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What exactly are the stages of insight?

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What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
1/31/17 11:26 PM
I understand that they are stages of progress. You move through them or slide back as you continue to practice (pre stream entry before you start cycling). They seem more than just moods, yet it seems like mood is the central marker to check where you are. There are also changes in some other things like your perception of vibrations, body temperature and attentional width. But that doesn't explain everything.

How do you tell the difference between ordinary depression and the dark night? 

Can you ever be certain what stage you are in? 

How should your practice change depending on what stage you are in?

How long do the stages last? I've heard of people passing through a stage in a few minutes or less and then people spending 20 years in the dark night. How can both be true? How do you spend 20 years experiencing the same thing? (I want to note this question comes out of confusion and is in no way an attempt to diminish anyone's experience. I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who has experienced that.)

Do you only experience a stage when you are meditating or are you 'in a stage' all of the time?

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/1/17 12:15 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
Rainbow:
I understand that they are stages of progress. You move through them or slide back as you continue to practice (pre stream entry before you start cycling). They seem more than just moods, yet it seems like mood is the central marker to check where you are. There are also changes in some other things like your perception of vibrations, body temperature and attentional width. But that doesn't explain everything.

How do you tell the difference between ordinary depression and the dark night? 

Can you ever be certain what stage you are in? 

How should your practice change depending on what stage you are in?

How long do the stages last? I've heard of people passing through a stage in a few minutes or less and then people spending 20 years in the dark night. How can both be true? How do you spend 20 years experiencing the same thing? (I want to note this question comes out of confusion and is in no way an attempt to diminish anyone's experience. I have nothing but sympathy for anyone who has experienced that.)

Do you only experience a stage when you are meditating or are you 'in a stage' all of the time?
Perhaps you could read up a bit on it and answer a few of your own questions.


try googling it and see the different versions - progress+of+insight

If you still have questions, you could look thru old posts by using google to search the Dho too. - site:http://www.dharmaoverground.org progress of insight

Then if you still have questions, having done some effort to educate yourself please feel free to ask away.
Good Luck,
~D

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/1/17 12:13 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Sorry Dream Walker, I structured this thread and my questions badly. I actually have done some work to educate myself and though I'm not advanced, I'm not ignorant either. I've read cover to cover MCTB, Ron Crouch on the Path, Practical Insight Meditation and The Progress of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw and I am part way through Contemplative Fitness by Kenneth Folk. I've listened the Hamiton Project Podcasts on the Stages of Insight. I've watched all of Daniel Ingrams videos and audio on this page - http://integrateddaniel.info/podcasts-and-videos/. I've read and watched Kenneth Folk and Vince Horn talk about their paths to awakening. I've read a good few posts on this forum, though not all, there are so many. There's also my own meditation practice itself - in which I am still a novice, but striving to improve everyday.

I'm not looking for anyone to hold my hand as you lay out all the teachings out on a silver platter so you can spoon feed it to me. My questions are narrow and specific to certain confusions resulting from reports that seem contradictory. But I wrote them up quickly - they've been bugging me for a while and I was desperate for an answer - and any misunderstanding on your befalf was likely largely my fault. I have some inkling as to the answers, maybe I can have a go at answering them and you can let me know if I'm on the right track. If I was to answer my own questions it would look something like,

How do you tell the difference between ordinary depression and the dark night?
The feeling can be very much the same and they can be easy to confuse, though they are different. Depression can arise anytime, but the Dark Night follows A&P. So if you haven't crossed the A&P, it's necessarily ordinary depression. They are each caused by different factors. One is suffering and the other is being mindful of the suffering. However, progress through the path can improve both. They aren't entirely independent either - Dark Night can bring on depression. For all of these reasons telling the difference is difficult.

(Does anyone have any tips for actually telling the difference though? Is it as easy as - dukkha nanas are mind states so if you are not meditating then you aren't in that mind state and must have ordinary depression?)

Can you ever be certain what stage you are in?
No. Experienced meditators learn to recognize the signs as they go through them over and over again. The pattern becomes much easier to recognise once it's familiar territory, but for those just starting out it can be difficult to diagnose. Learning how to diagnose can begin in the diagnostic section of the forum and here: http://integrateddaniel.info/insight-stages-table/

How should your practice change depending on what stage you are in?
Practice essentially stays the same. You are looking into the three characteristics in every stage. Still there are traps common to each stage and a simple introduction to the traps is in the above link describing characteristics of the stages. For dealing with the dark night specifically, there's lots of advice scattered throughout the forum.

