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Approaching 2P
Answer
9/24/17 10:43 PM
So, being in high equanimity for second path, it's easy to ascend up the ñanas to 11.4.8, or up the jhanas to 8. But upon hitting post-8th territory, I only have two options: return to 8/11.4.8, or try to stay/solidify/deconstruct but end up getting kicked back down to high equanimity.

Progress is slow. It took a couple of hours to start getting booted only to 11.4.5 (or as I call it, "Space-Equanimity") instead of lower varieties of 11.4.

When I got stream entry it was during an interactive meditation with Vince Horn, so I didn't have to get myself through these last few tricky stages. I'm sort of at a loss here because the usual advice for high equanimity seems to be "oh but did you notice this? What about this? What about this?" And, yeah, that's perfect for the part before everything unifies into a fluxing field of not-selfy one-taste.... But once you're there, noticing diversity seems unhelpful. 

Stuff like thinking, attention, wanting path, not wanting to want path, secretly hoping to trick the mind into pathing, space in the body, space near the body, space "out there", whether or not such space feels different from the sensations that seem to be "me", discontinuities in the space, the fact that the center point no longer feels like a self, effort, non-effort, and many others, all effortlessly presenting just by the merest inclination toward mindfulness. (Yep, the inclination is part of the field too.) Yet... no pop. 

So, what now? Do I just out-stubborn the damn thing and keep cycling up into post-8th until I can hang out there long enough for something to happen? And do I do anything once there, or is post-8th that part I remember from last path where you quite distinctly have to not do things?

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/25/17 9:41 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
I have to chuckle, you're right there but you're so frustrated and using so much effort! emoticon  (I'm sure I've never done that! emoticonemoticonemoticon )

The name of the game is to relax and stay gently curious in High EQ and soak in it. When you are saturated with High EQ you'll probably drop into a weak EQ-like state which seems kind of normal. Relax and be gently curious there too. The popping could occur within High EQ, but it's more likely to occur during just a normal EQ-ish like state when nothing much is happening.

Yes, at various times you will be ported into formless jhanas. No big deal. If you use a lot of effort, looking to get a big POP, you might get ported into A&P again and have some fireworks. You might experience weak fruitions from the previous path. All no big deal. But what you are looking for is to lose your striving so that you collapse into a path fruition like falling into a black hole --- not shooting out into space like a rocket. Use less energy and effort. Cut that in half. Cut that in half. Really drop striving and just be there.

Focusing on the feeling of "ending" associated with the out breath can also help. Stay gently curious about the beginning of the next breath. End of breath. Rest. Curious. Ah next breath. End of breath. Rest. Curious, etc. 

It can help to remember that NO ONE can predict when a path fruition will occur. It is always a surprise. 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/25/17 1:55 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Shifts tend to occur for me when the I'm really soaking in mindfulness, like in retreat mode where you're using the majority of your effort each day to observe/investigate sensations. For example, you could try taking a long weekend to alternate sitting and walking meditation and doing chores mindfully. I find short semi-formal personal retreats very helpful for this.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/26/17 5:42 AM as a reply to Adam.
+1 My second path hit on a short (weekend or 4 day?) retreat. 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/26/17 6:11 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
J Adam G:
So, being in high equanimity for second path, it's easy to ascend up the ñanas to 11.4.8, or up the jhanas to 8. But upon hitting post-8th territory, I only have two options: return to 8/11.4.8, or try to stay/solidify/deconstruct but end up getting kicked back down to high equanimity.

Progress is slow. It took a couple of hours to start getting booted only to 11.4.5 (or as I call it, "Space-Equanimity") instead of lower varieties of 11.4.

When I got stream entry it was during an interactive meditation with Vince Horn, so I didn't have to get myself through these last few tricky stages. I'm sort of at a loss here because the usual advice for high equanimity seems to be "oh but did you notice this? What about this? What about this?" And, yeah, that's perfect for the part before everything unifies into a fluxing field of not-selfy one-taste.... But once you're there, noticing diversity seems unhelpful. 

Stuff like thinking, attention, wanting path, not wanting to want path, secretly hoping to trick the mind into pathing, space in the body, space near the body, space "out there", whether or not such space feels different from the sensations that seem to be "me", discontinuities in the space, the fact that the center point no longer feels like a self, effort, non-effort, and many others, all effortlessly presenting just by the merest inclination toward mindfulness. (Yep, the inclination is part of the field too.) Yet... no pop. 

