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Agnostic's Log agnostic 9/19/19 8:58 AM
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Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/19/19 8:58 AM
After months of solo practice and lurking on here, I’ve finally succumbed to starting a practice log. The official motivation is humbly to seek guidance, but naturally there’s also a healthy dose of vanity, narcissism and arrogance. For those who are interested, my potted history is here and here.

I gave vipassana a pretty strong shot but ultimately it was advaita wot did me in and now kundalini has got me between her teeth. Yesterday afternoon, as I lay on my back vibrating and surfing the sleep threshold, a loud voice woke me up saying “there is no path, there is no path, there is no path, 100%”. Usually these sleep-falling voices are garbage, but this was a most insistent injunction. Then the amusing thought arose that I might well be the most enlightened asshole I know. There’s a mind-bending cognitive dissonance between the fact that self-awareness can exist within this same mind-body that only a year ago was planning suicide and for 30 years has abused itself and others in all sorts of angry, drinky, druggy, cheaty and generally downright mean ways (disclaimer: no major felons were committed). I told myself that I was practicing for the benefit of others, but yeah it was really just good old selfish desire to reduce the suffering of little old me. Ok, little old me had to get run over in the process, but he’s still on life support and always looking to make a comeback. It’s a great relief to finally admit that I don’t really want to help anyone else. Ironically there appears to be a much better conventional father and husband operating now, simply because the internal amorality is allowed to run free  and can be seen for what it is and no longer insists on being acted out. Hooray for insight! Of course there’s still the fantasy of helping others, but I suspect that’s just a cover story for getting laid way beyond what my marriage, age and finances would permit.

So what’s next? I literally have no idea. Let’s see what comes up.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/19/19 9:39 AM as a reply to agnostic.
I went to the doctor yesterday to ask for a brain scan. I’m 98% confident that the headache and strange energetic shifts in the brain, chest and spine are kundalini, but I guess it still makes sense to rule out anything else. I also told my wife about kundalini last night for the first time. She is a pretty straight catholic with a strong moral compass and I’m pretty much the opposite, so I’ve avoided telling her anything about spiritual awakening for fear it would be confusing, painful and counter-productive.

Last night the kundalini was very strong.  Pretty much it’s there all the time now and it doesn’t matter whether I meditate or not, it will make its demands known. I could feel myself getting sucked into a strong first jhana, with the mind brightening and the nimitta approaching, but still there’s the fear of annihilation and I chickened out. Taking a step back, it’s quite amusing I suppose to observe the interplay between extreme bliss and the fear of self-destruction. Rationally I know they both point in the same direction and the answer is just to let go, but my gut tells me to take my foot off the brake slowly. There’s also the fear of taking it off too slowly and running out of hill, but ultimately I have to trust that kundalini knows best and will find her way, there’s really no me in there that has control over any of this.

There was pretty high anxiety/jitteriness falling asleep and a couple of times in the night I woke up with a strange swimming feeling like I was kind of half out of my body but still trapped and the bed felt like a dark spooky swamp. At breakfast I lost my temper with my son over spilt milk, there was an extreme spike of anger, but the whole feeling passed in a couple of minutes and then we were laughing about it. Not great, but not worth beating myself up over for hours as I used to do.

I sat down to work but again kundalini got me by the throat and wouldn’t let go. It sounds ungrateful (especially since I don’t deserve it), but the bliss is starting to get a little tiresome. The suttas say that this is all just first jhana stuff and should eventually pass, but I’m impatient because in the past I’ve skipped out to the formless jhanas (albeit on a lower dose of concentration). I don’t think I’m deliberately holding myself back in golden chains, it just seems there’s a lot of “stuff” there that needs to come out and it will take as long as it takes. Impatience is just anger so probably I should investigate that.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/20/19 10:57 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Kundalini seemed to subside overnight and I slept longer, waking up feeling flat and dejected (for the last two weeks I have been woken up very early by kundalini). My son is sick and I seem to have caught it a little, so that could also be a factor. Either way, it was immediately clear to me from prior cycling experience that I’m back in the dark night. I think I had misdiagnosed myself as done with vipassana nanas because I’ve been on a continuous kundalini/jhanic high for the last 2 weeks and was probably wishing for this to persist as a state of perpetual bliss (albeit with some strong apparently painful energetic sensations). My previous A&P stages only lasted a few hours or max a day or two, so clearly the length of this one threw me a little.

But no big deal, nothing that a bit of reflection couldn’t sort out. I felt drawn to investigate the relationship between dark night and 3rd jhana. According to the suttas, when the piti (rapture/ecstasy) of jhanas 1-2 subsides, you are left with the sukha (happiness) of the 3rd jhana. According to the mapping in MCTB, vipassana jhanas 1-2 are nanas 1-4 (up to A&P) and vj3 is the dark night (n 5-10). Clearly my strong kundalini/bliss state was jhanas 1-2 (at least when I was concentrating, although it was persisting off the mat as well), but the dark night doesn’t feel anything like “happiness” … or does it? This time I really just allowed myself to feel and dare I say enjoy the bluesiness. Upon closer inspection, the predominant quality is one of “emptiness” and there is even a quite tender, beautiful aspect to the melancholy. In terms of pure energy without emotional overtones, the parallel is closer. You’ve been buzzing on strong energy and now comes the comedown, which clearly feels somehow less than or lacking what came before, even if that is just saying that happiness is less intense and broader than ecstasy. It’s not that the jhana guidance in the suttas is missing the dark night, it’s just that they put it in a different place, in the hindrances. As the strong energy of j1-2 subsides the mind naturally seems to incline towards a chiller vibe in j3, but if you have the hindrances of desire (even for piti/ecstasy) or ill will (about losing ecstasy) then that chiller vibe can turn darker. It also occurred to me that if you accept that the jhanas and nanas are fundamentally the same process then it’s evidently true that arahants will continue to cycle since Gautema was still going through the jhanas even on his deathbed. Ok at that level it must be much more voluntary/intentional, but still the basic mindbody cycling ability was still there.

In terms of my specific psychological makeup, it’s amazing for me to reflect that I used to go through 3-5 year cycles and now through meditation these have apparently been condensed into 1-2 week cycles. I was always getting excited about the next new big thing in my life, whether it was a phd, new job, marriage or child, and then after a couple of years the shine would come off as the gulf between expectations and reality became apparent, and depression would set in.

Anyway, back to practice. The main challenge for me now appears to be hanging out in equanimity longer. I guess I’ve been addicted to the highs and lows for so long that equanimity can feel a bit boring, like something is not quite right, like there should be more to life than this. That’s what I want to investigate now. Of course I might just let myself get swallowed up in the bliss of self again, since my advaita voice is telling me that this is all just fake mind phenomena and the true self of awareness/existence is still there shining as brightly as ever with just a few wisps of cloud in the foreground ...

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/21/19 7:59 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Woke up at 4:30 this morning, still feeling a little bluesy and sick. Spent a couple of hours exploring 3rd and 4th jhanas. Facial headache (third eye blockage) is much less now and kundalini (awareness of internal body buzzing/energy sensations) is moving into the lower chakras. My mind seems to be looking to create yet another model, which summarizes and tries to generalize my experience so far with the kundalini process in the context of someone who has tried vipassana, been through the nanas a few times and developed mid-depth jhanas (no stable nimitta yet).

THE KUNDALINI MODEL

[J1/N1-3: First Jhana/Mind & Body, Cause & Effect, 3 C's] Scan your body for internal sensations. Find a nice pleasant sensation in the body somewhere and focus on it, e.g. tingles in the arms/hands/legs/feet, butterflies in the stomach, could even be an unpleasant sensation such as a churning gut, chest pressure or headache. Either way, watch it really carefully, you’re looking for a change in size or shape. If it doesn't seem to be changing then try looking at it from a different angle or even getting inside it and imagining what the world looks like from its point of view. Eventually there should be some movement and the sensation will start to get larger or more diffuse and extend into or connect up with sensations in other parts of the body.

[J2/N4: Second Jhana/A&P] You are looking or activation of the 3rd eye chakra (right above the nose). For me it started manifesting with facial pain/headache, but maybe yours will be easier. Once I started relaxing into the headache I would feel blasts of kundalini/piti from the solar plexus/heart area up into the 3rd eye. The more I relaxed the stronger the blasts. These were extremely strong ecstatic experiences and so powerful there was really no room for thought or intention, it felt like submitting to a powerful external force, which it is (kundalini shakti).

[J3/N5-10: Third Jhana/Dark Night]: Eventually the ecstasy will start to get a little tiresome and subside. You might start to feel empty or depressed at having come down from the peak, but you will notice there is still a more subtle all over body tingliness and/or feeling of happiness. Even if it's just emptiness you feel, try to drop the downer story and appreciate it simply for what it is - emptiness. If you are feeling down then it is trying to tell you something important about how your particular psychological makeup interprets the essential emptiness of phenomenological reality as depressing, but it doesn't have to be that way, here's your chance to rewire your brain and start to see the beauty and peacefulness in the emptiness. The head pressure has largely subsided by this point, the heart is still active but the focus really comes into the abdomen (this is the dark night after all and that's where you feel fear and disgust/anger). After a while I could feel some energy here even inside the emptiness. I'm speculating that Mahasi Sayadaw recommends focusing on breathing in the abdomen from the get-go because this is the ultimate destination in this psycho-physical progression.

[J4/N11: Fourth Jhana/Equanimity]: Eventually the feeling of emptiness will start to pass and you will (or at least I did) start to feel some energy in the root chakra, which could manifest as buzzing/tingling in the perineum, sex organs or anus, or a more generalized feeling of something going on "down there".

At this point the kundalini model starts to depart from the jhanas/nanas and I'm not sure whether it makes sense to push the correspondence, especially since I'm still in this part of the process myself. What seems to be happening in my case is that once the root is activated then the kundalini/energy wants to travel up the spine next. I imagined this would be a sharp blast, but it really seems to be like a very slow wave, like so slow you can hardly feel it moving. More like a creeping sensation up the spine traveling at 1cm per 10 minutes. I find this part of the process works out best lying down, where the spine is straight and I can really feel the sensations there. As I relax I get there involuntary spasm-like movements (kriyas) as pelvis rotates (but back, waist forwards) and my spine straightens. Although I say they are involuntary, I was getting excited by them and moving into voluntary territory, which seemed to inhibit the energy movement. I found it better to try and relax so much that there was no twitch at all, then I could feel the energy moving up the spine more freely. It's a bit like when you have saliva in your mouth and you know you want to swallow but you try to relax and go without swallowing as long as possible. You know you will swallow eventually by which point it is almost 100% involuntary, but it's amazing how long you can go without swallowing by simply relaxing into every urge to swallow. A related technique I use is called "playing dead". Just imagine you are dead, or trying to appear as dead as possible. Not moving, not thinking, not feeling, breathing as little as possible, heartbeat slowing down etc. It's amazing how far it can take you. (Death Model anyone?)

