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What did you gain?

What did you gain?
Answer
3/11/17 8:50 AM
I hope I don't offend anybody with this question - but since this is a very pragmatic dharma forum I dare to ask. emoticon

I have not much experience with the paths and attainments but I constantly hear people talking about they have now reached this and that stage etc... Thus my question: What have you really gained from spending weeks on retreats and on your cushion at home. What makes you continue? Do you see solid results or is it the hope/believe in mental freedom that empowers you to sit and meditate?

The reason I ask is that mental growth is very hard to quantify. If you go and workout you can see your body change - you get immediate response from what you are doing. Do you see the same for your meditation progress and mental growth? And if so, what is it like?

Looking forward to reading abour your experiences. emoticon

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/11/17 10:40 AM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Hello!

I am far from advanced levels but even at my level, this is the major and wonderful change - the vicissitudes of life do not bother me as much (in Goenka's words that seemed to embed in my mind).

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/11/17 12:35 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
I now know how my mind works and I know what I am. These two things are intimately related but can be expressed as individual insights, too. I'm expressing this at a very high level, about 50,000 feet, so there are derivative insights at more granular levels of detail. The paths are pretty much the mental version of physical exercise - the example of progress you gave, Zen Den Den. To a careful, dedicated and observant practitioner of meditation incremental progress is quite measurable. If you read around much on these boards you'll get a good feel for that.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/12/17 8:04 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
There are 2 levels of benefits.
The first level is very obvious:
Meditate an hour now, and for the rest of the day, you will be more centered, more able to relax, less reactive.
If you practice an hour of brahmaviharas now, then it will be easier to evoke during the rest of the day.

The second level is less obvious and takes months and years.
I guess that it's easier to fool oneself with this one, but take lots of notes and you will see the changes.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/14/17 8:23 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Zen Den Den:
I hope I don't offend anybody with this question - but since this is a very pragmatic dharma forum I dare to ask. emoticon

I have not much experience with the paths and attainments but I constantly hear people talking about they have now reached this and that stage etc... Thus my question: What have you really gained from spending weeks on retreats and on your cushion at home. What makes you continue? Do you see solid results or is it the hope/believe in mental freedom that empowers you to sit and meditate?

The reason I ask is that mental growth is very hard to quantify. If you go and workout you can see your body change - you get immediate response from what you are doing. Do you see the same for your meditation progress and mental growth? And if so, what is it like?

Looking forward to reading abour your experiences. emoticon

"I have gained absolutely nothing from total and complete enlightenment."

That's one of my favorite quotes, and it's an easy quote to misunderstand, as I think Daniel or someone has pointed out. Enlightenment is a loss, not a gain. After 4th path something was gone for me that was there before. A splinter in my side was removed. No more sensation of free will. No more comparing myself to other people.

A more straightforward answer, though: more emotional stability, less reactivity, and a better mood. I've tried pretty much everything to treat depression: getting 4th path, meds, exercise, therapy... by far the best cure I've found is to sit for 30 minutes.

But I feel like if you're looking for results, you're better off looking elsewhere. If you want results, seek a more targeted intervention that will bring you those results. Coherence Therapy, for instance, is a proven way of making change. Go to a therapist. Try psych meds if you need them. Exercise. Spend time with friends. Learn a language. Do dual n-backing to improve your working memory.

I didn't go through the paths for the results - I went through them because, well, I had to. Something in me needed to seek that out. Think of a splinter embedded in your skin, gradually working its way out, and you'll have the right idea.

Daniel wrote in MCTB that you should assume that enlightenment will bring no changes. I think that's right on. The biggest surprise to me after 4th path was that everything was exactly the same.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 8:34 AM as a reply to J C.
Nice answers so far in this thread!


I'll just add that it's a really nice thing to know that what I am is not "the tiny little overwhelmed person in my head that is trying to figure out the world so that it can interact with it". There is a lot of freedom and joy and initmacy in being able to let go of that identification and simply live.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 8:52 AM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
OK. What have I gained?

There is some "clenching", "contracting", "distorting", "comparing", "analysis" thing that I used to do all the time.
As I have done it all my life, I was used to it and I considered a part of everything.

In both path moments (I'm 2nd path), a lot of that effort that was done every second of my life was suddenly gone.
So your baseline is a lot, really, a lot more relaxed.

