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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated

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Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/15/11 3:51 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated tom moylan 4/15/11 9:28 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/17/11 12:06 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Tommy M 4/15/11 1:37 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Nikolai . 4/15/11 2:17 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/17/11 12:54 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/17/11 12:51 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Tommy M 4/17/11 5:07 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/18/11 12:43 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/18/11 12:51 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Tommy M 4/18/11 5:30 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/20/11 9:02 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Tommy M 4/18/11 5:29 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/18/11 8:31 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Tommy M 4/19/11 5:23 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/20/11 9:21 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/20/11 10:09 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/21/11 5:46 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/21/11 6:00 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated . Jake . 4/22/11 8:09 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/22/11 10:29 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated . Jake . 4/22/11 3:12 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/18/11 11:22 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated . Jake . 4/15/11 3:34 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/17/11 11:33 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated . Jake . 4/19/11 10:21 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/21/11 5:39 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Bruno Loff 4/21/11 7:03 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/21/11 5:41 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 4/24/11 1:46 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated . . 4/24/11 7:38 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 5/2/11 11:22 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 4/24/11 12:52 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 5/2/11 11:25 PM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Aaron J 5/3/11 2:33 AM
RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated Danielle Loesch 5/20/11 8:21 PM
Hi everyone. Been lurking for a couple years, finally getting around to joining in on the fun.

As brief as I can (haha), here's a history of my practice. The “levels” mentioned are based on discussions with Vimalaramsi which also matched the descriptions in Ingram’s book and are about the vipassana jhanas. I'm not familiar really with any other maps.

I’m a 35-year-old woman. When I was 23 I did my first meditation course, a 10-day Goenka course. And there by day 7 or 8 I crossed the A&P and I don’t know exactly how far I went but it was pretty interesting, watching mind and matter interchange and I don’t remember where this exactly fits in but I obviously crossed the A&P. I had no maturity to handle this though and after that was some major precept breaking, life chaos and (despite going to several more retreats and doing a home practice) plunging quickly into a dark night that lasted many years and consisted of major depression and anxiety, chronic pain, and snowballing health problems.

Around 2002 I got “shaktipat” during a juice fast/yoga retreat and started having the “kundalini kicks” at that point which have gone on intermittently ever since then. Sometimes gentle and wavey and smooth, sometimes more violent and jerky. Nowadays I notice that it starts up again pretty reliably when I enter into deep relaxation, especially during some kind of session with a practitioner where I really let go. Then often there are jerks or waves of energy starting at my pelvis and doing whatever it wants to do. Sometimes I think maybe I’m faking it, but then I am drifting off practically to sleep and am woken up by waves of it which can sometimes quite surprise the practitioner (it is nice to work with someone who is not phased by this kind of thing). I have a lot of tension and pain in my body and when these waves start to happen it (at least temporarily) releases the tension and pain and there is great relief. I have gone through periods of putting a great deal of energy into opening the body (for example through Svaroopa Yoga) because it is such a relief when the energy starts flowing but then I start to think, hmm I am getting so blissed out but where is the insight?? and starting to have fears that I'll be stuck a blissed out drooling fool.

From 2001-2003 I did part of the training in the Alexander Technique because it provided such relief and I thought it would be a great livelihood. But it was just holding my head above water. I had a breakdown and got sick almost to the point of almost dying (was 80 lbs). Was saved by and got stuck in a yoga cult for almost 6 years. When I came out of the cult I started practicing with Bhante Vimalaramsi (2 years ago) and on retreat with him experienced the 4th jhana. There and afterwards I had many experiences of it but never got stable in it. Then about a year and a half ago on retreat with Adyashanti I experienced the 5th jhana and then a few times after that I did as well.

I have a big issue with overtrying and being very tense so it is really easy for me to mess up a good thing with meditation and sometimes I just have to give up meditation for days or weeks and just focus on relaxation -- with restorative yoga, somatic practices, magnesium supplements, occasionally brainwave technology, etc. or just lying around doing nothing.

By the way one time I described my situation briefly to Adya, how I had this initial experience (1st retreat) and ever since then if I am in my head (or having craving) I am in a lot of physical pain and I try something and it helps for a while and then it stops working. He said this was a good sign of progress, that I was "checkmated" and nothing would work for long because it was all "spiritual chiropractic adjustments" somehow, types of control no matter how subtle and I could choose to give up this control. Well it sounded cool but I have not been able to heed his advice thus far and have still been struggling and trying this and that ever since then.

After Adya and the 5th jhana, still my life was quite a mess in many ways and I heard the term (I think from Adya) Spiritual Bypass and it pretty much described my life perfectly. So I started somatic/Reichian psychotherapy with a man trained in that and energetic healing (whatever that means!). Been doing that a year now as well as exploring other modalities for releasing suppressed and repressed emotion from a traumatic past, once I realized this did seem to be a cause of much physical tension and pain (thank you Reich, Rubenfeld and Dr. Sarno!). I have read here that people in the Dark Night can have a lot of tension and pain and the only way out of it is through insight, and all these other things like Feldenkrais or whatever, are only temporary relief. However I have gone through periods of getting so tense and trying so hard and yes there is eventually a break through to some relief or equanimity for a little while but it seems like it was very expensive and doesn’t last very long. So sometimes it seems like the best thing I can do is try to relax. But even better actually is to really feel the emotion that I have been avoiding, oftentimes this comes with a lot of crying but it's amazing how much better I feel afterwards (still, only temporarily so far). OK this is starting to seem disjointed....

I used to think all I wanted was to sit and sit and sit and wake up. After so long in the Dark Night and in the cult and all this, I started to feel like I was being delusional thinking I could live some separate life (I also lived in the woods like a hermit with almost no people for miles, for the past 7 years. I just moved into (a small) town and am starting my life over. Per the therapist’s suggestions I am trying to assimilate into society again. I am calling it the “Normal Experiment.” I am faced with what career to pursue, whether to have children, getting involved in community, etc. etc. I don’t know that this is all that great for insight but my old plan of living like an outcast and just trying to be “on the path” wasn’t really working out! I am actually in a relationship with (long-distance at the moment) and in love with another Buddhist who is very dedicated to his practice and it turns out that he has not much interest in the Normal Experiment and it seems I have to make a choice with that, which is very upsetting at this moment.

As a side note (in other words, not sure where to put it) at some point in all this I became empathic and that provides an extra challenge with other people because I can feel so much yet I am still pretty unbalanced and reactive.

My sitting practice lately is that it usually starts out with a lot of tension, pain and mind chatter but if I'm willing to sit through it for a while, by 30 or 40 minutes it often starts to fade and l feel some jhana coming on. But it fades pretty quickly after I stop sitting and it's rare (for whatever reasons) that I can convince myself to sit much longer after the pleasant stuff starts to kick in. Maybe because in the past my solution to everything was to "sit more" and it never really panned out.

I feel like I am at a crossroads with so many things in my life right now. But I just wanted to start by introducing myself and my practice history, and asking if anyone can recognize what I’ve been through and where I'm at and offer any words of wisdom/suggestions/advice/etc. It was a toss-up to put this post here or in the Dark Night section, but I liked the "Dharma Diagnostic Clinic" phrase. :o]

Thank you everyone--I'm grateful you are here.
Uma

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/15/11 9:28 AM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
hi uma,
wow! sounds like a long and bumpy ride. i'm new here too but believe i've been living the secret dark night for many, many moons. in any case take this for what its and considering its source. other than the goenka reference i didn't see much other that jhana practice mostly. what do you want? enjoyable states or enlightenment or something else? if enlightenment is the goal then insight practices are the way. i am determined to bust past this dark night of mine and gain first path. i have set that as a goal. its somthing i can hold as a near to mid term target that leads to further stages and attainments. you have been at this for some time now so your determination is certainly there. in any case, welcome aboard and great success!
tom

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/15/11 1:37 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Hey Uma,

Wow! That's quite a history, but I think that if you've found the DhO then you're on the way to quenching that thirst which has kept you searching for these last twelve years.

By the sounds of things, you're looking in the wrong places for fundamental insight. It sounds like, since your Goenka retreat, you've been what's referred to around here as a Dark Night Yogi, cycling between the A&P and Equanimity but never popping that all important first Fruition a.k.a. Stream Entry a.k.a. 1st Path. There's a guy on here, Nikolai H., who spent almost ten years on Goenka retreats but never got 1st path until he started doing vipassana as discussed by Daniel Ingram, so I think that you're lack of progress within that tradition is probably more common than you think.

Not to reduce your story to a simple paragraph, as it's obviously far more complex than that, but what you've said in your story is like textbook Dark Night material with glimpses of Equanimity. The good news is that you're in a fantastic position to change this whole thing around and really see through it!!

I can't begin to tell you "where" you are on the progress of insight, but I can tell you right now that you've got a good head start on many people as your concentration, if you're hitting 5th jhana, will be solid already so use this to your advantage. I'm assuming that you're looking for "enlightenment" so my first suggestion would be to read Daniel's book, "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha", if you haven't done so already and begin doing vipassana, not Goenka-style body scanning, momentary concentration on the individual sensations which make up sensate reality.

What I'm about to say here may sound harsh but I'll be honest with you here, you need to get your finger out of your arse and get practicing. That's the only way to do this. Even if it's only 10-15 minutes each day at first, use your time wisely and don't get involved in mental noise, your psychological crap or unhelpful loops of thought, just remain present accurately for the duration of your sit. Set a timer and for that time, as far as you're concerned, the rest of the world does not exist unless you are noting it e.g. "hearing", "smelling" or whatever. It's totally possible, you can do this.

