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Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/23/18 2:55 PM
This question is about what "chronic dark night" can look like.

Can you come out of a retreat and be a chronic dissolution yogi, without signs of Fear through Reobservation? Even if you went through those dark night stages, and even what seemed like low Equanimity?

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/23/18 3:10 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
I have a somewhat crankpot theory that chronic fatigue syndrome is basically being chronically stuck in Dissolution, possibly due to some neurotransmitter processing difference that prevents the normal Dissolution -> Fear transition from happening.  No real evidence to back it up though.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/24/18 1:45 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
I think this can be seen as being part of what is called Dissociation, Derealization and Depersonalization Disorders. The third (vipassana) jhana which can be accessed from the dissolution nana is associated with endorphin release which is also the case with dissociation - a state made to protect you from severe distress.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/26/18 4:34 PM as a reply to Superkatze one.
Thank you both. It certainly has a dissociative tinge to it, though it's the executive dysfunction that's actually disrupting life.

I've been brain fogged for nearly 7 weeks now. In classic dissolution style, nothing actually feels *wrong* with this state as long as I don't apply any effort. Effort just turns into a headache that quickly leads to a worsening of fatigue and a loss of ability to continue efforting.

Shinzen Young's "Do nothing" meditation is especially easy lately, though it only takes 10-15 minutes to become nearly indistinguishable from daydreaming. 

What a strange state of affairs.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/29/18 10:30 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Sorry to hear that stuff's been tough and I hope that it gets better.  One thought -- would something gentle like the awareness glimpse exercises from Shift Into Freedom be helpful? I haven't used them in my practice in a while, but I remember that they used to be a nice option when I was in Dissolution or at times when effort just seemed excessive/painful. 

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/29/18 11:41 AM as a reply to JP.
Hi JP, 

I hadn't heard of that book until now but looking at it preliminarily, this seems similar to what I've been doing. Resting and letting awareness happen on its own, and noticing what that's like whenever possible. 

The interesting thing is that "Do Nothing" and "rest in natural awareness" seem to converge toward the same meditation.

It starts with the experience that mind-wandering is a thing that one does, and can stop doing. It's as the Sutta on the Removal of Discursive Thoughts describes: "relaxing thought-fabrication". 

Once this is done, there (re-)appears an automatic curiosity about what the present moment is like. Once that arises it's quickly followed by an automatic curiosity about what present-moment-awareness itself feels like. It's open, free, and pleasant.

Still, even when resting in natural awareness, there is still a great deal of dullness. I know that sounds dumb. But one can, in glimpses, be aware of how brain-fogged one is. That's a good realization. It's also not a realization that helps notice when mind-wandering is beginning, and needs to be relaxed. 

Pre-A&P, I'd see it this way: "My effort got too slack and now sloth and torpor have set in. Better tighten it up and be more vigilant." 
As "Removal of Discursive Thoughts" describes: "with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness." 

Needless to say, that doesn't help anymore. The effort to energize and brighten the mind dissolves. Quickly. I'm talking mere seconds here. Thanks, dissolution. 

Other things that dissolve: Curiosity about the present moment. Curiosity about what present-moment-awareness is like. Concentration. Trains of coherent thought. (It's more like the incoherent rambling of Sleep Stage 1.) Emotional reactions. Remembering that I'm meditating. Remembering why I'm meditating. 

I'm about ready to take all 2 weeks of next year's vacation in January to get through this. It's ridiculous. I'm not feeling fear or disgust or misery. It's anger. I'm mad that this is happening. But that dissolves pretty quickly too.

I'm angry right now.
In...
Out...
Now I'm calm.

What was I mad about?

Can't remember. Too foggy. 

What am I supposed to be doing right now?

Oh right. My job. I'm at work right now. Better get off the web and start working. 

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/30/18 2:43 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
J Adam G:

Still, even when resting in natural awareness, there is still a great deal of dullness. I know that sounds dumb. But one can, in glimpses, be aware of how brain-fogged one is. That's a good realization. It's also not a realization that helps notice when mind-wandering is beginning, and needs to be relaxed. 

Pre-A&P, I'd see it this way: "My effort got too slack and now sloth and torpor have set in. Better tighten it up and be more vigilant." 
As "Removal of Discursive Thoughts" describes: "with his teeth clenched and his tongue pressed against the roof of his mouth — he should beat down, constrain, and crush his mind with his awareness." 

Needless to say, that doesn't help anymore. The effort to energize and brighten the mind dissolves. Quickly. I'm talking mere seconds here. Thanks, dissolution. 
....
....

