The Breath as Radiance
I just sat with my workplace sangha, which is more and more becoming a real sangha, as Barry has started sharing his fictional story based on the Elephant Path.
This post is pouring out faster than I can set it down.
Questions Are Remarks
This practice was for novices and was on the breath.
But what is a novice? And what is the breath? Always the questions.
The breath these days for me can be anything from cascading vividly visionary unfoldings to tantric visitations with Padmasambhava. It can be chakras suddenly recognizing themselves and opening, visionary eyes opening, energetic connections with others coming online, and more. All this is the breath.
If I sit and relax into the coarse literal breath, any one or several of these experience may unfold. When the stop bell rings, I may be surprised to find my heart still a white-hot fire and my face quenched with tears. Whole universes may have passed before me, through me, as the breath.
So don’t misuse the term one-pointed. Don’t be the masculine practitioner hemmed in by foregone conclusions about how reality works, what the breath is. You truly never know. The trick is to keep asking, asking, asking. To ask is to open the heart and the body of sensation. The mind will follow; you need do nothing for, to, or with the “mind.”
Breath Is the Manifest Multiverse of Potentiality
The breath is light. And light is all. Light was the first self-division, the first self therefore, all of manifestation from out of the nought that was posited post hoc. Lucifer was the lord of light, so the beautiful tragic fall into division is a matter of light, of throwing darkness into relief, into background, into source-function.
So you see, or shall come to see, nought has properties, oddly enough: not findable properties, mind you, but dark matter properties, so to speak: what must be so, at least functionally, for there to be this spontaneous manifestation of all that we normally think is solid, selfsame phenomena.
Lilith, Adam, and Eve Are the Trinity
There are Two Truths, we Buddhists like to say: the conventional reality of manifest thingness, and the empty darkness of source-function. The problem is, however, that there are really Three Truths, because there are none. What mediates the Two Truths, depolarizes them, deconstructs the first and remaining duality? Light does! Light is the meaning-bearer: It illuminates all otherness; it gives even darkness its property-ness, which is none other than unfindable source-functionality. In the beginning there was light. The light is the Magician born to the High Priestess, to Lilith, who would not lie under Adam for all the world. The light is Infant Consciousness, the Male Principle, each of us, rig pa.
Eve was fully formed and married to Adam in manifest light. But Lilith, O Lilith. Hers is the unspeakable myth, the voiceless truth. She lay under no one and gave birth only to her own unsired demons. She fell into division without help, without a partner, without love. She was banished from Paradise. She lies fallow outside the gates east of Eden.
We children of light had to invent Lilith post hoc out of the clay we call darkness and emptiness. In the beginning there was the Word. She has to exist, you see. We posit her. We posit emptiness-of-inherent-existence. We posit the light that allows us to posit whatever we need to, always in retrospect. We posit a source behind the source. It must be so.
The great mystery of the Feminine Principle is that it is both untouched fruitless womb and all-potentiating tomb, moment by moment by moment by moment by moment. In the emptiness of the Three Times, if we awaken, we give birth to Lilith. It is a mad, mad mission to reach back beyond time to put her invisible form into manifest archetypal threads, but here you go.
Only the Question Awakens
There are at least two schools of thought on how to relate to the nimittas that tend to arise when concentration enters automaticity. One school says these lights are distractions, to ignore them as so much delusion and “return to the breath.” Thanissaro is in this camp. The other school entertains some elaborate theories on what these lights mean as positive signs of progress regarding staying with the breath.
What exactly is a distraction? The Feminine voiceless voice asks you. There is no answer to give, only response, only now. Response is whatever arises for you as the question. Always, always, always there is the question. Keep letting it ask. Allow it to ask. Allow the heart to open, for the openness of heart is Lilith herself and, ultimately, the dawning of actual Eve. In the beginning there was light, except that, well, how do we describe the beginningless and the endless?
Lilith is the High Priestess, not the Empress who is Eve. Lilith has a dark shrouded hollow where where Eve presents a face. Lilith lies with no one, not even the Magician. But unless we posit her, we do not exist. And unless we posit her, we cannot be free from the selves we fabricate to swaddle us in protective delusion, in our tapestry of inherited ancestral trauma, in our gloriously tragic tale of egoic maintenance.
People can have all kinds of theories. People can debate them until the elephant in the room comes home by long scenic route. Here is one more theory, then: It matters little how you are told to relate to the weird and wondrous phenomena that can arise in meditation. It matters infinitely more that you allow yourself, trust yourself, to respond to those phenomena. There is no patriarch, no authority, no teacher, no Buddha. There is only the question and moment-by-moment response that is the questioning itself.
