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Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight

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Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Daniel M. Ingram 9/26/09 4:53 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nathan I S 3/20/09 8:02 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Jackson Wilshire 3/20/09 8:07 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 3/20/09 9:54 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Jackson Wilshire 3/20/09 10:10 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/20/09 9:30 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/20/09 9:35 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/20/09 9:53 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/20/09 10:01 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Daniel M. Ingram 3/21/09 4:32 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Zyndo Zyhion 8/30/10 10:07 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Jackson Wilshire 3/21/09 5:00 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 3/21/09 6:16 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight C4 Chaos 3/21/09 8:13 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 3/21/09 12:05 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight C4 Chaos 3/21/09 12:37 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 3/21/09 1:20 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/21/09 2:25 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight C4 Chaos 3/21/09 2:35 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight C4 Chaos 3/21/09 2:44 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Kenneth Folk 3/21/09 2:55 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 3/21/09 5:27 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight beta wave 3/22/09 1:01 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Trent S. H. 3/22/09 4:53 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 5:30 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 5:54 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 6:05 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 6:08 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 6:10 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 1:15 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight triple think 3/22/09 1:58 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight beta wave 3/22/09 2:17 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight tarin greco 3/22/09 9:58 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nicola Joanne Dunn 4/27/09 8:48 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nicola Joanne Dunn 4/27/09 8:54 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nicola Joanne Dunn 4/27/09 8:59 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nicola Joanne Dunn 4/27/09 9:05 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Nicola Joanne Dunn 4/27/09 9:07 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Cameron Wilding 5/1/09 3:03 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Wet Paint 5/27/09 7:07 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight chamaeleon yogi 11/17/09 1:40 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Florian 5/27/09 10:43 PM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight chamaeleon yogi 12/6/09 1:02 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Tim Freeman 8/14/13 5:13 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight Tom Tom 8/14/13 5:38 AM
RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight ivory 3/17/17 9:58 AM
Bipolar Disorder and Insight

I got an email asking about Bipolar Disorder (AKA Manic-Depressive Disorder) and how it related to the traditional maps of the Progress of Insight. As one who advocates for truth in advertising and frank disclosure of what can happen when people get into insight practice, both good and bad, here is my response in slightly edited form. I hope that it provokes some thoughtful discussion of this complex topic.
***************
You are obviously not the first to notice the similarity between A&P events and Manic Episodes and The Dark Night (Dukkha Ñanas, Insight stages 5-10) and Depressive Episodes. The parallels are many and striking.

Here's a short list:

Age of Onset: most people who cross the A&P spontaneously do so in their teenage years to 20's. Most people who are Bipolar will have their first Manic Episode then as well.

Sequence: The Dark Night follows the A&P like thunder follows lightening. Same for Depression following Manic Episodes.

Timing: The A&P tends to last some number of days to maybe a week or two tops: so do manic episodes. The Dark Nights that follows A&P Events tend to last for months: so do the depressive episodes that follow manic episodes.

Sleep: People tend to sleep very little during the A&P and be more tired during the Dark Night. Same for the corresponding bipolar states.

Energy: People tend to have all kinds of energy to put into grand projects, schemes, relationships, sex and the like during the A&P and have much less for those same things, including work, school and relationships during the Dark Night. Same goes for their bipolar equivalents.

Mood: People tend to be high as kites during the A&P and dark and depressed during the Dark Night. Same applies to bipolar states.

Powers: People in the A&P may feel they have special powers, common ones being things like seeing through their eye lids, seeing bright lights, reading other people's minds, traveling out of body, seeing past lives, hearing and seeing entities, and many others. Ditto for Manic Episodes.

Here are the differences:

People in the A&P tend to generally function well, where as people with Manic Episodes, as classically defined, tend to need to be institutionalized or medicated to avoid really destroying their lives, spending all their money, ruining their relationships, getting into fights, being arrested, gambling away all their money, having sex with lots of people, thinking they are the King/Queen of the Universe, etc. In short, this is a difference between functional hypomania and true psychotic mania.

People in the Dark Night tend to be somewhat less functional in terms of relationships and the like. In contrast, people with classic Depressive swings tend to be much more dysfunctional, suicidal, and may have psychotic features, like voices telling them to kill themselves, or delusions that they are very sick and will die soon, or everyone is out to get them, etc.

However, while I make the line clear cut by way of rhetoric, in truth it is not so straightforward. Case in point: I remember getting a call some time ago from someone who may actually be somewhere in the middle paths. They were suicidal at the time and quite afraid. A few days later they left Re-Observation and got in Equanimity and suddenly were fine, but it just goes to show that it is not always easy straightening this out, mapping it in real-time, or compensating even when you know the maps very well and are a skilled insight practitioner.

Another friend was in the middle paths and was formally diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) as having Bipolar II Rapid Cycling and put on meds for it, which helped somewhat. When they attained to a higher path they were suddenly alright and didn't needs meds at all. Was their diagnosis simply the struggling of a Western therapist to put the cycles of insight into their only related box, or was this actually a correct diagnosis that was in fact cured by more insight? These terminological questions are not just semantics and have real implications for mental health and insight practice and handling both skillfully. I wish I had firm answers to them, but I don't.

Regarding your question on whether or not the traditional sources help: I know of no Buddhist writings that address this. Nowhere have I found anything that describes these things in a way that fits with a Western psychological perspective. The traditional maps were written for monks, who in theory were pretty high functioning people, in a culture that had nothing like our current concepts of mental illness.

More interesting parallels: those who keep crossing the A&P and getting into Dark Night territory and then fall back due to not getting stream entry and then crossing the A&P again and getting into the Dark Night, etc., tend to get more reactive with each pass, just as people with Bipolar do: as they get older and have more manic episodes, they get worse.

If you are only having these experiences on retreat, they are probably related to the cycles of insight. Good practice and clear investigation with awareness of the maps and a willingness to compensate and keep your mouth shut except when around people who can help you navigate the territory is generally recommended. On the other hand, those who have these things in daily life with the features that seem more ominous of more classic Bipolar disorder should seek help quickly, as Bipolar disorder can really screw up your life. I have had a few close friends over the years who were Bipolar and I have seen what happens when it is not managed well and it is not pretty.

