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Is this what reobservation and equanimity are like? My first post :)

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Hey everyone,

First off, I really appreciate this community and wanted to thank everyone for everything I have already learned and the encouragement I have gained from reading posts here.

I have been lurking around for about a year and finally decided to post for the first time.  I definitely feel I have been a chronic dark night yogi and honestly just want to make it to stream entry already!  My main questions are around if I have made it to equanimity before and also want to understand if what I take to be reobservation is correct.  I’m positive I have crossed the A&P (will detail below) but don’t want to confuse a cycle through it again for equanimity, or a cycle through 3 Cs as reob.  The reason I would like to understand this is to determine if my current practice can take me all the way.

Since this is my first post, I will break this up into a few sections, first with my main questions, and then my current practice and background.  I will do this as I imagine this could turn out to be a lengthy post so those shorter on time but who may want to converse won’t have to read a novel emoticon Mods, please feel free to suggest I split this post, or place it elsewhere.

Main questions around equanimity and reobservation:

So does this sound like reobservation / later stages of DN?

I feel like I sometimes get to a point where I feel very overwhelmed with suffering.  It seems like my thoughts bombard me and will not stop, and the characteristic of suffering is very predominant in my experience.  Nothing sounds interesting, entertaining, or enjoyable.  It becomes very difficult to meditate but I also don’t have much interest in doing anything else - TV and video games just seem boring and like they won’t even be able to distract me.  

I did an at home retreat (just one day) a few weeks ago and felt like I had a very strong reob experience - thoughts were coming at me very fast, there was a lot of resistance which I was aware of, and I just felt like a swarm of mental sensations was causing me much suffering.  All I wanted was to hit stream entry (the craving for this made it worse I imagine!) and I felt stuck and sad because nothing seems appealing to me except reaching SE, but it felt so hard and painful.

I can be aware of lots of sensations in my body and am able to catch those of my mind as well, but sticking with concentration and practicing feels cumbersome and difficult.  I guess laying on the floor or sleeping sounds somewhat appealing XD I sometimes have a very strong longing to just get stream entry and have cried just wanting to get through this and seeing all of the suffering with myself and the world.  I can sometimes have a  very negative outlook and catch myself being judgemental.  I never really feel like giving up necessarily but do have a bad habit of smoking weed at this point to ease the pain (it’s legal here in Colorado).  I know this doesn’t help me and sets me back.

I don’t believe this to be the 3 Cs because there is no physical pain associated with this, it seems like it is all mental suffering.

Here are two experiences I thought were equanimity:

1. My girlfriend broke up with me in July and I remember this experience pretty vividly.  The days leading up to this I felt my concentration was strong and I felt like many sensations I was aware of, physical and mental, were noted pretty quickly and let go of.  Anything that came up it seemed was met with equanimity, disappearing before other experiences arose.  I felt very consistently mindful and noticed when I was not throughout the day, and able to return quickly to the present experience.  There were many sensations I could be aware of - I felt many and relatively strong vibrations throughout my body and it was interesting to watch things.  There wasn’t really any euphoria (which makes me think it was not A&P), just lots of noticing and meeting each sensation.

My girlfriend and I had been talking about breaking up for a few weeks, despite the fact I didn’t want to.  Anyway, when I returned from work she broke it off and it was very strange how I reacted, or I guess I should say, didn’t react.  I was obviously sad and upset, but I was able to just sit there not too wrapped up in the emotions, just watching how thoughts and sensations arose in my mind and body.  I didn’t feel like I needed to get away from anything and there was a sense that things were ok, even though I was sad and heart broken.  

2.)  Last weekend, I went to play volleyball with some friends who live in a neighboring city about 40 minutes by car from me.  I was very energetic and had a lot of fun with them, although didn’t feel like I was being terribly mindful.  I have developed a good skill of coming back to my practice pretty much anytime I am not interacting with others though - by this I mean I am mindful on my way to work for example, not so mindful while at the office (fast paced software sales job), and then the second I leave my desk after work I remember to be mindful.

Anyway, on my 40 minute drive home, I was acutely aware of how everything in my experience or field of awareness was just a sensation.  It seemed like my visual field had expanded a bit and I was calmly noting (I sometimes, but mostly do not use word labels, it’s more just noticing), what was happening.  Once again, like in my last experience, there was no euphoria but it did seem nice to have such mindfulness and just be able to touch each piece of experience with equanimity, without reacting.  It also seemed similar to the last experience in the regard that I noticed a lot of vibrations all throughout my body with strong mindfulness and a calm demeanor.  It’s like I was just sitting back calmly watching and seeing sensations coming and going and seeing the 3 Cs (mostly no self and impermanence, whereas in the DN and what I think to be reob it's lots of suffering).

