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Where am I?
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8/30/10 10:41 AM
I'm curious where I'm at according to the stages of insight. I don't have a burning desire to know at the moment, as I gathered that the general idea at each stage was to keep meditating, and I can still do that daily for now, but it'd be nice to know if I'm going anywhere / doing it right. Sorry this ended up pretty long, but I just wanna put everything out here, try to make sense of some of it. Maybe I'm too obsessed and should just chill =P. But right now I don't know whether:

* I have crossed the A&P.
* I've reached Mind and Body or the first samatha jhana (are they the same thing? not even sure).
* I've gotten to Cause and Effect / Three Characteristics.
* I do noting practice properly.

So I can either place myself as having reached 1st jhana and crossed A&P Event, or not even reached 1st jhana and failing to meditate properly.

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I started meditating this year. Nothing particularly interesting happened before then, except that at some point in high school, I really tried to learn how to lucid dream. Nothing came of it for a few months / a year, but then after that I started having lucid dreams once in a while.

I first started meditating just 8 minutes a day, and that was difficult at first. I would just try to follow my breath, generally be annoyed that I seemed to control it while following it, be impatient, etc. This grew to 10 minutes a day in one sitting, then I started trying to do two 10-minute settings a day.

What got me to continue meditating is that I started noticing things more clearly in daily life. My vision seemed to have improved, except it's not that I saw better, more that I just noticed the trees, the grass, etc., more. It was pretty neat.

What _really_ got me to continue is an experience I had on a cruise ship, 2-3 months after I started meditating. I was reading "The Power of Now" at this point, trying to be in the moment, doing body scans, etc. I was lying in bed one day, listening to some rap, and idly doing a body scan, but not really trying to meditate, when something pretty intense happened. It was like the blackness behind my closed eyes expanded vastly, so it looked 3-dimensional. I was in awe, thinking "wow, there's definitely something to this meditation thing..." I tried sitting up to see what that felt like, and my body was incredibly heavy. At the time I didn't know what it was. Currently, I think maybe I randomly stumbled into the 2nd samatha jhana? I did not have any applied attention at all (lol), actually my pulse started racing cause something really weird was happening, and there were distractions too, like my rap, and it only lasted 5 minutes or so. Anyway, I haven't been able to repeat this experience since.

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Up until about last month I kept doing 20 minutes a day, though not consistently, of either following my breath or trying to do zazen. My visual clarity persisted, and I had days of being in a really good mood for no particular reason. I enjoyed being outside more.

About a month ago I read MCTB. Since then I've been doing 30 minutes a day pretty consistently, sometimes 45 mins, all in one sitting. I'll either focus on my breathing, or try noting. I think I'm noting, anyway - I'll ask that question in another topic. My general perspectives are now:

* I've started paying attention to the three characteristics. Right now, impermanence seems most rationally obvious. It's obvious to me that everything will fade after it arises. Unsatisfactoriness is 2nd - I'll notice how pretty much all my thoughts have to do with me wanting to have done / be doing / do something else in the future. And I think I'm getting some insight into no-self, as I'll notice that sensations, even thoughts, and even desire to do minor things (like swallow, or shift my position slightly) seem to come from nowhere.

* I might be getting a grasp on how there's a mind reflection on anything that happens. For example, I'll sometimes meditate with earplugs and be able to hear my heart beating. I noticed that I was noticing the heart beat as an "up, down, up, down" type noise, and wondered if that's how it actually was. I tried noticing it instead as an even pulse, and then I heard it as an even pulse. So it seems that every pulse I would "hear" and then I would categorize in some other way.

* Recently I'm just sometimes in a fantastic mood. I can see really clearly I feel generally good about everything, my body will feel good. Last Saturday, for example, was interesting. I had a tremendous hangover. My head was intensely in pain on every pulse. I took this opportunity to try to understand the 2nd characteristic better, and for a few moments I could perceive the pain without labeling it as "bad", but that didn't last long as it did hurt quite a lot. But at moments through the worst of it, I could perceive that I was in a "good mood", through the pain =P. I wonder if this could be after-effects of the alcohol from the night before increasing my serotonin levels or something, since a similar mood lift happened another day after I drank... but it has also happened without any drinking a few days before.

And a few "interesting" things have happened while meditating:

* During some meditation sessions, I'll get into a nice calm state. At this point I'll have thoughts like "ah it's really nice being sober" (I would drink every week in college =P). Sometimes the blackness before my eyes will seem to expand a little and shift around, but not as intensely as on the cruise ship. It feels pretty cool. I think this has happened both during noting and concentrating. I'm not sure if this is 1st jhana or not, cause I can still lose my concentration and get lost in thoughts for a few seconds at a time and still be in it.

* Some sessions I can kind of feel my body pulsing. Not pulsing in the sense of feeling my pulse, but pulsing like it expands + contracts slightly.

* Some sessions my left & right halves of my body do feel a bit different.. mostly I'll notice tension/pain on different parts of my body. A few times I felt I could alternate my attention between my left and right half, and notice each one pulsing separately.

