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5/17/12 4:34 PM
Dear Dhoers,

I thought it would be useful for me to get some advice/comment, so I describe my practice. Also, maybe others will find it useful to read my post or others' reactions to it. Even though my questions are not necessarily very specific, I feel that at this stage I could really benefit from some feedback from more experienced meditators. So, feel free to comment, don't be shy...

I started meditating in a Goenka 10 dayer in 2009. I did another course in 2010, and I plan to do a third this August. I've never done/tried other types of meditation, so I followed Goenkaji's method (anapana+body scanning). I typically sit two times 1 hour a day, in recent months two times 1 hour 15 minutes. As for off-meditation habits, I find conducive to 'good' meditation not to drink alcohol, coffee, to do sports and a little hatha yoga regularly. Work, and the related stress, can however be an, unavoidable, obstacle.

In my sits, I start with breath-concentration meditation on the spot where the breath enters/exits through the nostrils. In recent weeks, I've been experimenting with breath counting (1 to 10, restart if lost), doing about 10 rounds, and then switch to pure breath-spot observation. I find the counting quite efficient, I often and relatively quickly fall into a more concentrated state, which is locally stable. It still has quiet some fragility, but I often manage to get back after I lose concentration. I do concentration meditation for about 20-25 minutes.

Then I switch to vipassana (body scanning). I follow Jill's advice and still keep 'half' of my attention on the breath, so I don't lose that much of the concentration. I go part-by-part through my body in order, from-head-to-toe and from-toe-to-head. I typically feel uniform subtle sensations almost everywhere - these are like small vibrations. In the first two years, I never felt pain off-retreat. On retreats, I quickly ran into solid pain in my legs/hip. In the last couple of months, when I've increased the duration of my sits, I've often had pains. But these pains in some sits are present and in some others not. Sometimes they seem to strengthen during the sit, sometimes they decrease or become more fragmented.

Also, in the recent months I've been having a lot of waves and pulsations. These are sometimes synchronized with the breath and sometimes not. They often erupt when I get to my head with the scanning. Sometimes they are quite intensive and sometimes just very subtle. Often there is a feel of an incoming giant wave, like looking at an incoming tsunami from the shore, coupled with sum muscle tension, increasingly being synchronized with the breath. But then 'nothing' happens, the thing just deflates.

In recent weeks I have often, nowadays more often than not, been reaching a state that I would call equanimity. I'm not referring here to the 11th nana, Equanimity, of the progress of insight map. It is rather a state where I can just simply and and in a stable, robust way sit and observe my body sensations, without becoming agitated by them, even if they are painful. It feels like as if equanimity was a skill or attitude that one can learn/adopt. It's a sort of detachment from my body sensations.

I think I'm not obsessed with the maps -- they are probably most useful in warning in advance that there are ups and downs in the meditation road, and not in micro-mapping every single observation --, but I'm just wondering where can I be. I guess the center of gravity of my practice must be somewhere in the 3rd stage, the Three Characteristics. Sometimes it seems that I'm getting over it, but then I find myself again there. I found relatively less discussion of this stage, and how it proceeds and how to deal with it. (People rather talk about A&P and what follows...) On the other hand, the lots of waves and pulsations might be factors of early A&P territory. Plus the equanimity 'feeling' somehow also seems a more advanced thing. But I'm a little confused about this mapping stuff.

I'm just wondering whether this progress is not too slow. The technique seems to work, but other people on this site typically report a faster pace (typically starting right at A&P) - or maybe the slower meditators like me post less often.

Anyways, my plan is to raise the center of gravity of my practice to a more A&P like territory by the time I go to the next retreat in August. At the retreat then I'll try to 'jump' by practicing as much as possible. In my previous retreats I was not that consistent, but since then I've picked up quite a lot of retreat advice - MCTB, threads here and there, etc.

Does this all make some sense? I still don't know. I have quite some residual doubt/confusion which are hard to explain. Perhaps that's why I posted this out.

RE: Looking for feedback
Answer
5/17/12 6:06 PM as a reply to Zed Z.
Firstly, and if I haven't said it already, welcome to the DhO!

I'll get a better reply in and try to post a bit more useful advice tomorrow as I'm just about to log off, although I wanted to highlight something for you which may be helpful:

I'm just wondering whether this progress is not too slow. The technique seems to work, but other people on this site typically report a faster pace (typically starting right at A&P) - or maybe the slower meditators like me post less often.

Only someone who's gotten 1st Path would start their sits at the A&P so don't worry about this; the starting point for anyone pre-Path would depend on whereabouts they are on the insight maps but will also depend on whether or not they've crossed the A&P Event. If someone hasn't crossed the A&P, they'll cycle from 1st to 3rd ñana possibly crossing into 4th if their practice is strong; if someone has crossed the A&P then they'll cycle from 1st to 11th ñana until getting Path. Don't worry about the maps though, it all becomes much clearer with strong, dedicated practice.

Focus on your own practice, not what anyone else is doing unless it's encouraging and useful to you. Judging your own practice, particularly when you're talking about a conceptual map you're not familiar with, based on how others are doing isn't always the best idea and can just make you pissed off. emoticon

Take it easy.

T

RE: Looking for feedback
Answer
5/18/12 2:17 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hi Tommy,

Thanks for the reply. I understand that people who have already crossed the A&P event cycle from the 1st to the 11th nana. It just seemed to me that many, if not most, of the people here crossed the A&P event somehow out-of-meditation and that was precisely the reason why they started meditating. But anyhow, I fully agree with you that judging other people's practice is a tricky business, and unless it's motivating and useful for me it's not worth to engage in.

I also see that understanding the maps is easier from a retrospective point of view. So I'm not surprised that I don't fully understand them now.

One question though is that you write that one also cycles before crossing the A&P event. I've somehow always understood that starting from scratch, and with a dedicated practice, the progress from 1st to 4th is sort of linear, and then, having crossed the A&P event, one starts cycling.

Anyways, as I see it now, getting to the 4th nana off-retreat seems a challenge.