Buddhist Practitioner and Guide Jenny Jennings Foerst
Category: Dharma by Dark Night
Maintaining and publishing practice journals is a longstanding Pragmatic Dharma rite. Many Pragmatic Dharma practitioners have journaled their entire path. What is personal when written becomes, in combination with others’ journals, nothing less than a postmodern Buddhist commentary. It is important that practitioners with realization leave these “breadcrumbs” for those who follow, showing what is possible and what making it so typically requires. For the writer, meditation journaling is in itself a contemplative practice. My journals, offered here, exemplify what it means to put in the practice blood, sweat, and tears and let them dry into such digital ink records. They model for students of meditation what it means to bring 100% of one’s being to practicing well.
This journal covers the period from before stream entry (2014) to my Mahamudra awakening of rigpa (July 2015).
Concentration Cleanup with New Techniques ahead of Mahamudra Retreat
Because I have this mahamudra retreat coming up in a few weeks, I’m trying to devote time to cleaning up my concentration act. I have very little time to read or do anything else, but I quickly read some beginning chapters in Dan Brown’s book, specifically the staying/calm (basically samatha jhana) parts and am practicing three techniques:
Monitoring the overall meditation quality continuously with one part of my mind held in reserve for this purpose
Intensifying concentration on the breath as a silky-smooth ribbon with as little straying as possible and with quick recovery when I do stray
Easing up when width and allowance are called for
Something that puzzles me a bit is how I keep monitoring going when, in Theravadin-style jhana practice, “evaluative thought” is supposed to drop out after first jhana. Nevertheless, this monitoring all the way up the jhanic arc is what I believe landed nirodha samapatti.
Anyway, I meant to sit just 40 minutes but sat past the bell for about a total of one hour.
This sit was fun but boring to write about because, hey, no madwoman visions or ridiculous weeping! I had some fairly intense raptures at first and couldn’t tell whether it was thrilling or fearful—a bit fearful, with heart palps. I was much less aware than usual of the jhanas for much of the sit because I was focused like a laser on that ribbon of breath even to the exclusion of jhana fascination. However, I seemed to spend a good deal of time in fourth jhana, got a big solid nimitta, although it did not have its usual violet color. It was pale gray and white at one point right after I let fly a resolution (sorry, Pawel).
I finally deliberately moved to the formless realms. Sixth was profound—insights started pouring in concerning the true nature of mind. Nothingness was restful and contracted. I am not sure whether I ever teetered into eighth.
I think I’m indeed in a honeymoon review of some sort after that NS; however, I’m noticeably less A&P today, maybe because I didn’t sit last night.
I really enjoyed using these new techniques to be less sloppy and self-indulgent with the jhanas. I’m looking forward to this retreat. I feel strongly that mahamudra ofters the most profound and direct cut-to-the-chase, and I’m grateful to have this opportunity. I’m a bit surprised to find myself leaning back toward Tibetan Buddhism, but now that I’m over my earlier objection to magick, return kind of makes sense—so long as I don’t run into some of the monastic corruption I did the first time.
Bliss is starting to roll heavily on me now, but that might be the Portishead I’m listening to, even for all the dark. My fruitions suck, but I got jhana juice so I’m good, y’all.
I hope I have time to go to the magick shop this weekend and buy a bunch of fun stuff that will make Pawel unsheath his vajra sword.
I concentrated most of the day on finishing some very tough detailed work on the Path and Fruit chapter of MCTB2. It contains the Six Doors section which hung Daniel and me up for weeks. I realized a couple of days ago, though, that I actually clearly experienced the no-self/impermanence door August 8. The problem is, I experienced it after the cessation and before I was layered back into being per Dependent Origination. However, I read in this Buddhist Phenomenology book I found online to read about NS that encountering the Three Contacts (doors) can occur after cession, not just before.
