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Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/17/19 3:12 PM
I have a question related to bad habits, specifically about if I am correctly linking them to the dukkha nanas as well as what to do about them. I seem to have fallen back from something like equanimity to what I suspect is the dukkha nanas. In practice I can’t find the breath, concentration is shot, and even meta feels very lifeless and forced. I went from effortlessly doing two hour-long sits per day to finding it very hard to make myself sit for half an hour once per day now. Off-cushion, the irritation of existence predominates.

I’ve had trips through this territory before, but as my life circumstances haven’t allowed for retreat thus far, most of it has been fairly mild – which I attribute to a non-retreat, lay practitioner’s dosage. This round seems to have a different flavor however. What has me most concerned however, is that bad habits that I thought I had long ago either eliminated or came to healthier terms with have begun to resurface. Experientially, they manifest in the most tiresome patterns. If I’m mindful I see the impulse arise on its own accord, that the desire is a deluded drive to satisfy an empty craving, but I can’t stop it. The mindfulness can temporarily stop me from engaging in the bad habit, but it won’t make the problem go away and it turns the negative vedana up to eleven. Even if I do the “bear down, tongue against the roof of the mouth” thing, it will reappear again moments later. Often I just suffer through it until it passes, but more and more often I unwittingly give in, like munching a cookie before you even realize you had a craving for something sweet. I feel both tricked and trapped by my own mind I suppose. Every indulgence is both unstoppable due to there ultimately being no separate doer that can stand outside of things and make some magical adjustment, as well as deeply unsatisfying as the next irritating bit of craving will crop up a fraction of a second later. What to do about the next craving? Well, let’s tune out by doing some other unhelpful thing. And IT. NEVER. STOPS. Ugh…

Now, I don’t want all of that to come across as sounding like, “no one has ever suffered like I’m suffering…” or something as teen-angsty as that, but I do feel a little adrift, particularly as practice has become so much more difficult and jhana is nowhere to be found. The only attainment I will unequivocally claim is having crossed the A&P, so am I being reasonable in assuming this is likely related to the dukkha nanas? Has anyone else here ever been hit particularly hard by this pattern and if so, what (if anything) helped while you tried to just work through it?

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/18/19 6:08 AM as a reply to Ryan.
Could be the various dukka nanas, but could also be reobservation. 

At times in practice, this yucky stuff hits and you have to decide: do I slow things down or face it head on. If you have been able to sit for two hours in the past and have been practicing daily, it's worth considering facing it head on.

One way to think about it is, "This is the point of my sitting practice. I want to have this stuff happen. I know that progress comes from hitting new stages with new challenges and looking at how my mind reacts during difficulties. . This "bad" stuff is actually the "good" stuff. I finally get a chance to see how my mind trys to trick me into giving up. I might not like these sits, but I won't die. I'm just sitting in a safe spot, with nothing to do, no physical threats, and the only thing that is showing up is my own mind. And I know that if I really see the nature of the yuckiness as sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts occuring within my mind then I will gain insights into the nature of dukka and will not be confused. If I see these states as mind objects within my awareness I will be able to sit with them and fully experience them. I am the awareness of these things, not the individual sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts that arise and pass in my awareness. This is the reason I practice. I want these challenges to happen."

You see what I mean? Sometimes you just have to go for it. Be careful, approach it humbly, but sometimes you do have to go for it. 

