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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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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 S..
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