From mid April, 2011 until February, 2012, I spent
Then Ven. Pa Auk came for 4 months: July - Oct. That was really different, Really Intense. With the
And a week or so later - I got to Ven. Pa Auk's 1st jhana. I would go for my usual walk after lunch and come back and do lying down meditation. Sometimes, especially on hot days, I might get a bit drifty.... I had my little timer set to vibrate after an hour since I was counting breaths for that first hour. Well, one day as I came out of the drifty, the nimitta was really bright and I stopped counting an went straight for the nimitta. Bingo, I was gone. There was ONLY the nimitta. No body. No sounds. No thoughts. No passage of time. Nuthin' but the nimitta. I came out of it about 45 minutes later (guessing from the clock and when I had started). The state was nothing like any jhana I'd ever experienced! The was no materiality. No vedana. No perception. No sankhara other than the nimitta. Only consciousness of the nimitta. If that sounds like "the cessation of feeling and perception" to you, it does to me as well. In fact I would say that the 1st Visuddhimagga jhana IS "the cessation of feeling and perception." This is not just my opinion - Rod Bucknell says the same thing in a paper in the "Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies" 16.2, pages 375-409. Interesting.
But I was never able to get back there! I could get that solid nimitta and hold it for up to 2 hours. But I could see that I was too curious to see "what happens next" and that was preventing me from getting back to full absorption. Sometimes hanging out with the nimitta, I would drift off into 2nd jhana (the one that I teach), sometime into 4th, occasionally into 3rd. And sometimes the nimitta would hang around until my bladder said there was now something else to do. And that was all that happened for another month. Then for the 4th month, Ven. Pa Auk, suggested that since I clearly wasn't getting back to full absorption again, I should do 4 elements meditation. Interesting - but too busy really for my tastes - at least to do it all day long.
Ven. Pa Auk left Oct 31 and 4 Nov I "escaped" down to BCBS (1/4 mile, ~1/2 km, down the hill) to do a previously planned Insight Dialog retreat. That was a really great break and and a wonderful retreat. I got more insights during those 10 days than during the 4 months with Ven. Pa Auk! Of course, the momentum from those months with Ven. Pa Auk plus the fact that I was doing an insight practice rather than working on concentration might have had something to do with it. And Insight Dialog is a very interesting, wonderful practice - see http://leighb.com/nsitedlg.htm. HIGHLY Recommended!
Then back to the FR for another
But I did miss fun. And it's nice to be out again. And I'm already overwhelmed by all the email and stuff to do.... I was at BCBS the 1st 10 days of February, and then took the train(!) across the USA to the SF Bay Area where I hung out for 10 days before heading off to teach my month long retreat at Cloud Mountain. It is the good life indeed.
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