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/19/19 1:35 AM as a reply to Ryan.
Hi Ryan, leaving the nana's aside. The pattern your experiencing is something that can be expected. Going from the mild to the more powerful can be the Equanimity and Awareness developing. Turns the Vedana up to eleven, indicates that you may be misunderstanding whats happening. As the EQ develops there's a letting go. In a sense your turning your control down with the practice your doing. As a result it allows some freedom. Phenomemena can now express previously controlled qualities.This becomes challenging for EQ, letting go gives way to resistence. The controlling turns up again. This is ok.
These episodes become more powerful, what was once mild and reasonably managable take on the powerful totaly unmanageable. As difficult and unpleasant this may be, its not a mistake. 

sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts occuring

Shargrol used the words above. They are a few of the component parts that you should be observing with mindfulness. The experiential qualities of each occuring from arising to passing. Then the next one and so on. Thats the material you want to be working with. 
Could you explain what is the habit, and what is the problem that won't go away? How this unfolds. You could have a misunderstanding of the process and fighting against it trying to make it go another way.
Knowing what your doing and how your trying to do it is neccessary to comment on specifics.
 


RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/19/19 3:54 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
Shargrol – I do see what you mean and this is very helpful, thank you. The perspective shift of taking on all the yuck and seeing it as a good thing makes a lot of sense. Of course, accepting that and really being with it is quite an undertaking, so I see what you mean by needing to really “go for it.” I’ll take a stab a redoubling my efforts at seeing all this stuff clearly as frequently as possible.

Bigbird – That’s very interesting. I definitely see the control coming down; as more and more is seen as dependently arisen, there is less and less a sense of any “one” doing the controlling. Though, the problems with bad habits reappearing seem to be directly causal as to the origination of negative affect/displeasure, no? There is certainly resistance to things not working out as I prefer/plan though.

The particular habits are multitude actually. From the banal of procrastinating at work or binging on junk food, to other things that I’m not super comfortable sharing at the moment. But either way, the pattern is the same. I see the impulse arise. The intention to notice and let pass arises. And then the impulse/desire strengthens, and I do some sort of fighting against it further, and so on. Eventually it either beats me or a lapse in mindfulness typically ends in my ‘defeat’ so to speak. Make sense?

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/20/19 12:30 PM as a reply to Ryan.
Yes Makes sense.

Though, the problems with bad habits reappearing seem to be directly causal as to the origination of negative affect/displeasure, no?

I'm not sure what your saying. Habits are considered bad if the results are considered undesirable, normally. Its subjective and not a one size fits all. Society may consider a particular habit bad, some will disagree. 
If trying to stop a habit causes conflict within ones self to the point where they are unable. That also may be considered an undesirable result. This routine can become habitual.


There is certainly resistance to things not working out as I prefer/plan though. 


I suggest you get some advice. Contact someone like the owner of this forum. Send him a message. Organise a chat. Let him diagnose if your past A&P. Be up front about the habits your trying to change. Don't for a moment feel that theirs anything in your mind that will phase him. Then follow his advice. 
Mindfulness doesn't take requests. It goes directly for the source. So its not designed specifically for self improvement, though it does improve things. If you've crossed A&P then best to address any of your psychcology thats prevents stream entry. That will be difficult enough. To get stream entry in the Progress of Insight models you need to do whatever it takes, its not negotiable. The nanas will tease out any of your psychology that is an obsticle that prevents the Insight needed. Thats why you should get advice. Its very impersonal and its best to have someone assist you to not to confuse this with your personal life.

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/20/19 9:39 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
I appreciate the suggestion, and if I can’t work my way through this material then I will try to sit down one-on-one and run it by someone more experienced. I should maybe clarify however that it’s not really the habits themselves that are the problem, at least that’s not the aspect that brings me to post here. Take poor diet choices for example; it’s not that I’m bummed that my formerly great diet now consists of a lot of junk and I’ve put on ten pounds/four kilograms/two-thirds-a-stone, it’s that every potato chip is a crispy reminder of the futility of all human striving. Moreover, the understandings (although maybe they’re better thought of as concepts, as they’re not there all the time) that used to work for things like this, such as the “even your mistakes are coming from a place of self-compassion, albeit perhaps a misguided place”, are no longer doing much for the feeling of being trapped/tricked by my own mind. Put another way, I’m not so much looking for self-improvement as I am for a way through this really hard-to-describe form of distress, the one where my committee of the mind seems staffed by lunatics, idiots, and gestapo.