Anyway, as I say, I'm still exploring this territory and can't really say where it will end up. My guess is that the kundalini continues up into the back of the head and the crown chakra. I haven't really read a lot of the kundalini texts, I think that some say enlightenment comes at this point, others say that it just becomes a free flowing circular motion around the body, and Ramana Maharshi says that the kundalini's ultimate destination is the heart chakra where you really feel the bliss of self/union of atman and brahman. Since the traditions are so diverse I don't want to script myself into anything and would rather just follow the process as it seems to naturally want to unfold on its own. There does seem to be a possible connection between kundalini and fruitions/cessations which I would like to explore further, like an energy blast in the brain (or brain fart as I sometimes feel like calling it). But since my practice conditions are suboptimal I always seem to be too tired or else the kids disturb me at the critical moment. That's probably just the universe's way of telling me I need to spend more time in the J3-4 phase.

As far as I understand, the specifics of each kundalini process and the order of chakra awakening is unique to each individual and depends on psychophysical history, so it might seem farfetched to try generalize my process. But the direction does seem to line up in parts with what I’ve read about about kundalini. The other point I would mention is that Leigh Brasington's model/method for jhana as presented in Right Concentration shows a similar direction, he always talks about relaxing DOWN to go from one jhana to the next, e.g. “The third jhāna is less energetic and feels lower in the body, more toward the belly level. In fact, there is a strong sense of the locus of each jhāna moving physically downward as you go up in the numbers. When someone tells me they went down to the next jhāna, I have to ask if they went down in number from, say, second to first or down in feeling from second to third. The physical sense of descending is so strong that it overrides the idea of going up in number.” So maybe all I’m doing here is re-presenting a known piti/jhana model. However the kundalini language resonates more strongly with me because it seems like jhana is a more volitional act of concentration, whereas once the kundalini process starts then you can’t really control or stop it (actually it’s counterproductive to do so) and you can often feel it continuing even amidst daily life off the cushion with very low doses of concentration.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/23/19 1:16 PM as a reply to agnostic.
I’ve been reading Joan Harrigan’s Kundalini Vidya and realize now that I was being way too simplistic about the kundalini model. It seems that kundalini awakenings can happen in very specific and varied ways depending on the karmic history of the individual. Last night I went through four Jhana 1-2-3 progressions, first starting with piti in third eye, second starting with piti in the heart region, third from the solar plexus and finally from the root. I now see that location of the piti is a completely orthogonal concept to jhana progression, i.e. it’s misguided to try to map chakras onto jhanas. I had forgotten that in the suttas it talks about piti “suffusing the entire body”, which is presumably what happens once you have burnt up your vasanas, all the chakras are open and kundalini is free to flow around the body. Before that point (i.e. where I am), yes you will feel the piti more strongly in some areas rather than others. That’s pretty much Leigh Brasington’s advice if recall, just find a pleasant sensation somewhere in the body and focus on that to get into the first jhana. That having been said, there does seem to be some emotional overtone associated with the location of the piti (assuming it’s not suffusing the entire body). In the third eye it feels like mental knockout bliss, blazing white light, reminds of the photo of Ramakrishna in samadhi https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramakrishna#/media/File:Ramakrishna_trance_1879.jpg. In the heart it feels like warm glowing love for everything and everyone in the universe. In the solar plexus is it more of a subtle tingle. In the root it is powerful and sexual, I think I heard myself moaning at one point. But yeah from an ultimate perspective these localizations are presumably illusory, there is just oneness manifesting as energy concentrations or knots, or a local decrease in entropy, and over time they should blend until the body is just one big chakra or something. Kind of curious to see how it plays out.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/24/19 11:52 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Revolving Door
It is not possible for a person to awaken.
Awakening arrives when the person goes out
And when the person returns awakening is gone.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/24/19 1:24 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Through this kundalini process I’ve realized that the body is really the last refuge of the ego. I used to think that the mind would be the last refuge. It was easy to see that I would still be me if I lost a leg, but impossible to see how I could still be me if I lost my mind. After spending enough time in meditation I did start to lose my mind (thought identification), but beneath that there is a much more stubborn identification with the corporeal sense of there being someone here. It’s like the ego realizes he has lost the battle for the mind and decamps to the body. Ultimately it knows that its days are numbered and the body is not real either, just a slight warp in the universal energy field, but it figures it can at least camp out there for a while and enjoy a stay of execution. So it seeks out blockages and magnifies them and creates an identification with the process of dissolving blockages (kundalini process). But it only has a finite supply of ammunition, there’s only so much bad karma to be burnt off. Each kundalini bomb feels life-threatening but it’s actually the opposite, it’s the process of evacuating your accumulated psychophysical toxins. Party on.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/25/19 1:27 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Our cleaner’s brother Jonathan is fighting leukemia. It’s pretty bad, two bouts of chemo but the cancer came back. They found a blood donor but say they don’t want to do the transfusion until the cancer is in remission, or at least the insurance/medicaid is denying it on that basis and the doctors are appealing. Here’s the thing. I don’t really care. I would never say that of course (hiding behind a mask of anonymity on the internet makes it easier to admit the truth). They are very religious people (catholic) and I’ve mumbled a few words to our cleaner about praying for him and I've donated to their fundraiser, but that’s more out of a sense of obligation and hoping it’s enough to make the problem go away from my limited perspective.

When I really started chasing the meditation dragon 6 months ago I told myself of course that I was doing it for the benefit of all sentient beings, but I’m pretty sure that my real motivation was “let’s deal with my suffering first and worry about the rest of the world later”. I can imagine a nice headline in the New York Post:

“Rich white liberal hypocrite cures his depression by meditating for 6 months,
Ignoring suffering of Hispanic cleaner’s poor brother who is dying from leukemia.”

Like I said, I didn’t really care. Mostly I just hoped our cleaner would finish my room as quickly as possible so I could get on with chasing jhana for the benefit of all sentient beings. Unfortunately there’s a thing called Facebook and the fundraiser has photos, nice graphic photos showing a strong looking guy about my age with a beautiful wife and 3 handsome sons a little bit older than my son. In one photo the whole family looks out as if to say help us. In another Jonathan is hugging his youngest son as if it were the last time whilst the other two look on, knowing that something terribly significant his happening here but not quite sure what. In another Jonathan is lying on his hospital bed looking at the medical equipment and his body with a mixture of fear, bravery and curiosity. In another he looks mournful, like he’s already given up. Another photo radiates the love between him and his wife. Flicking through the photos my heart was grabbed by the pathos of the situation and I decided to try meditate on one of them. The photo that I chose on shows him and his son looking straight into the camera, but his lower face is covered with a mask so you can’t tell if he is smiling like his son or grimacing in pain, but his eyes are very powerful. As I stared at that photo it started to vibrate and I had the feeling I was seeing through his face and he was radiating a terrible dark energy, the thought just came up “his blood is black”. If I didn’t know he had leukemia would I have seen the same thing? Possibly not.

I moved on and a couple of weeks passed but his fate must have been gnawing away at my subconscious, because two days ago it hit me with a vengeance during 4am meditation. I had gotten quite calm after an hour trying to drop everything, but I was bothered by the nagging sense that I was still trying to do something. I lay down to try improve the energy flow into my lower chakras, but that didn’t help so I got back up. Suddenly the thought of Jonathan came into my mind and I realized what is the point of all this selfish me-directed practice when there is someone I know right now who is in terrible suffering? So I tried to visualize him and his blood problem and after a bit I felt myself merging into his body and suddenly it felt like there was a rush of blood to the whole body, like I was feeling his blood in my body. A big fear overcame me and there was a sequence of angry images, too fast to discern, and I started to worry whether this could hurt me. But I rode out the fear and repeated the experience a couple more times. My selfish fantasy was that I could cure his cancer and become a famous healer by giving him an imagined blood transfusion. But I also recognized that this thing was way bigger than me, like DON’T FUCK WITH CANCER big. My thought process is that there is now way me as a limited individual can help him, it can only be god/ consciousness/emptiness/rigpa/buddha nature/the one/love/wisdom/self/atman-brahman or whatever you call it.

There was also the thorny problem of free will. Obviously god already knows how everything will turn out. If you don’t believe in god then there is karma or dependent origination or cause and effect. So why bother praying or meditating? I hate to say I found the answer on a christian website, but I did – you don’t really have a choice, it only appears that you do (actually Ajahn Brahm says the same thing in his book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond). So it only appears to me that Jonathan’s plight is distracting me from my noble goal of deeper insight into the emptiness of all phenomena. I remember reading one of the Thai forest masters saying you should question everything. How do I not know that it is Jonathan’s plight which is the most important thing and insight meditation is distracting me from that? Or maybe they are the same thing. After all, from a technical perspective you could say I entered first jhana using Jonathan’s blood as a meditation object and felt a powerful burst of piti “suffuse the entire body”.

It’s interesting that Jonathan is someone I’ve never met and don’t really have any vested interest in whether he lives or dies, so it was kind of an experiment. What can I do for this man? My initial thought was that I should give up my body, but I also have a wife and kids and who knows which family carries more weight in the karmic balance. From a Buddhist perspective the body is not real anyway, it’s just emptiness manifesting as form. So I should give him my emptiness/consciousness/awareness (I was influenced here by Freddie Yam’s story about his friend’s ankle). Another way of putting it would be to say that I was trying to give him my "self", meaning my limited personal sense of who I am, subsuming it within the greater self (not-self) of oneness/existence/consciousness.

This morning I was again wakened at 4am by the call to meditate. This time it was all Jonathan. Again the powerful rush of blood but this time I relaxed and just said “let it come, the pain can be borne”. It was quite exhilarating to feel my blood burning and my skin get cold and hard and sweaty. I then thought, “what can I do with his blood?” And the answer came right back – “only love can heal his blood”. It was the most powerful love I could imagine, just a blazing white lightstorm engulfing my entire body. I felt tears streaming down my cheeks (and let me tell you I haven’t shed any real tears for about 40 years). Whether there's actually enough love to heal him or even allay his suffering I just don't know.

