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Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma

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Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Daniel M. Ingram 5/6/11 2:11 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 5/6/11 9:49 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Daniel M. Ingram 5/6/11 12:08 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 5/6/11 12:29 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma This Good Self 5/8/11 4:37 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Steph S 5/6/11 12:31 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Daniel M. Ingram 5/6/11 1:55 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/7/11 12:15 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/7/11 2:05 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Jane Laurel Carrington 5/8/11 7:49 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/8/11 8:41 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Willoughby Britton 5/9/11 9:11 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Crazy Wisdom 5/9/11 12:42 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Ron Crouch 5/12/11 12:10 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Becky ZZ 5/12/11 8:48 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Tommy M 5/6/11 5:01 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Paul Anthony 5/13/11 10:14 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Villum (redacted) 5/13/11 10:38 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Crazy Wisdom 5/13/11 11:06 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Villum (redacted) 5/13/11 2:04 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Willoughby Britton 5/18/11 7:50 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Daniel Malinowski Stuart 5/19/11 9:31 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Willoughby Britton 5/20/11 11:14 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/20/11 3:58 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Willoughby Britton 5/23/11 8:31 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Crazy Wisdom 5/23/11 9:01 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Bruno Loff 5/23/11 9:34 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma nic s 5/23/11 10:14 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Crazy Wisdom 5/23/11 2:27 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/23/11 3:39 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Crazy Wisdom 5/23/11 3:38 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 5/23/11 5:48 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Daniel M. Ingram 5/26/11 2:55 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Willoughby Britton 5/26/11 12:27 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Nikolai . 5/26/11 12:32 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Steph S 5/26/11 4:08 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Nikolai . 5/26/11 4:37 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 5/26/11 4:41 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/27/11 8:04 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Bruno Loff 5/27/11 6:23 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Steph S 5/27/11 11:38 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 5/27/11 11:52 AM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma . Jake . 5/23/11 8:40 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma bill of the wandering mind 5/24/11 3:38 PM
RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma Constance Casey 6/8/11 10:43 PM
I have recently had a lot of exposure to the world of Clinical Mindfulness (CM), which generally and stereotypically involves PhD/MS/MD-types who have very little experience in meditation, lots of exposure to the world of clinical mindfulness research (which generally ignores or discounts what we here would call basic attainments, not to mention high attainments) and movements such as the Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction traditions, but they are teaching meditation practices to lots of people/patients, some of which will actually get into interesting territory, with the big trouble generally starting if and when some cross the A&P, and now find themselves in territory the PhD/MS/MD-type doesn't recognize, as they have never been there.

This has caused a whole ton of thoughts about how to bridge the gap between "them" and the technology, skill sets, paradigms, and expertise of "us", the Hardcore Dharma (HD) people, realizing that some may fall into both camps (you have my sympathy), or, failing that, at least offer some service or support or something to those who have been thus affected.

The problems are vast, and a short list here being:

1) massive ignorance on both sides: we have no idea what the CM people are doing, what they are teaching, that there are so many of them teaching so many people, what language, techniques and concepts they use, and the CM people have little to no idea that what they are doing seems like kindergarden to us, and dangerous kindergarden, as it can lead to the A&P and the rest without guidance or, worse, with bad guidance. They have no idea what we know and do and consider normal and expected, and this ignorance is massive, deep and nearly reflexive. Simultaneously it is hard for some of us on this side to not automatically dismiss the CM world as being like the worst stripped down mush regardless of the fact that they really do help some people.

2) massive egos: they are quite certain they are doing the latest and greatest, they have degrees, training, certifications, and are paid well. We have massive direct experience and amazing abilities, ancient techniques, deep lineages, and the like. Our badges are unrecognizable to the other side, and theirs seem meaningless to us.

3) massive terminological barriers: we tend to use obscure dharmic terms based on ancient Indian languages, and they tend to use obscure medical terms based on ancient Mediterranean languages. Theirs seem superficial and woefully inadequate for "real practice" to us, and ours seem like some New Ager's pipe dream babble to them.

4) massive paradigm barriers of various sorts: they don't believe the stuff we do is possible, and we don't generally realize that the doses they use, which we would generally think of microscopic, can actually do useful things for some people. They like fMRI's and p-values, and we can just go: "Yeah! that was this (insert "weird" term for attainment here)!" and we feel comfortable with that and think it is normal.

