RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

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Alan Smithee, modified 8 Years ago.

Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
So I've been hangin' out in Equanimity for the past month or so, exploring the territory, working towards stream entry.

Is it useful to try to cultivate the formless realm vipassana jhanas as an attempt to get stream?

After meditating for a bit I get into a place where my awareness becomes vast, wide, panoramic, less body focused and more wide open space focused, as if I'm looking off into the horizon, like I'm lying on the ground looking into the sky, etc., which I've come to associate rightly or wrongly with the formless realm jhana of boundless space -- but in its vipassana jhananic form.

My last few sits I've been experimenting with cultivating the sense that the boundless space is in fact filled with awareness, such that it becomes boundless consciousness [vipassana jhana # 6]. My working hypothesis is that this will make the investigation of the subtler aspects of the mind [which is what everyone suggests is the thing to be done while in Equanimity] more concrete. If consciousness becomes vast, then it is easier to explore, no? Am I on the right track?

That being said, with the goal being stream, is it useful to then further attempt to develop the 7th vipassana jhana of nothingness? If the doorway into stream involves noticing the three characteristics at the heart of all things, but particularly mind/awareness/consciousness, is it better to just hang out and investigate consciousness while in the 6th vipassana jhana [while in Equanimity], and not drop consciousness for nothingness? [I think I occasionally end up in this territory, nonetheless, without really trying for it, but I'm not sure, and will have to investigate further.] Or should one also try to eventually get to the 8th vipassana jhana Neither Perception Nor Yet Non-Perception? Basically, is the key to getting stream from within Equanimity working one's way through the formless realms until finding stream somewhere while in very fine-tuned #8 vipassana jhana?

I should probably note that I've never had a "hard" jhanic experience, meaning, solely as a result of samatha practice, but I've only experienced what I think are the vipassana jhana versions via scanning, noting, choiceless awareness, etc., namely, vipassana practice.

I used to think that Equanimity was just a bland place, rather ubiquitous, without a whole lot to distinguish it, etc., but if one adds in the formless realm vipassana jhanas to one's experience of Equanimity then there are a number of distinct levels, and so forth, that one can explore while within this insight stage. Yes? Am I on the right track?

Side Note: Also, I'm no scholar, but am I wrong to think that in the classic literature [for lack of a better term] there hasn't been a whole lot of discussion of the formless realms being part of the vipassana jhanas? I mean, I've usually read about how the vipassana jhanas are 1-4, but much less about the formless realms being included within them.
super fox, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 36 Join Date: 2/9/11 Recent Posts
Hi Alan,

What is your current experience with thoughts arising during meditation?

Here are some strategies that helped me land MCTB 1st path while I was hanging around in EQ for a bit.

- Assume that this is not your life/not-your-body, and somehow you've become trapped in someone else's. This allows one to cultivate dispassion towards experience overall. These experiences are not yours (so anytime you're not pristinely aware and disembedded you're basically deluding yourself into thinking you are someone else).

- Forget about jhana's and nanas and such for a bit. Instead focus as carefully as you can on exactly what is happening in the moment with a sense of curiosity. You'd be surprised how carrying the lense of maps/jhanas/nanas can slightly bias your interpretation of what you are observing.

- Notice thoughts very carefully. Does it feel like there is a story? Does it feel like there might be a meditator sitting there trying to get stream entry? Is there a sense of an Alan living a life with a job/school/lifestyle? (Basically notice the deeper background thoughts) Is there a sense of a *you* trying to do/achieve/go/verb anything? Notice how much effort is exerted by the mind trying to fabricate stories. This includes partial-stories about how you're in this jhana/nana/fabricated-state-of-mind.

- Even high up in EQ there are vibrations (very subtle ones). There is still a very subtle stress. Watch this stress as carefully as possible. Notice how there is a relation between stress and any fabricated state. Notice how *doing anything* is itself part of the formations you are watching and are subtly stressful. Notice how even being conscious of having an experience moment to moment is stressful, how any notions of having any kind of a solid existence are stressful. Notice how anytime there is a subject-object duality there is a subtle stress involved. Notice the most subtle sense of unsatisfactoryness you can find <- why isn't experience already completely perfect here and now and forever?

- Finally contemplate as deeply (and intuitively) as possible the end of stress <- wouldn't it be marvelous is for once the arising and passing of phenomenon simply ceased in a complete and total manner with no exceptions?

I hope this helps!

