Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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boeuf f, modified 12 Years ago at 10/1/10 10:34 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 10/1/10 10:34 PM

Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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This will be a place for practice notes. It continues from a previous thread which gives a bit of background: (http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/1020574).

Still getting a sense of my coordinates on the maps. Florian pegged a recent sitting as indicating access to the fear nana and maybe beyond--with which I agree. Florian also suggested some sustained kasina sits. So:

Using a candle flame I gaze at it and see-feel the jhana in the flame and in my body. This works for me and the pitti rises to become quite strong, until the downstairs TV noise becomes a very distant concern. I close my eyes and there are brief flashes of a candle image, not like the usual afterimage, but like an image of a candle--they are faint, but notable (edges of nimitta?) but each time I get excited and they go away. When they do appear, I am concentrated to the point where I am not aware of hoping to see them. The jhana is pretty strong and I try switching to gross noting of sensations to see whether some shift arises...none. I then switch to noting mental states. Physical discomfort (when did my cushion get so hard?). Noting sounds/noises and my irritation, then started to ask "who is irritated" "who is uncomfortable?" Sadness arose. "Who is sad?" Noted the sadness and the almost absurdly thin 2-dimensional sense of "me"--like a cheap Halloween mask. I felt more and more spacious inside. I investigated that: how did I feel space inside? Things became more spacious and floaty, with irritation, physical pain, "me", the intention to remain sitting and the sense of space all together but separate. Something new about it in how dimensional it was--maybe just that I was very concentrated. Not pleasant, not unpleasant (aside from the cement cushion); peaceful and fascinating. I don't know what sankara/formations/constructions are exactly, but I wondered if that experience was related.

I don't know whether there is anything to say about this. Perspectives are welcome. It seemed remarkable at the time, but after writing this it now seems like just another figment of the past. Sittings since marked by the hard cushion, irritation, boredom and dullness (but I am also stretched thin in terms of life/work demands and genuinely tired). Often easier to concentrate on broad fields than individual objects within (ie: the whole nada sound rather than a single "strand" of it, or the whole field of the body rather than just the breath at the nostrils).
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/11/10 7:56 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/11/10 7:56 PM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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My question continues to be: is this equanimity and if so how to work with it, and if not how to work with it?

Since being on retreat this summer, when I had a remarkable experience of equanimity/4th jhana. I sometimes/often reach this very calm, sometimes blissful, clear, pristine. Not allways though. Particularly, when I started noting aloud a few weeks ago, it was like a vivid review the various states and cranky ride through dark night (fear, disgust, desire for deliverance, icky reobservation). But last couple days I am once again finding myself here:

45 mins sitting: regrets, worry, "nothing much going on", tingling, then down & back up thru more tingling, energy, brightness, fliickering, then down and back up. Pressure at forehead and crown becomes compelling. Noting outloud throughout till things become more subtle. I tune in to the feeling of stillness, watching for thoughts to emerge and noting breath silently. There is a sense of pleasant shimmering throughout the body and some visual shimmering which gives way to hypnagogic imagery (sometimes a candle flame, sometimes prismatic glimpses of dream imagery). A vibration in the heart like sadness...or joy? Hard to tell. Either and both. Deep pleasantness which I investigate. I try to discover what constitutes this gentle deep pleasantness, sometimes looking for the dukkha in it. A sort of dimension shifting happens in terms of internal space (either as pressure or a sense of being much "deeper" at/near/in the core/heart area). I attend to what constitute that "deeper" feeling. I note self-ing, which remains there along with all the other sensations. A flicker of anxiety about "letting go" on this deep level...Letting go of what? It's all feels very circular-slippery in it's pleasantness.

Comments? Suggestions?

How to note this? Do I note it? How to investigate? Or so I just allow myself to submerge and drop all effort?
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 10/12/10 1:57 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/12/10 1:57 PM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Hi Bruno,

Sounds like equanimity to me.

Your description of reviewing the stages up to equanimity after switching your technique a few weeks ago reflects my experience. Whenever I radically changed technique, I'd kind of explore the known territory with this new technique, including A&P and dark night and everything.

