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Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/16/17 4:20 AM
Hi, I would be grateful for some help diagnosing a massive experience I had this morning. Was it 2nd path? Or a glimpse of that? or an A&P experience?  Or something else?  I hope that by interpreting it correctly I can guide my practice better.

Background:  I had events that I diagnosed as stream entry about nine months ago. These were a bit similar to the core experience described below, but somehow more rounded, and related primarily to the sense of self, They were followed by quite a few cycles, fruitions, bliss waves etc. About a month ago I had a big A&P experience (a giant series of pulsating cosmically-oriented bliss waves), and on reflection recognise a mild dark night a couple of weeks later. I don't practice modern vipassana much, as for me progress seems to come from trying to follow the eightfold path and examining dhamma texts. I do a little flickering between fingers (third fingernails touching thumbs) and at one point last week I noticed the rate of this triple; also, recently, I once noted the mental objects appearing before the physical sensation, although as I say this is very minor and neglected part of my practice. I posted last week seeking help on 2nd path without modern vipassana and got some great advice on mindfulness off the mat (thanks Noah/Nikolia/T DC !). Last night I went for mindful rapid walking meditation. I had good meditation plus a sense of extreme clarity of vision and integration of the field of view (I have gotten this occasionally for 30 years).

Core Experience: This morning I woke up, briefly did some lying meditation, then decided to continue studying advice on second path. I came across Sri Ramana Maharshi's stuff on "Who am I" and halfway through (which is as far as I got) started to look behind my mental events to chase the "I'. After what seemed like less than a minute of this I pushed it into that sort of mental singularity, that undescribable contradiction, and physically shuddered and then had maybe a quarter eyeblink of discontinuity.  I thought "Was that fruition? Was that second path?" but felt it couldn't be because it seemed kind of too mild and incomplete.  But then the impact grew, and I sat there for about 30 minutes virtually catatonic as I experienced changed interactions with reality.  About halfway through I reopened my eyes, and found I was looking at the world in a totally different way - instead of having a single focus, I seemed to be focussing equally on about 6 or 8 or 10 things at once - it was NOT the extreme clarity of vision that I had the previous night, but something different. I had an incredible sense of integration with and simultaneous focus on the world.  

Parroting? Now maybe this is just me projecting things I have read onto my experiences, and parroting rather than really experiencing.  So here are some other aspects of the experience that I don't think I have read anywhere. The sense of self became even further attenuated, just about vanishing. Seeing my hands and body in the periphery of my vision, they just seemed like some other objects in the room rather than part of me. Extreme mindfulness became not just easy, but compulsory. I realised that, not only was I creating reality, but reality was creating me (I don't quite have the words here). I couldn't imagine how my current 'householder' life could have any relevance anymore, as the only thing I wanted to do was to sit and be mindful of reality / me / it.  I was now convinced this was second path, and it gave me some mild fear for the irreversible change and its impact on my loved ones.  After 30 minutes I got up and went to shave. I was doing everything super-mindfully (without trying to do so), and as I shaved I felt I could literally, and I do mean literally, feel every loop of the washcloth on my cheek, and the cutting of every stubble, and hear the rasp of each moment of those cuts. All my physical sensations felt incredibly ... actual.  I didn't want to look in a mirror and see myself as I thought that would be a wrong/discordant vision. I had a small amount of laughter and bliss, but also a small amount of a new feeling which was more chest based that I would call contented joy. It was primarly physical, but not like the thrill of piti - more grounded somehow.  I didn't want to talk at all.  And when I went to eat I found it really hard to put food in my mouth (not previously a problem for me!) because it seemed to violate my current reality.  I realised that much of the Buddha's advice refers not only to practice before insight, but also to the consequences of insight; I already knew this about generosity, but hadn't realised that it applied much more widely. I thought of my consciousness as like a candle that just illumuniated the room it happened to be in. I understood the benefits of seclusion (for mindful engagement with reality), and of forests (for the engagement offered by their complex reality).

After Effects. This compulsory super-mindfulness stayed very intense for another 2 to 3 hours, during which time interacting with my family was difficult. Then it steadily faded. If I could have stayed in seclusion I think it would have continued for longer.  I can still summon back the mindful broad awareness and associated joy, but it is attentuated, and it is easy to forget to be mindful. I have settled back into my 'householder' life and my mild sense of individuality. So now I am doubtful whether this was second path. I do have improved mindfulness and perception when I make the effort, and I seem to be using my reading glasses a little bit less. But now I am confused about what it all meant, and whether it was a temporary phenomena, or a changing experience, and how I should build on it.

So if any of you kind fellow meditators can give me some guidance, I would be really grateful. It was a really intense experience.

Thank you for reading, peace and happiness to you all.  


 

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/18/17 11:32 AM as a reply to curious.
Dear Malcolm,

this was a good experience that may be a precursor for more to come. Please be cautious of "building on it". That's exactly the desire of the ego illusion. ie the desire to solidify or reify an experience as a "thing". All experiences are transient.