Meditation background and current practice:

I first began meditating in 2013 as a recommendation by my girlfriend at that time to reduce stress (first job out of college and I was doing sales = lots of stress).  I did a 30 day guided meditation challenge and loved it.  I began reading Osho and started developing an interest in Buddhism and practicing yoga.

I did used to smoke a lot of weed and have used LSD quite a bit (both of which I have significantly reduced and I know they are hindrances for me at this time).  But it was these two substances which took me through the A&P - I would not recommend others do it this way though.  One time on LSD I tried practicing yoga and it seemed like yoga was practicing me; like the poses would just come to me and happen on their own and I was along for the ride.  I’ve also had experiences of “breathing with the earth” and unison in that regard.  Also, one time I entered this odd state of what seemed to be some sort of absorption where I was getting sucked into some gravity hole (i have no idea how to put this in words) accompanied by strong synesthesia.  And the good ole having what I can only describe as having an extended whole body orgasm along with strong euphoria.

Anyway, enough drug talk emoticon the reason I said I do not recommend this is I quickly ended up in the deep end of the DN pool without a good sense of how to swim.  My whole world was turned upside down and I didn’t know what to do, as everything I enjoyed in the past seemed meaningless and unappealing.  I also went through the classic, tell everyone about mediation and a sort of manic spiritual phase.  There were many times I was completely disgusted with the world and didn’t want to be a part of it.  I saw the way we humans, and myself, are with our fears and desires, and met that with strong aversion as opposed to equanimity.

I started to clean up my act, drop many of my attachments like partying, drugs, alcohol as well as more subtle addictions like working out and my body image.  In the past year I feel like I am more stable than I have ever been but am still cycling through the DN, although I feel I understand the territory better.  I spend much of my free time alone, either practicing, reading, or relaxing.  I still try to keep up with my friends and do wholesome activities with them every few weeks like play outside or go hiking.  

I hope people will tell me if they think I am deluded about anything here though.

I practiced mainly concentration of the breath at my nostrils until probably about a year and a half ago when I started to expand my horizons a bit.  I tried Mahasi noting which seems like a wonderful practice, but seems to “stir me up” too much so I only add a bit of noting here and there rather than go at it hard.  I also did a Goenka course last August which I feel took my practice to the next level and showed me many blind spots in my practice but only occasionally practice now because I don’t like how the technique does not really address thoughts.  This is what I like about noting - it seems to “catch” all sensations that appear.

After reading the teachings of Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi, Mooji, and Adyashanti, I found I really like these practices and they seems to resonate well with me.  A huge step in my practice came after reading a book on acceptance by Jeff Foster, because I realized how much I fight with myself.  Self-enquiry is something that seems to resonate well with me to in order to investigate no self.

Right now my practice consists of 1.5 hours sitting in the morning doing concentration on the breath, and Adyashanti’s True Meditation technique.  There is also a small amount of noting in there too.  Like when I do concentration I sometimes note how when I am distracted, this causes suffering, then I try to relax and return to the breath.  Or just “thinking, thinking” to return to breath at the nostrils.  I mix this up with Adyashanti’s technique of relaxing in awareness and letting things be (basically Shinzen Young’s “do nothing” meditation”) and self-enquiry - what am I?
I don’t believe I have entered the jhanas but feel I occasionally “touch” them momentarily before falling back.  Anyway, I found that the way I have been practicing has been working for me and really resonates with me.  But maybe I am deluded which I why I am posting emoticon

I have a pretty strong resolve to be mindful throughout the day as well, which I think I have been relatively successful with, with the large exception of when I am at work - I’m just running around, answering emails and calls all day with little break.  But during my hour commute each way via car, bus and walking, I make a relatively strong effort to practice concentration and Adyashanti's True Meditation (love the technique, not too fond of the name haha).

I have been sitting in the evening on and off and sometimes and am trying to be more consistent with that.  My job is very tiring and can be stressful but that is just something else to note and let go of emoticon I'm very aware of how my sits, experiences and emotions are different everyday.  Also how I seem to cycle (although I don't always know where I am) - as in sometimes I can easily be equanimous and catch sensations and thoughts quickly, and other times bogged down by dullness and other DN symptoms.  If you may not have noticed already, I am not the best at putting my experiences into words! So please let me know if i can help to clarify.

