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Sid's Log: New Horizons

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Sid's Log: New Horizons
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7/12/15 10:12 PM
Feeling it might be helpful to describe my current experiences.

Recent Practice -

Background: On September 5th I started sitting meditation at home, generally 2-6 hours a day with many other hours spent attempting mindfulness during busy activities. Switched from busy job to sustainable part-time teaching to free up time for practice. 

Weeks 1-2: After reviewing MCTB maps and a few other sources I started trying to implement basic practices from Practical Insight Meditation. At first difficult to transition from my busier life to my less busy one and a lot of complicated relief and emotion took my attention, but eventually the fact that I had planned to have nothing else to do but meditate started to work and I started noticing thoughts of aversion to meditation that would then be followed up by a "yeah... so what?" kind of feeling that would then press me on. 

I began with my breath as my object and expanded into any other sensation I could note in any of the six sense doors. I tried to ground myself in the present by noticing a thought about the past or future as it arose, kind of 'comparing' it with another impression that involved time and they both seemed to sort of dissipate in intensity. Bothersome thoughts: I would try to intensify and note sensory qualities that belonged to them. At some point a lot of my sitting attention would be drawn to the many "touch points" I could notice wherever I felt sensations of pressure in my body. I tried body-scanning, was all over the place.

My concentration weak at the time I started this, an my forays into early insight stages seemed infrequent but real enough, and some days I experienced the intense vividness and vibrancy that I think is part of the first vipassana jhana. Started discovering many little details about how I experience my home. Got distracted from any particular object of focus and let myself experience whatever my mind shot for. Lots of intellectual and emotional energy was freed and it was difficult to hold myself back from pursuing creative interests. One day I stopped practice inexplicably and read and wrote extensively for two or three days. I made surprising progress in a number of projects but then cut back deciding to rededicate myself to practice. 

Weeks 3-4: Picked a new object - an adjustable metronome. Each click over time began to dissolve into several distinct sounds, and I started noticing physical sensations in my ears and causal relationships between clicks, my noticing of clicks, and sensations all over my body. I felt very empowered and impressed at the degree of exactness I was reaching much of the time, and it seemed more clear to me what knowledge of cause and effect meant, but I was having trouble seeing any of the three characteristics beyond maybe the speed/impermanence of the sensations. It feels like it would be a long an exhausting effort to describe all of what I was learning (just about clicks!), but the new richness gave me more faith in the process. 

My concentration was improving and it occurred to me that I might have an easier time with visualization than with sounds. This made sense as I had begun to naturally stare at and observe objects around me, and in college I had found visualization to be a) one of my stronger personal mental tools (helping me up to General Relativity problems about curvature) and b) one of my favorite activities (mapping fractals for unsolvable problems in a chaos theory class). 

I read more about kasina meditation and my guess was lucky - early experiments felt like something my mind was very willing to do. Not as magically easy as I had hoped (definitely some ego and wishful thinking), but I decided to switch object again to full-time kasina.

Weeks 5-present: My kasina object has largely been candle flame and the after-image, with some time spent on an a bowl, and some time spent on multi-colored disks on my wall (these can be flipped over when one color is dull to intensify the next one). 

My concentration at first still felt not good enough, but in time I felt able to notice the near-constantly attentional blinking and shifting in my vision or in my eyes even when fixed on a single spot. I discovered that relaxing beforehand helped, as did using a kind of full-body awareness of my seeing process. If I could not focus on the flame or image then sort of 'circling around' and surrounding it helped. I noted off thoughts whenever possible. Subtle mental noise and self-talk felt persistent even if I could almost mute it. 

Suddenly, while viewing a bowl I passed quickly though the nimittas (turned the same color as the background, grew dark, disappeared, and the reappeared as as a luminous object). I pursued this luminous object and cultivated I again again, which was semi-reproducible through tweaking my mood, relaxation-level, body, and the periphery of my attention. I started enjoying the first samatha jhana and decided to pursue more insight. The luminous kasina objects still seem a little miraculous and their vividness encouraged me.

In the last week I've discovered that my kasina insight experiences using a candle flame and after-image are creepily close to what Daniel briefly describes in the MCTB chapter on the vipassana jhana models. I closed my eyes and the after-image would dissipate before a clear, bright, red orb appeared. It started shaking, flying away, misbehaving. After a few sessions of that behavior it contained a golden spinning star-like center, then the whole image began flashing, the dot became dark, the image borders became multi-colored and moving in complex ways, and colors and difficult-to-make-out motions had started filling the surrounding area and into my whole peripheral vision.

Powerful emotional experiences have also been filling my daily life. A few sharp spikes of apparently irrational fear. Periods of amazing sensual languor. Disaffection. Lucid dreams. Terrible nightmares (lots of what I would describe as death-related imagery, a reaper entity, and one dream where my body was being unraveled in morbid red strands out from my knee). Contained over-reactions to normal daily details. I've been approaching this as a product of practice and trying to keep it self-contained, though it seem to influence other people in my life at least a lite bit if not directly. My partner also says I seem a bit sad this week. I think I have been experiencing dark night stages. Curious if any of it is scripted from received ideas, but unsure.

In the past three days the kasina objects can be conjured without a material counterpart - and often do so unprompted, and sometimes seem like they can be sustained for an indefinite period of time. The peripheral activity is crazy now, the center unclear, and the colorful peripheral chaos is now near-constant even in my open-eyed vision.

Yesterday while meditating I experienced a difficult-to-describe period during which my whole body and much more of my attentional field became involved. I was on the lookout for spatial effects and my visual field (/everything?) at times felt like a tight dark cloth against my eyes and at other it times felt like I was looking into deep far-off space. My mental gymnastics, expectations, and dharma theory got too crazy and I felt very miserable and irritated and lots of bodily pain. My working hypothesis is I'm in a maturing third vipassana jhana baseline. I have many conversations where my attention seems to totally float a second season behind, often my body and actions feel like agency is missing and that we're just going through the motions. From the bodily pains I have sometimes I'm open to the possibility I could be merely in three characteristics, but I'm pressing on either way. Many phenomena seem very unpleasant - especially sounds, which can seem to be composed entirely of screeches.

Want to get enlightened! I'll update more as things change. Very open to any feedback that will help me finish this stuff. I admire this community and am happy that I can pot something like this somewhere.

Previous Practice -

I've practiced on-and-off for maybe ten years. I actually think I had a re-observation-into-equanimity moment once before, and it was such a total, rapid, and constant perception of fundamental suffering belonging to every thought, motion, or tiny interior act of self-posturing that I desired intensely for release and relief until I (unknowingly Eckhart Tolle style) had a concrete realization that "there is no self to destroy" and somehow made a powerful peace in it, which led to me spending two months (during which I had almost no obligations beyond three lectures at Chinese universities) just passively and calmly observing every thought I had sitting in hotel rooms. Went away, eventually. I have no idea of how to navigate my mind to replicate the transition, and I honestly feel a little scared of having another re-observation after that. Pressing on though. 

I have looked into actualism and feel I made a little progress into cultivating PCEs.

My last retreat with ordained (Zen) monks was in 2010 and throughout college I sometimes sat with a Zen group. Hit many samatha jhanas, a few A&P-like events, was generally very confused. Had a blissful seemingly random depersonalization event in 2010 that had a long afterglow and shifted my outlook and personality in a positive way, and changed my relationship to memory/my remembered past.

Met Daniel Ingram randomly when he visited Brown/Cheetah House before I graduated. Told me I seemed to be in the dark night (that was years ago). Later I read MCTB and responded well - my areas of study were mathematical logic and philosophy (particularly philosophy of mind, pragmatism, and ethics), so this presentation of the Theravada was quite up my alley. The time. This is my first attempt to implement it seriously, no excuses. Seems to appeal to some of my similar-minded friends

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/19/14 6:42 AM as a reply to Sid.
Hello, Sidney,

You "got me" when you said you shortened your work schedule and sit 2-6 hours daily.   With that sort of dedication I had to read on.

I did wish clarification -- when you use the word "enlightened" ... well, I would think you would wish to quiet the mind as first order of business and I'm not sure how you feel about that relative to "enlightened".  I guess that is a sort of mystery concept to me.   If you were using it as a synonym for "Insight", then I would understand it.

Since you bravely asked for advices, I would like to respectfully suggest you feed the mind some "positive" or "metta".   My theory that seems to work well for me is that the mind does not like to lose importances of associations, etc. and so I take pains to feed it and I find that quiets it temporarily and I can go about my day without much mental flak.  

I think the purpose of meditation is to drain the mind of noise, etc. until mind is vanished.   Am I correct?

