First post: where am I?

Maarten, modified 5 Years ago at 1/8/18 9:16 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/8/18 9:15 AM

First post: where am I?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 7/27/15 Recent Posts
First time posting on the forum after lurking for quite some time.

I started meditating around 2,5 years ago. Shortly after meditating on my own, I also joined a local Zen sangha in the Soto/Rinzai tradition and I have a teacher there. I've been on one weekend retreat in January 2016 and I meditate daily. Since a few months I meditate 30 minutes each morning.

Up until a few weeks ago, I had never experienced anything "out of the ordinary", although I do see the typical benefits from meditating (creating more space between thoughs/feelings and actions, reduced stress, more focus, better concentration, etc.). But as Daniel writes in his book "Until you can get into access concentration, you ain’t got squat", I would say I "ain't got squat". I could sometimes feel some heat between my eyebrows or at the crown of my head and that's basically the only out of the ordinary experience I have had.

About two months ago, I asked my teacher how to experience "open consciousness" or "Buddha nature" as I think this is a core concept to the teachings. He advised to sit with the question "what is open consciousness". After a few weeks of regular meditation (counting my breath and asking/repeating this question), I was about to go for another follow-up talk with my teacher, but then something happened.

While I was meditating, I suddenly felt a certain calmness which I had not experienced before. The sounds that would normally tend to distract me / trigger thoughts, were still there, but my mind was not responding to the sounds at all. They were "just there". I could hear people cycling through the nearby park, I heard someone breathing, people adjusting their seat, etc, but I was just very aware of everything happening as it was happening. When it was time for walking meditation, I was able to stay in that state and while we were walking, I had no real sense of my physical body and it felt a little bit like I was in a colony of ants - a feeling of a certain oneness with the other people in the room, the sounds, etc. The "beginning of a smile" from the meditation instruction turned into a full smile as I realized it was kind of funny that I had planned to meet with my teacher, but I was in the middle of the thing I would want to ask him about. When it was my turn to talk to my teacher, I explained what just happened to me and he responded by saying that this was not just a glimpse of something, but this is what "we truly are". He concluded by saying "congratulations".

So I think I went from "not having squat" to having a certain experience and my zen teacher saying "congratulations", but I have no clue where I am. I am guessing this was more than access concentration?

I have not able to reproduce this state of mind yet and I am a little lost now as to where I am.

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this and perhaps help me out. I hope I was able to explain it clearly.

Maarten (from Amsterdam, the Netherlands)
seth tapper, modified 5 Years ago at 1/8/18 12:58 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/8/18 12:58 PM

RE: First post: where am I?

Posts: 477 Join Date: 8/19/17 Recent Posts
Well the right answer is the stupid one - you are right where you are sitting when you read this.  Imagining yourself along a timeline or progress bar from here to enlightened is just another trap.  

You had an experience which showed you one way your mind can operate in the world.  If you sit long enough and dont worry about stuff, your mind will revist that state more often.  Trying to get back that state will make it hard to experience it.  Its a cliched paradox from a bad (great!)kung fu movie, but you can't become satisfied by wanting stuff or states of mind.  

My free advice would be to just go back to doing what your teacher tells you to, since it is working, and let your mind relax even more now that you know the landing place feels so good.  
Maarten, modified 5 Years ago at 1/12/18 9:18 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/12/18 9:18 AM

RE: First post: where am I?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 7/27/15 Recent Posts
Thanks for your response Seth.

I have read and heard about the "enlightenment trap" before and I don't have any expectations there.

Sometimes I read about concentration states, jhanas, etc, but it would help me to make sense of my experience if I can plot it on some terminology.

Daniel writes about access concentration: "you will know when you have it". I am assuming that this was it as this was a first real experience I had after 2,5 years of meditation. But does that also mean that I was experiencing the 1st jhana?

I will definitely continue to work with my teacher, but I appreciate any help.

Thanks, Maarten
Nick O, modified 5 Years ago at 1/13/18 4:42 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/13/18 4:35 PM

RE: First post: where am I?

Posts: 317 Join Date: 11/5/17 Recent Posts

Continue to develop stronger concentration. I found the maps only to be helpful when I started to recognize states recurring. Once you have a frame of reference you'll be able to answer this question yourself. Also I'd recommend some extended sessions when you can make time. 5 or 6 hours alternating 1 hour of sitting / walking a couple days back to back was enough for me to see progress. Hope this helps. Keep practicing! Much love! 
streamsurfer, modified 5 Years ago at 1/16/18 5:08 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/16/18 5:08 AM

RE: First post: where am I?

Posts: 100 Join Date: 1/19/16 Recent Posts
If you continue your practice you will be able to get concentrated more often and also see when your are very concentrated, when not; what kind of concentration states you can experience and so on. I would just discover whatever goes!

But besides that, isn't the Zen spirit to "kill the buddha"?  Any experience/states don't bring you any further? What does your teacher say to concentration states? (I am interested emoticon )
terry, modified 5 Years ago at 1/17/18 9:41 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 1/17/18 9:41 PM

RE: First post: where am I?

Posts: 2416 Join Date: 8/7/17 Recent Posts

(full smile)