The teachings of Buddha encourage us to directly percieve everything we experience as "me" to be not separate from transience. This has a disorienting effect and our whole being is recalibrated in the light of pure centerless or nonduality. It is as you say "to chase the I" which cannot be found.

My 2 cents is chalk it up as preview and extract empowerment from it that new possibilities exist. Reflect on the causes and conditions of nondual centerlessness and incline the mind to causation.

 Keep practicing and surrendering, everything is uncontrollable.

Love and peace to you.

-Thomas 

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/19/17 12:47 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thank you Thomas. That seems like wonderful advice on so many levels. There is a lot to digest but already I can say thank you for nudging me towards a more productive way of analysing this experience, and my own progress. 

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/19/17 11:23 PM as a reply to curious.
Just recording the next events, in case anybody wishes to offer guidance.

Trying to follow advice, walking meditation, seeking mindful awareness of the whole perceptual field, trying to encourage non-dual perception.  Sat down today and ran through the jhanas, followed by examining mind objects.  Seeking the "I" and starting to see the "self" as just mind objects reacting to each other - chasing each other around the head to give a chain of consequences that creates a sense of ongoing self.  Brief discontinuity and other events as before.

Then a new effect - a sense of the cutting off the old personality and associated attachments.  A bit like being 'born again' but flat and empty, not joyous. Recognition that residual karma/mental abilities/inclinations will continue to produce events in the mind in reaction to sense input, but this is not-self. Feeling that the old 'me' has now completely ceased and a strong desire for mindful sitting to continue indefintely, tempered by ethical problems with abandonment of life (or maybe better characterised as continued attachment to existing life). Choosing to repopulate 'self' with key attributes related to career function and loving kindess towards people close to me (and all people). Self again slowly reconsolidates and becomes similar to old me, but further attentuated. Currently have less drive, less interest, and things matter less. But this doesn't seem to affect task orientation or work efficiency at all, as these remain high.  After a few hours personality seems fairly well reestablished, but is not-self (at least for now).

Another possible diagnostic point.  Since last year the mind/head has been feeling empty in the middle.  Last week it got that empty/open feeling towards the front.  Today it consolidated a bit more towards the front sides.  But it still feels full at the sides and back. Have also been experiencing a mild feeling of pressure on top of the head for a week or two.

Will keep cultivating mindfulness and walking meditation, and occasional sitting and see what happens.  Any further advice gratefully received.  The effects are quite disconcerting, as Thomas warned, so 'I' am recoiling back a bit to my long-term attachments for security. Also occasionally having mild knowledge of fear.

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/21/17 1:58 PM as a reply to curious.
At this point I would kindly suggest investigating the sense of agency, doership, controller, engineer of physical movement, actions, decisions, and thoughts.

Keep noticing the minutia of second- by-second experience.

How does intention relate to agency?

Don't answer this intellectually.  

As Kenneth Folk says, "emphasize the (bare) experiential versus the narrative."

All is unfolding exactly in accordance with the law of causality.

Joyfully,

-Thomas

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
7/22/17 11:16 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Thank you Thomas.  Much appreciated.

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/30/17 9:44 PM as a reply to curious.
Hi again, I have a question, so I am posting it here in the 'what was that' thread rather than in the practice thread.

Background: I have been working on concentration and unifying the mind (using Culadasa) so that I can take better advantage of any future insight experiences. During this process I did get insight into emptiness by following the breath, but this was not the main aim. Mainly I want to get my shit together, so I don't get so seriously disoriented by another big insight experience when I dive back in. Also, my dharma study continues, and this week I watched Daniel's second interview with Robert Wright. This really appealed to me because I studied the British empiricists / idealists as an undergraduate - the mind as the theatre of perceptions and all that.

Issue:  Following Daniel's comments in the interview, today I found I could choose to perceive reality as being no different from my  mind. That is, the world and my mind are one and the same, and if I walk to a different room it just moving to different part of my mind. I have to concentrate to produce this feeling, it is a mild rather than overpowering experience, and there is no particular sense of insight or additional luminosity beyond broad mindful awareness of my surroundings.

Question:  Should I cultivate this perception of reality being all within the mind? I can see it is a form of non-duality, and maybe a pathway to more. But it is still clearly pretty delusional, because it involves "my" mind, and tends towards solipsism (i.e. denial of external reality). So it might be a dead end.

So can anyone advise whether seeing the world as indistinct from my mind (and vice versa) is skilful or harmful?

Peace and love.

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 6:51 AM as a reply to curious.
So can anyone advise whether seeing the world as indistinct from my mind (and vice versa) is skilful or harmful?

It would help to get a little more detail from you -- what does "seeing the world as indistinct from my mind" mean to you? How does that manifest when you observe? Where is "my mind" and where is "the world"? Is your mind generating the world or is the world generating your mind? Or... is something else going on entirely?

Hint: this is a necessary gate along the path.

