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I'm afraid to practice

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I'm afraid to practice
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9/28/10 1:14 AM
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I've mentioned on here several times that I have bipolar disorder and take medications for it. I would like to reach stream entry and had a go at it earlier this year which I talked about in this post: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/349579. I was not on a retreat, I was meditating intensively on my own.

However, that previous post does not capture the true severity of what happened. Over the course of maybe two weeks, I got caught up in other realms, heard tons of voices talking to me, thought I died on 5 different occasions (then for some reason I was still alive), sat on a toilet all night while voices guided me while I was rotting through the floor to the center of the universe, met elves, beings of light, 3-D creatures that were talking to me, I stopped eating, stopped sleeping, got chased by demons, laid on the ground all night while voices told me to "deactive" my body, saw a vast network of super advanced technological beings right under my nose, permeating and ripped under this gross dimension, saw frogs falling down the windows, orbs of universes floating around, my third eye ran me through some kind of rollercoaster jerking like movie of rivers and dinosaurs, I had X-Ray vision and was able to see all my bones, created glowing orbs with my hands, thought I was born to solve a puzzle which I solved and was set to die, laid on a bench all night while I watched beings do surgery on me (I literally saw them in my body and bones helping me out), and on and on and on for well over a week or more (I really don't remember)..... and I eventually ended up in the county mental hospital...

They put me back on my meds and I haven't had a problem since. Though at first I had this weird symptom where my thoughts were manifesting as voices that would repeat themselves.. Eventually, in a few weeks, this went away completely too.

Honestly, the whole thing was so intense and crazy it is just indescribeable. Granted, I had completely stopped my medicaitons before I sat down to do what I did...so I'm not sure what would happen if I was still on them.

What I do understand, is that noting practice is extremely mania inducing for me. My brain starts moving like a racecar (especially at the A&P) and once it gets going it will NOT slow down....the whole thing just falls out of control.

I would like to try other forms of insight practice. I understand that the Thai forest tradition uses samatha jhana to gain insight, and that the thoughts can be considerably slowed. I have also explored Reggie Ray's energy practices, but I'm not sure if I would run into the same problems there or not...

Also, I have yet to find a suitable in-person teacher. I feel like I need a teacher who would be suitable for me and my circumstance (my "condition"). So far I have not found one. Many traditions (like Goenka) blatantly state that meditation is just not suitable for one with my condition. I disagree, though I feel I am far more level-headed and on top of my condition than most I know with the same (to which I would say insight meditation is definitely not good for them, right now). In fact, nobody would probably EVER guess I have bipolar disorder unless I told them. I am extremely even-tempered and innately non-violent.

Given all of this, what is the best next action I can take so I can comfortably work toward stream-entry? I am willing to experiment with intensive noting practice again (because this time I would stay on my meds), but at the same time I know there are many paths up the mountain, so to speak...so I'm sure there is something out there more suitable for me. Should I give noting practice another go on retreat? Should I work with Reggie Ray's energy practices? I understand energy practices can bring out powers and stuff as well ...so I'm not sure. Basically, I've been vacillating like this for months....and instead of doing SOMETHING, I'm doing nothing....

I understand it's good to pick something and "run with it", but I don't want to run that far from sanity again....

Also, I'd rather use my whole name, but I don't want future potential employers to poke around and find this post.

Also, as of right now I am interested in traditional enlightenment and not the methods to achieve an "Actual Freedom."

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/28/10 3:08 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Yep, insight practice can really jack people who are in theory stable up to manic-like territory, so much more those who already are prone to that territory. I would definitely avoid the sort of hard-hitting, 20-hour/day, low sleep, rapid-fire noting practice done here. Something much more stable, grounded, non-visual, concrete, slow, careful, and supervised would be much better, such as Thai Chi or something like that, something bodily rather than mental would be of value.

TripleThink? You there? If so, I still think of you as the expert here on these questions and would love your input.

Daniel

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/28/10 12:22 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I would definitely avoid the sort of hard-hitting, 20-hour/day, low sleep, rapid-fire noting practice done here.

Something much more stable, grounded, non-visual, concrete, slow, careful, and supervised would be much better, such as Thai Chi or something like that, something bodily rather than mental would be of value.