It's not that I don't "contract", "distort", "compare", etc anymore. It just isn't done by default. I choose when and how to do it.

While many don't see it as a gain (after all I didn't gain anything, I stopped doing something I was doing), I can't see the results as anything other that a huge gain.

There are no words to explain a path moment. The words "huge", "incredible", "without comparison" should give you a clue.

Another clue? Most people that get paths tend to be very, very grateful to the world and to the course of their lifes that lead them there.
I wrote a post called "The path to the path" to somehow express that gratitude.

I get it. Path explanations tend to look watered down. "I didn't get anything", "I stopped doing something", "Its all the same".
So, you think, it's not a great deal, it's the same as going to the gym.

But they are really in another level and the fact that we can't describe them concisely, shouldn't downgrade them.

So:

- Gain: yes (huge).
- Solid results: yes.
- Inmeditate response: concentration: yes, morality: no (takes time), insight: some (cycling).
- Body change: yes
- Mental growth: yes
- What makes me continue: Past experience (specially path moments).

Comparing meditation to the gym is not fair at all. Meditation is far, far better emoticon.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 12:45 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Zen Den Den:

 If you go and workout you can see your body change - you get immediate response from what you are doing. 

This is a useful analogy from a number of perspectives. Like physical training; some results are immediate, some are attained over consistent practice. Also like physical training, your ability to operate in daily life improves incrementally as your training continues.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 4:14 PM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Thanks so much for your great and diverse answers emoticon So, you all say it was worth doing what you did to attain what you have attained. I have a couple question that came up when reading your answers:
  1. How does your "training" look like and how long are you practicing? (I know that many of you would like to point me to MTCB but I just want to hear from you how your training looks like - coming back to the anology of the gym: it is better to talk to Arnold and hear from him directly than to read his book ;-) )
  2. I am pretty aware that I am not the voice in my head nor a second instance within this body. So this hole non-dualistic idea seems rather obvious to me - am I missing there something?
  3. @Ernest Michael Olmos: You mentioned that your body has also changed from meditation - how is that? What did change?
  4. Do I understand correct that the biggest "gain" is the absence of major categorization whenever you perceive an object? You just are with the object as it is, instead of creating a mental picture from it?
I am really looking forward to hearing what you can tell me emoticon

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 5:25 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
The idea of non-duality is easy to comprehend, but to actually know it and internalize it requires practise, rather than mere intellectual understanding.It's akin to procrastination really . Concepts are useful but ,as the famous Zen proverb goes: it's like a finger pointing at the moon, and you look at the finger!

I would say the best advice is to not compare yourself to others and have faith in the process as you sit on that cushion day after day after day. Someone else's experiences won't help you sit since your sole objective is to put it all down and attend to your chosen practise object and repeat it.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/15/17 5:30 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Zen Den Den:
Thanks so much for your great and diverse answers emoticon So, you all say it was worth doing what you did to attain what you have attained. I have a couple question that came up when reading your answers:
  1. How does your "training" look like and how long are you practicing? (I know that many of you would like to point me to MTCB but I just want to hear from you how your training looks like - coming back to the anology of the gym: it is better to talk to Arnold and hear from him directly than to read his book ;-) )
  2. I am pretty aware that I am not the voice in my head nor a second instance within this body. So this hole non-dualistic idea seems rather obvious to me - am I missing there something?
  3. @Ernest Michael Olmos: You mentioned that your body has also changed from meditation - how is that? What did change?
  4. Do I understand correct that the biggest "gain" is the absence of major categorization whenever you perceive an object? You just are with the object as it is, instead of creating a mental picture from it?
I am really looking forward to hearing what you can tell me emoticon

Ok, I'll see what I can do:

1. I usually sit 30-60 minutes at a time. Sometimes every day or two, but usually a couple times a week, and there have been many periods where I go weeks or months without sitting. Most of my progress was made during the two 10-day retreats I went on. As far as what I'd actually do, it was mostly rapid noting at the beginning and more concentration based after 2nd path, just basically hanging out in 4th jhana and up and doing force fruitions.

2. yes, the idea is obvious, but that's a theoretical understanding, not an experiential one. I always knew it, but now I feel it and directly experience it.

3. not to me - but the biggest change in my body is that it feels more free, and it feels like it's doing stuff on its own, without anyone or anything controlling it.