I would recommend starting a practice thread and telling us what goes on for you during a sitting. It's a great way of learning and will do wonders for your practice, while also giving a chance to get some sort of rough guess as to where you are on these maps we talk about on here.

Best of luck and keep us updated!
Metta,
- Tommy

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/15/11 2:17 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
More like 8 years of Goenka then 2 years of sporadic Mahasi noting, shooting aliens style, then about 2 months of hardcocre noting practice leading up to a 10 day retreat then 1st path on day 5.

Here's what I did: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-noting-part-1-nicks.html

Booya!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/15/11 3:34 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Hi Uma :-)
I'll offer a slightly different perspective. It sounds like your experience is full of lots of ups and downs. The phrase "pretty unbalanced and reactive" made me chuckle as I can relate. In my experience it's tied to the preceding bit about empathy:

"As a side note (in other words, not sure where to put it) at some point in all this I became empathic and that provides an extra challenge with other people because I can feel so much yet I am still pretty unbalanced and reactive."

I'm not sure if by empathy you mean affective equivalent of telepathy or just the conventional definition but either way, differentiating your own feelings from others is key for increasing balance and reducing reactivity. If you feel compelled to feel what others feel that sucks in my experience and I think it's worth investigating whether you can train yourself to differentiate between your feelings and others' feelings, regardless of the means by which you are aware of others' feelings. Consider whether its possible that you only feel your own feelings, and sometimes these simulate the feelings of others through various neurological processes.

Another thing that's worked for me in becoming more balanced and less reactive, and thus more autonomous, and thus more able to be useful and helpful to others and myself, is to approach practice and life in a very de-compressed way. Perhaps somewhat as Adya suggested to you. If you are having trouble heeding his advice to relax the compulsion to control your experience, I suggest you make relaxed alertness here-and-now your formal practice rather than mahasi style insight. I found more driven insight-style practice led to increasing the ups and downs and general instability and volatility of my life. The patches of equanimity weren't really worth it for me at that price.

So you could try a very gentle approach to sitting, just relaxing and being easy. Decompression. I have found that mental-emotional chatter and emotional volatility are both the result.symptom of "squeezing" my experience if you know what I mean. Perhaps do some breath counting with a really gentle attitude, appreciating the clarity of your senses, letting mental-emotional chatter do it's thing without suppressing it or perpetuating it, relaxing your grip on the flow of experience, just letting yourself relax, just letting perceptions, thoughts and feelings be. Relax tensions as best you can when they come up. I mention the breath counting cause this relaxed approach sometimes can veer off into spacing out and not really practicing. Breath counting at the beginning (of a single session and/or of a phase of practicing this way) can help ground you and avoid spacing out and wasting your time. As you get better at it, becoming more relaxed and stable and easy-going and less reactive in general, you may need less breath counting (or other anchoring). It may change from day to day.

A nice complementary practice for daily life is to notice your reactive patterns, really taking responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings rather than blaming feelings on others' behavior or words for example (not saying you do this; just if you do, this might help). This applies to the empathy too; regardless if you're picking up others' vibes psychically or simply empathizing in the conventional (mirror-neuron) sense, it's possible to just say everything I am feeling is my feeling and taking responsibility for that. I've found it really hard and a test of my sincerity (in wanting to alleviate my suffering-causing patterns) to accept responsibility for my suffering, but it really does contribute to greater stability and less reactivity. (Again, just responding to what I've picked out in your post. I don't mean to presume you don't already know and practice this way, or have some other way that works better.)

The key point (to this style of sitting) is to let experience as a whole in this moment gradually reveal itself to you in its totality in a natural way. Present processes just show themselves more and more completely, without your having to seek for anything or push yourself in any way to have insights or to enter "new territory". Notice that although you have no ability to predict or control which thought will pop up next, you can choose which thoughts to follow up and proliferate. While practicing this way experiment with just not proliferating any of them, but just relax and appreciate the clarity and ease of the flow of experience. (apologies if you already do any of this or have tried and rejected it).

Finally, I really apologize if I've mis-emphasized the part about being unstable and reactive. It's just that in my experience this is more to the point of suffering less (and perpetuating the suffering of others less) than any nanas, jhannas or what have you. Maybe I'm just projecting :-) Also, people who practice according to the more "hard-core" insight methods often report a greater roller-coaster ride factor. Since others mostly seem to be recommending such an approach (which certainly has its merits and may be ideal for some folks, perhaps including you) I figured I would offer a different possibility, which has proven far better for me, particularly given my tendencies to over-empathize (too willing to take on others' feelings, overly porous boundaries) and to be generally mercurial, emotionally.

Good luck with practice and your "normal experiment" LOL. I got a nice chuckle out of that too, what a wonderful phrase.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/17/11 12:06 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
hi uma,
wow! sounds like a long and bumpy ride. i'm new here too but believe i've been living the secret dark night for many, many moons.


Nice to meet you another one. emoticon

what do you want? enjoyable states or enlightenment or something else? if enlightenment is the goal then insight practices are the way.


Thanks for asking. Enlightenment sounds like an awfully big word these days. I'll say that I want sufficient insight to relieve suffering. And if for me that means stream entry, then hey, that's what I want! It's scary for me to write that because when I get too goal-oriented I create tension and so I guess I went to the opposite extreme, acting like I don't have any goals. But maybe that's not the best approach either.

i am determined to bust past this dark night of mine and gain first path. i have set that as a goal. its somthing i can hold as a near to mid term target that leads to further stages and attainments. you have been at this for some time now so your determination is certainly there. in any case, welcome aboard and great success!
tom


Thanks for the welcome and support!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/17/11 12:51 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

By the sounds of things, you're looking in the wrong places for fundamental insight. It sounds like, since your Goenka retreat, you've been what's referred to around here as a Dark Night Yogi, cycling between the A&P and Equanimity but never popping that all important first Fruition a.k.a. Stream Entry a.k.a. 1st Path.


Sounds plausible.

Not to reduce your story to a simple paragraph, as it's obviously far more complex than that, but what you've said in your story is like textbook Dark Night material with glimpses of Equanimity. The good news is that you're in a fantastic position to change this whole thing around and really see through it!!


Thanks so much for saying that.

I can't begin to tell you "where" you are on the progress of insight, but I can tell you right now that you've got a good head start on many people as your concentration, if you're hitting 5th jhana, will be solid already so use this to your advantage.


I'm not sure what you mean by concentration here. Me and concentration have a funny relationship, oftentimes involving headaches and other not so fun things. It really helped me for a while to do metta meditation with Bhante V who taught a practice that didn't separate concentration/tranquility from insight. And also Adya's let-go-of-control approach. I find now that when I try to do just plain concentration practices, they may initially calm my mind and create some nice states but if I do them long enough or after a few uses of them I start to get the excess tension/headache thing and have to let them go. So I have to be really careful how I practice. Now I'm wondering, are the jhanas the same in both these approaches (concentration practice separate or not)? Would help to make sure I'm using the right vocabulary.

I'm assuming that you're looking for "enlightenment" so my first suggestion would be to read Daniel's book, "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha", if you haven't done so already and begin doing vipassana, not Goenka-style body scanning, momentary concentration on the individual sensations which make up sensate reality.


I have read Daniel's book a year or so ago, probably time to reread.

What I'm about to say here may sound harsh but I'll be honest with you here, you need to get your finger out of your arse and get practicing. That's the only way to do this. Even if it's only 10-15 minutes each day at first, use your time wisely and don't get involved in mental noise, your psychological crap or unhelpful loops of thought, just remain present accurately for the duration of your sit. Set a timer and for that time, as far as you're concerned, the rest of the world does not exist unless you are noting it e.g. "hearing", "smelling" or whatever. It's totally possible, you can do this.


Thanks for the advice. Right now I usually sit at least once 30-40 minutes a day and sometimes twice. But a lot of that is probably lost time because I'm often either scattered or overfocused. I will read more about the noting to see about it. I tried it a little bit last night and had a pretty profound experience with it within a few minutes. Today I was more tense and 40 minutes didn't do much (with at least how I was trying it so far). This tends to happen with me and techniques -- great initial success then diminishing returns and increasing tension. :o Lately I have been sitting at the local Zendo and just kind of sitting and relaxing. Sometimes this works great; other times it ends up "just sitting and thinking about the errands I have to run later and the conversation I had this morning and...." emoticon

I would recommend starting a practice thread and telling us what goes on for you during a sitting. It's a great way of learning and will do wonders for your practice, while also giving a chance to get some sort of rough guess as to where you are on these maps we talk about on here.


Hmm, where would I post something like that?

Thanks for the encouragement and support!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/17/11 12:54 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai Blue Mountains Bush Yowie*:
More like 8 years of Goenka then 2 years of sporadic Mahasi noting, shooting aliens style, then about 2 months of hardcocre noting practice leading up to a 10 day retreat then 1st path on day 5.

Here's what I did: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/yogi-toolbox-noting-part-1-nicks.html

Booya!


Hi Nikolai, thanks so much for sharing your experience, it was quite a good read. I will also take a look at the rest of your site, as well as learning what shooting aliens are!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/17/11 5:07 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Firstly, apologies to Nick for misrepresenting the process of him getting to 1st path! The Hamilton Project blog is an excellent resource by the way and I'd recommend checking it out 'cause it's full of really good information and real-life experience from three accomplished meditators.