Daniel, that's very sound advice. It's the medication factor (which can tie in with the mental faculties) that is the fly in the ointment. Like you, when I first read this post, I wouldn't recommend practicing on one's own, unsupervised. Even with the sincerity of the plea.

What might be helpful to focus on accomplishing in such a case is the slow and even development of concentration. Coupled with easily noticeable goals like: just watching the breath and observing how it goes, or becoming aware of how mental formations arise and subside (a direct experience of impermanence or anicca). Just simple things that will help build confidence in the practice and provide some insight.

And as long as the current medication can assist the mind in staying in a fairly stable condition, a practice of reading and contemplating the translated Pali discourses might also help to bring some structure as well as wholesome content (with the possibility of insight) to the practice.

Once concentration can become established, the rest is a matter of insight. And presuming a clear mind as the ground for insight to arise, it is possible too achieve that despite the condition of having to rely on medication to stabilize the mind. The supervision should help keep things from going off the track.

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/28/10 1:25 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
i do not mean in any way to dismiss the excellent advice given by both daniel and ian above, but i do have a question as an aside:

what would you do if you didn't have any source of information on this at all, or anyone else to ask opinions or solutions from? this includes doctors.

tarin

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/28/10 9:46 PM as a reply to tarin greco.
tarin greco:
i do not mean in any way to dismiss the excellent advice given by both daniel and ian above, but i do have a question as an aside:

what would you do if you didn't have any source of information on this at all, or anyone else to ask opinions or solutions from? this includes doctors.

tarin


Hmm.. I'm not sure how to immediately answer this question. I already feel like I don't have any sources of information about this. There are no guides on the internet with instructions for someone with bipolar disorder (on western meds) on how to get enlightened. In fact, there is no information about it at all.

I feel I am very good at staying stable meditating on several hours a day, so it's no problem there. Also, concentration practices, of any duration, are no problem for me. They keep me very healthy and sane. I understand that it is much easier to do concentration practices after first path, but that may not be a feasible option for me. I may have to spend considerable time developing concentration and then try to get insight from within jhana, like in the Thai forest tradition. This is going to take considerable discipline and patience on my part...

I could get really into the Reggie Ray body-work stuff that takes meditation out of your head and into your body. Over-focusing on visual and auditory sensations is probably not the best idea.... I could look into Tai-chi...

Honestly, the only thing I can immediately think of is to move into the body and do lots of concentration to where I can do insight practice out of jhana so my mind stays calm...I'm not sure how strong my concentration needs to be to do this, or if it will be effective. But it would be all I know to try...


**There are two posts below that are the same. I can only see them when I'm not logged in and thus can't delete one. Looks like a glitch you might want to look into.**

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/29/10 2:05 AM as a reply to Ian And.
T A V:
Once concentration can become established, the rest is a matter of insight. And presuming a clear mind as the ground for insight to arise, it is possible too achieve that despite the condition of having to rely on medication to stabilize the mind. The supervision should help keep things from going off the track.


What level of concentration do you suggest? Mastering all eight jhanas? Being able to attain to eighth jhana? (is this impossible for someone who is not even a stream-enterer?). Would mastering a lot of jhana be more helpful than say mastering a tai chi or body practice? (You may not know the answer to this if you are unfamiliar with such practices). Should I put equal effort and time into both? Should I focus on jhana first? Should I forget jhana and dive into body practices?

In order to begin practicing insight meditation, I have found that while being able to master the initial four levels of absorption can be quite effective in helping to condition the mind with concentration ability, that even just being able to attain a level of samadhi just lower than absorption seems to also be an effective state for insight practice to take place.

To clarify this a bit, the absorption level of samadhi would be along the line of appana samadhi, or "fixed concentration" wherein the mind becomes absorbed in the meditation object, with all the subsequent jhana factors following: meaning vitakka (directed attention), vicara (sustained attention), piti (rapture or elation), and sukha (pleasure or joy). Just below the appana samadhi level is what some have termed upcara samadhi or neighborhood concentration (also called "access concentration"). Upacara samadhi would be a sufficient level of concentration to begin performing insight meditation. As long as you are able to focus the mind on an object or subject for 3 to 5 minutes without the mind wandering or without unnoticed mind wandering, then you should be on solid ground for vipassana to arise. Upacara samadhi would allow for this, in my experience.