(Is there an advice repository around for how to practice in each stage besides the above link? Or is it scattered through the forums? It's fine if it is, I can hunt around.) 

How long do the stages last? I've heard of people passing through a stage in a few minutes or less and then people spending 20 years in the dark night. How can both be true? How do you spend 20 years experiencing the same thing? Do you only experience a stage when you are meditating or are you 'in a stage' all of the time?
When you meditate pre-stream entry you progress linearly up through the stages up to your highest previously reached stage. Your not 'in' a nana unless you are meditating, they are mind states - just like jhanas. You don't walk around in them unless you've got loads of experience under your belt. They can begin to be experienced in life if you bring your practice into daily life. You get 'stuck in the dark night' when it is the highest stage you've reached and you can't get past it, this can take years for some and the effects can leak into your everyday life even though you aren't always 'in' the nana, just when you meditate.


I'm far from certain about any of these, hence my questions. If I've missed something or gotten something wrong, it'd be nice if someone can point me in the right direction. If I'm bang on, let me know that too.

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/1/17 1:59 PM as a reply to Rainbow.
Rainbow:
Sorry Dream Walker, I structured this thread and my questions badly. I actually have done some work to educate myself and though I'm not advanced, I'm not ignorant either. I've read cover to cover MCTB, Ron Crouch on the Path, Practical Insight Meditation and The Progress of Insight by Mahasi Sayadaw and I am part way through Contemplative Fitness by Kenneth Folk. I've listened the Hamiton Project Podcasts on the Stages of Insight. I've watched all of Daniel Ingrams videos and audio on this page - http://integrateddaniel.info/podcasts-and-videos/. I've read and watched Kenneth Folk and Vince Horn talk about their paths to awakening. I've read a good few posts on this forum, though not all, there are so many. There's also my own meditation practice itself - in which I am still a novice, but striving to improve everyday.

I'm not looking for anyone to hold my hand as you lay out all the teachings out on a silver platter so you can spoon feed it to me. My questions are narrow and specific to certain confusions resulting from reports that seem contradictory. But I wrote them up quickly - they've been bugging me for a while and I was desperate for an answer - and any misunderstanding on your befalf was likely largely my fault. I have some inkling as to the answers, maybe I can have a go at answering them and you can let me know if I'm on the right track. If I was to answer my own questions it would look something like,
Ahhh, Much better. Now thats cleared up. One tip, if you have multiple questions; number them so that people can refer to the number if they want to address just one of them without confusion.
There are a lot of variety in people and so one persons answer may be quite different from another based on personal expereince, keep that in mind. The deeper you dive on any subject the more complicated it gets and the more exceptions to the 'rules' pop up.
Rainbow:
How do you tell the difference between ordinary depression and the dark night?
The feeling can be very much the same and they can be easy to confuse, though they are different. Depression can arise anytime, but the Dark Night follows A&P. So if you haven't crossed the A&P, it's necessarily ordinary depression. They are each caused by different factors. One is suffering and the other is being mindful of the suffering. However, progress through the path can improve both. They aren't entirely independent either - Dark Night can bring on depression. For all of these reasons telling the difference is difficult.

(Does anyone have any tips for actually telling the difference though? Is it as easy as - dukkha nanas are mind states so if you are not meditating then you aren't in that mind state and must have ordinary depression?)
Pretty good!!.
Nana 7 of Misery brings me into depression and depression can trigger me into Nana 7.
As far as 'progress through the path can improve both' perhaps, at a certain level, but I have found antidepressents to be much more effective than anything else I have been able to do. I have hopes that at 3rd/4th path I will be cured of depression/neurotransmitter disregulation.....we shall see, in the mean time I continue to work on it the old fashioned way CBT, exersize, healthy eating, nutrigenetics, therapy etc. I have found that anything you project on awakening to cure, should be worked on independently. Hope is great, but hard work on all the axis is better.

Rainbow:

Can you ever be certain what stage you are in?
No. Experienced meditators learn to recognize the signs as they go through them over and over again. The pattern becomes much easier to recognise once it's familiar territory, but for those just starting out it can be difficult to diagnose. Learning how to diagnose can begin in the diagnostic section of the forum and here: http://integrateddaniel.info/insight-stages-table/

Perfect....nothing like repeated first hand experience. You will learn to recognise a few of them and then that will spread to others.....you dont need to know all of them all the time to progress, so don't overworry about it. Uber mapping doesn't speed things up, SE happens in EQ. So if your not there don't worry about it too much, just practice to get there.
Rainbow:
How should your practice change depending on what stage you are in?
Practice essentially stays the same. You are looking into the three characteristics in every stage. Still there are traps common to each stage and a simple introduction to the traps is in the above link describing characteristics of the stages. For dealing with the dark night specifically, there's lots of advice scattered throughout the forum.