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 2:13 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi Chris,

When I concentrate on this mode, I no longer feel that I am looking at/touching any external objects. Rather, I am just interacting with things that are within my own mind (including my body). The whole world is like this - walking into a room is like going around a corner in my mind - a distant building is just a distant part of my mind - other beings are just complex interesting parts of my mind - the idea of harming another being is the idea of harming myself. It is also hard to believe that somebody else would harm me.  (Although as I say these feelings are mild rather than overpowering.) Also, perceptions are quite bright, and even mundane objects seem pretty interesting.

So there is no difference between the world and my mind - they are the same thing.  It is not that one generates the other - rather they arise together, and are the same.

Somewhere in the middle there are two knots of self. One is the past accumlated perceptions and habits that interact with current perceptions. This seems to be partly untangled, as I see it as a densely complicated part of the world/my mind, rather than being essentially 'me'.

The other knot of self seems to arise from the intuition that there is still an unknowable external reality, separate from the observed world that is my mind. This seems like an unpleasant thought. I don't think I am ready to untangle this knot of perception yet. 

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 4:13 PM as a reply to curious.
Very nice! 

You asked if this was a "good" or "bad" development, and if you should continue to explore it. Why? Are you asking if others have it? If so, heck yes. Many. Or are you asking if it might have negative consequences of some sort? Heck no. It's something those who can't see wish they could - assuming they're meditation practitioners.

emoticon

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 5:07 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks Chris!  I will keep trying to mindfully strengthen this mode of perception/being then.  :-)

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 5:56 PM as a reply to curious.
An interesting thing to think about when seeing the world that way is possession and disastisfaction.  If you see the world and your mind as the same then do you own any of  it? have any responsibility for any of it?  Is there anything in it that is evil? Anything bad at all? 

I find the answer to all these - for me - to be no and that, for me, is a pretty relieving/freeing thing to know. 

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 7:58 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
Working on it!  I agree, the only truly bad things are unmindful negative reactions. But I expect it will take me a while yet to get my existing unskilful habitual reactions to fully subside.

On possesion - I think I see what you mean. You don't really possess any of it. Or you possess all of it. Or you are it. Possessions are as impermanent and impersonal as the weather.  There is a little way for me to go here. I'm not attached to objects any more; however, I am still attached to money as a means to security. I think this arises from a change into unexpected poverty when I was an adolescent.  I also have residual attachment to achievement, arising from years of fruitless attempts to use achievement to deal with dissatisfaction. So I still have some karma/programming to work through.

I guess I am still at an early stage. I hope to eventually fully internalise that there is nothing in the world to possess, and nothing in the world to be dissatisfied with, and these are instead just mental formations that are unsatisfactory and need not arise.

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
8/31/17 8:58 PM as a reply to curious.
I guess what I am saying is - when you are looking at things and seeing that they are your mind that has ramifications.  What is there to hang on to if it is all just mental formation? Why cant you just let go?  It isnt a question, just something to let sit in your mind while looking at things this way.  

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
9/1/17 7:11 AM as a reply to curious.
 I'm not attached to objects any more; however, I am still attached to money as a means to security.

I would challenge you to think about this and let it soak in for a bit: what is it about money that makes you feel as you described above? Further, what can you perceive or experience that is not an object?


RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
9/3/17 4:37 AM as a reply to curious.
Ok, thank you both again.  I am slowing learning to take the advice properly.  I sat for an hour today after a two day break, and took your advice on the last 20 minutes of the sit. I got insight into the issue - not quite the full insight experience, but parts of it followed by a strong sense of completion (to the point that I finished my sit early, for the first time ever), and had a mild review period.

So what I realised was that my residual attachment was not to 'material' things, but to mind objects that I had created for myself.  Worse, these mind objects were the intention/desire to achieve more.  So they could never be anything except unsatifactory.  I almost, but not quite, had insight into suffering from this. Certainly it was the closest I have got. I believe that I have previously had insight into no-self, emptiness, and non-duality, but not suffering or impermance, except on the mundane level.

My clinging to these mind objects now seems somewhat weakened, but I guess I'll see how that pans out. There is definitely more reduction of clinging needed, so I will keep interrogating these objects and look for ways to counter the craving. But it feels really good to understand where the resistance was coming from.

I also read the Sattipathana Sutta properly today, and I think I am ready to move to more consistently examining mind objects. I still don't feel quite ready to take on Thomas's advice to incline towards considering causation, as I think I have to purify mind and body more first.  I suspect there will be at least two steps here to work through (i) dependent origination within the five aggregates, and (ii) non-dual causation which will be the big deal. 

Meanwhile, I have making occassional minor progress on moving aural and visual awareness to the 'external' location of the sound.  Turns out traffic noise and lights from disco balls can be helpful!

Peace, love and gratitude.  You people are a gem. :-)

RE: Diagnosing non-dual experience
Answer
9/3/17 10:20 AM as a reply to curious.
Remembering that everything is actually fine just as it is helps me alot.  There is nothing I need to do or am responsible for.  The process going on in my mind is just unfolding and with out consequnce.  I  am free to relax and just enjoy it and that is the only rational thing to do.  

Thinking about this reduces the drama level for me when grappling with existential stuff.  Not sure if that would help you.!