4. No, I still categorize and create mental pictures when looking at objects. The change has nothing to do with objects or thoughts, it's just that I've broken the continuity of the false self. I'm no longer experiencing a continual feeling of "this is me, I'm here, I'm doing things, I'm taking actions, I'm in control" - if I try to bring it up, it doesn't stay.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/16/17 10:08 AM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
1. My training is pretty basic. When on the couch, I try to relax, concentrate on the breath, play with awareness, investigate sensations, thoughts, etc.

When I feel I'm out of "focus", again I concentrate on the breath, and focus on jhana factors. Mostly sustained effort, one-pointedness, joy.
Sometimes I narrow the focus to the tip of the nose. Sometime I focus on the raising and falling of the abdomen.

Once I achieved some concentration, I look for the 3 characteristics. I really try to stay in the present, to try to "catch" things as they are happening. To break the "continuous" sometimes I do a repetitive mental note like "present", "present", "present".

Once the mind "speeds up", I focus on the observer, or the suffering.

My advice, just go and try to do things, put effort and play.
Don't compare so much, only Arnold is Arnold and your experience with meditation will be different from mine and everybody else.

2. It's not at the rational level. It's the way what you see, feel, think, your sense of space are processed.
My guess is that all the sensations are "post-processed" on two directives (I have control of them or not), the famous fight or flight, control or surrender.

Don't think too much about who you are. Think about what you control and what you don't control. About causes and consequenses. On who does the things you do, and why do you do them. Try to catch the sensations in the body that trigger actions.

When in doubt, remember MCTB: "there are no special sensations that are in unique control of other sensations", "sensations are not fundamentally split off from other sensations ocurring at the moment".

For this I recommend noting, fast noting.

3. Meditation brings relaxation. Over time, that relaxation has a positive impact on the body.

Other things that have impacted the body have been more indirect.
For example, meditation brings more awareness of the body, so you tend to talke care of it better.
Also, with meditation you are better able to cope with pain and doubts, very useful things when training the body.

4. Categorization is done in order to know if fight or flight.
The fight or flight (control or surrender) is rooted in a person (the one who fights of flights, or the one that controls or surrenders). That is my guess.

Things do look different, very different after path.
The best I can say is that if you stare at something after a path, you know that something that was keeping you attached to it is gone, some mental filter to your senses that required effort is gone. And it's not subtle, it's really very noticeable.

I don't know if "worth it" is enough, "life changing worth it" is more accurate. Eventually words have limits, for the real thing, you'll have to find for yourself emoticon.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/16/17 10:26 AM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Directly attributed to the meditation itself:
  1. I started meditation because of a depression. A stream-entry I have never been depressed again.
  2. That said, I still have ups and downs, like everyone I know. However several years after stream-entry I can say that the downs never go very low, nor the highs ever go very high. I am much more balanced.
  3. My vision, hearing, and sense of touch have changed dramatically and are now much clearer and more vivid than ever before. I can reach psychedelic levels of vividness in a normal walk in the park.
  4. My mental functioning is much more silent than when I started this. The changes that led to this silence are very before-and-after, and always happened during meditation.
I attribute the following to experience I gained by having a meditation practice.
  1. I am less prone to believing bullshit, just because it feels pleasurable to do so. This happened in part because of trying to keep sane while in weird mental states brought about by the practice.
  2. I can handle anxiety much better than I ever could. It also rarely occurs.
Lost:
  1. Time & patience. This shit takes much longer than I'd like, quite honestly. I wish there was a fucking button.
  2. Interest in various things that gave me pleasure. Especially things involving ideas, narratives, self-grandeur, and so on (see 1 in the previous list). Also the pleasure that I got from those things was never really replaced with something else.
... 

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/17/17 3:00 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Great! Thank you all for your nice input emoticon

@Ernest Michael Olmos
Once I achieved some concentration, I look for the 3 characteristics.
I can see how one could observe Anicca: Feelings arise and pass, thoughts come and go etc.
I also understand how to observe dukkha: Thoughts that make you feel uncomfortable, pain etc.
But how do you observe Anatta? Is it acctually possible to observe something that is thought to be empty?

I really like your playful approach - I think I wouldn't be capable of forcing my self to do a dogmatic practice. I have once been to a Zen temple in my town and was overwhelmed with all these rituals. Didn't resonate very well with me emoticon

What do yout think of retreats? From J C's answer they seem to have made the biggest impact on his progression.