I like how you mentioned you compare one impression with another and that resolves it.   I tend to work with actual scenes from the past (for example, my yesterdays, my childhood) and compare them with what I see in my sitting room, and by doing that any somatics or energies from the past dissipate.  That's pretty aggressive yanking on the mind so I am very careful to follow up by "feeding the beast", instead of it yanking some stuff from the past to fill in for whatever importance it felt a loss of -- respecting the rule that Nature abhors a vacuum.    

But perhaps that's just me not liking my mind following me around all day.

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/19/14 9:13 PM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Thanks for the response! I may have buried the lead a little; I have been making some progress with insight but am in a phase where I'm exploring unpleasant phenomena and I'm not 100% sure how to crack through to the next phase, but I'm continuing to use the tools I know and am open to any suggestions. Finding equanimity is hard.

My motivation for posting is also influenced by a desire to relate to experiences of others that seem more similar to my own currently, which are very different than what anyone I normally interact with can discuss, and I'm hoping to do this more skillfully than not and not to distract myself too much. Thank you for sharing something of yours.

By "enlightenment" I'm referring to stream-entry (http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sotāpanna) which is the first phase of enlightenment in some traditions and which is described in the book by Daniel Ingram. 

My first impulse was to resist the "vanishing mind" description of the goal ("where is the mind? only sensations"), and through the paradigm I'm working on I've been more interested in seeing the sensations that make up my mental noise totally clearly rather than trying to totally quiet the noise. But my gut instinct is that you have also described it from another angle I'm missing and that your perspective can go just as far. 

I can relate to at extreme times wishing to totally escape from discursive/dualistic experience and the fundamental suffering of all sensation, which might be the feeling I need to rediscover right now (and that is finally realized through a fruition?).

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/24/14 1:31 PM as a reply to Sid.
After the A&P your approach to the meditation has to change.

Up to and thru the A&P, you made things happen. You decide to concentrate on a thing, then apply effort, and then the attention deepens and focuses on that thing.

From Dissolution onwards, that doesn't work anymore. Why the change? It's simple: from now through your post-Path review stages, the point of insight meditation is noticing things you haven't noticed before. If you got to pick everything you focused on, you'd never discover new things because you wouldn't know to look for them.

That's okay, because now objects are going to present themselves to your mind. If you're on board with that process, it'll work fine given enough time and some intentional cultivation of equanimity and calm. But if you resist it, thinking "No, I'm supposed to concentrate on the breath -- not that distracting back pain, or even worse, this anxiety!" Well that doesn't work. Remember, you're discovering new things. You can safely assume that any sensation forcing its way into your mind is new enough to deserve being watched for a while.

So you can no longer force your attention to cooperate. It'll rebel in a matter of seconds or minutes, and then what? What happens for the rest of your sit, do you just struggle to apply your ever-weakening sense of effort to control an ever-strengthening rebellion of the mind? That's a recipe for The Re-Observation From Hell. (Experienced meditators are nodding because we've all been there.)

The real answer is to start using a more accepting, curious, open way of influencing your attention. I say "influencing" because you simply don't have the ability to force your objects of attention any more -- you can only suggest them. And maybe those things will pop up into your mind and show themselves clearly. Maybe not. Maybe you'll get something more important or foreign or undesirable than the thing you asked for. 

Welcome to the 3rd vipassana jhana.

If you've read any of Daniel's descriptions of the 3rd jhana, there's always something like "the periphery is more clear than the center" which is code for "the thing you're trying to focus on is unclear, but there's this other random thing showing up very strongly and you should let that happen." Work WITH this, not against it!

When you have a path and fruition, this is exactly how it will show up. It'll be totally out of left field, like "wtf was that weird thing that just screwed with my breath awareness?"

So say you've been using the breath as your anchor for meditation, the thing you turn to when nothing else is prominent. Now you're distracted from the breath by anxiety. It's usually too difficult to reliably observe thoughts and other emotion-related phenomena without getting caught up in them until the Equanimity stages. But bodily sensations are no problem! Wonder to yourself, "Where in my body is this anxiety showing up? Are there tense muscles? Regions of pain? Things that feel like fatigue, or hyperactivity, or restless feelings? Where in the body are these sensations coming from? Are they steady, or pulsating, or do they build up then sit there then pass away like a wave?" These sorts of curious, open-ended investigations are the key to the entire post-A&P process.

Does any of this make sense? What do you think you could do in your practice at this point, given what I've said here?

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/25/14 2:52 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Three times while sitting I've noticed interesting changes in consciousness that I think are in the right direction, but I'm still trying to get a handle on things. 

First during kasina candle meditation images began self-organizing into squares, triangles, and a large central hexagram. I overreacted and lost this, it seemed, and I strove for more clear images with little success. 

Two other times I felt like a sense of "spaciousness" entered my awareness. Yesterday this was particularly powerful and it felt at first as if I was shifting into a dream/sleep - like I had stepped under a bridge and "entered" into a whole physical space/a feeling I associate with dreams, which caused me feelings of worry, but then I decided to let be what be (even if it meant falling asleep) and I had two interesting experiences. I seemed to be "popping" in and out of that "spacey" dreamy awareness into a more normal awareness of my field of vision - then a spontaneously formed cartoon-like image seemed to migrate (while I observed it) from being a pure thought into being a vivid and clear image seen with my eyes. I had enough clarity it didn't seem quite like I was sleeping or lucid dreaming (though this has been happening recently), but I might have temporarily been and I have no idea. After the 'migrating image' experience I then had another interesting phenomenon - a moving, spiraling feeling as the edges of my visual field became curved bright multi-colored lines which then moved in a more continuous seeming way while also reappearing on the edge of my awareness in a fractal pattern.

Thanks for the response. Your comment comes at a good juncture particularly as it relates to "letting things happen on their own." I realized that when I've read MCTB before I focused more on understanding earlier stages because they were more relevant and higher stages were still too unfamiliar. Reading again with a fresh eye helps a lot of things click that didn't before. I reviewed "A Clear Goal" and the descriptions of late dark night, equanimity, path, etc. It seems like I forgot the "acceptance" part somehow as the way to move forward and I've been struggling with a very silly problem. When I cultivate my kasina object I've been worrying about losing focus on it, and I also had an unrealistic idea that every time my kasina object is created I should go though each nana in order again even if my baseline has changed, which in practice has not been what I see, and my concentration has not worked that way on my object. 

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/28/14 12:26 AM as a reply to Sid.
Speculating that I am (more or less) in equanimity.

Very definite "I'm okay." Feeling of "ordinariness" and definitely some feelings, memories, and suddenly re-emerged interests that do at times remind me of childhood or at least of younger, exciting times in my life. 

In in the past I've usually had a lot of luck with cultivating bliss states and this is decidedly less rapturous/ecstatic, even compared with the earlier time I think I made it to equanimity (when time seemed very still, it felt like absolutely nothing mattered, and I spent a whole two months just hanging out in my apartment or hotels feeling like it was the end of the world and I was a-okay and colors were just beautiful). Maybe I was cultivating the 4th samatha jhana... I don't know. I tried fiddling around with PCEs then and had a great time, but obviously fell back at some point.

I would worry I've fallen back now except that things are still flickery and vibratory (especially vision, and feelings in my body). And my concentration seems decent when I focus on an object, though I often don't feel like I want to focus on an object. I fiddled around with attempts at choiceless awareness practices, tuning into suffering, etc, but maybe I should stop changing objects/practices at this point and stick with kasinas... Though cultivating a Kasina object feels mysteriously irritating and pointless and I'm tempted to just notice the ubiquitous flickering already in my vision.

I have also had some weird, enhanced-seeming perceptions at times of how my body creates an awareness of space (like adjustments in my spine or other weird places that correlate with an observation of depth or breadth in the world around me), but this has been difficult to sort out and I'm feeling a little confused by these impressions still. Mindfulness while not sitting seems non-trivially easier, including at work which has seemed slow and pleasant even though I'm still teaching the same classes as I was a few weeks ago in the same form.

Talking with people has been a little difficult. I ask them to repeat themselves.

Trying to figure out how to let the next "thing" happen by investigating curiosity, hope, whatever is keeping me going, but it's tricky. I find it hard to get myself to read or review the maps too much. I know force of will cannot do this, so I'll just try to hang out here and debug whatever I can find. Definitely some excitement. Mild, but contains fear that I'll lose this. My life has felt like it has been on hold nearly two straight months of minimizing all other responsibilities and I am trying to avoid committing to more things now even though I feel especially capable of picking up old hobbies, activities, etc. 

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/28/14 9:49 AM as a reply to Sid.
Ok, all this is great. That's a pretty thorough description of early Equanimity with periodic visits up to middle Equanimity. The backsliding to dukkha nanas is simply a part of the process, and it's your chance to really pick apart the shift from pain-with-suffering to pain-with-neutrality.