So what to do in equanimity? General hints are: broad, all around, inclusive attention. Spend a lot of time in 4th jhana, but also notice how it comes apart when you exit it - since you're in equanimity, 4th jhana is okay, exiting 4th jhana is also okay, letting go of 4th jhana is okay... Examine the sense of spaciousness - what are the sensations that imply distance, volume, space - i.e. how do you know that something is "over there"? Examine the dimension shift you described. Can you stay clearly aware during that transition? And so on. Basically, observe that this is it, whether this is a highly concentrated state with formations and spaciousness, or a memory or fantasy of the future, or some other distraction; it's still what is happening right now.

Formations: they sound mysterious in MCTB, don't they? Don't worry too much about them. Don't go chasing exotic experiences - formations, donut-shaped doors etc. If a formation is perceived with high clarity - this is it. If fantasies about formations happen, be aware that this is still it.

Keep going. I think you're close. Keep doing what you are doing, and if you tweak anything, do it in small increments, and gently.

Cheers,
Florian
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 10:00 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 10:00 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Thanks Florian--helpful as usual. I have seen several threads on equanimity--at least, the ones which come up in my searches. I recognize some common issues. Any particular threads here to recommend on this?

One question: how much to let go of my noting/mindfulness? I've read some advice that at this point it's more about concentration than sati. When equanimity sets in, I tone down the noting. These are some of the most subtle and pleasant states I've accessed. It's tricky to stay alert and not "fuzz out" or become lulled--very close to falling asleep on the cushion, but very much not. I've noticed that I have a tendency to locate a sense of wakefulness/attention in my head (noted) and that there is a certain tension/stress to this wakefulness. I also realize that it's not the same as awareness itself--which is not localized and which I can't exactly perceive, though I know it's there.

This probably sounds like I'm thinking too much--and I'm sure that's true (noted).
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 10:07 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 10:07 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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boeuf f:
Thanks Florian--helpful as usual. I have seen several threads on equanimity--at least, the ones which come up in my searches. I recognize some common issues. Any particular threads here to recommend on this?

One question: how much to let go of my noting/mindfulness? I've read some advice that at this point it's more about concentration than sati. When equanimity sets in, I tone down the noting. These are some of the most subtle and pleasant states I've accessed. It's tricky to stay alert and not "fuzz out" or become lulled--very close to falling asleep on the cushion, but very much not. I've noticed that I have a tendency to locate a sense of wakefulness/attention in my head (noted) and that there is a certain tension/stress to this wakefulness. I also realize that it's not the same as awareness itself--which is not localized and which I can't exactly perceive, though I know it's there.

This probably sounds like I'm thinking too much--and I'm sure that's true (noted).


note the subtlety, note the pleasantness, note the fuzz, note the sense of wakefulness/attention, note the tension/stress, note the awareness (whether localised or not), note the knowing that it's there.

tarin
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 3:24 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 3:24 PM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Hi Bruno,

Like Tarin said, note (including the subtle stuff).

It's not really about some secret formula at this point, or some arcane mind motion, or some exotic experience, or anything of that sort.

You want to pay close attention to what is going on here, right now - anything going on is what is going on here. I think Tarin mentioned somewhere how he even made that into some kind of mantra - "what is going on here?".

Getting into and staying in 4th Jhana for some time can give you more power to do that kind of paying attention.

The distinction between samatha and vipassana gets increasingly artificial in 4th jhana, in my opinion.

Have you listened to the "Doing it vs. getting it done" discussion, available for download at Daniel's site? There is a lot of good material in there to satisfy the geeky intellectual technique-oriented angle. On the cusion (or walking, ...) however, it's all about paying attention to what is going on here - especially the subtle shades of that.

Noting practice can be really good here - it's what got me through equanimity. Or maybe the technique of "centered prayer" works for you (basically, you consent to the presence and actions of the sensate universe in your current experience, and express that consent with some kind of symbol, anything, really, a word or visualized shape for example).

