Discussion Forum Discussion Forum

Arising and Passing (A&P)

Avoiding ever crossing the A&P

Threads [ Previous | Next ]
Toggle
Avoiding ever crossing the A&P J C 12/17/18 12:30 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P ivory 12/17/18 1:16 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/17/18 6:44 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/17/18 2:36 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/18/18 9:24 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A& Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/17/18 2:32 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Nick O 12/17/18 6:29 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P J C 12/17/18 10:59 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/18/18 9:25 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P dave m 12/19/18 7:36 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/20/18 8:35 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/20/18 9:28 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/20/18 9:57 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/20/18 11:34 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Chris Marti 12/20/18 11:51 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/20/18 1:33 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/20/18 1:34 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/20/18 2:04 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P JohnM 12/20/18 6:07 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/21/18 8:31 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/22/18 12:36 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/22/18 12:34 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P dave m 12/22/18 3:47 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/23/18 6:16 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P J C 12/24/18 1:25 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P terry 12/24/18 9:07 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P J C 12/25/18 1:57 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/25/18 9:46 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/25/18 1:37 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 12/25/18 2:34 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/25/18 4:06 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 1/10/19 5:06 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 1/10/19 6:00 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 1/10/19 6:24 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Andromeda 1/10/19 7:56 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Nick O 12/25/18 9:57 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/18/18 12:54 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Nick O 12/18/18 8:41 PM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/19/18 3:27 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/19/18 3:33 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Nick O 12/19/18 6:57 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P JohnM 12/19/18 7:23 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 12/19/18 8:18 AM
RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P terry 12/24/18 8:23 PM
Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 12:30 AM
Suppose someone who had not yet crossed the A&P wanted to avoid it, in keeping with the saying "Better not to begin; once begun, better to finish."

Clearly this person should stay away from intensive or lengthy practice, and probably from all insight meditation. Hell, just to be safe, they should avoid all meditation. And also any use of drugs, fasting, or sleep deprivation. And probably also any form of sensory deprivation.

But many people have crossed the A&P even without meditation. And in a sense, there isn't much of a distinction between on and off cushion; even casually noticing the way your feet alternate while taking a walk could be a form of walking meditation.

And what about therapy, which often has you paying attention to your thoughts? Prayer?

Should this person avoid awareness itself, as far as possible? How would one try not to be aware?

What advice would you give someone who really did not want to risk crossing the A&P?

And do you think such a life is worth living?

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 1:16 AM as a reply to J C.
Socrates said, "Know thyself." If you want to avoid the A&P, don't do that.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 6:44 AM as a reply to J C.
It would seem that, for better and for worse, simply being alive risks spontaneous insight. One could minimize the risk by taking all those precautions that you list, but it doesn't sound like a life I'd want. Even if I'd never made it through the dukkha nanas, I would happily take that over a life without any insight at all. It isn't for me to judge for other people, though.

This post reminds me of a lovely piece on grace by Frederick Beuchner. 

========

After centuries of handling and mishandling, most religious words become so shopworn nobody's much interested anymore. Not so with grace, for some reason. Mysteriously, even derivatives like gracious and graceful still have some of the bloom left.

Grace is something you can never get but can only be given. There's no way to earn it or deserve it or bring it about any more than you can deserve the taste of raspberries and cream or earn good looks or bring about your own birth. A good sleep is grace and so are good dreams. Most tears are grace. The smell of rain is grace. Have you ever tried to love somebody?

A crucial eccentricity in the Christian faith is the assertion that people are saved by grace. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do. There's nothing you have to do.

The grace of God means something like: "Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are, because the party wouldn't have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid, I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It's for you I created the universe. I love you."

There's only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you'll reach out and take it.

Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&
Answer
12/17/18 2:32 PM as a reply to J C.
I avoided meditating* for two decades because I was worried about strange buzzes all over my body after only a few days of simple visualization practices as a teenager. It didn’t help, and I’m grateful for that.

In fact, the resistence is something that I definitely do NOT recommend. I developed exploding head syndrome. Kundalini yoga, meditation and embracing whatever happened, with gratitude and bliss, helped with that. I started with my practice because googling all my health symptoms kept directing me to web pages blaming yoga and meditation for Kundalini awakening. I thought, if there is such a thing and it had already happened, then there would be no point in avoiding it anymore. I turned towards it instead of away from it. When you welcome that force, which is probably piti, you get euphoria. That is SOOOO much more pleasant than exploding head syndrome.