So, what now? Do I just out-stubborn the damn thing and keep cycling up into post-8th until I can hang out there long enough for something to happen? And do I do anything once there, or is post-8th that part I remember from last path where you quite distinctly have to not do things?

So, what are you actually doing? What is your meditation like? What are you moment to moment focusing on? so your popping jhanas and nanas like a pro, so what? That doesn't tell me what you're looking at.
Second path is all about looking at your thoughts and the mental echo of knowing sensations. The actual sensations are not you, the overlay of identification that co-arise with thoughts and the mental knowing of sensations are not you. This needs to be seen/investigated/experienced.
Start from the beginning of the nanas, if you have that talent as you say, and methodically move thru each one with focus on your thoughts as the major focus. Your missing something along the way so backtrack and gently move thru them and see if you pick up an "ah ha" moment. Then just rest in high EQ when you get there and stop trying there. Let things get dreamy, let go completely....make sure you're really in high EQ when you do this.
Tell me what happens and what your thoughts are doing...
Good luck,
~D

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/26/17 1:20 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
I wrote a nice long post then got an error and now it's gone. So, long story short, thanks everyone! I'll drop the effort and controlling for now, even if that means lapsing into formless la la land. The control thing seems to just be a part of the mid to late equanimity territory for me, so I guess it's just the thing doing itself the way it naturally does. I'll save the effort for my job, at least for the time being.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
9/30/17 7:54 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Update: after plenty of backsliding over the week (totally expected due to the mentally exhausting nature of my job), I'm back in weekend retreat mode. 

I didn't mention this above - that first post was made at the end of a weekend vipassana retreat. There's no retreat this weekend but I cleared my schedule to do my own. 

4:30 pm Saturday, about 5 hours of meditation in so far. So far: Sitting, walking, sitting, walking, lying down wakefully, sitting, walking, sitting. My only timer is "butt hurts, time to walk" and "butt feels fine, back to the seat." 

(I need a softer cushion.)

Mind is flexible again, follows instructions once more. Can do jhanas reasonably well - but can't go deep enough in the formless realms to have the body go away. When trying, I get something more like e.g. Space-Equanimity instead of shamatha infinite space. Not particularly bothered by this anymore, after some initial disappointment the first few times I tried.

Mid-Equanimity territory. Thoughts are few and far between. They're still somewhat enmeshing, but the ongoing thread of mindfulness means excursions into mental storytelling usually run less than a minute. Often, the entire process of having a verbal thought is noticed with awareness. Also, mindfulness can creep back in mid-story and the train of thought can run for a while before petering out on its own, all with ongoing awareness.

Have nothing else to do until work Monday so now it's back to the cushion. 

---

7:45pm Sat.
it seems that what triggers strobing is noticing an interference pattern between sensations and attention. Ordinarily, they don't interfere - but holding attention just right, they do. I knew attention had to be just right in first path but couldn't tell why.

I've had a few experiences that felt like only the mental echoes of sensations were vibrating. Not the first time this has happened, but it's the first time seen with such clarity.

In the past I thought this was a placebo effect that came from convincing myself there were vibrations when there weren't, but now this is seen to be simply a specific type of sensation vibrating against a background of others that aren't vibrating.

This type of experience alternates with everything vibrating, and with nothing vibrating, and with the mid-equanimity "quick runs of vibration" stuff. But only if I intentionally lean toward the vipassana side of meditation. When balancing investigation with shamatha, it's more like a slowly flowing river than a strobe light. 

About to take a bath as mindfully as possible.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/1/17 4:31 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Ummm, exactly how far do you take this "no striving" thing? I'm either breaking new ground in the "doesn't feel like I'm meditating" part of equanimity... A part I was already pretty familiar with... Or I'm simply not meditating. 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/1/17 8:20 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
If you are aware of a sensation in this moment, then you are meditating. In other words, very very plain equanimity is fine. Seems like you can stay there for ever, but just try it and see what happens.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/1/17 10:40 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Stopped being aware of sensations in the moment. Had to go back to jhana gymnastics and vigorous investigation. Resumed insight and in fact got much deeper.

Effort was the *very last* thing to go before stream entry. Maybe it'll be that way this time too.

Makes sense. If you're going to coast to the finish line, you have to be close to it! 
Or, to put it another way: Yes, one has to get out of the boat to end a journey, but don't do it before reaching the shore!