Where one might be tempted to argue that people with Bipolar Disorder are merely the far extreme of what can happen in the cycles of insight, I don't have sufficient evidence to support that and would need further confirmation, such as sufficient numbers of clearly Bipolar people gaining sufficient paths and suddenly being cured to make definitive conclusions. At this time, so far as I know, there is simply not enough data. However, as you point out, there certainly are so many parallels that it is hard to simply write them off as being unrelated phenomena.

It is not accidental that I sometimes refer to those who have crossed the A&P at least once as having "Insight Disease".

I think that discussing the dark side of practice is important, and here is a page dedicated to one of these dark sides. Please feel free to lend your thoughts, experiences and wisdom.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 8:02 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel, do you mind briefly addressing some of the physiological theory behind bipolar disorder?

It's a strange request but it might bring some light to things.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 8:07 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The primary criteria for Bipolar I in the DSM-IV is that the person has had at least one manic episode (the depressive episode isn't required, but it is more common than not). Bipolar II is a bit different, in that there needs to be at least one 'hypomanic' episode and one depressive episode. The difference between mania and hypomania is fairly clear as far as definitions go, though the real world application is much less precise. This analogy might help; A person in a 'hypomanic' phase might think they are very important and have an unusually high self-esteem, while someone in a true 'manic' episode may think they're Jesus Christ. Or, someone in a hypomanic episode may waste all of their money on clothing and food to the point of going broke, whereas someone in a truly manic episode may go out and buy six Ferraris on credit.

As far as I know, it doesn't matter a whole lot to a clinician what brings on the manic or hypomanic episode. If you've had an episode, you can receive the diagnosis. This gets tricky in regards to insight territory. Is the energy that causes manic episodes in Bipolar individuals the same as the energy that causes insight practitioners to cycle? It makes me wonder if there are any Bipolar individuals who experience Bipolar cycles simultaneously with insight cycles, and if they could really tell the difference between the two. In both cases, the cycling aspect seems to take on a life of its own.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 9:54 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: chrisb483

Bipolar can help with enlightenment, as can any event that breaks your association with reality, but it needs much greater effort to come out of it cleanly.

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in the late 90's, mostly depressive and sometimes hypomanic. I found that I have a problem with glutamate (not gluten). Those who know me say that the change is real. It has been a few years since I had wither a depressive or a manic episode and I was hospitalized twice and my cycles were always in the span of 6 months to a year.

I am happy to say science is finally catching up with my discovery:
http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=glutamate+bipolar+disorder&num=20&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&client=safari&scoring=r&as_ylo=2004

Here is part of my story:
http://www.finkshrink.com/blog/bipolar-stories-and-insights/christian-bonanno

My family is riddled with the genetics of the disorder, in fact, my nephew just killed himself at 13 years old after suffering from lazy doctors and an early onset of the disease. I was just luckier than him or my other brother that I had some luck of insight and wisdom.

To me insight is all just a manipulation of chemicals in the brain, some can do it with drugs, some with meditations, and some have it thrust upon them with genetics. And just as anyone can get caught becoming addicted to drugs and meditation, one can get addicted to being bipolar. In effect, it is just forced insight, but without the correct context around it, bipolar disorder can seem to be a curse.

Daniel, it seems "oddly" coincidental that you posted this. :^)

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 10:10 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
chrisb483:

Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I'm sorry to hear about your nephew.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 9:30 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I don't know what to say. Ask me anything about this and I can produce limitless commentary. To steal a line from Bladerunner, "I have seen things... you people wouldn't believe."

My CV:

Relentlessly cycling from birth, I hit an A&P with massive force at 13. At 15, undertaking anapana-sati samathavipassana triggered undeniably clear and profoundly penetrating anatta/annicca fruition, at least 2nd if not 3rd path. I had no knowledge at that time that any of these terms even existed. By 16 I was forcibly hospitalized for the first time. I have been subjected to most every diagnosis, almost every form of treatment and damned near every drug. No lasting effects from any of that and no end of fallout from nanas and cycling. All told I have been forcibly confined for well over a year of my life. An enigma, untreatable, impenetrable, indefatigable and historically an ongoing cause for professional contests for control of this warm body cold case.

It was never in much of a real sense 'my suffering' so much as profound systemic failings in all of the prevailing models; personal, familial and social. I confound these at every turn without effort which has never been a bad thing for these systems. Because it has failed so utterly it is aware of a real and total failure which I just as visibly do not willingly share in. Fondly, the path of irony.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 9:35 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I know most every other neurosis and psychosis, human and institutional, intimately. This mind never could fabricate a convincing self identity and instead has an adaptively reflexive and 'sponge-like' imitative capacity. Give me anyone with any form of crazy talk and I can have a sensible two way conversation within five minutes. I can give you the satipatthana for most of the commonly prescribed psycho actives and many of the less common in all of the highest known dosage ranges in multiple combinations. All of this drug use was compusory and unwillful on my part and prescribed without consultation. I have never caused myself nor any other being physical harm. I can maintain full awareness and nervous system control after four ccs of haladol. Think about that if you are thinking about knocking me down a notch.

Ask away. I will elucidate any of it as fully as you like. Psychiatry has endless models for delusion and dysfunction. It has no models for awakening and that is what can make it powerfully oppressive. Shooting into the dark is like that. I'm awake to all of this and hip to nuts. This generated a whole meta layer of political concern as I observed the system feeding on suffering as well as it's half assed attempts at mediating it and I have become a soft power activist by force of circumstance. More than anything this experience has proven extensively useful when helping others through to the other side of these kinds of highly multifaceted hells. I've become a veteran dark night yogi wise to the heaviest of dukkhas with a lot of street sense. I can do more for the mentally ill than any doctor ever could hope to do right under their noses. Accredited arrogance and blindness renders this invisibility as well. Conditionally ennobled and disabled. No big thing.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 9:53 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hey Kenneth, get this, the last time I was in hospital was about 3 years ago directly from a monastery. Couldn't sleep for days. Drove off at 4 am. 10 hours on the road. Got to emerge, got in, got dosed and compelled to stay a week for observation.

First guy I meet is a young vietnamese kid, about 16, locked onto a pure land jhana and chanting Amitabha mantra endlessly in a thick accent that resulted in something very lewd sounding if it were taken for english words. We would go for long walks and he chanted, he chanted all day.