Cheers,
Super Fox
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Eric B, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 186 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Alan Smithee:
Side Note: Also, I'm no scholar, but am I wrong to think that in the classic literature [for lack of a better term] there hasn't been a whole lot of discussion of the formless realms being part of the vipassana jhanas? I mean, I've usually read about how the vipassana jhanas are 1-4, but much less about the formless realms being included within them.


The four vipassana jhanas as discussed in MCTB map to nanas one through eleven without reference to the formless jhanas.

Separate from this, Ayya Khema said that the four formless jhanas are sometimes referred to as vipassana jhanas because you can use them for insight practice.

So here we have the same term, vipassana jhana, being used in two different ways that are in the same ballpark.

By formless realm vipassana jhanas, I think what you are referring to are soft formless samata jhanas where you still have enough wiggle room to do vipassana (which is what you want). You got into these states doing vipassana, but they're samatha states.

You can do vipassana in jhanas 5, 6 & 7 (so long as you are not in hard jhana), but not 8. Without the perception that is dropped moving from 7 into 8 you can't do vipassana.

If you can go from 6 up into 7 and 8, give it a go and see what you lose as you do.
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Alan Smithee, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
This is a recent mind map Dan put on his website Integrated Daniel which shows some linkages between the insight stages and the formless realms, although, as mentioned above, there isn't a lot of discussion of these connection in MCToB. http://static.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/506fcc5c84aefb9a79a610b3/1349504092518/Pathways.jpg
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 3169 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Alright, more stuff on them:

There is what for lack of a better term I will call formless-light vipassana jhanas, which are really formed jhanas, except that they have the qualities of the formless jhanic perspectives, just not full formlessness, and many attain these and don't recognize that this is what they are attaining.

I will call them 11.4.5-11.4.8 using the ñana.subjhana.subsubjhana notation I am so fond of.

So in 11.4.5 (the 4 makes it the light version, as still in 4, just the 5 aspect of 4, this contrasted with 11.5-11.8 (which is what the original poster is probably interested in, I suspect)) we have the wide open, clear, boundless aspect of 11th. This is best appreciated when looking for it just after 11.3, the mini Dark Night of Equanimity, and is best appreciated by people who are using more panoramic techniques, though the first time I chanced into this I was breath, breath, breath and feet, feet, feet. It is formed, but still the spaciousness, the boundarylessness still predominates.

Next in 11.4.6 things can get very direct, very just as they are where they are, as their own consciousness, their own intrinsic presentation of just what they are, comes to the fore. For instance, when watching a movie and shifting into 11.4.6, one suddenly tends to notice that one is in a movie theater, that there are flashing images on a screen, and notice things like what colors are on the screen, what the lighting in the room is like, the 3D nature of there being a space in the room, the angles the walls make with each other, that sort of thing. It would be very easy to paint or draw in this mode, as you can see just what the colors are of everything without your idea of them being superimposed. Thus, it is still formed, very much so, but the presence of things predominates wherever they are, and it is this presence from which consciousness is falsely implied, as really there is no such thing in this context beyond the things themselves, but I digress...

Next in 11.4.7 the total opposite comes to the fore, this being really something like 11.4.F.3, with F standing in place to signify formless realms, of which 7 is really the 3 aspect of the thing, being inverted, out of phase, totally not aligning with what is going on around. So in this one, where as just one stage before (11.4.6) one was hyper-present to just what was there, now one is really the exact opposite, really tuned out from this. I remember the first time I really noticed how this happens walking around: I was studying in a cafe for a medical school exam during 2nd year and I hit re-observation, had to leave and take a break, as the restlessness got to high, so I decided to go to a place called Silk Road Teahouse for some peppermint tea and a cookie, as was my habit, and somewhere on the journey I shifted into Equanimity, and when I got to the Teahouse I was totally out of phase with everything but oddly fine. It was like the Teahouse and my transactions with the cashier and getting the cookie and the tea was all happening in some sort of very out of phase but totally ok fog, well, not like a fog, but it wasn't registering, not really at all, and something about this was more noticeable than anything about the specifics, which were like they were happening in a dream, and a dream that I wasn't paying attention to really at all except to vaguely marvel on occasion that I somehow as apparently navigating just fine without really having much of a clue or any real interest in what was going on and it didn't matter at all. Were I not a map-freak with a lot of theory and practice background it would have been easy to miss this, as it was in some ways subtle, and we generally don't have great language to talk about those really out-of-it moments in our lives, and what we don't have great language to talk about, we often don't remember.

On sitting down with the tea and cookie it became apparent that I was at that point really, really altered in some way, yet functioning totally normally. There was nobody but me in the teahouse, so I closed my eyes, and suddenly I was clearly in very heavy 8 proper: couldn't say I was there, couldn't say I was not there, and this shifted to what they original poster is now looking for...

