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long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 7:08 AM
When I was 19, back in 1973, I was driving on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and nearly wiped out at 75 m.p.h. I lost control of my car, started swerving madly all over the place, panicked, and then suddenly something happened: I felt my whole identity slip away from me, one characteristic after another. I had a cognition--I thought--oh, that is over with now; I've been 19, blonde, female, a violinist named Laurel, and I felt it all just drop from me like one garment after another (a striptease!), and then I felt enveloped by this incredible sense of love, as if I were going home. I felt a kind of regret for what my parents would feel when they found out I was dead, but then I felt consoled by an awareness that they would soon enough know the truth.

Then I kind of "woke up" and found myself facing backwards on the lefthand shoulder with no idea how I got there. I managed to get to a rest stop--some kind people pulled over and helped me reorient myself and led me there. Since then, I have had a phobia about driving on freeways, which varies in severity. I never used this experience to enter into a sustained meditation practice. I was preoccupied with my psychological stuff, have been for years, have had a lot of psychotherapy and EMDR (which hasn't budged my phobias), and for awhile pursued Christian mysticism, but eventually have found the doctrine to be too much (I've always had problems with revealed religion). I did, however, have one other spiritual experience during this time (the early 90's), when I once again felt that indescribable love begin to envelop me. I got scared and pulled back.

A few more things about myself: I've suffered from mild depression, anxiety, and sleep problems my entire adult life, now have fibromyalgia. Is this some kind of half-assed Dark Night? Last week I had a depressive episode and wanted to just plain die, not out of any excruciating mental pain, but out of pure boredom and disgust with the pettiness of my "stuff." I have, however, a strong moral sense, and I am in no danger of doing anything stupid. I have a husband, an aged mother, a job, and most important of all, a 9-year-old adopted son whom I am determined to launch into adult life without the baggage of a tragedy because of me.

If anyone can help me identify what happened I'd be extremely grateful. I've read Daniel's book and I know that ultimately the important thing is to get myself into a sustained meditation practice regardless. Thank you.

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 12:41 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:

A few more things about myself: I've suffered from mild depression, anxiety, and sleep problems my entire adult life, now have fibromyalgia. Is this some kind of half-assed Dark Night? Last week I had a depressive episode and wanted to just plain die, not out of any excruciating mental pain, but out of pure boredom and disgust with the pettiness of my "stuff." I have, however, a strong moral sense, and I am in no danger of doing anything stupid. I have a husband, an aged mother, a job, and most important of all, a 9-year-old adopted son whom I am determined to launch into adult life without the baggage of a tragedy because of me.

If anyone can help me identify what happened I'd be extremely grateful. I've read Daniel's book and I know that ultimately the important thing is to get myself into a sustained meditation practice regardless. Thank you.

Hello Jane,

First, let me say that I can relate to the experiences you describe. You are two years younger than myself, so we both grew up in the same generation. Also, I understand the religious zeitgeist that you have emerged from with regard to Christianity. I had the same problem with it as you described, and very quickly began looking in other directions, mainly toward Eastern philosophies, which once I became aware of them made more sense to me than Christianity.

What you experienced was likely some kind of "dark night" phenomenon in my opinion, the kind of thing, in this instance at least, that can lead to more serious states of depression. The one experience you described regarding the auto accident sounds much like a near death experience (NDE). Considering the background you grew up in (and hence the mental conditioning involved), it doesn't surprise me the description you offered. In relation to the "dark night" phenomenon, the "depressive episode" you experienced where you "just wanted to die," is indicative of a chronic mental condition which if not properly addressed could exacerbate. I've experienced many similar episodes to the one you described myself.

The mild depression, anxiety and so forth are likely due to not being able to fully understand or integrate the experiences you've had. (I'm not referring to the fibromyalgia here, which may have a physical origin. I don't know, because I don't have enough valid information about your case.) I cannot say, with any real certainty, what might help you to turn this situation around, beyond psycho-therapeutic treatment. Only that a study and practice of the meditation/contemplation of what is taught in the Buddhadhamma may help you to begin coming to terms with the processing of your experiences. A correct understanding and inner validation of the concepts and ideas that Gotama taught may serve to overwhelm the "inner demons" you are having to deal with.