*) At least I thought so, but the more I learn, the more I realize that I was at least periodically still meditating in daily life. I just didn’t know that it was meditation. I had actually been meditating all my life. As a child, I could concentrate on certain sensory experiences and/or objects for a long time and forget about anything else. That mindful walking thing, I did that in my first years of school. Nobody was patient enough to wait for me, though, so eventually I learned to hurry and thus lost skills to gain at least some conformity. As an adult in my thirties I started to remember what I had lost as I went through the process of searching for diagnoses. It turned out that I’m autistic, among other things. It’s such a pity that autistic people are often pressured to lose abilities that neurotypical people are willing to invest both time and money to develop. When we do it we are considered weird and emotionally inapt and having a disorder. When they do it, they are cool and emotionally competent and evolved. Such a waste! Anyway... by meditating I’m reconnecting with what I was before I thought I had to be normal and with what I can be if I’m allowed to just embrace it. It’s in my nature to meditate. Avoiding meditation is avoiding living life to its fullest. Never again. Never ever again.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 2:36 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda, that’s a lovely piece indeed. First I thought you had written it, because you have that kind of carefulness with words too.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 6:29 PM as a reply to J C.
I've never been able to relate to the "Better not to begin; once begun, better to finish". The first A&P was so unspeakably liberating that my condition even during the most frightening or difficult meditation territory that came afterwards has been far easier to digest than the confusion, existential fear and nihilism of pre-A&P life.  

It is obvious and understandable, however, that this is not the case for everyone..

As an aside, I have been of witness lately to an old dying man stricken with fear, depression, anger and denial of his mortality. He numbs himself in bed with large amounts of whiskey and prescription drugs. This is a man whose lifelong arrogance and hedonism left him unprepared and vulnerable to the sufferings of old age.

Crossing the A&P could mean facing this stuff with the strength of youth before it's too late and directly upon you. If this is the case, would it still be better for hypthetical person in question to not begin?

But this doesn't answer the other question...How to avoid the A&P?

lots of TV, lots of internet use, daily alcohol use and daily light marijuana use would probably do it emoticon  

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/17/18 10:59 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
I've never been able to relate to the "Better not to begin; once begun, better to finish". The first A&P was so unspeakably liberating that my condition even during the most frightening or difficult meditation territory that came afterwards has been far easier to digest than the confusion, existential fear and nihilism of pre-A&P life.  

It is obvious and understandable, however, that this is not the case for everyone..

As an aside, I have been of witness lately to an old dying man stricken with fear, depression, anger and denial of his mortality. He numbs himself in bed with large amounts of whiskey and prescription drugs. This is a man whose lifelong arrogance and hedonism left him unprepared and vulnerable to the sufferings of old age.

Crossing the A&P could mean facing this stuff with the strength of youth before it's too late and directly upon you. If this is the case, would it still be better for hypthetical person in question to not begin?

But this doesn't answer the other question...How to avoid the A&P?

lots of TV, lots of internet use, daily alcohol use and daily light marijuana use would probably do it emoticon  


Smoking weed seemed to trigger A&Ps for me but I'm very sensitive to it.

I'm reminded of CS Lewis on the subject: "A young man who wishes to remain an atheist cannot be too careful of his reading." There's a lot of philosophical stuff online that could push someone over.

As far as your confusion and existential fear, are you sure you hadn't crossed the A&P already? I see that kind of thing as the mark of a spiritual seeker and darknighter. I think of the pre-A&P state as a state of ignorance of all that. I've never been able to relate to that either.

As far as the "strength of youth," the strength required here is ego strength, not physical strength, and I'm not sure youth provides an advantage there. Facing death seems to help some people face reality. And some people can't handle the dark night - isn't it wiser to first develop the strength to face it before diving into territory you can't handle?

The problem is that any method of developing the strength to face it also risks tipping you over.

I don't think it's ethical to avoid the A&P. I agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. But I'm not so sure how that applies when it comes to people who can't handle looking at reality - people with personality disorders, for instance, sometimes don't have the ego strength or sense of self required to practice.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/18/18 9:25 AM as a reply to J C.
J C:
I don't think it's ethical to avoid the A&P. I agree with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. But I'm not so sure how that applies when it comes to people who can't handle looking at reality - people with personality disorders, for instance, sometimes don't have the ego strength or sense of self required to practice.