This shift can eventually be called up in an indirect way. It's something along the lines of expressing an intention to release un-needed tensions where the mind is holding onto things, then completely dropping and relaxing the mind. (Start with relaxing the head, especially the upper face and forehead area. That's a gateway into relaxing the mind itself.) If this doesn't make much sense, ignore it -- some people don't have this experience until 2nd path's Equanimity stages, and that's fine and also not under your control anyway.

***

This is a point where putting the time in is very very important. One suggestion is to look more into the process of trying to figure this out than into the aftereffects of that figuring-out, like curiosity, hope, etc. What mind-states seem to come before the figuring-out process starts up?

Then what comes before that?

Equanimity includes a lot of working backwards, thinking "ok so I can see that very clearly, cool. What came before that? Oh, it was this thing. Okay, what came before that? ... hmm, don't know"

Also, what are "clarity" and "mindfulness" made of, and perhaps more importantly, what are non-clarity and non-mindfulness made of? Sounds weird that I'd ask you to describe experiences where your mind wasn't really noticing things, but if you're noticing a sort of continual background mindfulness, that's where this will come from. It's like the afterglow of happiness and clarity that comes after shamatha jhana practice, except it's not made of any specific feeling tone. Rather, it's that mindfulness tends to arise without you specifically intending it. That spontaneous mindfulness is what notices things you weren't intending to pay attention to at the time that they arose. It will notice "what happened before I started trying to be mindful."

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/31/14 2:44 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Resolved to keep practicing. Past three nights all very interesting - I was waking early in the middle of my sleep to find myself in strange states, coming straight into meditation. 

First morning I woke up suddenly into what I think is the closest experience I've ever had that could be characterized as "undifferentiated suchness" - this sounds pretty incomprehensible, but everything was everything else, and also just vibration. This was surprising, but almost too overstimulating. Later grew bored with this.

Meditated as normal that day. Continued with equanimity, strove for clarity, acceptance, kept trying to penetrate thoughts about progress. 

Second morning I also spontaneously woke up straight into strong, strange, heavily concentrated meditation. Reviewed some models of enlightenment, which seemed to help me realize some ideals I hadn't traced. Feelings of forgetfulness arose, let go of an unexamined attachment to extinction models (surprisingly motivating for me, despite not correlating much with my general worldview), among other things.

This morning I awoke early again but from a nightmare. I quickly found peacefulness/equanimity once more and started meditating. Later I took a shower, but my equanimity seemed to approach some kind of limit of apathy and I then sat down for an hour not particularly driven to apply a certain technique, but just being and noticing things. I then moved to sit on my bed and considered sleeping more. I closed my eyes, and "let go" of things. I then had a weird random insight about mental images vs images on the darkness of my eyelids and observed a few "translations" of images back and forth between the two (or images that seemed to inhabit both at the same time). Somehow I didn't have a very strong reaction to this. Finally an image of a car popped into my awareness, but was then replaced by something else which I perceived distinctly for a few "blinking" short moments, then something weird happened, and my awareness "popped" back. I started trying to meditate again and then my thoughts went something like so: "Oh wait, what was that blip? I forgot I was looking for a blip. Did the background disappear too with the blip? How would I know, I don't think I have a memory of it, or it is totally inscrutable." I was skeptical, but then opened my eyes, leaned over, and started petting the cat sitting next to me... Things obviously seem very different. "Oh? Really?" Some tears in my eyes. For an hour or so continued trying to practice. Figured "well, I'm probably either in equanimity and near stream-entry, or already had SE... Either way can stand to practice more." 

After the past twelve hours or so I'm erring more on the side that the thing happened, but can only wait and see if I lose this, or if a real thing happens, or if the stage changes or matures in some way. I think I should be very cautious about delusion, but I do feel a sense of "done." It seems pretty different, even if very "anticlimactic" ... but it also felt like the most natural and obvious thing. *Agency seems to have dissipated.* Everything seems to be perceived differently in away I can't quite describe. Thoughts still arise and might include self-referential words, but feel emptier somehow. Words spoken feel more free and spontaneous. Still react to lots of stimuli but the emotional responses feel like they are localized in the body and with a "contained" momentum but not repressed (the image that came to me earlier was of speedy soccer balls slowing against a net). Still have thoughts about the future and an imagination, but they feel more grounded in the "now" when they arise. More scattered and irrelevant thoughts/associations still occur, but don't feel like a problem anymore in some way they used to. 

I'll keep posted on any significant changes, backslides, or questions, and welcome all helpful advice. Thank you. Whatever happens or has happened, this journey has been truly fantastic.

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
10/31/14 10:47 PM as a reply to Sid.
Thank you for sharing your journey and thank you J Adam G for your lights ; It really made me click profoundly when i read this thread 2 days ago; I am thankfull

Namaste!

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
11/9/14 3:22 PM as a reply to SeTyR ZeN.
1) Perception generally still somehow different, particularly noticed when I'm paying any strong attention anywhere, but it is harder to identify how or to remember/explain the difference. The "dropping a hot coal" metaphor still seems good and applicable. I feel "good" somehow though mental content and emotional range seem largely unchanged (but evolving, slowly, it is harder to sustain interest in certain activities while I have found it easier than ever to work on projects, problems, and worries that normally would be too full of internal obstacles). The equanimity I had as neutrality-toward-everything faded a few days after the blip but on a deeper level I feel more flexible, and less perturbable in a more "ultimate" way I can access, but integrating that into my relationships and interactions with others has been a developing process (it's odd feeling like a happier person around less happy people).

2) At least one more event arose during meditation that I've noticed that seemed similar to the blip (unexpected, had a "beep beep beep gone . back to sudden awareness" pattern). I feel I may have had more of these but I've largely stopped meditating as:

3) Recently meditation has been associated with intense sensory overstimulation. Whenever I close my eyes and begin to attend to anything strong imagery presents itself on its own, a sudden "slowness" can appear at any of time of day and time seems to overwhelm things. Maybe these are A&P effects but even just during day-to-day life I can feel pretty stimulated. Another interesting example is coffee: I've been a caffeine fiend for years but drinking it now it can make my head way too jittery.

I'm taking the "chill out" approach for now to sit with this state of being more before trying to make more progress. Think I'll work on concentration states again soon also.

4) Thought: I'm still open to the possibility I didn't have Stream Entry and will be cautious about the permanence of the shift I have undergone, but I also find it hard to imagine that SE is something different (especially something even more relieving). 

I used to think I had a great grasp of dharma, philosophy of consciousness, and meditation instructions - this feeling continued almost right up until the "blip" ... at this point the whole topic seems completely bizarre and ineffable... hard to contemplate how the practices I was doing would lead to a fruition, or how that would cause so much change. I guess it makes a little sense to me that conformity could precede a fruition, but a) causing the experience of non-duality [or engineering a process of natural uncontrolled unfolding] and b) the powerful transformative effects of that experience both seem inexplicable. I could give a conceptual framework that maybe points but theories seem inadequate. Comparing say Theravadan Vipassana and Shingon rituals with deity embodiments it seems like a miracle that either can lead to experiences of non-duality, or that anything can. 

5) Thought: it is still unclear to me how to best characterize phenomenological differences from the "other side" of the event. Part of it might be: sometimes the "dualistic process of identification" was observed more clearly before SE and was like an obnoxious yellow "highlighter" effect full of suffering and attaching to my experiences. After what I take to be SE I still have similar patterns of (self-reinforcing) sensations in my field of awareness that I would previously have perceived, interpreted, or experienced but whatever else they were doing is now different, or gone. I expected to feel less fragmented after SE. Instead I feel more so, or just the same amount but not bothered by it anymore.

Clearly still a lot to do. If what I experienced in the first day or two after the fruition is a hint of what getting further along is like then that is pretty cool. Breaking for now.

s

RE: Kasina/Re-Observation
Answer
3/18/15 3:16 AM as a reply to Sid.
Felt I could write a quick update. Nothing surprising, but I can at least contribute the data. 

4.5 months later still have the opinion that I got SE.

To discuss repercussions: 

Some features of my experience/interpretation:

a) Have experienced cycles. Sometimes find myself craving fruition, sometimes find myself just enjoying meditation/whatever experience on its own without caring much where I am. Had a couple very hard dark nights.

