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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol

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So my journey on the path has been a very unique one. I'll try and summarize it as best I can to finally get to the question. It goes way back to having depression for 5 years when I was younger. Then I met a girl (it's always cause of a girl lol), fell in love and for the first time opened up my heart and soul to another person and showed them who I really was (something I had done with no one else because of the depression). Then eventually the relationship ended in quite a dramatic way. When the relationship died, I felt like I had died, not partially but completely. In hindsight I can see where the 3Cs came into play. If even I was impermanent than surely all must be too, and oh boy did I see suffering. Then I set out on a mission to use this as an opportunity. An opportunity to learn to love myself which is how I healed from the depression. After 3 months it finally all came together and with full awareness I saw the truth, no mind, no body, no time, and nothing but love for all things emanating from every fiber of existence. Waves of this came back over the next 2 weeks. Having no tradition and having gotten here purely through mental experimentation and psychological exploration I had no idea what happened. So craving began and I kept wanting that experience back. With no answers I eventually began thinking I had lost my mind, it was all in my head, and maybe I was just bipolar or had schizophrenia. So the day before I decided to commit myself for psychiatric evaluation and possibly end up on medication I met this interesting fellow. We randomly ended up sharing our hearts and souls with each other and when I finished telling him about my experience he highly recommended I do two things. Look up MCTB and check out a Goenka retreat. When I saw the stages it literally explained everything I had gone through but at the time thought my experience of path and fruition was A&P and was currently in the Dark Night. So that night I signed up for a retreat. A few months later I went on retreat and the 2nd to last sit of the retreat it all came together and I felt "ah everything I've been working on is finished" and that's when I realized i was in the stage of review. Then I got overly comfortable and stopped practicing. My friends who had seen some wild changes in me over the course of these 9 months were all wondering what was happening so I finally came to tell one of them everything. After 3 hours of explaining (it's a much longer story I've often thought to write a book about) he looked at me and said "but you stopped practicing?! Something traumatic will happen again to throw you right back on track" I didn't believe him at the time but lo and behold less than 12 hours later I was in a coma with... you guessed it... a severe traumatic brain injury. I healed incredibly quickly, many docs said it was a miracle, and ended up going right back to college less than 6 months later. Now after this head injury I had to peice back together what my life was. It felt like I was this foreign mind and body with just memories of the past to put things in order. So I'd say I did quite well at putting my life in order. However I did quite poorly at understanding what my "spiritual life" is. I created this big story that I needed to reach path and fruition again through meditation and if it doesn't arise with the same monumental clarity of experience and immense love for every single thing in the sensory world then it wasn't truly it. With this in mind I continued practice and settled for at least 2 hours a day and when I was on break from college bumped it up to 5-7 and went on a Goenka retreat every summer. Now it's been almost 4 years since my injury. Since then I've done 3 Goenka retreats and am currently in Burma/Thailand on a tour of meditation retreats. I did 28 days at panditarama forest center, took a week break and just finished 21 days at chom tong. What I originally thought was that I recovered in year 1, moved through to a&p in the next 6 months and have been in the Dark Night for two and a half years because I hadn't experienced a moment of pure clarity and awareness like the first time. It has been filled with so much suffering and craving for a reconstructed memory of what 2nd path aught to look like and how I just wasn't getting there. Then I felt like I had cleared the Dark Night in panditarama and was in Equanimity in chom tong trying to get to 2nd path. Now the chom tong retreat had this wild way of pulling out all illusions of what "my spiritual life" is and has made it much clearer. 
In the 4 years after the injury there have been some experiences that are now seeming to be more than what I once thought they were. On 4 separate occasions of experienced these blips of consciousness and this immense feeling that I've gotten reacquainted with the truth of all things has arisen. Once in daily life while what i thought was napping, twice at panditarama, and on many occasions at chom tong (although only once where I felt like I had gotten reacquainted with the truth). Because I've written off all of this stuff as nothing special cause it wasn't like first path there may be more. I've written it off with the illusion that I'm not quite there and that more work needs to be done.
 Now finally comes my question. Have I been going through paths and fruitions and cycling in each of these cases but not seen it because of the reconstructed illusion post-injury of what it aught to look like or am I in fact still a stream enterer? Have I just been convincing myself that I'm in the Dark Night based on this illusion and creating suffering for myself? Have I given up dating, physical fitness, a social life, and many friends during my undergrad years because of an illusion? Where am I currently? Is this possibly sokadagami or anamagi stuff? What the hell is happening? Also I was planning to take another week off and then do another 21 day at chom tong to continue pulling out these crazy illusions before the summer ends and I start graduate school up in august where I'll get quite busy. So I'm not too sure what the plan is just yet but your opinions on my question would be much appreciated.