I have direct experience with using this method of treatment on myself. At one point in my life (around the ages of 27-28) I became acutely depressed myself. I found someone who helped me to "get beyond" that episode in my life, but then I struggled for the next twenty years or so trying to find some solid ground on which plant myself and bloom. It was only when I began a serious study of the Buddhadhamma (reading the discourses and studying the doctrines taught, like the three characteristics, dependent arising, and the five aggregates) that I began more clearly to understand my experiences and to see how my previous mental conditioning had played a decisive role in the earlier depression I had endured. When I fully understood these teachings, it completely wiped out the possibility of my having any future depressive episodes.

Beyond this, is there anything else you are endeavoring to comprehend about what you experienced?

All the best,
Ian

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 1:45 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Hello & welcome,

Jane Laurel Carrington:

A few more things about myself: I've suffered from mild depression, anxiety, and sleep problems my entire adult life, now have fibromyalgia.


You may want to consider the possibility that the fibromyalgia is psychosomatic; which would mean that reducing and eliminating those symptoms will happen as soon as you’re ready to accept yourself (you may also eliminate that self after you accept it, if that is what you wish, but it must come in that order). I know this is a possibility because I experienced it myself (along with chronic lower back pain, the root cause in my case) for several years.

I’ve developed a method which has demonstrated success in reducing / eliminating psychosomatic pain. It's derived from the knowledge of what I went through and how I eliminated it. Those methods have since been supplemented with knowledge uncovered from working with other people dealing with similar issues. I’ve included an overview of instructions pertaining to that method in case you would like to investigate it for yourself / test its efficacy. The instructions assume that what you're experiencing is psychosomatic, as that simply made it easier to tailor to your post.

Use step one only for a few days, then step one and two for a few days, then step one, two and three for a few days, then all of them until they no longer seem necessary.

First, you want to identify and differentiate physical pain from affective pain by focusing on the physical aspect of the problem. To do this, you’ll have to pay very close attention to your physical body and your emotional state. You’ll need to inspect the body very carefully. Pay delicate attention to the body, feeling the body in your mind and at your body. For instance, spend 5+ minutes every day just feeling one of your feet. Feel every tendon possible, every muscle, the skin, the temperature, etc. Use your hands to palpate the targeted area, or gently flex or stretch the area. Do this for every part of your body, especially areas that are particularly uncomfortable. Really get to know how your entire body feels in a very precise way. If there is actually physical pain, try to find the precise source of it. Figure out where the physical pain emanates from and remember that point. Psychosomatic pain will tend to feel ephemeral; like a relatively large, vaguely defined region of your body is off-limits to physical use or mental reflection (this “off-limits” intuition is likely due to fear / denial, the source of the pain). (When that vague region is whole body and is severe enough, it may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia). Note that you may have an aversion to doing even this first step, because it requires that you begin to clearly define mental and/or physical pain. This is par for the course. Don’t worry or fret about progress, you must be patient with yourself. Working through the discomfort is necessary, because although it might sometimes seem like you’re hurting yourself or otherwise antagonizing the discomfort by doing this, that is not actually the case… it is just that you may begin to become more aware of how you’ve been hurting all along. Leave not a single inch of your body unexamined, and do this as often as you can (really: as often as you can).

Second, you want to identify and differentiate physical pain from affective pain by focusing on the emotional aspect of the problem. Sincere application of step one will help you begin “pulling out” the emotional feelings from their effect (physical sensations) but it focused mainly on the physical aspect of the body. This step focuses mainly on continuing to draw out the emotional aspect of the pain so you can address it clearly (it is impossible to address something you’re unaware of). This essentially means becoming mentally, clearly aware of some aspect of your emotionality that has been rejected so harshly as to become (at least partially) disassociated / suppressed “into the body.” This source likely has something to do with thoughts regarding an event which you currently view to have been traumatic. For me, it was injuring my back at a very young age. I hated it, resented it, blamed it for other problems in my life, etc. I piled those emotions (and others) “onto” the associated area, one layer at a time for years, because I just didn’t want to / couldn't deal with it. Because I disassociated from such a core part of my body, I began feeling very weak physically, and that made me feel vulnerable, and that made me feel deeply insecure in the world. Because those feelings stemmed from the original injury, they were also rejected and repressed, and that is when I began experiencing it as a whole body phenomenon (fibromyalgia). Thus, in this step, you’ve got to be brave, honest and accepting of whatever is causing you so much mental trauma. You must care about yourself and your health... you must care about how much you’re hurting yourself because of whatever part of yourself is being repressed. If you combine these: bravery, honesty, acceptance, caring, and other sincere sentiments, the source trauma(s) will appear to you without you doing much more than intending for them to do so. And why shouldn’t they appear? After all, they are all fundamentally “you”!