My first mentor, Daniel Ingram, wrote elsewhere, I suddenly realize, of all that I’m saying here. He brought it forth, yes, as a different Daniel-flavored tray of metaphors, different myths, different figurally contingent polarities. But we are saying the same thing. He taught me to prize above all else that in this lifetime I can practice well. And practicing well, when it comes to surrendering into the unfindable, is, paradoxically, truly where it’s at.
Samatha and Vipassana as a Continuum
Ubiquitous Misuse of the Term “One-Pointed”
At noon I sat with Barry and we listened to some exquisitely detailed instructions on the Elephant Path, Stage 7 through 9. Something new I learned is that, apparently, almost everyone is misusing the term one-pointed with regard to concentration practice. It doesn’t mean to be absolutely fixed on a single narrow object; on the contrary it means one has crossed over into vipassana, for the breath becomes a gazillion bursts of mind moments, pixilated, vibratory. Concentration is on these gazillion single points, the flow of them. Once again, I’m fascinated by the fact that concentration (jhana) and insight practice (vipassana) are not separate practices at all. The Thai Forest guys know this; Ingram knows this; and the Elephant Path is this continuum, although the Tibetans refuse to explicitly call what is involved jhana or even vipassana.
Those Obfuscating Super-Sophisticated Tibetans
The Tibetan Buddhists have the most sophisticated, intense, and thorough system of awakening, even though they also just love, love, love secrecy, intrigue, gossip (oops on one of the folds of the eightfold path!), and obfuscation. It can be so exasperating. Just reading a text and trying to sift the grain from the fools gold can try the patience of a saint. I read last night that the Togal visions are presented in the Book of Living and Dying–except they reversed the order of the four visions as a way of encrypting Togal against common use!
The Deeper Channel of Automaticity beneath Vibrations
The meditation Barry and I listened to was interesting for its guidance on “easing up” off the concentration intensity by tiny increments and finding that sweet spot where the meditation runs itself, is effortless, and is vibrant. This is second jhana and the Arising and Passing Away insight stage. How to blend and module out the Thai Forest masters, the Elephant Path, and the Burmese on all this will be a fun challenge toward writing my book. I especially appreciated today the guidance toward a deeper channel beneath the vibratory dissolution experience. This is interesting because it is calming and seems already to be pointing to the very subtle level of mind: rigpa.
King of Samadhi and the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination
I asked Barry why it was mentioned that King of Samadhi is key to Buddha training. He said because it is an entry to the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. I’m very familiar with the Twelve Links because of my stream entry experience, and I have been practicing King of Samadhi, but I don’t know what Barry means. He mentioned atiyoga and the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which apparently it it time for me to reread.
My Old Friend Violet Nimitta
The practice was only 16 minutes (very hard to stop there). My characteristic violet nimitta arose, spread through the visual field, and stabilized. I became momentarily distracted by a thought, but as soon as I intensified a bit (the prescription when thought elaboration intrudes) a white nimitta arose. Nimitta was like an old friend. It was so wonderful that I suddenly felt I was going into the light – like actually, proprioceptively, into it.
As there is Gandalf the Gray, so there is Nimitta the Violet.
As there is Gandalf the White, so there is Nimitta the White.
Science on Meditative Experiences of Light
Here is an interesting paper that Dr. Britton is coauthor of; it is on meditation-induced experiences of light: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3879457/
Profound Insight into the Falseness of Causality
Blowaway sit with my workplace sangha today at lunchtime! Very different from all recent sits, past few months. The afterglow was literally stunning, too. I couldn’t move for a while. I couldn’t go with the others upstairs to get lunch. When I finally did, and had a fascinating conversation with my empathic friend Aparna, I afterward could barely recall all that passed and that I “saw.” I’ll do my best.
Phased-In and Phased-Out Voicing of Insight
I want to preface my record by saying this: When insights break through what might otherwise be on the samatha side of jhana, they are in some sense “voiced” as linguistic-conceptual thoughts. Yes, this perhaps is a kind of presence to “watch” to see whether it appears to oppose an other.
However, there is a different experiential quality to these “thoughts” when they are compared to the full-on linear declarative sentences we (or I) normally think in. The thoughts shift sides, when sides are noticed, and shimmer, phasing in and out of discursive sense. When they are phased “out,” I don’t know what you would call that or them, because they are all still there somehow, the insights, but, but, but . . . what? What can you say of such thoughts?