I’ve written to Daniel to confront him about this since I’ve told him repeatedly what happened after that cessation. At any rate, confident that I’ve experienced the very door that hung us up, I proceeded to fill out Daniel’s description for those who haven’t experienced it clearly; even so, this will be the most cryptic part of the book.
One goodie that came of the voluminous email struggles we had over this chapter is that I forced Daniel to list all the reasons he needs this section to be in the book at all. His answers were good and allowed me to piece together a passage that better sets out his purpose and audience than MCTB1 did. It helps. It both encourages hope and effort, and allays practice performance anxiety.
Just Sitting, Not Syncing
I sat about 50 minutes, meaning to sit only 30 since it was very late. I was “just sitting.”
The sit began with almost disturbingly loud sound of all the tones in the so-called silence. In fact, I’m still hearing an overabundance of “ringing.” Then I noticed a flood of other sensations and, beyond that, how I could not attend to all of them at once, and how effortful it was to keep this illusion of body-mind-self coherence going.
There was the scent of my violet crown chakra votive candle from the hippie mart; there was the almost-gone breath, exquisite; there was bad aching in my lower back that minutes later was totally gone simply because other sensations came to the fore. Impermanence was screaming loudly moment-by-moment and across all the categories and locations of sensations that I could not attend to all at the same time. Things could not synchronize, and I was the reason.
Looking for the Luminous Thread in the Core Processes
I opened my eyes sometimes and saw ordinary objects shine forth with “thought.” And I remembered my exchanges with Daniel over how I can possibly work luminosity on “this side.” I remembered that he said to try to see my own memories and daydreams as more of that object world which is just happening, more “stuff.” I remembered how much he stresses the “core processes” as the objects of notice in the Equanimity chapter. I remembered, too, how in his memoir of late third path he narrates working hard to see these core processes.
I continued the meditation. While my eyes were still open, I noticed a strong sense of nondoer; however, I then noticed turning of attention to even this. Attention is a kind of barely visible intention (hey, Pawel!). Daniel told me to especially pay attention to those processes that seem so, so ordinary that that they are hard to even see as existing just to preserve the illusion of a controlling, permanent self. How can I profitably pay attention to attention itself? This is getting damned tricky. I guess the same way I did everything before now: Simply look, simply see.
I closed my eyes and let myself be flooded with memories and daydreams. I saw the gorgeous pale pink-and-white hydrangeas in the window boxes of the the Plaza hotel in NYC. I saw the mahogany and burgundy velvet above the tea room. I saw flashes of green vistas from various balconies of my night dreams; I remembered eating my first kumquat in Florida as a child; I remembered eating grape Popsicles in the summertime heat of my childhood, with the hum of the AC at my back; I remember stopping my car on a road near Valdosta, Georgia, in my late 20s, just to take photos of this old white rural house; I remember lying in bed naked with Kurt after lovemaking 28 years ago while Paul Kane sat on the bed with us, smoking weed. I remembered being on LSD with my best friend Robyn and sitting across from her on the floor beside an open second storey window and staring into her beautiful morphing blue eyes; I remember studying for many hours, year after year, in the lounge on the top floor of Davis library in grad school, gazing on the fall leaves for miles stretching toward Raleigh and hearing Shelley in my head as I now hear Daniel; I remember my first look into my only son’s eyes after I gave birth to him, one line of our shared blood writ across the bridge of his nose.
All of these mind moments—are they me? Are they Jenny Margaret? Or are they just sensations, just the warp and woof of this entire field of this material plane? I could feel after this wondrous stream how everything illusorily in my purview wants to synchronize, and how just barely “off” everything is from corresponding with itself naturally. And all this obfuscation is because of another barely visible core process: resistance.
Nirodha Samapatti as Possible Path Moment
Eric emailed me to ask if I have any “afterglow” still from the NS. After sleeping so much of the weekend, thinking I was in Dissolution and then Fear last night, now I feel very focused and fantastic. Overall, since the NS, I’ve felt very A&P. This makes me think that NS was actually a path, maybe third path attainment itself. In other words, I’m looking to see if I’m in Review. This feels so far like the “honeymoon” period of about a month’s duration that I had with each of my known two paths.