How to bridge these things?

I can imagine a group of people writing the Hardcore Dharma Manual for Clinical Mindfulness People, using their terms and making up Greco-Latin equivalents to the Sanskrit and Pali terms we throw around so easily, with DSM-style diagnostic criteria, as well as recommended therapies based on presenting symptoms.

I can imagine referral services, groups of accomplished HD practitioners who have somehow established themselves as resources that practicing CM clinicians could send their patients to if they met certain defined criteria based on having certain key experiences, such as rapturous vortex-like energetic phenomena followed by profound panic, etc, which they would be likely to misdiagnose and not handle as well as someone who knew that territory would (my unscientific biases being obvious here), sort of like a more refined version of the Spiritual Emergency Network that I believe is now defunct but functioned for some period. How would one get certified to be one of these referral services in a way that people who are used to PhD's and other letters could make sense of? Could you bill insurance companies for it? Liability coverage? Covering Board? Standards of Care? Diagnostic Criteria? Agreed on methods of treatment? Treatment clinics/retreat centers? JHACO certification? ;)

Just as in emergency medicine there are little urgent cares and little community emergency departments all over, and there are a few large University/Community Level-One Trauma Centers/Heart/Stroke/Tertiary Care Centers, just so there are a lot of clinical mindfulness teachers and only a few people with great depths of meditation competence. In this way, it would make sense if the little CM centers could realize that there were times to refer people to the specialized HD groups for those patients who got into what to them would be the really weird/complex stuff and for us would be the bread and butter of what we do every day. If we could provide clear criteria when referral would make sense and a way to identify the places/persons to refer them to in some way that became accepted as normal, that would be amazing.

When my mind goes down that thought-track and tries to imagine how this could actually manifest in the world, what paradigms, institutions, regulations, structures, committees, boards, business models, and the like would actually happen and what they might look like, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the challenges, but that doesn't mean it can't be done, it would just take a strong and capable group and a lot of time.

I thought I would throw this out there to see what people might think of all of this. I think that the stuff we do here has the capacity to help people if it could be packaged right, and by right I mean a way that translates it while maintaining the depths of its power and scope as it currently stands at the very least.

The day when the A&P has an ICD9/10 code, we will have arrived. Imagine all the things that would have to change for that to happen! Daunting and yet, it is hard not to dream of things like this, as they seem so obvious and normal from this vantage point.

I think that this, done well, could have massive practice implications for a very large number of people, and actually would be hard to have it done worse than it currently is.

Any takers?

Daniel

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 9:49 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
hehe that was a fun post to read. i guess a bit of ego-stroking with all the talk of "massive direct experience" and "amazing abilities". (heh only after re-reading it did i see that was purposefully done under the "massive egos" section.)

as i was reading, even before i got to this part:
Daniel M. Ingram:
...using their terms and making up Greco-Latin equivalents to the Sanskrit and Pali terms we throw around so easily...

i figured some common terminology could be helpful. so i'd be willing to try that as i really like words.

i'm not familiar with the words they use, though.. and i'm not sure what words we use that sound weird. like all the insight stages have been translated to plain english (Knowledge of: Mind and Body, cause and effect, 3 chars, arising and passing, fear, misery, etc...). i guess instead of "NS" we could just say "cessation of perception and consciousness", or CPC. "fruition" and "cessation" are english words anyway.

granted they would all sound weird if i didn't know them so well, but the weirdness is in their unfamiliarity, not that they are translated from pali words.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 12:08 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Medical professionals feel more comfortable using complex, obscure words for simple things.

For instance:

You can't write on a chart: "the ankle was red and swollen", instead, it would be common to see, "area of lateral malleolus was erythematous and edematous."

In the same way, double vision becomes diplopia, staggering becomes ataxia, and the list goes on an on.

There simply aren't greco-latin terms for much of what we do, and without them, clinical professionals will probably have hard time, as it just won't sound right, and much of the business of medical language is sounding medical, otherwise you could just say the ankle was red and swollen, but you can't. I am only being the slightest bit facetious here. It is a real problem.