(Is there an advice repository around for how to practice in each stage besides the above link? Or is it scattered through the forums? It's fine if it is, I can hunt around.)
Notice the 6 senses, the insights will come naturally. Fell free to try to force it too, we all do to some extent, sometimes it works (maybe?).
My way thru the DN area was to practice more often to move thru faster. For others this causes more instability. Your milage may vary.
Dealing with the Dark Night
Rainbow:
How long do the stages last? I've heard of people passing through a stage in a few minutes or less and then people spending 20 years in the dark night. How can both be true? How do you spend 20 years experiencing the same thing? Do you only experience a stage when you are meditating or are you 'in a stage' all of the time?
When you meditate pre-stream entry you progress linearly up through the stages up to your highest previously reached stage. Your not 'in' a nana unless you are meditating, they are mind states - just like jhanas. You don't walk around in them unless you've got loads of experience under your belt. They can begin to be experienced in life if you bring your practice into daily life. You get 'stuck in the dark night' when it is the highest stage you've reached and you can't get past it, this can take years for some and the effects can leak into your everyday life even though you aren't always 'in' the nana, just when you meditate.
Awesome!
Variety here....some get bleed over and some only get clarity to the nanas on retreats.

Rainbow:
I'm far from certain about any of these, hence my questions. If I've missed something or gotten something wrong, it'd be nice if someone can point me in the right direction. If I'm bang on, let me know that too.
Your bang on....
The leading and trailing tails of the average curve tends to make it look like there is an excepton to every rule, but they don't happen often.
Good luck,
~D

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/3/17 6:38 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:

Nana 7 of Misery brings me into depression and depression can trigger me into Nana 7.

John of the Cross, who originated the "dark night" terminology, recognized this relationship: Depression and the Dark Night

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 7:20 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Just a quick note before my long post... I make everything sound simple below, but it actually can be quite a challenge. So I feel like I need to say that the important thing in the dark night is to experience what you can and learn from those experiences  as best you can, but if you need guidance, psychological therapies, or other meditation tools -- then FIND THEM AND USE THEM. There is no benefit to needlessly suffering.

Many of the same experiences that occur during mental illness occur during meditation practice. The difference is someone provoking them through meditation has more room to retreat -- they can use less effort in practice, they can practice less, they can stop practice and take a break. Mental illness doesn't have that room to retreat, the person's entire life is dominated by negative thoughts/emotions.

Both psychological therapies and meditation work by experiencing those states and integrating them. A good psychologist will help you re-experience traumatic situations/feelings, in small doses so that they can be understood and experience without being overwhelmed. Meditation does the same thing but more quickly because the person has a sane/stable platform to work from. If you don't have that platform, meditation will only overwhelm you. Never be in a rush to push further at the expense of having a good foundation.  

If psychological treatment helps with the "Misery" nana, great! If meditation helps with depression, great! But base your practice on the reality of what is occuring. If you are truly feeling overwhelmed, get support for what you are going through.   

And ideally, find that support _before_ getting deeply into meditation practice. It is a lot easier to search for a teacher, a therapist, a mediation group when you are not depressed or freaking out. People underestimate how helpful it is to have a senior student or teacher to check in with periodically. It makes life easer and practice better. 


So, that said...


Rainbow, you might like the interview that is found on this page:
http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/manual-insight

The progress of insight is what happens when we take the things that we identify with and notice them as objects in awareness. It follows a predictable pattern, but there are limits to the extent that it applies to a given person's practice.

The important thing to understand about the progress of insight is that it reflect patterns seen in meditators on retreat doing a particular practice. The further you get from that context, the less applicable it is... but it is amazing how it appears to have some pretty good applicability to lay people doing consistent high-quality home and off-cushion practice.

Aside: Looking back on my own life, I think the first few stages has even broader applicability. I've noticed that all through my 20s and 30s, I would go on long, solo trips in remote area and there was a pattern of becoming very aware of my thoughts and body, then a period of finding everything frustrating, then everything was rich and spiritual, usually a night of vivid or surreal dreams, then laziness, then a heavy depression. Very similar to the first several days of being on retreat and almost perfectly lined up with the progress of insight stages.

