Pushing Through

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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 3:54 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 3:54 PM

Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

I need some advice with the current phase of my practice. First, a little background info...

My practice accelerated recently when my I finally traversed a Dark Night phase and experienced Equanimity for the first time. In the days following my trip in to Equanimity, I cycled through the A&P, then through the Dark Night, and back in to Equanimity at least once a day for three days. During each time I experienced Equanimity, the whole of my observable experience lifted upward and forward, as if I something undetectable was aware of the various sensations that make up my reality. I'm not always great at explaining what I experience, but reading descriptions of Formations during High Equanimity sort of hit the nail on the head for me. It's like my mind just assumes there needs to be an observer so it makes one. The first time this happened, I thought it was stream entry. But, I was advised by Daniel to look out for the kind of cycling experienced by someone who experiences a Fruition. Because my meditation cycles started from square 1, rather than with the A&P, I knew that I had not yet attained Path. (continued...)
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 3:55 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 3:55 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
So here's the thing... after crossing the A&P again before falling asleep a few nights ago, I haven't been able to cycle back out of the Dark Night. I've made my way in to equanimity-like stages, but not back in to what was happening with what I think were Formations. I have been getting a sense of the false watcher without the formations, but I'm not quite sure how to go about noting this experience. How do I notice or 'note' something that I am having such a hard time pinning down? I've been trying to note the curiosity and questioning that arises, but it isn't quite doing the trick.

Also, there's no way I can fit a long retreat in to my schedule. I'm planning on attending a Two-Day with Ajahn Amaro in May, but that's quite a ways off and I want to progress before than if at all possible. Two days isn't very long, but it's the best I can do at this time in my life.

What can you guys recommend for this phase of practice?

Thanks in advance.

Jackson
beta wave, modified 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 10:45 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 10:45 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Jackson,

I've been having hit or miss meditations for a while, and I suspect I'm roughly in the same spot you are. It's frustrating having the memory of deeper/clearer meditations while dealing with the reality of being in Misery/Fear/Desire for Deliverance... or Reobservation... or the the clunky and sharp Low Equanimity stages.

As near as I can tell, there's just no way around getting really good at seeing the reality of these stages. It's a test of sorts, a purification. And any effort besides really feeling the sensations as they are... it seems to kill progression through the stages.

Sometimes I get lucky and I make progress through the stages despite really "being there" with the sensations, othertimes I'm on it like stink on a goat and I don't progress at all. I think that might just be the way it goes.

Vince cautioned in one of the long retreat threads that Equanimity takes a while to get through --- so that says to me to be patient and without expectations. (Expectations are also cautioned against in Practical Insight Meditation, even to the extent that he says it's better not to know the stages and it's better to rely on a good teacher.)

What that tells me is to pay very solid attention during Dark Night but back off during hints of equanimity.
beta wave, modified 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 10:47 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/2/09 10:47 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
cont.

In the Newbie Q, theprisonergreco and nathan28 drop some heavy truth bombs for this stage in meditation. I really appreciate their words, I think they are relevant for the bridging Dark Night into Equanimity:

"the dark night territory - particularly late dark night - has a habit of making me unsure which methods are best to employ in practice. should i note? should i use open awareness? should i pay attention to the wide vibrations? should i go with the discomfort? should i observe the questioning? etc etc. i would feel very dissatisfied with anything i tried. eventually i realised that the nature of re-observation to was to have a cow with anything and everything and when i realised this it mattered a whole lot less what i did since i knew i would have no way of knowing if it was effective practice or not! regardless, my recommendation would be to note or observe frustration, pain, doubt, boredom, distraction, gaming, predicting, expecting, etc etc when and where they arise and make sure - i mean really make fucking sure - that if you're killing yourself trying to meditate that you note that too emoticon "

"for me personally it's necessary at the current stage of my own practice to use my attention and focus like it''s a pair of butterfly wings...My own tendency would be to struggle to "get" concentration when really the struggling for it was preventing it and likewise insight, on account of the background phenomena. And likewise this can become a hindrance in its own right, a thin but expansive layer over the experience. So I have to back off, and back off, while remaining engaged."

Hope this helps!
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 1:34 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 1:34 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hi jackson,


regarding practice time, i remember reading a member named marinr mention somewhere having gotten path from sitting at home 5 hours a day for 3 weeks.

regarding your above quotation, i know what you're talking about. hokai answered questions i had about this on the board - look on page two on the 'how to investigate no-self?' thread for it - and in a sentence in a pm, which i now pass on to you:
f
'what you described seems like a subtle self-awareness wherein mind becomes transparent to itself just a little bit, and there is a continuum to this, right?'

if this is what you're talking about - and it sounds like it - my advice would be to note it with whatever short thought you find most suitable, or just notice it. the paradoxical nature of the thing can be quite amusing, but in any case, just carry on practising. i remember thinking the times it was happening things like 'this is it this must be the way' and i still think it was super-cool and important somehow, but it didn't come up at all on my last retreat and that's when whatever i was doing worked, so its not essential, and not worth getting caught up fascinated about.

