Super/Natural: A Choice between Magick and Enlightenment

The Sorceress by John William Waterhouse, 1913

The following conversation is a somewhat edited excerpt from my current (private) practice journal. –Jenny

Jenny

I’m not even documenting my practice in Heartlighted anymore.

DreamWalker

Well if nothing is happening. . . . “This page left blank intentionally.”

Jenny

I feel that something interior has to work itself out and take me to a new level of nongrasping, naturalness. Something is “happening,” but not what you would think. It is a release of the spectacular, the special, the magickal. It is a letting go of magick and pointed intention as any part of the goal, which is enlightenment.

DreamWalker

What’s the boundary that keeps the special and normal from merging?

Jenny

See, that is a mechanical question. At this level of practice, I’m done with analysis of mechanisms. In other words, here is the mechanism, haha: The boundary is that between will and naturalness.

DreamWalker

Okie-dokie. . . .

Jenny

My practices, including visions and dreams that are sought, feel highly artificial now.

DreamWalker

Let the effortlessly natural mix with the naturally effortless. . . . 

Jenny

Just let be.

For I’m sitting in the stupid bathtub, surrounded by lit candles, and wondering what is supposed to happen next and why whatever that is isn’t actually happening . . . analyzing. 

DreamWalker

LOL!

Jenny

Desire is being burned out of me.

DreamWalker

Hmm . . . okay.

Jenny

Desire for the next stage

Desire for a teacher to cling to

Desire for magickal powers

Desire not to desire all of the above, because all that is not “enlightenment,” which is what I chiefly and rightly desire . . .

DreamWalker

That don’t sound like too much fun.

Jenny

Desire for “fun”. . . .  That desire for the supernatural wow factor is the boundary. Desire for beautiful novel visions and spectacular lucid dreams is the boundary. Desire is the self-alienated state of nonpresence.

DreamWalker

Ah, I see. . . . 

Jenny

So how the fuck is the thing supposed to sync with itself if I’m desiring (a thus future) synchronization? And so begins and circulates ever to its own beginning this practice level’s Analysis Trap.

Now, truly, this desire has, most of the time, been exceedingly subtle. But I now have to acknowledge that it has been operative since the inception of my main current practice. And when the insight-stage cycling reemerged around Thanksgiving Day, it was because I proceeded from that subtlety to plunging down the rabbit hole of experimenting with magical transmissions, astral traveling, and similar feats of identity solidification. If I were already fully enlightened, those actions wouldn’t introduce errors, but I’m not, so they do.

DreamWalker

Desire is at the attention level rather than the awareness level of mind, right?

Jenny

I don’t know that desire is attention to the exclusion of awareness. Awareness and attention are not opposed but stably interpenetrating for me in everyday life. You are taking some split that is more fundamental and dragging it back under a duality subframework that has already been resolved for me by an earlier level of practice.

At my current practice level, your question is too much mechanization of my experience for me to work out. Desire is simply desire. It is the fundamental state of all imperfection and alienation, which I believe is what Gautama Buddha taught. If I am desiring a preliminary result of completion practice, then I’m living in the future, which I cannot. This split is what keeps time segmented, linear. In other words, I have not brought the Fourth Time (timeless time) online. This is the point: I believe that the final boundary is Time.

DreamWalker

What is grasping?

Jenny

Desire on steroids.

DreamWalker

Desire is grasping? Nah. . . . Grasping is patterns.

Jenny

Desire-feeling that amounts to personal neediness, narcissism, is grasping.

DreamWalker

Programmed patterns of desire and grasping are directing attention.

Jenny

Yes, fair enough. But even in my attention to particulars, there is awareness in its usual breadth and clarity. Maybe it is just not complete, which accords with doctrine since rigpa cannot be at full measure until third vision has reached culmination.

The funny thing, given this understanding of the need for rigpa to come to full measure, is that I currently intuit that I need to pull back on the rigpa pole and reemphasize the Essence, the Mother, Emptiness pole. And I’m sensing on the periphery of my mind that this return to emptiness practice will be through body-based modalities.

DreamWalker

Perhaps you are needing more karmic release.

Jenny

Well, that release happens on its own in the causal dimension. So nothing to do with anything I do at this point here. You are searching for a comfortingly mechanistically distancing label, such as “patterns,’ for what is experienced nonmechanistically and naturally as a feeling of lacking. But, yes, if you like, grasping is desire that is patterned into identity and its sustaining identification processes.