I will backtrack and describe the first time I got into real 11.5-11.8 that I remember. It was my last day on my 3rd retreat, a 14-day at MBMC, and it was after the guy played the scratch tape of the stages of insight, and I had already broken through ReObs and was in Equanimity, I was sitting there out beyond noting into just staying with what I will call for lack of better terms fluxing suchness and nothingness, which were trying to synchronize. This is hyper-abstract stuff. Body was long gone as any coherent structure, as was nearly all color except what I will describe vaguely as waves of phantom near-black and true ultra-black, though the color was not really the point, and some of that may be the remembering mind's attempt to put details on something that it is really hard to put details on, but regardless, these two things were trying to synchronize, and at points there was nothing, and this nothing was fluxing or presenting or something in great swaths, and nearly everything was out of phase with this vague presentation anyway, and at points you couldn't even say anything even that out there, as there was nothing you could even call nothing or even be sure there was anything to call anything anything, and these various experiences shifted, fluxed, morphed into one another, and I knew then that if the thing that was trying to get this obviously not-properly synced thing to sync then that without doubt would be stream entry.

I didn't land it, as an hour of that later the lunch bell rang and I had to leave and go back to Thailand, and so it would be next retreat before I would get stream entry, a retreat on which I didn't get into vibrating formless realms, just in case you were were wondering, but apparently didn't need to anyway.

So, back to tea and cookies, I mean 11.F... So I was sitting in the restaurant and clearly there was alternately nothing and then something there in a swimming, swirling sort of way, subtly, panoramically, as at this point I was somewhere up in the high end of what I call 3rd path, which was really different from the early ones, and so things were a lot more calm and clear and subtle in some ways, but it was like the out of phaseness of real full-on nothingness, total body/teahouse/etc gone nothingness was oscillating in and out of real 8th, that can't even say anything about it except it is beyond nothingness and that's about it mode, and then all that calmed down, I ate my cookie, drank my tea, picked up my books, read a bit, and shortly thereafter I suddenly finished up that insight cycle.

The point I am trying to make is that it is common for something 11.4.5-8th-esque to show up even when in formed space during the last little bit of the progress of insight, and whether or not someone is the sort of person that tends to incline to what is way out there, way out of touch with this ordinary space of ordinary form, out beyond the easy and familiar landmarks of things such as form and even space, then they might, if they are skilled, in the right frame of mind, inclining to that, and/or have strong concentration (as that really helps), they may convert those into oscillating, fluxing, trying-to-sync formless realms, which are at once really, really far out and also can scare people, as they can be creepy for those who like things like a coherent body image while they are conscious, as well as an awareness of their environment, so this can cause instability of them for many.

They actually naturally tend to lead relatively rapidly to the next path (or stream entry if that is what you are working on), and I suspect that had I even a few more hours on that 3rd retreat of sitting time I would have gotten it, but I didn't know that, so the next 6 months were a bit of a mess, but that's how we learn, eh? and now that I have passed this on hopefully you, should you find yourself in a similar situation, will stay another day or two...

Anyway, that is my blurb. Thoughts? Helpful?

Maybe I should put this in MCTB2.

Daniel
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Eric B, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 186 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Daniel,

Have you adopted a simplified notation? What you've used above seems simpler than that in your article in the wiki.

Eric
A D R, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 678 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I would like to add that in my experience such "formed" "lite" vibrating formless realms can sometimes present as the stage of mind and body. This can throw the mediator into a confusion (as it did me a few days ago), because she will practice like she is in the dark night, trying to get up into equanimity and back to what she sees as her cutting edge, but in fact she is in the lower stages and needs to gear up into a&p mode.
A D R, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 678 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I am having a bit of trouble with this topic actually.

I think somehow I have been working up and down through the stages with kind of a object of 11.4.7 perhaps.

Yesterday I concluded this about the same time as writing above post.

What I have been experimenting with is just letting the focus rest in kind of a "mudra" of muscular tension I associate with 11.4.7, and working up the stages with this as a focal point, trying to notice sensations that imply nothingness.

This morning I did a sit and seemed to get pretty high up, but then it kind of hit a wall (I am always assuming these kind of sensations will "roll over" into some kind of emptiness but it never works that way).

