Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 01, 2010 12:03 am

Greetings,

I just wanted to share the following meditation experience I've had a few times over the last couple of days.

With all this talk of sankharas 8-) I've been quite vigilant over the last week in observing the five aggregates... which is pretty good for me, because usually in day to day living I opt for the six-sense bases because I can't get a grip on the lower level mental constituents during daily activity. Anyway, I've been mindful not only of these aggregates, but also the process of subtle volitional formation that lies behind it all. Even the slight shift of an eye is something I've observed as being a volitional act. Now, don't be under the impression I've been doing this 24-7, but it's been reasonably constant. I've been keeping in mind also that principle of idappaccayata, which underpins dependent origination, namely "When there is this, that is. With the arising of this, that arises. When this is not, neither is that. With the cessation of this, that ceases." The 'this' has generally been formations (certainly unwholesome ones, but even wholesome ones too), and the 'that' has generally been dukkha, probably scoped out best by Thanissaro's definition of 'stress'.

OK, so that's been the current modus operandi. I've meditated a few times as well lately, and over the last couple of days have had some interesting results, both in sitting meditation, and lying on my back. I start with some basic breath meditation and attempts to prevent the arising of papanca. When I've been determined and focused, I've actually managed to do that, and achieve a certain 'spaciousness' and 'openness' about the meditation where the mind relaxes yet remains clear, which is good, because I don't always get that, but it is in itself nothing new. What has been new is that I've been taking in with me this commitment to observe sankharas and to use the meditation as a means to still them further, so even in the 'spaciousness', I've endeavoured to observe even the slightest volition to move or redirect my attention to anything else. In order to still volition, I've held my awareness at a point in my forehead (I suppose you'd call it 'third eye', though I don't really buy into all that), or (if this makes sense) a point perhaps 30cm direct outside, in front of the body at that height. That's helped to keep my eyes (even though behind eyelids) pegged to a certain spot... like training an elephant, I've held them there. Cruder sankharas like greed and ill-will aren't present, and when relaxing into the spaciousness, even wholesome formations seem inherently stressful or obscuring compared to their absence, so letting go of those too has been possible too.

All good. At this point then, I start to hear a ringing in my ears, the body starts to 'cloud over' and I feel a blissful clearing of the mind in the temporary absence of any (observable) sankharas. This has happened about 6 times to date, and each instance has lasted anywhere between maybe 5 and 45 seconds. When it finishes (particularly in the session where I was lying on my back) it was possible to observe the sankharas that had been re-introduced into the equation (which doubtlessly was the cause behind the ending of the blissful state) and attempt to re-still them through bringing all activity back to that aforementioned point and not empowering them with any movement. From there, the blissful state could be reapproached.

In all of this, I'm pretty sure that none of it is jhana. I'm not doing the anapanasati long enough for that (10-15 minutes maybe?) - I just do it long enough to get to a point where keen interest in the observation exceeds the tendency to mentally proliferate. The total meditation session may be 50-90 minutes in duration.

If anyone who has been around the traps in terms of meditation would like to give me any recommendations, I would be most appreciative. I'm half expecting to hear the Ajahn Chah-esque, "Well that's just another thing for you to let go of" (particularly if Tilt sees this), but I feel that what I've been doing has been very beneficial and that precisely whatever it is that I've been doing, is a good form of mental cultivation and something worth repeating, if I can keep the mind appropriately disciplined and interested. I'm not doing it for the 'buzz', but for any wisdom that can be developed through it - that is all I care about.

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat May 01, 2010 1:32 am

my eyes have never ringed so i cant really help you, but maybe you're just experiencing a one pointed concentration and the temporary blockage of hindrances is causing this bliss type state?
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Ben » Sat May 01, 2010 2:04 am

Hi Retro

Be very careful with regards to the pleasant blissful state. Its just another sankhara.
You will generate craving for it if you don't develop equanimity - complete indifference towards it. And subtle relishing and subtle craving can feel almost identical to equanimity.
To be aware is to be equanimous. Without equanimity, we're actually disengaged with the current reality and engaged with craving for something that's not there.
Just my thoughts.
kind regards

Ben
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 01, 2010 2:14 am

Greetings,

JC ~

jcsuperstar wrote:my eyes have never ringed so i cant really help you, but maybe you're just experiencing a one pointed concentration and the temporary blockage of hindrances is causing this bliss type state?