Duncan Barford has a good essay on this attitude called The Gesture. One key phrase I found particularly useful was "our perception of the rose is a part of the rose, not a part of or a picture in our mind".

Looks like I've written another long post - don't be confused by the volume of what I wrote. It's really as simple as Tarin puts it.

Cheers,
Florian
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 5:17 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/14/10 5:17 PM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Florian Weps:
The distinction between samatha and vipassana gets increasingly artificial in 4th jhana, in my opinion.


I think that's what's throwing me off. Just needed to get some outside confirmation of that.

I know I just need to sit with it for awhile and let it sort itself out.

Duncan's essay is very helpful. It lines-up/elucidates certain things which have been on my mind.

It's funny, but while noting out loud the other day, "what is going on here?" came out of my mouth spontaneously. It reflected my state of being baffled and curious and a direction to "here". Gil Fronsdal recommends that as a sort of pointer (not quite a mantra, not quite a command, a question and a statement). "here."

Thanks to both of you.
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/16/10 11:29 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/16/10 12:58 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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"Or maybe the technique of "centered prayer" works for you (basically, you consent to the presence and actions of the sensate universe in your current experience, and express that consent with some kind of symbol, anything, really, a word or visualized shape for example).

Duncan Barford has a good essay on this attitude called The Gesture. One key phrase I found particularly useful was "our perception of the rose is a part of the rose, not a part of or a picture in our mind"."--Florian Weps

This notion of this practice has been very compelling to me for a long time. I've been trying to wrap my mind around this one since reading Reggie Ray on Tibetan Buddhism and then also after hearing Hokai describe this practice in the Hurricane Ranch discussions. Thanks for bringing it back into attention! I didn't do it formally, but it lent a certain posture to my sitting last night.

I don't have great notes since I couldn't make them till this morning. I sat last night with kasina (candle flame) doing samatha for about 30 mins. Experienced several rounds of mild first 1st-3rd jhana waves of energy, to glimpses of joy. Eventually, calm set in (4th J). The bell rang and I kept sitting, deciding to do nothing but just sit and "include everything and take everything as reality." Brightness set in, but instead of joy, piercing heartache. Equanimity made it bearable, even beautiful, but it was painful. (Is this what is meant by the Tibetan bodhicitta?) In any case it made me think of Dogen's "Intimacy with all things." Although it was not quite fully realized as that, but close. And a familiar sense of otherness--almost like a presence or maybe an erasing of me. I got a little carried away by it all (I had decided not to "do" anything aside from including). It was like peeling an onion in reverse--adding layers and layers. I didn't feel a complete erosion of self and other, but...words fail me. It was almost as if I was erasing myself breath by breath to expose the cosmos underneath.

Edit: that last sentence is too hifalutin. The perspective was more ordinary than it implies and was more a matter of position or posture with regard to how sensation was perceived. The erasing was more like a very wide angle lens which puts everything into a broader context. Including, including, including.
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/19/10 9:19 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/19/10 9:19 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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45 min sittings. Lately beginning my sittings with 5 mins of deep breathing/pranayama (nothing fancy) then 20 mins of kasina practice, switching to noting (quietly outloud and then internal after). I become very concentrated and reach a "strong" equanimity this way (still have no sense of what technically distinguishes "high" and "low" eq.)

Last night, self/body/experience/mental-states were very apparent as qualities (sometimes unified as a field) which are available to awareness which remains untouched by them. What I mean is that feelings of fuzz-out, lulling, "depth" of concentration, physical calm, or mental agitation/distraction, are quite separate from this awareness. I would like to say that awareness is "alert" or "energized" except that it has no qualities aside from it's constancy....though I guess it has a certain alert-ness because each time I noticed it I was aware of not actually "being" lulled, relaxed, etc,. Lulling was a quality/experience that was present and there was awareness untouched by it. A cumbersome way to write it, but there it is. This sitting was also marked by an odd depersonalization. For some time, I have been very aware that "self" is a patchwork construction of short term memory linked to body sensations, linked to longer term memory, views, etc. This time there was the sense that my "self" was random or a bit wrong. My mental "self" image sometimes refilled by an image which is a little different--or seemed so. Like, there's "that guy" again--laughable almost, because "that guy" is "me," but not at all believable--just a group of qualities. A metaphor: if those qualities were a cartoon of me, then the drawing had been shuffled a little, features changed here and there and the colors filling it in not entirely consistent with how I usually know them.