I also agree with Socrates for my own life, but wouldn't pass that judgment on others. People need to figure out what is ethical for themselves. As you say, not everyone can handle looking at reality. A senior teacher recently told me that those continuing to progress on a spiritual path of insight who don't have very strong character go mad. I can think of a number of examples where this seemed to be the case, unfortunately.  

I don't know a lot about Hinduism, but really like the idea of there being different paths for different types of people. For a lot of people, service seems to be a much better, saner, healthier way than meditation.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/18/18 9:24 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Andromeda, that’s a lovely piece indeed. First I thought you had written it, because you have that kind of carefulness with words too.

Thanks for the compliment! I'd be thrilled to write half as well as Buechner. He won a number of awards and was a finalist for the Pulitzer.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/18/18 12:54 PM as a reply to J C.
An experimental dance show took me to second jhana with hallucinated psychedelic light formations and the whole kit, so yeah, one would have to chose one’s entertainment carefully. If it’s meant to be, there is no escape.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/18/18 8:41 PM as a reply to J C.
J C

As far as the "strength of youth," the strength required here is ego strength, not physical strength, and I'm not sure youth provides an advantage there. Facing death seems to help some people face reality. And some people can't handle the dark night - isn't it wiser to first develop the strength to face it before diving into territory you can't handle?

Good point. But maybe instead of "strength" I could have chose "flexibility". Does it seem like people tend to become more stubborn and set in their ways as they grow older making the biggest "change" of all, acceptance of death, more difficult? Would a young person be more flexible to see the world in new yet potentially challenging and destabalizing ways?


As far as your confusion and existential fear, are you sure you hadn't crossed the A&P already? I see that kind of thing as the mark of a spiritual seeker and darknighter. 
You know that's a very interesting question. If I did, it would have been via phsychedelics (I did my fair share). There were some heavy, horribly dark times in my late twenties (triggered by a rough romantic failure and other big life changes) where I felt I had to tear down this naive clairvoyant paradigm of how I thought life was supposed to work. I had nothing to replace it with but hopelessness and nihilism. It was brutal. I was nearly suicidal at times. Could this have represented my own "dark night"? When I realized there must be "something beyond" anything I could do to fix my life, I turned to meditation and reading a book on Zen. And after just a few days, while reading teachings of impermanence, I had the sudden "A&P" thing. Most of my suffering and almost all fear of the unknown dissapeared forever in just a couple seconds.

Maybe you're right. Did the dark night stuff happen before I knew anything about meditation or the Dharma? If that was the dark night, I understand deeply now what people are going through. Thanks for the food for thought.     

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 3:27 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
When I realized there must be "something beyond" anything I could do to fix my life, I turned to meditation and reading a book on Zen. And after just a few days, while reading teachings of impermanence, I had the sudden "A&P" thing. Most of my suffering and almost all fear of the unknown dissapeared forever in just a couple seconds. 

This warms my heart. There seems to be some kind of mercy in this world when we are ready to embrace it. I had a similar experience with Kundalini yoga, which I turned to when I had nowhere else to go.

I don’t know if I have understood it correctly, because all this terminology is new to me, but the phase of the three charachteristics preceeding the A&P seems to be one of potentially overwhelming pain. Not only the dark night has that quality.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 3:33 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
This video explains the challenges of the phases prior to equanimity thoroughly.

https://vimeo.com/69793499

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 6:57 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Nick O:
When I realized there must be "something beyond" anything I could do to fix my life, I turned to meditation and reading a book on Zen. And after just a few days, while reading teachings of impermanence, I had the sudden "A&P" thing. Most of my suffering and almost all fear of the unknown dissapeared forever in just a couple seconds. 

This warms my heart. There seems to be some kind of mercy in this world when we are ready to embrace it. I had a similar experience with Kundalini yoga, which I turned to when I had nowhere else to go.

I don’t know if I have understood it correctly, because all this terminology is new to me, but the phase of the three charachteristics preceeding the A&P seems to be one of potentially overwhelming pain. Not only the dark night has that quality.
Glad I could warm your heart! emoticon Yes, sounds about right since the A&P is often used synonymously with a kundalini awakening! 