I'm not sure what you mean by concentration here. Me and concentration have a funny relationship, oftentimes involving headaches and other not so fun things. It really helped me for a while to do metta meditation with Bhante V who taught a practice that didn't separate concentration/tranquility from insight. And also Adya's let-go-of-control approach. I find now that when I try to do just plain concentration practices, they may initially calm my mind and create some nice states but if I do them long enough or after a few uses of them I start to get the excess tension/headache thing and have to let them go. So I have to be really careful how I practice. Now I'm wondering, are the jhanas the same in both these approaches (concentration practice separate or not)? Would help to make sure I'm using the right vocabulary.

If I say "concentration", I'm referring to samatha i.e. tranquility i.e. nice, stable and relaxing states. I think there's a few traditions which don't separate concentration from insight, my own practice is very much like this most of the time actually, but I would generally make a distinction between the two when talking to people about practice. I really like Adya's approach and I think Jacob may be pointing to something similar, his post is excellent and may be more suited to your own natural inclination.

What does this "excess tension/headache thing" feel like? I know that sounds a bit daft but I'm interested to know what you're experiencing when this happens as I think I understand what you're talking about. The difference between samatha jhanas and vipassana jhanas is something I'm afraid I don't have enough technical knowledge of to answer, but my experience is that both practices, insight and/or concentration, will lead to jhana. The difference is that when you're doing pure concentration, you're solidifying these states whereas with insight you're observing these same sensations as being impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self.

But a lot of that is probably lost time because I'm often either scattered or overfocused.


One advantage of noting which, in my opinion, might be beneficial to you is that, when done correctly, it's impossible to be caught up in daydreaming, wandering thoughts or any other psychological junk which may rear it's head because you're noting these mind states, objectifying them and seeing that they can't be a self. What do you mean by "overfocused"?

I tried it a little bit last night and had a pretty profound experience with it within a few minutes.

If you've crossed the 4th ñana, A&P, then your sittings will begin here as you cycle through up to the 11th ñana, Equanimity, and back down again. Take this as a good sign, it's confirming that you have indeed cross the Arising & Passing Away which means you're on the ride and that Fruition is more likely to be just over the horizon of Equanimity if you keep practicing well.

Today I was more tense and 40 minutes didn't do much (with at least how I was trying it so far).

You might be meditating yourself into Dark Night territory and getting stuck there due to the inconsistency of your practice.

This tends to happen with me and techniques -- great initial success then diminishing returns and increasing tension.

I hear ya, I was the same myself for a while until I realized that this increasing tension, feeling that "this just isn't working anymore" and general aversion to formal practice are screamingly loud signs that you're actually making progress! Stick with this, pay attention to the emotions, the physical sensations, the mind states, and any other sensations which appear to perception. They're where the good stuff is and where that insight you're looking for will be found. See them as being impermanent, causing suffering and being devoid of self.

Lately I have been sitting at the local Zendo and just kind of sitting and relaxing. Sometimes this works great; other times it ends up "just sitting and thinking about the errands I have to run later and the conversation I had this morning and...."

What does it work great for? Sitting and relaxing doesn't bring wisdom, be accurately aware of what's appearing to awareness. As for getting distracted with daily life thoughts, it's no big deal but just bring awareness to this moment and not to what's gone on in the past, or might happen in the future. None of that exists, there is only this moment.

Hmm, where would I post something like that?

Here's some of my own practice threads,[1], [2], [3], [4] just post wherever seems most appropriate to you.

Hope that's of some use to you!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/17/11 11:33 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Hi Jacob,

Thanks for your post, sounds like you can really relate!

Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:
Hi Uma :-)
I'll offer a slightly different perspective. It sounds like your experience is full of lots of ups and downs.


Yeah, true.

The phrase "pretty unbalanced and reactive" made me chuckle as I can relate. In my experience it's tied to the preceding bit about empathy:

"As a side note (in other words, not sure where to put it) at some point in all this I became empathic and that provides an extra challenge with other people because I can feel so much yet I am still pretty unbalanced and reactive."

I'm not sure if by empathy you mean affective equivalent of telepathy or just the conventional definition but either way, differentiating your own feelings from others is key for increasing balance and reducing reactivity. If you feel compelled to feel what others feel that sucks in my experience and I think it's worth investigating whether you can train yourself to differentiate between your feelings and others' feelings, regardless of the means by which you are aware of others' feelings. Consider whether its possible that you only feel your own feelings, and sometimes these simulate the feelings of others through various neurological processes.


I don't really know what it is. It's certainly possible what you said about a neurological process simulating the feelings of others. I don't have any magical powers that I'm aware of, but I am definitely way more sensitive than the average person. Perhaps it is years of awareness/sensitivity training combined with still being reactive and taking things personally. I tend to take on (or simulate? dunno) the emotional and physical states (including symptoms of illnesses sometimes) of people I'm around (by whatever mechanism). However if I'm in equanimity I don't have these problems (stuff doesn't stick to me) so maybe that is telling. I often get really tired and drained in public and don't like to socialize much. A couple times on one meditation retreat I was not particularly deep myself but the people sitting on either side of me were and I felt as if I got pulled into each of their meditations at different times (not sure what that was!). I can feel drained easily by heavy people and uplifted easily by light people. Years ago I did a bit of hospice work and had some trippy experiences with people in their dying process but I never knew whether I was taking a ride with their dying process or with the morphine they were on (or a combination). But maybe you get the idea, I can hook into other people's experiences sometimes. Some people would say I have "boundary issues". :p

Another thing I was just reminded of that can drain my energy is if I break any of the 5 precepts at all. I get completely wiped out or sick or something. I remember the first Goenka retreat I did where there was total silence even of eye contact. It made me so acutely aware afterwards of how I lie even slightly with the littlest thing like faking a certain gaze when looking at someone or saying hi when I don't feel like it or making small talk that isn't quite true or whatever. I got so so so sensitive and life has been difficult because of that. I really did consider becoming a nun to be in a more protected environment but it just seemed as if that wasn't in the cards for me. From what I saw the monastic path would have had its own drawbacks (for me).


Another thing that's worked for me in becoming more balanced and less reactive, and thus more autonomous, and thus more able to be useful and helpful to others and myself, is to approach practice and life in a very de-compressed way. Perhaps somewhat as Adya suggested to you. If you are having trouble heeding his advice to relax the compulsion to control your experience, I suggest you make relaxed alertness here-and-now your formal practice rather than mahasi style insight. I found more driven insight-style practice led to increasing the ups and downs and general instability and volatility of my life. The patches of equanimity weren't really worth it for me at that price.


I'm so grateful you recognize my experience here: ups and downs, instability and volatility, marked with "patches of equanimity". That is so perfect! I agree the less controlled approach seems to be safer for me. It seems like if I can sense increasing tension (especially in my head) with a particular approach it might be a sign that it's not going in the right direction!! Frustrating though because sometimes for a while the more driven approaches can give me the impression at first that I am becoming more relaxed. But underneath it I think there is too much control so it doesn't pan out.

So you could try a very gentle approach to sitting, just relaxing and being easy. Decompression. I have found that mental-emotional chatter and emotional volatility are both the result.symptom of "squeezing" my experience if you know what I mean.


I think I know what you mean, I just don't know how to stop squeezing! If I could figure that out I think my progress would be much better! ;)

Perhaps do some breath counting with a really gentle attitude, appreciating the clarity of your senses, letting mental-emotional chatter do it's thing without suppressing it or perpetuating it, relaxing your grip on the flow of experience, just letting yourself relax, just letting perceptions, thoughts and feelings be. Relax tensions as best you can when they come up. I mention the breath counting cause this relaxed approach sometimes can veer off into spacing out and not really practicing. Breath counting at the beginning (of a single session and/or of a phase of practicing this way) can help ground you and avoid spacing out and wasting your time. As you get better at it, becoming more relaxed and stable and easy-going and less reactive in general, you may need less breath counting (or other anchoring). It may change from day to day.


I tend to be weary of focusing on an anchor because it (even something that seems harmless like counting breaths) seems like it starts to help then ends up not working after a while. It's like the initial problem that the anchor calmed down, wasn't solved but just put off for a while. Sometimes what works best is to let my mind run for a while without control or anchor then it calms itself down. I think Adya talks about this with the no control approach.

A nice complementary practice for daily life is to notice your reactive patterns, really taking responsibility for your own thoughts and feelings rather than blaming feelings on others' behavior or words for example (not saying you do this; just if you do, this might help). This applies to the empathy too; regardless if you're picking up others' vibes psychically or simply empathizing in the conventional (mirror-neuron) sense, it's possible to just say everything I am feeling is my feeling and taking responsibility for that. I've found it really hard and a test of my sincerity (in wanting to alleviate my suffering-causing patterns) to accept responsibility for my suffering, but it really does contribute to greater stability and less reactivity. (Again, just responding to what I've picked out in your post. I don't mean to presume you don't already know and practice this way, or have some other way that works better.)


Thanks. I will have a go at testing my sincerity in this way.

The key point (to this style of sitting) is to let experience as a whole in this moment gradually reveal itself to you in its totality in a natural way. Present processes just show themselves more and more completely, without your having to seek for anything or push yourself in any way to have insights or to enter "new territory". Notice that although you have no ability to predict or control which thought will pop up next, you can choose which thoughts to follow up and proliferate. While practicing this way experiment with just not proliferating any of them, but just relax and appreciate the clarity and ease of the flow of experience. (apologies if you already do any of this or have tried and rejected it).