Third: eliminate the core psychic source of the somatic reaction which is causing the physical dysfunction. This is best done via naivete, which is the most effective way to “let go” of anything psychically generated (in this case: affect). I recommend becoming familiar with actualism methods (haietmboa [1], naivete [2], etc [3]) and the employment of those with a specific intent to relax your mind and body “no matter what”. In practice, this doesn't have to amount to much more than observing the justification for the newly uncovered trauma's existence and then sincerely saying to yourself “I don’t know if that’s really fact” (as a response to whatever self-justified emotional thoughts are welling up). For me, this meant saying “I don’t really even know if my back is still injured” or “am I really vulnerable? I haven’t honestly encountered any danger since becoming hurt…” or “is there really anything I can’t do (that I want to do) because of this? I seem to do everything I use to do, even if it is less comfortable…” and so on. You see, psychosomatic pain works like a loop which keeps itself in operation by continually either rejecting or accepting (or both) some remembered emotional scenario (or a future projection of that scenario). Naivete—saying “I don’t know about that”—breaks the loop. If the loop is broken enough times, and/or with sufficient sincerely, it will simply (eventually) cease entirely and vanish. Letting go of the source of an emotional identification in a way that is explicitly understood to be final or in a way which implies finality can be scary. Notice that sense of hesitation and notice how you’ll still remember the event and whatever lessons were learned, even if you decide to resolve it emotionally. The only significant result of letting go: you stop hurting and any pain you cause others by hurting goes away too. That final point is well worth saying more on: try to see how letting go of it will benefit others by allowing you to be happier and thus a more positive influence on them (altruistic motivation is often necessary for letting go of part of yourself, especially “deep” parts).

Fourth, rehabilitate the body. Below are some examples and specific things to look for, but there are a lot of other things you can discover yourself as it relates to your specific situation. Work on relaxing your body and mind (as it pertains to the body) as much as you can, all the time, with no exceptions. If you’ve forgotten how to use some of your muscles, use the approach in step 1 to get a feel for them, and then try to incorporate that heightened muscular awareness into your everyday way of moving about. This is major because a lot of your subtle muscular system may be “shut off.” Try to see if there are ways of moving your body that are more comfortable than how you moved them before, or try discovering methods of moving around in the same ways you do now but in a way which doesn’t hurt. For instance, if your arm hurts when you raise it a certain way, ask yourself: can I do this same motion with different muscles so that it isn’t painful? Can I do this same motion with less muscular use? Can I do this same motion while completely relaxed? If you identify an instance of this occurring, it might feel kind of weird to incorporate into daily life, because the muscles will likely be weak. This may take a lot of patience. Work on flexibility by stretching, or whatever. If you do stretches every day but make no significant progress, you’re probably still tensing that area; try relaxing the muscle you are intending to stretch, and especially make sure you aren’t flexing that muscle as you stretch; the stretch will come from the rest of your body positioning itself so as to apply pressure to the muscle which needs to be stretched. Let your shoulders relax and "droop" completely all the time. Let your tummy relax. Let your head sit on your neck; it doesn’t need to be tensed at all. Try doing this with anything that is tensed, perhaps beginning at home and then doing so all the time. Try remembering a time in your life when you were so relaxed that your body seemed to float away. While remembering that, ask yourself: where am I not that relaxed right now? Make sure your sitting/walking/standing/etc. postures are appropriate for good health.

A final note: don’t resent this process for any reason. It may sound silly, but I caught myself doing that sometimes due to the discomfort, and that can impede progress in a major way.

Jane Laurel Carrington:
Is this some kind of half-assed Dark Night?


It could be, but due to the possibly repressed nature of your self, I advise against insight practice of the variety spoken of in MCTB (at least until a time when you can confidently say you’re just generally of better mental health). Because if what you’re experiencing isn’t a dark night, a “real” dark night is probably going to be very extreme. Besides, that kind of meditation is not going to be very effective against what you’re going through right now (whether the fibromyalgia is psychosomatic or not); you need something that is capable of uncovering and addressing the affective faculty directly (hence the nature of my recommendations).