My higher-level counterpoint is that analyzing things mechanistically is one of the key forms of grasping that has to go at this level, for me, for you, for everyone. Maybe not at your current level, but at this level. We are both saying that I have to work with the narcissistic wound, the feeling of lacking, the feeling of being incomplete.

DreamWalker

Sounds good to me. How do you do that?

Jenny

Not sure.

DreamWalker

Exemplar tantra?

Jenny

Probably some bodily reengagement with Trekchö, but this is a question for the teacher. And, at least for motivating theoretical context, probably understanding deeply what Almaas is pointing out. Trekchö feels natural; all other, including my main “special” practice, is now feeling fake. Think about it: I’m sitting and cultivating the conditions for some extraordinary states, getting high on the jhanas that unfold as a result, but all this feels strangely wrong.

It is like when you are making love and suddenly see yourself and your partner as two mindless bog frogs humping mere flesh-form mechanistically and you feel your naturalness as a higher-level human being peel off and evaporate. There is a split there, a loss of authenticity when humping is divorced from agape.

DreamWalker

Hmm. . . .  Wonder if J’s Gonna recommend a trip to R for you.

Jenny

Doubt that. J doesn’t have time to answer me until late March, anyway.

DreamWalker

Does that nonresponse make you feel abandoned?

Jenny

I’m not exactly emotionally spinning about it, because I trust J’s good heart, implicitly and always. I know his plate is full to overflowing. However, the motivation-analyzing thought-habit does sometimes arise, “Hmm, is he cutting me off on this plane? Why?” So sometimes I wonder if it is intentional even if I don’t question the basic total goodness of the motives behind any such intention of his.

No, I don’t feel abandoned by J, just sometimes a fleeting twinge of impatience at having to wait, which is good fodder for practice. Nothing like the depth and extent I felt with Daniel, which was Kalpa-Extensive Abandonment as High Betrayal. A twinge is just enough to wonder, have that thought-form arise, and see it evaporate.

I experience the same sort of twinge with my family, but it is more difficult with them because they are not sane, whereas J is the exemplar of sanity. I’m looking at them and their defensiveness as the setting that is expected from all family members when we meet, a collective, mutually reinforcing neuroticism. Then I feel myself start to be entrained by their energy and crazymaking. So I stop. I go silent. I disengage. I watch them continue to be obnoxious, but I ground my own energy as though slamming a stake through the center of the Earth. I’m there, and my twinge of defensiveness melts into feeling sad for them. This is genuine sadness, a love-compassion that, right now, I cannot respond to with speech or action in a way that will help them. I cannot fix this burning world, despite my longing to, my desire. 

I tried to explain all this to Kurt. And all he said was reductive: “All that is because you feel holier than thou.” So I had to stop right there, stop with him, too. Shut my mouth. Same thing: not defend territory but generate the entirety of space in silence. And if a gulf gapes open between us meantime, then that gulf is a matter of Time, linear time, mean time indeed.

All I have to do, haha, is overcome Time.

DreamWalker

Right. . . .

Jenny

Not to be understood even by my husband: This central lack in me is not being understood, not being known even by my closest loved ones.

DreamWalker

It’s lonely.

Jenny

This is the wound that alienates us from ourselves across a gulf of defense mechanisms. And it is the boundary that is keeping me from enlightenment.

DreamWalker

I’ve got that wound . . . not being seen.

Jenny

Right. It is common as rain. But I’m figuring it out. This being unable to share even the most precious thing I’ve found: the path to liberation. It hurts.

DreamWalker

Well, spontaneous perfection in action sounds pretty good.

Jenny

If I knew what that was like. But I understand now what I didn’t even a month ago: that my chronic retreat to solitude is about this. I find it very hard to be around people since the Mahamudra awakening. It is easier at work because at work everything is superficial, transactional, polite. But with my family it is difficult. With my friends, close ones who aren’t spiritual, it is hard. With dharma folk who I see as spinning and not getting through gates that ought to be easier to cross . . . hard. It is like being on this other side and the deep gulf that divides is horrifying. Because I cannot help them. And they think they don’t even want or need help. So where is the boundary between holier than thou and effective compassion? Hard.

Bunch of psychological stuff coming up as though now is second path at a deeper level. What is prominent is mental echo, past tense itself as personal patterning. That boundary is a gap in time, and it has to close. That is why J keeps telling me to hold these people in my heart outside of time. To see them as the buddhas they will be but now.

DreamWalker

Ahh. . . .

Jenny

But I’ve not quite figured out how. Maybe J can specify the practice. I’m not good at it yet.

