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Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 11/12/08 6:19 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Hokai Sobol 11/12/08 10:34 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Martin Mai 11/12/08 8:24 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 11/13/08 12:26 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/13/08 6:57 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Nathan I S 11/13/08 7:42 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Nathan I S 11/13/08 7:50 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/13/08 9:06 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Chris Marti 11/13/08 11:45 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Nathan I S 11/13/08 1:46 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/13/08 4:13 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Martin Mai 11/13/08 7:54 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Nathan I S 11/14/08 2:00 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/14/08 3:19 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Martin Mai 11/15/08 2:15 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/15/08 5:31 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Wet Paint 11/15/08 8:29 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Daniel M. Ingram 11/15/08 8:34 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Martin Mai 11/16/08 2:31 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Vincent Horn 11/16/08 3:42 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Martin Mai 11/16/08 7:33 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 11/17/08 12:09 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 12/3/08 4:14 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Wet Paint 12/3/08 12:40 PM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 12/4/08 12:58 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... Nikolai Stephen Halay 1/2/09 7:27 AM
RE: Hello and a question from a newbie... John Finley 1/4/09 2:58 AM
Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/12/08 6:19 AM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hi to all. I’m a newbie here and have very much enjoyed reading through some of the forum discussions. I don’t have a center/teacher available to me locally so I’m just trying to feel my way along on my own and hoping to maybe pick up a few ideas here for advancing my practice. I hope my question is not too basic for this discussion.

I am currently reading Daniel’s book and the discussion about concentration lead me to believe that I should put vipassana aside for a while and practice samatha meditation with the goal of attaining the first jhana since it appears that no progress toward insight is possible without it.

My recent experience with samatha has been frustrating. When I practiced this nearly a year ago, I almost always felt relaxed and unstressed during and after meditation, which was my only goal. I never reached 1st jhana (heck – I didn’t even know it existed!). Now it seems I am unable to practice this effectively at all – I can’t relax and let go, my breathing feels stilted and controlled, there is a tightness in the center of my chest and I feel very tense during and after meditation.

This manifested a few weeks ago during a sitting in which I had become very relaxed and calm. After a while I experienced a feeling of being on the edge of something, almost as if I was at a doorway or gate. I felt as if I was being pulled to the wide open space on the other side. There were no identifiable structures or forms, just a sort of hazy, foggy space, softly glowing red.

As I was being “pulled” I felt a sense of panic and pulled back. I calmed myself and tried again to see what would happen if I let myself be pulled over, but I have not been able to overcome the issues I described above..

I’d appreciate any thoughts about what might be happening here and what I can do to fix it. Was this the threshold to 1st jhana, or just indigestion?

Thanks,

John

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/12/08 10:34 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Dear John, without going into details, I think you're making good progress. I'd also like Dan to answer your specific questions. So let's wait and see what he has to say.

Take care,

Hokai

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/12/08 8:24 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi John,
as I am putting quite some effort into samatha, too, I´d like to recommend the recordings from the jhana practice group to you (http://www.paauk.org/files/jhanapracticegroup.html). They contain really valuable advice on samatha-practice.
Pa Auk Sayadaw´s book "knowng and seeing" is also great as well as Leigh Brasingtons Jhana page (see: websites of value).
When I read Daniel´s book for the first time I thought achieving the first Jhana would be quite easy but even reaching the access concentration level as discribed by Pa Auk Sayadaw is quite a lot of work to do, so don´t get discouraged!
Best wishes,
Martin

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 12:26 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Thank you, Martin, for the link and info on the book; I will check them out. Good luck in your practice.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 6:57 AM as a reply to John Finley.
I know this has been mentioned elsewhere on this forum, but I just wanted to bring it up again. And that is that the way Daniel defines access concentration is way different than Pa Auk. This is also generally true of the Mahasi tradition in general, in that access is relatively easy to attain. For Pa Auk, it can take months on retreat to attain access concentration, and from I can tell he's only empowered 2 westerners to teach this stuff, a very high bar indeed. So, to get stream-entry (and I would contend even the higher stages of enlightenment) one need not attain to access concentration as Pa Auk defines it. It might be helpful for other reasons, but there are some pretty good arguments for getting stream-entry (and beyond) first before trying to do so. It might be a stylistic preference, but again access concentration as Pa Auk teaches isn't a requirement for stream-entry.