Basically, it's the old unpeeling the onion metaphor. There are layers and layers of identification, but a finite number.

If someone steps out of the trance of normal discursive thinking about their life, the first thing they notice is that they have thoughts and sensations in their body. Mind and body.

If someone investigates mind and body, they will see that they influence each other. Cause and effect.

If someone investigates cause and effect, they will see that we are most of what we do is actually driven by a visceral reaction to the unsatisfactory aspects of experience. Three characteristics.

If someone investigates the visceral reactions to the three characteristics, they see how these reactions are like dominoes hitting one then the other then the other. Arising and passing.

When they can simply watch all that happen, the body might have a small taste of the space between the dominoes. Arising and passing event.

At this point, meditation is a comedy of errors, which comes from trying to "not see" what is actually happening. It's a more detailed map because this is where people really need help.

Instinctually and somewhat unconciously, the person will try to "find" the spiritual experiences of the A&P of the nothingness of the A&P event. They don't find it and instead it feels like everything good is slipping away. If they actually just watch that happen, then they get the insight into the nature of Dissolution -- things don't stick around.

Instinctually and somewhat unconciously, the person will have a sense of loss of control and be surprized by something and evokes primal terror. If they don't see fear as an experience in awareness, then the meditator gets lost in thinking about all the things that evoke fear. If they actually just watch that happen, then they get the insight into the nature of Fear -- surprise is surprise, no big deal, and even fear is fear, no big deal. 

Instinctually and somewhat unconsciously, the person will want to protect themselves from surprises and will instinctually create an ongoing, low-level sense of misery to fill up the space. It's a coping mechanism. But it the person sees misery as misery, then they get the insight into the nature of Misery.

Likewise with Disgust. Long term misery feels awful. Disgust is an empowering coping mechanism that allow someone to feel more in control and more powerful. "I am disgusted!" But if the person sees disgust as disgust, then they get the insight into the nature of Disgust.

Likewise with Desire for Deliverance. The person is somewhat empowered and thinks, "there must be a way out of this". There is a focus on problem solving, perfecting practice, finding better teachers, etc. It has the flavor of some confidence and passonate seeking. But if the person see this as another reactive pattern, then they get the insight into the nature of Desire for Deliverance.

Likewise with Reobservation. The person is now reobserving everything they went through, all the strategies, all the attempts to find the experience they think will make them happy. It has the flavor of desperation and failure. If they see this desparate feeling of "nothing works" as just another reactive pattern, then they get the insight into the nature of Reobservation.

Low Equanimity is finally realizing that fighting experience or trying to find a difference experience other that what is actually happening is impossible.

High Equanimity is being mostly at peace with this and continuing to sit, mildly curious about "if all of these experience occur within awareness, then what is awareness? what is mind? what is knowing?"

Stream Entry happens when the pervasive non-reactivity of equanimity (not grabbing at objects, not searching for objects) allows for momentary non-grabbing. The meditator doesn't "do" anything. It's more like when a sun runs out of fuel and it collapses into itself. 

Hope this helps in some way.

This stuff isn't "figured out" by thinking, it's by becoming intimate with what is actually occuring. Either people go through these stages or not.

But all meditation has the basic insight which becomes more refined and nuanced over time: the realization "oh, this event which I thought was me is actually just a "mind object" in my awareness." 

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 9:15 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks Dream Walker and shargrol those were very helpful posts (EDIT: I echo what Jeff says below, but for both of you). I feel like I've a much better understanding now, feeling much more settled. It's very much appreciated.

I love the 10% Happier podcast shargol, glad you recommended it. I love this moment in that interview.

Dan Harris: So what is enlightenment? Are you Enlightened?
Steve Armstrong: I'm not allowed to talk about it.


Hahahaha. emoticon 
Ok, time for more practice! Thanks guys!

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 8:43 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Shargrol,

Thank you, thank you, thank you for taking the time and effort to write your comments down regarding the stages. Your perspective and language, for me, were a basket of much-needed and appreciated insights. A gem of a post. This kind of wisdom is what keeps me coming back to this forum.

Yours truly,

Jeff
Philadelphia, PA

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 9:59 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Yes, I agree with Kilroy, great post. Thanks.

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 10:26 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:


Basically, it's the old unpeeling the onion metaphor. There are layers and layers of identification, but a finite number.

If someone steps out of the trance of normal discursive thinking about their life, the first thing they notice is that they have thoughts and sensations in their body. Mind and body.

