New at Stage 4 and Have Questions

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This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Mimi M 2 months, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #3031

    arieljoy
    Member

    Hi! So happy you are all here! I just recently started working on stage four and I have some questions and would love any feedback:
    First of all, I have been really enjoying stage four, in a new way. I thought this was because of how interesting it is to softly try to strike a balance between introspective awareness and the attention placed on the meditation object. I picture it as giving one or the other a slight nudge when one seems more powerful and it is engaging and I enjoy it. And yet! I just read the beginning of stage five and now I am concerned that I might actually be experiencing subtle dullness instead? I am trying to increase my awareness of the breath, as it suggests, but I feel very unsure at this point which it is. It does feel good and it also feels productive but maybe it’s not and I’m just being lulled into thinking that! I do know I have trouble separating the breath into disparate parts – I can carefully track it in both directions and with the spaces between but I feel both the in and the out as one consecutive – longer bit of awareness, I guess. I know, from reading the most recent interlude, that this isn’t actually accurate, and will work on seeing it as such – but is this a sign it’s actually dullness I’m experiencing?

    Secondly, well, as I said, the meditation itself has felt good. But since starting stage four, each day, maybe fifteen to thirty minutes later, I have felt a rush of anxiety and anxious physical feelings that are not related to anything. In fact I’ll consciously realize nothing is wrong and that the anxiety seems very – just, having no cause at all, but it sticks around for a while. Then it leaves and I’m pretty much fine for the rest of the day. Any idea what that might be? It does not at all start during the sit itself and I just started stage four so I doubt it could be a purification but would really like another opinion on this.

    Thanks again. 🙂

    #3032

    Mimi M
    Member

    Hi Ariel,
    I have had a lot of dullness in my practice and totally agree that it can be very difficult to detect sometimes. Some indications that may reflect subtle dullness are:

    1. You are just not sure:) This is possible a lack of clarity in the relationship between your peripheral awareness and attention. Clarity is the key word which would indicate a bright, spacious peripheral awareness even though your attention is focussed clearly and specifically on your object of your meditation(breath sensations at the nose). In Stage Five you will be using a Body Scan and Following and Connecting to strengthen your introspective awareness (the best antidote for dullness)so that you develop the skill to know immediately (without any discursive activity) if you have the optimal relationship between peripheral awareness and attention (mindfulness).

    2. You get startled at the ending bell of your meditation or with any sharp/loud sounds during the meditation.

    3. If you are groggy afterwards.

    As Culadasa states in the book and as you may have experienced, subtle dullness is VERY pleasant and can lure us into thinking we are in the zone because it seems effortless.

    It is good to understand this in your own practice at this stage because dullness can come back in stage 7 as you begin to explore true effortlessness.

    Your second question seems to indicate that you are having purifications. I had many at stage four that felt like non-specific rivers of emotion a lot like anxiety. If you examine where you feel emotions, including anxiety, you may find that they are located in the same region of the body. It sounds like you are engaging the experience in a good way. What Culadasa says about thoughts seems to apply to the level of emotive sensation that you are feeling: Let them come, let them be and let them go. My guess is that they will eventually pass.

    I hope that is helpful and good luck with your practice!

    Namaste,
    Mimi

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Mimi M.
    #3034

    arieljoy
    Member

    Thank you, Mimi! I appreciate your response a lot. Regarding the possible dullness – I don’t get startled and I am not groggy after. I had been meditating a second time later in the day, but was definitely feeling dull, as I experienced both 2 and 3 tremendously (so have for now done away with the second sit and am only sitting when I first wake up, which is the time my sits feel most productive and useful). But 1 – that one is true. I am just not sure. I’m just not. I don’t want it to be dullness because the book states dullness is a dead end and I really want to make progress, but I feel like it most likely is – yet I don’t know if that is based on what I am experiencing or the old story I tell myself that I am not good at most things. That’s not something Ive ever been able to tell.

    If it is dullness, or if I can’t figure it out, how do you think I should proceed? Should I go back to stage three and work on piecing apart the breath more precisely before adding in the continuous introspective awareness, continue to work on stage four, or move to stage five as that’s where I’ll learn more about dealing with dullness?

    Thank you again.

    #3037

    Mimi M
    Member

    Hi Ariel
    Are you checking in to see if your peripheral awareness is vivid and that the object of your attention is clear?
    If you still are not sure, try some of the antidotes for dullness to see if it makes a perceivable difference.
    Meditating multiple times at different times of day can be really helpful in discerning, if you are dull, the potential reason for dullness (sleepiness, resistance, gaps in moments of consciousness). Your experience at anytime of day will likely change too. For example, mornings used to be the time when I would have the most clarity yet now it is the evening or one of my midday sits.
    The Stages in practice do blend into one another and the measure for where you are at any given time is based on what skills you can consistently achieve. If you can consistently achieve skills for the mastery of Stage 3, then you are working in Stage 4. If you are working in Stage 4, it is okay to start Stage 5 practices but you would never skip a stage. If you are working on Stage 4, that does not mean that you would not need to re-visit Stage 3 practices sometimes…..or even Stage 2. Every sit will be unique. Just remember to consistently monitor the skills you can consistently achieve to determine where you are overall. Reread the overview of the stages every so often….it really helps when you are feeling lost…..Page one of TMI.
    Practice on and try your best to be patient and kind to yourself. It is a courageous practice.
    Namaste
    Mimi

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by  Mimi M.
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