Tonight I sat on my cushion in the wee hours, while a bit sleepy, which for some unknown reason is my favorite time and prior state for meditation. At first, I had that same sense of the two-track mind that I’ve had for weeks: I was intensely calm, buzzy, flowy; however, my mind was thinking all over the place on a whole other plane –about work, about my dharma buddies, and so on.
That I Stop Fighting This Flood
This went on for a good 5 minutes. I thought that maybe I should stop fighting this flood and just let my mind go on and on, while observing it go on and on. Oddly, this seemed, after a few moments, to stop the discursive thinking. Isn’t it funny that when you think you don’t know what to do you find that, actually, you do know what to do. It is almost perspicuity by body knowledge.
Wild Gorgeous Succession
I then set my intention to set aside discursive thinking and to practice jhana for the benefit of all beings. Usually when I do this intention-setting, I see in my mind’s eye, my friends, the fish, the beasts, the bugs, my darling son, my husband, my mother, my sisters, people who’ve wronged me – all flashing in fairly wild gorgeous succession. Oddly, I was suddenly drawn to repeating the Four Immeasurable Thoughts (metta). This felt extremely powerful, like I didn’t know metta could feel so intense.
Cause from Effect
Then something like the sense of my father came up. (My father was an extreme alcoholic and drank himself to death by age 45, when I was only 12.) There is a huge knot of primal suffering connecting me to him still. Much of my conventional and psychological life organized itself around him and the hole he left. He is dead, so he usually does not come flashing up in my intention-setting or metta. But this time he did. For a few moments, it crossed my mind that it made no sense to extend metta to my dead father. But then it made perfect sense. It is an energy thing, after all. “He” still exists back in on me. I can heal him back into my general love. Effects influence causes.
After this strange detour, I was sucked down in jhana so quickly and deeply, as I have tended to be since that first fruition I had on August 8, that I don’t get a proper Jhana 1, 2, and 3. Now I’m speeding through even 4 and quickly going to some formless realm. It is super freaky. My body disappears, and I see nothing behind my closed eyelids where I usually see light or patterns. This state feels
But it is so unfamiliar to me that if I pull up out of it just a little and evaluate, I feel somewhat stressed by it. But I can sink back into it, too, and do. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do or experience when I “arrive” at this new formless weirdness. Tonight, toward the end, there was almost the sense that something was emerging out of that vastness, a point, a spark, something. But I’m not sure. Maybe not. Maybe mirage.
What I’m feeling more sure of is that I need to stop fixating on whether I’m cycling during a sit. In fact, I’m going to set aside vipassana for a while. I’m being pulled really hard now into samatha exploration, including metta, and it just feels like this is what I’m “supposed” to do during this Review phase. I wonder if others have had the same experience.
Integration by Articulation
Two people have mentioned to me that I might already be on the way to second path. That’s disconcerting because I don’t feel like I “reviewed” anything. However, I’m now all over the place, “explaining” the dharma as understood through my recent direct experiences and suddenly realizing cognitively what I’ve realized experientially. Maybe that counts somehow as Review, as intellectual as it seems. I think Richard is correct that thinking these realizations through into articulation is helpful and maybe even necessary for integration. Reading the dharma is suddenly more illuminating than it has ever been before, too. I get it!
I read a post by Tarin about an alternative way of “doing” second path. It involved no noting (which I don’t really do, anyway) but instead simply a letting things unfold organically. Mainly he wrote about “practicing” in daily life as if just already in Equanimity all the time. This makes sense to me. So I’m going to try not looking so hard for new fruitions and cycling during sits. My cycles seem to be lasting weeks to days now, which is much faster than my usual stages, which tend to last 6 to 8 weeks. So I’m going to chill, explore these formless states, ramp up the love practice (which I’ve not done so much of before), and have some fun seeing whether I can cultivate glimmerings of powers.