Best,

-Vince

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 7:42 AM as a reply to John Finley.
I tend to think that for most people, practicing with Pa Auk's very high standards is going to lead to wisdom... It's very hard for me to imagine doing anapanasati so much that you could get into the formless realms and not have stumbled into absolute reality somewhere...

I'm actually listening to those two teachers right now, and it's very confusing to me how what they consider a pure shamatha practice is not a vipassana practice. E.g., to paraphrase: "for example, this morning I was counting and realized I had counted to ten [rather than to eight]. so rather than spend five minutes [practice mindfulness] and ask question like why i had counted to ten and try to figure out what was going on, i just went back to the breath."

I don't remember ever getting instructions like "take a lot of time trying to figure out why the mind wandered/the hindrance arose". So just using an single object in meditation is shamatha in Pa Auk's tradition?

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 7:50 AM as a reply to John Finley.
n8sense, look up some of Thanissaro Bhikku's stuff on Access to Insight, too... he's of the school of thought that concentration can't be developed without insight arising and that the shamatha/vipassana divide is at least partly artificial...

likewise, I've found it grounding to have access to a teacher who wasn't impressed by kundalini phenomena or strong concentration etc.

in my own practice with shamatha, I've found that the development of concentration is by no means linear. it gets for me very strong, then hindrances and my stuff come up stronger, etc... like recently I had very strong states in sittings, then that just fell apart and now I tend to encounter more delusion. it is a purifying practice, which means it makes the dirt visible so it can be removed.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 9:06 AM as a reply to John Finley.
If you look at Pa'auk's book "Knowing and Seeing" you'll see that his method is about first cultivating and mastering very stable jhana states. Then, using the 4th jhana as a basis he gives several very systematic vipassana instructions that he suggests one does until they are an anagami or arhant. To me, his methodology has at it's core an assumption that concentration and insight and at least somewhat distinct. If they weren't he'd have no need to give the vipassana practices after someone has mastered jhana. He would simply say, master jhana and insight will co-arise with that mastery. Alan Wallace also addresses this in The Attention Revolution, where he claims that while it's possible that some people may get a glimpse of ultimate reality from the formless realms it is not all that common. Jhana, even extreme depths of jhana, are for both of them seen as the foundation for insight practice.

That being said, there is definitely a strong connection between insight and concentration. And I would suspect that some people are just prone to investigate, and so with enough concentration they will start having deep insights. Others, however, I think need to learn how to investigate (I was definitely in this category) and they may or may not have a lot of concentration abilities. The Buddha's story remains as an example of someone who attained deep concentration stabilization but who didn't yet know how to convert that stabilization into liberating insight.

Anyway, interesting stuff...

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 11:45 AM as a reply to John Finley.
"As I was being “pulled” I felt a sense of panic and pulled back. I calmed myself and tried again to see what would happen if I let myself be pulled over, but I have not been able to overcome the issues I described above."

Hello, John. Best I can tell what you describe is a common occurrence. It used to happen to me and I struggled mightily to "overcome" it (it was more of a sudden panic, really) and get back to whatever it was that I thought was going to happen after I might succeed. I think this was related to the general idea, typical among beginning practitioners, that there is some magical/mystical experience to be had that stems from our practice and that after that magical thing occurs we'll suddenly "get it." No such luck, at least in my case. What I have found since is that every state is to be examined, studied, experienced. They're all the same -- conditioned and impermanent. That realization has gotten me a lot further then the forced head-on collision with whatever-it-was that I was trying to accomplish.

And listen to Vince - I think he speaks truth on this topic.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 1:46 PM as a reply to John Finley.
I think it is a matter of individual proclivities. How would it be that some people cross the A&P outside of traditions, or with almost no instruction? I will admit I am biased in this regard, someone pointed out to me that even the level of concentration for the first jhana is "totally alien" to most people's experience.