One day a senior gentleman arrived looking tired and concerned. The young man stopped chanting and explained to me that this was his uncle who was very worried about him. He explained that he was in the pure lands and enjoying this life as it was a gift for past good kamma. Great kid. Very positive and energetic. Completely on another planet, entirely socially dysfunctional apparently near autistic but lucid with me. Pure trippin'. Probably never feels any of the drugs at all.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/20/09 10:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
oops. transmission error

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 4:32 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Dear TripleThink,

Thanks for your detailed histories and insights. Very interesting and useful. I myself have been lucky in that most side effects that really would have looked out there were brief and I had the sense to keep my mouth shut and just keep doing relatively normal things, but I can see how in various places one could easily do otherwise and have the world consider it too out there for comfort or understanding.

The Western Psychological models really do need something more sophisticated regarding insight territory and concentration territory, and I have always wondered why there are so many psychotherapists and psychiatrists and mental health workers on insight retreats in the West and yet apparently so little trickle down of that into the standard cultural and conceptual paradigms of its standard practice. Perhaps the likes of Jack Kornfield and the like who are cross-trained in both are doing more behind the scenes than it appears, but whatever is happening, it is clearly too little.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 5:00 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Jack Kornfield writes about some of the "abnormal" states and experiences of meditation in his latest book, The Wise Heart. He describes what it is like for him to experience concentration jhanas (though only 1 - 6), and he also attempts to legitimize psychic powers. I find that he mostly attempts to legitimize aspects of the path that people find useful. Aside from MCTB and this forum, I have yet to hear anyone go in to detail about how some stages can really mess with your life in a profound way. More could be done, and more NEEDS to be done.

This is a big part of why I decided to start studying psychology, and will be apply to Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs this year. The prevailing psychological models are too mechanistic and inflexible, which I think is a side effect of the scientific materialism that plagues the greater Western scientific community. It would be great to establish relationships with local contemplative communities in order to be a resource for people experiencing difficulties in life due to their spiritual undertakings. It's highly unlikely that I could build a whole practice around that, but a guy can dream ;-)

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 6:16 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: marinr

I don't know. My first memory in this life is somewhat 'mystical' and that state seems to repeat in jhana practice. My first spiritual experience was when I was 14. I've been a little unstable since then, and I recognize some of the symptoms, but it has never gotten extreme. I just got a little bit dark, introvert and addicted to silence.

I feel that there are some very weird, inexpressible states in the insight cycle that fall into my limited understanding of 'mental illness'. And also, around the very end of the cycle, it feels like those states also come to an end.

Anyway, there was a siddhi-like experience somewhere in the path where I saw 'gods & demons' fighting with each other and I associated this with these states. It helped, something in the way of: 'Ah, let them play, it has nothing to do with me.'

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 8:13 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
thanks for sharing your very interesting first-person experiences. i now know who to contact should i plunge into the "unhealthy" side of awakening emoticon

on a more serious note, it's a sad state of affair that psychiatry/psychology (not to mention neuroscience) are still lagging very far behind as far as models of awakening are concerned. this is the challenge that Ken Wilber had been taking on since he wrote his first book. to his credit, he has already laid out a model called "Integral Psychology" (see http://bit.ly/10lZGp ). the jargons are a bit complicated (what field of science doesn't have any jargons?) but it looks promising to me.

it's also good to know that people like Jack Kornfield, Shinzen Young, and Christine Skarda are taking on the challenge too. (on a side note: speaking of Skarda, she's working on revamping perceptual theory in neuroscience. see "The Perceptual Form of Life " - http://bit.ly/skEo - when you get the chance, would love to hear your thoughts based on your first-hand experience.)

keep it flowing...

~C

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 12:05 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: chrisb483

Psychiatry and western medicine is farther ahead than you think.

But the knowledge is not needed. Just sit and be mindful.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 12:37 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
can you explain how far it is? could you cite an example we can learn from? is it farther than Wilber's "Integral Psychology"? or maybe "Spiral Dynamics"? i'm always open to new information.

knowledge is not needed? from the absolute perspective maybe, but not in the relative. there's a reason why the "nanas" are called "knowledge of".

~C

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 1:20 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: chrisb483

Brain plasticity is increased with anti-depressants and is replicated with the calorie restriction encouraged by the 10 precepts.
http://websites.afar.org/site/PageServer?pagename=IA_b_cal_19_r_brain

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is Buddhism.
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=10,1649,0,0,1,0

Psychiatrists apply them together, like the Buddha prescribed. They just use different and less loaded words.

Knowledge of nanas is not a conceptual knowledge.

You do not need to know "how" enlightenment works to become enlightened.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 2:25 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I've met with highly skilled private (and expensive) doctors, therapists and counselors. I have had help from some highly qualified specialists and the advice of some exceptional biochemists. In contrast the public health care system is operated as an industry. They give out numbers and drugs and deal with this as a mass process. The mass of public clients, climbing well beyond 10% of the population doesn't get much individual attention at all. Maybe 15 minutes over two weeks of hospitalization. The drug regime is deployed and the patient is released with prescriptions.

There is one particularly powerful drug that they put me on about seven years ago. It builds up in the system for two weeks as many of them do. By about day three you are in an unnaturally highly pleasant state of mind at all times. It took a while to see how this one worked. It was intensely pleasant to experience anything, even the obviously naturally unpleasant. It became clear that what stopped functioning was the capacity to adjudicate the mean of experience, everything was equally acceptable and wonderful. One could sit down to tea or step out into the path of a bus with equivalent peace of mind. It made rational thought impossible until it was again stopped for two weeks after leaving and its primary effect had subsided.

Later after months of hard work in the summer sun I contracted skin cancer. The drug I had been given weakens the cell walls and ultraviolet rays became far more carcinogenic in the months following use. I had to be treated for the skin cancer and discover for myself that this known side effect is in fact something that one needs to take steps to deal with. I was never informed about any side effects of the medication when it was administered. It can be very important to know quite a few things these days.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 2:35 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Chris,

thanks for the links. bookmarked for reading. that said, neuroscience is still lagging when it comes to its model of perception, not to mention the nature of consciousness. most are still looking for consciousness in the brain (http://bit.ly/saJwH).

i agree. we "do not need to know "how" enlightenment works", same way as as i don't need to know how a microwave works to get benefit from it. but to me, "enlightenment" is not the end game. eventually, we would need knowledge in order to express it more fully. just because someone's enlightened doesn't mean that he's an expert in mathematics, physics, cooking, or even deep meaningful conversations.