i agree with betawave on most of what he wrote (esp that you can sit mostly in equanimity for quite a while), except for the bit about solid attention during dark night but back off in eq. i couldn't find a way to back off that worked for me, so i kept attention heavy - practised with the same kind of intense alertness that an animal has when it suspects it's being stalked by a predator - and i think that was necessary, at least for for me. your mileage may vary.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:59 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:59 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
@betawave: Thanks for your reply. I can definitely see how expectations are getting in the way when I get all wrapped up in them. I don't really have a problem with 'expecting' if I note it, but it's not always easy to identify, as it can be very subtle. I have also caught myself 'looking' for stream entry on occasion, as if I could pick it out of the background by looking really closely. It's like trying to waiting for the mast of a ship to appear on the horizon, and it's pretty ridiculous. I'm learning to let that go, and my practice is improving because of it.

Jackson
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:59 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:59 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
@theprisonergreco: The advice that Hokai gave you is incredibly helpful to my current phase of practice, so thank you for passing it along. Like he said, I have a tendency to think that the 'lifting up' is something really important, and then get a little disappointed when it doesn't happen again. It's helpful to know that it doesn't have to happen for progress to continue.

The whole active vs. passive practice issue has been getting a lot of attention lately, both here at DhO and other forums I attempt to participate in (I say attempt because this is the only forum where I can get any good, solid answers to questions. It's seems like most everyone else is just in to metaphysics and spouting off bad Zen inspired poetry, not to mention answer with neo-advaita style questions like "Who is it that wants to be enlightened?", which annoy the hell out of me… buy I digress). In my experience, I am naturally resistant to noting during the Dark Night because the stuff I'm noting is painful, confusing, and uncomfortable. I do best if I just suck it up and note. With Equanimity, though, it seems like the style I use has to be more fluid because the tightness and laxity I fall in to are more subtle. Obviously, I haven't quite figured out the best way to participate in this stage, made apparent by my needing to post this thread. I appreciate all input on this matter, as I really do wish to progress.

Lastly, in his PM to you, Hokai said, "my advice would be to note it with whatever short thought you find most suitable, or just notice it." If I may ask, did you ever find a suitable noting word for this experience?

Jackson
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 12:36 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 12:36 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Ant_808

Nice thread Jackson and very useful for me as well...

One question for you and others who have experienced it.

Can you explain how you know you have progressed from Dark Night through to Equanimty?

cheers
Anthony
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:12 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:12 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Dan_K

Jackson,

I agree that the Neo-Advaita trip is full of connotations of superiority and the denial of actual practice, and I think that asking "who wants to get enlightened" is too rhetorical to do much good. However, in "Mastering..." Mr. Ingram points out:

"Whatever ultimate truth you want on the spiritual path is to be found in the sensations of the wanting itself....It is in the looking. It is in the motivation. It is in the suffering...The experience of the question contains the answer to the content of the question."

Thus making this notion of "the one who wants it" accessible to bare sensory investigation, allowing any noting of expectations, thoughts of stream entry, or even the desire to meditate, post on the forum, read etc. to be traced back to these sensations of wanting. I have found this helpful personally, and I hope you do as well.

Dan
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:21 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:21 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: Dan_K

Also, from David S.

"There can be no separation - and there can be no expectations. The largest thing that held me up, even to the bitter end, was expectation. And one of the chief expectations is that ’something’ is going to happen to ’someone’, especially ’someone separate’. That notion is dead wrong on so many counts, because there is no separation and there is no one - yet because so many teachings, readings, and practices have implanted this into thought and practice, and not qualified it or moved to nullify it once a seeker naturally is pushed back (like you are being) to the point where then the watcher can be let go, it leaves an unresolved tension and people get stuck. Especially experienced meditators."
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:43 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 3:43 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
oops no jackson, the pm from hokai that i quoted was just that first sentence:

''what you described seems like a subtle self-awareness wherein mind becomes transparent to itself just a little bit, and there is a continuum to this, right?'

the rest of it is my writing.. i dont think hokai uses cheap vocab cop-outs like 'super-cool' ;)

as for your question about a suitable noting word, i don't think i ever verbally noted it. but thinking about it now, if i did, i'd probably go with 'transparent' or 'transparency'. i also remember that when i first got into paying attention to that phenomenon i was thinking 'silent mind' or 'heart'.

i also recommend not worrying about putting too much effort into equanimity stage and somehow screwing it or muddying it up. see effort happen instead! get so into the practice that it's experienced as ok (a hallmark of equanimity - or most of it anyway) rather than a hindrance or burden! an arahant friend of mine is insistent that for the vast majority of people, excessive laxity is the problem more than excessive effort.. and while i'm not as certain about that as him, i'm inclined to agree.

