I have delayed posting anything about this particular aspect of the retreat, partly because everything I wrote sounded too exaggerated, fabricated and grand and partly because I found it hard to express the fleeting and insubstantial experiences in a way that does justice to them and/or is not giving away any restricted information. I am still not happy with the results, but here we go.
When I started doing Vajrayana practices several years ago, I was not one bit interested in the supernatural side of it: deities, primordial buddhas, celestial beings, alternative realities, you name it. As a matter of fact I was quite put off by those things and labeled them as unnecessary cultural overlay and superstition. Strangely though, I soon ended up doing guru yoga as my main practice because it really worked for me in some inexplicable ways. After a while I started to see how visualized supernatural beings can work as archetypes in human form that can be helpful in making a connection with impersonal and abstract forces of the universe. On the other hand visualizations started slowly hacking my world view so that after a while, Samboghakaya realm of buddhas and dakinis did not feel that impossible anymore.
During this retreat, the guided meditations on the three kayas, buddha families and wisdom energies left me with a feeling of wonder. The door that had been just slightly ajar was opened a fair bit more and even now, a couple of months after the retreat has ended, I can still peek through it in my daily practice. At times I may even be able to live in that cathedral of light for a little while. During those occasions, it feels as though the experience covers several realms at the same time and the residues of the ordinary mind struggle to make sense of the overlapping incompatible images.
The relationship between trek chod, cutting through the tension to awakened awareness, and the gazing practices has considerably cleared up for me. I can now see how previously the incomplete stability in staying with the view of awakened awareness was causing me an accumulation of subtle tension when the energies resulting from gazing started coursing through my body.
There is also a new insight into the process of natural unfolding of the awareness practices, at least for this particular body-mind continuum. In my experience, opening up of the subtle realms occurs as a spontaneous result of sufficient unification of the clear light sensations (both physical and mental) with limitless space. In my case, the energy of thinking, although easily unified with space, was nonetheless felt to be somewhat different stuff from the physical senses. Even thought more complete unification was available during the formal meditation sessions, the real transformation seems to become possible only after it spontaneously starts to happen during daily life.
This is how I would describe the initial incomplete integration with space:
Body = Physical senses = Limitless space
After the integration deepened it started to resemble something like this:
Body (including all the physical senses) = Limitless space = Thinking mind = Buddha
The experiential effect could be compared to a glimpse to a world of fantasy, divine self-luminous optical illusion residing just underneath the mundane existence. Or my physical body suddenly losing whatever is left of it’s solidity and becoming a sacred mirage, like one of those brilliant big cities seen from the airplane at night; geography of a buddha body.