The final things I noticed during my session where the idea of itching and how the tension in my upper nose area where I was "focusing" was related to a point of tension and pain on my back in the solar plexus area (its kind of like I am pushing trying to get something to "roll over," but really its more like a "shove of war" - even sleep is characterized by my feeling like I am pushing up against something, kind of half in my body and half watching my dreams like I am pressed up against some kind of non-local pane of glass). Then I got restless and got up.

Since that time (about 20 minutes), I haven't really been able to find sensations that imply nothingness anymore. The act of looking seems to screw things up.

Wondering if there are any specific techniques for working through these latter formless spaces, as they have kind of given me trouble at points.

Am also curious, Daniel, about your story with the Peppermint cookie. Its a likely that I am not at the "upper end of third path," but I find it interesting that you were able to just go about your day with these things showing up on their own. I have yet to find any kind of flow like that.
A D R, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 678 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
I don't fucking understand why this is so fucking difficult. I feel like I am trapped in a very bad place and I will never get out. emoticon:
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 3169 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
A D R:
Am also curious, Daniel, about your story with the Peppermint cookie. Its a likely that I am not at the "upper end of third path," but I find it interesting that you were able to just go about your day with these things showing up on their own. I have yet to find any kind of flow like that.


Just for time reference, that day with the cookie at Silk Road Tea House was during 2nd year of medical school sometime, probably late, which was the Spring of 2001 or so.

In contrast to my early meditative days, by that point I had done all sorts of serious practice, lots of retreats (though most pretty short), thousands of hours of daily practice, had true formless realms easily in daily life (from late 1996 to somewhere in the 2005 range I ritualistically hit all 8 jhanas nearly every night when laying down to go to sleep just to make sure to keep up the skill-set in the face of graduate and post-graduate education's assaults on my time and because they are fun and healing. There is something about repetition that really helps nail things down), had NS easily in daily life, and had cycled and cycled and cycled basically all the damn time, going through what felt like path after path (at that point they rolled through as quickly as every 2 weeks at points...), had periods where the whole field of experience seemed totally empty and integrated (or nearly totally so...), with nearly all boundaries dissolved (only to have them show the subtle flaws in all that later with the next cycle), and was seriously hitting mindfulness with everything I had as often as I could, as I was really charged up to get to get to something beyond all that at the time.

In short, I was totally obsessed with this stuff and with pushing myself to perceive things I hadn't perceived yet clearly and to map better than anyone ever had in the history of the world (this is, unfortunately in some ways, not an exaggeration), so I meticulously mentally cataloged all this stuff as it happened according to this elaborate, Bill-Hamilton-inspired classification system, being the total phenomenology-junky that I was, with a desperate need to prove myself fueled by all sorts of powerful internal forces...

Strange times those were.

Regarding the comment that I had simplified my system of nomenclature: the one I use internally just uses numbers and I know what they mean by internal context, so I slipped a bit and reverted to that above. For instance, I know that to me 11.4.7 means what I say above, (meaning Equanimity ñana, 4th subjhana, Nothingness subsubjhana), and would never confuse it with, say, Equanimity ñana, 4th subñana (A&P), Misery subsubñana, for instance, which those numbers without further clarification could easily imply...

@ADR: I don't actually know much about your own practice: what have you done, what are you up to these days, and what is so hard?
A D R, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Cultivating the Formless Realm Vipassana Jhanas

Posts: 678 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Well, so far today I feel a little better about things.

Basically what is hard about my practice for the last several months now is that moving into new territory is not as easy as just sitting down and just gritting my teeth. A wall of aversion always arises and fighting it is almost always unpleasant. I might call this my cutting edge.

On the other hand, another thing I sometimes wish for in my practice is that I will get some kind of insight and suddenly my life will just be groovy in the sense of not having to put effort in at all, kind of like some kind of super hit that gets me high and allows me to do the things and be the person I always wanted to be.

Since my mind is quite hesitant to moving into new territory during sits, today I going to follow the "exhaustion method." Basically its where I keep myself focused and continually stay busy until I reach the tipping point and my body demands a break. I will then sit or lie down, but at the slightest hint of trouble I will get up again, and repeat the process.

A couple reasons this might work:

1. My body obviously has an excessive amount of energy, it may feel like shit energy, but its energy nonetheless. I say this because I am not digesting all my food or sleeping very much...if I really needed these things my body would use them. Or so the theory goes.

2. The above theory could be off, I could really by physically weak and not in good health, but at this point its beyond my control. If good health entails living the life I have been living, I don't want any part of it. I am caring less and less if my body dies anyway, so I am just going to ignore this possibility for now.

So, its high stakes time, insight or die. My preference in practice is obviously movement based, so I am going to play to my strong suit and utilize this as much as possible.

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