Gradual. You are suggesting for me to be patient?!?!?!!??? That would take too long!! :p

Finally, I really apologize if I've mis-emphasized the part about being unstable and reactive. It's just that in my experience this is more to the point of suffering less (and perpetuating the suffering of others less) than any nanas, jhannas or what have you. Maybe I'm just projecting :-) Also, people who practice according to the more "hard-core" insight methods often report a greater roller-coaster ride factor. Since others mostly seem to be recommending such an approach (which certainly has its merits and may be ideal for some folks, perhaps including you) I figured I would offer a different possibility, which has proven far better for me, particularly given my tendencies to over-empathize (too willing to take on others' feelings, overly porous boundaries) and to be generally mercurial, emotionally.


No apology needed, maybe you couldn't tell whether you were feeling my experience or projecting your own, but it was probably both! I like to hear from people who have made good progress and can also relate to my stuck points.

Good luck with practice and your "normal experiment" LOL. I got a nice chuckle out of that too, what a wonderful phrase.


Thanks. Happy to amuse.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 12:43 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
The Hamilton Project blog is an excellent resource by the way and I'd recommend checking it out 'cause it's full of really good information and real-life experience from three accomplished meditators.


Will do.


If I say "concentration", I'm referring to samatha i.e. tranquility i.e. nice, stable and relaxing states. I think there's a few traditions which don't separate concentration from insight, my own practice is very much like this most of the time actually, but I would generally make a distinction between the two when talking to people about practice. I really like Adya's approach and I think Jacob may be pointing to something similar, his post is excellent and may be more suited to your own natural inclination.


Yes I think the combined approach is probably better for my tendencies to keep me from getting too tense. From my experience thus far I think it might be challenging for me to go back to trying to separate them. I'm so happy and relieved to find out that people on this board want someone to do what works best for that person and not impose the preferred approach the person has who's giving the advice! I was wondering what this would be like with people coming from different perspectives so it is refreshing to see.

What does this "excess tension/headache thing" feel like? I know that sounds a bit daft but I'm interested to know what you're experiencing when this happens as I think I understand what you're talking about.


It feels like a total body contraction/tightening especially in the head/neck. Often there is burning or aching and throbbing with sometimes stabbing pains. When the mental tension relaxes, the body tension does too and the pain goes away.

One advantage of noting which, in my opinion, might be beneficial to you is that, when done correctly, it's impossible to be caught up in daydreaming, wandering thoughts or any other psychological junk which may rear it's head because you're noting these mind states, objectifying them and seeing that they can't be a self.


Yeah, I like this about the noting idea. I was realizing maybe I could sort of incorporate it into the more open approach, because rather than being distracted by a sensation or thought and having to let it be or let it go and come back to my meditation, the noting of the distraction is just part of the meditation. So in a way that could perhaps reduce some of the internal fighting, as long as I stay relaxed with it.

What do you mean by "overfocused"?


Causing increased tension in my head.

I tried it a little bit last night and had a pretty profound experience with it within a few minutes.

If you've crossed the 4th ñana, A&P, then your sittings will begin here as you cycle through up to the 11th ñana, Equanimity, and back down again. Take this as a good sign, it's confirming that you have indeed cross the Arising & Passing Away which means you're on the ride and that Fruition is more likely to be just over the horizon of Equanimity if you keep practicing well.


I don't understand--do you mean for someone who has crossed the A&P at any time in their life, every sitting will start at least from there? And what do you mean by "over the horizon"? emoticon what about the 5th, 6th, 7th jhanas, etc. (i assume 11th nana is same as 4th jhana? but i don't know).

Today I was more tense and 40 minutes didn't do much (with at least how I was trying it so far).

You might be meditating yourself into Dark Night territory and getting stuck there due to the inconsistency of your practice.


Could you please expand on this a little or refer to some writing about that? I want to learn more about it.

This tends to happen with me and techniques -- great initial success then diminishing returns and increasing tension.

I hear ya, I was the same myself for a while until I realized that this increasing tension, feeling that "this just isn't working anymore" and general aversion to formal practice are screamingly loud signs that you're actually making progress! Stick with this, pay attention to the emotions, the physical sensations, the mind states, and any other sensations which appear to perception. They're where the good stuff is and where that insight you're looking for will be found. See them as being impermanent, causing suffering and being devoid of self.


Back to the basics. ;)

Thanks for the input!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 11:22 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

I would recommend starting a practice thread and telling us what goes on for you during a sitting. It's a great way of learning and will do wonders for your practice, while also giving a chance to get some sort of rough guess as to where you are on these maps we talk about on here.

Best of luck and keep us updated!
Metta,
- Tommy


Hi Tommy et al.,

Thanks for the suggestion. I started a practice thread under this Dharma Diagnostics category and recorded notes about this morning's sit. I often found myself creating tension during the sit by trying to mentally keep track of what was going on, in preparation of writing the notes, and for fear of forgetting what took place. But hopefully that will become easier and less distracting!

Thanks for the suggestion. I can see already that if nothing else, it could help me be more focused in my practice. emoticon

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 12:51 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
What does this "excess tension/headache thing" feel like? I know that sounds a bit daft but I'm interested to know what you're experiencing when this happens as I think I understand what you're talking about.


It feels like a total body contraction/tightening especially in the head/neck. Often there is burning or aching and throbbing with sometimes stabbing pains. When the mental tension relaxes, the body tension does too and the pain goes away.
...
What do you mean by "overfocused"?


Causing increased tension in my head.

you might be experiencing similar things to what was being talked about in this thread. Try the following advice particularly:

Trent:

have you tried applying unrestrained attentiveness to all what is experienced-- noticing everything “inside” and here/now at once? if not, give it a try. if so, what kept you from staying that way?
...
when the pain increases, consider the possibility that you are suppressing something … if one were to suppress a psychosomatic pain, for instance, one would create a feedback loop that would result in such an affect. related to that, make sure you have not renamed or ‘unnamed’ a feeling—perhaps the texture of a feeling changed enough so as to be unrecognizable by its old name (and yet its implications would remain the same). look at the causality of what the sensations imply … what is one compelled or impelled to do?
...
try looking at the painful areas (especially the back of your head/neck) with fascinated attention … as if there is something curiously amazing deep within it to discover. what are these sensations? what do these sensations imply? … time? space / movement? pain? cramping? temperature?

what happens as a result of this fascinated investigation?
...
okay, try also to incorporate the sense of fascination into this, as mentioned above. if you get the sense that it doesn't seem possible to be attentive of everything "inside' simultaneously with everything here/now, pick some specific painful "knot" (like in the back of your head/neck) to be attentive to, then allow yourself to be simultaneously as attentive of here/now as possible without losing track of the knot. then apply the sense of fascinated investigation. if this works well, you'll know it, if it seems promising but doesn't seem to be doing much, keep messing with it, and if it doesnt seem to be doing anything or doesn't seem to make sense at all, please reply again with your thoughts about why that is the case.

'attentiveness' refers to a particular kind of attention. it's not an intense, screw up your face and concentrate HARD, type deal, but the opposite - a relaxed state of taking in what is happening without latching onto anything in particular. i think that's why the quoted instructions say to be simultaneously aware of both the painful knot (e.g. in your head) and everything else that's happening, to prevent the mental "squeezing" that you mentioned.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 5:29 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
I'm so happy and relieved to find out that people on this board want someone to do what works best for that person and not impose the preferred approach the person has who's giving the advice! I was wondering what this would be like with people coming from different perspectives so it is refreshing to see.

Pragmatic dharma. That's what this is all about, different horses for different courses and all that. Fair enough, the vast majority of people on here subscribe to the Mahasi Sayadaw-style noting but that's not to say that other routes to awakening are any less valid. If if works, do it.

It feels like a total body contraction/tightening especially in the head/neck. Often there is burning or aching and throbbing with sometimes stabbing pains. When the mental tension relaxes, the body tension does too and the pain goes away.

Possibly dukkha ñanas a.k.a. Dark Night moving into Equanimity. What's happening emotionally at this point?

I don't understand--do you mean for someone who has crossed the A&P at any time in their life, every sitting will start at least from there?

Not at least from there, they will start from the A&P unless a substantial period of time has elapsed between crossing the 4th ñana and getting down to formal meditation. This continues until Stream Entry, and then resumes once you cross the A&P Event of the next path. If you got 1st path then you'd automatically start out at the 1st ñana again until you cross the A&P again.

And what do you mean by "over the horizon"?

Just a poetic metaphor, don't take it literally.

what about the 5th, 6th, 7th jhanas, etc. (i assume 11th nana is same as 4th jhana? but i don't know).

The formless jhanas, 5th-8th, are "byproducts" of the 4th jhana. The 11th ñana, Equanimity, has the 4th jhana as it's base but also leads to the formless jhanas and the other more advanced (and far more breathtaking) concentration states. The vipassana jhanas and the samatha jhanas are mainly different in the approach used to get there, but don't get too caught up in this right now 'cause it'll all fall into place if you get your practice.

Could you please expand on this a little or refer to some writing about that? I want to learn more about it.

If you cross the Arising & Passing Away then you will, whether you like it or not, find yourself in Dark Night territory. This is one of the most predictable things about the stages of insight, as sure as night follows day and one can spend years wandering in this territory before getting 1st path.

