“Melodharmas” of Desire for Deliverance

I had one of those wonderfully profound sits tonight that I let go far past the bell, and far past bedtime, It was insight-oriented, but the meditation method itself kept changing, like gears noisily shifting, and jhana was always somewhere in the background. I just let what happened happen, since, if automaticity is the most notably consistent quality of practice since August, then I should probably look at that.

Desire for Deliverance

So much was happening so fast that I may not be able to capture impression of it here or even transcribe bare facts into words. That’s fine. Main things were rapid, heavy-handed state shifts past 3rd and a sudden shift
from Disgust to Desire for Deliverance (DFD).

I’m such a freakin’ baby during DFD, crying and praying and rocking with it all until peace pervades the rocking. I enjoy DFR, I have to admit. It reminds me of all those cathartic home comforts of being a praying, kneeling Christian while coming up. If it feels right, then I do it. (By the way, Daniel has a new passage about DFD in
MCTB2, and it basically advises just what I’m doing—to go with and into the longing for release, for enlightenment, to its utter depths.)

I felt remorse arise, too, for quarreling with Daniel about book stuff, and related process and communications stuff, over the weekend. Now he is sick and unable to even respond to my pile of proud, bitter emails. All will be well, though. This cyclic stuff will wear itself out, yet again, and something will remain. I can feel that now.

Rapid, Inclusive Noticing

Shifts were rapid, deep, and productive of space. I noticed as many sensations as I could, as rapidly and inclusively as I could, noticing the shifting among the senses and zone-limited body fields that incompletely
and transiently define me, while dropping in inquiries whether that were I.

Jhānic Boundless Consciousness and the Knot

Thoughts as such were not prominent, although I spent time at one point in Boundless Consciousness, and experienced that as a looping back into itself rhythmically, which makes me understand, I think, why Daniel uses the metaphor of unknotting, or untangling, as attaining fourth path: In the unenlightened, there is a segment not left where it is but brought recursively in, down, through, and around until it is this constriction, a knot, a welt, a lump, a thing, my very self.

I experimented with visualizing the knot, feeling it as such, which was really interesting: I experienced some sensations of constriction in my chest, around my heart. Oh, that pain feels like me. And then arose the vivid arrow of not directing anything. Motion, attention, and intention were instantaneous, gapless, always already here.

Choiceless Awareness and the Warp of Clarity Itself

Then I dropped the rapid noticing, opting to just sit in choiceless awareness, which is hard to do these days, oddly, even though months and months ago it was easy. I sort of started to feel out into all that surround-space, and then let the surround-space feel back into me (or whatever). 

So there was this rhythmic recursion. I also later allowed for there to be these disks of space that would slice through “me” and drag some of that me out the other side and into the spacious. Opening my eyes, I saw big ripples or eddies. These are hard to explain. They are like hot blown glass warped in clear air lines, not exactly lines of solid color or anything, but the extrasensory warp of clarity itself.

I had what seemed a couple of near misses of a cessation, but I’ll never know and it doesn’t matter. It will happen when I stop waiting for it, when I’m worn down as much as I need to be, when I’m disenchanted. When I’ve come to some kind of understanding. When path is not separate from this fruit, from just this.

Insight Stage of Disgust

I’ve been in High Disgust for a couple of days now and intensely during this sit. The kind of Disgust that makes not just sitting with it, but even remembering what to do with it, how to sit with it, seem impossible. Frustration, repelling all, giving up if only I could but can’t even do that—raging, antsy Disgust. Desire to put it somewhere away from me, the very wanting away from me. Sad, pale, unappreciated ironies. Nausea—always a sure sign I’m in Disgust. Oh, yeah. At least I know where I am freakin’ mapwise, as if that were useful. Sick of cycling, too.

Ah, and there’s the Cold Back. That means Grand Abandonment Currents and Third Jhana Crosswalk.

Never draw Anger, but drew Anger and knew that was what I would draw as I drew. That’s funny, and I’m glad something is.

I want to quit everything, torch it all.

