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Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/12/16 12:55 AM
Last month I had an almost indescribable experience during meditation while following Stage Eight of The Mind Illuminated by Upsaka Culadasa. I was meditating when I suddenly blinked in and out of existence. I have no way to describe it other than it being a complete gap in my sensory experience that I was only concious of after it had occurred.

A week or so later after trying to figure out what happened by looking into non duality and practicing self enquiry I suddenly experienced a profound insight into no self:

There never was a separate self or awareness from what we are experiencing. The observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer are actually one in the same. All that exists is a constant stream of sensory experience, which the sense of self itself is derived from. And we are raw sensate experience itself and not some seperate observer. The sense of self only exists as a concept, one I had been mistakenly identifying with this entire time. I remember being in shock after this realisation and had tears in my eyes, and this profound calm came over me. For a little while afterwards it feel like I was in a dream.

The week afterwards I basically had no real urge to meditate or delve any deeper as I just felt complete. And the day prior to it occurring I recalled having this peculiar intuition that something was building up to something, and upon remembering it since it had first occurred it was like all my hairs stood on end.

Since then it’s as if I’ve only been able to identify with the self in a functional sense as opposed to operating out of it as if it was the center of the universe, and I’m suddenly finding it difficult to take anything personally. I can also reach access concentration within minutes and perceive vibrations without any build up. I’ve experienced no repeat cessations however.

Looking back over the past few months I had an experience mid insight meditation where I was suddenly paralysed by what I can only describe as waves of absolute ecstasy for over an hour. At the time I thought I must have just stumbled onto some heavenly jhanic state, but now I’m wondering if it was the A&P. During the month or so afterwards I found myself back in a deep depression after previously stabilizing myself with constant meditation and mindfulness without any reason. What particularly stands out is a week where I find myself being irritated by everyone and everything and just not being able to keep my cool. I’m generally very calm and collected.

After 3-4 weeks this depression cleared, and my practice seemed to plateau for a little while. I rotated my practice from ‘Choiceless Awareness’ to ‘Finding the still point’ in Stage Eight of The Mind Illuminated and I actually started to find my meditation to be very enjoyable, always accompanied with strong but pleasurable energy sensations and colourful flashing lights and a sense of ease. Then one day, while going deeper and deeper into this state I suddenly experienced this gap described earlier which I later found out was referred to a cessation experience, and heard it could be related to stream entry.

The last thing I want to do is to make any false assumptions as to whether this relates to first path however, so I would greatly appreciate any feedback about my experience. 

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/12/16 5:09 AM as a reply to bluedevils.
Michael:

I was meditating when I suddenly blinked in and out of existence. I have no way to describe it other than it being a complete gap in my sensory experience that I was only concious of after it had occurred.

Looks like it might be a cessation/fruition emoticon

Michael:

There never was a separate self or awareness from what we are experiencing. The observer and the observed, the experience and the experiencer are actually one in the same. All that exists is a constant stream of sensory experience, which the sense of self itself is derived from. And we are raw sensate experience itself and not some seperate observer. The sense of self only exists as a concept, one I had been mistakenly identifying with this entire time. I remember being in shock after this realisation and had tears in my eyes, and this profound calm came over me. For a little while afterwards it feel like I was in a dream.


Looks like just a thought emoticon

Unless this comes with some kind of shift in your perceptions and/or relationship to your perceptions, it is just philosophy. It can still be useful, point you in the right direction, act as a motivator, and so on.


Michael:


The week afterwards I basically had no real urge to meditate or delve any deeper as I just felt complete. And the day prior to it occurring I recalled having this peculiar intuition that something was building up to something, and upon remembering it since it had first occurred it was like all my hairs stood on end.
These are indicators too in my experience.

Michael:


Since then it’s as if I’ve only been able to identify with the self in a functional sense as opposed to operating out of it as if it was the center of the universe, and I’m suddenly finding it difficult to take anything personally. I can also reach access concentration within minutes and perceive vibrations without any build up. I’ve experienced no repeat cessations however.
Compatible with Review. Let's see how it evolves in the next few days and weeks emoticon 

Michael:


Looking back over the past few months I had an experience mid insight meditation where I was suddenly paralysed by what I can only describe as waves of absolute ecstasy for over an hour. At the time I thought I must have just stumbled onto some heavenly jhanic state, but now I’m wondering if it was the A&P. During the month or so afterwards I found myself back in a deep depression after previously stabilizing myself with constant meditation and mindfulness without any reason. What particularly stands out is a week where I find myself being irritated by everyone and everything and just not being able to keep my cool. I’m generally very calm and collected.