My suggestion that you're continually falling back into Dark Night is based on what you've said about your current practice level, and my own experience of doing exactly the same thing. As you've said, you've crossed the A&P and have not yet gotten Stream Entry so you are a "dark night yogi", as in one who continually cycles from 4th to 11th ñana without a Fruition.

If you're doing half-hearted and inconsistent practice then you're not getting the momentum up to break out of this cycle, (I've seen this referred to, quite aptly actually, as getting to escape velocity) the positive side of this is that you're likely to experience Dark Night in a less extreme way than one who practices more consistently. This is discussed in MCTB in the chapters regarding Dissolution through to Re-Observation, and also mentioned by many other yogis who've experienced similar difficulties.

Is that any more useful?

Back to the basics.

This is a wonderful idea, it's something which helped me IMMENSELY in practice and has helped get me to, and confirm attainment of 3rd path. Seriously, strip it back to basics, start from scratch, drop all the ideas of where you think you might be on the maps and approach it with a beginners mind. You will learn so much more. Even now I go through periods of doing this just so that I can honestly assess and examine my abilities, and confirm that certain Path-specific attainments are accessible e.g. the so-called Pure Land jhanas. It's easy to delude yourself doing this stuff 'cause the mind is so malleable that it's possible to script yourself into certain experiences, misdiagnose yourself as being further ahead than you actually are and end up missing out on important insights.

Good to see you're starting a practice journal, it'll be great to see how you get on! Please don't think I'm being an asshole here by being so picky about the details, it's just that I've made plenty mistakes myself and would rather be upfront with people than have them waste their valuable time on poor technique.

Practice well and good luck!!
- Tommy

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 5:30 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Nice one Claudiu!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/18/11 8:31 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
I don't understand--do you mean for someone who has crossed the A&P at any time in their life, every sitting will start at least from there?

Not at least from there, they will start from the A&P unless a substantial period of time has elapsed between crossing the 4th ñana and getting down to formal meditation. This continues until Stream Entry, and then resumes once you cross the A&P Event of the next path. If you got 1st path then you'd automatically start out at the 1st ñana again until you cross the A&P again.

i'm not sure this is true. absolutely, right after stream entry, right after a (review) fruition, i would drop right into 4th nyana and do the whole (review) cycle again. and after another (review) fruition i'd go back to 4th nyana again.

however, i'm not sure it happens before stream entry (or outside of review cycling). i think unless you're in a retreat you basically always start off from 0 (even if "Dark Night stuff" is affecting your daily life) and you quickly work your way up to your 'cutting edge' (latest nyana you have gotten to), in the space of a few moments. without enough concentration (which one is likely not to have off-retreat and pre-path) it's hard to catch, but i am somewhat certain that happens. maybe trying to catch it could produce insight. i most often noticed it with the ringing in my ears. i'd sit, and notice it as a clear solid ringing tone [1st-3rd nyana]. then it would kind of 'ding' and the solid ringing tone would "speed up" - it would keep its pitch but i could perceive the sine wave vibrations more and more [a&p]. then it would feel like it faded but upon further looking it was there, just in the background, kind of like the center came out from it (and since that's where i was looking i thought it faded at first) [dissolution and on].

i'm also unsure if, after stream entry while in 1st path review, upon sitting the first few moments, if i started at (review) A&P. i don't remember. but definitely after the (review) fruition, i'd drop into (review) A&P.

i think this isn't the place to get into what happens after stream-entry. Uma can ask that happy question once she is there =).

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/19/11 5:23 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
My bad entirely. I've made an arse of that, thanks for pointing it out Claudiu. He's spot on. I am disappoint. emoticon

I won't bother correcting it because you can use it as proof of how easily one can completely balls up such a simple thing. emoticon

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
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4/19/11 10:21 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Uma Sarason:

I agree the less controlled approach seems to be safer for me. [...] Frustrating though because sometimes for a while the more driven approaches can give me the impression at first that I am becoming more relaxed. But underneath it I think there is too much control so it doesn't pan out.


Oh, sure, that makes sense! Sometimes for me it's like I sit down, become kind of relaxed and clear, and then assume that I am relaxed and open but there is a deeper tension beneath-- because in a sense the "I" that sat down to practice IS tension. So skillful practice, for me, means uncovering these layers of tension and relaxing them. This means, almost as a side effect, discovering subtler and lighter versions of "me".

It seems my usual daily mode is to kind of squeeze my experience-- even if nothing particularly great or awful is happening, it's like I'm ready to resist or cling if need be ;-) -- or more like, experience squeezes itself and thinks "I'm here experiencing this!" but it's not really so. Often I sit down and begin to practice as this imaginary "squeeze"-self.

Uma Sarason:

[...] I just don't know how to stop squeezing! If I could figure that out I think my progress would be much better! ;)


Totally :-) if you (being the squeezing) could figure that out, "you'd" drop away and something else would come forth to do the practice. And there's nothing necessarily dramatic or explosive about this dropping away and coming forth.

I like this gentle way cuz it seems to do the same thing, insight wise, as the driven practice, but in a for-me-more-enjoyable and holistic way. With the more directed approach that "something else" doesn't come forth so much (for me), while this way is pretty much based on letting it come forth or else just relaxing and grounding myself in the present.

I often use breath counting for this grounding and relaxing, but you could use anything. Repeat a word or mantra in relaxed synchrony with the breath for example. It gives my mind something to do while I let the body and breath relax and take a natural shape. At some point it's like the thing flips and body, breath and mind just sort of "click" into synch and then everything is just crisply present in a very easy way-- the sights, sounds, body sensations, surroundings, and just whatever mental-emotional clouds are floating through.

Body and breath get a chance to regain their proper shape, and mind has become part of the integral pattern of the present moment-- something else has come forth to do the practice. I guess this is like a kind of calm abiding, but very different from jhannic concentration. The latter is very inward-ing, while this calm abiding is a vividness and naturalness of body, breath and mind in the very posture and the very place of that moment's practice. It really has only stabilized for me since I found a way to work with the stabilizing bit, which for me is the breath counting, or just following the breath. And by stabilizing I just mean, it usually arises whenever I sit and occasionally throughout the day, and lasts long enough for me to definitely know it arose-- a few seconds, or minutes.

Uma Sarason:

[...] I tend to be weary of focusing on an anchor because it (even something that seems harmless like counting breaths) seems like it starts to help then ends up not working after a while. It's like the initial problem that the anchor calmed down, wasn't solved but just put off for a while.


Oh, that makes sense ;-) Mental-emotional waves distorting the breath and body and distracting me from what's going on within and around me in this moment can seem like a problem, for sure. Then a calming method like breath counting could seem like a solution. The only problem with that is that problems are sort of the stuff of mental-emotional waves :-)

They're all based on aversion or clinging. This is why the calming method isn't done to solve a problem, it's done to reverse the polarity of ordinary experience. Ordinary dualistic problem-experience is the totality of this moment filtering itself through a mental-emotional lens. This practice is meant to allow, naturally, the mental-emotional process to become part of the pattern of this moment rather than a (typically very serious) point of view on the rest of experience. No longer seeing this moment through that filter, one sees the filter as part of this moment. I enjoy sitting vividly, being alive, breathing, sensing, while learning about my mental-emotional patterns of resistance.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/20/11 9:02 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

... [quoting from Trent's thread]
when the pain increases, consider the possibility that you are suppressing something … if one were to suppress a psychosomatic pain, for instance, one would create a feedback loop that would result in such an affect.


This is really fascinating to me. In fact one of the most fascinating topics to me that I have ever investigated about myself. I really do believe I create a great deal of psychosomatic pain. It's one reason I was drawn to therapy and somatic healing models that address this phenomenon. Insight probably ultimately gets further into the root of the matter though (and in fact I have seen into this during brief periods of deep insight)... but sometimes it's hard to get in touch with my own suppression (and repression) because that strategy is so strongly in place for whatever reason it arose in the first place! I am so good at "trying harder" and if I think meditation will get to the bottom of whatever problem and try to use it directly for that purpose I can end up in more of a tangled mess... not so helpful. emoticon

Thanks for the reference about Trent's thread. Sounds familiar.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/20/11 9:21 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

It feels like a total body contraction/tightening especially in the head/neck. Often there is burning or aching and throbbing with sometimes stabbing pains. When the mental tension relaxes, the body tension does too and the pain goes away.

Possibly dukkha ñanas a.k.a. Dark Night moving into Equanimity. What's happening emotionally at this point?


That's interesting: often when there is a great deal of tension and pain I am not feeling much emotionally (except perhaps frustration at the tension and pain). When the pain starts to let go emotion tends to rise up (fear, anger, sadness, excitement, etc.)... or if an emotion takes over the pain can ease up. It's tricky because sometimes with the tension and pain I try and "look for" an emotion so that I can get energy moving more. But I don't think that's the most accurate thing to do....

[talking about different levels of jhanas and nanas] The vipassana jhanas and the samatha jhanas are mainly different in the approach used to get there, but don't get too caught up in this right now 'cause it'll all fall into place if you get your practice.


Heh, yeah that may be one of the biggest challenges for me on this forum -- to stay out of that kind of intellectual understanding because I don't think it's a good place for me to spend time right now!! But so tempting.

My suggestion that you're continually falling back into Dark Night is based on what you've said about your current practice level, and my own experience of doing exactly the same thing. As you've said, you've crossed the A&P and have not yet gotten Stream Entry so you are a "dark night yogi", as in one who continually cycles from 4th to 11th ñana without a Fruition.