My own teacher teaches concentration primarily and fused with insight, but not anywhere near the "three hours" number that Brasington or Brahm or the other "hard jhana" teachers teach, so I am probably not the best judge of this... I am just wondering who these people who can get away with doing jhana for years without insight are (again, proclivities), because that sounds like way more fun than having to hide from the dark night in jhana only to get to look at it even closer.

I agree with cmarti... many of these phenomena, the ones i have encountered, are just energy releases. I've heard others describe a few of them almost identically, but that seems to be the exception

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 4:13 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi Nathan,

Yeah, crossing the A&P isn't that hard. Navigating the dark night is. I suspect there are plenty of people who may have spent years cultivating concentration who weren't able to navigate the dark night and get stream-entry. I spent almost a full year doing so, consistently getting into "soft jhana" and even doing a jhana course with Leigh Brasington before a teacher of mine told me I had plenty of concentration to get stream-entry. Fortunately, I believed him, turned my attention back to investigation fused with concentration (as you mention) and went for it.

Looking back I see that I had a mistaken notion that I needed to develop more and more concentration before I could proceed with insight. I think what was really happening is that the rawness and suckiness of the dark night wasn't what I expected and instead of going straight into it, I wanted a pleasant release from it. That was my own confusion about insight practice, and I have a feeling that plenty of people can find themselves in this same stuck pattern.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/13/08 7:54 PM as a reply to John Finley.
interesting! I think I am in the stuck pattern you discribe above, Vince. Pa Auk mentions this as something positive. He says that you can rest and regain strength in concentration when you´re exhausted from insight practices but I clearly see that during the dark night this can be a big problem. So I guess that turning to damatha then is not what is meant with "leaving the pot on the stove", is it? The other aspect of this is that after concentration is strengthened my perception of vibrations is far better (faster) so I have made a habit of alternating between samatha- and vipassana-sits during the day. Do you guys think I should quit this? I´d like to hear your opinions on this.
Martin

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/14/08 2:00 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Then my question would be, why not develop concentration and tranquility for the sake of insight? In my own experience as concentration becomes stronger it tends to reach a point of exhaustion after which it's not going to develop without adjusting the practice. And jhana practice tends to cultivate dispassion, which also includes jhana.

that said I suspect intention might matter and it becomes increasingly subtle. is it mindfulness of a singular object or is it just absorbtion into the object? is it cultivation of concentration in the service of insight or just cultivation of insight? And when one it encountering hindrances preventing focus on the object does one switch to an objectless practice, examine the hindrance as an object, or cultivate the factors of concentration to supress the hindrance? etc.

I simply have trouble believing that the shamatha / vipassana divide is so gross as it is sometimes made out to be. Yes, IMS, I am looking at you.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/14/08 3:19 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi Nathan, I hear what you're saying brother. The divide isn't so great as it's made out to be, especially for those that have explored and mastered the practices. But distinctions are helpful (and even necessary) for those who haven't yet. It's important to know who the message is being tailored to and why. And it's true that some people just have different models, some who think there is a great divide and some who don't. A lot of that seems to be dependent on how their practice unfolded, who their teachers were, etc. It's not such a big deal... ;-D

Martin, the thing I would ask w/r/t concentration is am I using the cultivation of concentration primarily to avoid the unpleasantness of the dark night? The dark night is almost always less clear and less pleasant and if we get too stuck on the idea that our practice needs to be "clear" in order to progress, then we can get stuck (as happened to me). That being said, I was hardly doing an vipassana at all (unlike what you describe). My suggestion would be to make time for a decent-length retreat and try to power through the dark night then, perhaps primarily doing vipassana practice. I know you have a little one, so that may not be possible, in which case it sounds like you're doing well. :-D

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/15/08 2:15 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Thanks Vince,
I think I am quite firm in my intenrion of developing samadhi for the sake of vipassana and not to hide from dark stuff. Daniel made the mistake of doing so obvious in his book so I keep an eye on this. A retreat is really a dream of mine but my current situation doesn´t allow this to happen soon. I see my little boy on weekends so the rest of the week I try to get as close to retreat-conditions as possible, practicing formally for about 4-5 hours a day. I´ve read on Daniel´s homepage that he knows someone who attained stream entry in hometime practice so I hope this will get me somewhere, too. Would be great to have this person around ,by the way.
Thanks again,
Martin

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/15/08 5:31 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi Martin,

Yeah, you can definitely make real progress at home sitting 4-5 hours a day. I've known a couple people who have gotten stream-entry with little or not retreat (probably some folks on this forum have). In Amy Schmidt's book, "Dipa Ma" she describes several people who got stream-entry, under the tutelage of Dipa Ma, while practicing at home doing something quite similar. So, yeah I'm all for that approach, especially given those are the circumstances you have to work with. Sounds like you're doing extraordinarily well with what you have.