Am I a total fucking lunatic with a messiah complex? Quite possibly. If he survives would I try to take credit? I hope not, but maybe. If he dies would I blame myself? Probably. Those last two questions are two sides of the same coin. The reality is that this has nothing to do with me.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/26/19 12:18 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Hours of sitting today with very little to show for it. I suspect that's the point. I basically seem to be "edging" on equanimity, whether from a jhana (j4) or nana (n11) perspective. Whether due to my personality type or accumulated karmic baggage (oh yeah, those are the same thing), I seem to love the drama of a&p/j1-2, almost relish the anguish of dark night, but when it comes to easy old equanimity and just being OK with what is - yeah that's a problem, it's not "enough". Beyond the thoughts, it even seems to happen on a basic physical sensate level. Every time the piti dies down in one area and I'm peacefully grooving on sukha, boom another piti party starts up somewhere else in the body. There's no sense of being able to control this process any more, all methods seem to lead to the same point. I guess it will just take as long as it needs to take in the illusory dimension we call time.

I don't know if this really is third path but it seems to fit the description in MCTB as an "acquired taste". There seems to be no clearly defined linear progression any more, just bouncing in and out of various nana and jhanas seemingly at random. Oh yeah I was just in reobservation for 1 minute. Whatever. Nothingness. Boring. Fear/misery/disgust. Drama queen. I seem to be able to drop all experiences except the underlying sense that there is someone or something in there which this is about or happening to. Almost like clinging for the sake of clinging with nothing left to cling on to. I had several "uh oh a frution is coming" moments, but they were all false alarms. First and second paths (if indeed) were dramatic and changed something but it still basically felt like the same old me. Now I seem to spend large periods of time with absolutely no idea who I am or what I am doing. Again I suspect that's the point.

I wouldn't say sensual desire is gone but it doesn't seem to be an issue any more. There has been no sex  or porn for months (wife not interested and me no desire to push). A couple of days ago I masturbated and there was very little sexual imagery, just pure awareness of the sensations in the body. It was probably the best sex of my life but afterwards there was no emotional recoil, it felt like a perfectly normal bodily function similar to picking a nice booger out of my nose or taking a satisfying shit. Anger still arises but again much less of an issue, less guilt and self-castigation. I lose my temper with the kids every 2-3 days, usually when I'm rushing to get them bathed and dinner cooked before my wife comes home. But it just seems to be what happens and with that acceptance I do seem to get triggered less.

Now I'm posting on here I've noticed that I've started interupting my meditations with thoughts about how I'm going to write about it. So that's a downside, increasing the illusory sense of self narrative. On the plus side there seems to be more motivation to practice and make progress, but is that really a plus if it contributes to the sense of there being someone who needs to practice and make progress?!

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/27/19 9:12 AM as a reply to agnostic.
This morning I decided to renew my vows to my original meditation object:

Dear Beautiful Breath,

It's been 7 months since we first got together and it has been truly the most wonderful period of my life. In fact, I can hardly remember what my life was like before we met. You showed me the way to beautiful experiences which I would never have believed even existed outside of fairy tales.

I am ashamed to say however that I have been cheating on you. I'm sure you can't have missed the lack of interest from me of late. You see I got cocky and started to think that this was all my doing. And then the first piece of hot kundalini that came along in a short skirt, well I chased after her and we fell into bed together. At first it was great but then she started ratcheting up her demands and now she is even waking me up in the middle of the night for a quickie.

Please forgive me, I have been incredibly stupid and arrogant. I thought I had outgrown you but now I realize that we have barely scratched the surface together. How could I have not seen that the only reason kundalini even came sniffing around was because I was with you? This morning I promise to you in front of all these witnesses that I will never stray from you ever again. Richer or poorer, cancer or jail, I will stick with you until the end.

With all my love,
Your G

PS If kundalini should happen to pass me again in the street I promise I will not even look at her, regardless of how low cut her top is. Hell, even if she sneaks into my bed and starts giving me a blow job I WILL IGNORE HER.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/27/19 12:21 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Ok so 3 hours later, I think that rejecting kundalini made her pretty angry and now she wants revenge. Instead of sidling up in a slinky black dress, she came back wearing combat boots carrying a crowbar and a bag of angry snakes. The first hour with the breath was fine, all advances from kundalini were politely ignored and the mind was starting to brighten, although my face did feel like it was being peeled off. But then I lay down and started to feel my chest being pried open and the aforementioned angry snakes writhing all over my body. Hard to ignore but I tried. It sort of became a game where every time I returned to the breath for even 10 seconds then the physical sensations would ramp up and it would take 2 minutes to acclimatize to the new level of intensity. Eventually I got up to make sure I was able to do a passable impression of functioning normally in what is commonly referred to as the real world.

A little scary but basically same game I was playing before with the facial headache, just more intense and all over. Oh yeah and I got my CT scan results back and they couldn’t see anything but sinus blockage, so I can “rest assured” it’s just the meditation which is causing this and nothing more serious! I’m following the kundalini model here and here from Joan Harrigan’s book, which basically says that the karma plant is unloading it’s toxic waste and I’m sitting by the river. She advises just to watch the stinking chemicals flow by and definitely don’t go swimming in it. I trust she knows what she's talking about. Maybe I could also just look the other way and wait for the sunrise.

I know I've behaved pretty badly in the past but I'm pretty sure I didn't kill or rape anyone. Maybe it was in a past life, or maybe this is just the right level of toxins for what I did in this life. Either way it kind of feels good in a cathartic way to finally face up and purge this shit, hopefully for once and for all.


RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/30/19 12:08 AM as a reply to agnostic.
I had a strong depersonalization episode (new experience) on the evening of 9/27. I woke up suddenly an hour after falling asleep with the feeling that I was swimming around the bed and I just couldn’t remember who I was. I tried to find myself but couldn’t and quickly started to panic. My body was there alright, it's me that was missing. I’ve had the milder experience when I get up to pee in the middle of the night and I’m a bit disconnected from myself, or woken up after a deep sleep and takes me a while to come to. But this was a completely different order of magnitude. It was as if a malevolent being had got inside my head while I was asleep and run off with my entire personality/identity. I’ve had panic attacks before but they were a much stronger sense of physical panic (pounding heart, shaking, sweating) and clearly still something that was happening to me. This panic was less physically intense but psychologically much scarier because it seemed that I had simply disappeared and would never come back. I went to join my wife watching TV for comfort but found it agitating and returned to bed. But I found being alone in the dark even worse and started to worry that I might need to be carted off in a white jacket. I haven’t really talked to my wife about my spiritual quest of the last 8 months but I really needed someone to talk to, so I went back and told her what was happening. I was so scared at first that I gave her the contact details of my kundalini therapist and told her to contact him should anything happen rather than any kind of regular psychological professional because I was worried they would put me on strong drugs. Deep down I knew that this experience was a result (possibly even the point) of heavy meditation and would probably pass, but I’ve never been so scared for my sanity in my life. I basically dumped my entire spiritual backstory from age 5 on her lap, which calmed me down, but it was a lot for her to take in bless her golden heart. I mean I must have sounded totally crazy talking about God (trying to translate it into her Catholic terms) when as far as she knows I’m a hard-bitten atheist. It happens that my mother had come to stay that evening. We have a difficult relationship and only see each other once or twice a year, so that could have been a trigger. But I’ve been meditating pretty heavily the past few weeks and the kundalini process has been quite strong, so that’s the setup. There was also that whole episode of meditating on Jonathan and becoming one with his body, which could probably contribute to or even cause a depersonalization episode.

I managed to get back to sleep and whilst the last couple of days have been a bit blurry, I have been able to function normally (from the outside at least) and interact with people in standard ways. There was a high level of anxiety and disorientation for the first 24 hours. Basically any time I had a few seconds of quiet I would start to trip out. But being a weekend with 2 kids and mother staying there was plenty to keep me busy so that was fine. At a certain point I realized that however disoriented I felt inside, at least I could pretend to be normal to the outside world so why not just enjoy playing that game. It also occurred to me that although it was a terrifying experience, it didn’t actually happen to me per se (since I wasn’t really present at the time), so what was the big deal. As the anxiety started to subside the idea arose this might actually be “it”, awakening, or at least a taste of anatta. I was surprised to find myself functioning perfectly well in the world without a clear sense of who I was or any particular attachment to anything (identity, outcome etc). My working hypothesis is that this could have been a taste of awakening but I’m not yet spiritually mature enough to accommodate it comfortably. My mental state has continued to return somewhat to how it was before, but I can’t imagine reverting to the same state as if nothing had happened. This was the biggest shift so far. I’ve had some pretty deep insights and trippy and blissful experiences these last 8 months, but in retrospect they were always basically happening to me, even when I thought the center was dissolving. This was the first time the experience ever arose of the center really having disappeared altogether. From MCTB this does sound like a third path type experience. At this point I’m not really bothered about attainments and certification, but I’m curious if anyone else has had this kind of experience themselves or seen it in others. The closest thing I can think of is Suzanne Segal. I know there is a whole DP/DR thing out there - maybe that is simply a case of awareness of the fundamental truth of anatta arising in people who are not sufficiently prepared.

Apart from realizing that the sense of a personal self can just disappear, this episode also confirmed in me my growing understanding that enlightenment is just not something that I as a person can really want, because my personality’s job it to perpetuate its existence and it is terrified of getting eliminated. I suppose that’s why the eightfold path involves all that bothersome stuff about purifying speech, action and mind, to soften the victim up before the kill. I’m coming to appreciate the Buddha’s marketing genius. An end of suffering sounds great, who wouldn’t want that? How many people actually read the fine print and understand the personal implications of anatta? If you did you probably wouldn’t buy the product, unless you were already awakened in which case you wouldn’t need it.

Thoughts? Anyone?

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
9/30/19 12:35 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Hey agnostic, just wanted to pop in and say I've been enjoying reading your log the past few weeks. 

What you've been experiencing in practice recently sounds pretty normal for certain difficult stages of the path. From over here it reads like you've got as good a grasp on it as one can really have at this point. Knowing that this stuff isn't going to last forever and is a byproduct of meditation practice is good. Continuing to take care of normal daily obligations and noticing that you're basically doing OK with it all despite feeling quite weird is good. Having a support network of people around you (therapist, wife, etc.) is good.

One take-away I had from reading your post was that it seemed like opening up in a vulnerable, honest way about your practice to your wife was beneficial for you, perhaps something you could explore more. I can’t emphasize enough how supportive it is to have people around who you trust and who are also well-informed about what you’re doing in practice.

Another thing that helped during similar periods of my practice was a bit of advice Shinzen Young gave to his students who were experiencing symptoms of DP/DR. He said to keep noticing that the "freakout" about the emptiness and impermanence of the personal self was also empty and impermanent. What are the physical sensations of "freaking out" in the body? Where are they located? What do they feel like? Can you notice the 3C's in them? 

