ardacigin

1 hour 37 mins Strong Determination Sit: Unexpected Results!

34 posts in this topic

I haven't done a proper Strong determination sit in a year or two. After having developed more equanimity, joy and insight attainment with jhanas and overall samatha development, I've decided to do my first SDS sit yesterday.

The rule was not to move, obviously. But I also was to refrain from any overt generation of pleasure in my body. The whole purpose was to experience pain with as little pre-processing as possible, with clarity and accuracy. Without self-bias.

And boy was there a lot of pain suffused in the entirety of my body. Well, it was a failure. So let's wrap up the mat, right?

Well...not exactly. This SDS sit was the most profound SDS sit of my entire life. Here is what happened.

To understand what happened, we need to back up to 2 days ago. 

For some reason I can't remember, suddenly, my mind has shifted its operating system to no-self in my visual perception. Attention to any given object is crystal clear and the peripheral awareness of the visual field is also spacious, clear and large.

Well, guess what happened after this shift? My sense of self observing the object has reduced, my mental energy and daily focus while doing anything has increased significantly (while watching videos, listening to people etc) and equanimity towards sensations and life has significantly increased.

My self boundaries didnt completely dissolve but it was an incredibly distinct and noticable reduction in self perception of the world. This is called an insight experience.

Thankfully, I could easily get into the same mental perception and repeat this insight many times through out the day.

Then I've inquired and reduced this sense of craving for things to be different and that also reduced my sense of perceiving and controlling further.

Now I was like:

'Cool! This is very liberating. I don't crave for joy or pleasant sensations at all. And this no-self shift is very stable'

Then I remembered Shinzen's litmus test. When you spend a lot of time working with a certain flavour, it is always important to work with the opposite one.

So it was time to get intimate with excruciating levels of physical pain. Lets see how my unconscious mind responds to such stimulus after this subtle no-self shift. Again, just to clarify, my entire self perception haven't absolutely dissolved.

But my mind can reduce it significantly by dynamically playing with attention and awareness along with equanimity. So let's give it a go.

Since it was my first SDS sit after close to 2 years, I wanted to go slow. I set the time to 2 hours just in case I decide to go further. But I was completely content just doing 20 mins. I had no expectations.

I dropped into a cross legged posture and instantly felt a difference. I don't seem to experience too many pain sense percepts. But that was only a facade. As time went on, since I wasnt intending for pleasure, significant levels of leg pain started to come up.

My back started to hurt, my hands were sweating, lots of agitation and by the end of it, I had close to fainting levels of physical pain. 

This all sounds close to what everybody experiences in a SDS sit. Nothing special. And I only meditated around 1 hour and 40 mins. Nothing overly crazy or inhumane. I'm sure many people achieved 90 min SDS sits here and there even with a lot of pain etc. So haven't I learned anything in the last 2 years?

Well, yes. First of all, the way I was experiencing pain was mediated by equanimity in the sense that;

1- Pain sensations arrive.

2- I experience its solidity and thingness for a while.

3- I zoom out and contextualize it with no self. I do the visual attention and awareness shift and get my mind to reduce craving.

4- The pain has a tendency to flow and move which reduces suffering and self-clinging instantly.

This is not something I could reliably do at any point in my 2+ hour sits back in the day. It was always about grinning my teeths and trying to bear through this stupid leg pain until the bell rings. Holding for dear life hoping for some revelation to save me.

That wasn't needed anymore. The no-self shift allows me to do this process naturally. 

The second watershed moment is that the amount of pain I'm experiencing at the 1 hour and 30 min mark is significant. Due to wrong posture sit, I was putting a little too much pressure on my left leg the entire time. Since I can't move, I didn't adjust for it. If I could, I would easily go beyond 2 hours.

That particular pressure created a block of pain in my left leg. It was solid and unchanging. The rest of my body has already transmuted a lot of pain and it subsided again. But this leg pain occurs due to pressure on nerves. I also kinda got scared. So I've decided to finish it here.