Currently fascinated that I fit so well into a profile. It is encouraging, I think.... emoticon

If you're doing half-hearted and inconsistent practice then you're not getting the momentum up to break out of this cycle, (I've seen this referred to, quite aptly actually, as getting to escape velocity) the positive side of this is that you're likely to experience Dark Night in a less extreme way than one who practices more consistently. This is discussed in MCTB in the chapters regarding Dissolution through to Re-Observation, and also mentioned by many other yogis who've experienced similar difficulties.


Thanks a lot for this, I will look at MCTB again. I absolutely love the "escape velocity" analogy (or actually, I guess it isn't an analogy!). I need to be reminded about the drawbacks of inconsistent practice. But, like you said, more dedicated practice can also be more extreme darkness. In particular I am known in the past for trying too hard with something that isn't working and I just do more harm. I remember being very dedicated and very disciplined after the first Goenka retreat. I religiously sat for an hour every morning and and an hour every evening for 2-3 years and went to a few more retreats in there too. But I was just getting more tense. I remember going to one doctor/yogi who told me I needed to cut way back on the meditation!

Anyway, once again it's really great that these types of unsettling, unpleasant, weird experiences have been so documented and observed and profiled.

Back to the basics.

This is a wonderful idea, it's something which helped me IMMENSELY in practice and has helped get me to, and confirm attainment of 3rd path. Seriously, strip it back to basics, start from scratch, drop all the ideas of where you think you might be on the maps and approach it with a beginners mind. You will learn so much more. Even now I go through periods of doing this just so that I can honestly assess and examine my abilities, and confirm that certain Path-specific attainments are accessible e.g. the so-called Pure Land jhanas. It's easy to delude yourself doing this stuff 'cause the mind is so malleable that it's possible to script yourself into certain experiences, misdiagnose yourself as being further ahead than you actually are and end up missing out on important insights.


Agreed. It is also less of a headache, when I can pull it off, to not have to know where I might be and just the concepts go. Yeah, beginner's mind is relaxing.

Thanks again!

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
Answer
4/20/11 10:09 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Uma Sarason:
That's interesting: often when there is a great deal of tension and pain I am not feeling much emotionally (except perhaps frustration at the tension and pain). When the pain starts to let go emotion tends to rise up (fear, anger, sadness, excitement, etc.)... or if an emotion takes over the pain can ease up. It's tricky because sometimes with the tension and pain I try and "look for" an emotion so that I can get energy moving more. But I don't think that's the most accurate thing to do....

it might be that the emotions are being suppressed by the pain. so by letting to of the immediate pain, what it's there to hide is coming up (the emotions).. and that is scary, so it feels like going in the wrong direction.

maybe try to see why the emotion is arising. when the emotion hits.. what exactly were you thinking (consciously or sub-consciously) that made it arise? is it worth feeling that emotion for that reason? if not then try investigating why it happens. gently, of course. try to be naive about it, not in the sense of gullible, but in the sense of simple, unrefined, seeing what's actually there instead of what you expect to be/wish to be/wish not to be there. and dont be afraid to feel foolish!

what might help is a thought experiment. imagine someone else was telling you about this problem as if it were them talking. how would you try to help them? likewise if someone else is causing you problems, imagine that their problems are your problems - how would you resolve it if it was up to you?

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4/21/11 7:03 AM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Hi Uma, does your chest region feel blank/inactive, is it harder to get "energy phenomena" going on in this region?

Specifically I mean both the chest in the front, and the spine around that height in the back.

RE: Introducing myself / Help, where am I? / Input appreciated
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4/21/11 5:39 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:


Oh, sure, that makes sense! Sometimes for me it's like I sit down, become kind of relaxed and clear, and then assume that I am relaxed and open but there is a deeper tension beneath-- because in a sense the "I" that sat down to practice IS tension.


Well said!

So skillful practice, for me, means uncovering these layers of tension and relaxing them.


Yeah. Me too. Right now anyway that aspect seems central. What I am discovering lately since I started asking for input is that I hadn't been sitting long enough to do that. For me it can take a while but it does happen eventually... slowly...

This means, almost as a side effect, discovering subtler and lighter versions of "me".


Sounds like a nice side effect.

It seems my usual daily mode is to kind of squeeze my experience-- even if nothing particularly great or awful is happening, it's like I'm ready to resist or cling if need be ;-) -- or more like, experience squeezes itself and thinks "I'm here experiencing this!" but it's not really so. Often I sit down and begin to practice as this imaginary "squeeze"-self.


Weird isn't it. It is strange going through life with such sensitivity to this squeezing effect. I guess it is a blessing because it can be a guide. But it is really persistent and relentless. It's like, if I am too caught up in the self that is not present then, it hurts.

Uma Sarason:

[...] I just don't know how to stop squeezing! If I could figure that out I think my progress would be much better! ;)


Totally :-) if you (being the squeezing) could figure that out, "you'd" drop away and something else would come forth to do the practice. And there's nothing necessarily dramatic or explosive about this dropping away and coming forth.


Well I wish "me" would get out of the way then. emoticon

I like this gentle way cuz it seems to do the same thing, insight wise, as the driven practice, but in a for-me-more-enjoyable and holistic way. With the more directed approach that "something else" doesn't come forth so much (for me), while this way is pretty much based on letting it come forth or else just relaxing and grounding myself in the present.


Thanks for saying that. Because sometimes I wish I could do the more driven approach, since that is what led me to my first "big insight" and I thought I should keep on that track. But seems like gentle is the name of the game for me right now.

Body and breath get a chance to regain their proper shape, and mind has become part of the integral pattern of the present moment-- something else has come forth to do the practice. I guess this is like a kind of calm abiding, but very different from jhannic concentration. The latter is very inward-ing, while this calm abiding is a vividness and naturalness of body, breath and mind in the very posture and the very place of that moment's practice. It really has only stabilized for me since I found a way to work with the stabilizing bit, which for me is the breath counting, or just following the breath. And by stabilizing I just mean, it usually arises whenever I sit and occasionally throughout the day, and lasts long enough for me to definitely know it arose-- a few seconds, or minutes.


Nice to hear about your process.

Uma Sarason:

[...] I tend to be weary of focusing on an anchor because it (even something that seems harmless like counting breaths) seems like it starts to help then ends up not working after a while. It's like the initial problem that the anchor calmed down, wasn't solved but just put off for a while.


Oh, that makes sense ;-) Mental-emotional waves distorting the breath and body and distracting me from what's going on within and around me in this moment can seem like a problem, for sure. Then a calming method like breath counting could seem like a solution. The only problem with that is that problems are sort of the stuff of mental-emotional waves :-)

They're all based on aversion or clinging. This is why the calming method isn't done to solve a problem, it's done to reverse the polarity of ordinary experience. Ordinary dualistic problem-experience is the totality of this moment filtering itself through a mental-emotional lens. This practice is meant to allow, naturally, the mental-emotional process to become part of the pattern of this moment rather than a (typically very serious) point of view on the rest of experience. No longer seeing this moment through that filter, one sees the filter as part of this moment. I enjoy sitting vividly, being alive, breathing, sensing, while learning about my mental-emotional patterns of resistance.


Thanks--this sounds really cool! I recognize somehow the truth in what you're saying (maybe from past experience) but my brain cannot quite wrap around it just yet. It'll sink in eventually. emoticon

Nice to hear your perspective.

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4/21/11 5:41 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
Hi Uma, does your chest region feel blank/inactive, is it harder to get "energy phenomena" going on in this region?

Specifically I mean both the chest in the front, and the spine around that height in the back.


I often have a very tight chest in the front and back. But sometimes that lets go when I get very relaxed. Most of the time it's pretty held though.

I have experienced in the past, some good metta practice where the heart was really soft and open. Generally when my heart opens up everything goes a lot smoother. I'd like to get back to that way of being! emoticon

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4/21/11 5:46 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Uma Sarason:
That's interesting: often when there is a great deal of tension and pain I am not feeling much emotionally (except perhaps frustration at the tension and pain). When the pain starts to let go emotion tends to rise up (fear, anger, sadness, excitement, etc.)... or if an emotion takes over the pain can ease up. It's tricky because sometimes with the tension and pain I try and "look for" an emotion so that I can get energy moving more. But I don't think that's the most accurate thing to do....

it might be that the emotions are being suppressed by the pain. so by letting to of the immediate pain, what it's there to hide is coming up (the emotions).. and that is scary, so it feels like going in the wrong direction.


Yes I do suspect the pain is suppressing that emotions somehow. Just today in my sitting I got pretty deeply relaxed and have been feeling a great deal of sadness all day, and less physical tension.

maybe try to see why the emotion is arising. when the emotion hits.. what exactly were you thinking (consciously or sub-consciously) that made it arise? is it worth feeling that emotion for that reason? if not then try investigating why it happens.


I'm not sure if that is for me to decide? (is it worth feeling that emotion) or I'm not sure what you mean. I mean, it is the result of something so it is there. Do you mean maybe is it worth continuing to feed it or instead just observing it?

gently, of course. try to be naive about it, not in the sense of gullible, but in the sense of simple, unrefined, seeing what's actually there instead of what you expect to be/wish to be/wish not to be there. and dont be afraid to feel foolish!