Maybe it would be different on a month or 3-month retreat, but in general I don't have the attention span to coast for hours in effortlessness while also staying with the present moment. I can only coast about five minutes, and that's only when under the effects of an eighth jhana afterglow. You can see why I said effort was the final thing to drop last time. So the advice to spend all these hours in 4.3, well that's not really open to me in the setting of a weekend retreat. (I don't mean to sound unappreciative, of course - just trying to share more info about my practice.)

A few hours left, then I have to decide whether to call in sick tomorrow and keep this up for another day, or just let the rock roll back down the hill again until my next free weekend at the end of the month.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/2/17 6:13 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
How strange... I swear I saw my post show up, but now it's gone. I probably tapped delete or something...

Anyway, I just wanted to say that you did the experiement (no effort) and lasted 5 minutes, so that's great. The next step is to look at the thing that is causing you problems within 5 minutes. It's important to these kinds of experiments to see the self that turns up in the form of doubts, fear, concern, and certainty that you need to do something instead of sitting there. There is a lot of self right there in your aversion.

Getting second path is similar but more subtle that first. You need to notice all your thoughts about practice are mind objects arising on their own. Don't make the mistake of thinking some aspect of experience is off limits.

So in this case, a strong case of aversion arose. There were a bunch of thoughts that came up that said "i need three months to do it this way" and a bunch of thoughts came up about a strategy for getting something done more quickly. Actually from EQ to path is just a few seconds of time, so there is plenty of time. So where did all of this come from? What is the underlying fear sensation that made you try to take control of everything?

I hope these ideas are helpful in some way.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/2/17 11:55 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
How strange... I swear I saw my post show up, but now it's gone. I probably tapped delete or something...

Anyway, I just wanted to say that you did the experiement (no effort) and lasted 5 minutes, so that's great. The next step is to look at the thing that is causing you problems within 5 minutes. It's important to these kinds of experiments to see the self that turns up in the form of doubts, fear, concern, and certainty that you need to do something instead of sitting there. There is a lot of self right there in your aversion.

Getting second path is similar but more subtle that first. You need to notice all your thoughts about practice are mind objects arising on their own. Don't make the mistake of thinking some aspect of experience is off limits.

So in this case, a strong case of aversion arose. There were a bunch of thoughts that came up that said "i need three months to do it this way" and a bunch of thoughts came up about a strategy for getting something done more quickly. Actually from EQ to path is just a few seconds of time, so there is plenty of time. So where did all of this come from? What is the underlying fear sensation that made you try to take control of everything?

I hope these ideas are helpful in some way.

One aversive thought that arises is: if it only takes a moment, why drift for hours?

I mean, I'm all for drifting as a general principle. I love being relaxed, and if this were a different type of meditation practice or even perhaps a vacation, I'd be perfectly happy to let the mind space out and wander aimlessly without any sensation of actually meditating. I actually have a sadhana I do every day that includes the dedicated period of resting the mind in natural awareness, whatever that looks like in that moment, without controlling or efforting anything. It's great!

But, getting back to vipassana, has anyone here ever actually popped while wondering who to start at running back now that Ty Montgomery and Dalvin Cook are out for the season? (Actual thought process from Sunday's wandering.)

Part of what's bringing up concern for me is the conclusion that, while those forms of meditation and relaxation are awesome and I love them and practice them and want to practice them enough to bring more of that state into my life off the cushion, they don't cultivate the quick moment-to-moment noticing I associate with vipassana.

If this memory is right, then here's how stream entry happened. Through vipassana-ing, the noticing got so automatic and all-inclusive that it would continue for a few minutes even after dropping the vipassana-ing (i.e. intentional investigation). About a minute into one of those dreamy and spacey (but thoughtless) moments, the thing popped.

Now, before that, there were about 10-15 times of entering the dreamy spacey thoughtless state -- then after a few minutes, the noticing loses momentum. At the time, the idea seemed to be: Ok, something wasn't being included, so back to gently investigating, starting with what's happening right now. Once the automatic noticing is back on track, let go again.

So I totally believe you that it only takes a moment. In fact, expecting myself to stay with the dreamy spacey thoughtless state for five minutes is probably me being too much of a hardass. Thank you for helping me work through this, and also for pointing out the importance of taking a closer look into aversion and skeptical doubt. There's a definite tendency to buy into those thoughts because of thinking, "yeah I saw that thought flicker. there, i watched it." then doing exactly what that thought said to do and feeling how it said to feel. So, seeing, but not seeing through. More gentle curiosity needed there. 