Whoops... I meant ears.

Pfft eyes. Lol... I need to think before I type.

Ben ~

Be very careful with regards to the pleasant blissful state. Its just another sankhara.
You will generate craving for it if you don't develop equanimity - complete indifference towards it. And subtle relishing and subtle craving can feel almost identical to equanimity.
To be aware is to be equanimous. Without equanimity, we're actually disengaged with the current reality and engaged with craving for something that's not there.
Just my thoughts.


Good thoughts they are too. Equanimity actually seems to bring the state on, which is interesting, so when there is that "subtle relishing and subtle craving", that is precisely when it fades away, or, if it is already absent, prevents its onset.

Thanks guys.

Back to the couch...

:meditate:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat May 01, 2010 2:27 am

i really thought your eyes were ringing, i mean things make noise and maybe you were hearing something from your eyes i just never noticed in mine, maybe my tummy is to loud?

um maybe you could check out ajahn Sumedo's the sound of silence, i think it mentions some sort of sound meditation Hindus have something similar, although my sceptic mind tends to think theyre just making a big ado about tinnitus
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Reductor » Sat May 01, 2010 2:30 am

Can you guess the direction I'm going to point? :tongue:

Concentration signs can take any number of forms, some of them can be odd (I can't hold a book in my hands without recalling a strange sign I experienced on more than one occasion). The nature of them depends on what part of the body your focus is resting on. Anyway, if there is bliss kind of experience, that's also a good sign too. Much of your talk about focusing here and stilling that and this, those sounds like the right steps in jhana practice (whether or not your doing anapanasati, jhana arises when the mind is in the proper mode).

What you want to do from here on out, that's your up to you, but the experience is going in the right direction in terms of deeper concentration. I would always encourage further effort in developing samadhi, as you know.

But an interesting thing you seem to have observed: the mind feels best when its still and unburdened. Now you have a definite point of reference for the more gross formations.

You can keep these two cents. They're free.

Oh, but I disagree with Ben. But I imagine that arises from our respective modes of practice - to me, the bliss comes first, it's alright to enjoy it... it'll get old. What you don't want to do is misapprehend that bliss during normal life as something beyond formation. Or perhaps that's what Ben means. But when it arises don't go running in the other direction just yet.
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 01, 2010 3:02 am

Greetings thereductor,

thereductor wrote:But an interesting thing you seem to have observed: the mind feels best when its still and unburdened. Now you have a definite point of reference for the more gross formations.

Yes, that's the way I'm looking at it... and I can then take this as incentive or reason to sustain Right Effort.

SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

[i] "There is the case where a monk generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the non-arising of evil, unskillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[ii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the abandonment of evil, unskillful qualities that have arisen.

[iii] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the sake of the arising of skillful qualities that have not yet arisen.

[iv] "He generates desire, endeavors, activates persistence, upholds & exerts his intent for the maintenance, non-confusion, increase, plenitude, development, & culmination of skillful qualities that have arisen: This, monks, is called right effort."


Without "a definite point of reference", as you say, it's hard to see and know why this is necessarily so.

I assume the purpose of Right Concentration is to continue to feel this way regarding gross formations, and to see increasingly more subtle formations in the same light.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Kenshou » Sat May 01, 2010 3:10 am

I'm gonna have to agree with thereductor, surprise surprise. The context in which you've explained these experiences sounds very much like the general method for developing samadhi or concentration, even if you haven't been aiming in that direction particularly.