Feel there is a lot of work to do still. Am very blurry on distinctions/definitions of paths at this point, but want to get to 4th Path someday (the days after SE are supposed to be when the wisdom eye was open? I want that to be true all of the time and to experience that always). I feel this would be easiest not just gunning it alone again but through retreats at places where this thing has happened a lot. I plan to schedule retreats like that in the future though for now they are not my main priority... have life choices to sort out.  

b) It (still) seems very easy at almost any time to immediately turn my open and closed-eye visual fields into a mess of flashing colors and transforming shapes with scintillating "rainbow" qualities. It seems very easy to enter a kind of mindfulness where I feel "imperturbable" and like my emotions strike up but are gently and effortlessly caught/"slowed" as they move through my body and suffering is just diminished greatly in intensity (this latter partially reminds of me feelings of equanimity but also feels like parts of SE-afterglow). I'm not sure what is a product of what or whether these are just states I got good at reproducing but picked up pre-SE (substages of A&P or Equanimity) or whether they fundamentally different from pre-SE experienes or who knows what.  

c) Despite a hard re-observation or two, things are just pretty nice. 

d) Concept/experience of agency is just different, though I don't feel like I know how to describe it at this point. I feel like something has changed fairly fundamentally even if I am not always thinking about it, but mindfulness brings it swiftly to attention.

e) Mundane Side: Lots of changes to my life. Many unexpected (by me), but perhaps also kinda par-for-the-course from what I've heard.

Such As: Getting more education and changing my career to something that I think is practically better (for me, for others). A 180.  

Also: A major hobby dropped when it became clearer that it was motivated by intentions I don't find compelling any more.

Lots of "samvega" can arise though when I think too much about integration - it is sometimes very very very hard to relate to the world/people in strongly conceptual ways, and evils in the world still give me a lot of sadness. In my case at least, I can confirm that it seems silly how much of a mess my life and mind had been for so many years without me being aware of it... the process of healing and improving and organizing and reflecting on my values is gradual even if my baseline is better.  

Best,
S.

 

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
7/12/15 10:57 PM as a reply to Sid.
Update: 6.5 months after Stream Entry. 

*Pretty sure still that was Stream Entry. 

*There remains a sense of "more to do" and a thing undone. 

*My general experience seems way, way, way better now than it did before SE. After a decade of meditation on-and-off I believe that I spent years acquainted with the nearly perpetual pain that I knew I could/needed to get rid of, and if it is still around I hardly notice it or it is down to like 1% or 0.1% of its original intensity, or something. Then again, this could be bad: maybe more mindfulness on suffering would be enlightening. 

*Weird but cool: If I slightly push attention towards my visual experiences then my whole field of sight instantly turns into sparkly prismatic crazyness, and in fact often just looks like that anyway without me trying to do anything meditation-like (everything is in colorful snowy motion with rainbow-like flashing edges and reflectances, etc). I don't notice this so much when intensely focused on something else or deep in thought, though when reading the page might explode like that if I slightly notice visual characteristics of the text. This is probably the most objectively and universally relatably weird thing I could talk about as a result of meditation, though I speculate that doing several hundred hours of kasina meditation (more than anything else) had something to do with this.

*Another way in which Things Are Good is that I feel like 90+% (maybe more like (almost?) always) of the time most sensations - especially unpleasant ones - seem to just 'bounce around' the body in a way that I would definitely describe as filling a percentage of attentive intensity merely equal to the percentage of my perceived experience that they take up (as opposed to attentively compounding against each other). I remember hearing Shinzen somewhere describing this as sufferings no longer multiplying, merely existing as phenomena, and I've seen and heard this experience reported elsewhere. I initially described this experience right after SE as if all of my feelings were being caught and slowed in soccer nets before doing too much damage. For a while that way of being faded somewhat, but in recent months renewed and devoted mindfulness to my bodily sensations has seemed to have restored this way of being as my rough default. Good kind of equanimity to have if not the same as the jhanic state. 

*These days very busy with my new work (IT/dental field) and my old relationship and my cats. I feel like the majority of the time I can just enter "flow" (the psychological kind) which is maybe really about the same as 1st Jhana or Access Concentration, and for me work and people and life are carried mostly on a very pleasant autopilot, but this also relates to the experience of significantly diminished agency that I reported before. I often drop into spontaneous meditation when contemplating an object (luminous visual nimittas particularly like to appear if I ever stare at anything) but without the constant focused practice that I had before there are certain levels of concentration and mindfulness that I miss at times, even if my ability to do these things has probably improved while my time spent doing them purposively has decreased. 

*Unclear about larger path and patterns and direction. The idea of really getting rid of future mind and unrealistic/disruptive perceptions of time is very appealing to me right now. Over the last several months I've been sort of naturally falling into a mental pattern of recurrent daily mindfulness towards my body (interior sensations and sensations on and around my body). This bodily attention has been really great and healing and has felt like the thing to do right now. Maybe AF practices would be good (see below).

*Reread AF materials and Daniel's thing about it. Cultivated two or three "excellence experiences" I'm fairly sure, and maybe one very short PCE. A lot of the directions are still a little unclear to me. Unsure practically what dismantling a social identity means in terms of a practice, though it definitely sounds like a fruitful thing to think about (curious what exercises might be recommended). Paying attention to emotional responses and feeling tones makes a lot of sense. The overall process is a little opaque. Maybe it feels like a large bag of tricks for investigating why you are not in a PCE right now. Beyond an idea like that I get confused, because there are so many somewhat different things to try to do with your mind listed and ways of inclining perception that it'd be pretty overwhelming do all it at once, at least at the beginning. 

*Still going! I like this place as a location to be accountable and reflective. 

s

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
7/13/15 5:08 PM as a reply to Sid.
Wow. Very inspiring. Thank you for writing all of this. I missed this post somehow and am just reading it.

I have a few questions for you if you don't mind. If you do, feel free to ignore or let me know and I'll delete my post.

Ok, so, my questions are:
 
What advice would you give to someone teetering around in Reobservation and Equanimity?
Would you say it's just about putting in the time and just keep noticing? 
Would you say there's an attitude that you feel helped you out in the transition from Equanimity to Stream Entry?
Anything you feel was important to understand before the shift happened?

I know this might be a hard question since the shift happened months ago, but is there any advice you'd give yourself, if you could, to help you get SE earlier or easier?

Thank you. 

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
7/21/15 1:25 AM as a reply to Gerry V.
Hello Gerry! As for Stream Entry advice, I felt like in my own mind the unexamined processes that were getting in the way of conformity were both expected and unexpected; I had a lot of intentions and hopes that once examined I made a peace with. The weirdest was an attachment to karmic/reincarnation/extinction models that held a lot of psychological purchase for me, and that from the outside would have seemed hardly likely to be something I worried about. Attachment to models and theories also took up a lot of mental time, but without that attachment I'm not sure I could have navigated anything very effectively, so ultimately I'm grateful for that.

Extrapolating from my own case I'd say that getting intention really really really clear and comfortable and strong was helpful, and the consistent practice was helpful. I liked the MCTB chapter "A Clear Goal" and reread it often, and every few days reread the chapter on "The Three Characteristics" and chapters 24-30. For me a lot of the strong practice was built on a series of relatively new psychological responses to common hindrances. If I felt aversions to meditation my default response became "so what? nothing else to do, maybe look at the aversion." I tried to get myself working from a positive perspective of support, feelings of reward and success to replace arising feelings of shame or failure, and even cultivated a sense of inevitability and that I'd practice until I did it. Daily recharging of my intention (or at least the intention to see things as clearly as I could that day and to keep that up until SE). Humor helped. Believed (almost) absolutely that it could be done and would be done, and at the end gave up striving: something that happens to you. Conditions ideal. Surprising, 

As I said before, I benefited a lot from J Adam G's advice, which in the scheme of things seemed natural and minor at the time, but helped push me in the right direction disregarding baggage about independence and guidance. 

I feel like giving advice to myself in the past would manifest  in the form of a long list of things I shouldn't worry about versus actually just practicing (a lot). Dozens of artificial roadblocks. Maybe some of them were necessary. In the end it is hard to know how my journey could have been different. Built the ladder out of what was available, and survived and did what I could do to flourish (psychologically, physically) in the meantime.

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
7/29/15 5:53 PM as a reply to Sid.
Thank you for the reply Sidney. That was a great response. Very insightful. As of late I've been seeing the importance of just being with experience. Whatever shows up, attend to it. Even the subtle stuff like paying attention.

I also liked J Adam G's contribution. Very helpful. Especially the part where he says, "This shift can eventually be called up in an indirect way. It's something along the lines of expressing an intention to release un-needed tensions where the mind is holding onto things, then completely dropping and relaxing the mind. (Start with relaxing the head, especially the upper face and forehead area. That's a gateway into relaxing the mind itself.)" I've been finding that if I just attend to things in this manner, things will come and go and this leads to a much more equanimous state. Don't want to take up your practice log with my practice stuff, just something that really resonates with me.