About your telling me that maybe N should skip Mahamudra and go directly into Dzogchen, tell me who you know that got awake awareness by starting with Dzogchen.

DreamWalker

Who?

Jenny

One person.

DreamWalker

Who is that?

Jenny

I’m asking you.

DreamWalker

Tibetans?

Jenny

Unverifiable.

DreamWalker

Totally.

Jenny

Dzogchen begins after MCTB 4th path. So how does one use a method whose prerequisite is 4th path to get 4th path? How does one actually practice Trekcho? Out of the blue? With no ground realization? What is the instruction for that?

DreamWalker

No idea how it is done.

Jenny

Okay, LOL! So why did you say that Dzogchen and skipping Mahamudra might be better for N?

Oh my. This bird thing is a bit off from exemplar tantra. I cannot tell from N’s writing where he is “seeing” all this. Is it during a sit? Is it out in front of him with eyes open? Is it behind closed eyes in his imagination? Is he really flying through the actual sky, circling in for a landing at Amazon?

He seems to be caught up in an entire story, narrative that is not part of the meditation instructions.

You aren’t feeding him shamanism stuff are you?

DreamWalker

Who me? Nooooooop.

Jenny

Gooooood.

DreamWalker

LOL! No more than I feed you.

Jenny

Because we are not practicing shamanism. We are practicing tantra.

Don’t confuse your spewing with my swallowing.

DreamWalker

Tom Campbell’s My Big TOE!

Jenny

That book isn’t going after what I’m after.

DreamWalker

Well . . . kind of. Speculation. But simulation as holographic universes, and the bounding egg cracking. . . . 

Jenny

Does Campbell have nondual enlightenment? If he did, he would write about that.

DreamWalker

Yes. He is nonduality. 

Jenny

But told from the objective side of things because he is a scientist. Campbell is a buddha? Monroe isn’t.

DreamWalker

But his model is for basics of understanding the theory of everything.

Jenny

That stuff doesn’t matter until after buddhahood. It is a distraction.

DreamWalker

Monroe wasn’t in life.

Jenny

Lots of people can be open in weird ways without being enlightened.

DreamWalker

Right. Apparently, Monroe continued after death.

Jenny

Unverifiable? LOL!

DreamWalker

Unless you visit him.

Jenny

SIGH. LOL!

My current theory is that focus on magick subtends duality. Hence, magick’s being a hindrance, a major one. Western magick users will try to tell you that what they are doing leads to the same end, enlightenment. Not true. Because it objectifies at the level of mode: The self via intent versus the world as the manipulated.

So best to lay off all that, which is essentially what I wrote on that post Daniel deleted because, deep down, Daniel knows it is true and feels threatened by his own approach to that truth. Because magick is for control, just like the Overlord’s Delete button is, a major detour back up own ass. It is a tool of the deluded identity structures, a toolbox filled with defense mechanisms. 

It is best to put away your tool and wait for marriage.

In N’s case, he has publicly claimed a mental illness. So another reason not to pump magick into him. Tantra can be dangerous, after all, and requires prior stabilization to avoid danger.

The reason I logged on is because there is something in the back of my mind, something about the four visions mapping to the four vipassana jhanas and therefore to the four paths. So Dzogchen really is the fifth path, the echo that is the formless realms. 

I’m thinking more and more about this. Because fourth vision ends in what? Cessation and fruition.

And there is something creepy about third vision, with the wrathfuls and intensity. Fourth vision is Equanimity. It is like shedding the jhana factors as one moves to j4 and the formless realms.

DreamWalker

Magick at the level of attention traps you. Thus cycling.

Jenny

Even if you have awake awareness, maybe especially then, magick is a trap. The only place where it is not a trap is buddhahood. This thing about needing naturalness to permeate all “attainments” is predominant. So it goes around again: I’m back to looking at Sid’s Suffering 101.

Concentration on Fluidity

I just had a wonderful sit: 12 minutes of concentration and then 12 minutes or so of a form of King of Samadhi called Clear Light Body.

Concentration on Energy and Grounding

I began the first 12 minutes by feeling the whole body energetically on the in-breath, and concentrating on the stability of gravity, dropping into the ground, on the out-breath. This practice is effortlessly engaging.  At one point, I had a flash memory of Reggie Ray’s saying to send the energy of the body all the way down into the center of the earth – actual grounding. I found this variation at least as interesting as focusing on the ground as holding and stabiltiy, the way John instructs. It was pleasurable to feel the energy coursing along sinews of the body during inhale, and then to feel it blasting down into the earth on exhale. Rapturous is the momentum of continual arising and release. 