But I don't like to end things on a sour note. I had to break up this block of pain prior to ending the sit. So I developed some joy in my head area (only place I could at the time) and rest my attention on there. Since my attention has an exclusive quality at this point, the block of pain fizzled in and out and started to move. 

I could continue at this point, but I didn't want to overly exert myself since this is my first SDS sit in a long time. I felt like my legs were going to so sour a few days if I push further. Now, I could end the sit on a pleasant note :) 

The final difference was that the amount of suffering I experienced was extremely and I mean EXTREMELY low. Especially compared to fainting levels of physical pain I was experiencing.

The end was basically torture levels of pain but I had a smile on my face. My entire body was relaxed. I could still generate some low degree of pleasure in my head. But I didnt even need to do that.

This no-self shift was making this pain just fine. I didn't crave for a pleasant state. I was so not there that the pain sensations all over my body didn't impute as suffering as their nature.

They were just as non-alluring as sitting in a chair. Just neutral. Easy to deal with. Even the part where the pain was really becoming torture levels, I was like:

'That is all right. It can stay in the background'.

The no-self ensued while a shitstorm was happening back there. 

----

This helped me to see that the length of an SDS sit is not important. At least not while learning these insights. I have done these sits longer and more frequently back in the day and none of these insights had occured. I was just in abject suffering. In fact, those SDS sits did create psychological issues and physical digestive issues since I was dealing with a lot of pain.

It also doesnt condition the mind well prior to some sort of insight. Pain can become perpetual and ever lasting without realizing. It is a traumatic experience to do SDS and one's skill level also needs to be on par to glean benefit let alone deal with its negative after effects.

I don't recommend it to beginners. Absolutely not. It will just make you hate meditation and develop negative habits like agitation and tension.

But if you are developing well with samatha and ready for some insights through pain investigation, it is a great technique. Just take it easy for a little while afterwards. Don't injure yourself. Both physically and psychologically.

These are my experiences. This entire no-self shift in visual field needs its own explanation but thanks to that, I had my most profound SDS sit of my life. My unconscious mind has for the 1st time, realized how torture levels of pain can be equanimzed into 'No big deal. Let's smile and rest as no self' perception. 

I didn't think so much pain can be transmuted like that for extended periods of time. So, that changed my assumptions about what is possible on the spiritual path.

Anyways, hope this was useful. 

Let me know youe thoughts below.

Much love,

Arda

 

 

 

 

Edited by ardacigin

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thanks for sharing. I did not know this practice. My legs and back hurt after reading your report. I find it extremely interesting, I am going to try it, although given my undisciplined nature I foresee ridiculous results in time, although perhaps interesting

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Ufff even 10 min without moving a millimeter is challenging. I just don't see the usefulness ... strengthen the character maybe? Know that if you move your back one cm it will eliminate your discomfort and pain and not doing it is the most unpleasant

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Many of my own profound meditation-induced experiences were determination sitting too. For some reason the experience is profoundly deepened by simply letting go of your normal responses and suffering through it until your ego naturally dissolves. At some point all the pain is gone and only profound bliss remains. It's a powerful meditation method, at least in my experience. I think the longest one I did was about two hours.

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51 minutes ago, Breakingthewall said:

Ufff even 10 min without moving a millimeter is challenging. I just don't see the usefulness ... strengthen the character maybe? Know that if you move your back one cm it will eliminate your discomfort and pain and not doing it is the most unpleasant

If you are a beginner or struggle like this, don't do SDS sits. Or do them in short sessions like 10-20 mins. 

The idea is to change your relationship to pain or unpleasantness. But it is obviously challenging and potentially traumatic.

Try to prioritize comfort as much as possible in daily sessions. Smile frequently. Make this an easy going and enjoyable practice.

 

 

Edited by ardacigin

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Super great report man! Thank you so much for sharing ? Yes SDS is a powerhouse of a technique for advanced meditators. Our relationship to pain is one of the fundamental dualities reifying a sense of self… breaking through this barrier with equanimity is a huge step on the path.

