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Progress with insight
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2/6/19 12:06 AM
I begun serious meditation about 7 years ago and have practiced daily since. I usually sit for 1 hour in the morning and then I'll do another 30-40 later in the day. I also do some walking. I've been on a couple of retreats for 8-9 days long.  So I've reached a point where I don't know anymore if I'm progressing. I've read about the stages of insight etc and listened to some talks but I don't know if I have even reached the first one. I feel like I want to reach some kind of understanding. I don't want to keep putting in the effort and feel like nothing has changed and I'm none the wiser.  On retreat I had a very cathartic experience and felt a lot of intense emotions. But it was just an experience and like all experiences it ended. So I guess I need some advise about where to from here. The way i practice is by making the breath at the abdomen my object.  Feeling the rising and falling then when the mind wanders, notice where it has wandered to then focus in that sensation, thought, feeling etc until it passes or the mind become bored of it or a new phenomena becomes more prevalent. If no other phenomena becomes known then move back to the breath at the abdomen.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/6/19 5:03 AM as a reply to Billy T.
Have you had any insights about the three characteristics in your practice? That is, impermanence, suffering and no self.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/6/19 5:26 AM as a reply to Billy T.
Billy T:
I begun serious meditation about 7 years ago and have practiced daily since. I usually sit for 1 hour in the morning and then I'll do another 30-40 later in the day. I also do some walking. I've been on a couple of retreats for 8-9 days long.  So I've reached a point where I don't know anymore if I'm progressing. I've read about the stages of insight etc and listened to some talks but I don't know if I have even reached the first one. I feel like I want to reach some kind of understanding. I don't want to keep putting in the effort and feel like nothing has changed and I'm none the wiser.  On retreat I had a very cathartic experience and felt a lot of intense emotions. But it was just an experience and like all experiences it ended. So I guess I need some advise about where to from here. The way i practice is by making the breath at the abdomen my object.  Feeling the rising and falling then when the mind wanders, notice where it has wandered to then focus in that sensation, thought, feeling etc until it passes or the mind become bored of it or a new phenomena becomes more prevalent. If no other phenomena becomes known then move back to the breath at the abdomen.

Thats a lot of sitting practice, so I'm sure that you think you have reached the first stage of insight. And of course these carthartic experiences are further down the stages of insight...

Realistically speaking, where do you really think you might be on the progress of insight map?

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/7/19 3:04 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi Linda and Shargrol,  thanks for your replies.   So I'm really not sure where I am on the map. I don't really know if it's supposed to be or feel a certain way. I don't feel like the "penny has dropped" so to speak. Like I haven't had a sudden aha moment but from what I've read it's not neccessarily like that for everyone. For some people it's very gradual.  I understand anicca dukkha and annata but not sure if that's just because I've read lots about it. When I sit and I see things arise and pass it doesn't feel profound in the way that I have read about it. 
I definitely get that nothing lasts and that nothing is satisfying. I realise that when I try to look for some external source of happiness such as in a relationship that it leads to suffering. I understand that happiness is definitely not out there in the world but is within me. However I haven't learnt how to tap into that internal source at will.  
Lately I have felt very anti social and so I have avoided social contact with most people. I feel like most relationships are pointless. At first I felt quite lonely but now I'm getting used to being alone. 
When i went on retreat I had some very mind blowing experiences. I could feel every single tiny sensation in my body arising and passing very quickly. I could scan up and down with laser like precision. I felt every cell in my body vibrating and I could even hear the sound frequency they made. I floated up as though I was being carried and I heard shamanic chanting.  I have never felt such exquisite joy. I felt cleansed and renewed.   When I went back home to the city I felt high for days. 
Another time many years ago when I didn't meditate that much I had the experience of self dissolving. It was like I became my surroundings. Again it was a very nice feeling and I was high for days.   Those are the only two experiences like that I have had. Most of the time meditation feels difficult and uncomfortable. Occasionally I feel a sense of peace.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/7/19 6:43 PM as a reply to Billy T.
Billy T, great experiences and it sounds like you have a strong practice! Definitely past the first stage emoticon 

Honestly, the maps are really only useful for helping diagnose when practice seems stagnant and unproductive. When things are at least survivable during sits and the insights into one's own mind are happening -- really no need to second guess things. 