Inside Out : The Stream Entry Shift of Interoception to Surrounding Space

The Interoception Shift at Stream Entry

DreamWalker and I have talked here and there over the past few weeks, perhaps over many weeks, about the new spaciousness I felt after Stream Entry, which has been constant. While meditating formally, I would often seem to be in Boundless Space (j5) almost immediately. I could close my eyes at my desk at work and fall right into it. Even just walking around—I felt I was this surrounding bubble of space with nothing of my former “core” self at center.

DW has suggested that I’m identifying with the space bubble and should dissolve that identification. Why this thought never occurred to me, I am not sure. The space bubble is much more pleasant than the old sensations of contraction constituting self, or selves. I guess that is why.

In some of Daniel’s DhO posts, he enjoins the practitioner to play on the boundary between self and and what seems like  space. Because I have been like this doughnut, I’ve not really dissolved any former illusion of boundary. Inside and outside have just exchanged places, yielding a doughnut-hole empty center, so to speak. Last sit, I went to vipassanize that identification-boundary of space-me, but, lo, it was already gone. 

Boundless Consciousness as New Cutting Edge

Boundless Consciousness (j6) is the cutting edge, now. And I just ran across this piece by Nikolai. Since harder and higher jhana is such a strong consequence of my Stream Entry, I think riding the jhanic arc is a fruitful substitution for “applying” the 3Cs. This is where I am naturally, and with the automaticity to do this practice, so I may as well experiment with riding this arc and record what happens:

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-riding-jhanic-arc-via.html

Love and Gratitude

It is 2:34 a.m. I napped long early in the evening and woke to the sense that I’m finally healing from a weeklong intense virus (which Daniel was able to name right off the top of his head accurately, based on a few of my symptoms, when he and I Skyped). I’m going to sit, though I need sleep. I’m currently seated, propped up by pillows, in organic cotton, in my rice-carved king-sized cherrywood bed. I just felt this moment of pervasive love for all you, deep gratitude for the connections forming here, for the miracle of community, support, growth, and friendship.

So it is written.

Postscript 2.5 Years Later: Spaciousness as Crucial

DreamWalker was and is incorrect that there is a “boundary” that survives what I today call the interoception-exteroception reversal that is the most important result of stream entry. DW posits three shifts or mechanisms:

  • Something is done to create a “space bubble,”
  • Something else is done to attenuate a sense of interiority.
  • Something else yet again dissolves the boundary that is at the skin or, per DW, an inch above it.  

I disagree.

My Experience of the Body From Stream Entry to Fourth Path

At stream entry there occurred only a single permanent change that happened for me that had to do with felt sense of the body. That change, which was immediate upon my layering back into my being-Jenny after cessation, was a feeling that I, or rather Awareness, permeated surrounding space. Along with that came a dramatic lessening of identity-contraction felt as interiority—I couldn’t feel that interiority even when I tried to. In other words, with the shift of awareness to the surround-space comes major damage to the sense of a center. This attainment is not the same as the fourth path dropping away of the central processor of objects; that shift depends on this one, however, and is related to it.

This shift is permanent and is the most important result of stream entry. It is more important than a spaciousness of sound (which I also got at stream entry) or a spaciousness of vision (which I did not get). Why is it more important? Because sound and vision are naturally more event-perspective (“out there”), whereas the body is what most feels like the self, is what is most intimate among sense spheres (“right here”). Therefore, the body is closest to the mind-perspective that is Mahamudra View. Think about it: In Buddhist theory, a sense sphere comprises a sense door (the sensing organ-consciousness) and a sense field. Only with the body are the door and the field already so proximate to each other, so obviously interpenetrating, interdependent. And before insight, the body is the most obvious locus of delusional identity-view. 

Descriptively with regard to my framework of awakening, each path presents a dominant theme. The theme of the first path is no-self, or in Tibetan Buddhist parlance, emptiness of self and phenomena. The body is the best emphasis with which to start the first path of insight (after impermanence has been seen at the A&P). Moreover, after fourth path, it is also the best resource with which to begin integration, which, interestingly, involves integration back in of a felt interority and plain humanness in the form of the subtle and very subtle body (central channel, chakras, etc.).

