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General question about progressing or depressing on path

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So in about 3 days I’ve passed the A&P twice. Because of this, I’m assuming it’s possible that one can progress onto the path then slowly or quickly degrees...?

The other part of my question; is there any pattern to anyone’s practice where one might pass the A&P on day 1, then on day 2 still be in the dark night somewhere? I ask because I definitely passed the A&P yesterday and today I’ve been particularly annoyed, but I’ve had no real reason to be. I’ve also had a hell of a time concentrating and actually sitting and meditating. At one point I thought it was because I was tired so I tried to sleep and failed to do so.

Bare with me if this is obviously. I’m more or less looking for confirmation because as I understand it, being in the Three Characterisitics has a different focus compared with being in the dark night, particularly dissolution.

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/5/19 7:19 PM as a reply to Travis McKinstry.
It's totally possible to progress and digress many times during a week, day, and even during a single hour-long sit. The progress of insight isn't like a ratchet that only gets cranked in one direction, its a roller coaster that goes up and down and up and down, pretty much beyond our control.

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/5/19 7:33 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for the feedback. Your answer actually answered my other questions that I just came up with as well emoticon

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/6/19 12:06 AM as a reply to Travis McKinstry.
Travis McKinstry:
So in about 3 days I’ve passed the A&P twice. Because of this, I’m assuming it’s possible that one can progress onto the path then slowly or quickly degrees...?

The other part of my question; is there any pattern to anyone’s practice where one might pass the A&P on day 1, then on day 2 still be in the dark night somewhere? I ask because I definitely passed the A&P yesterday and today I’ve been particularly annoyed, but I’ve had no real reason to be. I’ve also had a hell of a time concentrating and actually sitting and meditating. At one point I thought it was because I was tired so I tried to sleep and failed to do so.

Bare with me if this is obviously. I’m more or less looking for confirmation because as I understand it, being in the Three Characterisitics has a different focus compared with being in the dark night, particularly dissolution.

I don't know your exact situation or how aware you might be of the following and whether it applies to  your situation so I can't say if this advice is useful not ... if it is not useful to you it might be useful to someone else out there so please don't take it personally if it is not helpful to you.  And everyone is different so I also don't mean the following is universally applicable to everyone.

...

Depression might not have anything to do with meditation. It might not be helped by miditation. It might not be a "dark night" caused by meditation.

Sometimes emotions are caused by biochemical factors that have nothing to do with conscious thought. For me, my mood is influenced more by my diet and exercise than by meditation. It's true I can produce states of bliss through meditation, but only if I am eating right. If I am eating wrong I could be in a bad mood and no amount of meditation will help, and after a workout I have noticed I am often in a bad mood too. If the brain does not have the right nutrients to produce a good mood, no amount of meditation can change that.

Some emotions are caused by feedback loops in the brain. Leigh Brasington says the jhanas are caused by a pleasure feedback loop. Similarly if I am in a bad mood and I meditate in a way where I observe my perceptions, awareness of my bad mood in meditation (ex. noting) seems to create a feedback loop that makes it worse. So I make sure my brain has the right nutrients to produce a good mood and when I meditate I foucus on a pleasant sensation - the pleasant feeling of relaxation while I exhale and inhale..

The ability to concentrate may have more to do with what is going on in your life when you are not meditating than when you are.

Factors that can influence a person's ability to concentrate include what they eat, how busy or stressful or turbulent their lifestyle is. And when levels of stress hormone are high their effect can be difficulty concentrating and or fixation on the source of stress. The latter helps organisms survive but makes concentrating on anything else (meditation) hard. 

If a person is not aware of these factors, they might might have inconsistent meditation sessions and not understand why.

Anyone who is interested in the influence of diet over mood can do an internet search on how carbohydrates, protein, insulin, and tryptophan influence the levels of serotonin in the brain. I don't want to give any more specific advice unless asked because everyone is different and what I experience might not be the same as what other people experience.

In many monestaries they don't just sit down and meditate, the do bowing practice and then chanting practice first. These help to quiet the mind in successive stages to prepare it for sitting meditation. The monks are the pro's, if they think it is necessary it is probably reasonable for a lay person to need to do that too. I find that tai-chi or qi-gong or yoga are good pre-sitting practices when my mind is turbulent.

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/5/19 10:29 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim, I'd like to know what you experience regarding diet and mood.

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/6/19 1:01 AM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Jim, I'd like to know what you experience regarding diet and mood.
Okay, first I want to explain the relevant biochemistry. Even if you know all about it there might be other people reading who don't so please don't be offended if I seem to be telling you stuff you already know...

When you eat carbohydrates it raises blood sugar levels which causes the body to produce insulin. When you eat protein and it is digested, tryptophan is released from the protein. One effect of insulin is to increase tryptophan uptake by the brain. Tryptophan is used by the brain in serotonin production. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, one effect of serotonin is to produce a good mood.

However if you eat too much protein it can interfere with tryptophan uptake by the brain.
If you eat too much carbohydrates it can cause insulin resistence, low blood sugar as an after effect of a large insulin spike, anxiety as a consequence of low blood sugar (stress hormones are used to tell the body to release sugar into the bloodstream), depression as a consequence of anxiety (stress hormones can reduce serotonin levels) weight gain, and diabetes.

So you see it is very complicated and that is why I am reluctant to give unsolicited advice - it can cause problems.