Thanks. Yeah my opinions and expectations can be pretty strong when sitting... emoticon

emoticon

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4/21/11 6:00 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Uma Sarason:
I'm not sure if that is for me to decide? (is it worth feeling that emotion) or I'm not sure what you mean. I mean, it is the result of something so it is there. Do you mean maybe is it worth continuing to feed it or instead just observing it?

you are the only one feeling it. you can certainly evaluate whether you think you would be better off feeling it or not - don't think in terms of is it 'good' or 'bad', 'moral' or 'sinful', just in terms of whether your experience would be lighter, more pleasant, etc. if you decide you'd be better off without it, then like you said, you can just observe it instead of continuing to feed it.. and observing its cause (and the beliefs behind it) seems to be a great way to stop the proliferation of said emotion (vs. not knowing why it's there at all, in which case you're helpless to feel it without recourse)

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4/22/11 8:09 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Uma Sarason:
I'm not sure if that is for me to decide? (is it worth feeling that emotion) or I'm not sure what you mean. I mean, it is the result of something so it is there. Do you mean maybe is it worth continuing to feed it or instead just observing it?

you are the only one feeling it. you can certainly evaluate whether you think you would be better off feeling it or not - don't think in terms of is it 'good' or 'bad', 'moral' or 'sinful', just in terms of whether your experience would be lighter, more pleasant, etc. if you decide you'd be better off without it, then like you said, you can just observe it instead of continuing to feed it.. and observing its cause (and the beliefs behind it) seems to be a great way to stop the proliferation of said emotion (vs. not knowing why it's there at all, in which case you're helpless to feel it without recourse)


Hi Claudiu and Uma!
If I understand what you're getting at Claudiu I may have an example. The other day I came home from school and my computer was behaving a little funny. My wife confessed that she had spilled some coffee on it and I felt very annoyed. But I could recognize that the feeling was basically resentment.

The resentment was an evaluation of the coffee-spilled-on-computer, namely, I would rather that hadn't happened (and invoked a whole set of associations about people not being careful with sensitive equipment; all my papers are on there and are due soon, what if i lost them? and so on).

I saw I could actually evaluate the evaluation and in doing so could see, directly, that what was "bothering" 'me" in that moment wasn't the objective situation but rather the resentment itself (which was also, in how it affected my behavior, making me bad company). At this point it became obviously preferable to relax and be in my actual life rather than tensing into an imaginary proliferation of hopes and fears.

So then the feeling of resentment just broke up when I saw I was doing it to myself (and being grumpy and grudgy, socially, to boot). It shifted naturally when I saw it for what it was, rather than seeing everything through its lens. So it seemed to involve a shift from being resentment-Jake looking for something or someone to blame for feeling bad, to being resentment-Jake taking responsibility for being resentment-Jake. Authentically being resentment-Jake meant I couldn't blame anything or anyone else for my resentment, since it was obviously "me".

If I'd tried to deny or suppress the resentment this wouldn't have worked. Conversely, by acting and speaking "as" the resentment, expressing it, I was just validating it by shifting the locus of control to the environment-- by perpetuating the myth that the emotion was caused by something in my environment, rather than by the way I resisted what was happening. Full clarity and self-honesty were required. I think this is what you're pointing to :-)

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4/22/11 10:29 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:
Hi Claudiu and Uma!
If I understand what you're getting at Claudiu I may have an example. The other day I came home from school and my computer was behaving a little funny. My wife confessed that she had spilled some coffee on it and I felt very annoyed. But I could recognize that the feeling was basically resentment.

The resentment was an evaluation of the coffee-spilled-on-computer, namely, I would rather that hadn't happened (and invoked a whole set of associations about people not being careful with sensitive equipment; all my papers are on there and are due soon, what if i lost them? and so on).

I saw I could actually evaluate the evaluation and in doing so could see, directly, that what was "bothering" 'me" in that moment wasn't the objective situation but rather the resentment itself (which was also, in how it affected my behavior, making me bad company). At this point it became obviously preferable to relax and be in my actual life rather than tensing into an imaginary proliferation of hopes and fears.

So then the feeling of resentment just broke up when I saw I was doing it to myself (and being grumpy and grudgy, socially, to boot). It shifted naturally when I saw it for what it was, rather than seeing everything through its lens. So it seemed to involve a shift from being resentment-Jake looking for something or someone to blame for feeling bad, to being resentment-Jake taking responsibility for being resentment-Jake. Authentically being resentment-Jake meant I couldn't blame anything or anyone else for my resentment, since it was obviously "me".

If I'd tried to deny or suppress the resentment this wouldn't have worked. Conversely, by acting and speaking "as" the resentment, expressing it, I was just validating it by shifting the locus of control to the environment-- by perpetuating the myth that the emotion was caused by something in my environment, rather than by the way I resisted what was happening. Full clarity and self-honesty were required. I think this is what you're pointing to :-)


aye that was quite a lovely explication-via-example of what i meant! in particular i want to emphasize this point:

Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:
So then the feeling of resentment just broke up when I saw I was doing it to myself (and being grumpy and grudgy, socially, to boot). It shifted naturally when I saw it for what it was, rather than seeing everything through its lens.


also:
Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:
by perpetuating the myth that the emotion was caused by something in my environment, rather than by the way I resisted what was happening


any emotion or suffering is self-inflicted (even those that seem to be caused by others, e.g. feeling hurt when someone says something mean to you). likewise any suffering you see in others, even the suffering you caused (e.g. yelling at someone, then they start crying, then you feel bad that they are crying) is also just your own suffering. it's impossible to feel someone else's suffering; all you can do is imitate it by imagining what it's like, and then you, yourself, are suffering.[1]

this is great news. it means you only have to look within to end it all. (and looking is all you have to do, as it breaks up on its own when seen for what it is.)

[1] i liked this convo between nick + trent on the notion of blaming yourself for suffering (edited for relevance):

Nick: ..."I" have caused myself and others enough misery in the past....

Trent: ah, might be careful of presuming that 'you' personally have caused the misery and mayhem alluded to.

Nick: well, i was an outside condition for at least my wife's misery. My actions were an object for her own torment. Yes, i could say it was her own reactions and projections but I'd prefer to not counter-react her reactions with my own unhelpful ones and just "be there" for her. I do realise that it is all connected to "me" though and how "I" feel and because of this, I continue to explore into the end of suffering.

Trent: ah. with the wifey-- were you trying your best?


Nick: no, "me" and "my neurosis" got in the way


Trent: but in the moment, did you not think "ah, this is what will be best"?


Nick: for "me", yes but not for her.


Trent: did you know that when the situations were playing out?


Nick: no, only in hindsight


Trent: i see. so you were acting in 'a best interest' regardless, eh?


Nick: ... Yes, it was indeed in my own best interest. ...


Trent: I was asking about those situations because it is important to see how you (and her) are actually innocent of the pain caused in this situations


Nick: what makes that ignorance innocent? and self-centredness?


Trent: as it was only in hindsight that it was known that the trouble was 'me,' it was quite literally 'blind,' being blind, you cannot cop any blame on either side ... to see so is to be naive. although 'i' am the 'human condition' and all things indicated by the phrase, i as this flesh and blood body have never done anything harmful. the whole d(h)rama is 'me' from start to finish.

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4/22/11 3:12 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Oh that's an insightful exchange between those two!

R.e. the "other's" suffering: from what I understand about neuro-anatomy you are absolutely right. As emotions are constituted by states of physiological arousal + interpretations, they are all mine (for me). We have brain circuits which enact emotions in our own experience which (our brains guess) mirror the emotions (our brains guess) someone else is feeling.

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4/24/11 1:46 AM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Hi all, thanks so much for the input.

I just read MCTB's section on Re-Observation.

http://goo.gl/anpu9 [btw how do you hyperlink here?]

It is bizarre and somehow comforting how extremely well it describes my experience... for many years... "chronic dark night yogi". (Despite repeated but unsustained experience in equanimity)

This quote really hits the mark on getting stuck in my practice: "This stage can make people feel claustrophobic and tight. If they push to make progress, they can feel that they are just getting wound up tighter and tighter. If they do nothing then they are still suffering anyway." Yeah... between a rock and a hard place! ;)

It did strike a major cord, that there is an awareness of a deep suffering that changing anything on the outside cannot even begin to touch. I want to be resolved to get through this part and I don't want to do anything that would jeopardize that. But, I still have to somehow function in daily life.

I still have distress over deciphering what I need to address content-wise in my life (via therapy, changes in living situation, relationships, work, school, health, etc.) and what is simply being caught in this stage and only solved by breaking through. Anyone else have experience with this? Would this be better posted in the Dark Night category?

Gratefully,
Uma

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4/24/11 7:38 AM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Hi Uma -

I still have distress over deciphering what I need to address content-wise in my life (via therapy, changes in living situation, relationships, work, school, health, etc.) and what is simply being caught in this stage and only solved by breaking through. Anyone else have experience with this? Would this be better posted in the Dark Night category?


Thanks for your posts and clarity.

Dark nightery seems to cast a potent adhesion for some people. Perhaps for some brains, the awareness of suffering is especially adhesive/invasive. I could relate to several of your comments regarding high empathy, mirror symptoms, "boundary issues", leaving remote to live among people.

Can you experience that dukkha also has the attributes of impermanence? This is so, unless "i" sustains its permanence. For example, the same "i" that would breach the precepts (e.g., grasp at stealing) is the "i" that would grasp dukkha. What experience of anatta do you have?

Content-wise I think any content/activity will help or be hindered based on "i"s cementing of suffering. I would say anything that loosens the self's sense of rightness/centricity/grasp could be useful.