T A V:
I feel I am very good at staying stable meditating on several hours a day, so it's no problem there. Also, concentration practices, of any duration, are no problem for me. They keep me very healthy and sane. . . . I may have to spend considerable time developing concentration. . . This is going to take considerable discipline and patience on my part...

I could get really into the Reggie Ray body-work stuff that takes meditation out of your head and into your body.
Over-focusing on visual and auditory sensations is probably not the best idea.... I could look into Tai-chi...

Honestly, the only thing I can immediately think of is to move into the body and do lots of concentration to where I can do insight practice out of jhana so my mind stays calm...I'm not sure how strong my concentration needs to be to do this, or if it will be effective. But it would be all I know to try...

It sounds as though you are taking a balanced look at this, considering your condition. If you feel comfortable with the Reggie Ray material, it may be a good compromise practice which may be very helpful and effective for you. Using that practice (or even Tai-chi) as a base, you could work into developing deeper levels of concentration during sitting meditation which should help to develop the requisite level necessary for effective insight practice. You will likely need some instruction on what to look for during these insight meditation sessions. Starting out small and simple, though, and building up later to more complex subjects should help you gain confidence in your abilities in this.

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/29/10 8:43 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:


TripleThink? You there? If so, I still think of you as the expert here on these questions and would love your input.

Daniel


Yes, if there is anyone out there who is post stream-entry with bipolar disorder, I would like to hear from you. I have unfortunately discovered, from first-hand experience, that a good amount of the standard advice here and in MCTB just does not apply to me... If there is someone in a similar circumstance who has figured out a path, I would prefer not to spend too much wasted time re-inventing the wheel.

But if I have to go my own way, I will.

For now I will go with my gut and Ian's advice and cultivate more concentration and begin exploring energy practices, qi gong, tai chi, Reggie Ray, etc...

RE: I'm afraid to practice
Answer
9/30/10 6:54 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
TAV, your clarity, in the face of this condition, is admirable.

The one time I got the closest to what happened to you on that retreat, i.e. being completely run over by the trains of imagination, was when I had energetic overload in A&P of first path. What I did was indeed turning into tai chi and other similar body-oriented practices. I focused on grounding, by working with the parts of the energy body which were supposedly important to ground energy: the conception vessel (in the front of the body, going down), and the legs (hips, knees, ankles, and the back of the leg, going down).

So far I haven't had any overload problems again.

Whatever you do, best of luck!

RE: I'm afraid to practice - update to this post
Answer
10/17/12 12:56 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Hi,

Just as an update on this... I just completed a 5-day retreat at Spirit Rock (after not having done insight practice for 10 months). I couldn't shake not practicing because I woke up in the middle of the night about month before the retreat in the A&Pish (or heavy hitting mind and body) territory and all the sensations that normally cause me to suffer were "out there" and I briefly remembered what it was like...then I just couldn't resist..

Now I am pretty certain I am in High Equinimity. This is because I had actually passed through every stage the last time, and the only difference this time is that I didn't have all the crazy visions. I didn't realize at all just how far I had gotten last time.....I thought I'd only just gone insane. I came out of the retreat at the A&P and then passed through the dark night on the toilet at work this afternoon.

To anyone else in a similar situation as myself, STAY OUT of the visual sense field, especially in the beginning (cause and effect/a&p territory). This was my biggest mistake last time. Also, this time I stayed on my medications, so that may have helped. Also making sure to fall asleep was very important (last time I wasn't regulating my sleep/wake cycle properly). I had one very intense moment on retreat when I first hit the A&P, the exact same and similar visions from before popped up when I was trying to sleep, but I dove right into bodily sensations and made a vow to regard all auditory and visual visions as "makkyo" and to be noted off as illusory impermanent phenomena. The whole thing only lasted a couple of seconds and was gone...

Now I'm going to spend some time doing concentration in high equinimity. I'll post later if I happen to get several fruition type experiences to see if I have stream entry.

HISTORY EDIT: This 5 day retreat quickly evolved into a similar and even worse episode than listed above, even while on medications. Though there were few problems when actually on the retreat.