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Am I Equanimous or Just Grasping?

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Am I Equanimous or Just Grasping?
Answer
6/7/18 10:08 AM
 
Summary: I have been meditating for about 10 years, but for the majority of the time it was very casual and with long periods where I dropped the practise. In the last few years I have has some interesting experience and, particularly in the last 6 months-1 year have gotten really serious, upping my practise time and going on my first retreat last week. I believe I am in the stage of equanimity but I also find it hard to believe I have already gotten that far.
 
Intro to Meditation:
I began meditating about 10 years ago while in university. I was an engineering student and a teacher I had started a weekly group meditation called Infinite Potential. I began going and right from the outset, I saw big benefits, coming out of it feeling very content and focused. I would meditate and it felt as it whole world would slow down. It was a great feeling and helped me greatly in my general disposition and study. I didn’t know it but I was being taught mostly anapana with some subtle vipassana sprinkled in. I highly respected the teacher who started the group and wanting to be more like him along with other meditators I would meet along the way. They were biggest drivers of my practise. These people has a disposition that I wanted to cultivate in my life. Meditation was the consistent factor across these people, so it made sense that that’s what I wanted to cultivate in myself.
 
Next 5 Years:
Over the next 5 years or so I experimented on my own with various forms of meditation. Different things I found online, but nothing that stood out. Nothing more than 30 min per day and never really consistently.
 
First Peak Experience:
While focusing on the breath, I noticed that changing the type of breath would produce different feelings/sensations. This was not something that was part of the technique I was doing, I just noticed them and followed them. With a certain breath I could notice a sinking feeling in my gut. As I cultivated it, the feeling got stronger and stronger. Eventually, I allowed the feeling to completely take me over and it felt like it was consuming my whole body. I did not react to it, though, and just let it happen/experience it. Eventually, the sinking/anxiousness tuned into a feeling of completely bliss that washed over me. After some time, I was not able to sustain it and I let it go. I felt a great feeling of happiness/bliss after this event, however, it faded over time.
 
Fallout:
As I continued to meditate, I cultivated mini versions of this. Small raptures that would only last a minute or so. I still practised sporadically and I noticed that these raptures would come whenever I started practising consistently after a hiatus with the significance of the rapture roughly equal to that of the time that I been away from meditation. At the time I interpreted this as me “letting go” of some built up anxiety I had. I started looking at meditation as a tool to regulate my anxiety and the results were very positive. This is about the time that I read MCTB for the first time. Most of it did not make sense to me at time but a few concepts did have a draw to them. I remember specifically telling someone about the three characteristics, though I was still very confused, particularly about the concept of no-self.
 
Possible Dark Night:
About 8-10 months ago I started feeling extremely shitty for lack of a better term. I started to get interested in a lot of philosophy and “ideas about life” as well as having a friend that was challenging a lot of my views on things. In the past, these ideas would have been exciting but now they induced a lot of anxiety. I constantly felt fed up with my daily life and very anxious. I was not able to sleep very well and constantly woke up at night. The only thing that was clear to me is that these feelings were related my meditation and that I had to keep meditating to make my way through it. I gained a new resolve at this time, meditating more consistently, though still no more than 30 min, twice a day.
 
Possible Breakthrough to Equanimity:
One afternoon I was out seeing a show with my wife and her grandmother. Over the whole show, I was a complete wreck. Thoughts of the anxiety-producing topics mentioned above kept chattering in my head. I couldn’t do anything to stop them, as much as I tried. They just kept going and going, getting louder and louder. I wasn’t focused on the show at all, and basically missed the whole thing. Sometime around the end of the show, this experience reached a peak and I experienced a rapture as I have never experienced. The feeling of bliss was incredible. As I came out of it, I felt completely content and connected to the world around me. I sat in the back of the car, leaving the theatre, I held back tears at the feeling of beauty in the world (despite it being a pretty lousy day out). The interesting thing was that the thoughts were still there, they just did not bother me anymore.
 
Fallout:
As time passed, the bliss feelings faded. I still has all the same negative feelings I did before but now I felt a distance from them. They were going to be there, but I didn’t have to engage with them. My life improved greatly, though the feelings remained. Over time I resumed normalcy but there was a positive change in me. I was simply more content with things in life. I got angry a lot less and got pulled into arguments and emotional situations a lot less. My practise was more consistent and I started to have interesting experiences meditating every once and while including small raptures, interesting sensation and out of body experiences.
 