And yes, the three characteristics nana has been very unpleasant for me, even more so than the dukkha nanas. I'm not sure what I was experiencing those days in my twenties or what the sudden experience (seemed like A&P) was 4 years back. All I know is that when I discovered MTCB and started insight meditation a little more than a year ago, I had to start at Mind and Body and go up through the A&P "again".   

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 7:23 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Since I first read it in Trungpa's book, I've never believed this quote to be anything more than a challenge and a statement of fact - that having read that statement, YOU HAVE ALREADY STARTED AND THERE IS NO GOING BACK.

How long it takes depends purely on how stubborn we are. Many of "the rest of us" are STUBBORN. But that doesn't make any difference when it comes to crossing the A&P. Good motivation to push on asap.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 8:18 AM as a reply to Nick O.
It seems to be fairly common to go through A&P more than once. I think I have, too, at least some junior league version of it. I may have done it several times.

And yes, Kundalini awakening is often described just like what I was going through, so it makes sense that it refers to the same thing. I prefer the map that Daniel Ingram uses, though, because it puts things in perspective and gives more context. I found Kundalini Yoga when I googled weird symptoms I had already had. Those were intense and scary. Now I believe that was because I had piti without sukkha, as Leigh Brasington explains it.
https://www.lionsroar.com/entering-the-jhanas/
Kundalini Yoga gave me the sukkha to my piti.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/19/18 7:36 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:

As you say, not everyone can handle looking at reality. A senior teacher recently told me that those continuing to progress on a spiritual path of insight who don't have very strong character go mad. I can think of a number of examples where this seemed to be the case, unfortunately.  


That is a very interesting statement.  Do you know what he meant by "very strong character?"  Any ideas on what traits or characteristics might help prevent madness and whether they can be cultivated or are just innate?

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 8:35 AM as a reply to dave m.
dave m:
Andromeda:

As you say, not everyone can handle looking at reality. A senior teacher recently told me that those continuing to progress on a spiritual path of insight who don't have very strong character go mad. I can think of a number of examples where this seemed to be the case, unfortunately.  


That is a very interesting statement.  Do you know what he meant by "very strong character?"  Any ideas on what traits or characteristics might help prevent madness and whether they can be cultivated or are just innate?

Good question. I didn't ask for clarification on that particular point but assumed he meant morality which is usually what "character" refers to and that made sense in the context of the conversation.

This is such a huge and important topic and one I've spent HUGE amounts of time on, so yeah I've got lots of ideas. Where to start? It's the classic nature vs. nurture debate: we have our genetics, our epigenetics, the learned behaviors we soaked up in early life from our caregivers/teachers/friends (for better and for worse), etc. That's what life gives us (our karma, if you will) and then there are the choices that we make. We can choose to cultivate good character traits (like honesty, patience, humility, generosity, etc.) or not. But it's a heck of a lot easier to cultivate good character if you're raised by people who are helping you do it from an early age. Nobody has perfect parents and we've all been screwed up in some way or another, but people who were abused early on or raised by extremely dysfunctional caregivers such as those with Cluster B personality disorders have heroic amounts to overcome, especially if they have strong features of Cluster B personality disorders themselves. 

So cultivating basic sanity and decency is obviously the way to go, but some people have more obstacles than others. Again, this is a huge and hugely important topic on which many volumes have been and will continue to be written. It's no wonder Daniel calls morality the first and the last training--morality is difficult, but also critically important. Shargrol who posts on the DhO and Awakenetwork writes a lot of great and very accessible stuff on morality in the context of insight practice.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 9:28 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
I was also assuming that he meant morality, because insight is probably hellish to go through if you have to face your own defence mechanisms and cognitive dissonanses and find out that they are intertwined with ill will and pretty much in control of your life. Also, there are a lot of temptations along the road.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 9:57 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I was also assuming that he meant morality, because insight is probably hellish to go through if you have to face your own defence mechanisms and cognitive dissonanses and find out that they are intertwined with ill will and pretty much in control of your life. Also, there are a lot of temptations along the road.