You can't say energetic phenomena, as that would imply that there was some scientific basis for energy moving. You certainly can't say Kundalini phenomena. There are a whole host of issues for similar experiences. Even more simple words we use routinely, such as "afterglow", would ring oddly to the medical ear. Some are better, such as "entrance and exit phenomena", our descriptions of the frequency of vibrations, and the like. Not just professionals, but patients, insurance companies, lawmakers and the like all expect it to sound right to make them feel it is on the up and up.

There needs to be a term for seeing lights and the like that is neither "hallucinations" nor "visions" and makes it more neutral, as otherwise it just sounds like we are crazy, when we, generally, aren't. ;)

There needs to be a HD to CM dictionary and glossary just to begin to have the conversation, I think. This would be a bold project. Anyone interested? Some of this work may have already been done and I just don't know about it. This can't have been the first time the question was raised...

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 12:29 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
oh, i get what you mean. you're looking to complicate them, in some sense =P. i know what you mean, though. like there's a term for something in the brain which is literally "black stuff" or "black mass", but it sounds super fancy in latin. and "tachycardia" literally means "fast heart", etc.

i'll try it out and post bits here. i can see why this report would look odd to most doctors and patients and lawmakers: "the subject perceived the universe as if he were moving rapidly through a rotating torus, which then collapsed on itself and all of reality blinked out and came back. diagnosis: subject has attained stream-entry, eliminating 3 of the fetters."

can you recommend a good source to start reading up on CM?

Daniel Ingram:
There needs to be a HD to CM dictionary and glossary just to begin to have the conversation, I think. This would be a bold project.

no guarantees as to how much time i'll invest in this, but it looks like something that could be fun for a bit, and maybe it'll help others by offering a starting point

also, as a tie-in to your actualist practice, maybe it's a good idea to investigate this desire to help these misguided patients! not to say it's a bad idea or you shouldn't do it, but what are your motivations for doing so? (e.g. when i first got into actualism i was telling everyone how it's the greatest thing and how they should do it. but me wanting them to do it was just a reflection of me wanting myself to do it and succeed at it.)

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 12:31 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:


This has caused a whole ton of thoughts about how to bridge the gap between "them" and the technology, skill sets, paradigms, and expertise of "us", the Hardcore Dharma (HD) people, realizing that some may fall into both camps (you have my sympathy), or, failing that, at least offer some service or support or something to those who have been thus affected.


Was the part I bolded more of a guess, or do you actually know people who fall into both camps? If you do know people who fall into both camps, they might be really into what you're talking about here.

This is probably something you've been thinking about a while, so I'm wondering if you have written any sort of concise treatise on what your goals are, how they may be implemented, who can be involved, etc. I'm assuming people in the medical field are really keen on having things written down in a standard proposal format. Appeal to their sensibilities/ways they go about implementing ideas a bit. People from "the other camp" may be more likely to pay attention if you approach it in that way. Even though all of this seems very down to earth and obvious to us, you're right that it is still considered experimental and abstract to most people. To that end, are there any research outlets at universities you could approach that are more open to exploratory/experimental concepts? Who knows, maybe you could even land a grant from them.

Steph

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 1:55 PM as a reply to Steph S.
There are a few people doing things with something like this paradigm, such as Willoughby Britton at Brown and Jud Brewer at Yale.

I have started writing a few things, but I write them, then dismiss them, write them, dismiss them, as somehow it doesn't sound right, and I don't have what it takes to make the gap feel any less wide to my ear, at least at this point. If I did, I would have just done it.

Anyway, this is the sort of visionary dreaming that is probably a bit like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or Sci Fi novels from the 40's, or so it seems to me, but I may be needlessly underestimating the potential for things to progress.

I still think that starting linguistically, so there is at least a common set of terms with which to begin to sort this stuff out, would be of value.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/6/11 5:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
That's a hugely interesting idea. I think that there's definitely something in that, something important and it'll be interesting to see what sort of ideas come up on here.

The linguistic side of things is exactly what I've been looking at lately, how different systems describe the same phenomena and suchlike so to consider how to make the terms we use in a solid diagnostic criteria, understandable to the 'uninitiated', is fascinating.