Strengthening and sustaining that experience into a strong absorption, if you choose, I find really strengthens the mind's capacity for concentration which has utility in countless areas. Allowing yourself to get into the pleasure of it a bit, for the sake of stabilizing samadhi, I don't think is a bad thing, since in the course of the maturation of concentration the pleasure is going to have to be relinquished anyway.

Anything else I could think to say, this paper has put better: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... cmind.html
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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 01, 2010 3:50 am

Greetings Kenshou,

Thank you for the comments and for the link.

I was confident that sharing my experiences with the community would yield benefit in terms of timely recommendations and relevant reading materials.

:thanks:

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Goofaholix » Sat May 01, 2010 4:41 am

The ringing in the ears, as opposed the eyes, I have found a very useful meditation object. I think mostly because it is apparent at times when the noise inside the mind has quietened down, and the noise outside is not competing too much, and it helps the mind to to quieten further. You will find at those times quite a sense of spaciousness, and it's really that that interests me when I take the sound of silence as a meditation object.

As jcsuperstar has mentioned Ajahn Sumedho encourages using this as an object, though I haven't found he gives much detail, So you'll have to find your way intuitively.

I don't know whether that is what it is that you are describing a blissful clearing of the mind but it sounds similar. Either way a few episodes of a few seconds each is not something to get excited about, just notice the arising and the passing away, because as always it's impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not self.

The rest of your post reads very much like you setup an expectation that your experience would follow step by step what you've read in scripture and you spent a considerable amount of attention and effort analysing and categorising it based on what you read, attention that could have been just resting with the raw experience. If this is the case firstly you should be aware that this is happening, this is part of the meditation not something separate analysing the meditation, second maybe it's time to give the books a rest and try just going with the flow intuitively.

Any time you try something new you have the opportunity to blow out the cobwebs and experience something new but if you build an expectation around it then as you predicted the answer is "that's just another thing for you to let go of".
Last edited by Goofaholix on Sat May 01, 2010 4:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Reductor » Sat May 01, 2010 4:45 am

retrofuturist wrote:
I assume the purpose of Right Concentration is to continue to feel this way regarding gross formations, and to see increasingly more subtle formations in the same light.


Yes, that is the way I see it. One reason it is hard to see 'all formations are stressful' is because of the 'all' part: how does a person discern a characteristic without some point of comparison? But with experience of more and more refined formations we are given a relative measure of dukkha in relation to the grosser formations we have abandoned. It is a kind of foreshadowing of 'nibbana verses the conditioned.'
Michael

The thoughts I've expressed in the above post are carefully considered and offered in good faith.

And friendliness towards the world is happiness for him who is forbearing with living beings. -- Ud. 2:1
To his own ruin the fool gains knowledge, for it cleaves his head and destroys his innate goodness. -- Dhp 72

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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby Kenshou » Sat May 01, 2010 5:06 am

retrofuturist wrote:
I assume the purpose of Right Concentration is to continue to feel this way regarding gross formations, and to see increasingly more subtle formations in the same light.


If I may, a bit more on this, taken from Wings to Awakening, section 3:

This pleasure plays an important function in the practice. To begin with, it enables the mind to stay comfortably in the present moment, helping it attain the stability it needs for gaining insight. This can be compared to a scientific experiment, in which the measuring equipment needs to be absolutely steady in order to give reliable readings. Second, because a great deal of sensitivity is required to "tune" the mind to the refined pleasure of jhana, the practice serves to increase one's sensitivity, making one more acutely aware of even the most refined levels of stress as well.
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Re: Unfamiliar meditation experience - sankharas + their absence

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat May 01, 2010 7:51 am

oh and here you go

Try to be mindful, and let things take their natural course.
Then your mind will become still in any surroundings,
like a clear forest pool.
All kinds of wonderful, rare animals will come to drink at the pool,
and you will clearly see the nature of all things.
You will see many strange and wonderful things come and go,
but you will be still.
This is the happiness of the Buddha.
~ Ajahn Chah,
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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