"Waves of absolute ecstasy" definitely looks like A&P. Mind you, the relationship between A&P and 2nd jhana is very close, just like EQ and 4th jhana. From my point of view, it is like at those "junction points" the samatha and vipassana path are very close to one another, whereas for example in 3rd jhana / Dissolution / Dark Night the relationship is harder to grasp and jumping from one to the other requires some skill.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/12/16 5:38 AM as a reply to neko.
Hi Neko, thanks for the feedback. It was with that realization that I noticed a big shift. I later found an insight map that Culadasa had written for a retreat and found he wrote something extremely similar to my own realization.

“Through direct observation in meditation, it becomes intuitively obvious that there is consciousness only of mental objects and sensations, and that these two are interdependent. Mental objects arise in dependence upon sensations, and all conceptual formations are ultimately derived from previous sensations. Mental processes as intention cause sensation through action, and mental processes cause other mental processes. Sensations, including those arising from the “mind sense” cause the mental process of consciousness to occur.

Likewise, through simple observation and direct experience, it is clearly recognized that “you” are ultimately reducible to this sequence of experiences, that, there is no “being” or entity apart from this sequence of conscious experiences.”

http://dharmatreasure.org/wp-content/uploads/Meditation-and-Insight-III.pdf

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/12/16 8:08 AM as a reply to bluedevils.
Michael, it can be hard to diagnose without knowing more about your practice, especially what a normal sit was like during the weeks and months leading up to the event.

I'm sure you know this, but one of the hardest things about truly diagnosing is that there is an "A&P event" which looks a lot like cessation, and there are also dropouts and brownouts during the dark night, and there are near-misses in EQ/high-EQ. All of these things can really give an insight into the conditional nature of experience and self, including the no-self aspect.

If I had to guess right now, I'm leaning toward "A&P event"... but maybe I'm projecting because of my own practice. I also had a complete cessation, beyond time, beyond "knowing"... and yet it didn't lead to a review cycle or instant access to jhanas (like post cessation does). It led to me suddenly understanding pretty much everything that you could write about spirituality and no-self. All the zen stuff suddenly made sense. After the impact wore off, meditation was much different. It wasn't a game or an experiment, it was a real, deep endeavor that continued to shock and yet also stabilize my sense of self.

I would say that your experience sounds similar. The dissolution (couch potato feeling) and the depression afterwards seems to also suggest A&P. 

As always, keep a consistent practice and it will all become clear. The great thing about these insights is they can make practice much more powerful. Seeing not-self allows you to truly experience all the dark night stuff as mind objects -- within you but not you -- and really shine some daylight on the stuff that tends to scare and limit us. You can be brave because you know you can't really be hurt. It will still be difficult at times, of course, but you'll know that all of this makes sense in the big picture. We have our path because we need to see through the things that we think are hindrances. And we don't need to "get rid of" our hindrances, they are already not-self. We just need to be able to completely experience them, free up their energy by not-avoiding or ignoring those sensations, and let them come and go as they naturally will.

Congratulations! Whatever the experience was, it seems to have really moved you down the road. As you continue to practice, get used to things being more and more mundane. Equanimity is very simple compared with A&P, so it's easy to overlook it's importance. Continue to practice and see if you can use less and less effort and simply be with the body breathing itself. It will take time to settle in, but that's the direction you eventually want to go. All the paths come from a very plain experience of being in simple conformity with what is occuring. Rest right in the middle of experience. 

Don't be very quick to label the event. Keep practicing and paying attention and collecting data. In time, it will be clear.

Well done! Best wishes!

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/18/16 12:20 AM as a reply to bluedevils.
1. How long did it take you from when you started to reach where you are now. When did you begin following Culadasa 's book and how often/long are you practicing per day?

2. Has the calmness you experienced after cessation stayed with you over the last month? Have you begun meditating again?

3. Has your daily life/motivations/behaviors changed at all ?

4. Which practice were you doing at time of cessation.? Choice less awareness or finding the still point?

5. How long did you practice to pass through each of culudadas's stages?

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/18/16 9:11 AM as a reply to Jinxed P.
1. The start of April. By the end of April I was meditating between 2-3 hours a day in-between university.
 
2. I would describe it as detachment as opposed to any specific feeling. Negative thoughts and feelings are there, but it’s like they’re an annoying tooth ache.

I never stopped meditating completely, just toned it down. Got back on the horse about 2 weeks ago, this time being aware of sensations throughout the entire day and not just in meditation. My progress currently feels like it has stalled however after a week or so of very intense experiences.
 
