Was that equanimity?

thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hello! This is my first post here but I've been lurking for a while....

I've been meditating off & on for about 3 years. My profile has details of my history with it. Anyway, I've had a few kundalini-type experiences, but I haven't really been able to find my place in the maps in MCTB. I can't really say that I've crossed the A&P, in part because I didn't experience any Dark Night characteristics afterward. Maybe I've been in DN territory so long that it's become my natural state and I don't realise it? I dunno..... I've exchanged a few emails with Daniel (about a year ago) but, whilst they helped, I'm still uncertain.

About a month ago I had an experience I've been unable to completely understand. The catalyst was the death of my wife's cat. I never really considered myself a cat person, but I had grown quite fond of it. (Please forgive all the dualistic language -- I'm still a neophyte! ;-) I've never really felt a lot of strong emotions (barring a few exceptions) -- I'm not sure if they're just not there or if I've been unconsciously pushing them down so long that I'm completely unaware of it. But I experienced quite a lot of sadness over the death of this cat.

But here's the thing -- I experienced the sadness, felt it viscerally. But it was OK. The sadness was there, but it was not unpleasant nor painful. It was just sadness. It was just there. Even when I was sobbing uncontrollably, it was OK. It was there, but I was not involved in it. I noticed it, investigated how it felt, and experienced it, but was not bothered by it. I can't say that other emotions have affected me the same way. When I get angry, I get trapped and involved in the anger. In fact, that was one reason I started meditating -- to learn how better to deal with anger. Hitting the character limit -- your thoughts?
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Welcome abingdon!

Being OK while sobbing uncontrollably is, by definition, equanimity. Was it officially the 11th ├▒ana of equanimity? Maybe. Judging by the descriptions you gave in your profile, it seems that you are a natural yogi. The question is, where do you want to go from here?

Kenneth
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hello abingdon,

Thanks for sharing your experience. I have two cats that I am quite fond of, and I know that I would probably react similarly if they either of them died.

I'm interested to hear about your practice. When you meditate, what do you do? Don't be afraid to describe it in detail. Looking at your experience within the context of your style of meditation practice is a good way to learn more about what took place and how it all fits together.

I think that Kenneth's "where do you want to go from here?" question is a good one.

I'm looking forward to your reply.
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
@Kenneth,
Thanks! Good to know that it really was what I thought. Although to date that one experience has been my only incidence of it. I'd like to cultivate it more so that I can make more skillful use of it with other negative emotions. As I said in the previous post, I don't do it well with anger. When I experience anger, I don't generally express it outwardly, but inwardly I rage, I seethe, and I hold onto it and get caught by it. Before I started meditating, that's all I would do. Now, I still do it but I also try to note the sensations surrounding and comprising it, and also tell myself that it's silly to hold onto it. It helps a little, I guess. I don;t mean to make it sound that I'm angry all the time, but it happens occasionally....

If I had to guess where I was on the maps, I'd guess much lower. I can't yet completely break through the illusion of solidity surrounding sensation. (Except maybe once -- more below). I still don't really understand what's meant by "vibrations." I can't say that I experience the Three Characteristics. In looking in MCTB, I think I experience "Mind and Body" but I've never had the jaw pain &c that Daniel mentions. I haven't experienced anything like "Cause and Effect." I have experienced something like an A&P-type thing, but there was no Dark Night afterward, except perhaps mild ennui.

Regarding the A&P thing, here's what I wrote to Daniel after it happened, about a year ago: (next post)
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Last night I sat for about an hour. I had intended to sit for 30 min, but I reset the timer.
I decided to focus on the sensation of my shirt against my stomach as I breathed. I focused intently on that sensation for a good 30 minutes or more and stayed with it pretty well. My body felt immobile, like a stone. When the 30-min timer
went off, I reset it for another 30. When the 15-minute chime sounded (marking 45 minutes of meditation), I noticed that my perception of it seemed to strobe at ca. 10 Hz. Just before or after that (I'm not sure which), I noticed that my
attention was firmly forced onto my object and my body felt tight, so I decided to relax it some. My attention seemed to want to rise up to my head, so I let it. I continued to be with my object, but not as tightly or intently. My attention felt like it went into the inside of a black balloon located at my forehead. As I stayed with that sensation, it suddenly seemed like my
consciousness imploded -- the "balloon" came rushing in, I could feel my eyes twitching inside my eyelids, and I saw dancing yellow lights (nimitta?). The experience was extremely intense. Afterward, I sat there stunned and tried to just let whatever would happen, happen, but I gradually returned to a more "normal" experience of sensation. That's about
when [my wife] came home, so I got up.

