Lauding Jhāna Practice as Central to Liberating Insight

Replying To Steph S. 

Steph, to answer your question, I haven’t noticed outright strobing in Nothingness but once or twice, like regularly paced heat lightning. Usually, it seems more of a boiling motion, or just texture warping, as opposed to outright color. Tonight, Nothingness was really rich and sustained for longer than usual. It began varying from itself, and then I was in almost a dream-like state, or a vision state, wherein I started “seeing” branches, moonlight, bugs flying—all at night, with the images being nearly irredescent white. I thought some kind of full-blown vision realm would open, since that has happened before in fourth, but it didn’t go there, got just faint glimmers of images that way and then fell to blackness again. Nothingness is cold, too, somehow—creature of the Black Lagoon cold. I don’t seem to get flat, unvaried blackness; it always varies from itself somehow.

Equanimity or from the Bottom?

In terms of insight stage, my best guess is n11.2 to n11.3. Clarity is high, vibrations are sort of slow, jaw pain is present, jerky breath was very marked at beginning of sit, shaking occurred, and exhilarating Fear arose briefly. so I’m on the way to higher Equanimity, perhaps. Now, I could be totally wrong and actually be in the early stages of a new insight cycle. I would not be shocked if that were the case, that I have fallen all the way to the bottom. The reason I say that is that this last cycle was so, so different, odd, and intense. So maybe I’m in brand new territory. Maybe Review only just ended? Time and observation will tell. Feeling-tone is equanimous, and clarity is high, so best guess is that I’m still in Equanimity overall.

Keeping Renunciation to Oneself

One interesting thing that Daniel mentioned I could do the next time I hit a Reobservation stage that makes me want to torch everything Dharma related (including him) is to go on into the renunciation trip, for renunciation can bring a kind of freedom, but to see what it is like renouncing, including meditation practice, privately, in my mind and heart, rather than publicly. He said that this can actually be good practice—to quit formally but to do it internally. Daniel, this is brilliant.

Watching Out for A&P Bleed-Through

Daniel also mentioned, as did Dream Walker, that the A&P is another dangerous stage for a kind of bleed-through. I’m wondering whether that point should be made more explicitly in MCTB2. The A&P can be so darned fun—I’ve never thought of it as dangerous but as creative and freeing. I guess the hypomania can lead to indiscretion, and perhaps I think I am better at driving drunk than I really am.

I’m wondering if there is a connection between how intense my last A&P stage was, with a wow Event, and how horrific this last Reobservation was. I don’t know what to make of this.

Paying More Attention to Imbalance in Daily Life

I’m a mess at work, very bored and unfocused and so behind. I’ll need to do something about this problem. It is odd because I’m almost never bored with anything. I’ve never been anything but stellar at my jobs. I find something interesting in any subject. I need to get a grip, though, and I need to get more exercise and sleep. I need to ground down, be quiet, and purify. I think I’ll clean my office, to begin with.

Addressing Head Pain during Sits

I completed an hour-long jhana sit. I’ve noticed for weeks that the right side of my head tends to hurt moderately during meditation. I also tend to get pretty intense pressure-pain in the third eye area, particularly during intense state shifts, of which I’m having many.

Tonight I had jaw pain and mild body aching—all like the Three Characteristics stage, but this is typical Low Equanimity for me. What helps is to focus on pulling the excess energy out of my head and down into more grounding regions of my body.

Taking Salt Baths and Doing Pre-meditation Rituals

I need to get my new bathtub ordered so I can return to nightly Epsom salt baths (peppermint or lavender). I get much good out of completing the purification ritual of bathing, putting on clean pajamas, and lighting a sweet-smelling bee’s wax candle. I really ought to clean up the room, too. Meditation benefits from preparation. I even do prostrations sometimes, and say the whole Tibetan-y refuge thing: “Until I reach enlightenment, I take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha with body, speech, and mind.” There is a lot of good to be had in balancing mastery activities such as learning notation with absolute surrender, purification trips, and prayer—just complete giving up and giving over.