Trent

[1] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/articles/thismomentofbeingalive.htm
[2] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/library/topics/naivete.htm
[3] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/library/default.htm , http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/sundry/map.htm

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 3:15 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thank you so much for your compassionate response. I should probably get back in touch with my therapist and let her know what happened last week. I know that at least part of it is seasonal; the days are pretty short here in Minnesota. But at least part of what I've been feeling seems to be based in reality: I feel that I'm getting older, my life is slipping through my fingers like water, and I'm likely to end up in old age confused, in pain, and frustrated. The truth is that my life *is* slipping through my fingers because it's impermanent, and the places where I've looked for satisfaction (work, family) can't satisfy in an absolute sense. The part of Dan's book that really resonated, though, was his description of the grief you go through when you realize your self isn't real. I have been feeling that grief even though I haven't experienced the relinquishing of self that is part of that state. I am very attached to my little self, regardless of how unsatisfactory she has been over the years.

The depression is actually less painful and debilitating than the anxiety, particularly the phobias. I have two: the driving (which at the moment isn't that bad), and a problem performing on my violin. I once thought I'd be a professional violinist and had to give it up, largely becuase the stage fright was so debilitating that I'd be unable to play. After 25 years of not touching it I took it up again, but haven't been able to play comfortably in public with any consistency. The depressive episode of last week occurred after I wiped out trying to play a piece I dearly love, which sounded wonderful in rehearsal. The obvious solution would be to quit playing if it causes that much trouble, but I don't think that would solve anything; I'd always feel sad and wonder why on earth I had to give it up. I don't want to take up a meditation practice for the purpose only of solving this problem, because that's not ultimately what it's for, but I also don't want to fool myself by thinking that I can relinquish this desire. There's some healing that has to take place at the psychological level on the role to enlightenment.

What I'd like to do now is begin with the second of the three trainings, with an initial goal of attaining access concentration. I have a meditation center in my town, with good teachers, and I have signed up for an 8-day meditation retreat at IMS in July. I have years of experience coping with my moods, and lots of good medical help. I also am blessed with a supportive husband.

I'm also wondering where my near death experience might be on "the map," or whether it is even on the map.

Thanks again. I'm going to write more in response to my other friend in this thread.

Laurel (that's the name I actually use)

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 3:25 PM as a reply to Trent ..
Thank you so much for your lengthy and considerate response. I will go to work and try the things you suggest. I am sure that there is a strong psychological component to my pain; it began after an emotional trauma, and gets worse under stress. At the time I was diagnosed (about 6 years ago) I saw it as a wake-up call for me to change my life. For awhile I did that, and then I fell back into old habits. But two things seem to make it worse: work, and playing the violin. Both are activities I love. In work I'm an academic, an intellectual historian in fact, and I love teaching and learning. But both the academic world and the fine arts are highly competitive environments. As a violinist in my teens I attended a conservatory and was around hyper-critical professionals, and fellow students who were happy to decorate your back with a load of cutlery (!).

Anyway, I know I have some healing to do, but I also want to progress. I can see why insight meditation might be dangerous, but I'd like to try beginning a program in concentration. I also would appreciate it if you could tell me a little more about AF, which I think I've seen referenced on this site. Where does it fit in, or how does it relate, to the practice that Dan describes in his book?

Again, let me thank you. You have been extremely generous. I look forward to a time when I'm in a position to pay it forward.

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 4:09 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Jane Laurel Carrington:
...I'd like to try beginning a program in concentration.


Concentration is always good! You seem to be very dedicated, especially as you have already signed up for an 8-day retreat, so this advice may be too "light" for you, but the retreat is in a few months anyway so here it is:

The way I began meditating is with a book called 8 Minute Meditation. The idea is very simple: meditate eight minutes per day, no matter what. It's short enough such that one can't make any "I don't have time" excuses, but long enough to matter. If you start off trying one hour per day, for example, that might be too burdensome, and you might come to associate meditation with something unpleasant. Also you get into the habit of doing it every day, which still took me a while even with only doing it for eight minutes.