There was no boundary for me to vipassanize at the time that I wrote this post, because back when I first began meditating, I never could find a closed boundary when I looked for one (because it is not there). If DW were right, and there were three body shifts, one of which he thinks I still don’t have, then what are the three separate results? Hmm? One cannot say, because in fact there are not three results. There is only one result: The sense of self-identity as felt core moves out there and leaves little behind to identify with as center, except during intense negative emotional reactivity. For that inversion to happen, one already has to know and feel that there is no boundary between interior space and exterior space. Work with that boundary again and again, and the inversion will happen, preferably at stream entry.

Styles of Model-Building

My understanding from DW is that he still has not gotten this result. So although he can hypothesize, and anyone can—until one actually has the result, one cannot offer phenomenologically based description and therefore theory.

DW is my close friend, and we have traveled the path together, with nearly daily dharma conversation for 3 years. He remains, in my view, hyper-analytical in his model-building, chopping shifts into parts unnecessarily. I think early on, it is fine to be that analytical off the cushion; later, clinging to that mental activity is poison for one’s own practice. My point here is not to disparage analysis and model-building, as I am totally keen on model-building myself, although not for my own on-cushion or off-cushion life at this point.

What I take issue with in DW’s approach is that he usually posits mechanisms that are not felt experience but are instead imputed onto a “Black Box,” to borrow the Skinnerian term for anything supposed to underlie behavior. DW often speaks of what is happening in the brain or sense organs from a quasi-scientific or technological perspective. For example, he defines rigpa as “increasing the sampling rate,” but I have rigpa and don’t experience a speeding-up of any directly known process. I think he prefers his own metaphors and with them is referring to the result that, in vision, objects seem sharper, more high-definition, more saturated with color. However, knowing those results and then imputing a “speeding up of sampling rate” as the mechanism, as if we were digital processors, is to construct a Black Box explanation,

A Black Box explanation meaningfully informs neither results nor method. With the rigpa example, perhaps some kind of change to signal processing happens in the physical brain that supports the mind, but that is unverifiable by experience alone, and dharma is a business of experience. To paraphrase Ingram, no one has ever experienced a brain. Moreover, in the case of rigpa, in cosmological-scale narratives, speed itself is surpassed categorically, as is the brain—and that narrative is actually a better fit with the felt experience. 

In my view poetic metaphors work better than mechanistic Black Box imputations. For at least flowery metaphors call attention to their own metaphoricity, like a water-moon.

How This Topic Will Be Treated Prescriptively in My Book

In my book, this shift will be Priority 1 for practitioners to nail—after impermanence is seen in the A&P. Path 1 is about insight into no-self, and that insight happens at the level of three senses: vision, hearing, and felt sense of the body. Having wide-angled vision at stream entry is nice. Having the canopy forest of sound and nada sounds is nice. But having the interoception shift is absolutely crucial.

Among those who I am confident have MCTB fourth path, 100% got this spaciousness at stream entry.  Daniel, I think, is a notable exception in that he mentions in his writings and interviews that stream entry didn’t do much to change walking-around experience. But then, remember, Daniel was stuck and frustrated on Path 4 for 7 years. This is the point. My hypothesis is that if one doesn’t open dramatic spaciousness permanently at stream entry, then one will become “stuck” on Path 4 and have to do much remedial work then until it happens.

Descriptively, I think Path 1 is naturally begging for specifically this sense door to open out to the great beyond. It is for this reason that, prescriptively, my book will emphasize body-based vipassana work on Path 1 that Daniel normally prescribes at Path 3. DW then asks me if I’m positing a Stream Entry Stout and a Stream Entry Lite. I think I am. But I do not think people who feel sure of having attained stream entry should worry if they didn’t get this result. (In general, I am anti-worry.) What I would enjoin, however, is that after second path, which is often short and in my framework well-defined, one focus like a laser on vipassana of the felt sense of the body, space, and boundary, and not focus on “luminosity” or other shifts until this work is done and stabilized as the new default setting.