~C

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 2:44 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
where can i sign up? i'll just bring an umbrella to avoid the sun emoticon

seriously, thanks again for sharing your very interesting experiences. i've always wondered whether, in the far future, that it would be possible to create an "enlightenment" pill or something similar to the God helmet (http://bit.ly/3A5Wemoticon which would render the long-term practices obsolete. BUT, of course, everyone will interpret the experience differently depending on their level of psycho/physio-energetic development. so it would be imperative to have a good psycho-social developmental model to introduce the "enlightenment" experience in a gradual way. what a different world it could be, for better or for worse, i believe no one can say.

~C

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 2:55 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Nathan, thanks for your courage and generosity in sharing your experience. I learn a lot from your posts. The "happy pill" you describe sounds like some kind of hell realm masquerading as heaven. It seems to me there is a parallel with some of the prevailing views of "happy-all-the-time" enlightenment. In any case, I feel fortunate to have you as part of this community.

Kenneth

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/21/09 5:27 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: solxyz

A related question, which triplethink has alluded to, is the effect that different psychiatric drugs can have on spiritual development and awakening. Theoretically, Reality should be discoverable in any state, even while medicated. Yet if these drugs are able to suppress certain kinds of awareness that are developing and that need to develop, awakening can at least be derailed. Someone like triplethink with a highly trained mind and a clear intention may be able to see through these drugs, but thats not true for everyone.

I have a friend who began having psychotic experiences, undoubtedly as a result of some kind spontaneous spiritual awakening. He wound up in some psych wards and then on a number of different drugs. Now he is a long-term dark night yogi using drugs to help him hold onto some kind of animal-realm ignorance/stupidity that would otherwise be untenable for him at this point. Its amazing how small the range of his awareness has become.

Any ideas on how this works, different ways that meds may influence one's path, or ways that one can relate to and "see through" their meds?

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 1:01 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
--- deleted --

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 4:53 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
@Solxyz:

Many alterations of our mind can be sensed like a "filter" which the normal awareness passes through. Sort of like being able to see that the "normal," pre-medicated state is intact, but being unable to prevent it from filtering through the drugged layer. This is sort of abstract and in and of itself can make a person feel nuts, as they can see their normal awareness but cannot help but be altered by the drug. Perhaps folks like Triplethink have become skillful at ignoring the filter aspect of the situation?

Just a thought, and sort of abstract way of viewing it. Can't say I've been on much, but that is something I have noticed at times.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 5:30 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
It all depends on the particular drug. Some effects are obvious others are not at all. I was given drugs at times that triggered an oscillating anxiety/agitation that was very intense and almost unbearable physically and psychologically. One could not sit still and one could not focus well enough to do anything. Many drugs produced very nasty tactile sensations in the body. A sensation like ants crawling under the skin and other ugly sensations in various parts of the body. Many of the newer drugs have very subtle cognitive effects. They often produce slow reedy sensations that vibrate in the body. Some effects can be overcome, some can only be observed and some are not consciously knowable. All of the effects can eventually be noted if you are on the drug long enough. One needs to be aware of the biases of 'perceptual filters' before, during, and after the period of the drugs effects to know how these 'filters' were altered by the drug. Almost all of the drug therapies are extremely hard on the body. My main concern about the predominance of drug therapies is that they do nothing to actually address the root causes which in most cases are not biochemical imbalances but genuinely psychological or social problems.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 5:54 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I don't expect to ever see a drug or device that 'causes' awakening. Take LSD and you are going to have access to pretty much every form of altered perception we have described in relation to the progress of insight with ease for about eight hours but if you don't know what to make of these perceptions you are no further ahead and potentially the mind can become very upset by the same kinds of perceptions without the preparatory work. Non dual perceptions are brought on by many drugs as are energetic, auditory and visual perceptual changes of many kinds.

I consider drugs like LSD or mescaline to be among those that speed up neural processing in a variety of ways which present similarly to very rapid noting. The kinds of developmental changes in awareness we are pursuing here are slow to develop, multifaceted and and eventually arrive at a degrees of stability as in the ranks and paths models. It is the accumulation of many repeatedly and clearly observed perceptions in several different ways (eg. noting object, eye and eye consciousness) and mindful reflection on this that results in the kind of progressive shift of awareness that eventually culminates in what we would call a path attainment. The whole process isn't replicable by means of drugs or devices alone.

I consider insight practice to equate to 'cleansing the doors of perception' and the use of drugs such as LSD to equate to 'kicking in the doors of perception'.

Awakened perceptions, forms of perceptual 'madness' and what may be externally perceived about either kind of mentality are different perceptions. There is some potential for making sense of all of it within one model. I don't think I could have endured the extent of the madness that, circumstantially, awakened awareness resulted in exposure to without the awakened awareness to see me through it.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 6:05 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
To contextualize a disaster. Conditions were favorable/unfavorable. The path has unfolded itself all along against all odds. I was a faithful christian child. All I have ever been able to effect is either resistance or accommodation to the unfolding of the path processes. The initial new fruition occurred naturally in adolescence with the emergence of critical thought like a lotus on the surface of a clear pond. I was deeply introspective all along and a virtuous home life and sound moral guidance was a favorable base though the childhood years.

I couldn't un-ring that bell. Having mindfully searched to the end of body and mind with no soul to be found, bible belt platitudes about a personal relationship between Jesus and my demonstrably non-existent immortal soul were either baseless or profound misinterpretations.

With supposed unknowables now penetratively exposed as known, the shift in perspective gave rise to endlessly heretical forms of awareness. Submissive childhood compliance with gross ignorance had it's mythical supports stripped away and could no longer command sufficient respect to inhibit a consciously directed and honest investigation and critical analysis of everything.

Expressed internally insightful integrity destroys dogma and expressed externally it can destroy relationships as well. Honestly expressing the basis for any real reservations was frowned upon and forbidden. Dear old dad the reverend doctor was and is fundamentally concerned about faithfulness to the only way to eternal life and escape from eternal damnation. To reject this in the slightest obviously was and is insanity on my part.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 6:08 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Add the fact we had moved from a large city to a small northern town comprised of a pulp mill and six prisons, including two maximum security institutions, and it was a stressful environment for dealing with any ordinary adolescent issues. Not an auspicious environment for dealing with the issues dealt with here in any other way than immediately and directly, as always. In those conditions it could be no other way.

All of the deeply conservative social institutions surrounding me were also duplicitously thoroughly corrupt. Fortunately, pharmaceutical interventions cannot stop insight from progressing anyways, concentration is endlessly revitalizing for a stressed mind and body and maps and models are not essential. By law, at the time I was first detained, the signature of one doctor was sufficient to strip me of all of my human rights. That I had none was made very clear.