Sometimes in situations like this, these physical sensations can be difficult to locate at first as we are unconsciously "blotting out" certain parts of the body where they're happening (often a habit cultivated over a lifetime). It can help to try deliberate, effortful breathing, as well as directing attention, to areas of the body that you usually don't notice during a sit. You can ask yourself during a sit, "What parts of the body am I missing right now? What am I ignoring?". 

Anyways, just some suggestions from my own personal experience, YMMV. 

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/2/19 1:25 PM as a reply to Zachary.
Thanks Zachary for your reassurance and recommendations, which I am following. It's helpful to know that my experience is normal!

It's hard to remember the physical sensations of the freakout, it didn't seem to be much of a physical experience. The anxiety was much more mental, struggling to remember who I was and fearing for my sanity. The initial experience upon waking up was quite disembodied, it was like there was an awareness moving around that didn't belong to any particular body or person. That's what spooked me out

I forgot to mention that in recommitting to breath awareness for meditation that day, I was consciously trying to focus on the idea or knowledge of breathing as opposed to the physical sensations associated with breathing. That's what Ajahn Brahm recommends in Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond. The first time I experienced full awareness of the breath a few months ago was like that, but over time I had gotten more caught up in the physical side of it due to strong energetic sensations (kundalini process). I thought that by focusing on the energetic sensations I could help the process along, but it seems that the process evolves faster if I ignore them. So the day of the depersonalization episode I was just focusing on the awareness of breathing and ignoring anything physical, which caused the physical energy to increase and start shifting around faster. It felt like focusing on the knowledge of breathing was boring a hole through the center of me much faster. If I focus on the physical sensation of breathing at my nose for example, then there’s a sense that something is happening in front of me to a body part which is not essential to my identity. But once I shift the focus to the knowledge of breathing, that seems to be located right in the center of my brain and has the effect of displacing the presence of the me who would normally be there.

A few days have passed now since the depersonalization experience and 80% of the prior experience of what it is like to be me has returned. The details of the episode are fading quite quickly, but the knowledge that my entire personality can just vanish just like that has left a powerful impression. I suspect it was the universe's way of showing me just enough anatta as I can handle at this stage of my development, and that my job now is to keep developing morality and concentration until I can absorb anatta more fully. It's funny, the day before I had posted some advice to someone who is suffering from DP/DR. I had had disassociative experiences before but nothing as serious as what they were talking about. Still that didn't stop me from responding with a kind of "been there" attitude. In retrospect it looks like that was tempting fate!

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/2/19 9:44 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Picked up breathing mindfulness meditation today, having backed off a bit following the depersonalization episode. Piti-sukha is easily accessible and stronger than ever, appearing more broadly around the body. There are strong sexual feelings at times, but there is less urge to masturbate than before as I feel it would actually be less pleasurable than just relaxing and enjoying the bliss waves. There is still facial pain but it feels like it’s freeing up and there are all sorts of pleasant wave sensations around my face, along with the occasional bout of involuntary sneering which seems to pass from my lips up to my nose (think Billy Idol circa 1985). I was sitting in the gym with the mums watching my son play soccer and the orgasmic waves of pleasure coursing through my body felt almost obscene. But the Buddha says it is ok.

This evening I got closer to entering first jhana proper, with the image of wading into a cool lake and the mind getting noticeably brighter. I’m surprised by how much force I need to use to get the mind to stay on the breath and ignore the strong waves of piti. It’s not a calm experience at all, it feels like trying to hold onto the wheel of a small boat which is rocking about wildly in a storm of bliss. After a bit though the automatic feedback loop starts working where the bliss state solidifies and seems to hold onto itself. But I keep getting thrown off by big waves and having to start again. It’s not like I’m complaining, it is 1000 times more pleasurable than any of the many physical pleasures I have chased in my life, but I’m impatient to get immersed in the full nimitta.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/3/19 1:08 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Jhana is starting to feel like a strong magnet. When I'm far away I can't feel the force of attraction and I believe I need to exert my free will to approach jhana. But after holding my attention on the breath for a while then piti-sukha arises and I start to feel myself getting sucked into jhana, realizing this is the natural state of mind and there is not really any individual making a choice here.

And yet there are still hindrances preventing me from full absorption. There is desire (kammacchanda) to enter jhana, which is helpful in making the initial effort but then must be let go. There is the disturbance of strong erratic piti bursts, which I guess might count as restlessness (udhacca). I get sleepy sometimes (thina-middha), but then I just let go and rest or sleep if necessary. I don’t think I’m lazy, I’m using as much time as I have to practice, any more would mean abrogating family responsibilities. Actually I’ve noticed that on the days when I spend the most time doing stuff for my kids and wife then approach to jhana is faster because there’s already a solid baseline of justified unselfish satisfaction.

Probably the biggest hindrance for me is ill will (vyapado) towards myself, the belief that I’m not worthy of such happiness. I feel guilty about sitting immersed in piti-sukha, like it’s not productive and I don’t deserve it. I tell myself it is productive – productive of happiness – and that has a tangible benefit to my family and others. The guilt arises from my past behavior – anger towards myself and others, selfishness, meanness, intoxication and especially infidelity (paying for sex with prostitutes whilst in relationships, even sometimes while married). I understand all the conditioning that led to the behavior (angry father, emotionally detached mother, boarding school, fear of intimacy) and I’ve largely forgiven my parents, but it still feels wrong to forgive myself.

Skeptical doubt (vichkiccha) is not an issue because I trust that full absorption will eventually happen and it is just a question of time, of letting go of attachments and past conditioning.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/4/19 1:18 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Decent run of equanimity today, both on and off the cushion, settling deeper and longer than previous cycles/paths. Just a real pleasant feeling that everything is ok as it is. Access concentration is getting deeper, starting to see some interesting visuals (hues and patterns, still quite weak though). Seem to be randomly bouncing around near-jhanas 1-4, depending on which jhanic factor is predominating (thinking, piti/energy, sukha/contenment or equanimity). Decided I'm going to take the aspirational stance and call it "developing access concentration with jhanic flavors", reserving the word jhana for full nimitta/absorption which I haven't experienced yet but trust is ahead based on other people's reported experiences and extraploating my experience thus far.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/6/19 9:40 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Woke up still feeling 70% equanimous, the 30% dissatisfaction seeming to arise from an icky feeling in the belly. Tried meditating as usual on breath awareness in mind, but attention kept getting pulled down to belly. Considered switching focus to rising and falling of abdomen, but conflicts with objective of keeping breath in mind. Recognize I’ve just finished playing this game with the third eye and resolved to find a middle path between ignoring the belly knot and obsessing on it. I shouldn’t ignore it because it is important information (although I don’t really know cause yet). But if I overfocus on it and try to second guess it then it will probably stay trapped. I’m hoping that this approach enables the knot to open up faster, although I assume different vasanas are involved so it doesn’t really make sense to compare.

Didn’t get enough time on cushion in morning and was a busy family day (son’s 7th birthday party at home, spooky theme). Seemed to fall back into dark night, but was just a mildly spooky trip and quite enjoyable in a way (like watching a horror film for enjoyment).

Evening meditation was pretty dark, felt myself verging on depersonalization again. Tried to see the not-self/emptiness in the freakout, with some success, but didn’t prevent me from falling further into depersonalization with mounting anxiety. At a certain point internal space got very quiet, time stopped and I saw a darkish purple nimitta growing, but I was too scared to allow myself to fall into it. Decided to call it quits and potter around to get grounded again, didn’t want a repeat of the other night’s extreme depersonalization experience. Feel like a bit of a chicken, but maybe it’s correct to take the depersonalization in small doses. Also circumstances might play a part, having spent the last 5 hours with a bunch of small kids running riot around the apartment decked out in full spooky decorations, with spooky music playing and way too much screaming and excitement.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/6/19 9:52 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Felt myself getting pretty close to jhana this morning but was cut short by son waking up, guess the universe doesn’t think it’s my time yet. For rest of day seemed to be in a mild dark night, but hindrances were very strong in evening meditation. Eventually just forced my attention on the breath by willpower and concentration deepened, but the mind was still very dark and no sign of a nimitta anywhere. Realized that 95% of my meditation at the moment might be wasted time. I think I’m focusing on the breath but I watch like 5-10 breaths and before I know it I’m shifting focus to some energetic/kundalini sensation and then reflecting about my stuff. It was only because hindrances were so strong tonight that I had to use force to stay on the breath and ignore them, which worked even if nimitta was not forthcoming. Still I was only getting in 20-30 breaths before getting distracted again, although returning quite quickly. I’m resolving to start building up to 100-200 breaths, which is somewhere in the ballpark of what Ajahn Brahm recommends if I recall. Actually I think my concentration was better during what I think of as first/second paths, when the hindrances seemed to be more superficial. Now the hindrances (as well as my issues) seem to be much deeper. It’s so tempting to think I know what should be happening and get involved, but that doesn’t seem to be helping much, so for the next few days at least I’M GOING TO IGNORE EVERYTHING EXCEPT THE BREATH and see how that works out.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 6:12 AM as a reply to agnostic.
I did a quick skim of your log this morning, sounds like you are figuring this all out slowly, in a good way.

(I just re-read my reply, it's a little preachy -- sorry about that!  emoticon  )

For what it's worth, a big part of what needs to be seen is how we do battle with ourself all the time. Meditation is a different domain then the normal world of effort and struggle and accomplishment through force. 

Forcing attention on breath by willpower basically trains force. The gentler approach is to have the intention to stay on the breath, allow for both success and failure to happen, and when failure eventually happens (which of course it will, that's built into the practice, no big deal) --- then the imporant part of practice happens: noting what was so seductive to the mind. The important thing isn't to get a A+ in class for staying on the breath, it's to learn about how your own mind works. It's learning directly what seduces the mind, and once we know, we can't be very confused anymore.

Over time, with the gentler approach, the mind will follow the intention and stay on the breath and it will be a much more sustainable. It won't require effort because your practice didn't require effort with the gentler approach. The mind can hold breathing in awareness without a big struggle. 

Usually when force is being applied, there are a lot of other feelings and thoughts which are being suppressed. When force is dropped, these feelings and thoughts can become very strong. But even that's okay, you get to see what the real nature of your current mind is.

It really feels like 95% of meditation is wasted time, but in retrospect we'll see how the "wasted time" was actually when we were learning about how our mind really was. It's sort of like if someone was learning to dance, the first year or two might mostly be "feeling clumbsy" and not dancing, but learning how to dance is all about learning to feel the body as it is so that the intelligence of the body figures out how to move more gracefully. If you are actually brave enough to feel the clumbsiness of being clumbsy, then you are actually learning to dance.