Can somebody please quickly explain to me what exactly is ment with 2nd or 4th path? I am not familiar with this terminology. A link to an explanation would also be sufficient emoticon

Thank you all!

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/17/17 9:56 AM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
For anatta, I just observe the observer, then observe the observer of the observer, etc, until it becomes such a mess, effort and paradox that the illusion of control goes away.

Also sometimes I contract my awareness in my body (in the chest or behind the eyes) to a single point where I have full control and then expand it to everywhere, feeling the lack of control, the surrender.

In the peak of this actions, there is a contrast.
First between the single point and the awareness of everything outside of it.
In the expansion, the everyhwere, the contrast is with the sensations in the body.

Another useful thing is to feel the process (or sensation) that groups sensations or combines them. Not to stop it, just be aware of it.

When you are aware of focus on something, exactly in that moment, there is a shift to somewhere else, when you focus on that somewhere else, there is another shift, etc. Chase it until it can't hide. Chase the chaser. Moment to moment.

Did you read the slacker guide to stream entry?

https://web.archive.org/web/20110705081413/http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/ReformedSlackersGuide?p_r_p_185834411_title=ReformedSlackersGuide

At least for me, retreats are very, very useful. I did one last year (where I got 2nd) and planning to do another this year.

About 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, they are path numbers.

Progression would be:

AP (Arising and Passing away) (1st)
1st Path fruition
Review (1st path cycling and fruitions).
AP (2nd)
2nd Path fruition.
Review (cycling and fruitions).

After 2nd path or 3rd its a mess because:

- There are cycles and mental shifts related to previous paths (that confuse people).
- Many people can get fruitions on demand.
- Daniel said somewhere that development is a fractal.

Very good reading on that topic:

A framework of awakening by dreamwalker
http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5800908

All I can offer is what I know (and think), but I don't know that much emoticon.
There are people a lot more experienced than me in this forum.

Hope it helps.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/17/17 3:33 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
Zen Den Den:

I can see how one could observe Anicca: Feelings arise and pass, thoughts come and go etc.


There's more to it than that. Not only do feelings and thoughts come and go over a few seconds or minutes, but each feeling, thought, perception, and sensation is itself constantly in motion. If you look closely at it you'll see nothing lasts even for a few seconds. It's not continuous.


I also understand how to observe dukkha: Thoughts that make you feel uncomfortable, pain etc.


There's more to it than that. Dukkha is separate from the uncomfortable thought and feeling. There is dukkha in everything - even comfortable or pleasant sensations. Any time you want something to last, want to keep it around, want it to go away, want to control it, feel the need to fix or change or improve it - that's dukkha.

Dukkha is more an overlay on top of thoughts or feelings than a thought or feeling itself. It's a restlessness. A sense of dissatisfaction.


But how do you observe Anatta? Is it acctually possible to observe something that is thought to be empty?


Anatta literally means no-self (an-atta - the word atta is related to Atman). What you're doing is noticing that there is no self to be found.

Anything you observe isn't you - it's the observed, not the observer.

This is at the heart of the witnessing or "who am I?" approach - disembedding from everything until you realize none of it is you.

It's tied in with the delusion of free will. The idea that there's a you. A separate, permanent thing there. Something that can control things or make them some way other than what they are (see how this fits in with dukkha?)

Observe any sense of control. Any sense of free will. Any sense that you could do something other than what's actually happening.

Observe cause and effect. Look at how each moment inevitably leads to the next, with no room for free will, no room for the self.

Anicca, dukkha, and anatta are three ways of looking at the same thing. You're approaching it from three separate directions.

It's all about free will, control, and acceptance of the present moment.

Anicca - there's no free will because nothing can last to control things. each individual moment is exactly how it is.

Dukkha - delusion of free will always wants to change things, can't accept things as they are

Anatta - there's nothing there to control things, no way to have anything other than the way it is


Can somebody please quickly explain to me what exactly is ment with 2nd or 4th path?