I haven't had to remain engaged all this time but I have passively resisted for a long time and things have changed somewhat. There are now some forms of appeal and consultation. I'm not crazy and I never was. I've never willingly taken any of these powerful pharmaceuticals except for once requesting them on the day previously mentioned to induce sleep cycles which is not permissible within the present system. I was compelled to consume a week of hospital resources instead. That cost the system about 3 to 4 thousand dollars instead of the cost of handing me one pill.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 6:10 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I'm not permanently in the dark night of awake. I'm a sunny day all over. There is just a lot of dark around. I can now have the same kind of initial mindful passage through cessation and hardly pause in my stride. Could naturally for a long time, just didn't know what to call it. It isn't something else happening. It used to bring me to my knees initially when the cycle peaked. Now I know I won't fall over. Over the years these have arisen more subtly, roll through more gently and more frequently.

I know what many widespread delusional mindstates A & P like and can maintain equanimous non dual frames of reference in a room inhabited by many powerful dementias. There are ways to guard against these and ways to engage them beneficially. I can only help eliminate suffering in others that I have knowingly eliminated in myself when it arose for investigation in the same ways to this conscious awareness.

I have seen firsthand what appropriately offered insights can do in this context that can support compassionately unburdening others quickly from powerful delusions. People want out of traps, simply point to the doors and they often walk right out. If I can do this arahats and others should be able to offer people in mental health wards something beneficial through similar direct mindful attention to the arising and passing of these kinds of suffering. The forms of delusion are not actually that diverse they simply express in a great many ways that can't be distinguished without knowledge of the underlying conditions for a given state.

end of 3 part post (from 'context for a disaster')

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 1:15 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
On reflection I think it is important to explain why I am highly politicized about these issues. 30 years ago when I was 'diagnosed' as schizophrenic and taken away in handcuffs, forcibly confined and forced to take very powerful drugs for three months it was made clear that from that point on I would never have any legal rights and recourse ever again. So factor in a meditation on that and everything else they showed me about the social application and reach of this kind of power at that time. It has been good that I chose as I did to remain in that context and identify with this pathetic group of people. The MF's have had to DEAL with me and the bs I am not willing to put up with. Everything good that they do is solid imho.

We can vote now, retain legal council, process appeals, etc.. We were nothing before, that should never be tolerated. Abuses were not monitored and still only poorly. It was no different from unlawful confinement and the right to torture in any context. It bred an ill culture in that professional community, seriously, there are still big hangovers, but it is much better but still way too arrogant. Society has to be vigilant and mindful with these judicial social roles in my experience. Professionals with tremendous subjective power over individuals lives should have more oversight with policy and quality control.

Clearly mental illnesses have variable depths and insight demonstrates well how mutable the issues are. People can't be stripped of their legal status as citizens or have liberties unnecessarily curtailed without cause. Certainly I have always respect the law and have never had any difficulties obeying it and ordinary law should imho simply continue to apply regardless of states of mind. Society can be threatened ongoing by those who are suffering in these ways most certainly. But that needs to be legally established, that the suffering is significantly projected and socially warrants sanction.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 1:58 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The mentally ill are in many senses potentially both victims and victimizers. They are the first to win or loose politically in failed states. The nazis took on the strong ones and the weak ones were the first into the ovens. We see the same thing the world over. To the extent that a psychiatric state exists within society it has equivalent qualities of wellness and illness on both sides of the power equation. That is how it is politicized for me ongoing. Nuff said.

I wanted to dispense with the issue because it has a bearing but not sidetrack the discussion on insight and mental illnesses. I think the perceptual aspects of insight are similar to many of those in psychosis except that there is the eightfold path and many other models and directives imposed on attention and that qualitative intentionality is the key to how the perceptual pathways open and to the forms of awareness which develop. The psychotic may see rightly but react wrongly and the results can be delusional conceptualizations of many kinds based on misinterpreted perceptions. Optimally we are conditioning our minds to note how perception or conception is still blinded or malformed and in this the mind is effectively therapeutically self medicating or dis-illusioning the more responsive and conceptual qualities of the mind.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 2:17 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Me too. Seen it happen to people I love - having their symptoms treated because no one could see (or be bothered to deal with) the cause. And the cause was something really mundane -- just being overwhelmed by the harshness of the world.

But the point I want to make is that people that go deep into mental illness are often those not willing to question the extension of their ideas. (Is this blaming the victim or an element of truth? It's almost a cliche to talk about the incredible, yet misdirected, ego-strength of people with bi-polar disorder.) This inflexibility causes a lot of suffering. They know who they are, what they are doing, what their importance is, what their life needs to be -- and any threat or counter evidence is horrifically painful.

Learning how to get things to have the right meaning, the right extension, is an iterative and sloppy process - and maybe especially for a meditator. And it can be very hard to get these things right especially in the dark night, when you are question the meaning of life and death, joy and suffering, wisdom and ignorance, everyday life and spiritual states... But if you are able to accept the ambiguity -- and accept the humbling of not really being as big as your old sense of self -- it all works out, despite the turbulance.

Post A&P is basically a crash course in growing up, as unromantic as that sounds. It can have elements of bi-polar, but if the goal is clear (basic and comprehensive sanity)... you can grow and adapt to the insights that come along. And remember that seeking help is a sign of your own innate sense of resourcefulness -- as paradoxical as that sounds.

I don't know if that parallels anyone else's experience.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/22/09 9:58 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
man, well said.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
4/27/09 8:48 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My experiences:

I was sexually abused when I was about 4ish, maybe 5, I'm not sure - I know I was old enough to vaguely know something was wrong about it, but too scared to talk to my parents, and not 100% sure it was wrong.
My Mum was the person who sent me to say goodbye to the guy who did it every week at her church - she didn't know, I know that now I've looked back and analyzed it all, she had no idea of what he was doing to me, she just thought I should say goodbye to the elderly gent because he was in a wheelchair and lonely.
It was a nice thing to do.
But as a result, I got the thing of anything she told me to do was nasty planted into my subconscious.
And so I played up massively as a child.
My Dad, who I was way closer to, had his first major heart attack when I was 3. It's my first memory.
So I was totally messed up. My Mum was a school teacher and suddenly realised when I was about 8 that I was showing signs of severe depression.
She took me to our GP, who listened to her - as a primary school teacher, and a teacher of special needs children, she really did know what she was talking about. And yes, I was massively depressed.
I hated my life, I hated myself, more importantly, I absolutely hated my Mum.
I saw her as the reason for my life being the way it was, and for the reason my Dad was always so ill.
(Not entirely incorrect, but that comes in a bit).
We went to see a child Psychiatrist, who saw me seperately and told me that anything I said would be in confidence, and he wouldn't repeat any of it to my parents.
He then proceeded to tell them every single thing I'd said. Good thing I hadn't actually openend up and told him things...
I might have just been locked up right away then if I had. Though in a more serious way, maybe that would have been better.
...