I suspect that I may have been grasping for straws asking if anyone had any hacks for this. Something along the lines of “This dark night yogi got through her uncontrollable habits with this one weird trick. MARA HATES HER!” Maybe there are no short cuts here though, I don’t know. 

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/21/19 7:21 AM as a reply to Ryan.
a way through this really hard-to-describe form of distress, the one where my committee of the mind seems staffed by lunatics, idiots, and gestapo. 

This is the what they are calling the dark night. When experienced through ones psychcology its confusing and best avoided. There are no short cuts. Its as honest and impersonal a requirement to complete as your ever going to come up against. Thats what i mean by not negotiable. There is something wonderful about that. Thats, that we can't just understand the requirement, agree to the requirement, surrender to requirement, bow down before it. Even if we do this, it still takes time. The mind we have must become what is required. Its a different form of what we call changing our mind.

There is no short cut, but there are best practices. Turn your attention to pure sensate. Thats where its happening. The nanas have and are associated with feelings fear, misery, etc. They also have variations in frequency, vibration - some have a low background and a high forground, others just one high or low. Then some are at the passing end of the spectrum, others the arising, others more uniform. Theres way more, but this is where the action is. The committee of the mind is just the thrashing around. 

Whats happening is the minds perceptual abilities are being stretched to every end of whatever spectrum is require to get to the high EQ experience. So it can feel like one is being torn apart. Thats reasonably accurate. So stay at the level of pure sensate and just know and in every moment and open up to it. Don't fight with it, just let it run its course.

Its better to sit and practice letting go into the sensate experience of being torn apart than up on the surface with the committee of mind thrashing around trying to mitigate the experience.

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/24/19 4:22 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
There is no short cut, but there are best practices. Turn your attention to pure sensate. Thats where its happening. The nanas have and are associated with feelings fear, misery, etc. They also have variations in frequency, vibration - some have a low background and a high forground, others just one high or low. Then some are at the passing end of the spectrum, others the arising, others more uniform. Theres way more, but this is where the action is. The committee of the mind is just the thrashing around.

Since my last post, I’ve been trying to maintain mindfulness of the component sensations that make up the issues I’ve been mentioning and you are so right. As simple as this should be, I still routinely find myself surprised that I need to come back to bare sensations. Six sense doors, three marks, go. The committee buzzes on but it’s no longer a problem in the same way. In fact, off-cushion, I’ve found myself succumbing to those “potato chips” must less often this last day or so, although they don't bother in the same way when I do either. It’s kind of funny in a way actually – when I was more troubled by my lack of control, the patterns were relentless, but when I ignore the trouble and just pay very close attention to what’s going on, the patterns abate. The interdependent universe seems to have a sick sense of humor sometimes…

Anicca Dukkha Anatta – metta to you as well my friend and I hope you get through to the other side. And I'm similar in that I don’t know where I’d be on any of the maps. Thinking about it more now, what I was in could have been equanimity, or could have been dissolution, or maybe something else entirely. I used to care very much about mapping my practice, but found that to be a hindrance and had to let it go. Of course, there are trade-offs with that, but I think it has been a net positive thus far.

Your bullet points are also well taken, thank you. I’ve been finding some success in treating the guilt/angst thing as just more phenomena independently doing their thing, i.e., not me or mine. In fact, sitting today I took this feeling as an object and tried to shred it. It arises in awareness, and I know it that way. Where is it? It is over “there” somewhere. Well, just like trying to find “The Observer”, if I’m aware of it, then it by definition isn’t me … and poof, it’s no more a “problem” than an itch or a little back pain. I also found that this was actually an effective way to get concentrated, which was super relieving as my concentration has been shot for days/weeks now. Once I got to a good level of one-pointedness, I started playing around with intentions and shortly after they took on some of that same “not-me-ness”, things started to get, let’s say, trippy. I’ll spare you the rambling description that won’t quite capture it, but it was fun stuff. Of course, one "good sit" does not a break-thorugh make, but I'll take what I can get. 