I’m exuberant, expressive, and interested in magic and sex. Basically, this feels like an A&P stage.
I chatted with Tommy M yesterday about NS and path attainments in connection with it. But I need some sleep, so more later.
Ever since my last sit in the wee hours, as recorded above, I’ve been in a state of almost debilitating bliss and deep, deep peace. In other words, it is as though I can, so far, access the NS afterglow, which is just crazy! Note that last sit was not a jhana sit but explicitly vipassana-side “just sitting.”
My two prior paths were each followed by a month-long honeymoon period that felt like one long A&P. In short, I feel that this is a very auspicious time to make formal resolutions, so I’ll need to get it together before this goes. I feel that top-level is A&P, regardless of mini-cycles, and I can rise to fourth jhana to resolve.
I sat for almost an hour. I was bothered a lot by aching and random itching; the itching is a frequent and weird problem. All this went away in the formless realms.
I felt many hard shifts down into something deep, vast, and on the verge of unconsciousness. At first I was trying to do concentration practice, but the vipassana was breaking through so much that I ended up relinquishing into that. I don’t think I had what I think of as a fruition, but there were some momentary discontinuities that had more of a fade out than the jump-cut sorts of fruitions.
I’ve been sleeping a ton this whole long weekend, like I cannot get enough sleep. However Fear was predominant tonight. It was as if I feared going too deep into the meditation, or feared annihilation by fruition. I need to sit earlier to avoid sleepiness.
I feel that I’m in a post-path-like honeymoon.
Kurt and I drove to the lake at Upstead Park and he lighted a bunch of fireworks with a cigar he was half smoking. The lake was shimmering, and the clouds were swept into vertical streaks by the dying light. We listened to Hendrix and Radiohead. I looked around the perimeter of the lake at all these other blooms of fireworks going on in the semicircular distance. I had never been happier.
Nirodha samapatti did something to me. It will be interesting to see if it lasts, but, my God, this sit! I’ve never experienced a meditation like this—the vastness of the spaciousness, the profound loss of body and head and even contact with what is under me. It made me think that this is why it is said that people can levitate. I kid you not. Just wow.
Even more profound than all that, though, was awareness itself—how it was stable and enduring yet the slightest inclination from who knows where delivered it completely into another dimension of thought-vision stream. For example, awareness, the mind, can “face down” even in Nothingness, where there is no object to face down. It splits just to be itself!
In this profound, profound, profound peace I sunk immediately into upon sitting tonight—a peace that recalls the NS afterglow completely—I lost all resistance to the truth. The truth is I’m awakening. I’m letting go, or the process is letting go for me. This karmic energy stream that I now embody has been going at this for eons. This truth hit me in the gut, heart, and head. Tears streamed down. And I knew beyond doubt: This is the last life. I know this now. I know it. I will awaken. I will be free.
Almost immediately upon sitting, my body was gone, and my mind could soar out beyond measure, as space itself, or as awareness that now has lost most of its I-me-mine orientation. Boundless Consciousness is still almost too exhilarating, and I eventually contract off it to make sure Jenny is still there somewhere. Then out again, and so on.
In Nothingness (j7)—moments of splitting so I could be the One Who Faces Down the Nothing, and moments of actually being one Nothingness. Then flickering into NPNYNP (j8). Then I would go back to Boundless Consciousness or Boundless Space, alternating. I was not controlling which jhana. They were out of order and the slightest inclination became on its own the realm next beheld. It was a flickering light show of vision, transcendence, implosion, and then soaring.
Psychic Visions in Fourth Jhana
Earlier, and for most of the sit, the center of gravity was fourth jhana (j4), equanimity, although this was an utterly bodiless form of it and very much on the samatha side of it. Many mental visions arose. There was a strange one of a woman’s body in a grass skirt. She was slumped on a stone bench in a dark cool abode. Oddly, instead of a head she had a heart—a huge paper-valentine kind of heart. She was slumped, maybe sleeping. (Yeah, I know—whacked.)