Yep, and those temptations just increase with more power and influence--everything gets magnified. Insight allows us to see all kinds of things, and then there is the increased energy available during A&Ps (people can be quite charistmatic) and the ability to recharge with jhana. Powerful stuff. And then increased influence if people take on teaching/mentorship/leadership roles. Even very sane, ethically grounded people can be seduced by temptation and make mistakes. People who are less sane and ethically grounded can turn into real train wrecks.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 11:34 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Yup. I have realized that. I have only seen very small glimpses, but that is enough to convince me that I need to watch my steps carefully. I would rather keep cycling and going through dark night over and over than gaining powers that I’m not mature enough to handle, and I hope to keep that attitude.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 11:51 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
I think "character" does indeed refer to morality but it also includes our innate willingness to look at ourselves in an objective manner. This is something that's required of progressing along the path of insight. I think we could also call this "self-awareness" and it's a huge part of being able to awaken. Bringing our consciousness to this ability is in part responsible for what's called the "dark night" as we realize how we actually are as opposed to how we've always projected ourselves to be. Developing character is difficult, often depressing, angering and frustrating, and we all come to it from a different place along the spectrum self-awareness, making it harder or easier to do as we go along. 

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 1:33 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I think "character" does indeed refer to morality but it also includes our innate willingness to look at ourselves in an objective manner. This is something that's required of progressing along the path of insight. I think we could also call this "self-awareness" and it's a huge part of being able to awaken. Bringing our consciousness to this ability is in part responsible for what's called the "dark night" as we realize how we actually are as opposed to how we've always projected ourselves to be. Developing character is difficult, often depressing, angering and frustrating, and we all come to it from a different place along the spectrum self-awareness, making it harder or easier to do as we go along. 


If that is what dark night is about, I have definitely been there. For many reasons I have had to work with myself to be able to forgive myself for my weaknesses and be able to move forward, because I used to dwell in guilt and shame rather obsessively. The last years I have devoted to seeing my so called blind spots with regard to both privilege and internalized oppression. I have learned to welcome whatever new insights I can come by with regard to this, no matter how uncomfortable they are, and embrace them as opportunities for learning and growing and nurturing more responsible and compassionate behavior, without exhausting myself in a way that helps nobody. This is a neverending process. There is always room for growing.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 1:34 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I think "character" does indeed refer to morality but it also includes our innate willingness to look at ourselves in an objective manner. This is something that's required of progressing along the path of insight. I think we could also call this "self-awareness" and it's a huge part of being able to awaken. Bringing our consciousness to this ability is in part responsible for what's called the "dark night" as we realize how we actually are as opposed to how we've always projected ourselves to be. Developing character is difficult, often depressing, angering and frustrating, and we all come to it from a different place along the spectrum self-awareness, making it harder or easier to do as we go along. 

Oh heck yeah, self awareness is huge. And I think a big part of it is actively seeking out feedback from sane, mature others with strong ethics because we all have blind spots. The older I get, the more I cherish friends like this. For better and for worse, the behavior of the people we keep close tends to rub off on us.

And developing character IS painful and difficult. I am reminded of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, where Calvin's dad is always telling him that whatever is making him miserable builds character.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 2:04 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
I cherish friends like that, too, for the same reason, and because I need to be around them in order to retain my faith in humanity.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/20/18 6:07 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
What a beautiful and inspiring thread. I take deep comfort from the hard-won knowledge you are all sharing, because it is helping me answer the question that has been burning in me these past years: how can people (myself and others) be devoted to the path of awakening and still be so cruelly and willfully lacking in self-awareness? The myths of omniscience and perfection perpetuated by adolescent spirituality have caused so much confusion and misery to all concerned. Choosing to swim in ethical circles not only protects us but also makes these kinds of insights easier to access and to grasp. Thank you each for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/21/18 8:31 AM as a reply to JohnM.
JohnM:
What a beautiful and inspiring thread. I take deep comfort from the hard-won knowledge you are all sharing, because it is helping me answer the question that has been burning in me these past years: how can people (myself and others) be devoted to the path of awakening and still be so cruelly and willfully lacking in self-awareness? The myths of omniscience and perfection perpetuated by adolescent spirituality have caused so much confusion and misery to all concerned. Choosing to swim in ethical circles not only protects us but also makes these kinds of insights easier to access and to grasp. Thank you each for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
I think it was in Michael Taft's most recent Deconstructing Yourself interview with Shinzen Young "Why Good Teachers Go Bad" where they talked about how a lack of feedback controls lead to teacher misbehavior. If I remember correctly, Michael pointed out a similar thing with dictators whose wardrobes get progressively more bizarre and then everyone around them starts to wear the same ridiculous things. So not only is there a lack of self awareness, but a lack of others who have the guts to say outright "That hairstyle looks really dumb." If you surround yourself with yes-men, you'll never hear the uncomfortable stuff you need to grow.