Thank you again for the write up, this has been very helpful and inspiring.

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
11/1/15 2:20 PM as a reply to Gerry V.
Update: 12 months +2 days following Stream Entry

Summary: My take on things still remains that I experienced a serious baselineshift during/following what I (still) take to (probably) be Stream Entry. My liberated sense of agency / flowing through the world of causes, plus my heightened (esp. visual) perception of impermanence, and my lessened level of suffering are all resultant changes that seem sticky still. 

Insight: Not a huge amount of insight 'progress' since then, but a deepening of some things. Nice fruitions. Strong feeling of cleaning and clearing up the area around the heart. Future areas of work are much more clear, and once I plan my next retreat I have an idea of where to start up again.

Life: During the past year the biggest external changes in my life would be professional; I experienced many changes but eventually (and surprisingly) reached the goal I had set in January by about September. I went from math tutoring -> full-time photoshop work -> technology sales -> IT specialist support -> full-fledged "software engineer" job at a medium-sized tech company focused on improving healthcare cost transparency. Nice to be a programmer and at a company whose goals I like. Probably correct to say that I am more "functional" and more effective at setting, working on, obtaining goals in this sphere. 

Have spent a lot of time in contemplation about morality, my own life, etc. Still working on lots of personal questions about intention, compassion, renunciation vs being-in-the-world, the reality/ir-reality of past mind and future mind. 

emoticon Still dating same wonderful partner. Still have some cats. 

Concentration: I spend most of my time at work in a state of "psychological flow" which I tend to think spans the concentration range from access concentration to 1st jhana (and rarely, 2nd jhana). I definitely don't hate this, but it also doesn't feel like my ideal - I'd much prefer PCEs whenever possible. Suspect I'm probably a little better with people, which could be for sundry reasons. 

Actualism: Did a fairly thorough research bing into AF-related materials here and on Richard's website and have played more with dedicated sensuousness and favoring emotional clarity (over say suppression or clinging, whenever that's possible) - can cultivate "excellence experiences," perhaps very very short PCEs, but long PCEs are still tricky... I think I spent much of January 2014 cultivating long PCEs successfully and I have yet to relocate the good internal paths to it. Want to ramp this up soon, and once I do so I will actually journal with more detail/substance about this once I get an interesting level of dedication or results going.  

Cheers,
S

NOTE: After rereading my previous entries, it looks like much is the same now as in my update many months ago, though there are still differences I've described. It's worth putting down that, overall, I do just feel happier and more satisifed (esp. professionally) now than then, and the heart feels a little lighter. -s 

RE: Sid's Log
Answer
4/24/16 9:04 PM as a reply to Sid.
For sundry reasons I'm backburning my disorganized forays into actualism for now until I have more insight. 

I'm picking up my kasina focus again since I've had good luck with it before. It feels like it should do some good, and it is my current path of least resistance. It's been a long time since I've been sharp with my vipassana, but my ability to concentrate is still pretty good (and has been useful, used, etc).

My goal here over the next few weeks is to report any new developments or interesting events, overall quality of experience, etc.

As for other dimensions of my life I believe that things are going well. In the contributing-data-points spirit I can add a few sentences without discarding too much privacy, but would advise against reading if you find it annoying to read about anyone's financial situation, or sexual orientation, and so on. 

Normal life: My primary romantic relationship remains strong and happy in the context of the psychological and ethical complexities in my lifestyle and preferences (at least, it really seems that way!). Not to toss the laundry out, but me and my co-habitating partner of years are both bisexual and non-exclusively so and there are a lot of situations and identities and tricky but well-intentioned processes attached to all that, and we've both made large career changes (for me, thrice) in the last eighteen months, and we've also moved about 3,000 miles. Professionally my goals are blossoming nicely; my jobs have grown increasingly technical, lucrative, and fun by leaps. Combined household income is exactly five times what it was two years ago; on my end of this I definitely feel there was a connection between the decreased suffering resulting from my practice and an increased ability to work well, think well, and 'get my hustle on.' The moral question of doing what's ultimately best for the world dogs me... but more like a Beagle than a Great Dane. For now I think it's probably okay to put my own long-akimbo house in order first (figuratively and literally), and pay off/pay forward some debts. Then: to start scheduling some big serious retreats. I try to approach this stuff as all a fun sandbox to play in for now, test out powers in many small ethical uses. Trying not to get too attached, or to adopt prolific but meaningless values. emoticon

More soon and happy to be back,
S






 

RE: Sid's Log
Answer
6/29/16 3:06 PM as a reply to Sid.
A bit of a shift in gears!

Recent Practice Narrative: About a month ago I met up with an old dharma friend who's a former monk and wonderfully traveled (he has stories of Sasaki Roshi, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, and a few others). He began recounting a story of discussing Shambalah with someone else and I expressed a lot of ignorance about Shambhalah and also Tibetan Buddhism more broadly. He told me some interesting things and I followed up into a Mahayana and Vajrayana and miscellaneous reading binge. Mostly recently I read Heart Drops of Dharmakaya (Shardza), Transcending Madness (Trungpa), and Magick Without Tears (Crowley), and after browsing (lurking) here I also found some of Kim Katami's workshop videos on Dzogchen to be pretty interesting (particularly I am trying adjusting to a method of 'not meditating' much more of the time during sitting). I'd love to share some of my annotations soon particularly on Crowley's book and I hope to tackle it as a project sometime soon for fun. 


Actual Practice: Been doing a lot of sky-gazing, picking up in concentration and intensity, prefaced by a mantra and visualization exercise.

Today: Today I was sky-gazing trying to not interfere with my attention particularly nor to grasp at nor reject thoughts too much.

I was sky-gazing literally at the sky in the park on a hill and things got quite funky in ways reminiscent of my kasina stuff. After what I think was stream entry 1.5 years ago I've found it pretty easy to tap into visual fluxy-ness every day but it's been a long time since things were at this level of intensity - and also the behaviors were different today. For many minutes there were spiraling blue stars circling my vision, other multi-colored and rainbow things/objects, a dark blue orb thing, and also the world of all objects in my vision started flashing. I looked at the ground and the road appeared to be breathing and undulating in a way affected by my own breath (that's very new!). Pretty trippy but also pretty cool. Then I went for a walk and felt great. In terms of mapping I'm not really exactly sure where to mark off the sense of experiences; in keeping to MCTB the safest would be to say A&P but I also don't think attention was just in the second vipassana jhana but in other places beyond that too. 

Still a lot more work ahead I think to get the really good (/next path) things out of all this stuff but it's also reassuring to me to have concrete effects and I sense that this is the direction to be going in right now. I felt and decided that it would be grounding/normalizing (and self-encouraging) to write it down here, and I still feel good.  


RE: Sid's Log
Answer
7/10/16 9:47 PM as a reply to Sid.
Bookmarking Today: I think I got a new path 8 hours ago! 

If there is backsliding or if there are doubts or other important changes I will write them down, or in a few months will confirm whether changes I perceive are persistent / that I didn't blow it.

So Today: I was meditating today open-eyed on a couch. I was originally intent on a visually attentive ish (to start with before dropping intent off), relaxed, "doing nothing" meditation. I heard birds outside and someone watching television not far away. Some still involuntary images popped into my mind and I let them hang there like 3D picture frames and then killed them. 

Over time I shifted unthinkingly to a very broad attention over my body. I idly started thinking about how it was only fairly recently that two things have been more unpleasant and obvious to me in recent meditation sits. 

The first is that I have been reflecting on how my prior and intense sense of "things-happening-on-their-own" had moderately faded vs what it used to be; I haven't been sure if this was because I'd been acclimated to that way of experiencing, had lost concentration or mindfulness, or more positively had become more sensitive to a dualistic problem - either which way I've at least been aware that something seemed off with that. 


The second was a feeling that I'd grown excitingly closer to finding an "Observer" hanging out in my awareness than I had in really long time with a few new close calls (and more and more close calls faster). I remember thinking that some of my more profound (A&P?) experiences years before SE seemed to be "ego highlighter" events during which I felt acutely aware of a dualistic split that I hated. After SE I had a persistent vague awareness that there was *something* incomplete left going on... especially vs how I felt for the first few days afterwards.


Playfully/sort of accidentally I started wondering about whether or not there were bad Observer sensations going on in my head or something like that and I started sort of scanning around and broadening my field of attention even further - particularly becoming aware towards the inside of my skull and the top of my head. 


I remembered reading somewhere about visualizing swords to penetrate the Witness and did so, seeing them spinning through my head - this didn't seem to be anything more vivid than a slight application of imagination. A few moments later I felt a bizarre set of rolling sensations at the top of my head and then a blink-out. 