I had this intention weeks ago to set aside Fridays for metta/brahmaviharas practice. But what I intend and predict, and what meditation in fact does, are often two different things. My first observation is that, emotionally, I feel so relieved that “meditation” has “taken over” again. At the same time, as anyone reading will soon see, I found I could call up the insight stages, which I’ve never been able to do to anything like this extent before. So . . . both no-self and mastery intensified over my former meditative baseline.
Manifold Cause-and-Effect (ñ2.j1.j2)
As soon as the beginning chime rang, I dropped right into some highly altered state, but then I entertained a thought, “Dang, that was fast!” I then dutifully noted/noticed that I was commenting on my more “properly” high meditative experience. Oh, boy. And with that thought, the “trouble” truly began. . . .
I was trying to establish first jhana properly, and did; however, my breathing was disruptively jerky, quite noticeably so. The entire sit was about noticing very, very subtle levels of cause-and-effect, such as the following:
- My commenting on my more properly meditative experience and
- How that comment is a new experience and
- How my noting/noticing the pattern comprising No. 1 and No. 2 becomes yet another new experience
Yet here is the real kicker: All that time that I was rolling through the cause and effect, the jhanas were shifting in some sort of background, without my personal help or effort at all!
So then I noticed this. Background/foreground became prominent as yet another thought, and meditation, the experience, therefore had its way with me. In other words, that entire background/foreground fabrication moved to the foreground. That left a new background as contrast, opposing other. Then another duality of background/foreground was encapsulated and moved to the foreground. And on and on and on and on.
This is Cause-and-Effect, and I don’t believe I’ve ever experienced this stage, which I usually disdain as “low,” this subtly, this clearly, with this much insight. Yeah, I saw it in a much coarser way a long time ago, but this? Never before.
For whatever reason, and I should probably try to figure out that reason, contemplate it, and I guess no time like the present—as soon as I saw that
- The arrow of time was reinstated, and
- The foreground/backdrop split could not be penetrated or bested—
I understood that there would always be me, and there would always be other and its not caring, that every duality penetrated with insight would reify another background/foreground split. Argh!
At this point, facing this realization, I felt intense Fear arise, gargantuan Fear. There is something bloody awful, terrifying, about the fact that this divide is indeed a divide and that it hides out so mischievously in that ever-shuffled-off background.
Where is God? Why is there no f’n help for this matter? I know that there is help in this very unfolding, but why we humans run away from the door to salvation I’ll never understand. Well, maybe if this knot ever untangles, then I’ll understand, when I no longer personally need to.
Absolute Necessity of Synchronization
I remembered what Daniel said in Chapel Hill about letting the breath just be however it is. Okay. So be it, you jerky breath.
I shifted to second jhana with that arising of Fear, rapturous Fear, thrilling Fear, somehow divine Fear. Suddenly, as soon as this shift happened, my usual bright lavender-colored nimitta popped up. A week or two (or three?) ago, this nimitta presented for once as still, expanded, and stable. Not today. It was “blooming” and “unblooming,” alternating violet and negative silver/black.
There is something so intimate about a visual nimitta, so almost personal in its dawning and abiding. I am naked and gazing into its violet sky-mirror intelligence. Is it surface or depth? I began to wonder “who,” or which side, controlled that nimitta’s current presentation. I intended to find out what I could do to change it—make it still, make it spread, bring it closer—but somehow I just quickly got lost in the nimitta itself. I was swallowed by it; nevertheless, it would give forth to me its opposition to me at the same time, or perhaps different time. There was something eerily like eighth jhana about all this—about the surface/depth and simultaneous/discontinuous instantiation.
And oh I did strongly sense that time is a key. All this must synchronize along the dimension we think of as time. This is the current insight bright line of Cause-and-Effect: Synchronization must happen, somehow, and thoroughly.
The violet nimitta is luminous. Nevertheless, background/foreground is not synchronized—not permanently. Time is currently comprehended as linear, even if as paradoxically so, conceptually speaking, and conceptually is the only way I’m speaking, of course.
Ability to Call Up the Ñanas
I stopped calling up the jhanas and started calling up the ñanas, which I found I could easily do. I called up Misery, Desire for Deliverance (which was seemingly bottomless in its anguish and longing), and Reobservation. During all of these, the nimitta had vanished.
Then I called up fourth jhana and Equanimity simultaneously. Wow! Such sudden broad brilliant violet nimitta behind closed eyes! A very richly absorbed yet still somehow moving state/stage. Violet changed over to white light at times. Amazing. I experienced a momentary (very fast) discontinuity and bliss envelopment. I’m not sure if this was a fruition, but maybe. (I’m trying to be conservative, honest, and real.)