Metta to everyone for your thoughts and suggestions! 

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/29/19 9:52 AM as a reply to Ryan.
So, I’ve been an idiot, although I’m probably amongst good company in this regard. The problems that prompted this post surfaced because I’m in dissolution. In fact, I’ve been cycling up to dissolution almost every sit for months (years?) now. I’ve avoided the maps for quite some time as I suspected my ambitious side might manifest in the form of scripting, but this blinded me to what are now obvious signs. Per Daniel’s Nana map - physical manifestations: hunger (check), restlessness/irritation (check), intentions less effective (quadruple check); mental manifestations: withdrawal (check), lust/temptations (and how); basic insights: center of attention vague, periphery more clear (big time), hints of the implications of transience (gods yes, e.g., giving in to temptation no longer satisfies in any meaningful way).

I only saw this once I got curious on the cushion about whether or not I was over-efforting and really just gave in to dispassionate observation, something that’s been elusive as of late. Once that was done, the nanas just started to arise on their own: first thoughts were disidentified with, then the connections between sensations in the six sense doors became apparent, then the weird physical stuff (I’m prone to swaying and really tense neck twisting that happens on its own), then strobing in attention that culminated in a bang with the eyes popping open and the fingers and toes reflexively splaying out, then concentration was shot and the feeling of not knowing what to do arose strongly, along with subtle longing for the pleasure that accompanies the strobing effect. Could this be anymore textbook? Again, I’m an idiot, a humbled idiot.

One final note: maybe I’m working past dissolution now?? After the above cycle, a new set of sensations arose, though they are hard to describe. I’ve read the concept that “in every moment, there is nothing but consciousness and its object” a hundred different times & ways, but looking at it now it seems particularly relevant. Like, just reading it in dharma books, it is a neat philosophical toy. Seeing the damn thing hit you in the face, that it applies to EVERYTHING, is a little scary, like the point when a roller coaster is just starting that first drop. In any event, I know that the only thing to do now is to continue to practice as well as I can, just more emphasis on gentleness and nonjudgmental acceptance. Thanks again for everyone’s suggestions; they were super helpful and encouraging. emoticon

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/20/19 9:02 AM as a reply to Ryan.
Is it possible that you're being a little too hard on yourself?  I know I sometimes get into a mode where it feels like I need to be superhuman in eating just the right thing, meeting optimistic exercise goals, coming across as perfectly confident and pleasant interpersonally, being 100% productive, and accomplishing stuff in my practice.  Ironically, putting that kind of pressure on myself ends up undermining my ability to actually relax enough to do any of those things.  Sometimes it can be helpful to plan out a way over the next few days to rest up, recharge, and listen to what all the different parts of you want and find a way to have a "good enough" day that you'll be satisfied.  If you're feeling really reactive and unsatisfied with what you keep on doing, that's a sign of an internal conflict where you're judging part of yourself rather than accepting it, often because of some unacknowledged shame or sorrow.  It can be helpful to try to reframe dealing with the bad habit less as "I'm doing something wrong and I need to stop" and more as "Part of me thinks that habit XYZ is a compassionate way to take care of myself.  I might not want to do it if I really understood the original reason for it or if that part of me had more context, but there's nothing wrong with the original compassionate impulse."

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/20/19 9:45 PM as a reply to JP.
JP:
 It can be helpful to try to reframe dealing with the bad habit less as "I'm doing something wrong and I need to stop" and more as "Part of me thinks that habit XYZ is a compassionate way to take care of myself.  I might not want to do it if I really understood the original reason for it or if that part of me had more context, but there's nothing wrong with the original compassionate impulse."

This is basically a more sophisticated version of the self-talk I've used in the past. I'm 100% on board with the content, but it just doesn't seem to do the trick anymore and I'm not sure why it stopped working. 

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/21/19 1:58 AM as a reply to Ryan.
Metta to you Ryan.