I was confused, wondered if I had fallen asleep, but then became aware of qualitative changs across/over all of my awareness (everything seemed and seems so very clear, and I think more de-centralized, and also somehow just all "easier"!). I then became excited! I hadn't been trying to do anything particularly meaty today. I guess it's supposed to be surprising. Reminded me of SE. 


Pretty cool. 


So Recent Practice: Philosophically I don't want to claim anything beyond a (possible, not yet verified as persisting!) 2nd path despite getting SE (I'm pretty sure) in 2014. I had a very long break with little serious practice besides failed attempts to do actualist stuff day-to-day consistently and frequent cultivation of the 1st jhana during work.

Things escalated a bit more recently (which I alluded to in my last update) but I wasn't expecting at all that I'd get a new path so soon. Over the last month I started sitting 1-4 hours a day trying to hit the high of that range at least twice per week, but I also considered this to be a 'weak' dose. In retrospect I think I've been amping up my day-to-day-just-being-alive mindfulness and bodily awareness particularly recently but also over the year. I have tried to notice how emotions play out in my body, enjoying a comment from Trungpa I read about treating the body neither as too loose and alienated or too solid and material. In June I had a lot of new dharma inspirations and also had been trying to detach myself from results particularly during meditation itself as a part of technique. 

A couple days ago I almost wrote on here to report that my sky-gazing had continued to be very rich and also increasingly visually crazy. It felt like since then I'd often actually been covering a full range from the 2nd vipassana jhana to the 4th maybe even a few times per day on some days with fairly distinct and occasionally very obvious funky fluxing visual cues. Beyond all this, recently it has seemed exceedingly clear how I can soften or quiet or outright drop numerous kinds of mental chatter and distraction with correlate physical relaxations - a habit I have been taking advantage of and cultivating more, and more, and more. emoticon 

Minor Note: I feel a little stupid adding this last paragraph because I had almost weirdly forgotten about it while meditating (at least today). But it's also very very worth noting (for those less secular-minded or who at least appreciate the power of intention) that days ago I carried out a small personal ritual in which I cast/invoked and burned three magickal sigils in a bowl while trying to concentrate heavily on them; my intent for one of my sigils was that I would become fully awakened in this lifetime (even though I'm pretty sure I had actually made that vow a couple times before, both preceding and even immediately after stream entry). Did all that play a role? Maybe - that would be great! And perhaps it only matters what I think about it (- which fortunately is what I think about it). ;)

much metta, s

RE: Sid's Log
Answer
7/23/16 4:04 AM as a reply to Sid.
For the spirit of DhO I will start with experience stuff and then write the more rambling things about content/relative wisdom that have been my mind. I will use many quotation marks incorrectly for emphasis. 

General Sense: I continue to suspect that my experience described in the last entry was a new path. I think the door to the fruition definitely had a "suffering" aspect (maybe as the secondary factor) due to a subtle but definite "feeling like exactly the wrong thing to do" element. 

Experientially: Things that really really ring with me lately - descriptions of luminosity and emptiness (making more sense than maybe ever before), and a good amount of 'things happening on their own where they are' etc. More on this later but it's hard to describe beyond straightforwardly saying that numerous sensations seem self-presenting, and that they arise and vanish, and that there is a fairly spacious sensate field in which things feel to be ocurring. 

I've been responding affirmatively to descriptions of manifesting and disappearing, appearing and returning (the self) to zero, a spectrum from discombombulated samsara to cessations, (waves, waves, waves) etc.

To Do: I still definitely feel "not done!" and that there are subtle corrections to be made and things to be fixed. I can already tell that I should explore possible attractions and attachments to an ideal of extraordinary luminosity all the time. This stuff really makes wonder about "Enlightenments" (Kornfield) and "flavors of impermanence" (Shinzen) - I wonder how to work out preference about various characteristics of highly realized experiences as inclinations of the mind vs a cultivated detachment from states as necessary for seeing all the way through to arahatship. I also know that there is still a lot more to learn and see about breaking down control and illusions of agency - a lot of territory to look at there. I'd speculate that I maybe had hit 3rd path instead of 2nd were it not that I would expect to have a conviction of there being less delusory agency prominent in 3rd (I hate to say it but that dimension of illusory self has possibly not faded but become misplaced in a really hard to define way, or rebounded with complexity, or there is another layer to the onion that is extremely mysterious to me right now).

Cool (Fruitions): A couple days ago I discovered I had something like an ability to call up fruitions. This was pretty funny to me because it wasn't *quite* calling up fruitions so much as calling up a whole staged process: this is what I have to describe as a straightforward A&P experience (super rapid focused strobing unveiling itself that is generally visual and/or bodily in the upper part of the head) -> followed by a fascinating forgetfulness/drop off of intention -> then a dream-like state that I guess is equanimity or conformity or something, then cessation. At first I wasn't sure this was all going exactly right but then some of the entrances to fruitions gained meaningfully in clarity. I had at least one extremely clear no-self door experience of the two faces looking at each other (the one "here" and one "there," then flipping and breaking/dissolving/merging). The calling up fruition experience seemed funny to me mostly for the rapid intention vs dropping intention and memory of the intention dialogue... it felt like tricking myself ("okay do this oh wait forget about it look at that thing over there!"). This process has helped me to care a little less about fruitions, which checks off for me some sense of hopeful development towards trying to appreciate a non-duality between cessation and everything else in the cycle of mind.

Beyond what I think of as calling up the second vipassana jhana it is also just "more simple" now for me to "vipassanize" an experience and to tap into vibratory (impermanent) qualities of phenomena in body, sound, vision, thought, etc. I used to find this easy to do with visual stimuli but I think the skill has been stronger recently. 

Future: After a heavy dose of reading I have to wonder about endgame models. The ideal of arahatship seems pretty great. I am fairly convinced of the utility of the MCTB models of the 4 (Theravada) paths, the non-dual model overall, and the simple model, etc. 

Ideal Beliefs: My ideal belief set would look something like this: we have a true and correct (very down-to-earth) ideal of MCTB arahatship in which emotions still arise (though are only occupying the correctly relative amount of spacious attention) and are seen through cleanly as arising and passing. This ideal of 4th path characterizes the full development of insight practice beyond natural integration outwards throughout your life ("riding the flow of impermanence") and so many corners of the mind later benefiting from new (enlightened) attention. 

It would also be my preferred belief that every Buddhist tradition really does "contain" every other tradition and is just seen through a different lens, and ultimate progress inside one lineage leads to the exact same results as elsewhere. In fact ideally you'd get the same thing outside of Buddhism in everything from Gnosticism to South American shamanism to Sufism etc (- I also read a lovely thing recently relating the 3 highest Sefirot of the Kabbalah to the three kayas). The idea of a contemplative tradition beginning where another ends should be false. 

More experimentally and flexibly, I speculate sometimes about not socially testable or purely subjective (but no less true?) belief sets in which Mahayana/Vajrayana practices might really take you to stages past arahatship. For example I encountered the material of Kim Katami's in which he claims that the bhumis which are developed post-arahatship are non-physical (in the sense of belonging not just to the energy body but being found in chakra centers above the head) and also relate to what he called an "interface of collective subconsciousness," which to me sounds like a crazy trip and/or something you encounter deep in the siddhis. An argument for a speculatively magickal component to future insight practice beyond a certain point? But I also trust the people who feel they've finished that meditation dimension (with just arahatship lol), and practically it doesn't matter very much: arahatship in either belief system would be an absolutely amazing attainment regardless of weird (potentially delusory and or ineffably paradoxical) metaphysical complications. And mostly I just want to make sure I'm using good methods that work for me and that I can work from wherever I am and making progress where/when it seems possible to make it. I remember reading the argument that cessation itself might only really be possible in what counts as a magickal state of mind, and visiting the Visuddhimagga I took away that instructions for the supernormal powers consistently connected them to the 4th jhana (or sometimes beyond) which links well with the idea that you find the three doors in the 4th vipassana jhana. And yeah: getting too much into maps is definitely a thing. emoticon