I don’t always do SDS sitting but throwing mild sits in first 30 - 45 mins of a sit not moving, or more generally not shying away from discomfort by immediately adjusting posture, has been very powerful for practice. 

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I tried again, this time 40 minutes, it seems to me a fascinating practice. Not giving in to the impulses to move, scratch yourself, has an almost sporty component, gives a feeling of dominance, of not being a puppet. mental cleanliness is enormous, being focused on maintaining physical stillness, mental stillness occurs spontaneously. I have stopped when the pain has started to get serious. Anyway, I think I can not stop doing this masochistic practice, thanks for sharing

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13 minutes ago, Breakingthewall said:

I tried again, this time 40 minutes, it seems to me a fascinating practice. Not giving in to the impulses to move, scratch yourself, has an almost sporty component, gives a feeling of dominance, of not being a puppet. mental cleanliness is enormous, being focused on maintaining physical stillness, mental stillness occurs spontaneously. I have stopped when the pain has started to get serious. Anyway, I think I can not stop doing this masochistic practice, thanks for sharing

Here is Shinzen's explanation of SDS: 

He fetishizes a little here and boosts motivation as a result. Just make sure to not overly exert yourself ;) 

 

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15 minutes ago, Breakingthewall said:

Not giving in to the impulses to move, scratch yourself, has an almost sporty component, gives a feeling of dominance, of not being a puppet. mental cleanliness is enormous, being focused on maintaining physical stillness, mental stillness occurs spontaneously.

It has a 'This will wipe out your sense of a self and destroy all thingness' quality to it. It is really in your face and intimate. And if you still cling to a 'meditator trying to deal with pain sensations', you are left with torture levels of suffering.

But if you can perceive things differently, it has a significantly empowering quality. More so than many practices I've tried. I can see myself doing this a lot longer after I develop myself further :) 

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I remember doing some of these 3 years ago when leo mention shinzen young

After 4 hours of it, i felt a strange high that lasted for almost a day, Was very happy for no reason, No idea what it was but i just felt everything in my life was perfect for the next 24hours+ then it just faded away. Strange vibrational change occur'd with my baseline mood, I couldn't really understand why, it just felt that way

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11 hours ago, Breakingthewall said:

I did not know this practice.

Leo has an older video on SDS called "Meditation on Steroids"


Miracle:    Impossible from an old understanding of reality, but possible from a new one.

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10 minutes ago, khalifa said:

I remember doing some of these 3 years ago when leo mention shinzen young

After 4 hours of it, i felt a strange high that lasted for almost a day, Was very happy for no reason, No idea what it was but i just felt everything in my life was perfect for the next 24hours+ then it just faded away. Strange vibrational change occur'd with my baseline mood, I couldn't really understand why, it just felt that way

That is very typical. But I suggest not being too occupied with both vibration and or happy mood swings unless they arise after an insight realization. That is why it feels so hit and miss. Has this 'Why can't I replicate it?' sort of frustration.

It is better to learn 'How can I get my mind to perceive life in a certain way so that I can experience joy and vibrations more easily?' That perception change is what an SDS sit primarily wants you to integrate.

Because if the idea is to just feel more pleasantness and happiness, it is better to condition the mind in those flavours of experience directly in jhanic concentration. 

Edited by ardacigin

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@ardacigin Hey man, it's nice to hear.

 

I have had bad experiences with SDS and other hardcore practices.

I go to the sauna multiple times a week when possible, often I can stay equanimous and I believe that if I wanted to, I could just sit in a sauna until I die without suffering.

However I noticed that I do those extreme practices because I want to escape from the emotional suffering and instead of training equanimity in the emotional space, I just suppressed it and detached from physical pain, because that gives me a sense of control.