3. It depends on what you mean. I originally started following The Mind Illuminated because I was severely depressed, after all the medications I had been put on meditation and mindfulness were my last resort. After only a month of persistent daily meditation, as well noting my thoughts and emotions throughout the entire day 24/7, my mood was more stable than it had ever been on any medication.
 
After my realisation, well most of the changes are due to no longer identifying with the concept of an ego. In day to day life, I think the biggest change I noticed was a startling lack of self-consciousness around other people as I’m not concerned about projecting a certain self-image anymore. I’m no longer stuck in my own thoughts all day long because I can no longer identify with them. My thoughts have become just another sense.
 
As for cognitive changes, well in a way it’s as if the lines have been blurred between meditation and daily life. Lately I’ve noticed that when I’m relaxed enough I can close my eyes and get pulled into a meditative state very rapidly which has taken me by surprise. I have no idea if it’s necessarily related to my realisation, but I started writing again only recently, and the first time I was so absorbed in what I was doing by the time I was finished six hours had gone without even realising it. In the past whenever I worked on something I would have to take a million breaks and would be constantly second guessing what I was doing. 

4. Finding the still point.

5. I couldn’t give you an accurate time frame. Stages 1-6 seemed to go by quite smoothly without too many problems. Stage 7 on its own seemed to have taken me about the same time and effort it did to go through 1-6 combined, and I’m still at Stage Eight and predict I will be for a very long time based on the criteria for Stage Nine.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/18/16 9:51 AM as a reply to bluedevils.
I think when you do insight practices gradually over time it’s very hard to line up with a map as opposed to intense practice in a short period of time, such as in a retreat setting. Especially since I had to gauge everything I've been through from memory over the last few months, hence the generic decriptions. I guess I should be keeping a journal.

At this point paths and attainments seem very arbitrary. I can’t help but notice there seems to be an enormous amount of variation among individual experiences. One of Daniel Ingram’s criteria for first path in MCTB for instance is being able to produce repeat cessations which I haven’t been able to accomplish so far, yet other practitioners such as Ron Crouch claim they couldn’t reproduce them until they attained later paths.

All I can really say is there is a definite shift and my world view will never be the same, and whatever it is it beats the pants off of how I percieved the world before.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/27/16 2:41 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Michael,

I've always been curious to what these type of experiences would do to somehow who had these changes during university. I'll just throw some random questions out there..

Do you drink alcohol? And how does it effect your state of mind?
You said you have a startling lack of self-consciousness. Would this hold true even in social anxiety provoking situations? Public speaking or hitting on the hottest girl in the bar?
Have your friends noticed any changes in you? Do you still find the same hobbies just as enjoyable?

I ask because I have a hard time knowing which behavior changes in myself are due to my meditative accomplishments, and which are due to me simply getting older. But you are still young, and have gotten pretty far in meditation in only a few months.

Also..what exactly about your experience now beats the pants off your experience before? The detachment?

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/27/16 2:58 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
I second this. Posts like this are great motivational fuel.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/28/16 1:31 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Alcohol hasn’t really done much for me for a while now, even before I started meditating. I did drink a bit around the time it happened, but all I noticed was it just dulled my senses.

Coming from someone who has always had low self-esteem and anxiety, it’s definitely a huge leap forward, I’m no longer constantly second guessing myself around other people or filled with anxiety. I’m just there in the moment.

I did do an acting improv class recently and was completely uninhibited. A bit prior to the realization I didn’t seem to be bothered by presentations anymore; it occurred to me that the people watching are just the same as me and generally don’t want to be there either, and that I’m not the center of the universe and so everyone isn’t going to be fixating on every word and every mistake I might make. And yes, I’ve been caught by surprise by how much of a shameless flirt I’ve become. Unfortunately I haven’t been cured of my introversion however.

I think the biggest thing I noticed is with family who I hadn’t seen since the start of the year. It’s like they didn’t recognize me.

My hobbies are still the same more or less.

Belief in a self is probably the root cause of almost all human suffering, and being able to see through it for yourself is absolutely priceless, because it impacts pretty much everything.
 
 
 
 
 

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/28/16 3:35 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Have you concetrated on the middle of the head, third eye in front of you. Tried join eyes into one?
Discipline, where you sit in order to gather lifeforce so you could feel it when you switch conciousnesses eventually.
Effects, seeing blue flashing lights like lightningstorm, heat, sweat, real vision(you won't switch to some altered state but its here and now[seen through oneeyeconsciousness]) of balls or lights of balls.

Anyway eventually you will attain a drop into belly while playing with force in channels through one-eye consciousness so it would enter the middle channel. Once it enters the middle then your reality changes so you can now view the lifeforce from the inside out, how you detect it is to reflect on "sense of self".