All of this flavored with a striving, efforting, and low but constant frustration/expectation that realization is right here, very close to hand, and yet I can't see it. I'm looking for it even though I know "looking" for it is not how it will unfold. A challenge to stay on top of noting that efforting and frustration because it reappears with subtlety over and over.

"Hearing the words, understand the meaning;
don't set up standards of your own.
If you don't understand the Way right before you,
how will you know the path as you walk?
Progress is not a matter of far or near,
but if you are confused, mountains and rivers block your way."

--from the Sandokai
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Florian, modified 11 Years ago at 10/20/10 5:07 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/20/10 5:07 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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boeuf f:
My mental "self" image sometimes refilled by an image which is a little different--or seemed so.


Interesting, isn't it? Cay you stay present during this shuffle? With an attitude of gentle curiosity?

Cheers,
Florian
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 10/23/10 11:00 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/23/10 11:00 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Two types of sittings. Marked difference between them.

Morning sittings are plain to ordinary. Either "nothing much" going on and some dullness and difficulty concentrating, or more present, unspectacular but vivid experiences of ordinary life, mind and body type sitting, or irritation/anger (my cat goes on a loud 45 min meowing binge). I'm not bored during these, though sometimes a little frustrated by the dull ones. The anger ones are not pleasant, so I feel aversion to them and a sort of impatience and "waiting" for them to pass over to something else (they often don't). I often start these sittings noting, then switch to samatha.

Evening sittings generally start with kasina (20 mins) then swtich to noting, or a meditation word for inclusiveness (currently: "yes"). These often lead to very concentrated, sometimes dreamy mindstates. Some difficulty staying present for these as they arise, but I seem to maintain clearer awareness of them with every sit. Last night, the "filling in" of my "self" with other "selves" was very notable, sometimes a little scary. Sometimes there were images which bordered on visions/experiences of presences of imaginary beings, which would dissipate as I became aware of them (this has been coming on slowly but surely, dreamy qualities of individualized otherness). Noted them as soon as I was aware of them and for the most part the lag time was not that long. Last night's sitting marked by an ever increasing inclusiveness and alertness/energy where all sensations, internal and external, pleasant and not (ie: including street noise, pain) became part of the same fabric of awareness and was very beautiful, even breath-taking. I noted the beauty, wonder, etc. Afterward, it was all very gone. I kept my attention as it quickly and definitively it passed away. Nice while it lasted, but a little like seeing an amazing movie with special effects and then you leave and that's that.
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago at 10/23/10 11:38 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 10/23/10 11:38 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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boeuf f:
Last night's sitting marked by an ever increasing inclusiveness and alertness/energy where all sensations, internal and external, pleasant and not (ie: including street noise, pain) became part of the same fabric of awareness... (...)


note the fabric of awareness.
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 9:19 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 9:19 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Haven't posted in awhile. Some family and work demands, but all I really have to say is "more of the same". Reading over previous postings I see basically the same sort of unfolding. Only difference is that I seem to reach a very deeply concentrated equanimity a bit faster and I'm feeling frustrated/bored by it. I have lately been using the inner sound (nada sound) as my object. Aware of compulsion, that there is something "I'm trying to do", repeatedly note that compulsion and try to settle the agitation/tightness that arises as a result of it. Mostly I am trying to simply listen to the sound, what it's like, how it is spatially, what it is to be aware of that sound (which is very impersonal). The contrast to the sound is self/selfing (in terms of how "personal" it is). Noting is less verbal and more "hitting with the mind". Selfing is frustrating because it is so fake and yet I'm so identified with it. Trying to avoid thinking my way out of any of this...