For the rest of the evening, I felt very disconnected from reality. Reality seemed "muffled" and "distant"-- like looking through the wrong end of binoculars. That feeling of disconnection or disassociation gradually dissipated, but did not completely go away -- I still had a little of it this morning. By afternoon it was essentially gone. This morning I also
noticed an undercurrent of happiness, but I think I've developed a lifetime a habit of suppressing emotions, both good and bad....
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
After I wrote that, I experience the same sort of sensations a few more times -- once in meditation, and once in a lucid dream (which I never have otherwise). That was about a year ago. I've had a couple more of those more recently, but my practice lately has been infrequent due to too many other things going on in my life (I tend to overbook/overcommit. ;-)

>The question is, where do you want to go from here?
I guess I want to see how deep the rabbit hole is! ;-) I started meditating as stress relief, but now I want to see what can be accomplished.

Thanks!!!
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
@awouldbehipster
My practice is pretty simple, really. I sit (formal meditation doesn't work for me lying down) and bring my attention to my breath, usually to the sensation of my clothes rubbing against my stomach. I note "in" with the the inbreath, and "out" with the outbreath, all the while paying attention to the light sensation on my skin. Sometimes, if an itch occurs, I will turn my attention to that. Likewise, pain. I do notice that it's not a monolithic "pain" or "itch", but that it is a collection of smaller sensations. (So maybe in contradiction to what I just told Kenneth, I *do* break through the solidity somewhat. I dunno.)

Lately I've only been sitting for about 30 minutes at a time, but when I was doing it more regularly I would often sit for an hour. When I'm not sitting, I try to pay attention to sensations as I go about my daily routine. I notice the sensations in my legs and feet as I walk from my car to my desk, or when I'm lying in bed I try to do Daniel's trick of focusing on the tips of my index fingers. That's where I say I can't break the solidity -- I still mostly seem to perceive a solid stream of sensation from both fingers simultaneously, but I think I'm starting to recognise some signal attenuation from one whilst I'm on the other.

Before I found this site and before I really knew what I should be looking for, I used to just sit, quiet my mind, and float down into a quiet state that was mostly free of thought and sensation. If I felt my hands, rather than being well-defined, they'd just be an amorphous blob of "hand" with no real distinction of where one began and the other ended. I would even feel like I was nodding off (complete with the little head bobs), but there was an alert watcher that noted it. I abandoned that path after reading MCTB.

Cheers!
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

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

Thanks for updating us on your practice, and also on the history of your experiences. I'm not the most experienced meditator in the bunch, but I would like to offer a tip...

Re: Difficult Emotions (i.e. anger, grief, sadness), I've said before in this forum that I'm an emotional guy, and that I tend to feel things more than think them. For that reasons, emotions play an enormous role in my practice, and were a major obstacle for me during the dukkha nanas (Dark Night stage). The only way I was able to work with them, and push through to Equanimity, is to hold them with as much kindness and attention as possible each time they arose.

Working with anger is the most difficult for me. There are neurological and physiological reasons for this. When certain feelings show up, our minds usually respond with either Fight of Flight, and both responses allow little room for mindfulness.

To work with physical pain and difficult emotions, try doing the following: When the sensation/feeling arises, recognize it, and then bow to it (in your head or physically, if you prefer). The "bowing" takes on the form of "Hello anger, stay as long as you like. What have you come to say?" This sort of radical acceptance is the only thing that really made me able to sit with the feelings. Once I could sit with the feelings, I could calm down and use my practice to recognize the characteristics of each little sensation that composed the feeling/pain. This technique was helpful in pushing through the Dark Night in to the 11th nana (equanimity). I don't know if it will work for you, but it's worth a shot, right? Just remember that with any sensation, grasping, pushing away, or ignoring will not lead to wisdom.

I hope this was helpful. Best of luck!
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jackson,
That sounds like good advice -- I'll give it a try when the next opportunity arises! I guess that with anger I've been trying a sort of benign neglect/acceptance/ignoring approach. More active acceptance might be the ticket.

Thanks for the discussion! This is helpful.

Cheers!
Rob
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Hi Rob,

I wanted to add one more thing. If you find it difficult to work with anger as it arises in everyday life, it is possible to conjure it up in your meditation practice by thinking of a situation that made/makes you angry and really buying in to the story. This may provide a safe place to work with your anger, where you can allow your self to really get in to it without any added distractions.

That's all. Be sure to report back after you've tried some of this stuff out, even if it doesn't work at all.
thumbnail
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Was that equanimity?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Will do. Intentionally raising anger in order to deal with it sounds like a practice for when you have a fairly open schedule for the rest of that day.... ;-)

Cheers!
Rob