Lauding Jhana Practice as Central to Awakening 

Past stream entry, I’m now pretty much in the camp that says there is something crucial about the jhanas, crucial to awakening. So although I do understand why the Three Trainings must be kept separate in certain respects before path, afterward there was a good reason that I was compelled to start mastering the jhanas. They hold secrets, clues, and objects one needs to investigate. It is endlessly fascinating to me that Daniel has made generic jhana descriptions the framework for all meditation practice, period, in MCTB2 Part 2, Mastery.

However, I need to post this article by Thanissaro that points out the dangers that the jhanas hold, too, if the meditator doesn’t thoroughly investigate them but instead tries to make these fabricated things into the ultimate refuge.

I practiced but didn’t care much. Hard week, emotionally, and I’m very behind at work and will likely have to work all weekend. It is interesting how much faster hard emotions pass. But part of me is just so tired that I just stop feeling. I just want the company of warm soup and sweet, stable friends. Awakening and those who are awakened seem so much less important than those whom I can count on.

Enjoyed some text chat with Steph today. I’m so thankful to have this space and these companions. So much of this is hard and confusing and doubt-ridden enough without also being done alone.

During my Friday lunch sit with my workplace meditation group, I simply rose up through the jhanas to eighth, with particular attention to steadiness and samatha-side solidity. I had little time to develop more, because these sits are pathetically brief, only 30 minutes. I can remember when 30 minutes seemed like an eternity, now it feels like an assault to have to quickly come out of seventh or eighth at the sound of that 30-minute chime.

Exploring Seventh and Eighth Jhanas

My mind lunges toward seventh and eighth jhanas now. These are the states of brand new exploration. Seventh still creeps me out sometimes, and I suddenly will fall down out of the state because I feel air hunger. It may be interesting to practice some vipassana against this state, to really look at the suffering there and what is being abandoned as I move to NPNYNP and perhaps why. Eighth is asking me to let go more than I have so far, for it to become sustainable. I do have these moments of completely surrendering into it, and then these odd clicks/blips happen, sometimes many in a row. During those brief flip-outs, there is an absence of self, and that absence really clarifies, by contrast, just how much self remains in all the jhanas below this one.

Consciousness Compared with and to Nothingness

State shift from first to second came soon and was hard—like shifting gears with a clunk and unintended deceleration. I’m having increasing difficulty sensing the true difference between Boundless Space and Boundless Consciousness. More specifically, I seem sort of disenchanted with Boundless Space. The transition from Boundless Consciousness to Nothingness is something to pay attention to and reflect on when not sitting. In both states, there seems to be self-presence, so what makes for the difference? In the first the containing space, or the quality of spaciousness, itself is the object that brings the subject-sense to bear, and vice-versa—although, about that vice-versa, one of the ways that Conciousness has changed in the past couple of months is that it has become more subtle, less some thing that is pushed out into space. It is now more that mind doesn’t push against so much as just abide interfused with space, which is more subtle in feel, by far.

Nothingness, by contrast, involves a distinct self-presence and a great (and scary) sense of the merely provisional, fabricated nature of that self-presence. This self-presence consists in turning in and away from the expansive dimension of Bounless Consciousness (Space). In this way, some surviving sense of self is caught being very sneaky: No need for pushing up against or out into an object—turning away from all that, renouncing it, is also creating a sense of self. Relationship is still creating some subtle sense of central, controlling self. Affirming or denying x, attraction or aversion, creates the One Doing All This. This discovery is disappointing, but I suspect that this is the utility of the jhanas to insight: It is easier to see these subtle working than it is to see them in workaday, off-cushion reality, where that shift I had still seems to be ongoing, such that so much more of what I ascribed to a self on a this side seems to reside in the objects, and this “much more” does include thoughts. I feel, moreover, like I’m in some jhana all the time; I suspect in the jhana states is where to find the hiding places we need to enlighten.

Difficulty Exiting

Eighth—even though I cannot sustain this state long, when I fall out of it the afterglow remains immense. It is impressive. Today, when the bell rang and my companions all started moving and gathering their belongings for lunch, I opened my eyes. I felt I was still so deeply in jhana of some sort that I couldn’t feel my body or move. It was difficult to come out of this state. Everything looked removed, as if in a dream. The sky was gray, and the bright green trees were swaying in the wind outside the window. Unreal.

Leave a Reply