But since it seems like things are difficult and uncomfortable and so you are questioning things, it's fair to point out that your experience pretty much correlates to going through the Arising and Passing stage, followed by the Dissolution, followed by maybe the subsequent nanas (stages). I'm not saying that's exactly where you are, just pointing out some obvious connections with what you report.

It's definitely worth reading through books that describe the progress of insight, such as at http://integrateddaniel.info/book/ and the newer version at https://www.mctb.org/.  On the first link, there is a handout that gives the quick version.

Many of us have found it amazingly accurate descriptions of how our progress in meditaiton has gone. Some people don't relate to it at all. The realm of meditation is huge with lots of different approaches, so take a look, see if it seems relevant... and most importantly, ask a lot of question on this site and others and try to get the information you're looking for!

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/9/19 6:10 PM as a reply to shargrol.
So I had a look at those maps and couldn't really make much sense to be honest. I don't really feel any wiser about my progress after reading it all. 
All I really want is to know how to be happy. Most of the time I'm not. I'm kind of depressed and lonely.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/10/19 5:21 AM as a reply to Billy T.
I understand. Meditation is kind of a wierd pursuit with a lot of technical aspects to it... and it is only sort of related to getting out of depression and social isolation. Although there is a lot of hype about meditation -- an I'm a big fan obviously -- sometimes people talk about it like it cures everything you want it to, but that's not quite right. That's sort of like all those people saying that yoga or nutrition or a positive mental attitude or religion or politics or exercise or (insert anything here) is a magic cure that will fix all of our problems. Sure, good stuff is good stuff, but one thing doesn't fix everything. 

That's why some meditation websites have information on basic health and mental well being, like this: https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/health-and-balance

That said, there are books like https://www.10percenthappier.com/ and others that talk about how meditation can help. Maybe other folks will have suggestions, too.

My own view is it's much better to deal directly with depression and isolation rather than hope that mediation will fix it. Meditation is great for looking at the mind and see all the ways we make things worse for ourselves. Sometimes it isn't obvious that we worry too much or second-guess ourselves too much. It can be bizarre to look at our mind and realize how our attitude can be like driving with the parking break on. This can help us realize we want to change things, incluing learning to be easier an kind to our self.

Changing things like depression and loneliness takes more than just realizing it's going on... it takes doing something. And this is the weak link of a meditation-only approach. The thing that seems to help depression is decreasing the amount of time worrying and doing more little activities, to get the body and mind doing things and less focussed on itself. It is similar to lonliness. What seems to help is decreasing the amount of time worrying and doing more things around people. Little by little, doing some things that seem uncomfortable. Unfortunately, some people think that if you do enough meditation then everything will become comfortable. I personally never experienced that. It's always challenging to do new things. I think meditation helps a little, but we still need to be brave in the middle of feeling some discomfort and attempt to make changes...

Obviously everyone is different and how this change happens will be different for everyone. Some people can just jump in and start making little changes. Some people will use access to health care and can have doctors and therapists help them, then they can also use them to help figure out better nutrition, medication, and therapy techniques to help make change happen. Some people will use exercise. Etc etc. Depression can be challenging, which is why there are professionals who devote their professional life for helping people deal with it. People who have a therapist AND have a meditation practice seem to make the fastest progress, I've noticed. 

So anyway, I'm probably not saying anything new to you. There is a whole universe of advice about depression and loniness out there, way beyond meditation's little piece. I hope that you figure out how you want to start making little changes in your life. This chat board is good for meditation related questions, but my impression is that a message forum can't really do detailed depression guidance -- that is the realm of professionals.

Hope this helps in some way. I hope you keep searching for your path. Life is always a little challenging, but things get better if we keep working, little by little, toward what we want. Best wishes!