I have worked out very carefully (using a spreadsheet) the carbohydrate, and protein content of my diet. I am careful not to eat too much protein or carbohydrates. I have also found that the type of carbohydrates makes a big difference. I have been evolving my diet over time and I eat approximately 50% calories from carbs, and 20% calories from protein 30% calories from fat. I try to eat the recommended number of calories for my height (about 1800 per day) but usually I eat more. (The lowest risk of all types of mortality is among people who have a bmi of 25-30 which our trusted and respected scientists have labelled the "overweight" category.) 

When I have too much carbohydrates I get symptoms of low blood sugar (an after effect of an large spike of insulin) which includes nightmares and chills (shivering) when sleeping. It is an indication I am eating more carbs than are healthy so I tend to take in less carbs than I need and eat something sweet when I need a boost. I am continuously experimenting but at the moment I am using a tablespoon or two of grape juice concentrate when I need a boost. (I don't dilute the concentrate and make juice because it might spoil in the refrigerator before I finish an entire pitcher - it keeps "forever" as concentrate in the freezer.)

Before I knew about any of this, sometimes I would do everything wrong, eat all carbs and no protein, or all protein and no carbs, and I would feel really, really horrible, like I needed to go to the doctor, which is why I think there could be people on medication who could get off it if they fixed their diet. And I think the medical industry is $hamefully negligent about this subject.

I also think there could be people trying to improve their mood with meditation who would be better off changing their diet. That is one reason I think we need to be careful advising people to try meditation to improve their mood. Meditation might help someone cope when they would be better off dealing directly with biochemical issues.

Everyone is different so what works for me might be harmful for someone else. And there is a lot of conflicting information on what a "healthy diet" is. 

Let me know if you have more questions.

(Travis, if you want future replies on this subject in a different thread don't hesitate to say so.)

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/6/19 11:33 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
 (The lowest risk of all types of mortality is among people who have a bmi of 25-30 which our trusted and respected scientists have labelled the "overweight" category.) 

Actually several studies have come out to qualify that finding. In the beginning of the famous study that gave those results, researchers were baffled at the idea that being “overweight” helps people live longer. They shortly after realized it’s not necessarily the weight or excess fat that keeps them alive, it’s the extra muscle. Being “overweight” means you have more weight to carry around and thus more muscle. Having more muscle is really what keeps people alive longer.

And no, I love this discussion. I’d love for it to continue here

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/9/19 7:52 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
Okay, first I want to explain the relevant biochemistry. ...

Travis,

I saw your other thread about your dark night and fear. This is a reply to that, but since I will be discussing the subject of diet I am putting it here with my other post on the subject..

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/14333854#_19_message_14336934

I find that the same nutritional practice I wrote about above also helps to reduce levels of stress hormones that can produce feelings of fear (I think it is mainly cortisol).. Carbohydrates can sometimes reduce cortisol levels and I think increasing serotonin also can decrease cortisol levels.

If the fear is troubling you, it might help to eat something. I know that when I am worried I sometimes have a diminished appetite and don't eat enough.

In my other post I wrote that I get about 50% of calories from carbs and about 20% from protein. That is a carb to protein ratio of 2.5.  I use carb/protein (c/p) ratio as a quick guide to judge how a food is likely to affect me. I worry about the negative health effects of too much carbs so that c/p value (2.5) is somewhat low for the purposes under discussion here. Sometimes if I am worried or nervous about something, I will eat a moderate amount of food with a c/p of around 4. I try to do this with healthy foods, but for people who don't want to do a lot of calculations sometimes  you can find canned food where you can just check the total calories, and the amount of carbohydrates and protein. Canned pasta like Chef Boyardee beef ravioli works, and canned baked beans can work too. The total amount you eat will depend your weight, etc.

One risk is that when people eat to change their mood, it can cause weight gain so one should to try to avoid that.

And everyone is different so what I experience might not be exactly the same as what other people experience.

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/9/19 8:26 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim - I'm trying to consume 144g of protein daily for purposes of building muscle. Thoughts on how that might affect my mood or what ratio that might work out to?

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/9/19 10:51 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
Jim - I'm trying to consume 144g of protein daily for purposes of building muscle. Thoughts on how that might affect my mood or what ratio that might work out to?
Those are reasonable and natural questions. Unfortuantely I can't say for sure. There can be huge differences from person to person.

I worked things out for myself through trial and error. I really can't do more than describe what I experienced.

One point to be aware of is that while a given c/p ratio may have a certain effect for a moderate amount of food intake, I don't know if the underlying biochemisty is linear, so what works for a 350 calorie meal might not work exactly the same for a 700 calorie meal. 

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/10/19 1:37 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
It is such a delight to see someone talk about diets in a nuanced and very non-dogmatic way. It is so rare. I have had to work a lot with my diet as well because I have very complicated food intolerances. I don’t count calories, but I have noticed too that the balance between different kinds of nutrients is important and delicate. My body screams if I do it wrong. I have my own personal tells for all of it - the balance between serotonine and dopamine, between different salts, between L-lysine and L-arginine, the cortisole production... I learned that through trial and error. I guess I’m not only a mapping nerd when it comes to the dharma, but in other respects as well. Keeping a food and health diary is a good way to get started, until it gets intuitive. I still need antidepressants, though. That system has probably been fried for too long to recover entirely (I was diagnosed with disability too late in life and overcompensated for too long).

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/10/19 4:45 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I would really like to hear more about your personal tells for those balances. I had to add lysine to my protein powder because too much arginine was making me sick. Still tryind to figure out that balance

RE: General question about progressing or depressing on path
Answer
7/10/19 10:46 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Yeah I haven’t actually looked too deeply into how my diet effects my meditation. I like to fast often and fasting always seems to boost my energy a little. I also don’t have to work about having my blood sugar levels being elevated thus causing my focus and energy to drop.