Best of luck,

-Vince

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/15/08 8:29 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Author: marinr

Martin, I did it at home after reading Daniel's book. It was done in a similar way as you describe your practice. It took me about three weeks of just watching the three characteristics and doing nothing but that (no theory, no samadhi, ...). My concentration skills did develop in parallel with
vipassana.

So, it definitely is possible. Good luck :-)

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/15/08 8:34 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Sorry I have been gone for a while. I have been helping to coordinate the building of a straw bale house and trying to pay for it.

Going way back to the beginning, to the original post, I am going to take a stab at what those stages were and guess the following: initial bliss, ease, peace, niceness stuff: likely 1st ñana (mind and body); then tension, breath interfered with stuff: moving into 2nd and 3rd ñana (cause and effect, three characteristics), then something seeing to suck one in, with it happening on its own, both seem to smack of 2nd vipassana jhana stuff (early, not well developed), aka early A&P territory. Keep going, not harmful, explore, enjoy, watch out for what comes next, beware of both underestimating and overestimating your practice, learn the maps well, so you have a heads up for side effects, and go on retreats if possible, preferably with teachers who know and will discuss this territory in straightforward terms.

As to the whole samatha/vipassana thing, I agree wholeheartedly with everything Vince said. In summary: in the beginning, having a clear distinction is helpful. In practice, they do tend to oscillate back and forth, even if we are doing insight practice. We stumble into something seemingly somewhat stable, then break it apart, then the next phase has stable elements, we break them apart...

As to the hardcore jhana standards of many, they are interesting and useful if we have that sort of bent, interest, time and guidance, but as stated, do not always lead to insight without adding an insight focus, sometimes lead to people getting fascinated with how profound those states can be, and take way more concentration than is needed to simply get enlightened.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/16/08 2:31 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi Vince,
can you write a bit on how the time doing samatha affected your position on the insight-map? I mean did you start again where you have left or did you have to reattain stages you had reached before? Just out of interest because this conversation has shifted my attention back to noting practice.
Martin

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/16/08 3:42 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Hi Martin,

The short answer is that I had to re-attain the A&P, etc. I had crossed the A&P prior to that at least once or twice, but didn't cross it again until I switched back to the noting practice and went on a longer retreat. Hope that is helpful. emoticon

-Vince

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/16/08 7:33 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Thanks Vince,
I was just not sure if I would start out in the dark night or not. It does not feel like it so I was confused.
Thanks again,
Martin

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
11/17/08 12:09 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Thanks to all who responded - you've given me some very good information to ponder and I appreciate it very much.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
12/3/08 4:14 AM as a reply to John Finley.
I probably should have mentioned in the OP that I had one or two similar experiences previously, going back about 5 months.

I am concerned about the tightness in my chest that I experience in varying degrees of intensity nearly everyday since the first episode.. It begins in the solar plexus region and rises in waves and settles into the upper chest. These mitigate somewhat when examined mindfully, but the sensations return after a while and cycle throughout most of the day.

About the same time this first manifested, my blood pressure also elevated. I’ve never had this problem before – I’m in good physical shape, exercise daily, etc. I went my doc; the diagnosis of the chest issue was GERD and prescribed a med that provides very slight improvement; also prescribed a diuretic to help with the B/P which dropped almost overnight to a daily average of 122/79…that is, until this a.m. when I had another “verge of crossing” experience and it shot up to 140/87.