I can relate to lot of what you are saying. I'm still struggling so I do not have any meaningful suggestions for you, anyway I'll share my experiences. To give you a context I am in same zone as u A&P is guaranteed past (in fact I belive it passes pretty much every day, every sit) and not sure if I have even accessed any sort of Equanimity or I'm happily ( haha or painfully to be correct) loitering in Dukkha zone :-).

* Mind is very sneaky, I find self getting itchy and scratching before even realizing that goal was observation. Very few times am able to stop , sometimes not. All I can do is not get agitated or get sucked into guilt and shame and just take the small victories if and when they come.
* Metta is wonderful and helpful but it does feel forced many times so I do not do Metta practice when I'm not in the state. I let it be and just do it when it arises on its own.
* For me Energy level is low, memory is shot, There is intent to practice but feels like concentration and skills are lost. Major mood swings in routine life. Sorry I do not have any suggestions other than just pushing thru since everything that has arisen will pass so this too shall pass - 2 minutes, 2 days or 2 lifetimes who knows.
* Who says eating cookies is bad and eating salads is good (specially if it is a phase of few weeks or months) . If u r eating a cookie might as well enjoy it. there is no real self to control so how can u expect to have control over your cookie eating ? If u make peace with it and relax, it might be less agitating and not that bad. Am I making any sense ? Give urself wide berth and shower self with as much Metta as u can, u r hurting as it is why add more to the pain. As long as u r practing with right intention regularly things will sort themselves out. (And I accept that even though I am preachng patience to u, it has been very hard to practice for me)

Hope things get better and you get what u need.

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/22/19 2:02 PM as a reply to Ryan.
Ryan:
I have a question related to bad habits, specifically about if I am correctly linking them to the dukkha nanas as well as what to do about them. I seem to have fallen back from something like equanimity to what I suspect is the dukkha nanas. In practice I can’t find the breath, concentration is shot, and even meta feels very lifeless and forced. I went from effortlessly doing two hour-long sits per day to finding it very hard to make myself sit for half an hour once per day now. Off-cushion, the irritation of existence predominates.

I’ve had trips through this territory before, but as my life circumstances haven’t allowed for retreat thus far, most of it has been fairly mild – which I attribute to a non-retreat, lay practitioner’s dosage. This round seems to have a different flavor however. What has me most concerned however, is that bad habits that I thought I had long ago either eliminated or came to healthier terms with have begun to resurface. Experientially, they manifest in the most tiresome patterns. If I’m mindful I see the impulse arise on its own accord, that the desire is a deluded drive to satisfy an empty craving, but I can’t stop it. The mindfulness can temporarily stop me from engaging in the bad habit, but it won’t make the problem go away and it turns the negative vedana up to eleven. Even if I do the “bear down, tongue against the roof of the mouth” thing, it will reappear again moments later. Often I just suffer through it until it passes, but more and more often I unwittingly give in, like munching a cookie before you even realize you had a craving for something sweet. I feel both tricked and trapped by my own mind I suppose. Every indulgence is both unstoppable due to there ultimately being no separate doer that can stand outside of things and make some magical adjustment, as well as deeply unsatisfying as the next irritating bit of craving will crop up a fraction of a second later. What to do about the next craving? Well, let’s tune out by doing some other unhelpful thing. And IT. NEVER. STOPS. Ugh…

Now, I don’t want all of that to come across as sounding like, “no one has ever suffered like I’m suffering…” or something as teen-angsty as that, but I do feel a little adrift, particularly as practice has become so much more difficult and jhana is nowhere to be found. The only attainment I will unequivocally claim is having crossed the A&P, so am I being reasonable in assuming this is likely related to the dukkha nanas? Has anyone else here ever been hit particularly hard by this pattern and if so, what (if anything) helped while you tried to just work through it?

aloha ryan,

   The cycle of samsara. Hell realm, hungry ghost, animal, human, jealous god (asura), happy god (deva). One rises, and one falls. Everything is impermanent, you can't stay in heaven, you can't stay in hell.