Retreat:
Early this year I committed to doing a 10-day Goenka retreat. Leading up to it I worked my way up to one-hour sits, twice a day and I began joining a local weekly group sit. The retreat was very challenging but very rewarding. I was able to get tingling sensations basically everywhere at certain points but on my face, they were basically permanent, even usually present when I was not meditating to the point where they kept me from sleeping a few nights. At a few points, the vibrations completely broke down into individual pulses all over my face, pulsing with great rapidity. Since returning, they have not gone away and follow me most places, sometimes breaking down in the manner I mentioned. The constant tingling has also spread to parts of my leg. The other change that occurred since returning, is that I can now be aware of where my attention is during body scanning. It took me a while to figure out this was not a sensation itself but that I could feel/see where my attention is (very hard to describe). Sometimes I would focus on a certain body part and I would notice that my attention was still somewhere else and I could feel it move to the new place. It almost felt like a pen pushing into a soft material where the field seem pushed in where my attention was.
 
Interest in Stream Entry
The last 6 months or so, I have felt very compelled to seek out all sorts of information regarding stream entry, Buddhism, etc. It seems to all just make intuitive sense to me now. I recently reread MCTB and was amazed by how much I was able to follow most topics. I would say I understand 85% compared to maybe 25% the first time around. In reading descriptions of the path, I feel a very intuitive understanding of it all, until it passes the equanimity stage. Then, it still makes sense, but really only from an intellectual side.
 
Scepticisms:
As I’ve written it out, it feels like I have reached equanimity but I have some serious concerns that go against that narrative that make me feel like I may be much further back in the path. Particularly, the follow items make me skeptical:
  • I simply can’t remember/didn’t have a clear A&P moment. From all I’ve read this should be a big, memorable moment but I just can’t think of one that fits the descriptions mentioned in the maps. I will say that I am not very visual in terms of my thoughts/mentality. I have never had visions/vivid dreams, etc, even when drug-induced so it is possible that this is just a reflect of “how I am”.
  • I do not seem to have enough practise to have gotten this far along the path. Although I have been practicing for a long time, it has been very inconsistent and very few hours and only one retreat that occurred a week ago. It just seems unlikely that I would get this far with so little practise.
 
Again, if you’ve made it this far, I am truly grateful. Please help me to find where I am. I am open to any and all feedback, including telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about and I’m happy to answer questions/clarifying.

RE: Am I Equanimous or Just Grasping?
Answer
6/15/18 10:16 AM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
I just learned about the concept of kundalini from another post I read about here. I did a bit of resreach on the topic and it seems a lot more like the peak experiences I have had than anything else. I'm wondering how this would relate to the models of the stages of englightenment, or if it does at all. I would think that it does, as I seemed to hit some type of dark night with only these "kundalinis" as peak experiences and the other post seems to have hit the same thing. Thoughts?

RE: Am I Equanimous or Just Grasping?
Answer
6/15/18 10:50 AM as a reply to Simon Minelli.
Hi Simon,

From your descriptions, it definitely sounds like you've had a lot of A&P/peak experiences, dark night/dukkha nana experiences, and piti/kundalini. As for equanimity, that's a tough one because it can be really difficult to tell the difference between equanimity and a long, slow A&P, especially when not on retreat. Even with many years of practice, it can be tough to tell. Daniel has some graphs of the cycles of insight here that you might find helpful for sorting things out.

You are likely to get a diversity of opinions on this from other practitioners, but in my personal experience I've found that time spent thinking about or worrying about "where I am" on the maps of enlightenment has not been nearly as productive as simply putting all that effort and energy into diligent, sincere practice. Practice is the key to progress no matter where we are on the maps, and the maps can take on a life of their own and become quite the distraction if we aren't careful. 

You mentioned liking anapana: there is a fantastic technical manual on this practice called The Mind Illuminated by a highly accomplished practitioner named Culadasa that many people are finding very helpful. In addition to a wealth of helpful information about the nuts and bolts of practice, he also includes another map that might widen your perspective on the subject in a helpful way.

I hope some of that helps!

RE: Am I Equanimous or Just Grasping?
Answer
6/29/18 10:10 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thanks a lot for your response. Sorry for taking so long to get back.

Hearing about the complexity of definiting my peak experiences is very helpful in putting things into perpective. I think it also puts my anxieties about these things on full display.

As helpful and great as my most recent reteat was, I think its focus on a technique that was different from my usual one has been a bit distracting and disorienting. I'm going to go back to how I was practicing before the retreat as I think it represented a slow and steady processes that I was very happy with.

I have been meaning to check out TMI but I think I will take a break from theory and techniques for a bit and just focus on getting time in each day. I will eventually check it out though. Thanks again! Your response seems right on the nose for what I needed to hear right now.

All the best!