It's a process of dissolving the sense of self (also known as the delusion of free will).
It falls off in 4 big chunks. Each chunk is associated with a path moment.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/17/17 4:34 PM as a reply to Zen Den Den.
in terms of the idea that one only loses vs. gains, or that everything is the same, it is true on one level and has undeniable meaning - but it is a little misleading on its own sometimes in how it rings depending on where one is at. i would say that what i gained is a freedom and artfulness as a result of realizing that how i related to everything, what i imputed to be fixed and solid, was totally just one possible interpretation, and a very conditioned one. What comes with that is the ability to much more freely re-interpret anything.  That makes life into an art.  I can to a much much greater degree keep what i like (the intimacy, the poignancy, the vividness, the relational aspects, the beauty, freedom to act appropriately, the full spectrum of emotion).

Its like this: Once there were songs I couldn’t  bear to hear because they reminded me of a time full of some darkness or sadness (for me it’s songs of my pre-teen years).  If one came on the radio, i would switch it off asap, but not before I was flooded with dread or some congealed, negative constellation of thought/emotion/body sense.  Now i hear those same songs, and i enjoy all of them, from beginning to the end, even more so because they cause a reaction in me.  I can see the beauty within them which was totally unavailable before - too much reaction, seeming unbearable, blocking it.  The feelings of melancholy still might arise, but i see beauty in those too now - how something as mysterious as a song could touch a young girl to the point of unbearable grief, sensing the wonder in that.  That itself is a kind of song, too.  If i want that girl to be me - if that’s where the most beauty is - i can do that.  If i want it to just be a song, or some sound passing by, or energy, whatever, that’s available too.

So i got that kind of relationship, or a variation on it, with all sorts of things.  Its all the same in some respects, but it's a totally different world.  Even in my more contracted states, i know there is flexiblity of view/perspective/reality possible, and that changes so many things.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/17/17 9:39 PM as a reply to : ladyfrog :.
: ladyfrog ::

Its like this: Once there were songs I couldn’t  bear to hear because they reminded me of a time full of some darkness or sadness (for me it’s songs of my pre-teen years).  If one came on the radio, i would switch it off asap, but not before I was flooded with dread or some congealed, negative constellation of thought/emotion/body sense.  Now i hear those same songs, and i enjoy all of them, from beginning to the end, even more so because they cause a reaction in me.  I can see the beauty within them which was totally unavailable before - too much reaction, seeming unbearable, blocking it.  The feelings of melancholy still might arise, but i see beauty in those too now - how something as mysterious as a song could touch a young girl to the point of unbearable grief, sensing the wonder in that.  That itself is a kind of song, too.  If i want that girl to be me - if that’s where the most beauty is - i can do that.  If i want it to just be a song, or some sound passing by, or energy, whatever, that’s available too.

So i got that kind of relationship, or a variation on it, with all sorts of things.  Its all the same in some respects, but it's a totally different world.  Even in my more contracted states, i know there is flexiblity of view/perspective/reality possible, and that changes so many things.
This is a really good description. Right now I'm incredibly sad over my fiancee leaving me and it helped a little to read this. I'm 4th path and even after 4th path there is sadness, pain, grief, depression, dread, anxiety, panic, and lots of other negative thoughts, emotions, and body senses. So if anyone thinks 4th path takes any of that away - well, it doesn't.

I still have this intense desire and wish to have her back. And I can see that for what it is, just a thought and desire and feeling that's there, and totally accept it and recognize that things could not be any other way. Yet there are still moments where I'm just lost in the sadness and wish that things could be different.

That's life - enlightenment doesn't change it, it just helps you see it clearly.

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/18/17 6:20 AM as a reply to J C.
Is enlightenment just a pointless endeavour then? Seems like a waste of time if so much effort is put in and things still concern you.(No offense is meant by this, but I'd rather do something else with my time if it turns to be ineffectual in the end to achieve my goal of being unbroken by any single life event or circumstance)

RE: What did you gain?
Answer
3/18/17 1:37 PM as a reply to D..
Deepankar:
Is enlightenment just a pointless endeavour then? Seems like a waste of time if so much effort is put in and things still concern you.(No offense is meant by this, but I'd rather do something else with my time if it turns to be ineffectual in the end to achieve my goal of being unbroken by any single life event or circumstance)
I feel this way also.   Whenever I read what people say about the benefits, they just don't seem worth the time and effort that I'm putting in.   Like - I thought doing this was supposed to end suffering?   Please tell me that I'm not wasting my time and that it's worth it.