All kinds of crazy visions arose behind closed eyes. I stared into a dakini’s lazer-white eye beams. I saw the close-up face of Jesus on the cross, and I was extremely moved and wept. I sent strong, stong metta and gratitude to DreamWalker. I sent gratitude and apologies to Daniel. And I heard him say back, “I know; all is well.” And then I thought I was seeing some past lives. There were beetles, a snake, a rodent, a small woman in 19th century dress with bushy brown hair and brown eyes. She was very, very clear. She played violin and was quiet and a bit tomboyish. There was a soldier from a Roman army. There was a human skeleton in a cave. I saw many different corpses.
I highly recommend that you all work on your samatha jhanas and attain nirodha samapatti. Daniel says it has insight value, does wonderful things to the mind whenever it can be reached, and, on exit, has been known to trigger arahatship. So this is no mere recreational pleasure. The jhanas are integral to awakening. Snap to it, haha!
I started this sit in late Dissolution, but it was so powerful that I’m puzzled as to stage-state notation. I’ll have to think about it. I could have made strong resolution tonight, but I didn’t. I sat with perfect acceptance, and the sense of agencylessness was as strong as it’s ever been. Okay—notation means that I was in Dissolution (late phase involves formless experiences), with the fifth jhanic aspect (spaciousness) of the fourth samatha jhana dominant.
Queen of Wands, Upright
Queen is the feminine aspect of the suit—creation and appreciation. Wands are associated with the fire element and magic. This is the card of friendship, loyalty, caring support, independence, passion, and love of the sensuous and pleasurable laughter in interactions. The queen is flanked by a dragon (Wisdom) and a lion (loyal friendship). The sunflower that crowns her symbolizes the ever-provident gift of the sun’s life energy.
Yes, wow =)
Generally “you” are not supposed to be there during meditation; states should be for themselves and I see that it is what is happening, which is good, very good. It shows progress into something that I can finally acknowledge as 3rd path (for what my opinion is worth). In those moments where you are jhana itself it actually already is nonduality. This is basically it. It seems nirodha opened you some chakras. crown chakra specifically.
It just has to be expanded to every single thing, every single object can feel like that, like its own world, own reality, contained in itself, part of you but not as just merely observed from afar but with OMG, WOW factor, all the time. Each touch can feel like for it that was only thing that ever existed, thus “from its own side.” You are experiencing now jhanas from their own side. Not as Jenny but as Jhana itself. If you can experience everything as what it is, in this fashion, then this is arhat-phala, the enlightenment. From there seeing you are God is quite straightforward. Even now you should be able to attain nirvikalpa samadhi as the meditative state.
It might seem strange that it is possible to be everything at once, but strangely it is possible. Each object is done in its own mind flash with only projectors that are related to its being active. This gives depth to everything, as if you are in jhana all day long. Seeing a wall is like meditating on it for hours, You feel it like it is part of yourself, not something you merely observe. So for pretty much most of the time when you do not check your body it is not there and can easily remain not there. Levitating? Not even it. It is added sensation. Normally it is just an “on its own” kind of thing, although you can add levitation to the mix too if you want.
What else to say? Awesome development. You definitely have the triple-rooted relinking consciousness thing going on!
So when is the next path? Before MCTB2 comes out? What is ETA BTW?
Pawel, much of what you describe is what I mean by luminosity, the January shift.
ETA on Part II—it is hard to say. Daniel is under a ton of work pressure because 3 colleagues suddenly quit. I would like to finish Part II before I go on retreat July 24, but it will be a squeeze, and I’ve no idea what Daniel’s schedule is past the next 5 days of his shift work. We are past the really tough parts, though. The rest of this part is straightforward. Even so, we will be only a bit past the halfway mark when a year is up since we started. So it takes as long as it does, since he knows that this process is making it a much better book.