I am trying really hard to remain calm and practice effortlessly – examining each sensation/symptom as it arises and get beyond this, but I just can’t seem to do it. I’ve recently added involuntary swallowing throat clearing to the mix of things that hinder my meditations. Daniel’s post said it sounds like early A&P, but I don’t recall going through any of the earlier stages, so I’m really confused right now about where I am on the map.

Any thoughts aabout how to proceed are appreciated.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
12/3/08 12:40 PM as a reply to John Finley.
Author: Ant_808

Dear n8sense,

I learnt a technique from a Nun to help with tightness in the chest was very helpful. I hope it can help you as well. She taught me that, inorder to develop the mind the heart must be open. When she looked at me, she saw i was to rigid and serious. I need to let go, to forgive/understand others and my self, and accept things.

It all about using the concepts of being "soft and gentle" in your mediation. Keep a smile in your heart and repeat a few times "soft and gentle" feel it in your chest and let go, "I forgive" helps as well. Just accept whatever some up because, in the end, you know that whatever it is it's NOT in your control.. you have no control so just accept.
This is not a hardcore mediation practise but it can help to develop an attitude of letting go.
all the best

Anthony

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
12/4/08 12:58 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Thank you Anthony. Your comments are very interesting and timely - I have felt that the "heart" has been at the center of this, almost from the beginning. In this morning's meditation I experienced what felt to me like a shift of some kind. Trying not to be dramatic, I'll describe it this way: somewhere towards the end of the sitting, I suddenly emitted a series of "burps". Burp is as close as I can come up with as a descriptor, but it was not like a normal burp. I had the impression of something leaving my body - not being expelled, but being given the option to go, and it did. At about the same time, my breath rate increased dramatically; it felt like a second heart beating in my chest (or like a valve opening and shutting - it's hard to describe). I'm still trying to process, but it felt significant to me, but what do I know?
I don't know if the two are related, but on my drive home from my gym this a.m. - for the first time, I actually experienced something Daniel descibed in his book: the rapid in & out pulsing of things in my view. It looked like individual frames in a film moving at a speed just slow enough for me to be able to see. It felt jerky - like I was moving at supersonic speed through a series of compartments, each one just slightly different than it's predecessor.

I'm still processing the experiences, but both felt significant at the time they ocurred.

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
1/2/09 7:27 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Dear n8sense,

You describe exactly what i experience regurarly. I have a lot of distinct vibratory activity in my heart/chest area in every sitting. A burp like escape of air and sensation usually occur at the end of a series of intense vibrations felt in the chest. And when they disappear I feel the entire body buzzing with subtle vibrations. And usually after this there will be a lot of dark night stuff coming up to the surface. And after sometime it reoccurs. This has been quite continuous for me for the past 8 years.

I have experienced this for years since starting my vipassana practise. I never asked anyone about it and alway put it down to impurities coming, vibrating for some time and then going. That was just the way they passed on.And the escape of air that resembled a burp (it sometimes occurs in the throat as a tingling and then bubbles up towards the mouth as a burp...weird! As long as you keep observing those sensations with awareness of annicca, anatta and dukkha, then you´re on the right track.

I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Daniel and all those involved int his website for giving a great Dhamma boost in my practise. I think this is open talking on the meditative experience has been much needed and I came upon it at just the right time. Blessed!

Lots of metta!
Nick

RE: Hello and a question from a newbie...
Answer
1/4/09 2:58 AM as a reply to John Finley.
Thank you, Nick; it's very reaffirming to me to hear that someone else shares a similar experience. You're right about the "dark night" stuff that accompanies the experience. The trouble I have with that idea is that I don't remember having a distinct A&P experience (though I do recall a really vivid dream not too long ago that made absolutely no logical sense, but it "felt "really significant nonetheless and reminds me of an account Daniel shared about a dream being an A&P event for him). I do have to say that my everyday experience lately sure feels like a dark night, but it doesn't follow exactly the description Daniel gives in his book. In short, I'm pretty uncertain where I am on the map right now, but trust it will clear up so long as I pursue the practice. The dream I mentioned still generates a feeling of significance whenever I think of it, but it has no cohesive storyline - just a really weird dream with vivid color and high-def aural qualities that "feel" important somehow, and I can't help but wonder if it might have been an A&P event...