In the same way, time spent noticing all the ways the mind gets seduced by greediness for progress, aversion to reality, and fantasies about ideal performance is a great meditation practice and not wasted time at all. People have a tendency to berate themselves for not doing it right when hindrances appear, but that's completely wrong. If you are aware of the hindrances then that's good meditaiton. If you are actually curious about and investigate hindrances, then that's GREAT meditation.

Focusing on the breath is fine, but its almost more important to stay interested in the hindrances themselves that are showing up. Those hindrances are actually the teacher. You don't need to silence hindrances by drowning it out with a focus on breath. In fact, a really good approach is to hold both the hindrances and the breath in the same awareness and get interested in both. People who do multi-week retreats don't have perfect minds with no hindrances, but rather they create a big enough space for the hindrances so that they arise and pass in awareness, like a tiny kid on a giant stage in a huge auditorium. And they don't need to ignore the kid either, but rather put a spotlight on the kid and really appreciate the kid's performance, so to speak.

Hope this helps in some way. I struggled with this stuff for a few decades before I realizing that getting interested in how the mind gets seduced by hindrances is actually the easy and interesting and wisdom-creating and fastest path forward. 

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 7:41 AM as a reply to shargrol.
You know what, Shargrol? I get both piti and sukkha from reading your advice to others.

Agnostic, it seems to me like you are very hard on yourself. Maybe you need to forgive youself for the purpose of your practice and wellbeing? You are not the same person as you were yesterday. We all do what we can under the current circumstances, but circumstances change and so do we. Finding a way to forgive ourselves is often (maybe always?) crucial for our development.

When it comes to Kundalini, in my experience it is the force we make it to be. You can use it as your tool but it is definitely not something you can force or resist - not because it is some entity, but because of the repression that Shargrol already mentioned with regard to your attention. If your kundalini is rough on you, it could be a sign that you need to make peace with yourself. You need to find compassion with yourself for that to happen. I have gone through that. It happened gradually and is probably still in progress so I can’t tell you how long time it took for me, but I can tell you that I felt gradually better over time. Every step of the way has been a blessing.

I believe I sound much more preachy than Shargrol, so I’m sorry if it’s unwelcome. Just... know that kundalini issues do not need to last forever.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 11:45 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi shargrol, thank you for taking the time to read my log and respond. I didn’t read your post as preachy at all – just someone with a lot of experience sharing their experience, for which I am very grateful. You reminded me how concentration and insight are supposed to  walk hand in hand. I knew this before but somehow seemed to have forgotten it … again!

Over the last few months my practice seems to have veered between the extremes of insight and concentration at least two to three times. As a self-critical anxious thinking type I suppose I’m more naturally drawn to insight. That seems to take me quite far quite fast in terms of cutting through the illusion of a personal self, which provides some relief. But it’s also destabilizing and quite jarring, so at a certain point I start to feel  a bit frazzled and turn to concentration to smooth out the ride. As concentration improves and life becomes more pleasant, I start to want more of it and set my sights on jhanic attainments, which re-solidifies the sense of a personal self who is on some kind of mission. Eventually I hit a jhanic wall where my concentration doesn’t seem to be deepening any further, which forces me to investigate the hindrances and takes me back to vipassana.

I believe this is what happened over the last 24 hours. Forcefully suppressing the hindrances kind of worked last night, but there was a recoil this morning as they came back. With your help (and Linda’s help on self-forgiveness) I entered back into equanimity and observed some very pleasant thoughts and sensations. After a couple of hours things came to a standstill and then suddenly it seemed like I was doing fast noting vipassana again for the first time in three months (since what was possibly second path). It was all very granular fast formations with little content. There were plenty of “here it comes” near-fruition feeling moments, but all false alarms (I should probably learn to enjoy those).

There were some thoughts about mapping, concluding with the thought that maybe I didn’t even hit SE yet, which instantly took the pressure off and accelerated the free flow of formations. It all feels quite familiar, just a lot more protracted than before and penetrating deeper levels of stuff. I keep having thoughts like “seriously, how much longer can this go on for?” and “really, what more do you want from me?” and “how much deeper does this need to go?”. I guess I should just keep investigating such questions and my need for progress, attainments, nimittas, fruitions, mapping and the like. Anyway, thanks again for your input. I’m going to try to keep insight and concentration in a more dynamic balance now and be more conscious of the interplay, so hopefully I don’t get stuck so long on the extremes.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 4:10 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hi Linda, thanks for your kind words and sharing your experience. Not preachy at all! You definitely hit the nail on the head – I am very hard on myself. I know it so well and have let go of it in many areas, but it’s still surprises me just how deep the well of self-anger goes. Your post came at an opportune time and it was very helpful to be reminded of it again, along with the recommendation of self-forgiveness. It just so happens that there was an email from Tricycle in my inbox about The Power of Forgiveness, so I tried that practice and it seemed to free up something deep inside me. The feelings of anger are clearly located in a hard ball in my belly which is slowly starting to open up. This seems to be the natural progression of kundalini for me and I can imagine a future where energy passes more freely through the belly just as it has started to do around my head (still a work in progress).

I agree that self-forgiveness seems to be very important, it’s hard to be kinder to others while I am blaming and hating myself. But that forgiveness practice starts with asking others for forgiveness, which made me realize that selfishly I have really only been focusing on me forgiving my parents. My attitude seems to have been: well my parents started it, so it’s me that needs to forgive them. But in truth their parents caused problems for them (probably worse than what I got from them) and I accentuated the problems with my attitude towards my parents and then passed along a healthy share to my girlfriends, wife, in-laws, son and other innocent bystanders for good measure. I’ve considered confessing my sins to others and asking for their forgiveness, but still from a selfish perspective – would it lessen the burden of guilt on me? It might actually make things worse for them (at least temporarily) and cause knock-on problems/suffering for others. And it still wouldn’t necessarily mean that I’ve fully absorbed what it means to ask for forgiveness. I don't want to let myself off the hook,  I feel like I should pay the price, but I don't want that to become a form of self-abuse. It's hard to know what the right price is. I went through years of depression, but maybe that wasn't enough suffering. Maybe I have to lose everything (wife, kids, money). Or maybe that's the point of suffering in meditation, of letting go of everything and "losing it all mentally", experiencing the dose of suffering and turmoil and fear on the cushion. It's quite beautiful and simple really how karma operates, how every action and thought has a reaction, even after so many years.

At the root seems to be the simple fact that I got hurt and retaliated by hurting others, which hurt me back (either through them hurting me back directly or me beating myself up with guilt). And so round and round it goes. It reminds me of something that Thanissaro Bhikkhu I think says about dependent origination, how we each get the chance right now in this moment if we want to start breaking the links. Taking a non-dual perspective, it’s really just consciousness pretending to hurt itself, although that might be bypassing and letting myself off the hook. But still, seeing how pain and anger naturally cause more pain and anger (whether for others or myself) seems to engender feelings of compassion, so I would like to continue working with that.

This post has been longer and harder to write than I expected and I need to rush out now to pick the kids up from school, so I'm just going to leave it in the mess it's in since that's a fair reflection of my mental state right now! A lot of rambling and questions which don't make sense and no obvious answers and it will all be fine, no dramatic decisions planned, so please don't feel any need to respond!

Thanks again Linda and best wishes for you and your practice.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 5:48 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Not a mess at all. Good investigation. As you go on with it, keep reminding yourself of forgiving yourself as well as others. Guilt and shame can be very persistent, as I’m sure you know all too well. I’m very happy for your relief and progress. Yay!

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 6:53 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Self forgiveness is really the heart of this thing. Mediation get's described as some kind of "I'll get smarter and see reality" thing, but that's just the bait and hook. In fact, what meditation really becomes is "I knew I was fucking myself up, but I never understood how until I sat with myself for a while... and now I realize that I used to fuck myself up the same way that everyone else is fucking themselves up." That's where compassion really starts to become real and the idea of forgiving others becomes possible. 

Know yourself and you heal yourself.
Heal yourself and everyone else is healed.

This is the little prayer/metta meditation I do... I take 10 minutes to get settled, letting the worries of the day fade away, and then I say these words... I start with me, then go to "people that support me", then go to "people that frustrate me", then "all beings in the entire universe, known and unknown", and then end with "me" again. It has an incredible power to create clarity about what the whole purpose of meditation is...

May I be calm and at ease.
May I be healthy, rested, and whole.
May I be safe and free from all forms of danger.
May I bravely face the difficulties in my life, and wisely avoid unnecessary problems.
May I fully awaken.
May I be completely free from suffering.
May I be happy.

May those who support me.... (you can even go person by person and name say this for all the people that are particularily close to you...)

May those who frustrate with me...

May all beings in the entire universe, known and unknown...

May I...



Hope this helps in some way.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/21/19 2:25 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Self forgiveness is really the heart of this thing. Mediation get's described as some kind of "I'll get smarter and see reality" thing, but that's just the bait and hook. In fact, what meditation really becomes is "I knew I was fucking myself up, but I never understood how until I sat with myself for a while... and now I realize that I used to fuck myself up the same way that everyone else is fucking themselves up." That's where compassion really starts to become real and the idea of forgiving others becomes possible. 

Know yourself and you heal yourself.
Heal yourself and everyone else is healed.

This touched me deeply thanks. Wanna know what's really fucked up? On some level I think I actually planned for my life to turn out like this. I remember being 22, after I had already fucked myself up a little and then gotten into a heavy spiritual/meditation/renunciation phase. I had already studied a bunch of western philosophy and math/science in college, but once I started reading Vedanta and Ramana Maharshi I just knew that this was "it" - the ultimate wisdom which went beyond all other knowledge and answered life's questions by rendering them invalid. I was giving away my possessions and money and fantasizing about hiking into the mountains to get enlightened ... and yet I must have decided that I hadn't had my fill of the world's pleasures yet. I had tasted enough by then to know that true happiness didn't lie that way, and yet I still wanted more in order to prove it to myself beyond all reasonable doubt. Well I also wanted to have kids some day, but that was an unexamined vain gene propagation thing rather than a belief that I had anything worth offering as a parent to make the world a better place. Fast forward 25 years and here I am, having gotten exactly what I asked for. Ah, life is so simple.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/7/19 10:16 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Heh, I procrastinated it for about the same amount of time.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/21/19 2:29 PM as a reply to agnostic.
The magic of forgiveness seems to be working a little. I found myself going through my transgressions one by one, really feeling the pain and asking for forgiveness from the person I hurt (whether they were aware of it or not). Finally I felt able to forgive myself a little, and also ask myself for forgiveness. I guess that means I’m forgiving the angry hurt reactive personality in me and also that personality is asking for forgiveness, although I’m not sure who the “I” is who is forgiving and being asked for forgiveness in this scenario (maybe the greater self?)