Shinzen also talks about his own disastrous experience where things went wrong in his sangha because he'd ended up in a codependent relationship with the wrong person. Clearly, being awake doesn't mean you can't make some pretty bad decisions that can lead to suffering all around. Even the best, most ethical teachers surrounded by ethical people can and do make mistakes. Such is the painful reality of the human condition.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/22/18 12:34 PM as a reply to JohnM.
JohnM:
What a beautiful and inspiring thread. I take deep comfort from the hard-won knowledge you are all sharing, because it is helping me answer the question that has been burning in me these past years: how can people (myself and others) be devoted to the path of awakening and still be so cruelly and willfully lacking in self-awareness? The myths of omniscience and perfection perpetuated by adolescent spirituality have caused so much confusion and misery to all concerned. Choosing to swim in ethical circles not only protects us but also makes these kinds of insights easier to access and to grasp. Thank you each for sharing your thoughts and experiences.


And thank you! It’s nice to see that there are more people taking this issue seriously. I see a lot of people falling into the trap of privilege unawareness and disregard for people who do suffer. The world is not perfect the way it is, and oppression is not caused by the oppressed persons not loving themselves enough or not sending out the right vibes. If those who make such claims had more self awareness, they would probably choke on their fake glorias.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/22/18 12:36 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
I was thinking of that very episode as well. It’s a good one.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/22/18 3:47 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Thanks for your response.  I recall being slightly annoyed by one of Shinzen Young's talks where he spent much more time meticulously defining his terms than he did actually using them.  But I can see his point and should have also asked what was meant by "madness."

It sounds like you're not talking about the type of psychosis that would get you diagnosed and medicated/hospitalized, and are not suggesting that morality improvement would help to mitigate that.  Thus far, I've found that insight keeps those episodes from being traumatic, but they still happen.  It would be nice if there were a way to prevent them altogether.

And yes, Shargrol's advice is fantastic!

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/23/18 6:16 AM as a reply to dave m.
dave m:
Thanks for your response.  I recall being slightly annoyed by one of Shinzen Young's talks where he spent much more time meticulously defining his terms than he did actually using them.  But I can see his point and should have also asked what was meant by "madness."

It sounds like you're not talking about the type of psychosis that would get you diagnosed and medicated/hospitalized, and are not suggesting that morality improvement would help to mitigate that.  Thus far, I've found that insight keeps those episodes from being traumatic, but they still happen.  It would be nice if there were a way to prevent them altogether.

And yes, Shargrol's advice is fantastic!

Yeah, I probably should have been more explicit. "Madness" comes in many flavors. What I discussed with this particular teacher in that conversation was megalomania and nihilism.

I've had a number of close calls with overt psychosis and mania over the years and fortunately have been able to self-regulate so as not to go over the edge, but it has sometimes been quite frightening. Hard to see how morality played any role--it has seemed more of a brain chemistry/practice intensity/cycle of insight thing. I think at this point I've just accepted it and gotten used to it and it just doesn't freak me out anymore. It definitely helps to have sane friends with deep practice and experience with altered states to check in with when things start to get super weird.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/24/18 1:25 PM as a reply to dave m.
dave m:


It sounds like you're not talking about the type of psychosis that would get you diagnosed and medicated/hospitalized, and are not suggesting that morality improvement would help to mitigate that.  Thus far, I've found that insight keeps those episodes from being traumatic, but they still happen.  It would be nice if there were a way to prevent them altogether.

Even not meditating can't prevent them altogether - they sometimes seem to hit people for no reason and no warning.

