My second ten day course was overall less of a rollercoaster than my first. Samādhi was not as strong; meaning sensations were milder, but as a result, I remained more focused to understanding the practice and equanimity. I also had the good fortune of being taught by the wizardly, senior A.T. Michael Gelber who imparted much helpful advice:
To many students surprise he explained that, “Cheerfulness (not neutrality) is the hallmark of equanimity,” As far as I have seen on those around me this does appear to be true, and knowing the path out of misery is an excellent reason to smile.
Michael and I didn’t completely agree on this one, but I do know what he means, “Panna always comes in an effortless flash. Comprehend it, but don’t roll around, once it’s done go back to your sensations.” I recognize this, but sometimes when I roll just a little..into self-inquiry these flashes can also come in clusters, and that’s where intuition can seem more like a voice, though it’s tricky knowing where to stop.
He also spoke of how to target a specific aversion or craving: “It’s an emergency when something’s taking over your mind. Let such thought loops, images, elating or tormenting obsessions be a trigger to return to your sensations. Immediately focus (with equanimity) on any sensation present; stay there for at least 5 minutes. With this technique you will be able to fade the emotional impact of any mental habit pattern. People who trigger you will become like characters in a book.” Monitoring my equanimity day by day I did notice an upward and specific trend to certain cravings, and after another week I can now see this technique works wonders! I imagine it could work the same for irrational insect phobias; though, I haven’t yet tried.
Most importantly, Michael enhanced the way I worked with physical pain: “Zoom in as close as possible to your pain, as though you have a macro focus lens. Look for its vibratory quality, get between the vibrations if you can; understanding how it moves will help you understand its impermanence.” I tried this with the rock hard knots in my back (that had been there day and night for over a year), and I must say, I was astounded by how effectively it dissolved them. Not to mention this method also helped to starve off the boredom that sometimes accompanies equanimity.
After this truckload of Saṅkhāras was removed, my experience began to change course. My back felt completely new, like someone else’s back, possibly a child’s. Though I have scoliosis, my muscles felt open and sore in a symmetrical way. Saṅkhāras kept coming, but only one at a time and they almost felt pleasant. I lay down to sleep ever sooo comfortably, and projected in front of me I began to see a dream world; it looked like an old fashion filmstrip. Both the room and this translucent greenish dream-window were visible to me, and I wasn’t feeling drowsy. As I closed my eyes to focus on it more completely, and perceived the front of my body plunging into an atmosphere of liquid air and shimmering sunshine. Simultaneously, I was saturating an exquisite feeling, I can only describe as heaven.
The back of my body lay consciously in bed while the front stood in a gateway between worlds; standing there I could fly or orient myself in any direction, and the glory and regulation of my feelings seemed to create the landscape. If wanted excitement I felt my stomach drop and so did the perspective below me in some majestic surreal way, it was exactly how I create paintings, but completely vivid, instantaneous, psychic and global.
At this point I had a realization that I could only stay in the experience if I remained 100% equanimous which also meant I wouldn’t be able to remember it. I believe this is somewhat true, as I am aware of the experiential magnitude but not fine details. If I was I could create a much richer recollection. At some point I started to watch a copies of myself act in amusing dream scenarios, momentarily I’d be sucked toward the drama consciousness, but then would pop back into witness space.
The overall defining characteristic of the experience was how it felt, and I cannot liken it to any neural-chemical familiarity. All I can say, is that I was engulfed in possibly the most heavenly feeling I’ve experienced to date; all the while, aware that it was fleeting, I was in a bunk bed and the old women below me was hysterically laughing. “Ahhh, this is the life,” I thought, “the secret other-worldly life of the recluse,” and wondered if she was having an equally good time.
When the ride was over, I was suddenly struck with an image of an acquaintance, someone I rarely see and don’t usually think about. Though in the past, I had sensed that she’s mentally ill, and because of this allows others to take advantage of her. At that moment I became wrenched with a painful compassion for this person, and also sooo much gratitude for my comparatively easy life. I’m not sure if this pain release, equanimous ecstasy and unexpected compassion were in some way a causal chain of events, but they certainly made for a climactic mid-course. I’m now doing my best to meet the onset of reoccurring back pain with loving attention, inside and outside of meditation, and feeling inspired to do a ten day course once every 6 months.
This post will conclude my weekly writings here on Living Vipassana, it’s been a pleasure to practice expressing myself through words to my favorite global community. I will now be transitioning back into my fall school/work schedule, but may still write periodically. When time allows, I also intend to complete some art I’d started for the blog.
Thank-you to everyone who’s supported us here by reading and writing, I look forward to enjoying all your future posts and comments on my study breaks! 😀
Art: Chaos-collector-Order-projector, By: me