I can’t help thinking about the relative vs absolute viewpoints concerning morality, sin, punishment and forgiveness. On a relative basis there is a sinner who must suffer the consequences/punishment and a victim who may forgive, but on an absolute basis there are no individuals or free will. The best I could come up with is that the sin is as real as the consequences, and right now the consequences are as real as hell (high degree of (apparent) suffering). Obviously the sin is past and it’s easier to see that there was no “real” (in an absolute sense) choice. But then the same logic should apply to the future consequences/ punishment and forgiveness – there is no choice, they have to happen whether in this lifetime or another.  I also see those same dynamics at play in the great dramas of history (war, atrocities, retribution, healing, nations rising and falling etc.)

I also reflected on the dynamic between sinner and victim. I’m not absolving wrongdoing here and sinners should (and will) suffer the consequences and punishment for their actions. But I think about my mother for example, who was abandoned by her father when she was ten and never saw him again. Well that understandably installed in her a victim complex, a fear of abandonment and a certain view of men (putting them on a pedestal, only to be disappointed). So she ends up marrying an angry unsympathetic man where she is the victim. And in a subtle way she abandons her children whilst placing the blame on others, so that she also plays the victim in that drama. I was a relatively minor victim in that drama, but it gave me enough fuel to act out in all sorts of ways. I also think about the first girlfriend I cheated on with prostitutes. When I met her she was in a serious relationship with a decent guy who wanted to marry her, but for whatever reason it wasn’t enough for her. I was attracted to her and didn’t care that she was already in another relationship, so I made my interest known. I was totally inappropriate for her and she must have known that, but cheating on him with me gave her the out she needed. She used to say that I was her punishment for leaving her boyfriend. And then I ended up cheating on her. I’m not denying that I was the sinner in the context of our relationship, but on some level she needed me to play that role as well.

I can’t help thinking about my wife as well. She is a Catholic and the most moral person I know, I don’t think she has every really sinned. I just wonder what she saw in me, a known player. I may be totally out of line here, but her father was a player and married his 25 year old secretary when he was 40. Her job included deceiving his multiple girlfriends with different alibis when they called. It’s a family joke: “she wasn’t the prettiest, but she was the smartest”. The brother was a big player as well and it was talked about openly around the dinner table in a sort of mock censorious fashion. Classic Italian Catholic stereotype I guess – fuck as many whores as you like but for God’s sake marry a virgin. So on some unconscious level I may have “fit the profile” for my wife. Again I’m not trying to excuse my behavior here. I take full responsibility for my behavior and if she ever found out (or I confessed) then I have no reason not to think that she would be mad as hell, her trust in me would be broken forever and she would leave me and take the kids and the money. But there have been some near misses which she seemed uncharacteristically willing to overlook and I can’t help speculating that on some level she “knows”.  I hope I never have to find out, and yet the truth has a nasty habit of find its way to the surface eventually.

Anyway, enough of my stuff, back to phenomenology. There are still strong racking pains in the face, but the belly seems to be opening up a little and there are some powerful bursts of piti from down there which are starting to engulf me more fully. At a certain point my genitals seemed to get activated and there were some strong sexual thoughts, starting off with remembering past experiences but then with me “becoming” the female partner. Apologies if TMI here. At a certain point I decided to masturbate to attenuate the physical sensations. I seemed to have developed some kind of tantric masturbation practice, where the whole point is to delay orgasm for as long as possible by avoiding sexual thoughts and tightening the pelvic floor muscle just before orgasm. The pleasure just gets ridiculous and starts to spread out from the genitals until it encompasses the whole body in a wave of … you guessed it, piti. So yeah, right back into first jhana territory. It makes me realize that sex is actually a pretty pointless activity (apart from procreating), it’s just like you are using someone else’s  body to masturbate with, which is a lot less convenient than doing it yourself. You might say I just haven’t had the right kind of sex (and you would be right) – loving union in a shared pursuit of the divine – but then we are heading right back into jhana again so why not take the direct route. If I ever interest my wife again it may happen, but if not it’s all good, I had my fill. And yes, the thought had occurred to me, maybe on some unconsciously level she is punishing me as well. [There’s a pretty good essay by Ken Wilber in Kundalini Rising which talks about psychological development and how the infant’s cosmic bliss gets concentrated into and “tyrannized” by the genitals.]

I’m kind of getting familiar with this kundalini dynamic of pain and bliss now which seems to be playing out in meditation. The pain needs to come out, it’s just the stored consequences of all the bad behavior. In a case like mine, obviously it can’t come out all at once without being totally overwhelming, so the body seems to know just how much pain it can safely release at a time whilst also allowing just enough bliss to keep you practicing. I was listening to Shinzen Young this morning and he referred to St Teresa of Avila and the angel (Chapter XXIX of her Life), which is just an incredible piece of writing and maybe on some small level what I am experiencing:

In his hands I saw a long golden spear and at the end of the iron tip I seemed to see a point of fire. With this he seemed to pierce my heart several times so that it penetrated to my entrails. When he drew it out, I thought he was drawing them out with it and he left me completely afire with a great love for God. The pain was so sharp that it made me utter several moans; and so excessive was the sweetness caused me by this intense pain that one can never wish to lose it, nor will one's soul be content with anything less than God. It is not bodily pain, but spiritual, though the body has a share in it – indeed, a great share. So sweet are the colloquies of love which pass between the soul and God that if anyone thinks I am lying I beseech God, in His goodness, to give him the same experience.

During the days that this continued, I went about as if in a stupor. I had no wish to  see or speak with anyone, but only to hug my pain, which caused me greater bliss than any that can come from the whole of creation. I was like this on several occasions, when the Lord was pleased to send me these raptures, and so deep were they that, even when I was with other people, I could not resist them; so, greatly to my distress, they began to be talked about.

So yeah, in God language my experience right now might go something like this: “O Lord, in my ignorance I have sinned and strayed from your path. Please allow me to suffer for my sins so that through your grace I might know thy all-encompassing love more fully”. Somewhere beyond all this melodrama lies equanimity I suppose, but for now this is just what it is.

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/8/19 2:39 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Sounds like progress.

My personal approach to the seemingly paradoxical in assuming responsibility with regard to morality despite dependent origination is compassion with those who suffer from the impact, regardless of my intent. I do not always manage to live up to it, but I try to appologize when someone feels hurt even if I find the distribution of guilt unfair from my viewpoint. Adressing the suffering just seems more important than adressing my identity. And since I’m still rather vain, I also find that people are more willing to listen when I explain my perspective after I have demonstrated that I respect theirs. Impact and distributing the guilt are two separate things. Unfortunately, that is much more difficult on a societal level. In society we are often forced to mix those separate things as if they were one thing. That’s how the law works and I haven’t got any miraculous solution to the dilemma. It makes me sad to see how mixing things like that creates harm. It affects our thinking. It fosters the building of walls between people. And I don’t know what to do about it. So, basically - you raise valid questions. I find that there is a danger in applying ”ultimate truths” to people’s lived reality as if they were the same thing. That’s another mix that I believe creates harm. Sure, on some cosmic level maybe reality is ”perfect” as it is and nothing could ever be changed, but I don’t see how that has any bearing on daily life. What we say is also part of the chain in the dependent origination. It has consequences, too. It might cause harm. It might make people feel helpless, or make people feel like oppressive behavior is justified. That is bad karma, I would say, and often utterly disrespectful. It has bearing in forgiveness, though. But as I see it, we cannot forgive on anybody else’s behalf, only on our own.

I don’t know if that was any helpful at all or just repeating aspects you have already reflected on.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/10/19 2:52 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Equanimity nana seems to have solidified today. I was in a parents meeting at school with the principal and just felt stupidly happy. Not high energy piti/rapture, more like sukha happiness. I started to get worried people might notice. I was just looking around at the other parents with their thoughts and concerns playing across their faces and it was just like seeing kids really. I came home and meditated quickly into third jhana lite. I was tired but starting having clear fruition like thingies. They weren’t sleep drop offs and they were repeatable. I would calm the mind down until the only things present were microscopic formations (like watching Brownian motion of pollen in water or something), then I would feel myself falling into some kind of oblivion and bounce out with the mind restarting. The first ones In the void there was no time for awareness, but later I tried to stay in the void there was some awareness, not awareness of thoughts or sensations but enough awareness to distinguish it from dreamless sleep or being dead I presume.

I honestly don’t know whether I have never experienced a fruition before and am not a stream-enterer yet, or whether I was on third (or fourth) path and had five of them today. I assume it’s probably the former and I am simply hoping the latter, except I don’t really care. I mean there is a part of me that wants a badge, an attainment, some recognition, but it’s pretty transparent what that’s all about and not what I really want I think (more problems, except they are not really problems right). Part of me hopes I'm wrong because like surely this can't be it and what the fuck do I do next. I read the fetter defintion of arahant and can't think of any reason why an arahant would tell anyone about it (no mana/measuring), unless they were coming from an environment where such things were counted and it the recognition was forced on them by circumstances. If this is enlightenment it is pretty absurd, actually most of my meditations today ended with laughter and thoughts of how ridiculously stupid this all is. We spend years or decades desperately searching for something and eventually realize there is nothing there which a person could possibly want. There is nothing more than what already is, and that will never be satisfying to a person.

These fruitiony brain fart experiences are not a million miles away from the hypnic jerks I sometimes experience falling asleep (falling, blackout then suddenly jolting awake with mind restarting). It would be stupid to think those were fruitions. But whatever these things are, it seems they can be bigger or smaller, faster or slower, and with different characteristics depending what I was aware of going in (tried suffering and not-self).

I also had this weird experience where I couldn’t tell jhana and vipassana apart. Mahasi Sayadaw’s progress of insight seems to me a lot like practicing jhana whilst resolutely refusing to talk about it as such. Feeling bliss? Note it and ignore it. Feeling happy? Note it and ignore it. Feeling sad/angry/afraid (hindrances)? Note and ignore. Seeing a bright white light (nimitta)? Note and ignore. Etc. But as I know the best way into jhana is to ignore stuff. Then then Buddha in the suttas always comes out of jhana and unbinding/release/nibbana happens. And then there is supramundane jhana taking nibbana as its object. So I have a question for anybody that’s still reading and has attained both frutions with duration and supramundane jhana: are they the same thing or not?