Morality can definitely help to mitigate them and make them less likely: for instance, as Andromeda points out, practice intensity can play a role, as can taking care of your body's needs. Here are my suggestions for avoiding psychosis, which also unfortunately conflict with many practice center rules and schedules, and which may also reduce practice intensity:

 * take care of your sleep needs: try to sleep 8-9 hours a day, even during retreat.
 * take care of your need for food: try to eat 3 meals a day, including meat and lots of carbs. (Restricted or intermittent fasting diets can cause people problems, especially women. For instance, not eating after noon is a form of intermittent fasting common at many retreat centers. Eating meat and lots of carbs can be very grounding and helpful to your body and I highly recommend it in general.)
 * take care of your need for exercise: get some walking, cardio, and weight lifting in every day or two.
 * take care of your need for sexual release: try to masturbate or have sex daily, or however often your body needs it.
 * take care of your need for rest: take frequent breaks in between meditation sessions.
 * take time to stay grounded: take a few minutes to talk to a close friend, read a book, go for a walk in the woods and hug a tree, play with a kid or animal, or whatever non-meditative activity helps refresh you and reconnect you with the real world.
 * avoid any kind of drugs, including caffeine in particular.

These all fall under morality.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/24/18 8:23 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Nick O:
J C

As far as the "strength of youth," the strength required here is ego strength, not physical strength, and I'm not sure youth provides an advantage there. Facing death seems to help some people face reality. And some people can't handle the dark night - isn't it wiser to first develop the strength to face it before diving into territory you can't handle?

Good point. But maybe instead of "strength" I could have chose "flexibility". Does it seem like people tend to become more stubborn and set in their ways as they grow older making the biggest "change" of all, acceptance of death, more difficult? Would a young person be more flexible to see the world in new yet potentially challenging and destabalizing ways?



aloha nick, jc,

   I must object to the idea that older folk are less flexible, or are stubborn and set in their ways. Besides, retired people are freer to try new things and have more time to meditate than your average wage slave caught up in sensual desire. They often have more money and goods, too, which increases flexibility.

   Accepting death comes more readily to older folk as they have less to lose. When I talk to young folks about buddhism, starting with the first noble truth that life involves suffering birth, sickness, old age and death, they typically tell me, yeah, but I won't have to worry about that for a long time. To older folks, sickness, old age and death are far more tangible. As bodies decline and social contacts fade, attachment to this body lessens for many, and death may even be welcomed. Older folk are challenged and destabilized as often as young folk and are forced to cope like anyone else, often with unique challenges. 

   Like any group, seniors run the gamut of individual capacities. Spirit has no age. 


terry



SAILING TO BYZANTIUM

BY WILLIAM BUTLER YEATS


I

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees,
—Those dying generations—at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.


II

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.


III

O sages standing in God's holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.


IV

Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/24/18 9:07 PM as a reply to J C.
[quote=J C

* take care of your need for food: try to eat 3 meals a day, including meat and lots of carbs. (Restricted or intermittent fasting diets can cause people problems, especially women. For instance, not eating after noon is a form of intermittent fasting common at many retreat centers. Eating meat and lots of carbs can be very grounding and helpful to your body and I highly recommend it in general.)] * take care of your need for exercise: get some walking, cardio, and weight lifting in every day or two.
 * take care of your need for sexual release: try to masturbate or have sex daily, or however often your body needs it.
 * take care of your need for rest: take frequent breaks in between meditation sessions.
 * take time to stay grounded: take a few minutes to talk to a close friend, read a book, go for a walk in the woods and hug a tree, play with a kid or animal, or whatever non-meditative activity helps refresh you and reconnect you with the real world.
 * avoid any kind of drugs, including caffeine in particular.

These all fall under morality.





aloha jc,

   You are serious, right? Maturbating regularly falls under morality, as does eating meat... and avoid all drugs, especially that terrible caffeine. The new precepts.

   LOL


terry

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 1:57 AM as a reply to terry.
Yes, terry, I am serious. The precepts and the realm of morality include the skillful use of sex, drugs, and food. These are my suggestions for how to skillfully deal with these areas of life to stay grounded on retreat to reduce the chance of psychosis.

I'm not sure what you find funny about it.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 9:46 AM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Yes, terry, I am serious. The precepts and the realm of morality include the skillful use of sex, drugs, and food. These are my suggestions for how to skillfully deal with these areas of life to stay grounded on retreat to reduce the chance of psychosis.

