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Avoiding ever crossing the A&P

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.