I think you may have started something here, Daniel.....again emoticon

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/8/11 4:37 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
I'd suggest reading through some of Deepak Chopras books, particularly How to Know God. He is by far the best I've seen at integrating medicine (including psychoneuroimmunology, newer stuff like neuroplasticity and research on happiness), spirituality and religion (primarily the core, non-dogmatic aspects of Hinduism, Buddhism and Christianity). Here's the deal with Chopra: he's popular and he sells CDs. So that immediately triggers some weird reactions in people who have molded their whole ego around being anti-materialist, or anti-populist. His work also triggers weird reactions is hardcoreists and intellectuals (those who have molded their egos around 'being learned' or 'being strict and severe with practice' ) and such people may describe his work a little 'low brow', but I think that's unfair and inaccurate - there's plenty of useful stuff in his books. The only thing I'd say is of little value is the way he describes meditation practice, which is lacking in detailed instruction of what to do when concentrating on your breath or chanting "so-hum" just doesn't work for you. Chopra has a foot in both camps already, and as a doctor, Daniel, I'm surprised you haven't contacted him already. Or have you?

Guys like Kabat-Zinn annoy me. Their books are as dull as dishwater. This is what I assume you mean by CM, yes? If a person's words reveal where he is at on the spiritual path (as I believe they do), then Kabat et al. are not even at first base. I'm not talking about the content because the content is fine. The tone however reveals a 'grayness' and boredom with life. Contrast this with....

A guy I came across recently is Adyashanti and wow, the guy can communicate! As one critic commentated "he speaks directly from Being itself". Now I can't do this myself, and no one I've ever seen on this website can do it, but just have a look at some of his teachings and see if you can't feel of his experience. He is able to convey tricky ideas with great subtlety and distinction. He takes familiar ideas and presents them is such a skillful way that they actually jolt you into greater awareness, the way a well-written poem or koan might. To me that is a rare and valuable skill. He doesn't use much Sanskrit terminology, which is great because I have no interest in learning new language, particularly when a new language is likely to mean i miss the critical subtleties in translation. Warning: he is anti-hardcore, and his reason for having this stance this is very compelling!

-Multiple edits-

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/7/11 12:15 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi Dan--
I'd point you in the direction of Dan Siegel MD. He's a clinical psychotherapist (I suppose a psychiatrist, technically, with the MD? dunno) and researcher. He's up to date on topics like neuroplasticity and neuroscience in general (he may be a neuroscientist too; I'm not sure if he does his own brain research or just comments on others').

One of the most interesting aspects of his work (to me) is that he discovered a lot of basically dharmic stuff through his psychological and neuroscience research without knowing what he'd stumbled across. After publishing a book called (I believe) "The Mindful Parent" people in the CM and meditation scenes assumed he was talking about our "mindfulness" based on what he wrote in the book; but he'd just pulled the phrase out of the dictionary to describe what he was finding, and wasn't aware of the term's connotation in the dharma/meditation scene, as he had zero connection to that scene at the time. He followed the pointer though and found a teacher, began meditating, and got involved in the scientific-study-of-meditation scene.

I don't know his stance on radical baseline shifts in experience (attainments)-- he's linked up with a pretty mainstream, Zenny form of dharma which is probably a bit closed lipped about that stuff. But he seems to be quite capable of critical thinking and an open minded researcher. Moreover, he's incredibly well informed about the interweaving of neuro-biological, relational, and experiential facets of human development, so I don't think he would reject out of hand the notion of Paths and so on, but would probably be incredibly interested in getting some Pathers in an fMRI, as well as other research situations, and would likely view meditative development as on a continuum with "normal" development, insofar as it has experiential, neurological, and relational dimensions which can be measured with respectively appropriate instruments.

I think he would be particularly intrigued by the notion that meditation has dangers, and that certain forms of meditation are counter-indicated in certain folks at certain times.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/7/11 2:05 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
And on the Dark Night/adverse effects of of practice here's an interesting link:

http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/research-on-negative-effects-of-meditation/

Very interesting section of the video at 12.10 in which she mentions the strong correlation, in folks who encounter dissolution and have an adverse reaction to it (bad dark night), between the length of time they spend spinning in those reactions and losing daily functionality and their lack of contact with a teacher who is familiar with the fact that ego-dissolution can precipitate such adverse reactions. She gives the example of a woman who has a powerful dissolution experience on a retreat with Ruth Denison and then faces 9 years of impaired function until encountering Shinzen Young, who helps her resolve her DN (presumably to SE although not mentioned.) Interesting to see where such research could go in terms of promoting "informed consent" among meditators.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/8/11 7:49 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Jacob Henry St. Onge Casavant:
And on the Dark Night/adverse effects of of practice here's an interesting link:

http://alohadharma.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/research-on-negative-effects-of-meditation/

