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Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana

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First off, a hello and a massive thank you to everyone on here, been lurking on this forum for the better part of a year and it has had a tremendous influence on my life. I am filled with gratitude that such a place exists.

So the deal is I've been stuck in equanimity for well over a month now, and despite meditating every day 3-5 plus hours I don't seem to be getting anywhere or making any progress and essentially I'm wondering if there's something I'm missing or perhaps doing wrong.

A little bit of background: I did a 10 day Goenka retreat around 7 years ago with basically no prior meditation experience, followed the instructions to a T and had a spectactular A&P which triggered a massive energy release that I was totally unprepared for. That, combined with entering the DN, really messed up my life for a while. I had no idea any of those things were possible of course, and I thought that there was something wrong with me, and nearly went to a psych hospital as basically it felt like a supercharged bad trip around the clock for a week following the retreat. No psychotic delusions just an unbearable amount of energy coursing through me, feeling like it was tearing me apart. Somehow, I managed to stuff it all down and return to some kind of normalcy.

Though I'd had depression before then, I struggled with it worse than ever over the years, and after trying everything somehow I chanced upon MCTB sometime early last year. That was the first time I heard about the insight stages, and I was amazed that my experiences at the retreat was so perfectly described, despite all the other things I'd read and heard about meditation. I was also very struck by Daniel saying very explicitly that once someone crosses the A&P they are bound to cycle through the DN indefinitely until they complete the first progress of insight.

I was afraid to meditate, feeling it wasn't "safe" for me given how the kundalini or whatever had messed me up so badly before, but after trying everything else to deal with my depression and reading MCTB I felt fairly convinced that really I had "insight disease," having had profound insight into impermanence and the illusory nature of the self, without seeing that process through and kind of being stuck there. So I finally started meditating again around 7 or 8 months ago, starting with just concentration meditation and 30 min or so, eventually working my way up to multiple hour sits a day doing concentration.

Going more slowly this way, I managed to successfully go through the energy releases (it felt like it had been pent up there in my gut still this whole time) and weird "purifications" that I now know are likely to be a part of the process. Eventually things felt stable and normal enough to start doing vipassana, and I soon entered the DN in sitting practice, which was much more manageable off retreat though it did take longer to get through.

I hit what I'm fairly certain is Re-Observation a month and a half ago, where I had the most severe depression I'd had in a very long time, I became convinced that this meditation stuff wasn't working, felt very stuck and couldn't go forward or back etc, but kept sitting because I simply didn't know what else to do. Thankfully that lasted lest than a week and I had a pretty profound experience when it finally passed. I was just relaxing on the couch and I had a spontaneous feeling of release, started meditating, and realized that although a lot of that stuff was still there it wasn't happening "to me." A strong feeling that things were just happening, and weren't happening "to me," persisted for several days and it was so obvious and clear off the cushion that initially I thought I might have hit stream entry. However those feelings subsided, and in my sits I realized I was in new territory, and that it was probably equanimity.

Since then both on and off cushion has been marked by a pervading calm and feeling of okay-ness for the most part. I only drifted back into Re-ob once. But I no longer feel like I'm progressing. I seem to be getting to the same place in my sits over and over again - everything is vibrating, everything is diffuse, everything is okay, and that's about it. I can perceive thoughts as objects without too much difficulty, and have had a number of sits where it seemed I was even watching things like intention and attention do their thing "on their own." It seems like I'm able to disembed a sense of ownership from pretty much everything in my experience. Most of the time I get to a place where noting or any kind of wanting to investigate or do anything just introduces tension and is undesirable, and I'm kind of just being aware of everything. It's peaceful and like I said pretty okay, but I don't really want to hang out here forever. No desire to drift back into the dark night and also I can't maintain this time commitment to sitting indefinitely.

I definitely initially got overexcited about the very real possibility of SE and was striving too hard, really pushed myself to sit more and more, and got a little burnt out. Tried relaxing more, scaling things back, felt like I was making progress again, started pushing again, burnt out again. Feeling a little burnt out at the moment actually, going to try taking a day or two off sitting. I felt like I was getting further along a couple weeks ago, glimpses into what I thought was high equanimity, where the whole field of awareness seemed to be flickering after a period where things were kinda strange and daydreamy. But I don't seem to be able currently to get back there, and though things consistently get diffuse and vibratory everything just feels very "normal" for the most part.