If someone investigates mind and body, they will see that they influence each other. Cause and effect.

If someone investigates cause and effect, they will see that we are most of what we do is actually driven by a visceral reaction to the unsatisfactory aspects of experience. Three characteristics.

If someone investigates the visceral reactions to the three characteristics, they see how these reactions are like dominoes hitting one then the other then the other. Arising and passing.

When they can simply watch all that happen, the body might have a small taste of the space between the dominoes. Arising and passing event.

At this point, meditation is a comedy of errors, which comes from trying to "not see" what is actually happening. It's a more detailed map because this is where people really need help.

Instinctually and somewhat unconciously, the person will try to "find" the spiritual experiences of the A&P of the nothingness of the A&P event. They don't find it and instead it feels like everything good is slipping away. If they actually just watch that happen, then they get the insight into the nature of Dissolution -- things don't stick around.

Instinctually and somewhat unconciously, the person will have a sense of loss of control and be surprized by something and evokes primal terror. If they don't see fear as an experience in awareness, then the meditator gets lost in thinking about all the things that evoke fear. If they actually just watch that happen, then they get the insight into the nature of Fear -- surprise is surprise, no big deal, and even fear is fear, no big deal. 

Instinctually and somewhat unconsciously, the person will want to protect themselves from surprises and will instinctually create an ongoing, low-level sense of misery to fill up the space. It's a coping mechanism. But it the person sees misery as misery, then they get the insight into the nature of Misery.

Likewise with Disgust. Long term misery feels awful. Disgust is an empowering coping mechanism that allow someone to feel more in control and more powerful. "I am disgusted!" But if the person sees disgust as disgust, then they get the insight into the nature of Disgust.

Likewise with Desire for Deliverance. The person is somewhat empowered and thinks, "there must be a way out of this". There is a focus on problem solving, perfecting practice, finding better teachers, etc. It has the flavor of some confidence and passonate seeking. But if the person see this as another reactive pattern, then they get the insight into the nature of Desire for Deliverance.

Likewise with Reobservation. The person is now reobserving everything they went through, all the strategies, all the attempts to find the experience they think will make them happy. It has the flavor of desperation and failure. If they see this desparate feeling of "nothing works" as just another reactive pattern, then they get the insight into the nature of Reobservation.

Low Equanimity is finally realizing that fighting experience or trying to find a difference experience other that what is actually happening is impossible.

High Equanimity is being mostly at peace with this and continuing to sit, mildly curious about "if all of these experience occur within awareness, then what is awareness? what is mind? what is knowing?"

Stream Entry happens when the pervasive non-reactivity of equanimity (not grabbing at objects, not searching for objects) allows for momentary non-grabbing. The meditator doesn't "do" anything. It's more like when a sun runs out of fuel and it collapses into itself. 


This is great, Shargrol. Can I repost the above on my blog, with credit to you?

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/4/17 4:11 PM as a reply to Derek2.
Thank you for the thank yous, that's really kind.

Sure Derek, that's fine. And also feel free to edit/re-write if desired!

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/5/17 7:22 AM as a reply to shargrol.

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/7/17 1:42 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Great post! Dang.

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/12/17 5:35 AM as a reply to shargrol.
You get to know where you are via fruit. You need fruit, so cultivate a ground what is able to grow and bear fruit, not the unsuitable ground where nothing grows.

How do you know that your blissful state is fertile? as you won't able to know it immediately, it takes time to draw clear line between two states, one is dead other grows.




 

RE: What exactly are the stages of insight?
Answer
2/15/17 1:06 AM as a reply to Rainbow.
dual mind -> awakening -> enlightenment
dual mind is everyone's common state. there are subject & object, duality appears like there are self and expierenced world outside self.
awakening is like nonduality with self
enlightenment is when nondualty has no self at all

The Insight Stage Model is based on a fact that you are able to expierence thoughts and feelings to describe the certain stage of insight and your state of mind. The fact that you are able to "perceive" thoughts and feelings allows the duallity to exist. In other words statement "i perceive any kind of experince" allows you to think that there is a certain "i" and the outside world known by a "perception".
The "path" is an endless process in which you are able to awake only when you understand that it is completely useless: thoughts & feeling come and go, insights come and go, states of mind come and go.
You can be a diligent meditator, a loving mother or a father, you can build a house or sail around the world - that's how infinity learns itself.
Your experience means nothing at all - you always experience something. The perception itself is a real miracle.