Long-time off-and-on lurker here, finally decided to create an account.
A friend alerted me to this thread because of my interest in Bhante V's "Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation."
I've been going back and forth on whether to say anything here, but finally decided it wouldn't do any harm, and might (hopefully) help at least one person out there. So here goes.
About 7-8 years ago, a good friend of mine started telling me about this new meditation technique he was trying. I was only mildly interested, having come from a background of mixed spirituality (I was into Ram Dass and Terence McKenna, if that means anything to you) -- i.e. never really tried meditation before, but I was interested in finding a hardcore path. After a few gentle prods from my friend, and what to me seemed like a subtle but gentle change in his personality as of late, I thought, "why not?"
I was a new father with zero free time, so most of my meditation was done on a crowded bus, on my commutes to/from work. Certainly not the best way to start, but, Bhante's recommendation of sending metta ALL THE TIME, and constant mindfulness of smiling, made it somehow fit -- especially with fatherhood.
It felt good. Keep in mind, I'd never tried other forms of meditation, so "the 6 Rs" was it for me. I got into listening to Bhante's talks whenever I had time. Many of them are geared toward people who are coming from "straight vipassana," hence didn't interest me.. but some of the other talks were just gold to me.
A year or so later, I was able to fit in some more actual sitting time.. a half hour a day. Not too long after that, I started experiencing the first jhana. It felt *really* good. As in, is this stuff legal? But better than that -- clear mind, coupled with the goodness of sending well wishes to the people around me, and actually feeling it pouring out. So I start listening to more talks, and more things made sense. For instance, being able to look fast enough to feel that little "tug" of craving in the mind after something hits a sense door -- that would take me to the second jhana.
The first time I experienced the fifth jhana (aka the base of infinite space) was actually a little scary.
Only because it's so different from the first four, where you're still in your body. Around the same time, I was getting used to doing the 6Rs whenever I remembered to. (One day, I popped into the 5th during a meeting at work -- I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom for a minute. I don't mind doing this now, but that first one was a bit jarring.)
Over the next couple of years, I fell off the wagon a couple of times -- life got in the way, I won't go into details -- but essentially did a big push for a couple months about once a year, and gained one more jhana, up to the 7th (nothingness). Let me just say that I can't describe the ____ (bliss? not sure what the best word is) of the 6th and 7th jhanas -- these are simply not comparable to anything I've ever felt before, and I've done my share of exploring. Around this time, the insights start rolling in, too. You know, the ones that sound cliche in the all the dhamma talks, about not having a self behind the thoughts.. and also stuff about where "becoming" comes in every quick round of dependent origination, etc. etc. -- these become amazingly real.
At the same time, it starts becoming less and less about the bliss, and more about balance, living a good life, having more of those insights, and .. well, sitting more and more because it feels right/good.
Fast forward to this past year. The 8th jhana, neither-perception-nor-non-perception. How to explain this? Have you ever sort of half-woken up from sleep, in that super calm mind state.. where you know that if you start to have a thought, you'll pop out of it.... and just having that thought pops you out of it? It's sort of like that, except with more awareness, more really really really nice calm and balance...... It is much unlike the bliss of the lower jhanas in that there's no "buzz", it is more like just.... *such* a relief. You really feel how awesome it feels to have nothing going on in your mind except for the awareness of nothing going on.
If that makes sense. And then you start to see a thought coming, like a train from far away..... a little tiny vibration.... and you 6R that right away and go back to the calm. Sooo nice. (As you experience this more, the other jhanas are still nice -- but not AS nice as that pure calm.) At the same time, insights start popping up quite a lot. And other interesting things in life, weird little happy coincidences that might stem from being closer to your intuition (you know, that little voice that's usually crowded out by the other stuff).
So that's where I'm at now. No nibbana yet. But that's.... okay.
I sit over an hour every morning -- two hours if I can, but that just means getting up early, and potentially being too tired for work and family life -- it's a balance.
I also haven't been on a retreat yet. But two of my close friends (including the one I mentioned at the start) have attained stream entry on retreats with Bhante. Heck, the one friend actually leveled up to sakadagami/once-returner on his last retreat. (He has experienced nibbana 4 times.)
Can anyone do this? Sure, probably. I don't know. I've been lucky to have the two close friends I mentioned -- we talk about this stuff practically daily (mostly via SMS(!)), and that helps a lot. I get a lot of valuable tweaks and tips that way. Without them, I'd probably have needed to go on a couple of retreats to get this far, because it does take some one-on-one, I think. But hey, we have the internet.
Soooo, there, I said it. Even now I'm not sure about clicking the Submit button -- weird to talk about this stuff, even under a psuedonym. But I am only doing this in hopes that it will help some folks. I'm certainly not trying to sell anything here -- you all can do what you want. But sometimes I wish that people would come out and say "THIS HAS REALLY HELPED ME!!" I mean -- it's how I found this path. Prior to my friend sharing his experiences with me, I could only judge books by their covers. The spiritual marketplace is big.
Peace out.. Please PM me or reply to this if you have questions.