Long Irrelevant Occult Sidenote That Can Be Skipped: It's fun to play with the magickal perspective sometimes. The MWT book by Crowley that I read last month is a little interesting from a pragmatic dharma perspective, I'd claim. The book is in the form of instructive letters largely in plain English to his latest students (probably at least partially fictive). He explicitly states that many of his particular skills had waned, but he also details many of his prior experiences in an organized way. He goes into past life experiences (especially during one important but temporary time in his life when the "veil was thin"), levitation (very limited results), subjective invisibility (like once, maybe), visions of entities (and differences among observers), etc. He also alludes explicitly to Nirodha, complains a lot about Advaita, writes about yoga, complains about "greater Nirvana" vs "lesser Nirvana" schools, and says a lot of other stuff that's just nonsense to me. He considers technical reincarnation theories that look more like various levels of mindstreams (some of which might decay or persist in different ways than others) moving non-linearly through time such that one person could be the reincarnation of several different people and vice-versa - that also reminds me of hearing second or third hand that some Tibetan teacher said that the timeline of a Boddhisattva's age's long enlightenment is not literal or linear. Crowley talks about paradigms, manifestation of thoughts, reality as a chain of false knots and symbols, and the mystical power of adapted solipism (confusingly bringing yourself mentally to the same "plane" as the Holy Guardian Angel instead of pushing reality through another entity, which he admits is completely equal in effect but not how he personally did things). Finally, Crowley describes what I find to be his weirdest experience as a "kink in time" where causality was perceived as going crazy in the most extreme way: beyond just the occurence of coincidences and synchronicities, Crowley claims to have literally experienced certain important but related events totally out of order. Many of his accounts match up well with what my weirder friends say about their magickal practices or psychedelic experiments. Fun distractions, but also just distractions. emoticon

Real-Life/Relative Wisdom/Stuff: To start with a cautionary tale, I spent one year after college romping around. While visiting my friend Mio during that year a meditator roommate of hers and I had a series of conversations about meditation, states of mind, entheogens, and spiritual seeking generally right before he went on a short Zen retreat. When he returned from that retreat he was filled with a powerful manic energy, believing himself to be an enlightened Buddha, and he tried to offer his assistance to strangers around the city. Within hours he was apparently put into a mental hospital by a friend and there he remained for five days with virtually no human contact except with one severely mentally disabled woman - we had no idea what happened to him and he was unable to communicate with people beyond the hospital for the most part. 

I endeavor to be a fairly cautious person when it comes to balancing the elements of my life and/with the Three Trainings. That said I'm unhappy that recent rapid professional changes in my life have happened really soon after what I take to be my recent path experience. I'd prefer that these cycles not line up too closely. Last week though in a politically crazy work situation I somehow found myself both kinda promoted and then also nearly immediately resigning a few days later (along with three other people at my company). Financially this should be fine and I plan on starting something new in maybe two or three months. I've been working continuously without a real vacation for maybe fourteen months, so I'm happy for some time to chill out (and read, write, meditate lol). Practically I'm more worried about doing new work that I find to be meaningful and good for the world than I am worried about money or employment more broadly (- reminding myself that I have a valued skillset in lucrative technology field).

From a phenomenological point-of-view, the most important thing to say is that I find the negative side of these work experiences to be potentially extremely inspiring. Getting a hard taste of Real Life during path afterglow (which at least is what I think has happened) kinda puts it into perspective in terms of what "enlightenment can do" vs what it doesn't do for you. On the flip-side of that I had the beautiful experience of an event where there was a rapid torrent of super negative reactive nervous sensations washing over and through me like a shivering, luminous waterfall, my hands shaking, and somehow everything seemed really really beautifully "okay" in the deepest sense despite the energetic and emotional turmoil I felt playing across mind and body. 

This all feels worth mentioning for the sake of integrity, realism, honesty, and expressing it to make myself feel a bit better (emoticon).

Other: Lastly my life remains rich in friends and my relationship with my partner is still persistent, loving, and communicative. Meditation things can be lonely and typically alienating in that I have only a scattered-across-the-globe handful of Buddhist and Daoist friends who can relate to them (carrying my practice on has largely been my own solitary journey) and it is not a dimension of conversation in any of my romantic relationships.

I have been slowly reading Hongzhi. Many of the passages hit me like "BAM, yup that all seems right!" I've never had that experience before while reading Zen guys. ;)

My cats are still wonderful. 

Other Sidenote: I wish I understood better the connection (if any) between kasinas, MCTB accounts of the vipassana jhanas, the visions of Dzogchen. Maybe something weird and fractal?

-S.

RE: Sid's Log
Answer
7/30/16 9:28 PM as a reply to Sid.
Happy walk today in a verdant (slightly rainy) park.

Found something amusingly familiar (very jhanic, and maybe beyond) in the artist Austin Osman Spare's writing on the "Death Posture" (1913):

"Lying on your back lazily, the body expressing the condition of yawning, suspiring while conceiving by smiling, that is the idea of the posture. Forgetting time with those things which were essential- reflecting their meaninglessness, the moment is beyond time and its virtue has happened.

Standing on tip-toe, with the arms rigid, bound behind by the hands, clasped and straning the utmost, the neck streched- breathing deeply and spasmodically, till giddy and sensation comes in gusts, gives exhaustion and capacity for the former.

Gazing at your reflection till it is blurred and you know not the gazer, close your eyes (this usually happens involuntarily) and visualize. The light (always an X in curious evolutions) that is seen should be held on to, never letting go, till the effort is forgotten, this gives a feeling of immensity (which sees a small form ), whose limit you cannot reach. This should be practised before experiencing the foregoing. The emotion that is felt is the knowledge which tells you why.

The death posture is its inevitability accelerated, through it we escape our unending delay by attachment, the Ego is swept up as a leaf in a fierce gale- in the fleetness of the indeterminable, that which is always about to happen becomes its truth. Things that are self-evident are no longer obscure, as by his own will he pleases, know this as the negation of all faith by living it, the end of the duality of the consciousness. Of belief, a positive death state, all else as sleep, a negative state. It is the dead body of all we believe, and shall awake a dead corpse. The Ego in subjection to law, seeks inertion in sleep and death. Know the death posture and its reality in annihilation of law- the ascension from duality. In that day of tearless lamentation the universe shall be reduced to ashes . . . . but he escapes the judgment! And what of "I," most unfortunate man! In that freedom there is no necessitation, what dare I say more? Rather would I commit much sin than compromise myself. There are many preliminary exercises, as innumerable as sins, futile of themselves but designative of the ultimate means. The death posture in the reduction of all conception (sin) to the "Neither-Neither" till the desire is contentment by pleasing yourself."

there are a lot of funny postures like that in Shardza's book

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
9/1/16 3:09 AM as a reply to Sid.
(In a context of a month of not working, things have been a blast.)

Emotions - Arising & Vanishing

I do some space-gazing sitting but my practice has been biased toward daily life and observations of the arising and passing of emotions within the body. With being-more-healthy reasoning rather than meditation-related motives I've also done yoga most days of the past month. I've felt good and my reading has been lightly Vajrayana. I can still call up fruitions through a repetitive but quick process.

In some ways I might describe the current state and activity as a powerful reversal of course - I'm trying to get really really really down with samsara. This has been, I think, going successfully. I'm also just plain old happy for normal life reasons and that's intertwined in all of this.

I've been very comfortable with the senses including sense pleasures: impulses to dodge them, unwind them, or be embarrassed about them have mellowed severely.

Tonight walking in the park the river seemed to be just gloriously purple, dark, silver, reflective, and wavering. Earlier in the week I listened to a few hours of weird ticklish "ASMR." The energetic masochism of a too-long-sustained bridge pose is wild and ecstatic. Even the involuntary twitchy-ness of caffeine is delicious and soaked with obvious no-self and fills my body with a quiet disorganized bliss. Even getting my internet bill seemed funny. emoticon

I have no particular desire to quash mind chatter playing across the surface of mind nor usually to pester it much vs just hanging out with it; irritation with and the urge to kill mind activity was definitely a misguided fixation throughout some of the prior stages in my meditation career (like I suspect it is/was for many us). Right now it is not a priority nor a concern.

Even what I would describe as "the thousand dances of the ego" are wondrous to play in (- ego more in the deep personality sense and not the fundamental, dualistic, illusory perceiver sense... though by now I also suspect that the second kind can attempt to hide inside the moving blind spots of certain actions of the first one in a messy way that would just be maddeningly confusing to argue for/explain to people not familiar with any of that subtle weirdness and territory). I used to find many of my secret internal mechanics, posturings, and constructions to be *severely* disturbing when directly seen. With college friends I often experimented with psychoactive intoxicants that appeared to deflate those internal processes into triviality and transparency, and I believed that these horrible conceptually-rigid existential burns were all that was wrong with the world and the exact stuff of maya, false life, and bad faith. But now it seems like virtually all of those previously painful emotional patterns with their hot identity reactions, chilling subconscious momentum, and seedy creepy ambiguities are absolutely refreshing to notice: like warm flashes flowering inside space, bright nectar-like perceptions, a curious unfolding of relief every time I catch the arising of the ego concepts and codependent phenomena within the tapestry of body. With friends or when watching a movie the old interplay (of locking myself into or onto various characters and the most pleasing or awfully incongruous experiences) seems very lucidly clear and not fundamentally irritating or wrong. To me this is all super novel in scale and the consistency of vicious equanimity.