At a certain point, I dropped the focus on the breath altogether and focused on continual releasing into gravity. Then vipassana arose: I started noticing how my body simultaneously had weight and did not have weight but floated, as it were. You see, there was no solid substrate beneath my body at all. It is all energy: body and ground. This can be clearly experienced as truth if one simply notices.

Thai Forest Relationship between Samatha and Vipassana

I’ve always preferred concentration practices that use movement and give me something to do. Concentration does not have to be on something that seems “solid,” nor does one have to artificially solidify the object and the body to stillness. The Burmese separate samatha and vipassana into two separate practices; however, the truth is that, if one is any good at concentration, then solidity will break up and insights will arise soon enough anyway. The Thai Forest masters did samatha and vipassana in tandem, in the same sit, but even if that oscillation isn’t deliberately set upon, it will happen anyway. 

Tibetan Elephant Path as Mixture of Samatha and Vipassana

I keep having this argument with one of my dharma friends because he insists that the Tibetan Elephant Path is concentration only. Then he says nonsensical things like “all nine stages are simply to gain access concentration, no jhanas,” and “the Elephant Path is the whole path.” Both of these statements are dead wrong. Why would there be nine entire stages to getting access concentration alone, which is a very low level of accomplishment? And what is the access to if not to liberating insight, vipassana, which this person denies plays any part in the Elephant Path. I’ve sat in retreat with many absolute novices who experienced Arising-and-Passing-Away (A&P) phenomena on the second or third sit per Elephant Path concentration. It is therefore quite evident that the Elephant Path encompasses samatha, vipassana, and a fluid movement back and forth between the two. It is therefore correct, if too cryptic for my own taste as far as maps go.

Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha, Second Edition

Interestingly, Dan Ingram, in draft MCTB2, moves completely away from the Burmese tradition in this regard, as beloved as that tradition is to him. He restructured MCTB to yoke everything – vipassana and samatha – under the jhanas as map. This is, he said to me, really how he’s always thought of things. It is also how I experienced and experience them. Having one simple map – the jhanas – as one in which to elucidate the 16 ñāṇas (cyclic insight stages), concentration states, and the dynamics between them is a welcome improvement over the division into two separate practices. He also no longer recommends “dry” vipassana, which is vipassana without the easeful lubrication of the concentration states (samatha jhanas).

Clear Light Body

Well, I put off finishing this post so long that I now don’t remember anything about the specific CLB meditation session, except that it was wonderful. This is a King of Samadhi practice, which means that it is done from the natural state, groundless ground, the vast expanse of awareness. Rigpa-Mother goes (how can it not at this point), and inside that the practitioner takes the body as a whole as concentration object. The body is visualized as a glass floating in space and filled with light. This is a deeply healing, blissful meditation that obliterates any acute pain in my body, including my migraines. It is not vipassana; instead, it is a concentration practice from within the vast awareness. You have to have awakened awareness and, as a state, groundless ground to practice it.

My Book versus Ingram’s

My book will one-up Ingram’s unification of samatha and vipassana by bringing in awareness practices sometime shortly after what he calls stream entry, or first path. I reject his four-path model, and even he rejects it in the narrative of what actually happened to him along his path. Why hold onto an inadequate model of awakening? Why work within four paths borrowed from Theravadin traditions when the ten fetters that define each path in that tradition are rejected as impossible? 

Actually, Ingram is wrong on both counts, for the four paths as distinct stages with definable characteristics and signs breaks down into nonsense right after stream entry. No one can say convincingly what second path is, and his book says only that another cycle of the insight stages has happened and that a lot of emotional stuff comes up on second path. So? A lot of emotional stuff comes up right after any new realization, cyclically, as the being is trying to integrate realization with individuation and actualization. 

What he calls third path is really a mess: He and his favorite teacher speak jokingly of Twelfth Path because Third to Fourth contains innumerable cycles and no clear aha! In fact, what happens in that territory is a bunch of aborted half cycles, and stages out of order. There is a clear sense of cycles within larger cycles. It becomes so very complex that Daniel has created a complex notation system for pinning down stage and substage daily. Why? What good does it do to keep dwelling in the misery of noticing stage progressions that go nowhere new?

Enter awareness practices. The someplace new needs to throw off the shackles of states and stages emphatically. So soon after MCTB second path, I advocate a move to Indo-Tibetan essence practices. I’m absolutely convinced that this makes the most sense, is the most pragmatic and efficient path. I would say more, or could, but wait for the book.