   When you get back to the human realm of apparent choice, choose to stay human. Practice for no gain. "Birdsong from within the egg." 

terry



from 'the gazelle' in "feeling the shoulder of the lion" rumi/barks:


Diminish a little, for your own sake,
all this eating and drinking, and watch
a new basin fill in front of you

Then God may say, "Death, 
give back what you took."

But you'll turn away.
You won't want those things.

Sufis throw away their wantings and their objects.
They abandon pieces of clothes in the dance,
and those articles are never returned.

They are given to the singer,
or divided among the dancers.

They rise from a briny, annihilating
ocean into pure clarity.

They confront the world openly with its arrogance
and its hypocrisy. They are warriors
for non-existence.

The planter works with the most joy
whose barn is completely empty,
the planter who works for that
which has not appeared.

Second by second I know you are expecting
some sure understanding, some spiritual perception,
some peace, but I am not allowed to say
more about this mystery,

or else I would create a Baghdad
in the wilds of the Georgia mountains,
and there would be no more doubting!

RE: Bad Habit Patterns
Answer
5/25/19 4:12 AM as a reply to Ryan.
Ryan:
I have a question related to bad habits, specifically about if I am correctly linking them to the dukkha nanas as well as what to do about them. I seem to have fallen back from something like equanimity to what I suspect is the dukkha nanas. In practice I can’t find the breath, concentration is shot, and even meta feels very lifeless and forced. I went from effortlessly doing two hour-long sits per day to finding it very hard to make myself sit for half an hour once per day now. Off-cushion, the irritation of existence predominates.

I’ve had trips through this territory before, but as my life circumstances haven’t allowed for retreat thus far, most of it has been fairly mild – which I attribute to a non-retreat, lay practitioner’s dosage. This round seems to have a different flavor however. What has me most concerned however, is that bad habits that I thought I had long ago either eliminated or came to healthier terms with have begun to resurface. Experientially, they manifest in the most tiresome patterns. If I’m mindful I see the impulse arise on its own accord, that the desire is a deluded drive to satisfy an empty craving, but I can’t stop it. The mindfulness can temporarily stop me from engaging in the bad habit, but it won’t make the problem go away and it turns the negative vedana up to eleven. Even if I do the “bear down, tongue against the roof of the mouth” thing, it will reappear again moments later. Often I just suffer through it until it passes, but more and more often I unwittingly give in, like munching a cookie before you even realize you had a craving for something sweet. I feel both tricked and trapped by my own mind I suppose. Every indulgence is both unstoppable due to there ultimately being no separate doer that can stand outside of things and make some magical adjustment, as well as deeply unsatisfying as the next irritating bit of craving will crop up a fraction of a second later. What to do about the next craving? Well, let’s tune out by doing some other unhelpful thing. And IT. NEVER. STOPS. Ugh…

Now, I don’t want all of that to come across as sounding like, “no one has ever suffered like I’m suffering…” or something as teen-angsty as that, but I do feel a little adrift, particularly as practice has become so much more difficult and jhana is nowhere to be found. The only attainment I will unequivocally claim is having crossed the A&P, so am I being reasonable in assuming this is likely related to the dukkha nanas? Has anyone else here ever been hit particularly hard by this pattern and if so, what (if anything) helped while you tried to just work through it?
Awareness does not mean self love. That's why metta or Loving Kindness Meditation, especially self compassion meditation, helps you satisfy the cravings. A lot of people crave things when they're distressed, and so they eat to feel better. If you show love to yourself, then it's easier not to eat as much, or from others, too little. Try looking up Surfing the Wave meditation for your cravings with food, or check out the Meditative Mind channel that has a lot of music that is designed to help you focus on certain ideas or with general concepts. 

Lastly, for some practical advice on discipline, check out James Clear's blog. You're welcome.