This does not have to have any threatening quality - just short bouts of attention that do not believe whatever the "i" is clinching. For example, a) eating: you could go into your senses neutrally (chew, chew, swallow, salivate, etc (neutral or no "i")), and/or b) you could go into your senses joyously, delight in the food-eating (delighted "I") - both may counter the suffering dark night "I", release a form of grasping.

Should dark nightish thoughts arise, ok. Decide if "you" needs to be there/indulge or why you is grasping this. If most of your time is spent dwelling in dukkha, then that could be seen as grasping. Same as carpal-tunnel results from repetitive hand motions, dark night stays due to grasping.*

Content-wise, I had a lot of "wonderful" activities/interactions during the dark night, but some degree of all activities/interactions eventually were subsumed by it, until I could let go of that.

Katy

*like physical therapy/change of motion for carpal tunnel, equanimity for re-observation.

[a few edits for clarity]

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4/24/11 12:52 PM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Uma Sarason:
This quote really hits the mark on getting stuck in my practice: "This stage can make people feel claustrophobic and tight. If they push to make progress, they can feel that they are just getting wound up tighter and tighter. If they do nothing then they are still suffering anyway." Yeah... between a rock and a hard place! ;)

dark night taught me a really important lesson, once i finally got through it the 1st time (and i forgot and re-learned the lesson many times) - it was that all of the suffering i was going through had nothing to do with what was happening and had everything to do with my reaction towards it. i asked myself, "why is this annoying? why am i annoyed at this? why is this so frustrating? why is everything so frustrating?!" (i was quite agitated at the time). then i dnno, something clicked.. i realized i could let it all go.. and in a few moments, while all the things that were bothering me (e.g. job, people, being unable to perceive sensations as well as i thought i should) stayed exactly the same, i stopped being reactive to it and let them all just be.. and they ceased to be annoying. or it was more like - 'heh yeah that is kind of annoying - thats kinda funny.' equanimity is a great name for it

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5/2/11 11:22 PM as a reply to . ..
Hi Katy, thank you so much for this reply. It gives me great comfort to hear from people who can relate to my experience yet have broken out of it.

katy s:

Dark nightery seems to cast a potent adhesion for some people. Perhaps for some brains, the awareness of suffering is especially adhesive/invasive. I could relate to several of your comments regarding high empathy, mirror symptoms, "boundary issues", leaving remote to live among people.


I would really love to hear more from you if possible, either here or in a private message, about your experiences that relate to my own.

Can you experience that dukkha also has the attributes of impermanence?


I seem to go through waves. When the pain and suffering becomes so great and I am just willing to sit through stuff no matter what, for long enough, eventually the solidity will dissolve and I will see this and it was all worth it etc. But then because of not enough insight or wrong lifestyle or _whatever_, the solidity predictably returns and I am back to really feeling stuck again.

This is so, unless "i" sustains its permanence. For example, the same "i" that would breach the precepts (e.g., grasp at stealing) is the "i" that would grasp dukkha. What experience of anatta do you have?


Just limited to isolated experiences of deep meditation (or many years before, with psychedelics). Nothing sustained.

Content-wise I think any content/activity will help or be hindered based on "i"s cementing of suffering. I would say anything that loosens the self's sense of rightness/centricity/grasp could be useful.

This does not have to have any threatening quality - just short bouts of attention that do not believe whatever the "i" is clinching. For example, a) eating: you could go into your senses neutrally (chew, chew, swallow, salivate, etc (neutral or no "i")), and/or b) you could go into your senses joyously, delight in the food-eating (delighted "I") - both may counter the suffering dark night "I", release a form of grasping.


Thanks. I have been venturing more into eating meditation territory again. It's good for me because this is often where I go mindless (with a movie or internet).

Should dark nightish thoughts arise, ok. Decide if "you" needs to be there/indulge or why you is grasping this. If most of your time is spent dwelling in dukkha, then that could be seen as grasping. Same as carpal-tunnel results from repetitive hand motions, dark night stays due to grasping.*

Content-wise, I had a lot of "wonderful" activities/interactions during the dark night, but some degree of all activities/interactions eventually were subsumed by it, until I could let go of that.

Katy

*like physical therapy/change of motion for carpal tunnel, equanimity for re-observation.


Ugh, that is such a great wording -- "some degree of all activities/interactions eventually were subsumed by it."

It makes sense to me that equanimity is the "therapy" for re-observation. This thread has helped strengthen my intention towards equanimity, but trying to be careful not to tense up around that and struggle for it!

Thanks very much.
Uma

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5/2/11 11:25 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Uma Sarason:
This quote really hits the mark on getting stuck in my practice: "This stage can make people feel claustrophobic and tight. If they push to make progress, they can feel that they are just getting wound up tighter and tighter. If they do nothing then they are still suffering anyway." Yeah... between a rock and a hard place! ;)

dark night taught me a really important lesson, once i finally got through it the 1st time (and i forgot and re-learned the lesson many times) - it was that all of the suffering i was going through had nothing to do with what was happening and had everything to do with my reaction towards it. i asked myself, "why is this annoying? why am i annoyed at this? why is this so frustrating? why is everything so frustrating?!" (i was quite agitated at the time). then i dnno, something clicked.. i realized i could let it all go.. and in a few moments, while all the things that were bothering me (e.g. job, people, being unable to perceive sensations as well as i thought i should) stayed exactly the same, i stopped being reactive to it and let them all just be.. and they ceased to be annoying. or it was more like - 'heh yeah that is kind of annoying - thats kinda funny.' equanimity is a great name for it


Wow, I would sure love for "something to click"!! emoticon Thanks for the inspiration.

Uma

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5/3/11 2:33 AM as a reply to Danielle Loesch.
Reobservation hooked me up again and again on a recent month-long retreat. So much sadness and frustation can come up when a lot of energy and effort is being brought to practice. Figuratively speaking, reeobservation became a mirror, showing me my efforts, clinging, anticipation, expectation, identification to reach equanimity and beyond. All of the clinging, all of the I, me, mine. All that forward-charging intention and energy just creates a dead end. And the more of this energy there is at the Reobservation stage, the stronger the forces keeping us out become. There's something archetypally mythic about that. ...You can easily be put in a position of fighting yourself in Reobservation, and the harder you fight, the harder you have to fight.

The more I was able to dis-identify with all of the hard charging energy and just let go of it and any goals, the more the door to Equanimity opened of its own accord.

In my experience, there's a process of insight that guides and moves us from one stage to the next that doens't require much from us. Largely, we just have to show up with an intention to meditate or know the truth, and much of the rest just takes care of itself.

For me, the process was going ==> Exert lots of effort ==> Hit reobservation ==>Wonder why I'm teary, frustrated and grim? ==>Realize that I was using the wrong set of keys for the locks (i.e. efforts and identifications) that separate Reobservation from Equanimity. ==> Stop trying to open the door ==> Sit patiently, noting antincipation or expectations for instance ==> Move on to Equanimity with a much lighter load, because you have up so much baggage at this point in the process.

I'm tired but perhaps that makes some sense. Or perhaps not.

Taking it back to Five Faculties or Seven Factors, how's your faith or confidence in the power of the impersonal vipassana process to take you from one stage to the next. As long as you know that it's there, that's important. And knowing how to surrender to it...

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5/20/11 8:21 PM as a reply to Aaron J.
Hi Aaaron, thanks for replying.

Aaron J:
Reobservation hooked me up again and again on a recent month-long retreat. So much sadness and frustation can come up when a lot of energy and effort is being brought to practice. Figuratively speaking, reeobservation became a mirror, showing me my efforts, clinging, anticipation, expectation, identification to reach equanimity and beyond. All of the clinging, all of the I, me, mine. All that forward-charging intention and energy just creates a dead end. And the more of this energy there is at the Reobservation stage, the stronger the forces keeping us out become. There's something archetypally mythic about that. ...You can easily be put in a position of fighting yourself in Reobservation, and the harder you fight, the harder you have to fight.


Thank you for sharing your experience and for being able to relate to mine. Vicious cycle of struggling that goes nowhere!

The more I was able to dis-identify with all of the hard charging energy and just let go of it and any goals, the more the door to Equanimity opened of its own accord.


Today I listened to a guided meditation track by Adyashanti called "Allowing everything to be as it is" or something similar. That is about the only instruction I can handle sometimes!!

In my experience, there's a process of insight that guides and moves us from one stage to the next that doens't require much from us. Largely, we just have to show up with an intention to meditate or know the truth, and much of the rest just takes care of itself.


Thanks. As I am writing this, I have not meditated much in the past couple weeks (nor have I gotten around to replying to this thread... hmmm!). The idea of "just showing up" makes me want to give it another go.

For me, the process was going ==> Exert lots of effort ==> Hit reobservation ==>Wonder why I'm teary, frustrated and grim? ==>Realize that I was using the wrong set of keys for the locks (i.e. efforts and identifications) that separate Reobservation from Equanimity. ==> Stop trying to open the door ==> Sit patiently, noting antincipation or expectations for instance ==> Move on to Equanimity with a much lighter load, because you have up so much baggage at this point in the process.


I like the idea that although I am struggling, perhaps I am lightening the load as I go... emoticon

Taking it back to Five Faculties or Seven Factors, how's your faith or confidence in the power of the impersonal vipassana process to take you from one stage to the next. As long as you know that it's there, that's important. And knowing how to surrender to it...


Good question. Something to examine. I'm not sure of the answer at this moment. At times it's been very strong. I think ultimately the faith is there but on a day to day level it does not always show itself and maybe there is a dip lately. :p

Back to the cushion.... much gratitude to y'all,
Uma