After a while, I called up the formless realms—upon calling up fifth, the nimitta vanished again, and all turned to felt space. Boundless Consciousness was the same sort of mirror my nimitta was, but formless. Eighth was amazing, a very easy drop-off/in.
Then the bell rudely rang before I could do anything from P8JP.
After remaining there as long as I could without being rude, I opened my eyes and was in such an altered state, with so heavy an afterglow, that I could not speak to my companions or move. They started for the door and stairs up to the cafe. I didn’t.
Wisdom of the Empath Aparna
When I finally joined them at the lunch table, Aparna up and declared that I have too much energy—wind element, but I’m fat because of too much water element. Hahahaha, man, I love this woman: She lets you have it straight between the eyes but gently nonetheless. My excess wind/energy is what causes me to be so dysregulated. She is an empath and can feel and balance others’ chakras, and energy channels.
She told me to try to fix my sleeping patterns to address my excess wind/energy, that this was the root of many problems with me: my refusal to align my cycles with the sun. She said the water problem would likely take care of itself if I would address the wind problem consistently. She said to rise with the sun and lay off the electronic devices and engagement with other people when the sun goes down. She reported on how holy and beautiful mornings are, with the birds singing. She advised that I enter my jhanas and make resolutions to do this. Boy, that is a tall order since nighttime is my playtime.
Aparna is Indian. She is a most lovely, grounded, soothing woman to be around, with such mesmerizingly comfortingly fluid hand gestures, deep brown lake depths for eyes. She is like reaching liminal states while dozing on your favorite old overstuffed couch covered with a goose-down comforter while the scent of baking gingerbread wafts over you from a faraway, otherwise forgotten kitchen hearth. . . .
I told her about Daniel’s feeling toxic for weeks after his fire retreat, asking if that was a problem with the elements’ not being balanced. She said probably, particularly if it went on and on; however, she said that likely the main problem was that he opened all his chakras completely. That means that when he came back his sensitivity would have been exquisite. She said, “If you are in an emergency room, even subtle disturbances in others will flood in with all kinds of accrued extraneous energies, and they magnify each other, so it isn’t really a wonder that he would have felt completely poisoned by the illness energies.” Then she told me that she cannot go into hospitals at all because, again, she is an empath. She says that even getting near a hospital in the parking lot, floods her with pain, suffering, and madness energies. She can feel and sometimes see auras; she can “manipulate” chakras but doesn’t do so usually and never without permission: “When you do such things, you are leaving the human realm and stepping into the Divine, so you had better have respect.”
We talked a bit about Emptiness and the No-Self/True-Self paradoxes. She said, “Emptiness doesn’t work intuitively for me as path, Jenny, but that is just path.” And then I told her what Daniel said to me recently about how, one attains the nondual shift, the Three Characteristics just vanish. She said, “Well, of course they do. When you are on the other side of this divide, the so-called side of no-sides, then you see that there are many paths to that awakening.” And then she added, “That is why this group is so important: We are bringing in perspectives from different paths and appreciating them; my preferring the path of God and not Emptiness is only Path, not result.”
Aparna, in closing, mentioned that Dennis the Menace cartoon we’ve all seen—where his mother asks him to get some milk from the refrigerator, and he heads there but meanders through every side room in the house along the way, playing with toy trains and whatnot, looping and looping, taking detours, before arriving at the refrigerator door, opening it, and grasping the dang milk.
I said, “ah, as Edward Albee wrote, ‘Sometimes you have to go a long way out of the way to come back a short distance correctly.'” And I pointed out how Wilhelm Reich blamed Jesus Christ’s death on the fact that humans, if you show them the door to salvation, will run the other way. She laughed, and said, “Yes. So that indirection is our individuated paths. Don’t mistake any particular strand of that variance along the way for nonduality.”
Chat with DreamWalker
I had really profound insights yesterday, thick and fast, in clear Cause and Effect stage. Clear view of the problem. New territory. 15 hours later, A&P starting.
Clear view of the problem . . . the or a?
I have never really got clarity during review of the first 3 nanas
Clear view of the problem on the temporal axis after luminosity is attained. Clear view of why luminosity ain’t complete nonduality. There are probably other reasons—my guess.
To me, this series of insights was very profound.
Is it really a problem?
Yes. It is obviously dual at a more fundamental level than I have before seen.
Which part? What would make it not a problem?