 To Daniel on Editorial Conflicts and Personal Boundaries

23 January 2015

Dear Daniel,

I’m going to try to keep my response to you at a very high level. After all, I don’t feel that the frustration energy you have been projecting onto me over the past few days, perhaps not insignificantly after you grappled with your personal narrative, has much, if anything, to do with my perfectly reasonable clarifying queries about your subjhana notation system. In fact, I think it has little or nothing to do with me at all. But I’ll let you sort whether that is true on your own.

Clarifying Your Full Notation System

No one has asked you to “dumb down” your notation system or anything else. You admitted to having been very “loose” instead of consistent with the letters you chose to use for the states and stages. How am I supposed to know whether or not you were similarly loose in oscillating between what appears to be two (three?) different notation systems for two different vipassana stage models—unless I ask? 

After running a bit of a focus group of diehard DhO fans of yours, I had from them a handful of questions and concerns that you can certainly choose to flat-out ignore. You can choose to dismiss me, Devin, Eric, and Tom Tom as softcore unmasterful meditation slackers who don’t deserve your hand up or help. That’s fine, and I wish you well in finding and reaching a more worthy audience of practitioners without the grace of an editor to advocate for the community of readers. Without me, you have only your own isolated, calcified judgment, with no feedback or reality testing of your teaching skill, but only replay of your own opinions about how far the reader should have to come up to meet you—even established DhO members such as the ones I just named, even the person who is trying to make all this more teachable.

Reader’s Comprehension as Opposed to Your Personality Projection

On the phone the other night, after all we, mainly I, went through to improve Part I, you lamented that you prefer your flat “laundry list” of little disconnected sections, with the B-movie transitions, to the much more sophisticated layering and nesting of paragraphs within subsections, subsections within sections, sections within chapters, and chapters within parts that I so painstakingly accomplished. People have expressed no less than astonishment to me over how much this “layering” of thought has brought the subtleties of your dharma teaching to the fore of Part I. They’ve stated how much clearer this edition is than the last. This reaction is absolutely of no surprise to me at all. 

Mature writers are those who have mastered the layering of thoughts. Their sentences will involve more subordination than and-linked coordinated sentences; their structures will have more than one flat layer of fragmented sections merely pretending to be effective “chapters.” Layering of thought aids comprehension and retention. Low-brow chattiness for the sake of preserving your “voice,” which is to say, your personality, in no way aids in comprehension or retention. I saw this book a year ago as a diamond in the rough, and I vowed to reach out to you and make it shine, for the benefit of all beings, even some of the slackers, which you’ve made clear below that you think I, Devin, Eric, and Tom Tom are.

I know full well that you are a master of meditation and a master of the practice of medicine. But hear and register this: I’m am many, many times more the masterful writer than you are. If you were in one of the many freshman writers in one my college classes, you would be put through your paces to a degree that would shock you, let me tell you. I love your personality, even with all its grandiosity, outbursts of punitive harshness, double standards, and goofy quirks. However, hear this, too: You need to get the fuck out of your own way. You need to step aside a bit in this book so that the dharma you have to teach can shine through without all these obfuscating Daniel-personality filters. You say you are interested in quashing projection and the cult of personality. I challenge you to prove it by dealing somehow with your vey obtrusive feelings of possessiveness over this book. It isn’t you or yours, after all, is it? Or is it? 

Sequencing of Chapters and Parts

Another thing you said on the phone to me, quite vehemently, was that you don’t feel chapters need to approximate the same length. Nor do you feel, I guess, that a part consisting of only one chapter is at all ridiculous, though it is. When I cite to you the conventions that compose this cultural construct called “books,” editorial style, and writing, your defense is, “I don’t feel particularly bound by convention.” I don’t know how to advise, reach, or help an author who clings to such emphatically unhelpful rejection of the reader’s needs in the name, again, of projecting his own personality through his material. Writing is convention itself. It is the least spontaneous and least “emotionally honest” thing on earth, if it is at all effective.