If anyone has any tips or suggestions as to how to proceed it would be greatly appreciated. I've seen other similar posts about people being stuck in equanimity and it seems the general advice is to just relax and keep going and it will happen on its own, but I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I don't have a teacher or really talk about my practice with anyone at all so I thought I'd try asking around here. Thanks!

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
6/24/17 3:23 PM as a reply to Rob K.
I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing anything

When you're in a state of strong equanimity, try using this questioning, investigating attitude. Effort can take you a long way, but it takes something a little different to take the final leap. Is there subtle frustration? Is there some tension required to maintain the concentration? Is there still suffering in equanimity? Try just sitting with these questions and dissatisfactions, fully feeling them rather than pushing for an answer.

Also, it's good to balance your hard work on the cushion with moving your body. For example doing an hour of mindful walking or cleaning in between sits.

It does usually takes a bit of trial and error, but it sounds like you're on the right track. Good luck!

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
6/24/17 3:53 PM as a reply to Rob K.
Welcome, Rob! emoticon

First of all, your practice is great by how you describe it. Don't get hooked too much on the idea of "getting" SE. I think it is important that you keep up with what you are doing pretty much the way you are doing it without making drastic changes. It will happen sooner or later, just have faith in it: Awakening is an accident, practice makes you accident-prone! ;) 

Some thoughts / tips:

1) You talk about noticing several things in your practice that I would say belong more to a higher path than before-SE. I am not saying you are after SE, but I am saying that the quality of your practice is good enough that you should, once again, not worry too much about "getting" SE. (If you don't "have" it already.)

2) Assuming you are in EQ, of whatever path you are in, the balance between effort and surrender is tricky. From what you describe, you definitely sound like you are erring on the side of too much effort, as you seem to be well aware of. I want to make one thing sure: How do you scale back? Are you talking about reducing the time sitting per day/week? For me, the trick is to scale back within each sit! Push the effort as much as possible until you get into EQ, and then reduce the effort and surrender to the process. You may need to turn effort back on if you wander into dreamy 4th-jhana like territory, but if the practice is solidly self-sustaining, surrender to the process is the key.

3) Remember that we get cessations/fruitions through one of three doors (or a combination thereof). Simplify your practice to the bare essentials of one of the three doors and see how what happens. For example:

Impermanence: How every single "blip" ends "within itself". How the next "blip", even if it seems to be from the same sensation, is actually an entirely different sensation entirely. Every single sensation is gone forever the moment you experience it.

No-self 1No sensation can experience another sensation. Try to see this in real time, picking a couple prominent kinds of sensations, one more selfy and one less selfy, and see what it is like when attention bounces back and forth between one and the other one.

No-self 2: Let your attention bounce around sensations choicelessly, and notice how every single sensation is not "you", since it is a sensation. If there is something that looks like "you", it is a sensation, so it cannot be you. Also, did I mention how no sensation can experience another sensation? emoticon

(Dukkha: My technique for this is a bit tricky, and I am not sure it is very good for others. It involves passing through the 7th jhana aspect of EQ and doing some stuff there. Maybe someone can give better pointers.)

So putting together (1) and (2) and (3). Start with one characteristic that resonates with you. Focus your whole sit on that one characteristic. Increase the effort until that characteristic starts to feel prominent and you think you are in Equanimity. Then let go of the pilot stick and let the meditation drive itself. If you don't get SE this time, you will be learning to let your awareness and mindfulness tune into one of the 3C without intentional effort, which will make spontaneous events of mindfulness more likely, frequent and powerful in your everyday life.

Best of luck! emoticon

And keep us updated! emoticon 

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
6/24/17 5:23 PM as a reply to neko.
Thank both of you for the responses! It's kind of a relief to finally communicate with someone about this stuff, ha.

That sounds like a great plan Neko. I've been trying to keep the 3 C's in mind during sits but it's been somewhat loose, and generally I switch between trying to notice no-self and trying to notice impermanence a number of times per sit. Trying to focus on one at a time for the duration of the sit sounds like a more fruitful approach. As far as scaling back goes I was thinking mostly of reducing frequency and possibly duration of sits, as I feel I have been doing better at letting go of effort once I get into equanimity, though I could probably stand to let go more. I definitely was craving a cessation and SE in general for a little while but the futility of trying to "get there" whilst being fueled by a craving has set in and I think I'm a bit more even-keeled around that, or at least it has diminished in intensity somewhat. I imagine it will probably eventually progress on its own, much like the sudden passing out of Re-Ob.