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 2:08 PM as a reply to Ra K.
Hey there! I've got to be brief as I'm working right now, but I do have a few questions that may help us get some idea on where you're at.

Specifically what criteria are you using to suggest the path you could be on? Is it any particular set of experiences or a permanent shift in perception? Can you describe these in detail?

How often do you meditate, and what sort of things do you look for?

Your original experience certainly sounds like an A&P event, and I've no doubt you got a good glimpse of suffering. To what depth of reality does suffering mean to you experientially? Life events, your senses? It's a hard question to word correctly as your take on things may be different than my own.

There's a chance your brain injury could have shifted your perceptions in ways that can be associated with the process of awakening, so there's a chance it could also be confusing your progress, but it will be very hard for other people to tell.

Generally, moving through the paths requires a progressively full acceptance of the here and now, before mental spin is put into the equation. 

I don't believe that you have suggested anything yet that can give clear pointers that stream entry has been attained, though this doesn't mean it hasn't of course! Look forward to your reply.

Welcome by the way emoticon

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 2:47 PM as a reply to Dom Stone.
So the first time around I remember A&P distinctly which happened 3 days after the breakup as separate from seeing the path and fruit. 3 days after the worst thing of my life to that point it was like all of a sudden I was floating on clouds and was happier than ever but then after a few days I came down from that and the Dark Night began until the path showed itself 3 months later. I have no doubt in my mind based on a wild perceptual shift and a complete change in the way I go about all aspects of life in that it was stream entry. I understand that many people confuse the two but im certain I've got this part right.    
 

 Now that was almost 5 years ago, old news. What I've been using as a marker (incorrectly I think) to determine where I'm at is this one event of seeing the path the first time. As long as I don't see the absolute truth in a way that cannot be described in words and love in all things with such immense clarity stillness and calm that changed every component of my life just as it had happened the first time then I must still be stuck in the Dark Night after stream entry. However, since I've had this idea stuck in my head it has clouded over everything that's happening on its own naturally. I can say that I haven't even bothered to notice if there have been shifts in perception just because I know our state of perception shifts constantly.

For 2 years I meditated at least 2 hours daily and try and be aware throughout the day. When on break from or school or during the summers I'd bump it up to 5-7 hours a day and go on retreat once a year. The past year I changed the daily meditation to 3-5 hours every day and tried noting throughout the day. And what I look to see varies. On the 28 day panditarama retreat it was the 3 Cs mainly and I reached points where I could see how everything that passed through awareness contained them for 5-6 hours at a time. And then definitely got to Equanimity on day 22 when I realized how beautiful the present moment is and the shifting from fear, sadness, anger, desire for results and reobservation stopped or at least wasn't a big deal. 

i guess my my main question is if one doesn't understand much about the maps and the only marker of progress used is the experience of stream entry could I have been moving right along without actually knowing it. Is it possible to have seen paths and fruitions without actually recognizing it as such because of a lack of understanding the stages correctly?

also since I haven't looked to measure progress by way of looking at acceptance of all things I can't set difinitive markers but it has become far far more accepting than it was 4 years ago after stream entry and the head injury. And in regards to dhukka it's very clear that it's not all things that cause suffering but rather our identification with the mind and body in some way that causes it or following the idea of liking and disliking.
Sorry this last part is messy

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 3:55 PM as a reply to Ra K.
Ok, sounds like it could indeed bee stream entry. When you've had both A&P and SE, the difference between the two is obvious.

After stream entry, any dark night you will have had should be easy to deal with and comparatively superficial. It's possible you may have gone through the dark night for the next path, but pushing through any A&P takes a lot of momentum, so it would probably have been during your meditation practice rather than just happening by accident.

A truely deep insight can be very difficult to ignore, as it can collapse existing structures (think of the dark night). It would change what you define as "you".

Read Dreamwalkers "A Framework of awakening" as it shows his findings on the effects path moments have on the identification of self. I think you'd definitely notice a difference halfway through second path due to the way we perceive the senses.

2nd path however is quite similar to 1st in terms of models and the techniques required to achieve.

I don't feel qualified to answer this one, but hopefully somebody else can continue this on! 

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 6:49 PM as a reply to Dom Stone.
Thanks so much for your input! And I know I'm not able to provide many descriptions which makes it challenging. I'm asking for answers on things spanning 4 years that I was largely unaware were going on due to my own personal (flawed) story line of what was happening. 