Very interesting section of the video at 12.10 in which she mentions the strong correlation, in folks who encounter dissolution and have an adverse reaction to it (bad dark night), between the length of time they spend spinning in those reactions and losing daily functionality and their lack of contact with a teacher who is familiar with the fact that ego-dissolution can precipitate such adverse reactions. She gives the example of a woman who has a powerful dissolution experience on a retreat with Ruth Denison and then faces 9 years of impaired function until encountering Shinzen Young, who helps her resolve her DN (presumably to SE although not mentioned.) Interesting to see where such research could go in terms of promoting "informed consent" among meditators.


Okay, I looked at this and it's frightening. I guess, though that we could check and see how many people going on retreats in other traditions--Christianity, for example--have psychological problems after the fact. But on the whole, the clip bothered me because the teachers involved are not untrained know-nothings (although I really don't know much about Ruth Denison--the thing that bothers me is the problem came up at IMS, and those people in general are responsible).

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/8/11 8:41 PM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Yes, I see the same problem at the college I am getting a BA in psychology at. It's an alternative school with many transpersonal courses, and much meditation in the courses. But there is very little awareness about this sort of thing. It gets pretty frustrating at times.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/9/11 9:11 AM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
A lot of the practitioners that run into trouble are at major well known, well-respected retreat centers with well known teachers. Depending on which teachers are running the retreats, there have been a range of responses, but I would say all in all, inadequate. They are , to varying degrees, aware of this and I have been working with the retreat centers to remedy this problem through education about phenomenology, more thorough monitoring and follow-up post retreat
In my opinion, this lack of support comes from several sources:

1) The practitioner is not aware of the stages of insight or other meditation related difficulties (terror etc) and therefore feels too ashamed to report it, as they think they have done something wrong, or may be inherently defective.
2) The teacher is not aware/has not had sufficient personal experience with these states and stages to recognize them and apply corrective actions. The pattern I see most often are teachers that "sailed through" the stages of insight, and can't really fathom or help students that are struggling with prolonged versions, or ones that are complicated by trauma or other psychological factors (doubt etc).
3) The teacher does not have enough time/availability to adequately address the yogi's need for intensive sustained contact
4) The issue of differential diagnosis - or the ability to differentiate the expected, but challenging meditation effects from a real psychotic break, manic episode etc- is a difficult one, and it's often a mix. Most teachers are either not super confident in being able to make that call, don't have enough time/clinical expertise etc and recognize that for liability's sake, the safest thing to do is to call paramedics and refer to the local psych ward. It makes sense, given the circumstances, but the long-term consequences on that practitioner are lamentable.


Willoughby

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/9/11 12:42 PM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
THe mind and life dialogue/institute people has people that are familiar with both camps. Meaning they are associated with people that have phds, are hardcore practioners and are in some way involved with or highly familiar with the mainstream mindfulness stuff.

There are researchers in eastern Europe that are far more sympathetic to the more obscure language of the east. I think (but might be mistaken) that the people who developed the Buyenko breathing method are eastern european. I know some other research on breathing methods have also been done there.

Naropa university should have many researchers that understand both camps.

What about the language shinzen young uses in the science for enlightenment CD? I haven`t heard it but knowing him it should be well thought out. If you could get him involved in this discussion I think he would have a lot to contribute.

What about asian researchers. A LOT of qigong research has been done in CHina. In Japan Dr. Motoyama has done research on the chakras I think.

IT does not relate directly to the Vipassana/mindfulness communication problem but I think there correlating chakra activity with processes in the body should not be as hard as one might think. I saw a drawing once that showed large nerve plexuses at teh areas where the seven main chakras are supposed to be. In addition there are seven major glands close by these locations (and presumably connected to the nerve plexuses. One could presumably talk about chakra activity as increasing or decreasing activity in these plexuses and glands. I read about a study done in India on under and over active thyorids (extremely over and under active) and yoga. With yoga sequences specifically designed to affect the throat area both under and overactive thyorids were brought into much more balanced activity. As the yogic texts describes the throat chakra as being placed here and describes similar symptoms of over and under active thorat chakras as over and under active thyroids and the asanas said to balance the throat chakra also balances hte thyroid you have an interesting connection there. I am convinced similar connections can be made through research between all the chakras and glands.