I'm going to take the rest of the weekend off to try and allow my energy to recharge a bit and then will gently resume formal practice early this week, will update this thread as things develop.

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
1/6/18 11:30 AM as a reply to Rob K.
Thank you for this thread -- I am in a similar experience.

It seems I encountered my first fruition a little less than 2 weeks ago.  This came unexpectedly and shortly after fully acknowledging I was in the midst of a dark night and resolving to practice with intention until the completion of 1st path.

Since then, I've had no more fruitions during my regular sits (though perhaps a few fruitions during sleep).  My sits seem defined by either too much effort (and even overt craving for fruition) or too little awareness (in which I slip into 4-7th type samatha states).  This is compounded by doubts about whether 1st path was completed, as I am well aware what MCTB says about the frequency and natural occurence of fruition, post-path.  Nonetheless, the fruition experience meets the MCTB definition and was clearly distinct from the 'click into EQ' and the 'energy-laced A&P'.  Even if it was not fruition, I'm resolute in continuing to practice to fully understand the true nature of reality.

The suggestions here have already been helpful -- I'd just ask if others have any further guidance at this stage.

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
1/6/18 1:04 PM as a reply to Puente.
This is compounded by doubts about whether 1st path was completed, as I am well aware what MCTB says about the frequency and natural occurence of fruition, post-path.  Nonetheless, the fruition experience meets the MCTB definition and was clearly distinct from the 'click into EQ' and the 'energy-laced A&P'.  Even if it was not fruition, I'm resolute in continuing to practice to fully understand the true nature of reality.

Can you describe your fruition for us Michael? If you want clarity in feedback that would help...

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
1/6/18 1:39 PM as a reply to Puente.
Michael:
...
It seems I encountered my first fruition a little less than 2 weeks ago.  This came unexpectedly and shortly after fully acknowledging I was in the midst of a dark night and resolving to practice with intention until the completion of 1st path.
....
The suggestions here have already been helpful -- I'd just ask if others have any further guidance at this stage.


IMHO, random, crazy, interesting, motivational, mysterious, poignant events mean you're doing something right.

The best interpretation of that stuff comes in the context of an ongoing practice thread of your own where you are sharing some amount of your:
  1. goals
  2. values
  3. plans
  4. practice methods
  5. experiences on and off the cushion
  6. etc
and how that stuff is changing over time.  Practice well Michael!

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
1/6/18 7:17 PM as a reply to Rob K.
That's because EQ is a brick wall. There's nothing after it!

A big part of hitting fruition is allowing yourself to be done. I've heard it said that what happens in the stages is that the frontal lobe drums up all this effort to discern things clearly, then at the moment of fruition, it steps out of the way so that root programs can be rebooted. This seems true to my experience.

So next time you're nice and snug in EQ, just take a few moments to allow yourself to be done. You might feel a build-up; just relax into it, letting attention skip over the water while graciously accepting whatever processes will unfold. You'd be surprised how much of it comes down to attitude. If this doesn't work the first time, no sweat, just let it go and resume concentration/mindfulness. Sooner or later the opportunity will present itself again to "fall away".

Remember, fruition is not someone outside of the mindstream (either the dharma community, or you yourself) enacting a reprogramming of the mind, but literally something the mind does to itself. That's what's so amazing about it: it's universal, no one owns it. So your job in the critical moment is just to trust the mind and, in this way, step out of your own way.

Best of luck to you.

RE: Feel like I'm hitting a brick wall with the equanimity nana
Answer
1/9/18 10:09 PM as a reply to Rob K.
Rob K:
So I finally started meditating again around 7 or 8 months ago, starting with just concentration meditation and 30 min or so, eventually working my way up to multiple hour sits a day doing concentration.
Perhaps you desribe what you consider "meditation"


1) One month of EQ is not "stuck" I spent 8 months bouncing between re-obs and EQ before path.
2) Have you trained the mind to continue to investigate on its own while in EQ? Practice gets this to become automatic
3) Letting go in high EQ while things present themselves is a good place to be, then dreamy letting go.
4) Start every meditation by asking for help to get to SE. Higher self, subconscious, diety etc.

If you think you may have missed something, dont worry, the cycle will repeat again and again until you get it.
Good luck,
~D