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
4/27/09 8:54 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I tried to kill my Mum when I was about 7. No one knows. I was going to poison her through a perfume I made for her. I spent ages researching poisons and things in libraries.
I tried to kill myself multiple times.
I refused to go back to see the psychiatrist, and his betrayal has totally ruined therapy for me - it just doesn't work, I can't open up to a therapist, I can barely open up these things to a psychiatrist.

Then when I was about 13 or 14, my Mum had a major breakdown and was diagnosed with bipolar. As soon as we started getting information about it, we realised it was what was wrong with me, I'd just been having problems since I was about 5 or 6, which is incredibly early.
But a really, really stupid doctor told me that you can't be both manic and depressed at the same time, and can't cycle really fast. Well, I now have a Bipolar II diagnosis with major manic-depressive episodes and extremely rapid cycling.
I can literally go from major depressive suicidal to delusional psychotic within a couple of minutes.

How it ties in with Buddhism?
Well I'd never heard of this Dark Night thingie before I started listening to Buddhist Geeks, and I haven't finished reading Daniel's book due to a house move and a major depressive crisis lasting from J anuary until a few weeks ago where I switched to a major manic-psychotic episode.
So I don't really know much, but from what I gather it's when you start to reach a new level of understanding, and suddenly you realise you're letting go of the old understanding, and that is a difficult thing to do in itself, it's letting go of something that makes you you. Also, it seems to me to be the dark side of attainment that no one likes to talk about - oh Buddhism is all lovely and light and shiny. Who'd advertise horrible nasty nightmarish episodes that you have to go through to reach attainment? No one would join!...

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
4/27/09 8:59 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
So anyway, I don't know if I've experienced any of those dark nights. I know I've had some really amazing experiences as part of not only my practice, but searching for help in times of true desperation.
And I know that after amazing times, I've gone through times of hell, and depression and mania.
But part of me doesn't even know if the things I've experienced are true anymore. My Lama said one of my experiences is true, and it is good, and a really good thing, but part of me now knowing about the bipolar and odd Religious experiences that mania can bring about, wonders if everything good I've ever experienced is just that. My brain making fun of me.

As for drugs... I've not taken lsd or anything like that.
I take tramadol and morpheine for my physical disabilities. They can cause hallucinations, and I used to have horrible nasty ones from them, but I'm so used to them now I don't get anything from them other than some pain relief.
I do, however, take an anti-psychotic called Quetiapine (Seroquel brand name). Now this as an anti-psychotic, is designed to dampen the higher brain functions to stop the mania and psychosis taking over and causing bad things to happen.
And I can feel it.
And I think that's because of my practice.
I've always had an amazing visual mind - I didn't have to spend time working up a visualisation, it was just there from the start, I knew how to do it.
And I can feel my brain working, just as I feel my body working. I can feel connections in my mind.
And with the anti-psychotic, I feel like someone's put a hat on my head.
It's like something over my brain, stopping all those higher mind functions. It's truly amazing.
But in a bad way.
I forget things, I can't make mental connections like I should be able to at all.
But... I find it amazing that I know that... that I can feel it.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
4/27/09 9:05 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I honestly don't thing I'd even realise any of that was going on if I hadn't been meditating for half my life.

As for needing drugs... well I'm hoping one day to not need the massive cocktail I take right now. I know that doing my practice and sitting daily really helps my mind. But my mind throws up barriers to it also, so I don't do it.
I've not sat and meditated normally for so long now, it's difficult to start again.
And all it takes is going into my bedroom, grabbing my prayers and sitting on my bed.
But there's such a block in my mind about doing it.

However, I know that I will need drugs for the rest of my life. I know my situation isn't just psychological.
Sure there are terrible things that have happened to me, even beyond what I've said here. And I probably do need to work those out somehow, though with my total lack of faith in counselling that's difficult.

But I am my own healer, or that's how it's supposed to be anyway really, I believe.
If I just put in the effort.

I am very interested in these dark nights though, I do need to read Daniel's book starting it again and getting through it all this time. I downloaded it to my phone so I could read it in bed, but the stupid adobe reader on my phone wouldn't zoom it to a decent level so it would be centred, and I kept having to scroll sideways for every single sentance, which hurt my thumbs and drove me a bit mad!
I don't like reading at the computer much because it hurts my back to spend too much time at the pc, and then I need more morpheine, which isn't a good thing. And my printer is out of cartridges and I can't afford more right now (mania is a bad thing for money...and this time has been terrible!).
So I guess it might have to wait a bit.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
4/27/09 9:07 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I hope my contribution helps a bit, I wasn't really sure what to say; everyone here seems so much more experienced and knowledgeable than me. But I've been looking for information about BP and Buddhism for a long time now, and it's good to find other people with mental health issues who also practice Buddhism and will have some of the issues I have.

I'm better at answering questions really, since my anti-psychotics really mess my thinking up for posting myself, and I'm on tons at the moment due to a psychotic episode, so if anyone has questions, ask and that might be easier for me to respond to.

Djon Ma
Nicola

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
5/1/09 3:03 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Nicola, a great friend of mine also suffers from Bipolar II with rapid cycling. Even though this is not my tale to tell, I know that he would like you to know that you are not alone.

During a manic episode last year, he was taking so much clonazepam that he couldn't safely walk down a flight of stairs, or take a shower, and yet retained a breathtaking intuition and withering intelligence that humbled me in conversation. All the clonazepam did was make him impotent to follow through on these insights. It was heartbreaking. Every day, he would develop new bruises because he simply *could not* remain still, and kept trying to carry on with normal life.

It was like a sick but noble beast being slowly run to ground by a tribe of hyenas. Eventually, the psych convinced him to take a course of haloperidol (an older anti-psychotic), and that was like hitting the noble beast between the eyes with an elephant gun. It stunned the mania out of him, and he then titrated off both medications. With fresh eyes for the first time in months, he spent six weeks in bed staring at the wall and not much else. I suppose he was trying to place the episode in context.