EDIT: * A few times, after some night sessions, when I laid down to go to sleep afterwards, I would definitely see very fast white flickering behind my closed eyes. It wasn't very bright, and would fade quickly, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't from the outside. One time I covered my eyes after they faded, and they were still there, just fainter. I kept following them, and they turned into a pretty neat 3D hallucination of white wireframed frogs rotating / moving about slowly.

* At some point during most sessions I start to visually hallucinate mildly. These are exactly the same hallucinations I get when I'm falling asleep, though, so I haven't thought too much of them. They're the type of seeing sheets of colors fading in and out, mostly blue, some green, etc. If they start happening, I'll try noting them.

* One of my noting sessions was really, really intense. I think I sat down in a somewhat agitated mental state, so that contributed to it, but I felt like I had a "grip" on my thoughts. I mean that a few times a second, random thoughts would begin to form about what I was doing / whatever I was thinking about, but I would notice it was a thought and it would stop a few milliseconds after I noticed it. This continued for a bit, and then eventually slowed way down. Right after it slowed down, I noticed three quick mild flashes of white light. HOWEVER, I'm not sure that was from my mind or an actual light from the outside. I didn't have my blinds down, and had my eyes closed but uncovered, and I noticed that sometimes I'll think I'm seeing a light from my mind, but when I open my eyes there's just a car passing by my window or something. Since I started meditating with an eye cover, I haven't seen any flashes.

* One other instance, I was noting pretty slowly, generally relaxed, when it felt like my mind started speeding up without me. I started noting faster, and at some point I felt a strange sensation. It was similar to the blackness expanding, but kind of directional too, like it was going upwards and to the side a little.

EDIT: One last thing, since MCTB mentions this particularly. Yesterday my friend mentioned he had a lucid dream. I haven't had one in a bit, so I was like "Ah that would be fun." I thought it would be neat to try to meditate during it and see what effect that has, since MCTB mentions meditation during lucid dreams. Luckily enough, this morning I became lucid, and tried to meditate. First I just followed my breathing a bit, then I tried doing a microcosmic orbit. The latter had a pretty powerful effect. I could feel something at each of the points, but so much so that it was painful, and my dream-body would twitch at each one. I didn't meditate for long. However, after I was done, I probably had the clearest and most well-controlled one ever. I could make mini-volcanoes rise out of the ground, and shoot electricity in a wide radius from my hands. I couldn't fly too effectively, unfortunately =(.

Well, that's probably an exhaustive list of what's been happening the last month or so. My specific questions are:

* Was the void thing: A&P Event, 1st jhana, 2nd jhana, something else?
* Was the sudden mental speeding up: A&P Event?
* Is the calm state: Mind & Body? 1st jhana?

And my general one is, of course: Where am I at?

I've read the progress of insight in MCTB, but I feel like something from each of the early stages may or may not apply to me, and I can't be sure. I also am not sure whether you start from 1st stage every time you meditate, and have to cross A&P and beyond in 1 sitting, or if you don't regress once you've reached a certain stage (like dark night maybe?). I've heard descriptions both ways ("I've been in the dark night these past 3 years" or "so I went through mind&body, then cause&effect, then 3 chars, then a&p event crossing, then through dark night to equanimity, yesterday while on the cushion").

RE: Where am I?
Answer
9/1/10 2:19 PM as a reply to Beoman Beoman.
Quite a few interesting experiences there. A rule of thumb: spiritual rollercoaster without brakes, lucid dreams, wireframe frogs (trippy! I got a green rotating wireframe skull once), bright lights, energetic sensations flowing upwards: a&p. (Insert boilerplate warning about dark night following a&p like thunder following lightning).

Daniel has this big poster-sized table of the map at his site, interactivebuddha.com, really condensed, with separate columns for width of focus and feeling-tone and so on. Those (in my case, particularly quality of focus, "energy" sensations and concentration ability) are pretty good indicators.

Keep a diary, if you like. Some patterns become more obvious looking back.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: Where am I?
Answer
9/2/10 2:51 PM as a reply to Florian.
Florian Weps:
Quite a few interesting experiences there. A rule of thumb: spiritual rollercoaster without brakes, lucid dreams, wireframe frogs (trippy! I got a green rotating wireframe skull once), bright lights, energetic sensations flowing upwards: a&p. (Insert boilerplate warning about dark night following a&p like thunder following lightning).


Hmm it may well be.. my only issue with that is that I don't feel like I've gotten into the first jhana.. although maybe that calm spacey feeling is it. I'll have to read thru MCTB's description of the stages again.

Florian Weps:

Daniel has this big poster-sized table of the map at his site, interactivebuddha.com, really condensed, with separate columns for width of focus and feeling-tone and so on. Those (in my case, particularly quality of focus, "energy" sensations and concentration ability) are pretty good indicators.

Keep a diary, if you like. Some patterns become more obvious looking back.


Oo I think I found it. Pretty nifty - will have to look at it more closely! I feel part of the problem w/ the MCTB is that the descriptions are so verbose that it's hard to get the major points from each one and remember them long enough to compare to what I experienced.

A diary sounds like a good idea, too. Thx for the advice!