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/15/19 10:19 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Whether or not that was a bunch of fruitions the other day, and whether or not it was third (or god forbid fourth) path, something has changed. Sticking my finger in the air, I'm going to say 50% probability third path. But even if it was third path, there is the whole 12th path thing so best strategy seems be prepared for more path like moments to come. 

One thing that has changed is that I'm less bothered about whether I meditate or not. If I have the time then I might meditate for 6 hours, but if family demands prevent any meditation then I don't resent it like I did before, even if I'm feeling frazzled and dark nighting. There has been a shift from meditation being something I need to make space for in my life to life being something that happens in between meditations. Actually daily life feels a lot more like an extension of meditation now, even if I'm feeling frustrated or barking at the kids.

I feel less attachment to jhana now (even although I've only experienced soft jhana), which paradoxically has coincided with deeper soft jhana. I had a feeling before that I wouldn't awaken before attaining hard jhana, but now I accept that hard jhana is purely a function of past karma and hindrances and there is no way of knowing how long these will take to burn off, if indeed at all in this life. Maybe if I practiced harder or went on retreat then jhana would develop faster, but maybe the cost of that on my family would make my hindrances worse and be counter-productive. I'm sticking with a workable level of practice in the context of improving my family life.

What has really changed is my ability to get into deeper concentration quickly and play with the jhana factors at will. Actually I see now that my concentration has never been that strong. A few months ago when I first slipped into soft first jhana I was able to focus on the breath continuously for a minute or two. But once my piti/kundalini process really started acting up it stole my attention. I thought my concentration was good because I was sitting for 2-3 hours at a time, but it was mostly watching internal energetic sensations and wandering mind (even if there was deep stuff and lots of aha moments). The piti/headaches are as strong as ever now, but I seem to have remembered that I'm supposed to be concentrating on the breath and started doing that again. I'm really impressed by how even a small amount of concentration is having a big payoff now. Even just watching 10 breaths is enough to generate strong piti, and instead of getting blown away by that I'm now able to relax and find the sukha.

I'm finding the Visuddhimagga correspondence between jhana factors and hindrances very helpful. When I get tired or find the mind wandering then applied thought (i.e. putting attention back on the breath) works to dispel the sloth and torpor. The piti blasts away ill will I suppose, but what is really helping me now is letting the sukha develop to combat piti-induced agitation. And developing the one-pointedness of mind well automatically leaves no space for any sensual desire. Ajahn Brahm talks about kamacchanda being any involvement with the world of the five sense, even things that are distrubing you, and this is definitely what I struggle with due to the strong headaches (which I assume is blocked piti). But really sticking to the breath enables me to ignore that for a while at least. In terms of results, there is definitely more visual stuff going on and incipiant nimittas but they are not stable. The biggest issue for me (as ever) is letting equanimity settle, which as far as I can see is a function of aversive mindset developed over 40 years of poor self image and bad behavior. I do seemed to have turned a corner there, so hopefully that will continue to improve.

Another thing that has changed is my perspecitve on my suffering vis-a-vis awakening. I think I was harboring a fantasy that my kundalini process would finish when I awakened and there wouldn't be any more energetic pains and blockages. But now I see that might well be independent of awakening, in that I could awaken (more) and still be suffering the same symptoms. Except of course it wouldn't really be me suffering, just awareness of some kind of warp in the universal energy field which happens to be located in the vicinity of what I used to think of as being me. Actually I'm starting to suspect that I chose this life path of self-induced suffering the last 25 years for a reason, just so that I would know what it was like to do that to myself and recover. I'm starting to feel more of a pull towards helping other people with that experience (even though it means taking on more suffering) rather than developing ever more refined levels of concentration in my bedroom. But I'm aware that it's very dangerous to go that route until I am ready, so for now it's more bedroom-based action until the time is right. My initial goal is to help my wife and kids if I can by developing my awareness more in their direction.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/17/19 8:20 PM as a reply to agnostic.
I've been spending longer practicing (soft) jhana and depersonalization feelings are returning, although with less intensity and less anxiety than the first episode. Two weeks have passed now since that first episode and it seems like it was a genuine experience of anatta, just a bit more than I could comfortably handle at the time. It feels a bit like seeing that optical illusion where you start out seeing a goblet and then suddenly it becomes two faces staring at each other. Once you've seen the faces, you can go back to seeing the goblet but you can't forget the fact that the faces are there. Having experienced depersonalization, I can temporarily go back to being the person I was before but I can't forget that it's an illusion and could vanish again at any time. So I can't really go back to being the person I was before. If I don't think about it I can find myself acting and thinking in some of the ways I did before, but as soon as I think about it then I snap to and remember it's an illusion. Sometimes I will catch myself thinking "this is crazy, nothing has changed, I'm the same person I was before", but then I try to find that person, that experience of what it was like to be me before, and it just seems that I can't do that any more. Is this a permanent shift? I suspect so but can't be sure. Maybe I will forget all about it and go back to how I was before. Or maybe it's just a new illusion from which I will again wake up some day.

I do now have an appreciation for why it is recommended to improve morality and concentration before embarking on insight. My depersonalization experience almost sent me over the edge and I had already been practicing abstinence (from an admittedly poor base) and concentration for a few months. I can easily imagine if depersonalization hit you without adequate preparation then it could totally derail your life or land you in a mental institution.

Now I am playing catch-up on the concentration front. Hard jhana seems to be getting closer by the day, or at least soft jhana is deepening and I'm having a clearer and deeper experience of the five factors. It seems so simple now, I can't believer overlooked the instructions for so long - just focus on the breath. Every time I come back to the breath the factors deepen and if my attention wanders it's not long before I notice and come back to the breath. I'm thankful to Leigh Brasington's book Right Concentration for making soft jhana accessible and showing me how to generate piti-sukha, but his advice to focus on the experience of piti-sukha led me into a cul-de-sac where I got too caught up in the strong energetic sensations of piti (headaches, vibrating, rushing). Ajahn Brahm's advice in Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond to just stay focused on the breath until it takes you all the way into nimitta and hard first jhana seems more effective (not that I've got to that point yet), however he doesn't even recognize the five factors before hard jhana, which made them inaccessible for me. I'm learning a lot from playing around with the five factors and seeing how they correspond to reducing the hindrances. Today I spent longer than ever bathing in sukha (soft third jhana) and was able to carry it around with me off the mat as well, which made for a very serene day by my standards.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
10/18/19 12:57 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Cool. Congratulations on your progress!

RE: Agnostic's Log
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10/23/19 8:24 PM as a reply to agnostic.
I’ve had a very busy few days as a householder (birthdays, guests) and little time for practice/reflection. Catching up with an old friend I haven’t seen for years is an interesting benchmark to observe how much has changed and also how little. Diet has been poor (eating out, more meat), sleep too little and no personal time/space – there is some suffering but not much of a sense that it’s happening to me. Of course it would be nice to have less suffering but it doesn’t feel like the big deal it used to, I can see it’s just a voluntary consequence of past karma working itself out (parabda).

I had another strong depersonalization episode the night before my friend arrived to stay. Interestingly he was the friend who helped me through my first ever anxiety attack at college, so the knowledge he was coming might have facilitated the episode. We also had my daughter’s fifth birthday party that day with 20 excited kids and their parents crammed into our apartment, which was a stressor. And it was my birthday the next day, which historically has usually been uncomfortable for me. Also recently I have been contemplating how I might help prostitutes in a charitable business venture, and part of that process has involved visualizing myself as a prostitute, both in terms of what they suffer as well as situations in my life where I have done things for money which I was uncomfortable with (nothing as bad as selling my body under duress though).

Whatever the cause, the depersonalization episode was very similar to the first one. I woke up shortly after falling asleep with a disorientated swaying feeling and starting to freak out about me not being there. I tried to focus on the feelings of the freakout as some people have recommended, but that only made the freakout worse and I didn't want to have to wake my wife up (her parents were also staying in the next room and I didn't want them to see me freaking out). So I tried distractions like watching videos and playing phone games to ground myself, but that made me more anxious. So got up and went into the living room, turned the lights on, had a bowl of cereal and started reading Suzanne Segal's Collision with the Infinite. That put the whole thing in perspective and I stayed up for the next few hours reading until I was tired enough to go back to bed. Her depersonalization experience was much deeper, more sudden and irrevocable than mine, but I recognize similar themes. I had heard people talk about her depersonalization as if it came out of the blue, but reading the book it’s clear she had a deep meditation practice in the years leading up to it.

This is my second strong depersonalization episode and it seems to be forming a pattern. I do insight meditation and get some powerful no-self insight which also brings some anxiety. I switch to concentration practice to reduce the anxiety, which works. But then I push the concentration practice deeper which involves letting go of more of myself, which seems to trigger another round of depersonalization. I guess I could try slowing things down and meditate less, but meditation seems to want to happen anyway now whether I sit or not. Maybe there’s some masochism at work here, but there seems to be a sense of inevitability about the process – after all it’s headed in the direction of ultimate truth (anatta) – so I’m loath to put the brakes on. Basically I’m just trusting/hoping that things won’t move any faster than I can really handle.

Overall I'm noticing a greater degree of luminosity, both in meditation and daily life. The major kundalini blockage is slowly moving from my head to my heart. I still have a strong headache, but it's much more fluid and susceptible to meditation. Often I get quite pleasurable feelings there now, like a cool substance melting down my face. I've felt pressure in the sternum for 20+ years, but now it's coming into focus as the next blockage to thaw hopefully. The phrase from the Upanishads about the Self dwelling in the lotus of the heart keeps running around in my head. There seems to be a vague source of internal light in the heart and I can imagine that expanding over time, although probably there are a few more personal issues which need to be addressed.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/21/19 2:38 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Deeper access concentration, lighter mind. Facial pain unblocking, heart chakra opening as I focus more on others. Faint pain in heart like unrequited love but it's almost pleasurable in its poignancy, recognized as self looking for self. Lower chakras starting to unblock a little, this is where stability will reside and ability just to exist in the present.

Woke up last night at 2:30am from dream I was in a 3 way nomination for supreme court seat. Someone had put me in against 2 lawyers, clearly because I was totally unfit so they would only have to contend with each other. I was in my dressing gown in front of congress, totally unprepared, but as they argued in legalese and I just said what was on my mind I saw my chances improving ... at which I woke up from what was about to become a nightmare. Obviously still plenty of narcissim here. I must have slept because next it was 6:30, but I seemed to be aware the whole time. I've read something about awareness during dreamless sleep, maybe that's starting. Pretty much any time I meditate now, or even not, mind is incling towards jhana, thought still only soft. But I'm letting go of the desire for jhana, which acclerates the process. Ironic that one and starting to understand why it's a fetter.