Not sure why I'm telling you this. I think it might be heading well off-topic for the original thread emoticon But I just felt like your honesty deserved an answering story. He is also a vipassana meditator, and has been on quite a few 10-day retreats in the Goenka-style tradition (he had to talk his way into those the first couple of times as most retreat centres are quite wary of accepting participants with mental illnesses).

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
5/27/09 7:07 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Author: bboyYen

I think there are some ways to know whether you cycle in dark night, or you are just normally depressed.

Or if cycling in dark night and depression are the same thing.


If you are cycling in dark night and become depressed then normally I wouldn't say there would be any external cause for your depression.

Whereas with other people they maybe become depressed due to external factors, like being abused or death of a loved one (though I wouldn't know how any of those feel).

To summarize I bought Liberating Insight - Frits Koster around when I was 9. (but got interested in Buddhism around 6 or 7 from a book on mandalas and another on the Buddha, always was interested in Daoism, Paranormal, Joy of Satan, Jainism and all those things, I even translated parts of Bazi texts)

And then gave up Buddhism afterwards (and experimented with other religions, kind of), but still never really strayed from it (I guess).

And I did have insights.

But my question is if it is true that a person who cycles in dark night does get worse with each cycle, like one particular narcissist claims that he gets worse, and bipolar people do in fact get worse (if that's the case).

Then what happens when they die cycling in dark night?

Where are they reborn?

Does the fact that they have reached a point of no return have any effect? On futures lives?


Also Frits Koster's book does mention the "stage of rolling up the mat" and such, but normal or traditional Buddhism doesn't mention any of these decline in feelings during medtation.

Besides the Visuddhimagga which only gives stages up until stream entry (or kind of like that) what other traditional maps or texts are there that actually mention these depressions or dark nights?

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
5/27/09 10:43 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi bboyYen

Just about the "rolling up the mat" stage - it's also mentioned in Daniel Ingrams book, and I think I came across the phrase in Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw's book on the progress of insight as well. It corresponds to the 10th nana, re-observation.

Take care,
Florian

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
12/6/09 1:02 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Uh, for anybody who read a previous version of this post: it was a false promise that it links the progress of insight to psychosis, nevertheless it may pay off according to the current question. Facts are as follows, as I found out after a recheck:

Edward Podvoll , a former teaching therapist & psychiatris at the Naropa Institute and later tibetan buddhist lama, presents a theoretical framework of causes and dynamics of different aspects of psychosis, to which he also counts bipolar disorder, in his book "Recovering Sanity" . In previous editions it was titled "The Seduction of Madness", to which I refer here, Harper Collins 1990, its subtitle is "revolutionary insights into the world of psychosis and a compassionate approach to recovery at home". Theory is being introduced in it using of four case studies.

There's a list of possible triggers for psychosis contained, e.g. sleep deprivation or acute kidney failure, though "general harshness of the world" is not listed, and an attempt to explain general, especially institutionalized ("furor therapeuticus"), aggression against psychotics (put short it is everyone's fear of the own potential to go mad, which, as it is said, everyone could). The recovery approach also embraces the social design of treatment facilities to avoid exactly that sort of hostility. Perhaps the user manual for hostile institutions is Erving Goffman's "Asylums - Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates".

Podvoll put his approach into practice in the windhorse recovery programs for psychotic patients released from psychiatric hospitals, sort of non-treatment approach based on genuine personal relationships backed with mindfulness. A clinically certified paranoid schizophrenic friend of mine (whom I additionally certified having passed A&P accompanied with piles of special effects) strongly agreed to the views proposed (but unfortunately he couldn't make any use of it any more since he jumped in front of a train a few weeks ago. Or it even may have been one of the triggers, bringing enough clarity to leave but not enough perspective to stay, who knows **). Btw. recently appeared the documentary someone beside you abut the situation of mentally ill in general and the windhorse approach in particular.

Although the whole book abounds with what seem to be references to insight stages (e.g. speaking about "awakening" in an A&P manner, p. 17, or about psychosis as "spiritual crisis" in a dark night fashion, p. 64) and there is a lot about cycling through stages, powers, effort, mindfulness, speed and so on, indeed it does not employ the stages of insight, particularilly not the classical progress of insight a la Mahasi Sayadaw for example.

It rather presents an development model for psychotic states of mind that appears superficially seen somehow like a totally messed up rush through the insight stages, sharing to some extent their typical symptoms and occasionally its final outcome, but it is a rush through the concept of "existential realms" (sort of metaphors for specific mental background coloring for everyday experience) in the sequence ("the cycling journey of losing mind", applying some proprietary terminology) Gods > Paranoia > Hell > Desire > Greed > Compulsion > Gods etc. (p. 34), entry point may be anywhere. When Podvoll describes mania he adds a more specific sequence (p. 111), finally leading to complete psychotic take off, where one of its stages is called "absorption", relating directly to the meditative absorption states ("infinite space, infinite consciousness" etc). Among its basic driving forces (p. 171 ff) is not mindfulness but sort of inverse perverted form of it, Podvoll calls it mindlessness, a intentional and concentrated application of ignorance towards specific aspects of perception in general. Mindfulness comes into play for recovery.

The "existential realms"-thing comes from buddhist psychology, put to weird elaboration by the tibetan branch who added the notion of "bardo". Both bardo and realms are in sort of 1:1 relationship, where bardo provides the opportunity for both enlightemnent as well as madness (I don't feel able to go into details, its really weird). Madness itself has a specific meaning here, as explicated in "Transcending Madness" (Shambhala 1992) by Choegyam Trungpa, Podvolls Teacher. He says that basically everybody is mad to some extend, only the state of enlightenment is not (p. 82 ff.). Being clinically mad could be seen as being stuck in a bardo state, which usually is a passing phenomenon, and only relating to "earthy" experiences (employing the senses like e.g. during manual work, walks in the nature etc.) may lead out of it (p. 133). Among "earthy, earthy" phenomena Trungpa interestingly counts getting drunk (p 173) as opposed to the effect of other drugs, which create a "spacy" quality. But I don't think that this should (or is) considered as a valid intervention in case of psychosis. Trungpa died at the age of 48 from the effects of alcohol abuse.

Put together Podvoll announces a model for the stages and dynamics of psychosis which share some of the characteristics of certain insight stages, but has an entirely different structure than the progress of insight, appearing in its best outcome somehow as a messy, sick, hell-bound second possible "path" for the human mind towards the same goal (e.g. check out the interpretation of psychotic events from the view of those who experienced them in Karl Jasper's "General Psychopathology").