gaming or expecting or trying to predict fruition is part of the process, and not a hindrance if you have insight into it (just like anything else) and move on. personally speaking, i was trying to figure it out and game it just a few minutes right before i got path.. i only stopped trying to game it when i got frustrated and subsequently distracted, then bam. so i can say, all those thoughts and intentions really aren't a problem. no-self characteristic.
beta wave, modified 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 10:47 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/3/09 10:47 PM

RE: Pushing Through

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Wow, really good point. I can now see how my trying to match the noting effort with the intensity of the sensations is a way of trying to control the meditation and force some kind of progress. Seemed the right thing to do, but could be a trap. So... just keep being there for it, keep noting. Makes sense!
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:01 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:01 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Dan,

Great points! I certainly don't want to put down Neo-Advaita as a whole, just the types of response I receive from some people when it's completely inappropriate. I just have to accept that some people will view True Self or Buddha Nature or Atman-Brahman as merely metaphysical truths and not direct experiences, and that they'll try to convert me every now and then.

I'm not talking about any wise or respected teacher here, just the kind of people I run in to on Facebook. I value the teachings, I just think they are commonly misunderstood.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:05 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:05 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
@theprisonergreco:

My bad. Thanks for the clarification.

Speaking of Path occurring during a short moment of distraction is mentioned in MCTB, I think. Very interesting. It's incredible how much of the Progress of Insight is predictable in hindsight.

You wrote, "gaming or expecting or trying to predict fruition is part of the process, and not a hindrance if you have insight into it (just like anything else) and move on."

Great advice!
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:09 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 2:09 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Anthony,

Daniel's book has been the most helpful to me in this regard, particularly the following two chapters...

The Progress of Insight: Stages 5-10, The Dark Night... http://web.mac.com/danielmingram/iWeb/Daniel%20Ingram's%20Dharma%20Blog/The%20Blook/740E1DCD-75A5-4859-8530-13214BE1BA33.html

The Progress of Insight: Stages 11-16
http://web.mac.com/danielmingram/iWeb/Daniel%20Ingram's%20Dharma%20Blog/The%20Blook/5976668A-E169-4F93-BDE7-DA8DB3108E76.html

He says it better than I do emoticon
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 5:50 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 5:50 PM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 3231 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
A few more things about what to do in Equanimity that might be of some help:

1) Equanimity, real equanimity, can take it, whatever it is, be it effort, doubt, or whatever, but the thing is to not be afraid to be with it, really go into it, stay with it, as has been stated well above. Imagine that you are standing up to your waist in a pond and the ripples are calming down after a big storm, and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to keep your hand on the surface of the water so that the back of your hand stays dry and the palm stays in the water, regardless of how the ripples go. If you slack off, you miss a lot and the back of your hand gets wet, and if you try too hard, you create more ripples and the back of your hand gets wet, so the trick is to just stay on it, whatever it is, however attention moves, however things present, just on it, clearly and as continuously as possible, without trying to stabilize things particularly, or make them any special way, except just to stay the heck on it, just on it, no more and no less, second after second, realizing that you will likely have many periods of either spacing out or trying too hard, but that's ok, and how we figure the thing out.

2) If you have enough concentration to get into where things are just vibrating, in this case in a wide, relatively slow, sweeping 4th vipassana jhana way, and just feel how they wish to synchronize, staying with that feeling wave after wave, then you will dodge a lot of these issues, as that degree of concentration doesn't allow much philosophizing and worry about these sorts of things and also makes for strong, quick practice, but is certainly not necessary, just expedient.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 5:50 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/4/09 5:50 PM

RE: Pushing Through

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3) There is a maturation process to the thing, where it often takes people multiple times up and down the cycles to really get their foundation of skill and understanding of them and the lessons they teach to be able to land it, and sometimes it is just going to take some more of this, so realize that lots of people here have done it and you very likely can also if you are that close, and just keep on it.
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Jackson Wilshire, modified 13 Years ago at 2/5/09 7:07 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 2/5/09 7:07 AM

RE: Pushing Through

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hey Daniel, thanks for participating in this thread.

Regarding the above quote, my experience has shown this to be true. Though, I often find myself asking the question, "What now?" I think your advice on how to practice in this stage is wise, and I will put it to good use.

Also, you wrote, "stay the heck on it, just on it, no more and no less, second after second, realizing that you will likely have many periods of either spacing out or trying too hard, but that's ok, and how we figure the thing out." Regarding whatever sensation I'm staying with, should I still be actively noticing the Three Characteristics? Or is this a time in which just observing and staying with the sensations is enough? I try to note the Three Characteristics as much as possible, but I don't know if being too aggressive is counter productive in this sense. Though, sometimes the Three Characteristics just show up without me having to do anything. Any advice is welcome.

Thanks again!

Jackson