---

Sunday night, the sensations linked to the process of having verbal thoughts were pretty clear and seemeed to approach the cutting edge of practice. If I can share some of where that went:

Noticing how thoughts are dukkha. Not inherently, but because they seem to rely on and strengthen the selfing process.
"Who is meditating?" (spaciousness seems even wider.) "Who is watching this?" (vague sense of a watcher is noticed)

"Where is the self?" 
A bunch of sensations in the head seem almost to announce themselves. How? Dukkha, of course! They're uncomfortably tight. The selfing illusion also creates what feels like a discontinuity in the smoothness of space-awareness in and around the head.

"What is that?"
(Gentle curiosity. Not effortless, but only the minimum effort needed to avoid mentally wandering back to my dwindling fantasy football roster.)
After a while of that gentle curiosity being there, that batch of sensations that seemed to be the self, sort of resolves itself. The tightness and spatial discontinuity go away. For a few moments, the tight discomfort of self-ing is gone. Relief. 

Here's where it gets weird. There is still a feeling of watching, and when the curiosity arises about where it is, no location is obvious. Right after that, a new "fake-self" zone inside the head pops up, and then the little dis-embedding process repeats (thanks to gentle curiosity), then another new fake self arises, then....... This happened about 5 times before my butt started hurting so bad I simply couldn't sit any more. I really need a better cushion if I'm going to sit for 3 hours at a time. 

So, again, thanks! This is very helpful. I think the main takeaways are:
Enough concentration to drift without drifting for five minutes, is more than enough concentration. Further jhana gymnastics aren't necessary.
GENTLE curiosity. Aggressive analysis is so 8 nyanas ago...
Don't just drop effort for half a day. Drop it, then when needed, gently restore the curiosity with the minimum effort possible. THAT, I can do for half a day or even half a week-- and without doubting that it's vipassana.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/3/17 6:03 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Nice! Yes in those plateau states you need to drop effort but keep being curious about subtle dukka.

Basically, getting to a place where you are generally non-reactive and investigating any remaining sense of ill will is the way to go. So first use your yogi skills (mindfulness, tranquility, centering prayer, inquiry, metta -- whatever seems to work) to get to that non-reactive place, and then second really relax into what is happening and investigate why the current moment seems lacking or wrong. You don't need to accomplish the first phase perfectly, just enough that you can explore subtle rather than gross dukka. Chances are subtle dukka is your attitude (aversion for what is happening, greed for something "better", or ignoring the richness of the present moment) rather than a real problem --- unless your butt hurts from sitting so long emoticon

If you want, you can explore "right at the point of contact" of a sensation: what is the physical sensation and what is the "urge" that arises along with it (what is "contact" (phassa) and what is "feeling" (vendana)). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twelve_Nidanas This is a great way to tease out the difference between experience itself and dukka. And yes, as you noticed you can also do this with thoughts - separating the thought content from the dukka aspect.

As you get up higher in the nanas (and in the higher paths) you can also notice how mindfulness exists despite things that normally would be called problems. So you can be aware of drifting -- and that still counts as being present. You can be aware of strong emotions and thoughts, and again that still counts as being present and non-reactive if you can maintain awareness such that you aren't identified with it. In the later paths, you can even be aware of not-knowing and stay present. All of these things are what allows the practice to really purify the reactive patterns through mindfulness. But it's a much different flavor of mindfulness that someone who is just beginning practice.

Straight ahead Adam! emoticon

 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/4/17 12:24 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Consider that perhaps posting elaborate descriptions of all the strategies to be delivered might be a more straightforward ñana, such as Desire for Deliverance, or, being slightly more generous, and using the terms I do so love but so rarely see anyone using, consider that it might be equanimity.desirefordeliverance, or 11.9, or even 11.10, but it could just be good old 9 and 10.

Real 11.4.8 is something you hardly notice, and, if you do, you hardly care, and few would write about, as it seems to ordinary, so natural.

Seriously consider that the balance of the seven factors that makes it all happen is heavier on the last three than you might presume.

Enjoy!

Daniel

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/8/17 8:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Haha, equanimity.desirefordeliverance is quite a mouthful! Also a state I've become much more familiar with lately.

I'm not really lingering in the main Desire for Deliverance unless I decide to review it. 

The state I've been thinking of as Eq.DfD is like vacationing on a quiet beach, but there's a little TV set playing a dramatic soap opera. The DfD aspect is the TV show being full of anguish. The Equanimity aspect is the TV being only a small part of the entire sensorium full of mostly neutral sensations, and the whole array of sensations having equal impact on the overall mood.