I'm not sure what you find funny about it.
And good suggestions they are. Not what I was thinking about in the context of the above discussion on character, but "care of the mammal" stuff like that absolutely counts as training in morality in the Theravada system.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 9:57 AM as a reply to J C.
I appreciate the promotion of healthy sexual release.

In my experience, repression of sexual urges has had no positive effect on insight or concentration. It typically only leads to unnecessary frustration. 

And on the morality side, acting on sensual desires that cause suffering to oneself or others is one thing. Regulating biology is another.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 1:37 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
For me, caring about the mammal in different ways has certainly been one important part of my morality training. I used to neglect it quite a lot, and that didn’t go well with regard to my moral aims. I was trying to be a better parent in ways that only made me unstable and irritable because I neglected my own needs for rest and routines that allowed me to eat properly, and so on. I went to a children’s psychologist to learn how to be more tuned into my son’s needs and learned that I needed to tune into my own needs much more than I had done. This was revolutionary to me and has benefitted all my relations for a decade now. If I take care of my own needs, I can be authentic in my interaction with others and meet their needs whole-heartedly with no resentment or other kinds of backlash, and I have enough energy to be there for them and to contribute to the world in general. I know so many people who struggle with this.

The balance is important, though. Taking care of oneself is not sufficient, of course. Compassion for all living things is essential, and that is a neverending quest. Understanding the mechanisms of oppression and privilege is something that I would put high on the curriculum, along with other aspects of power dynamics.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 2:34 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Understanding the mechanisms of oppression and privilege is something that I would put high on the curriculum, along with other aspects of power dynamics.

Now that would be a fascinating topic for a thread, especially as a discussion in the context of spiritual teachings.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
12/25/18 4:06 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Understanding the mechanisms of oppression and privilege is something that I would put high on the curriculum, along with other aspects of power dynamics.

Now that would be a fascinating topic for a thread, especially as a discussion in the context of spiritual teachings.



Indeed. During what I interpret as my dark night I struggled a lot with integrating the compassion I felt for everyone during A&P, including oppressors and abusers, with my compassion for the victims’ strongly felt need for validation of their experiences. I felt that I had let down vulnerable persons and groups in my ambition to include everybody in my compassion and love. It is important, I came to realize, not to contribute further to the belittling, normalizing and legitimizing of their suffering that is already occurring. Turning my focus to their perspective (or our perspective, depending on the issue) tipped over the balance to the other end of the spectrum, though. I came back to overidentifying with my emotions, resulting in bitterness and disgust with humanity’s dark sides, and anger morphing into ill-will. I felt that I had lost my direction and struggled to find a balance. These are complex issues. At the moment I think formulating the topic would be overwhelming,

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
1/10/19 5:06 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
On second thought, maybe I did avoid crossing the A&P as a teenager. I don’t know. Maybe the buzzing in my hands and other parts of by body making them feel numb was the beginning of A&P, and by quickly quitting meditation practice I avoided crossing it. In that case, it was probably for the best. I wouldn’t have been able to handle it back then. There were too many traumas to deal with. The typical Kundalini awakening happened about two decades later, culminating in a power blast upwards through my spine and exploding in my head, so avoiding it completely didn’t work. I didn’t meditate or practice yoga or anything back then. It was probably triggered by suffering. I did take up Kundalini yoga a few years after that, though, because the opportunity arose and I had googled what happened to me. Then I had another A&P, this time enjoying it (the first time was traumatic). The afterglow of it stuck for some time, which was wonderful. After that I have probably been stuck cycling the dark night territory most of the time until I got here and seemingly had a third A&P. Now I seem to be in dark night territory again, but being aware of it makes it so much easier.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
1/10/19 6:00 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

 Now I seem to be in dark night territory again, but being aware of it makes it so much easier.

And that is why the maps can be helpful--it's good to keep things in perspective. Nothing wrong with dark night territory; it's just a natural part of the human experience.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
1/10/19 6:24 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Yup. And each phase of it is actually very transient, for good and for bad.

RE: Avoiding ever crossing the A&P
Answer
1/10/19 7:56 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Yup. And each phase of it is actually very transient, for good and for bad.

Exactly. And every moment presents the opportunity to practice just resting in our experience, without trying to cling/push away/ignore. It might not be easy, but in some ways at least it's pretty simple!