Why write in paragraphs? Why not get a butcher roll of paper and spew one long undifferentiated column of “personality” down the middle? Why not doodle all over it, too? Wouldn’t that feel “fun” and liberating to you? Maybe. Would it help the greatest number of sentient beings to awaken? I highly doubt it, as few are going to slog through the results of such a self-indulgent authorial undertaking.

Now, when I tell you that, ideally, chapters should approximate the same length, be bundled, layered, and thematized, I’m giving you my best advice, based on my 10 years mastering narratology and rhetoric at the PhD level, and my subsequent 15 years as a rapidly promoted, multi-award-winning senior editor. I’m not just making this shit up, believe it or not. By this point in a relationship with an author, I’m no longer having to throw the book at him and convince him that there is some industry and learned standard for what I’m recommending. By this point, he clearly sees the value in what I’ve done, has developed some basic trust in my intelligence, sensitivity, and camaraderie, and doesn’t use our working relationship and my vulnerabilities as a projection ground for his own insecurities and contradictions.

You stated to me the other night, in a sudden fluster, that you want “Shadow and Light” (“Light and Shadow”?) back where it was—this after I asked you twice whether you were okay with running the experiment of bundling it with the path models. Then, during that call, you took issue with my leaving the path models out of a part calling itself “Mastery of Practice.” Daniel, everything can be “Mastery of Practice.” Shall be put all the chapters into one gigantic part and call it “Mastery”? No, of course not. After all, the title of the book is “Mastering,” so that umbrella is already open and functioning to cover the whole book. The terms we are separating, however artificially, are “practice” and “theory.”

Again, dividing and naming chapters and parts is artificial. We simply need to give the reader a psychological break every 100 pages or so to integrate what has been covered. This is just the verified cognitive-behavioral constraints of book reading, comprehension, and retention. 

So, thinking about all those models, mainly ones you trounce, I reasoned that the ranty tone of “Shadows and Light” and the ranty tone of those rejected path models are tonally connected and therefore belong together. Moreover, it seems to me, in terms of content, that there is a connection, isn’t there, between the idealized models and the hyper-psychologized mode of what passes under the name of contemporary Buddhism? I have a very intense gut feeling that these separate pieces would inform each other beautifully and profitably if they were bundled together under one overarching part title, whatever that title may be. Whether that resulting part should be Part II or Part III remains to be seen and decided, but in writing you do the bundling and thematizing first, and then the sequencing next. Intros and finalizing titles are last. Why you are suddenly so nervous about everything I don’t know, but all this seemed occasioned by the Quest work.

You protested to me over the phone that no one can master practice without the path models and that, therefore, the “Mastery of Practice” part must include the path models. I still don’t understand what you mean, except that I guess everything in the world potentially informs “practice.” Maybe the whole book should be a single “part.” Still, you have made it clear to me and to Devin that there is no such thing as “a path-appropriate way of practicing” (your very words). So the path models are part of the culture and theory of attainment, not direct practice. This may not be true in some absolute sense, but the differentiation seems more than adequate to support a book part division.

Now, you have been what appears to me to be very inconsistent on this point of paths’ informing practice specifics. In the Hurricane Ranch talks, there is this:

KENNETH: “So would you say that each path has its own logic of getting the thing done”?

DANIEL: “Yes. Absolutely.”

So which is it, Daniel? Is counting paths important to tweaking practice, or is it not? You just posted out to the DhO the thread “4th and the Whole Thing,” which apparently was sent out only to those who think they have gotten or are about to get 4th. And you bristle that “Everyone forgets my Simple model.” When I reply, “Well, you yourself question us and post in terms of the Revised Four-Path model.” Your response to that is what? “I do that only because that is how everyone talks out on the DhO.” Please, come on! Don’t give me that. You are the leader and teacher here. Have you ever posted under the auspices of the Simple model? Even once? If the Simple model is your priority model, then declare it so everywhere and be consistent in promoting it instead of confusing by spending most of the time supporting the Revised Four-Path model.

If the Revised Four-Path model is good only for assessing first and fourth paths, then maybe you need to have the guts to revise again down to a Two-Path model. At the very least, you need to explain to us middle-path people just what the deal really is. When should we consult/ignore which model?