I sometimes feel hollowed-out or glassy. I feel more like I am turning the volume up on non-meditative modes of being and am largely unconcerned with 'purifications' beyond a few exceptions. Thinking about bardos I've been on the lookout for occasionally impractical momentary asura-like rushes - at least that is what I think of them. Within the Buddha families metaphor I've been excavating a lot of useful knowledge about my moderately padma nature: I'm looking for the unskillful qualities of relevant corruptions, foils, and habits at work in myself.

Future Speculation

I might not be able to maintain this wonderful way of being persistently of course, and my ability to inhabit my pains so enthusiastically may very well deteriorate across the cycles of mind. There are a lot of entangled factors that make it too hard to sort out the fruits of insight axis progress vs other axes, and the metric of sticking power has got to be worth more than the rest put together. There is a lot of material still to examine. I know that there are real blind spots. That said I would almost be happy stopping here. The transformation gap from zero to stream entry was radically vast and (for me) the most important shift so far in terms of decreasing suffering, but even after that the craving for progress dogged me... lately the impulse to get deeper insight is hardly a whisper. Maybe it will pop out of nowhere and kick my butt soon in an enraging and enlivening way, which seems to happen a lot in this kind of territory. Maybe some day the metaphorically coronated ego will be too weighed down and dissolve with all of its hidden conceits and I'll feel utterly different again in some way I just can't imagine from this level - I should probably hope so.

Miscellaneous

Thinking broadly about my life there are other changes (half-related) that are complicated for me. I am a pretty open book so this will be a lot of Full-Disclosure-Read-If-Helpful/Interesting-To-Me stuff.

My relationship with eros changes over time for reasons that I think at least partially connect up to my meditation journey. A few years ago I had a definite (pre- stream-entry) tremendously important de-conditioning shift in phenomenology where sex experience became about as unfettered as drinking a glass of water most of the time. Similar to my agnosticism about mind chatter I don't really find the experiences of lust to be particularly bothersome to live with. But over time my relationship with bodily energy becomes less libidinously sexual and more elementally sensual, I think. There are all kinds of paradoxical forces operating on my erotic self though which I don't fully comprehend and I think my spiritual practice has a hidden impact. On one hand there has been a weird but probably common hedonic treadmill effect of increased curiosity regarding psychologically playful erotic materials and practices and fetishizations perhaps resulting from my body of experiences and a history of dating at least moderately deviant and exploratory people and an increased identity fluidity. On the other hand my own attitude towards lust and moment-to-moment sexual experience also becomes increasingly impersonal, de-psychologized, observatory, and at some points just very non-conceptual with certain fetishes dropping away suddenly and utterly in a seemingly permanent way over the years. I am extremely curious about the maturation of this interplay. I don't know if either or both species of change are a good thing or if they conflict at all, really. In the end I don't think there is anything specifically to embrace or to do beyond seeing how I change, continuing with both insight practice and normal real-world psychological adaptation and living, and doing all what I can do to be moral, skillful, and communicative as I try to embody good precepts.

Professionally: I feel empowered and sorta ambivalent. I will set off the engine again in a chosen direction soon enough.

When it comes to most of the (other) ways that I relate with people, I am at once excited and maybe disappointed by what I discover. Chögyam Trungpa writes that the luminosity from Vajrayana-flavored development is not just the clarity and self-presentation-as-beauty of things arising and existing where they are but also a dignified, humorous, outrageous manifestation outward through the various mandalas of body and mind. He also talks about merging jnanasattva with samaya... meaning something like integration of (a) the comedic (even "crazy") layers of wisdom and perspective (that exist slightly on top of normal wisdom and not as some ridiculous alternative to it - the common misconception) with (b) your sacred vow, embodied philosophy, and general living state of manifested bondage and being within a form. So there is potentially something deeply parallel between the improvisations, brightness, and unexpected reversals of good comedy and certain strong manifestations of enlightened wisdom through the entire mandala of a person.

I find that the gorgeous exposition of Trungpa hooks up decently well with my own foolish-but-long-worked-on pet theories and observations about people and humor over my life. Like many others I have found adulthood to be at times monstrously anti-romantic. I don't share the Living Void Mahasi Sayadaw's expressed mild disfavor toward being alive nor do I relate to Ajaan Geoff's frequently monastic characterization of all human interaction as literal vampirism. That said (and not to limit my magical possibilities too much) I also do not really witness a world abundant with fiery soulmates frolicking across the waves of time, nor diamond-pure heroes saving the day or completing great works with spirits of golden light, nor unfettered curiosities fearlessly expanding the frontiers of reality without limit. Instead at best there are the countless refined beauties and compromises and pressures and tics and tiny contradictory passions of domestic life and diverse cooperations and friendly affections; the gods are good but they are never where I expected to find them and they can be dangerous; impressive academics and adventurers (whether astronauts or jungle-trekking paleontologists) usually only swim in a dang swamp of bureaucracy and the patient application of their craft. On the down-to-earth level I've been thinking for ages that complicated and crazy ideas about people and relationships (transmitted on all media) that I grew up with aren't worth very much.

I believe that most things in life can be left alone without strong interpretation and a functional personality might just be an alchemical mixture of humor and brightness (see above) and the creative appreciation of the rhythms of voice and posture and situation. Long-long-long rant said short: I've been wondering if situationally comfortable humor and the energies of compassion might make up the frighteningly simple (when purified) core of most effective human relationships (at least as it seems in the people of my own life). Intellectual ideals, millions of identities, fantastical unending models of union and participation and family and dynasty and group, intense admirations of personal qualities, talents, or shared pains might just all (universally or at least typically) be much more unsatisfying and shallow as a basis for life than the simple, playful grounds of humor and people just hanging out.

After writing that all out it seems reductive and these kinds of truths are subjective and 50% wrong, but I guess I've just gained a larger appreciation for the utility of light-heartedness and more mild skepticism regarding interpersonal complexities at too-great scale. Gives me something to aim for embodying, anyway. ;)

Take away from that what you will.

Metta, S

RE: Sid's Log: New Horizons
Answer
12/12/16 6:02 PM as a reply to Sid.
Three months later:

Things are going well. I'm pretty confident I got into 3rd Path at some point (especially when considering/measuring the degree of agency dissolution).

Insight practice mostly happens spontaneously for an hour here and there on most days. I also think I'm really really dang good at "roaming and playing in samadhi" as Hongzhi says. I think I'm in jhana almost all of the time I'm not sitting. 

At the moment it doesn't really feel like there is anything more to do vipassana-wise but I'm going to try to be smart and rely on the seemingly collective wisdom that this is pretty unlikely to be true. I'll get back on that assessment in one year and/or ten haha. 

The tantric direction was very fruitful. I have had a lot of opportunities to play with powerful energies and emotional states and to apply the eyes of compassion and no-self to huge areas of experience I had not before. Lots of bad stuff and high energy stuff is (of course) empty. Historically I've been resistant to the concept of trying to fight off bad habits for its own sake, but I've definitely been noticing that a number of my habits have been deteriorating as it becomes more equanimous and satisfying to just chill out on emptiness rather than to follow some of the momenta of media and body that used to push me more. 

I've dug into a few sections of the Pali Canon that interest me and have been processing a number of Dzogchen texts, trying to integrate this into my practice. The Zen/Seon/Chan stuff also feels right and I continue to explore their writings in short bursts. 

I continue to experiment with siddhis. Annoyingly of the maybe four or so from the Visuddhimagga that interest me the most I seem to have the easiest time with the one that I'd likely say I care about the least with partial success on one other, but it's still pretty cool. There are remarks that mastery of one sign leads to mastery of the others or something like that, but this is clearly not true for the arahats in the Tipitaka who generally had unique abilities except for a few very comprehensive masters of the powers like Moggallana and Uppalavanna. The 'ground' of the mind state in which I find a siddhi accessible also feels closer and closer to my normal, daily experience and less something that can only be found in highly specialized states. I don't really want to get more into that/what I'm doing here or any interpretations though. 

Found myself in a couple situations this year with curious friends that led to me explaining the progress of insight and the three characteristics and kind of revealing the work I've already done - pointing out MCTB and apologizing for giving my "tripped out version of Buddhist dharma" but insisting that it's serious business haha. Felt good. I've also been sensing that these days I have a little more common ground with spiritualists and occultists paradigmatically if not in practice, so I'm intending to spend more time with my spookier/weirder circles. 

In the middle of interviewing for jobs (finally) after several months of a work break that began in the summer. I didn't plan on it lasting so long but it definitely greased the dharma wheel for me. Gettin' back out into the world. 

Metta metta, 

S