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/10/19 6:16 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks Shargrol. I appreciate your advise. I know meditation isn't a cure for all diseases and particularly depression needs to be managed. It is sold as this miraculous thing though isn't it. Stories of significant brain changes in meditators and monks being the happiest people on the planet etc. Buddhism sells 'the end of suffering' and a state of being known as nibanna which is the be all and end all. Meditation is seen as conducive towards bliss and joy etc. So I guess when people do it and it doesn't measure up to the claims they feel a little disappointed. It's like how Christians keep praying hoping they will get to heaven. I guess Buddhists keep meditating hoping they will reach nibanna. 
I will continue my practice because despite my depression and unhappiness I do notice some benefits. 

One thing I know for sure is that happiness is not out there in any other person or thing. Im learning slowly to find it within myself. To go against all the indoctrination and conditioning of our culture and find a true peace. It's very difficult because every fibre of my being sometimes  just wants something to make me happy. But the more attached I am to anything the more I suffer. I'm trying to enjoy what life has to offer but not fall into the traps. It's hard to not feel greedy and self serving in a world that worships money and material wealth. It's hard to feel satisfied. It's actually impossible to. No amount of money or stuff is enough.     I probably have about 25 years left in this planet. I hope when I die that I die well and can look back feel that it was all worth it.  I know one thing is for sure I really don't want to do it all again.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/10/19 7:30 AM as a reply to Billy T.
The real trick of meditation, and what buddha was pointing at, is not nibbana as a _fixed state_ of happiness but rather it's the lack of doing battle with what already is while also being free to do worthwhile things. Appreciation and freedom. Nibbana is how the the last moment translates into this moment and the next moment without any resistance. Time is always releasing the past and becoming the present --- but we rarely live our lives that way. Any fixed state goal always falls apart, but there are indeed people who are very effective at navigating the ups and downs of life. And it is true that some of the most resilient people are meditators.

We are basically handed this present moment and we can fight it or get depressed about it and all the subtle versions of negativity as well --- or we can meet the truth of the moment and live from there. Nibbana is how the current moment is always in flux, how it it always miraculously now, and therefore now is only "time" that we can ever make contact with our actual life. 

We live a lot of our life living in hope and fear about the future and living in pride and shame about the past. In the current moment we get hung up on winning and losing and praise and criticism. But with basic sanity, we can that we do have some choice in whether we get hung up in hope and fear and pride and shame and winning and losing and praise and criticism. Sure, all those things will happen to us in our life, and all of those things can be good information at times, but there are a lot of options for how we create our sense of self.

RE: Progress with insight
Answer
2/11/19 5:21 AM as a reply to Billy T.
Hi Billy!

Are you doing dry insight or wet insight?
Are you practing metta meditation? Gratitude, compassion, love, trust?

For my expirence I was in a situation like you, doing solid vipassana practice but feeling depressed and meditation usually bring up hard feelings and emotions,was hard to handle. At some point I saw that I was very attached at  this strong layer of disatisfaction, in a some way there was a mechanism in me that focus on the bad things in automatic way and go again and again in these territory.

Then I realized that there are good sensations arrising and passing away all the time like there are bad sensations arrasing and passing away all the time. So I choose to be awere on the good sensations, the good side of life, not looking for them ( clinging, craving) but instead just trusting that they are there and they will show up naturally and spontaneously. This realitzation change my practice 180º.

I started to wet my practice and focus on metta, not only in my meditation sessions also in my daily awerness, wetting my expiriences with gratitude, compasion, trust and love. Not trying to deny the expirence, but seeing everything in diferent prespective.
Probably my old prespective was full of resentment, overanalisis, pesimism, judgments and complains and all these stuff makes me feel bad and depressed, slowly I started to change this pattern of seeing things in more kind and lovely way.

Also focused on jhana practice, mixing it with vipassana and is more nicer.

I dont know I think dry insight can be hamerfull sometimes, need to be balanced with sila ( metta ) and smatha ( jhana ). If not can be really hard to handle what vipassana usually show up. At the end is a process of purification.

I will like to add, that in my opinion is a missconception about happiness and vipassana. I see a lot of people feel bad or reject to be happy, that to be happy is not good becouse in the end is suffering etc it feels like a belief or a dogma. Be happy, be at peace with oneself is really nice and is something that is worth to cultivate and work for it.