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The Middle Paths (2nd and 3rd)

Another third path thread

Another third path thread
8/9/17 12:51 AM
Hey everyone,

I believe I reached MCTB second path a little over a month ago, and now have some things going on that seem to me to line up with the journey to third path. But I also have a number of questions/uncertainties. I am hoping to sort of just put my experience out here, along with a few questions, and if anyone feels inclined to comment with pointers, their own experience relative to mine, or whatever - I would love to hear your thoughts as I am sure it would help me out

This is fairly long - questions are at the bottom if easier to skip to those. Thanks for reading
To start with my second path experience, I believe I got stream entry after about 4.5 months of practice. I proceeded with second path in essentially the same way as I did for first, much as Daniel describes. It proceeded more quickly this time as I didn't get as bogged down in DN (although it was no fun) because I had learned to surrender from first path. So after a couple months, I was again reaching new equanimity territory. 

The fruition came in an interesting way. I was at the gym between sets, noting as I generally do, and had a thought that the cycles are states->states are empty->the cycles are empty-> there is no actual self to whom the cycles are occurring. This felt like an insight, and also like a bit of self I had previously failed to debunk. Had a moment of calm, then everything quickly blinked out...very much when I least expected it. Wasn't positive what had happened until the bliss waves hit, and they hit pretty hard. As well as that sense of completion. 

So first of all, I had read little about third path prior to this. So when I went back to MCTB and read Daniel's description that the journey from second to third is partially characterized by a moving beyond the cycles, it made a lot of sense given my experience (Note I am not suggesting I actually attained third path, I was just struck by the fact that it seemed like a very fitting entry to third). Following the fruition, some changes became clear. Pleasantly, my mental chatter quieted down quite a bit. My perception became more spacious and panoramic (this snuck up on me as I had not really been looking for it - I was folding clothes and putting them in a suitcase and noticed that my hands had the feeling of just being part of the visual field out there doing the folding on their own, much diminished sense of ownership). I also began to experience a greater degree of surrender and peace moment to moment - for example, I work a pretty high-stress, long hour job which has always had the capacity to make me very angry very quickly. Suddenly I wasn't getting angry at things that would have previously thrown me into a couple hours of mentally cursing all my bosses and fantasizing about quitting. I also got a real concentration boost, very suddenly. I have always felt pretty bad at anapanasati, but I seemed to get much better at it overnight (still no master by any means). 

And importantly, some perceptual changes, which will bring me into my current experience and questions. So here is where I'm at:

- first of all, despite the cool and complex perceptual changes, I have a continually growing conviction that this whole thing, at its core, is about deeper and deeper layers of surrender to the moment. Enlightenment seems like reality's great trick question - you can seek enlightenment as hard as you want, but you'll never find it until you ultimately stop seeking (I dont mean stop practicing however). This may be off base, but it is resonating with me these days

- prior to this fruition, descriptions of empty luminosity didn't make much sense to me. After, they suddenly did. Visually for example, I now get the sense that everything I see is not really there, even though it is appearing. I cannot find anything to it other than the fact that it is known

- on the panoramic front, noticing that any sense of effort, trying to focus, looking, listening, etc are just more sensations and are actually distortions of the field of awareness. I feel as if I am seeing the mind cut up the field into different objects in real time, and realizing that it is actually less work to just open to the field and let it be one, as it is. Seeing that awareness requires no effort. In fact, it is starting to sometimes feel like its impossible to actually do anything anyway

- along the same lines, noticing that these focus, effort, attention sensations all occur within awareness, are part of the field itself and are not self. It has the feeling of moving the vantage point a step further back, like anchoring in a wide open, empty space that contains all sensations.  When this hits, experience become quiet, spacious, and everything has a sense of just running on its own out there - very diminished sense of watcher and doer

- during these times, it becomes apparent that there is much less "grasping" at sensations. That seems to be what allows the sense of everything running on its own. When the grasping returns, the grasping sensations seem to be sensations at the infamous "center". Finally this idea of a center is making very real sense to me. And so I am also working on noticing the 3C's of these sensations, as well as that they too, occur within the broader field of awareness

So that's where I am. I have now read most of the third path threads, especially dreamwalkers framework to awakening section on third. Some questions:

- why is third said to be all about concentration? As I mentioned above, I haven't actively developed this very well

- I have been playing with fire kasina. I am thinking about dedicating my formal sits to this, as it seems an easy technique to boost concentration (easier for me at least), and then spending all my off-cushion time investigating the things above. Good idea? Bad idea?

- is there no longer a place for just really getting after it with noting as comprehensively and quickly as possible all day? That is what has taken me this far

- finally, just any thoughts or pointers on things to investigate, if i am on the right track, etc. I find that seemingly small advice can be very helpful, so would love to hear any thoughts

RE: Another third path thread
8/9/17 2:43 AM as a reply to Chris.
Hey everyone,

I believe I reached MCTB second path a little over a month ago,

Chris, could you please for the sake of everything that is good & holy increase the size of the font you posted in?

With metta and bad eyesight, emoticon 


RE: Another third path thread
8/9/17 6:01 AM as a reply to Chris.
Enlightenment is basically "getting out of your own way" in many subtle ways. By subtle, I mean it isn't intellectual. Enlightenment doesn't mean we have better thoughts about what to do. It means the sensing body/mind has a lot less built-in assumptions and psychological self-protection mechanisms to what is experienced. (It also means that it is going to be hard to explain and very personalized beyond general maps.)

Second path is very much: nanas occur in experience just like everything else, I can see how in a real sense they aren't special. They don't really trap me like they did before. 

The road to third path is mostly about seeing the emptiness of perception: noticing dependent origination, noticing very subtle investigation of vedanā. Practices like 6 Realms helps with dependent origination. Practices like 5 Elements can help with subtle vendana. Usually it has a little bit of "dark night" feeling, because certainity and solidity of self and world keep getting questioned. It's also very freeing and a lot of joy in the normal aspects of having a life can come back, all the stuff that we put aside when we got deeply into practice. 

Concentration practice can help because they allow you to see "pure" bandwidths of mind. Space, consciousness, subtle mind process. It can be a decision to focus on concentration practices or you can just let the mind drop into concentration when it wants. Chances are all the formless realms will be experienced one way or another if you do regular sitting practice and retreats. 

In general, noting is a little too narrow of a focus for third. It's more about "the whole field of perception at one time." It's more about the question: "where do experiences come from? where to they stay? where do they go?" as applied to the field of perception in real time.

Play around and have fun. By now you should have some confidence that the mind knows where to go, the mind knows how to find subtle "inadequateness" and investigate it, the mind knows how to rest on an mind/body object and let it naturally release. 

Best wishes!

RE: Another third path thread
8/9/17 6:10 AM as a reply to Chris.
If you've got a technique you are comfortable with, that works for you, and has got you this far - I say stick with it until you have a reason not to.

Edit: posted this at the same time as Shargrol, didn't intend it to be seen as a disagreement with that post, it is excellent advice. However I would add that from a pragmatic keeping-it-simple point of view, noting may get you all the way to third, and there is no harm in just sticking with what works until it stops working. And there may be value in seeing if you run into a wall with your current practice, and only then trying to figure out what the wall is composed of.

RE: Another third path thread
8/9/17 6:11 PM as a reply to Adam.
No worries Adam, I think you are giving solid advice.