----

As to what to do... there are lots of materials out there, which I will try to find links to and post here. Basic instructions for the breath:

  • Sit somewhere quiet in a comfortable position. No need to worry about posture, sitting on a cushion, sitting in full lotus, etc. Just something you can maintain for eight minutes that doesn't hurt.
  • Set a timer for 8 minutes so you don't have to worry about time.
  • Close your eyes and focus on your breath. You can either focus on the sensation of air entering and leaving your nostrils, your abdomen moving up or down, or any point in between where you can feel it.
  • If your mind wanders, which it will, just acknowledge that it has, and go back to focusing on the breath. Don't feel bad about it, happens to everyone =).


When you're comfortable with 8 minutes bring it up to 10, 12, try doing it twice a day for 8, etc. Basically, factor in your free time with your patience and drive and find something that works and that you can sustain.

What might help your focus at first is counting your breaths. From this zen site:


We begin working on ourselves by counting the breath, counting each inhalation and each exhalation, beginning with one and counting up to ten. When you get to ten, come back to one and start all over. The only agreement that you make with yourself in this process is that if your mind begins to wander - if you become aware that what you're doing is chasing thoughts - you will look at the thought, acknowledge it, and then deliberately and consciously let it go and begin the count again at one.

The counting is a feedback to help you know when your mind has drifted off. Each time you return to the breath you are empowering yourself with the ability to put your mind where you want it, when you want it there, for as long as you want it there.
...
When you're able to stay with the counting and repeatedly get to ten without any effort and without thoughts interfering, it's time to begin counting every cycle of the breath. Inhalation and exhalation will count as one, the next inhalation and exhalation as two. This provides less feedback, but with time you will need less feedback.
...
Eventually, you'll want to just follow the breath and abandon the counting altogether.


----

The breath is nice because you also have it wherever you go, so you can sneak in minutes of meditation throughout your day. Some people found kasina practice to be easier and to really ramp up their concentration. There is a nice thread about that. Basic instructions from that thread:

Kenneth Folk:

1. Get a kasina object. You only need one. Cereal bowls or small plates work great. It should be about 8-10" in diameter, without designs. Earth colors are best, as they don't give you eye strain. (For years I carried around one of those cheap plastic bowls they use in Burma for bathing from tanks of (cold) water (yikes).)
2. Prop the bowl against the wall.
3. Sit about 4-6' away.
4. Stare at the bowl.
5. Let us know what happens. (You may be amazed at the antics a simple cereal bowl can perform.)

You don't need any prior knowledge to do this practice. A can-do attitude and a sense of adventure are all that is required. You will find out all about samatha by staring at the bowl. We will be here for you when questions arise.

6. Beware "smart person's disease." This is the tendency to think that you have to have some mental system in place before you can try something. Forget about that. Imagine that you are the first samatha pioneer. Your job is to go exploring and report back to the rest of us what you have found. Have fun!


The emphasis is mine. Step 4 there, "stare at the bowl," is what all concentration meditation boils down to. It's the same idea as following your breath, and if your mind wanders, do the same as before - just acknowledge it and go back to staring/following. You can do this with anything - staring at an object, listening to the ringing in your ears, feeling one part of your body, a smell (though I haven't tried that myself), etc.

You can also stare at a candle instead of a cereal bowl or small colored disk. It may be more interesting to follow the flame so that can help.

----

So, just some things to try out... what the 8 Minute Meditation book does is have you try a different technique (thing to follow) each week, so maybe you can try that - try the breath for a week, a kasina for a week, a candle for a week, etc., and see which works best for you.

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/30/10 4:42 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Hi,

Jane Laurel Carrington:
(...) I'd like to try beginning a program in concentration.


The first step of the method I articulated above is a type of concentration practice, and the concentration / mindfulness cultivated through that step provides support for the other steps of the method. Hence why I emphasized as I did, viz.: "pay very close attention," "inspect the body very carefully," "pay delicate attention to the body," etc.

Jane Laurel Carrington:
I also would appreciate it if you could tell me a little more about AF, which I think I've seen referenced on this site.


Best to just read the website (especially the links indicated in note [1] and [2]) for now. If you have questions which you can't find answers to after reading, searching and contemplating, then definitely post them.

Jane Laurel Carrington:
Again, let me thank you. You have been extremely generous. I look forward to a time when I'm in a position to pay it forward.


No problem. Though, as the time is always now, you'll have to pay it forward now (whenever that is). And if I may request, I ask that you pay it forward to yourself; it is your destiny to be free from suffering (just as is the case for everyone). In other words: you can pay it forward by sincerely reading the text pointed to by those links.

