. It feels like I'm staring into a strobe light but bits of me aren't, so I look at them then it feels like attention and reality are trying to sync up or something but it's all knotted and can't get around itself. Here I do a resolution like how you get into Jhana and let go completely into the stream of phenomena. 

Now heres the kicker, when I do this I get this massive power surge and my heart starts beating like its gonna explode, my eyes are shaking and I'm just letting it well up. There's not really a me anymore but then I find I have to pull out of this because I literally like my body will burst so 'I' have to come back and regulate my breathing to disperse the energy a bit and avoid exploding haha. 

What do? 

Incidentally at Pa Auk they say Nibbana is an experience (not cessation) that makes Jhana look coarse. I can feel a bliss that was building flow out when I pull out. I've been speculating that the reason for lack of experience of fruition is because of an unprepared nervous system. Gurdjieff says that most religious ecstasies cause unconsciousness unless enough preparation went on because the mind isn't tuned for the flood of information. Kind of like how hatha yogis need to do all this stuff before moving kundalini up the central channel. Just a thought, but yeah will I die?
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jhana sais quoi, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/10/15 Recent Posts
Hi Joe, 
Presumably you're on retreat with world class teachers, so why not ask them?  When you're done with retreat I'd love to hear about your experiences over there.  I'm planning on heading to Myanmar or Thailand this fall.   Practice well! 
JSQ
Joe, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 14 Join Date: 5/24/16 Recent Posts
Yeah that would be nice but I've been naughty and gone off track. I should be doing the 4 elements meditation to build access concentration but with 9 days left I wanted to have a go at noting with my current concentration. 

They're also not very big fans of Mahasi Sayadaw here too, in a dhamma talk the other day they said there are no shortcuts and that anyone who teaches vipassana without samatha is a 'dhamma thief', the worst kind of thief and a sin. So yeah, going up and being all like "hey I decided to just skip out the vast majority of your system that takes the monks and nuns years to complete and do the dhamma-thief method for a few days, why is my heart beating really fast?"
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Mind over easy, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Energetic event in EQ? / Does new A&P mean 1st path is done?

Posts: 218 Join Date: 4/28/12 Recent Posts
Hey Joe, how did that retreat go? Feel free to move it to a new thread or PM me if you want. I'm curious to know!

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