Summary

I hope that this post has not been too jumbled or unclear, as it has been a pretty long and stressful week at work (not to mention I still live with my ex GF! - a great practice in equanimity haha).  As I stated earlier, I want to understand if my current practice can take me to SE if I continue to be diligent, and don’t indulge in distractions and desires (such as weed) that I know will just sidetrack me.  It “feels right” what I am doing at this time and it seems like over the past year especially I have let go of more and more and have more equanimity and insight, even during tough times.  Nothing is more important to me than SE and I have a strong resolve to reach my goal.   The DN seems to get easier but sometimes it still beats the shit out of me.  Please let me know if I can provide any additional details.   And once again, I wish I even had the words to describe how thankful I am for this community!


Great overview. Could you say more about what happens during your 1.5hr daily sits (describe a typical sit, describe what feels like your cutting edge) and why you have doubts about it being effective?

RE: Is this what reobservation and equanimity are like? My first post :)
Answer
10/14/17 8:07 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for the reply shargrol!  Sorry again for my lack of clarity in my ability to describe these things.  I will do my best here to answer your questions.

First off, I do not have too many doubts about my technique being effective... I believe I have found something effective for my mind (I believe everyone has their own path and different techniques may work better for different minds/personalities).  With this being said, my main goal with this post is to confirm that I am not being delusional in my claim to have reached the equanimity nana.  Does it sound to you based on my experiences above that I have reached equanimity at some point?  If others think that I have not reached equanimity before, then I want to reevaluate my technique.  I feel like I am actually more aware of the nanas sometimes off the cushion, but perhaps that is because I am thinking and evaluating more - my practice on the cushion is more concentration based, and off the cushion it is more mindfulness and insight based.

Anyway, here's a shot at describing my sit this morning since it is fresh in my mind.  I wake up at 3:30 and try to start sitting by 3:45 or so.  I noticed I was a bit tired and slightly aversive to sitting this morning (ie wow 1.5 hours sounds long!) but I just noticed this and began my sit as usual, trying to be mindful of my thoughts before even sitting and how there is no real substance to them.  I began with some pranayama exercises for 5 minutes or so and then began to just try to let everything be as it is, gently looking at my experience.  I noticed many subtle vibrations and sensations throughout my body and thoughts seemed to slow down a bit.  It felt pleasant and light, and within the first 15 minutes I felt like I was "getting into it" and had an easy time just sitting there with myself and my experience.  The vibrations I might describe as fine (as opposed to coarse), pleasant, and light (body did not feel heavy in any way).

I began to alternate this practice with bringing my attention to the breath at the nostrils and trying to consciously relax, noting how when my mind wandered it caused me a very mild amount of suffering.  I was able to note the pleasantness of just sitting with myself, sensations in my body and trying to balance the effort of attention on the breath with relaxation (when I have done concentration in the past, I had a more forced method of not trying to let my mind wander at all, and it seemed to produce a lot of restlessness - this seems more effective).  When attention seemed weaker, I would begin counting breaths trying to keep my primary focus on the nostrils rather than the numbers.  Whenever I felt like I may be trying too hard and noticed how this had an effect on my concentration, I would just let go of everything and be with whatever came up.  It seems like when I do this, thoughts fall away completely for a short time and I am just left in this lovely open space, and only some pleasant sensations in body and heartbeat remain, until the thoughts slowly come back.  At this point, I typically begin asking, "what am I?" or "to whom do these thoughts occur?" and am able to notice that they just arise and leave on their own.  

There is rarely any real euphoria or bliss in my meditations but when I have a "good" sit like today, it seems there is an undercurrent of pleasant vibrations, sensations and feelings, and what seems to be equanimity and a quick letting go of whatever arises.  So essentially my practice alternates between the three - concentration, letting go/open awareness, and self-enquiry.  I try not to force too much and let whichever happen depending on the given moment and my inclination at the time.

Concentration began to get stronger but also came in waves - later in the sit I definitely notice a significant reduction in concentration and I began cycling through breath focus, letting go, and asking "what am I?/to whom do these thoughts occur?" more quickly (earlier on I feel like I cycle through these less frequently and spend more time with each one).  I was aware of this and adjusted the practice accordingly, as noted above.  There was also a lot of pain in the last 15 or 20 minutes of my sit, which I pretty easily was just able to note and be with while watching the sensations.  I was aware of thoughts when they came up too and I just saw them for what they were too.

I also have been having some odd sensations occur pretty frequently the past month or so - possibly some weird kundalini stuff, although relatively mild.  What happens is I notice this pressure/tension/very fast vibrations in my upper chest/neck that quickly moves to my head and feels like it's going to pop and give me some sort of weird release.  It doesn't ever end up "popping" but the whole thing lasts maybe a second or two at most than subsides.  It typically happens many times in sequence over a period of minutes.  This happens when I feel like I have stronger concentration and when I am more equanimous.  Typically I just try to pay attention and see how much of it I can notice without trying to make too much out of it.