Off the cushion, difficulty feeling maintaining inspiration for practice. In fact, the idea of practice and realization/enlightenment sort of depresses me. I still sit twice a day for 50 mins with little resistance and some enthusiasm, but even the more "profound" sittings sort of bore me or leave me dissatisfied. Often disappointed at the end of the sitting--that fruition didn't happen, yet again. (Yes, noted.)
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tarin greco, modified 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 2:58 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 10:11 AM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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boeuf f:
Only difference is that I seem to reach a very deeply concentrated equanimity a bit faster and I'm feeling frustrated/bored by it.

equanimity's not deeply concentrated enough yet then.


boeuf f:

I have lately been using the inner sound (nada sound) as my object. Aware of compulsion, that there is something "I'm trying to do", repeatedly note that compulsion and try to settle the agitation/tightness that arises as a result of it.

in my opinion, all you can do here is let it settle itself. fine tune it, without losing mindfulness.


boeuf f:

Mostly I am trying to simply listen to the sound, what it's like, how it is spatially, what it is to be aware of that sound (which is very impersonal). The contrast to the sound is self/selfing (in terms of how "personal" it is). Noting is less verbal and more "hitting with the mind". Selfing is frustrating because it is so fake and yet I'm so identified with it.

frustrating, frustrating.. (good suffering characteristic opportunity right there)

boeuf f:

Trying to avoid thinking my way out of any of this...

gaming, gaming..

trying to avoid gaming, trying to avoid gaming..

(suffering, suffering..)


boeuf f:

Off the cushion, difficulty feeling maintaining inspiration for practice. In fact, the idea of practice and realization/enlightenment sort of depresses me. I still sit twice a day for 50 mins with little resistance and some enthusiasm, but even the more "profound" sittings sort of bore me or leave me dissatisfied. Often disappointed at the end of the sitting--that fruition didn't happen, yet again. (Yes, noted.)

people who lose interest in practising during equanimity regarding formations far more often than not become laxer than is helpful for reaching stream-entry. the instructions, particularly as regards the three characteristics, still apply; therefore, keep going. practise for its own sake, even if you don't see the point. even the boredom will pass (notice it a few times then pay no more attention to it).

tarin
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boeuf f, modified 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 4:18 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 11/16/10 4:18 PM

RE: Branching Streams Flow in Darkness

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Thanks Tarin. Your response is very helpful.

I'm having a hard time walking the line between "not too tight, not too loose". I can actually concentrate quite deeply (sans frusturation/boredom) and things sometimes become quite luminous/joyful or just deeply weird. In both cases, the outside world becomes dimmer and muffled. But then I have concern about keeping that balanced. It's not that I fuzz-out too much, it all feels pretty clear and sometimes amazingly so, but I've read cautions against coming to see such sates as the goal of practice, so I guess I'm turning up my expectations and watchfulness (hence, frustration). At the same time, I'm trying to let go of a "vigilant" type of mindfulness (noting often feels vigilant....yes, noting the vigilance) and to cultivate a more relaxed sati--which is what I meant when I said I'm just listening to the sound and really investigating that listening.

I feel the laxity you refer to. Easy to just sit in that blissed out state. Or a less blissed state. Or a crummy dull state. It's just easy to sit. But again, off the cushion, practice seems dubious and I have aversion to stream entry/enlightenment. I'm just having a hard time believing that's something I want....yeah, a problem of sorts. Some of this is definitely fear. But it's been a long time since I have connected with someone/something that inspired me and had me feeling that that goal is really worthwhile. There is also a very subtle but pervasive grief (which I think may be due to some eroding of ego and leading to some fear).

I did some meditations on death last night (visualizing my last hour, days weeks). And that helped put the perspective back a little.

I feel like a day of solid practice would make a big difference here in terms of affording me some time to play with the edges and limits how I practice. Demands on my time and attention have been strong. I may have a day this weekend, we'll see.

Regards,
Bruno