Everything has to synchronize. Time needs to be seen though completely.
OK . . . just wondering what the Solution to the “problem” would look like.
Thought about the background is another thought . . . yes.
I don’t know how to solve the problem, or I would solve it. But I know that all has to synchronize. Somehow. I Saw this directly. I saw the nature of the problem directly, and, as in AA, maybe the first step is to admit that you have a problem.
I Think emptiness-of-time practices may help. Or maybe just continuing to practice as I have been until the breakthroughs run dry. One thing I do know—which will sound obvious—you have to see this directly for yourself. Secondhand insight isn’t insight, although it can help, or seem to help meantime. So even though I’ve read Daniel’s bits about “synchronization” over and over again, and I did get what he meant, now I really, really, really get it. I understand the nature of the problem. I have watched the process of confusion perpetuate itself.
Ya . . . some self-reference in the time stream . . . kinda what leads you to agencylessness . . . but even more.
The C&E insight is beyond the insight that thoughts about thoughts’ background are thoughts. It is some fundamental problem with backgrounding, some succession, arrow-of-time problem.
That it keeps being reified.
That we keep reifying an “it,” a “background,” reinstating the split.
Hmm . . . describe the background.
I will make a new DhU post to discuss all this for the benefit of the group and us.
Short answer is that background is functional, not constative, and therefore is itself the inability to be described. It is whatever was previously invisible as the other side of a split, until it was encapsulated as part of a dual pair that is now foreground, where it stops being background, functionally, which instantiates a new background, unseen.
Linear causality is a fundamental structural split. It involves time, the arrow of time. It is an error.
Postscript 2.5 Years Later
The sit in the insight stage of Cause and Effect was one of the most profoundly insightful sits of my entire path. I saw distinctly, before I ever encountered Dzogchen or Mahamudra, how the illusory arrow of time would keep generating background/foreground polarities. So this sit confirmed what I saw on the second MCTB path: That Enlightenment would necessitate a complete closure of a gaping aporia within the supposed “now.” Time would have to cease. Causality would have to cease. Background/foreground would collapse. This happens at buddhahood. It is only at the very end, buddhahood, which is far past MCTB Fourth Path, that the mystery of agency resolves itself completely.
Compulsive Jhānas as No-Self: A Colloquy with Eric
This may sound silly, but when jhānas are taking over, do you ever try to note it? Even a simple note like “seeing” for five or “nothingness” for seven may help to disembed. I know you aren’t a big fan of noting, but it may be worth a shot.
Well, not exactly note, but for months now one of my main practices has been to look at the Three Charactistics (3Cs) of whatever jhana state really kicks in and holds out for a while. It is interesting practice. When I say “take over,” I mean that the jhānas become really hard, solidified, and I “forget” to look for their characteristics.
I don’t think it is really a problem for occasional sits to really just be samatha. I think I’m just (1) being superstitious about all the hype there is against jhānas (problem of “jhānas junkies”), and (2) being too impatient and effortful about getting second path. Daniel told me back in September (August?) that jhānas will not make a person a jhana junkie if first path really has been attained.
Another thing you could try is seeing the no-self aspect of it, seeing that there is no one to which these jhānas are happening, that they happen on their own. You could do some kind of self-inquiry, like “Who is perceiving Nothingness?” Or you could surrender completely and see where the jhānas take you.
Wise advice. This is exactly what Daniel said—the taking over is no-self. It is just such a macro-level thing that I wasn’t seeing that as “counting.” I’m still too much in the habit of thinking that the 3Cs are at the vibratory micro level. In EQ and in paths past first in general, I think, these things are seen in bigger and bigger swaths until the whole field is it.
About the fans and the powersy-stuff– have you ever heard of biaurnal beats? Two different frequencies in each ear that create a type of interference, e.g. 100 hertz in the right ear and 90 hertz in the left ear would be a 10 hertz beat. When I was interested in out-of-body travel they were all the rage, apparently certain frequencies could really get the powers going. Robert Monroe, the out-of-body dude whom I’ve mentioned before, used them quite a bit, and they are used at the Monroe Institute to this very day.
You know, in WW2, pilots had to be careful about adjusting the RPM of the propellers on their aircraft, because if there was any kind of difference in the frequencies of the two propellers, they would fall asleep.
Fascinating! Yeah, the two fans where engulfing and definitely calling out some unusual visions. I was also sleep deprived and had had a kind of emotional exhaustion from long all-night intense conversations with my son, who told me how he’s long had something almost matching exactly what I had in August with stream entry.