Couple of changes off the cushion might have precipitated meditative progress. First I have started working again but from a selfless perspecitve, that is abandoning claim to the fruits of the labor and intending to donate profits to charity in some way.

Second, a couple of weeks ago I started prayinig again for my cleaner's brother Jonathan who had leukemia. I felt a bit guilty because I thought I had "done my bit" and not prayed for him for three weeks. Then my cleaner told me he had gone back home because there was nothing more they could do for him. I prayed with all my might. I started out thinking that I would give my life to God if he saved Jonathan, but I realized it doesn't work like that. I have been reading Edwina Gateley's book In the Womb of God, she's a living Christian mystic and saint, or bodhisatva if you like. I took a cue from her apparently effective prayer method and said "ok God, I give you my life now, thank you for saving Jonathan's life". I was aware that he would probably die anyway, but I continued "believing " he would live and dedicating my life to God for having saved him. After a couple of hours of this I felt a sharp pain in my chest like a sword being pulled out and then I felt calm and tired, like I had done what I could do, so I went to sleep. The next day I discovered that Jonathan had died that evening a couple of hours or so prior to the sword being pulled out. There was no surprise he had died, it kind of seemed inevitable actually. In reprospect it seems I had chosed to pray and dedicate my life for a man I knew would probably die for precisely that reason - it was my way of tricking myself into giving up my limited selfish personal view of my life and more fully realizing anatta. So in that sense Jonathan's life was saved because my life was reborn through him. I'm not being like an ego maniac here and saying he died for me. It's the opposite. I died for him. He was probably going to die anyway and it it a terrible tragedy for his family and I gave them what I could. But I made what good I could out of it. Thank you Jonathan for your life and death. RIP.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/21/19 2:39 PM as a reply to agnostic.
I've been on a meditation binge the last 24 hours, inspired by starting to read Ajahn Maha Bua's The Path to Arahantship and watching this dhamma talk. Something about his life-or-death seriousness got to me. In the book he talks about having to overcome severe pain to get into deep samadhi (jhana I think though he doesn't use the word). He describes how starting to use the mantra buddho accelerated the development of his concentration. Buddho doesn't resonate with me so much so I added the mantra "I am" to my breathing meditation, "I" on the in breath and "am" on the outbreath. "I am" just came into mind when I was trying to think about something more meaningful for me, I think I must have picked it up from reading Ramana Maharshi. Anyway, adding the mantra had the effect of subduing my thoughts more quickly than focusing on the breath alone, so it seems like a useful tool. Once my mind gets really quiet I find I've stopped repeating the mantra and I even have trouble remembering it, at which point I'm just sort of basking in the mind's property of awareness.

I found myself being drawn towards full absorption a few times but each time I recoiled from fear or excitement. In my case the barrier to overcome is energetic pressure in the face (migraine) and chest (heartache). I guess I could call it "pain", although it seems more psychosomatic than an obvious body pain. The pain is compounded by anxiety about the pain. At one point I was trying to relax into the heartache and I felt like my heart flipped over and a small animal was dragged out of my chest. That should have been a relief since the heartache was gone, but the dramatic shift and new sensation freaked me out a bit and I had to back off. I've suffered from anxiety about internal body sensations ever since I was a kid, so I guess that's just my thing.

My goal now (a la Maha Bua) is to really investigate this anxiety and try to see it as just a natural feeling which the mind is latching onto and exacerbating. I.e. to see its impermanence (comes and goes, although when its strong it doesn't feel like it's going to go) and anatta (the anxiety is not me, it's not my anxiety). Try to recognize that even when the anxiety is strong, the mind's essential property of blissful awareness is still untouched by it. I think the anxeity arises because it's the ego's fear of it's own dissolution - it knows that it's going to be left behind in jhana so it does everything it can to prevent me from dropping into full absorption. I'm trying to tread a middle path here. I don't want to push practice too hard and have a psychotic episode (like I've read about or almost had with depersonalization). But I don't want the fear of a psychotic episode to hold my practice back and prevent me from using this opportunity for developing stronger concentration and using that for better insight. My gut tells me that a psychotic episode is just the fear of a psychotic episode and if I calm myself down and stay grounded I will be fine.

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/20/19 1:14 PM as a reply to agnostic.
The juggling act involving practice & the scientific dissection of it posits a post-modern approach to enlightenment. Its more interesting to know its also probably one of the least walked path... isn't it wonderful? It should prove for steady progress and that is good, what I see dark night being is just concentrative ability that has lapsed the necessary volume of comprehension. It is completely unnecessary to induce dissonance, its akin to taking a mental shit. Sure feels like pure bliss once the log has passed but it's a damn agonizing shame. 

The severe pain before samadhi reminds me of a video I saw on youtube earlier. It was a clip from a television show about food, but anyway, there was a heavy-set lady. She ate cheesy potatoes every day, for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in-betweens. This had started at a young age. The idea was simple, she was addicted... and the proper method was to start small... a single piece of a brussel sprout.
She immediately started shaking violently, her face contorted and a few tears ran down her cheek. She quickly lifted the morsel to her nose and just gagged. She paced back muttering "I can't" "I can't" still gagging; then proceeded to cry in her husband's arms.

It is indeed psychosomatic. Similarly, for one that has lived a life believing "the mind" is the essence of their being, when this idea must be torn down, it is the death of a perception. It may feel painful, but it is a level above pain. It does feel like what I imagine death must feel like. But the reality is that everything is just fine. Hopefully, that analogy is applicable in your "ego" situation.
May the force be with you emoticon 

RE: Agnostic's Log
Answer
11/21/19 2:41 PM as a reply to Mista Tibbs.
Thanks Mista Tibbs. The humurous image of a potato addict choking on their first brussel sprout was just what I needed to lighten up and put my own situation in perspective. I realized that I am actually addicted to anxiety. It's not pleasant but it's familiar and I'm used to indulging in it at times of stress. A memory came back of being a child with a new watch standing on the deck of a ferry, taking the watch off and holding it over the rail, throwing it up and catching it, purely for the thrill of the anxiety it caused me (as it now seems).

This all started around age 5 for me, with a compulsive licking of my lips which caused a visible sore yet which I could not stop. The fact that it was visible and my mother kept telling me to stop and even poked fun at me for it made it even worse, but even better as a source of anxiety. I progressed to compulsive vocalizations (an "umm" sound) which tormented me because other people noticed them. I felt like I had to do them to get some kind of relief but I didn't want anyone to hear them, so of course the urge was strongest in places like the classroom. If I could just make one umm sound I thought then I would get relief, but doing one never gave as much relief as I wanted and then I would want to do another louder one and so on. Sometimes I would go to a secluded place and shout umm as loud as I could which might provide some short term relief, but it would internalize the behavior at a new baseline and reinforce the compulsion. There were many other such other compulsive behaviors or tics over the years, e.g. shaking the head, straining the throat, pulling my butt cheeks apart and and blinking my eyes hard, to name just a few. These really did make my life feel like a living hell for years as a child. Even just thinking about them now genearates a high level of anxiety and desire to start perorming them.

Eventually I got control of the external behaviors (mostly, although compulsive blinking still persists occasionally even to this day when I am feeling stressed). But there still remained internal traces of compulsive urges. I would often compulsively think very unpleasant thoughts, purely for the anxiety they cause me it seems. E.g. I would imagine a needle sticking in my eye, or a razor blade running across my tongue, or an electric shock running up my spine, or my head exploding etc. This kind of compulsive unpleasant thoughts arise even to this day, although I've kind of learned to ignore them. But yesterday with the anxiety of heart chakra opening there was a few hours of making it worse for myself by imagining all sorts of awful things happening to my body. I was able to ground myself with chores and fall asleep ok.

It's clear that the thoughts and tics are all an expression of the same underying dynamic about tormenting myself with anxiety, in a strangely reassuring way. Maybe even some of my more developed compulsive behaviors over the years (drinking, sex, trading) are part of the same pattern. It all started I believe with my father being an angry and unpredictable person. I was constantly in fear when he was around, my senstivity and arousal system was stimulated and I was just waiting to do something wrong which would trigger a harsh word or a rough treatment. He was certainly not the worst father in the world, there was no physical abuse so I can't imagine how bad it would be for someone who experienced that. There was a history of problems with anxiety, sex, alcohol and suicide in my family though so maybe that was an additional factor. Either way, it was enough to keep me in a high state of anxiety which perpetuated itself long after the threat was gone. Now in my meditation I'm learning to accept that anxiety for just what it is, a normal response of a young child in a scary and unpredictable situation. I'm learing to treat it the same way as physical pain - something to observe and relax into, safe in the knowledge that it is not me or mine.

This morning I came closer than ever to jhana, with a much brighter and more stable mind. I was able to watch anxiety formations arise like pressure bubbles in the chest and then dissolve in the bright light of awareness. At a certain point it became quite blissful and enjoyable and I was able to feel appreciation for the anxiety, for the protection it is trying to provide me even if totally outdated and useless now. Well, hang on a minute, there is still an angry father around these days - me. That's probably my number one issue at the moment - strong feelings of anger towards my son over relatively minor annoying behaviors. Or in my line of work (daytrading) there often arises anxiety and anger towards myself over losses. So it seems they are all connected - anger, anxiety and depression. Depression seemed like the most serious but it was the easiest to get rid of. I guess it was the later shutdown to avoid the anger and anxiety. Once the depression was gone then anger and anxiety became more noticeable again.

Long personal narrative, blah blah blah I know, but it's amazing how something so idiosncratic all gets compacted into an energy knot somewhere and you wonder why you can't get into jhana due to "stuck piti" (Leigh Brasington) or something. I've found  the books of Brasington, Ajahn Brahm, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Catherine Shaila etc helpful and inspiring but I feel like they really don't do justice to the complexity and power of the hindrances for some people. I guess there's a kind of selection bias in that they started out quite virtuous people it seems so maybe they didn't experience such difficulties themselves, and maybe their students tend to be more virtuous so they just don't have the same exposure to the issues. Seems like the troubled ones such as myself tend to end up in places like this :-) Another thought occurred that if it weren't for the hindrances then we wouldn't appreciate jhana at all, it would just be like the normal mind state no big relief. This morning I felt such intense gratitude for the relief and healing effect of even just medium strength concentration. But that quickly started to become a thing and I started to think about how I would write about it here and that was enough to kill it. So in a way it's day 1 of jhana practice for me really. I've got a handle on my grossest hindrances after about a year and I'm in the same situation where a more virtuous and calm person would be on their first day meditating. Onwards and upwards!