A Meditative Sit without Techniques

As some of you know, on Fridays at lunchtime, I sit with my workplace sangha, usually in a conference room beneath the cafe. Afterward we ascend to eat lunch together. Stream entry happened during one of these sits, August 8, 2014. This past Friday, after a few days of feeling dull and vaguely hopeless, I went into the Friday sit with only the plan to rest in the natural state, without doing Lion’s Gaze, Liveliness practice, or any other exercise.

I sat upright in a conference chair, naturally, with my eyes open. I set motivation and simply took my body as the ground, as Mother, letting awareness go wherever it chose. It quickly gathered intensity at the heart center, in the middle of my chest. It was then that I started spontaneously populating the room with my retinue of ancestors and all the masters who ever walked this path, from across the three times and all directions and universes. I had an unusually vivid sense of their presence and that they needed my support as I needed theirs. I gave it, and this overwhelming bliss and compassion arose.

A kind of shaking spread over my body, and I was weeping. I let the tears run, and just continued to sit in silence, naturally. When this emotional intensity subsided, rigpa flared up intensely, making everything vivid yet dreamy from the inside out, and radiating or responding, it seemed, at heart center. 

When the bell sounded, everyone else opened their eyes and began stretching. To the right, in my peripheral vision, I saw my friend Barry staring intently at me, like a blue-eyed ghost. I turned my head to look at him directly. He was staring at me with his own hands joined at heart center. Barry often reads my mind. When I confront him about it, he laughs and says, “It is all one mind, Jenny.”

This sit confirmed for me that I need to take a very simple way to groundless ground, from the Mother side of it, barely inclining to rigpa. Preliminaries such as calling in the retinue seem to help make the naturalness work well.

Ways to Stop Sidetracking Buddhahood

Get a Highly Qualified One-on-One Teacher

In this past Thursday’s intense talk with my teacher, I gained more understanding of the variety of ways nonduality, in the domain of perception, can manifest in a given student. Catching the ways someone can go off too far in one direction requires a teacher with extensive knowledge of the tradition, extensive exposure to all kinds of student personalities and contexts, and true talent for teaching. I’m blessed to have such a teacher. You cannot go further with just books, maps, and dharma friends. The path becomes extremely individualized at this point, and navigation is a delicate undertaking.

Get Over the Delusion That You Are “Done”

At this point on the path, after one has slipped out of the suffering of individual consciousness and the tyranny of attention (as opposed to awareness, rigpa), one can easily believe one is fully awakened. The seeking has stopped, after all. If this is you, then the first point is to understand that you are not done. For example, MCTB fourth path attainment is not done. There is still far to go. The good news is that this next leg of the journey requires none of the striving and suffering that the earlier phases did. The true agent of awakening has been recognized, so all one has to “do” is be open and undistracted. You might practice just 15 minutes in the morning, a very simple sit, and then take that into your day. Awareness beyond individual consciousness will to the rest. But see my next subsection – on getting out of your own way.

Let Go of Maps, States, Stages, Siddhis, and Highly Artificial Techniques

This being the truth, why do some with MCTB fourth path not go further? Well, there are plenty of ways to get sidetracked from the natural state: 

  • If you keep micro-mapping every state, experience, stage – sidetrack.
  • If you start cultivating siddhis – sidetrack.
  • If you start employing “techniques” to gain lucidity in dreams – sidetrack.
  • If you chase after visionary experiences – sidetrack.
  • If you meditate with artificial means, as in jhana practice or even liveliness-of-rigpa practice – possible sidetrack

Accept That the Natural State Is All You Need

Artificial meditative activities and map mongering disrupt rather than stabilize the natural state. Keep to the Prime Directive: Ride the natural state to enlightenment, which is buddhahood.

There are three phases students go through with regard to Dzogchen:

  1. First experiencing the natural state,
  2. Coming to believe that the natural state is all that is needed, and
  3. Stabilizing the natural state so that it is the way of life every moment.

Get Out of Your Head and under the Feminine

What you need to do, after the subject perspective of individual consciousness has dropped away for good, which is where Dzogchen begins, is stabilize rigpa, the crystal clarity aspect of nonduality. But it is easy to overshoot fruition precisely by trying too hard from within your head.  If you are living in your head still, as many very masculine partly awakened practitioners do, you are likely to get stuck and stay stuck until you begin relating to your body and emotions, until you drop down out of your successfully dissociated head and into embodiment. Maybe this is why, traditionally, it is said that women are at an advantage for fully awakening.

More on the fruits of this talk in a few subsequent posts.