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 7:00 PM as a reply to Ra K.
And it also may be hard to answer these questions when stages on the path may have easily gotten muddled up with stages of recovery from the head injury. When it comes to changes in perception about what I define as "I" I don't want to jump to conclusions but I've gotten fairly used to them changing quite often. I just never thought much of it and assumed it was just me better understanding non-self in what I thought was a 2.5 year Dark Night 

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 7:32 PM as a reply to Ra K.
Also I think a good description of each of those blips I mentioned earlier would be one I had at panditarama. I looked at the clock and it 10 min till the hour. Then all of a sudden I look back while sitting at it was on the hour and I had no idea where the mind went. I checked in with the body and my spine was straight and I realized that I had seen the truth of all things again (although it felt like it was from a distance compared to that first stream entry which I've been using as my only marker). It was like a dream but the place the awareness had gone was not the dream it was this world I'm currently in that was in fact the dream state. Then all was calm and motivation to meditate decreased a lot. Things like this have actually happened quite a bit over the past few years that I've almost become numb to it because it didn't fit my criteria of what path aught to look like. 

also looking back I can think of one time specifically a couple years ago where there was a very big pronounced shift in daily life after about a month of self retreat during winter break. But again I wrote it off as nothing and I've become numb to things like this because it didn't contain the same intensity as stream entry.

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 10:45 PM as a reply to Ra K.
Thank you for sharing your interesting stroy Raneem. I was also propelled into meditation around 5 years ago and have also been to Chom Thong and Panditarama, Lumbini.

Speaking of fruitions, I think the last day of the Chom Thong retreat, they intentionally try to cultivate longer fruitions like 5 mins, 10 mins etc. Did you have any fruition experiences during the Chom Thong Retreat?

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/23/17 11:04 PM as a reply to Mettafore.
These blackouts actually happened quite frequently before the last day. I tried explaining it to the teacher but didn't know how to explain that it felt like the awareness had cut out and mind and body kept meditating. Then followed by an intense feeling of calmness and stillness. I myself didn't know what it was and interpreted it as just the mind giving itself a break. This happened maybe a couple times a day for most of the retreat. But it wasn't till the last day where I was using the counter every time the body jolted did I realize I was actually fully awake because I'd look down at the end of the sit after having been blacked out for most of the time and there'd be a number on the counter when I didn't even remember doing it. As for the last day there was another blackout that was followed by such powerful metta. And then the blackouts stopped coming up and it became more of the mind craving this mentally created idea of progress until finally I reached a point where I thought "why crave this idea, it's just an idea and it clicked that what I thought was progress for so long was completely misunderstood and I realized that I don't need it because this moment is fine just as it is. Then for the first time in a bit I actually fell asleep while meditating. (Like I literally fell... bounced my forehead off the ground and shot back up) Now I'm on day 2 post retreat and the dust is settling and it's all becoming clearer that this whole time the cycles have been happening on their own for some time now. But due to this mentally created idea of what progress should be post-injury I have been misinterpreting everything that's happening.

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/24/17 12:51 AM as a reply to Mettafore.
Wait were all those little blackout blips actually paths and fruitions arising and passing away and could that have actually been the conclusion of 3rd path? Idk if that's how it works, as you can see I'm not too well read on the maps lol

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/24/17 3:02 AM as a reply to Ra K.
Yo Raneem I think I can help with your current location or at least I can refer you to those who can.  There is a group in Seattle that includes myself, DreamWalker & several other DhO users.  You have to realize there are two main axes of development: perceptual & integration.  One involves attentional exercises & the other involves therapy.  RE the attentional exercises it will be all about getting to a figure-ground reversal in perception.  Lots of people talk about feelings of "doneness" or "completion" but really they have only completed one element of the perceptual polygon.  There are many others to figure out as well.  RE the therapy stuff, it is all about loading the mind with postivity to create space, than using that space to analyze, than using those epiphanies to clear the mind of hindrances, than using that emptiness to juxtapose behavior against, than using those proper behaviors to fulfill the 8fold path.

If you'd like to chat with us please email - seattlespuds@gmail.com.  

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/24/17 4:25 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Woah that really struck a chord. Since the end of the retreat this figure ground reversal seems so clear and I have felt done in a way. Or at least a huge perceptual shift. It's seemed since the end what needs to be done is integrate. I was actually just thinking how to go about that and was just discussing how with a friend. Maybe yoga, hiking/camping, more metta. Idk if that's on par with what you're talking about but Id definitely like to chat more with you guys and will contact you in the near future.

thanks!

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/26/17 1:43 AM as a reply to Ra K.
Hi Raneem,

What Noah says is spot on. Integration and cultivating wholesome states is a must; especially to balance the path factors. I wish I had heeded this kind of information years ago, instead of going on almost a dozen retreats and two major dark nights.

In my experience a daily Metta practice has been extremely beneficial in somewhat turning my life around. Higly recommended!

RE: Somewhere between stream entry and anamagi lol
Answer
6/26/17 9:35 AM as a reply to Mettafore.
That's definitely something I'm going to play around with. I've also been noticing such conflict between things like awareness, thoughts, emotions, and body. It's like that's where a lot of these struggles are coming from. So that's something else I'll also be exploring