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@Endangered-EGO I understand. You actually are training lots of equanimity with SDS but you should be ready for it. These are the exact cases where I may not recommend SDS :)) 

But it is still extremely beneficial to do it sometimes to see how you've been developing with other techniques like psychedelics, samatha etc.

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@ardacigin something is wrong with my spine, I fear that SDS might damage it.

I have thought about buying hot sauce and see how far up I can go in the scoville scale without suffering. What do you think about that? It's just intense pain, without damaging the body.

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6 hours ago, khalifa said:

I remember doing some of these 3 years ago when leo mention shinzen young

After 4 hours of it, i felt a strange high that lasted for almost a day, Was very happy for no reason, No idea what it was but i just felt everything in my life was perfect for the next 24hours+ then it just faded away. Strange vibrational change occur'd with my baseline mood, I couldn't really understand why, it just felt that way

That’s amazing. How long did it take to build up to 4 hours?  Did your body learn to block out the pain/ interpret it differently or did you sit for like 3 hours in pain( assuming the first hour or so is pretty easy after you are in a routine) 

 

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7 hours ago, Endangered-EGO said:

@ardacigin something is wrong with my spine, I fear that SDS might damage it.

I have thought about buying hot sauce and see how far up I can go in the scoville scale without suffering. What do you think about that? It's just intense pain, without damaging the body.

I'm not sure that would reliably produce a breakthrough since you are introducing a substance to the mix.

But of course, within the right perimeters, everything is possible. As long as you condition your mind with advanced mindfulness, equanimity and a strong intention to investigate the sensations prior to this challenge, it could be beneficial.

But I'd not recommend it nonetheless since it is not a practice, just an interesting challenge. 

I recommend doing the SDS sit laying down. After drinking coffee to prevent dullness as much as possible. It will be an easier SDS but you can work on length.

For instance, doing a 5 Hour SDS laying down on bed with high alertness and joy and mindfulness is pretty impressive and has its own challenges. You can use the ceiling wall to merge with. Eyes need to be fully open, somewhat defocused the entire time though. You can't close your eyes for dullness reasons.

But it is a good challenge really. Just by telling you this kind of gave me a motivation to try it out myself haha :))

Hope this helps.

Edited by ardacigin

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@ardacigin Shinzen said in an interview that the pain in SDS is meant to being you to through the point of convulsions, and that's where the magic happens.

I however don't know if I did it right, but I felt like I blacked out and forgot what I was doing, that's also what happens in the sauna sometimes. Maybe the magic is in the blackout/pass-out, because I'm still not moving.

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10 hours ago, Endangered-EGO said:

@ardacigin Shinzen said in an interview that the pain in SDS is meant to being you to through the point of convulsions, and that's where the magic happens.

I however don't know if I did it right, but I felt like I blacked out and forgot what I was doing, that's also what happens in the sauna sometimes. Maybe the magic is in the blackout/pass-out, because I'm still not moving.

Even in fainting levels of pain, you are not passing out. You are fully and acutely conscious. But there is no longer a selfhood to react to sensations.

A zen master should be able to break through that sort of pain in mere seconds. But there is a catch here.

A well trained zen master with decades of experience probably wouldn't experience so much pain regardless of how long the SDS sit is since his body and mind would automatically block pain sense percepts (weaken their pre-processing) and amplify pleasure and joy. IF they want to of course. 

But they also could work through convulsing levels of pain. I'd assume that a master wouldn't let things go that extreme though. If they did, it would be a conscious decision to work with pain. I don't think they would work on the body level anymore.

Everything would be porous and they would merely investigate reality and mind deeply for hours on end with an SDS sit with effortless ease. Which means this person can do 10 hour SDS sit with ease. Depending on how awake and skilled you are, that seems to be possible from my experience.

Of course, I can't do it but on a theoretical level, I can see a master with 40 years of experience doing it. I've tasted its core operating strategy with this sit. And if I could with a very beginner level insight attainment, so could an adept with ease.

I'm sure Shinzen knows such masters from his asian training in Japan etc. 

Edited by ardacigin

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