Before you can detect the sense of self there is one more thing, it is alignmet or syncronicement, just a mechanical feeling that something gets locked into right place(sign you can do it or ready to do it, there is eerie[good way] stillness and silence). All things mentioned is you doing it like you would hammer a nail or whatever thing you do in real, so it won't be spontaneous, but the result of trying out everything you can do in your mind, if you can't do anything you lack innerbreath/vitality.

There are more things you need internal breath discovery, you need it becuase to stop the internal breath manually...in order to catch your own self waht opens the void. There is in between more two steps with special effects waht are not generated by postbirth energy. Thats part 1. there is also the second pile of things to be done.

Edit: maybe you have done it all, who knows. I had not so much suffering as i started to have after these things. Lust will skyrocket and the mental images and wishes, and the quilt, embarsassment afterwards. Anxiety comes later, it will be so bad taht it becomes a form and you can capture it. Then comes insatiable thirst, trolling, you will become agressive manipulator who is always right and just can't stop before losing all energy.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/28/16 2:59 PM as a reply to Jinxed P.
Jinx you don't have to do at first anything particular than look up and ask guidance as it is first sign that you are ready and understand postbirth activities are all impermanent and die.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/28/16 9:55 PM as a reply to Banned For waht?.
You mean like a nimitta? I have had what Culadasa describes as an inner light which I can’t help but focus on; swirling coloured lights, tiny weird circular lights, and when I get deep into it I start getting bright flashing lights which are almost overwhelming. There is also what I like to call my ‘mind’s eye’, which is like a tiny circle of light at my visions center point. I’ve been trying to enter a hard jhana by focusing on these lights exclusively, but I always feel like I’m going cross eyed and my eyes start blinking uncontrollably.

I’ve been reading Shift Into Freedom by Loch Kelly recently which goes into Mahamudra practices, and found I could already freely enter what he describes as ‘Awake Awareness’ which is becoming almost default since I discovered it. I really don’t know how to describe it but it’s like I’m experiencing everything from outside of my own head, and when inner narration type thoughts occur they are no longer the center point, I’m observing them while being independent of them. There is certainly a stillness left in their place. It’s also made meditation much more enjoyable since the sensation of someone meditating is almost gone. It was like before I was observing sensations occur in front of me, as in through a proxy, but now I experience them much more directly like an extension of myself. And rather than a sensation of effort or exertion it feels like when I meditate I’m just letting go.

Stage six of The Mind Illuminated has a practice called 'Experiencing the whole body with the breath' where you focus on breath sensations in particular parts of the body. I can still do it now by focusing on my hand for example. I’ve also been able to enter soft jhanas for a while now and percieve energy sensations like piti or cool breeze sensations on my skin.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
7/29/16 6:05 AM as a reply to bluedevils.
If you practice "awareness practice" you will suffer alot because you can't enter anything, when doing awareness then you won't get changes a long time and if you get one then it is with causes and conditions you then know for sure that something important you achieved and you can use it nowown as a vantage point.

Awareness is keeping you away from absorbsions. The twitching of the eyes when trying to get into the vision to get 4th jhana and from there out of body or astral travel is not possible to get that way because when you are aware that is what keeps you away and thats a good thing that it is, it is suppose to be that way.

Whats the deal with awareness then is that it will bring different realms into here and now. You do circulate your essence in your body and it will then affect how you experience your real life reality here and now. It won't be discerned that way perhaps long time but it becomes more obvious.

But the thing is you need lifeforce, essence. Because the spirit enters via eyes to breath etc. Its because you need to escape ghost realms by aquiring a spirit/breath from body thats why we cultivate, meditate.

If we are sitting and waiting to something to happen, that is also wrong thing to do. We nee dto notice that we are doing it, we practice in order to walk backwards away from absorbsions.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/25/16 5:47 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Just an update. I feel like the true implications of my no self insight have really only started to properly set in. If there is no self, if everything is one so to speak, and individuality and any form of division is a fabrication, then how can there possibly be any notion of free will if there is no individual there to decide anything? Everything is beyond 'my' control, our choices are influenced by hidden forces far beyond any notion of 'ourselves', and any choice we think that we make was always meant to be; any decision that 'we' think we make is itself never anything but an illusion because it was already set into motion long ago by cause and effect. We have as much conscious freedom as choosing our own wants and desires, or even to be born into the world itself. And I can't help but feel completely and utterly helpless.