Around the same time this kundalini stuff was happening today, I noticed that I thought I may be in equanimity and felt strong resolve to note everything in my field of awareness.  I tried to be aware of my belief of being in EQ, wanting SE, and just trying to remain in a watchful state without getting wrapped up in the content.

I'm really glad I am typing this out too because it seems like I am learning more about my practice just putting it in words... Anyways, I really appreciate the help and am open to any feedback emoticon does it sound to you like I may have touched EQ either today or in the past?  Also, any idea what that kundalini stuff is?  It doesn't bother me at all, it is just interesting.  Thanks so much!!

Nice practice. Yes, it does sound like it.

Like every pre-SE yogi, you will fall in and out of EQ and you will go through all the earlier nanas as well. Don't try to prevent that from happening. (It doesn't sound like you are. You seem to have a good instinct to relax when your mind tenses, which is perfect.) Basically, you mind goes up and down the nanas, tidying up the place emoticon, and kind of making the mind slippery so that it can fall into SE.

In fact one way to think about EQ is that once you touch on it, the next task is to "extend it" into all mind states so that you don't even have to be in obvious EQ to have an equanimous relationship to anything that arises. This is when you really "get" the knowledges of the dark night nana.

When you can extend EQ to everything that arises and let your mind go through any state it wants, you will really see that:
*  dissolution is just dissolution (which is what it means to truly attain knowledge of dissolution),
*  fear is just fear (which is knowledge of fear),
*  misery is just misery (which is knowledge of misery),
*  disgust is just disgust (which is knowledge of disgust),
*  desire for deliverance is just desire for deliverance (which is knowledge of desire for deliverance), 
*  reobservation is just reobservation (which is knowledge of reobservation), and
*  even equanimity is just equanimity (which is knowledge of equanimity).

Then the mind is much more likely not to cling to any mindstate and it will "find" the no-mind state, nibbana.

So keep going, don't change anything with your practice, straight ahead!

btw, what was the nature of "pain" during the last 15-20 minutes of your sit?

RE: Is this what reobservation and equanimity are like? My first post :)
Answer
10/14/17 10:14 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Wow, I really appreciate the detailed response!  I was also reading some advice you gave to Calum this morning on his post about attending a retreat at the Panditarama and found it really insightful.  Thanks so much for this.

Perhaps this is why I feel a bit less aware of  which nana I am in on the cushion - my concentration is definitely stronger in the morning which I think helps to just be equanimous to whatever arises.  After a crazy day at work I definitely experience a lot of "monkey mind" haha.

I'll do my best to describe the pain - it was almost entirely physical pain.  I recently increased my morning sit time from one hour to 75 minutes, and now to 90 minutes just a few days ago... So I imagine my body is still adjusting - also, I have a very boney behind! haha emoticon  As far as the sensations go, I'm trying to remember clearly... It was a very strong set of sensations and predominant in my awareness.  I guess it felt kind of "hard" or maybe solid is a better word, but upon closer inspection it was almost like a bit of a mess of unsatisfactory sensations going in and out pretty fast.  It was difficult to stay with it since it was very painful but I was just trying to note this and not get too wrapped up.  I feel like I may be scripting some here too so I will pay better attention next time (or rather it may be clearer to say I will intend to remember more clearly! I have a terrible memory unless I make the effort).  It's funny how upon looking at it directly it's almost less painful because the mental aversion is not present when equanimously inspecting.  I remember someone on this forum saying something like suffering = pain times resistance.  I also spent some time near the end there trying to stick to my breath and noticed how that pain increased the speed and depth of my breath.  

Like you said, I guess the best thing to do is to just continue practicing!  I think I can resolve to build stronger momentum (balanced with relaxation though) with my practice and making the effort to increase mindfulness off the cushion even more.  Also to try to stay away from analyzing too much - I fall into that trap sometimes, so I think the part of my practice of just letting go can come in handy there.  

Or maybe like you said I should forget this last paragraph and simply continue onwards.  That is some really insightful stuff you said about EQ too - I will keep that in mind.  I like how you phrased this as "falling into SE" and the idea of tidying the place up - I think if I can see the tough DN nanas as a practice in equanimity rather than getting lost in the content of "i just want SE / this sucks!", it would be much more effective.  This is super helpful and encouraging and can't thank you enough for the prompt responses emoticon I'll do my best to continue "tidying the place up" by trying to treat all with equanimity.