All the frigging models have problems, all of them, including that Simple one. That’s my opinion. None of them match the wide variance in what apparently happens across advanced practitioners. How in the world is any of them helping my practice?

So these path models—to my mind and from what you wrote to me personally—they are theory, not practice. They belong in a Culture and Theory part of the book.

Boundaries

The other night on the phone you uttered something that hurt my feelings, on top of the litany of challenges you hurled, albeit quite belatedly, at all the work I’ve done on Part I. You said, 

“Well, you can do what you want when you write your own book.” 

Considering that I’ve donated considerable effort and time away from my family, my own meditation practice, my sleep, my paid work, my exercise needs, my healing during illness, and all manner of relaxation and recreation for a book that bears your name and not my own, and which furthers my personal agendas and status in no way, that sort of hurtful remark is overly defensive, is meant emphatically only to sting me, and is therefore morally unskillful. 

I was very ill for more than a week. You twice pressed me to Skype for 2.5 hours while I was sick in order to go through some exercise that you seemed to feel would help with the memoir but that I didn’t get a sense helped at all. Now, okay. I granted you this long chat, though it ran over something else I had told you I had planned to do with my husband that night at 9 p.m., and even though I was sick as a dog and not able to mentally process things well. Do you know how you characterized this Skype session to me when you pressed me for it? You said this would be “fun” for me, as if you were granting me a special favor in granting me an audience.

Your lecturing me—ever—on my proper motivations, insisting that I do this work “for the community” and not even a little bit for you, presumes that you are morally superior to me and entitled to lecture me on and constrain my generous actions in terms of motivations precisely in line with your own motivations. And what are your motivations in thus lecturing me? Clearly, it is so you will owe me not a thing, no gratitude, or even heartfelt personal acknowledgment. So our Skype sessions aren’t to help you, but to dispense me a little “fun” because I get to converse with you about you! 

You do owe me basic courtesy, if not gratitude, Daniel. You owe it to me to stop hurting my feelings and treating me callously. You should at the very least have me write a signed editor’s preface to the book so there is that acknowledgment of all that I’ve put into this. You and I should stop pretending that I’ve done nothing for “you,” when I have done plenty for you, including continuing to think of you as my friend when you have hurt my feelings deeply more than once and ignored much of what I’ve wanted to talk about from time to time, ignoring questions asked several times, rather passive-aggressively. You enforce status all the time. Think about it.

So these are my boundaries, since I assume you aren’t the only one who gets to set and enjoy boundaries, as presumptuous as that might be of me. If we can clear this cyclical shit up and out and move on again with the work before us, very good and I’m willing. If you think I’m spoiling your precious lifework and you prefer to put it out there “as is,” without benefit of someone advocating for your potential readers at all, on the basis that you alone know what is best on every single axes of intellectual development, then that is your decision, with all its attendant risks, and I wish you well.

Jenny

DreamWalker on Using the Sick Well

I got first path and third path during illness. Someone pointed out (Droll?) the parallels between being sick and a vision quest.

It’s not “fun,” but there is something clarifying about the deep suffering that gives no room but the very moment. I do not take any drugs to help with symptoms usually…just go with the flow.

Get better Jenny . . . but use the sick well.

~D

Reply to Nikolai’s Comment about Asking the Universe for Help

Thanks, Nikolai. Your advice to ask the universe for help are reassuring and inspiring.

DreamWalker was telling me just tonight that I needed to ask for help and the helpers will come. Or, if I have a connection with Medicine Buddha, to ask him to find whoever has the skillset I need.

Incidentally, I’ve been really sick the past few days, so sick that I’ve found it difficult to sit up and concentrate. So I’ve been rising into the jhanas while falling asleep and meeting with some interesting insights in that space between sleeping and waking. In lucid dreams I’ve sat down and meditated, so it has been like some kind of work progressed even as I was completely surrendered to illness and being off-line, speaking of not-in-control. Last night, you were in my dream. You were sitting in lotus position across from me and talking, giving me some kind of helpful advice, though when I woke from the dream I didn’t recall the words, the content.

But here you are, and here they are.