What's even worse is the implications I feel this has for human morality, because if you remove the illusion of free will then every horrible act and atrocity that has ever been commited by another human being is due to forces beyond their own control, and no matter how unbearable it may be, they can't be considered anything less than victims themselves. All of our actions are nothing but the universe acting through us, we're no different from actors following a script, and absolutely everything human society is based around just seems to be nothing more than a hollow fantasy.

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/25/16 8:29 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
It's important to see that the buddha talked about "not-self" not "no-self". There is a self. Your experience is not someone elses experience. No one knows what the self is, but practically speaking there is a self. 

I guess if you want to get really technical, you could contemplate the nuances of it, for example as described here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself2.html

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/25/16 9:09 PM as a reply to bluedevils.
Michael:
Just an update. I feel like the true implications of my no self insight have really only started to properly set in. If there is no self, if everything is one so to speak, and individuality and any form of division is a fabrication, then how can there possibly be any notion of free will if there is no individual there to decide anything? Everything is beyond 'my' control, our choices are influenced by hidden forces far beyond any notion of 'ourselves', and any choice we think that we make was always meant to be; any decision that 'we' think we make is itself never anything but an illusion because it was already set into motion long ago by cause and effect. We have as much conscious freedom as choosing our own wants and desires, or even to be born into the world itself. And I can't help but feel completely and utterly helpless.
But....  Think of this there is Intention, there is Purification of Mental Content, from which Intentions and Actions arise.  Even if it is a process that has no "soul" or "self", the process is still there.  Same as a wave, or tree growth.  Even say, complex animal instictual behavior patterns as phenomenon, we observe the animals, but we don't really see the insticntual reactions as coming from a self.  Do we?

What's even worse is the implications I feel this has for human morality, because if you remove the illusion of free will then every horrible act and atrocity that has ever been commited by another human being is due to forces beyond their own control, and no matter how unbearable it may be, they can't be considered anything less than victims themselves. All of our actions are nothing but the universe acting through us, we're no different from actors following a script, and absolutely everything human society is based around just seems to be nothing more than a hollow fantasy.
But, think of this.  If there is No Self, say the Self delusion has been clearly seen through.  How then can any act of greed or anger even arise?  It is the idea or concept of Self that people "want" or "not want" something.  People only want someting to be mine from selfish greed, or want to destroy things due to not wanting, aversion, which stems from the Self concept.


But, most of humanity is just that , a hollow fantasy.  The hollow fantasy causes endless worrying, violence, arguments, etc.   all conflict.

All this is interesting, hard to explain, hard to follow every single moment, for now, but really interesting...

Psi  :-)

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/25/16 9:12 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
It's important to see that the buddha talked about "not-self" not "no-self". There is a self. Your experience is not someone elses experience. No one knows what the self is, but practically speaking there is a self. 

I guess if you want to get really technical, you could contemplate the nuances of it, for example as described here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself2.html

Yes, from your link: Excerpt

These last questions merit straightforward answers, as they then help you to comprehend stress and to chip away at the attachment and clinging — the residual sense of self-identification — that cause it, until ultimately all traces of self-identification are gone and all that's left is limitless freedom.

Well, that's Anatta, yes??  :-)  No Self and Not Self, lol

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/26/16 5:49 AM as a reply to Psi.
Definitely paradoxical: we're interdependent with the world and yet we have an experience that is uniquely ours. 

The main thing is to be practical and see if the way we are holding the "self" causes suffering or not. It sounds like Michael is suffering a bit, mostly from making some very logical conclusions about what would be the world if everything was strickly a mechanical cause and effect world. But that view of the world is very intellectual and doesn't see the other side of how there also seems to be intention and creativity in the world. For example, the buddha didn't say: give up, this shit is all going to happen no matter what. emoticon He said, work out your own salvation with dilligence. emoticon

Although I don't always find Thanissaro's teachings helpful, I do like this particular quote in the article: 

"To avoid the suffering implicit in questions of "self" and "other," he offered an alternative way of dividing up experience: the four Noble Truths of stress, its cause, its cessation, and the path to its cessation. Rather than viewing these truths as pertaining to self or other, he said, one should recognize them simply for what they are, in and of themselves, as they are directly experienced, and then perform the duty appropriate to each. Stress should be comprehended, its cause abandoned, its cessation realized, and the path to its cessation developed. These duties form the context in which the anatta doctrine is best understood."

Best wishes Michael! All of us humans who consider these things have hit the same rough patch where things seem futile. There is some truth to the cause-and-effect world, but unfortunately some people and even practitioners over-solidify it. Trust your intuitions and don't blindly follow dogma. Make your practice your own, make it work for you. 

RE: Cessation and no self insight
Answer
10/26/16 8:11 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Well said.  emoticon