In Dan Ingrams "Mastering the Core Teaching of the Buddha" there is a case mentioned where a highly realized meditator still stuck to medication, to counteract his bipolar disorder. Well, when people, who through ardous application of midfulness reached high realization, still mess up in bipolar disorder, this seems to totally contradict the arguments given here. But Podvolls phenomenology of madness seems to target only the maximum cases of bipolar disorder (see ICD-10 F31.) with psychotic characteristics. For the latter amplified mood swings seem to be a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for full escalation, which the bipolar Arahant is likely to aviod. Btw. is there any psychotic Arahant out there?

Using this occasion I also want to advertise the discussion about mindfulness meditation and personality disorders sharing some flavour with the one here. Maybe there could be a more generalized "meditation and DSM-IV topics" discussion group anyway.

@Nicola Joanne Dunn: Greetings & good luck. When I ranted about my Mahasi-monk-certified "dark night" to one of my mad friends she just said "ah, shut up, we've ever been in dark night anyway. What special is there to rant about?". The sort of meatgrinder-experience you describe by far exceeds standard dark night levels of suffering (as to Wilber e.a. in their book "Transformations of Consciousness"). Maybe Podvolls concepts come closer to whats going on with you, but in that case you're the expert to judge.

** Another friend/therapist of mine chose that job after a friend of him has been brought from a meditation center straight to a mental hospital in London, where, as far as I remember, he hung himself. Seems indeed that there needs to be done something there too. Maybe conducting mental health screenings for everyone before starting a retreat? Anyway, my friend/therapist is about to write a master thesis focusing on the integration of meditation and therapy, maybe it will sell well some day.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
11/17/09 1:40 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi, WetPaint,

Darn... not WetPaint, it should have been MonkeyMind, anyway..

The progress of the stages of insight including all ups and downs is a canonical buddhist concept and presented e.g. in Bhante Henepola Gunaratana's "Path of Serenity and Insight" which is sort of systematic summary and exegesis of the classic suttas. But usually even if your're exactly in one of these stages you could't identify it by the classic descriptions, at least that's my experience. E.g. if you read in the classic texts smthg like "review of defilements", what would you guess it is? Some pensive contemplation about our dark sides? Actually it means, at least in one aspect, some violent attacs of hardly controllable affects of fear, anger or any other painful emotion lasting for long times, days, say, making you feel like bathing in a deep fryer and forcing you to take some days off of your job. If you apply this sort of interpretation to all these euphemistic terms we get to a more accurate view of it all. Maybe we could apply as a rule of thumb, that when a classic texts expresses something in a slightly negative way we'd better run for shelter in terror and despair. But Dan Ingrams book does the job now anyway.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
8/30/10 10:07 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
More interesting parallels: those who keep crossing the A&P and getting into Dark Night territory and then fall back due to not getting stream entry and then crossing the A&P again and getting into the Dark Night, etc., tend to get more reactive with each pass, just as people with Bipolar do: as they get older and have more manic episodes, they get worse.


Scary but relevant to my own experience, I don't really know if i have anxiety or depression- or dark night, possibly both, but over the years, A&P has become less affective at keeping me out of the dark night, it is less likely to get really high and last really long, and i have to do alot of chi gong, and sexual tantra to get the bliss to cover up the intensity of the dark night. just luck that I'm starting to understand the significance of equanimity, some days sitting on the cushion and struggling to get into equanimity, and then finally getting there- is the only relief I have from the intensity on my experience. In equanimity, or that re-observation styled area that is associated with formations, (what ever they are just starting to get a picture of those), experience has difficulties, but the mental field of equanimity makes them quite manageable, especially when more solidly in equanimity-just the standard kind, not high equanimity that's still pretty rare, assuming I'm understanding correctly the difference between equanimity & high equanimity.
Any way thanks, I'm feeling like there is a light at the edge of the tunnel. I'm going to India over the Christmas period, and am starting to think/feel it will be more beneficial to go straight into a three month retreat -instead of listening to the teachings of the Karmapa and the Dalai Lama for a month first- and aiming for stream entry. Greatfully Neem

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
8/14/13 5:13 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
...You are obviously not the first to notice the similarity between A&P events and Manic Episodes and The Dark Night (Dukkha Ñanas, Insight stages 5-10) and Depressive Episodes. The parallels are many and striking.

Hi, I'm new here. I just finished reading MCTB and (based on the reading) noticed the same similarity you're talking about. I haven't meditated enough to get there, and am wondering if I want to.

Here's a short list:...

To add to the list:

Kindling: According to MCTB, after the cycle gets started, it tends to continue on its own.

Acceleration: The rate of cycling of mania and depression tends to increase over time, like the cycle between Dark Night and A&P events described in MCTB.

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
8/14/13 5:38 AM as a reply to Tim Freeman.
Warning: If you have bipolar disorder and you would like to do insight practices, please read this post: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/3373753

RE: Bipolar Disorder and The Cycles of Insight
Answer
3/17/17 9:58 AM as a reply to Tom Tom.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Another friend was in the middle paths and was formally diagnosed (rightly or wrongly) as having Bipolar II Rapid Cycling and put on meds for it, which helped somewhat. When they attained to a higher path they were suddenly alright and didn't needs meds at all. Was their diagnosis simply the struggling of a Western therapist to put the cycles of insight into their only related box, or was this actually a correct diagnosis that was in fact cured by more insight?


I started meditating in 2011. In 2013 a teacher sent me a pdf version of MCTB. He told me, "This is what you can expect at this stage." I had no idea what he meant until…

I took a liking to a song about loss. At that same time I experienced a series of losses myself. This is when I became aware of the fact that nothing lasts. Whoa nelly!

I began experiencing symptoms of helplessness, hypomania, depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed by everything, extremely high sex drive, and self-esteem ranging from a 1/10 to a 10/10.

I started taking therapy and was diagnosed as being "on the bipolar spectrum" with rapid cycling.

I have always doubted the diagnoses despite being diagnosed by four different therapists and psychiatrists. I was convinced that this was Dark Night so I began putting all my attention on beating it.

To this day I seem to oscillate between DN and EQ. However, since being active on this message board DN symptoms are mild and I tend to lean more toward EQ end of the spectrum.

Side note, I am on meds BUT I don't actually think they are working.

So am I bipolar? Is this DN? Both?

I have no idea but there is evidence to suggest both if they are in fact separate things.