What am I supposed to be doing right now?
Hi Adam,
I recognize that dullness that is there even when resting in natural awareness. Been there many times, and this has been discussed quite a lot in our sangha.  The thing that works for me and also for others I know, is to break through this dullness with sharp shouts of a mantra. Probably any utterance will do, but if you have a mantra you like or have been using, why not use that. Shouting without anger, but with determination like you mean it, and really sharply and quickly. I use PHET! myself mostly. But you can do with BUD-HO too, or even chop longer mantras into syllabels and shout each indivdually. Sometimes I can cut through the dullnes with a single shout, but on particularly rough times I needed do do lot, like 20 to 40 shouts. I don't know how much would be required in your situation, but please give it a try and see if you can notice the difference. After the shout I simply relax and don't do anything, being in the natural state. If the shout has done it's thing, then there is clarity in the mind instead of brain fog and dullness. If you can't do shouting in the house, try for example in the car while driving! emoticon

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/30/18 6:50 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Hey Adam,

imho - what is dissolution? One recognizes the impermanent and changing nature of phenomena he thought of being solid before.
Another time we see there's no self, no fixed point in this universe we can hold on to. What we thought before turns out not to be true (in a sense).
Psychologically not really a pleasant insight... I guess the strategies coping with that are individual.
I always find accepting, observing and letting it happen useful - there's no way I can fight it anyway.

be well

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/30/18 10:57 AM as a reply to streamsurfer.
Thank you Jehanne, that's a good idea! I have used loud claps before in a sort of similar context, so I'll try that and also PHET.

Hi streamsurfer, and thank you. I don't have any major reactions to times that the feeling of self changes or disappears. Sure, there can be brief periods of anxiety, nausea, unhappiness, etc. These are fine and take care of themselves rather quickly. 

What concerns me is when mental functioning is impaired. I don't think the loss of functioning is an insight; I see it more as a side effect. This is because the direct observation that self is illusory can happen without impairing functioning in daily life. 

I produce a 5pm newscast in a state capital. My viewers shouldn't be getting lower quality news because my meditation practice created a bunch of brain fog. (In fact, I would prefer the exact opposite: a clearer mind for the sake of better journalism.)

You're so right that fighting is a waste of time. It's a headache--literally! I spent my first 10-day retreat of the year pushing and efforting, and repeating the Buddha's last words "strive diligently" when concentration flagged. Then I spent the September retreat searching for a way to still be practicing without causing a headache.

Still a work in progress emoticon

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
10/30/18 3:16 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Interesting stuff, I see a lot of parallels in my own practice and day-to-day experience the last six months or so. Disassociation, fatigue, cloudy and unfocused, a lack of ambition, a sort of cognitive retardation even. It's as if the self-structure that had been the energy behind all of my aspirations, goals and beliefs just popped one day and nothing arose to replace it. There is a general sense of "OK-ness" so long as effort is relaxed. 

Effort just turns into a headache that quickly leads to a worsening of fatigue and a loss of ability to continue efforting. 

Can you speak more as to what's going on with your headache, what sensations accompany it, etc.? My experience the last few months has been dominated by a ton of energetic stuff going on in the head region, it has slowly evolved from solid, annoying pressure to a more fluid, semi-pleasant feeling.

My $0.02 is that you don't have to do anything else at this point. Just keep a relaxed mind and bring a gentle curiosity to what's going on with all these weird states, reactions to the weird states, fears about mental functioning, urges to add in some new technique that will solve this, etc.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
11/2/18 11:17 AM as a reply to Zachary.
Yep, your first paragraph sounds very very familiar!

The headache is a painful, dull pressure right at the crown of the head. It's similar to an ordinary tension headache except for the different location and the fact that it's completely dull throughout, with no zones of tight/squeezing/sharp/burning sensation.

If I've slacked off on practice, it may take a few moments of sitting before I can "find" the effort that needs to be released. That's because it's rather subtle. More subtle than in past cycles. But if I can "see" the effort, releasing it will end the headache in under a second.

You're so right that all I can do is just keep practicing. Practice is currently about 95% wandering and 5% gentle noticing becuase that curiosity keeps dissolving. I think anyone could be frustrated with that. Of course, the frustration dissolves too.

If there's anything good about all that wandering, it's how prominent the background OK-ness is. Sort of like the mind is resting in a cocoon where it can soak in an OK-ness that thrives in the absence of any exertion of self-control.

So on the cushion, this whole process is totally fine. Off the cushion... looks like I'll be loading up on nootropics to make it through election night.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
12/16/18 5:31 PM as a reply to J Adam G.
Update:

It was never dissolution. It was hypothyroidism. 

Glad I went to the doctor instead of continuing to blame the dark night--though I wish I had done so earlier.

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
12/17/18 9:18 AM as a reply to J Adam G.
Glad to hear that you've found some answers and hope you're starting to feel better!

RE: Chronic dissolution?
Answer
12/17/18 10:37 AM as a reply to JP.
Thank you, and yes, I feel so much better now. The fog is clearing away and my energy is back!

Concentration is still a little off-kilter, but nothing compared to before treatment. To have such a quick and noticeable improvement in attention span really restores my optimism and eagerness to practice.