Yes, the TV is bothersome. No doubt about that. I might even complain to the person sitting next to me. But so what? I'm still on a beach.

---

In the mind maps, you call the NYPNYNP aspect of equanimity 11.4.8. I had been thinking of it as simply 11.8 until watching the video, and at that point I figured it must be a sub-aspect of high eq, so I switched to calling it 11.4.8.

What happens when I incline the mind to Equanimity.NYPNYNP is basically the experience of the 8th jhana, together with full body awareness. Very strange. Sort of like how the state I've been calling "equanimity.nothingness" is both the perception that there is nothing, and the perceptions of everything.

For any equanimity.formless, the formless realm is seen to be just a set of sensations in and around the head. In pure shamatha a tightened focus excludes the body, making it seem like the formless sensations are all that exists. But in vipassana obviously one can't just ignore parts of experience, so the formless realm is seen as merely another part of the sensorium.

I haven't been considering any of this stuff a problem. Now that you say it's totally not the state I thought it was, I'm wondering what's going to come up in this next sit. 

I do like the advice to use the yogi skills to get to the right space, then just see what's there. Cushion time! 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/10/17 1:25 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
A new form of dukkha being seen: the tightening of attention needed to access the formless concentration realms is pretty unpleasant. 

Lately, I'm more inclined to just rest in the 4th. It's the only jhana produced by *not* doing anything. There's an arc from 1st thru 4th where each time, a form of effort is dropped. 

To leave the first you drop touching and rubbing. Then to leave second you drop the intention to remain energetically awake. Then to leave third you drop intention to sustain the pleasure, and with that move, the front-forehead tension is gone. (Crown-of-head and inner-head tensions remain, for now.)

In harder 4th jhana there's an intention to remain imperturbable and open. (A very slight tension, not located at the front forehead area.) Dropping even that, there's something very much like the Natural State in mahamudra.

On the other hand, to enter the formless realms requires *adding* effort, which means resuming the front-forehead tension. This flies in the face of old texts saying the 5th jhana is "better" than the 4th because it's more removed from the suffering body. To that, I'd say resting in the almost-natural-state is even better because it's more removed from the need to control the experience.

Even that equanimously-experienced urge to fix the problem is dwindling. I guess just a couple of low-key sits a day really can keep the process going. 

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/23/17 8:30 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Lately there's been a slow deepening of the un-clenching practice. Waiting to notice whatever subtle, sometimes VERY subtle effort is knotting up the field - unconsciously, as if by habit - and dropping it. The new development is that this now succeeds. 

When it's dropped: openness. 

Until suddenly I'm in la la land, thinking about work or whatever. Because what I'm dropping is the last vestiges of voluntary attention itself.

Yes, it still feels like "I" am dropping it - at least, until it's dropped. At that point the thought of an "I" is neither here nor there.

So this is sort of like that experience mentioned above where I was watching and interrogating and needling away at the selfing process until it cracked under the pressure, except now it happens in an absence of mental controlling. Any effort - even gently wondering, "who's watching?" - and the mind knots itself right back up.

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/26/17 8:13 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
J Adam G:
So this is sort of like that experience mentioned above where I was watching and interrogating and needling away at the selfing process until it cracked under the pressure, except now it happens in an absence of mental controlling. Any effort - even gently wondering, "who's watching?" - and the mind knots itself right back up.

In my own experience, using koans stirs stuff up in a pretty disruptive manner, during happy times they trigger shifts. When I tried them when being bored in high EQ, I get booted out. The trick in high EQ is to keep a wide, gentle awareness, just enough to perceive all vibrations whilst focusing on none. Keep lowering your concentration levels carefully by calming yourself and -> *gone as in lost focus* -> the fruition works. Try it  and good luck! emoticon

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
10/26/17 1:26 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Good advice!

RE: Approaching 2P
Answer
11/12/17 10:45 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Practice has sort of fallen apart. A month and a half without time off reminds me of how truly obstructive my job is to sustained mindfulness. Practicing "here and there, when I can" isn't what's called for here.

So how long of a retreat is this going to take?

I'll have a five day weekend in December but considering how this path seems to require an order of magnitude more brain rewiring than stream entry, I don't know if that'll be enough. I could try and arrange more time off in January, possibly even at residential retreat center. Thoughts?