Trent

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
12/31/10 4:58 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Thanks so much--I'm going to get that book and get started. Laurel

RE: long-ago experience
Answer
2/3/13 11:24 PM as a reply to Trent ..
Trent .:
Hello & welcome,

Jane Laurel Carrington:

A few more things about myself: I've suffered from mild depression, anxiety, and sleep problems my entire adult life, now have fibromyalgia.


You may want to consider the possibility that the fibromyalgia is psychosomatic; which would mean that reducing and eliminating those symptoms will happen as soon as you’re ready to accept yourself (you may also eliminate that self after you accept it, if that is what you wish, but it must come in that order). I know this is a possibility because I experienced it myself (along with chronic lower back pain, the root cause in my case) for several years.

I’ve developed a method which has demonstrated success in reducing / eliminating psychosomatic pain. It's derived from the knowledge of what I went through and how I eliminated it. Those methods have since been supplemented with knowledge uncovered from working with other people dealing with similar issues. I’ve included an overview of instructions pertaining to that method in case you would like to investigate it for yourself / test its efficacy. The instructions assume that what you're experiencing is psychosomatic, as that simply made it easier to tailor to your post.

Use step one only for a few days, then step one and two for a few days, then step one, two and three for a few days, then all of them until they no longer seem necessary.

First, you want to identify and differentiate physical pain from affective pain by focusing on the physical aspect of the problem. To do this, you’ll have to pay very close attention to your physical body and your emotional state. You’ll need to inspect the body very carefully. Pay delicate attention to the body, feeling the body in your mind and at your body. For instance, spend 5+ minutes every day just feeling one of your feet. Feel every tendon possible, every muscle, the skin, the temperature, etc. Use your hands to palpate the targeted area, or gently flex or stretch the area. Do this for every part of your body, especially areas that are particularly uncomfortable. Really get to know how your entire body feels in a very precise way. If there is actually physical pain, try to find the precise source of it. Figure out where the physical pain emanates from and remember that point. Psychosomatic pain will tend to feel ephemeral; like a relatively large, vaguely defined region of your body is off-limits to physical use or mental reflection (this “off-limits” intuition is likely due to fear / denial, the source of the pain). (When that vague region is whole body and is severe enough, it may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia). Note that you may have an aversion to doing even this first step, because it requires that you begin to clearly define mental and/or physical pain. This is par for the course. Don’t worry or fret about progress, you must be patient with yourself. Working through the discomfort is necessary, because although it might sometimes seem like you’re hurting yourself or otherwise antagonizing the discomfort by doing this, that is not actually the case… it is just that you may begin to become more aware of how you’ve been hurting all along. Leave not a single inch of your body unexamined, and do this as often as you can (really: as often as you can).

Second, you want to identify and differentiate physical pain from affective pain by focusing on the emotional aspect of the problem. Sincere application of step one will help you begin “pulling out” the emotional feelings from their effect (physical sensations) but it focused mainly on the physical aspect of the body. This step focuses mainly on continuing to draw out the emotional aspect of the pain so you can address it clearly (it is impossible to address something you’re unaware of). This essentially means becoming mentally, clearly aware of some aspect of your emotionality that has been rejected so harshly as to become (at least partially) disassociated / suppressed “into the body.” This source likely has something to do with thoughts regarding an event which you currently view to have been traumatic. For me, it was injuring my back at a very young age. I hated it, resented it, blamed it for other problems in my life, etc. I piled those emotions (and others) “onto” the associated area, one layer at a time for years, because I just didn’t want to / couldn't deal with it. Because I disassociated from such a core part of my body, I began feeling very weak physically, and that made me feel vulnerable, and that made me feel deeply insecure in the world. Because those feelings stemmed from the original injury, they were also rejected and repressed, and that is when I began experiencing it as a whole body phenomenon (fibromyalgia). Thus, in this step, you’ve got to be brave, honest and accepting of whatever is causing you so much mental trauma. You must care about yourself and your health... you must care about how much you’re hurting yourself because of whatever part of yourself is being repressed. If you combine these: bravery, honesty, acceptance, caring, and other sincere sentiments, the source trauma(s) will appear to you without you doing much more than intending for them to do so. And why shouldn’t they appear? After all, they are all fundamentally “you”!