He has given me the option of writing a signed editor’s preface or intro. What would people what to read about in my intro that Daniel can’t or won’t say for himself?
“What would people what to read about in my intro that Daniel can’t or won’t say for himself?”
Your opinion on the importance of the book. You can write some good words.
I did not practice last night (this morning). I slept all evening and, very luxuriously and deeply, all night. There is a lot of propensity to formlessness. All this confirms for me that I’m in late-phase Dissolution (ñ5.j1). Early-phase Dissolution is characterized by increased hunger and lust—and I was unaccountably hungry and said so during the previous day.
Magick Basics for Making Effective Resolutions
Unfortunately, Dissolution is also a time when resolutions are less effective. I was advised to resolve only one time to attain to NS again and to see the entrance and exit very clearly. Because I have only one shot at making this resolution, I think I may wait for a more auspicious stage in which to do so.
Elizabeth, or any of you magickal folk—do you have any advice for casting intentions or making formal resolutions? Normally, if something is really important and I have one shot at it, then I emphasize purification: I clean and tidy the room in which I’m working, take a luxurious bath, and put on clean pajamas. I am a writer, so I tend to like to really think about the intentions and the possible effects for all beings, and then write everything out for precision. I light one of these nontoxic essential oils “chakra” votives I buy at the local “Hippie Mart,” as my son calls it, rise to fourth jhana, and let the resolutions fly aloud. The one thing I’ve noticed is that my resolutions tend to take better if I speak them aloud, so I’m sending as well as hearing (receiving) the message.
Dream Walker will say I’m overcomplicating the task, but I’m a complicator. I like for rites and rituals to be beautiful.
I guess I’ll never know for sure, but I suspect that one reason that NS kicked in when it did was because I had truly “forgotten” the resolutions to attain to NS. I was pushing out that resolution every night for months. I’m guessing that is why Daniel is now advising that I resolve only a single time and then “not worry about it.” I wonder why one has to forget? Maybe it is a trust issue?
I have no idea how people go about choosing a specific tradition. I read into chaos magick for a while, thinking that suited me philosophically, but I concluded that it didn’t suit me aesthetically, and aesthetic appeal is important to me. Golden Dawn workings seem complicated. I’m sort of drawn to the beauty and simplicity of Wiccan-style workings, but I’ve not looked deeply into the tradition, or traditions. I understand that there are eclectic “traditions,” too. I keep saying to myself, “Oh, I can’t wait to be enlightened so that I can delve into magick,” but I keep running into “needs” to have some beginning ability sooner. In a sense, I already have this ability, since everyone more or less does. I am just rather sloppy, I think, having powers open unexpectedly instead of as cultivated and planned. I’d like to up my game just a bit, though I lack much time these days.
Per Modern Magick, I’ve been trying to learn the Tarot more seriously, because that book says to begin by learning a divination system, although I’m off assignment on that front, too, because I’m already doing readings rather than meditating on the major arcana first. My readings feel dead-on accurate, though. Although I write out in my journal here generalities of those readings, I keep specifics to myself (specific people, specific situations). I mention this just to say that there is much more depth and specificity to my readings than what I generally record here. I am recording my impressions of the cards just to build a library of such impressions for myself, if that makes sense.
Warning 3 Years Later
Do not dabble in magick beyond prayer and divination. I cannot emphasize enough that fascination with magick is at best a distraction from the path of enlightenment. At worst is is a hindrance that will keep you cycling through the insight stages when they should have ended altogether. Siddhis will develop naturally as realization happens. For example, when rigpa is open and orientation to the kunzhi is stable, then it is possible, even probable, that you will know others’ minds emphatically and even telephathically. It is far better to let siddhis develop naturally than to cultivate them ahead of where they would develop naturally as part of realization. Otherwise, they will be unreliable and you will be sidetracked from full enlightenment. You’ve been warned.