Third: eliminate the core psychic source of the somatic reaction which is causing the physical dysfunction. This is best done via naivete, which is the most effective way to “let go” of anything psychically generated (in this case: affect). I recommend becoming familiar with actualism methods (haietmboa [1], naivete [2], etc [3]) and the employment of those with a specific intent to relax your mind and body “no matter what”. In practice, this doesn't have to amount to much more than observing the justification for the newly uncovered trauma's existence and then sincerely saying to yourself “I don’t know if that’s really fact” (as a response to whatever self-justified emotional thoughts are welling up). For me, this meant saying “I don’t really even know if my back is still injured” or “am I really vulnerable? I haven’t honestly encountered any danger since becoming hurt…” or “is there really anything I can’t do (that I want to do) because of this? I seem to do everything I use to do, even if it is less comfortable…” and so on. You see, psychosomatic pain works like a loop which keeps itself in operation by continually either rejecting or accepting (or both) some remembered emotional scenario (or a future projection of that scenario). Naivete—saying “I don’t know about that”—breaks the loop. If the loop is broken enough times, and/or with sufficient sincerely, it will simply (eventually) cease entirely and vanish. Letting go of the source of an emotional identification in a way that is explicitly understood to be final or in a way which implies finality can be scary. Notice that sense of hesitation and notice how you’ll still remember the event and whatever lessons were learned, even if you decide to resolve it emotionally. The only significant result of letting go: you stop hurting and any pain you cause others by hurting goes away too. That final point is well worth saying more on: try to see how letting go of it will benefit others by allowing you to be happier and thus a more positive influence on them (altruistic motivation is often necessary for letting go of part of yourself, especially “deep” parts).

Fourth, rehabilitate the body. Below are some examples and specific things to look for, but there are a lot of other things you can discover yourself as it relates to your specific situation. Work on relaxing your body and mind (as it pertains to the body) as much as you can, all the time, with no exceptions. If you’ve forgotten how to use some of your muscles, use the approach in step 1 to get a feel for them, and then try to incorporate that heightened muscular awareness into your everyday way of moving about. This is major because a lot of your subtle muscular system may be “shut off.” Try to see if there are ways of moving your body that are more comfortable than how you moved them before, or try discovering methods of moving around in the same ways you do now but in a way which doesn’t hurt. For instance, if your arm hurts when you raise it a certain way, ask yourself: can I do this same motion with different muscles so that it isn’t painful? Can I do this same motion with less muscular use? Can I do this same motion while completely relaxed? If you identify an instance of this occurring, it might feel kind of weird to incorporate into daily life, because the muscles will likely be weak. This may take a lot of patience. Work on flexibility by stretching, or whatever. If you do stretches every day but make no significant progress, you’re probably still tensing that area; try relaxing the muscle you are intending to stretch, and especially make sure you aren’t flexing that muscle as you stretch; the stretch will come from the rest of your body positioning itself so as to apply pressure to the muscle which needs to be stretched. Let your shoulders relax and "droop" completely all the time. Let your tummy relax. Let your head sit on your neck; it doesn’t need to be tensed at all. Try doing this with anything that is tensed, perhaps beginning at home and then doing so all the time. Try remembering a time in your life when you were so relaxed that your body seemed to float away. While remembering that, ask yourself: where am I not that relaxed right now? Make sure your sitting/walking/standing/etc. postures are appropriate for good health.

A final note: don’t resent this process for any reason. It may sound silly, but I caught myself doing that sometimes due to the discomfort, and that can impede progress in a major way.

Jane Laurel Carrington:
Is this some kind of half-assed Dark Night?


It could be, but due to the possibly repressed nature of your self, I advise against insight practice of the variety spoken of in MCTB (at least until a time when you can confidently say you’re just generally of better mental health). Because if what you’re experiencing isn’t a dark night, a “real” dark night is probably going to be very extreme. Besides, that kind of meditation is not going to be very effective against what you’re going through right now (whether the fibromyalgia is psychosomatic or not); you need something that is capable of uncovering and addressing the affective faculty directly (hence the nature of my recommendations).

Trent

[1] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/richard/articles/thismomentofbeingalive.htm
[2] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/library/topics/naivete.htm
[3] http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/library/default.htm , http://www.actualfreedom.com.au/sundry/map.htm


Trent, I haven't seen you in here for a while.

This post was dated 2009. Anything new details or techniques you could add to this?