What about the language used in transpersonal psychology? Any help there?

There is a meditation organisation in Norway called ACEM that has been trying to secularize the language of meditation for 30-40 years and is run by a doctor. It is basically TM without the maharashi language and beliefs (they branced out of TM). You could write them an email and ask if they have any input (all norwegians speak good english).

Swami Rama wrote a book where he looked at the differences between yogic attainments and shifts in perception vs psychosis. I think he might have some perspectives that could help.

I read somewhere that psychiatrists in Thailand where really annoyed that their clinics where being filled up with people who got issues after attending retreats. Considering the immense number of people in Thailand who do meditation intensives at some point in their lives there must be huge (relatively speaking) numbers of such people in Thai mental hospitals. Write some emails to Thai mental hospitals and ask if they have any input on the relationship between the language of meditation and western psychiatric language in describing meditation induced mental problems.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/12/11 12:10 PM as a reply to Crazy Wisdom.
Hi all,

I'm the guy that runs alohadharma, where the video is. I'm also one of those poor folks that Daniel describes as being in both camps: I'm a clinical psychologist (a post-doc) and a meditation teacher who focuses on a hardcore approach.

It is shocking how many people in my field prescribe meditation like it were some sort of snake-oil cure-all without realizing the consequences of intensive practice. Teaching "mindfulness" has become a part of almost every therapy group and clinical protocol, for just about every kind of problem. I do blame people like John Kabot-Zinn and those like him for promoting a distorted picture of what mindfulness is and selling it like it were good for everything
(check out The Myth of Mindfulness).

However, there is a bright spot here. About two months ago I decided to give a presentation to the senior staff at the hospital I work at on this topic. Their reaction wasn't "you're a crazy religious nut", instead it was more like, "why haven't we heard about this before?". Now I'm getting asked about it all the time by psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers who have been pushing meditation for years. People are trying to get a better understanding about it, rather than protect their turf, which is a great thing. There is a professional conference here in Honolulu in a few months and I'm considering doing a similar presentation there to get the word out even more, and I'm going to be at the Buddhist Geeks conference in June and am thinking about getting a roundtable discussion together on this topic.

Another bright spot: I think psychologists are ripe to learn about this not only because of my personal experience but because the model that we use to describe it (the progress of insight), fits well with how psychologists think about things. Psychologists are developmental in their mindset (at least the good ones are) and understand things in terms of processes, stages and growth. Presenting a stage model to them will be no problem at all.

However, we do need better language for the stages. Part of the problem is that we have no scientific theory of what is happening in those states and stages. We have a religious theory, but we need one that is secular...

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/12/11 8:48 PM as a reply to Ron Crouch.
This smells like a really good opportunity for research. Maybe a nice followup study of people who participated in a clinician-administered mindfulness intervention? That would be a simple first step ... with that you could get some preliminary data, maybe sufficient justification for a proper prospective cohort with enrollment at the start of the mindfulness intervention (regular surveys, in-person if possible, and maybe some fMRI). I'd imagine that once you are able to provide data that there is a problem, the community will open to more discussion of it.

I agree that it is increasingly important to bring the two perspectives together. A case in point: the VA is starting to fund trials of mindfulness interventions in Iraq/Afghanistan veterans with PTSD. PTSD is scary enough on its own. Can you imagine a veteran with PTSD getting stuck in a dark night? Whatever they do to try to escape that additional hell will, to put it very dryly, drive up the adverse event rate for mindfulness interventions.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/13/11 10:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Fascinating topic - I'm just a grad student but here's my take on the various aspects of it:

If you dig around in the CM psych literature you come across terms like 'metacognitive awareness' and 'cognitive defusion' which are thought to be the underlying mechanism that is helpful with depression, GAD, etc. Essentially this consists of disembedding from discursive thought, and to a lesser extent from sensation. You could say that this relates to Mind and Body but is it the same thing? As Daniel says, we're talking about a microdose in hardcore dharma terms.

Moreover, you would expect to see metacognitive awareness increase as an outcome of *any* of the psychotherapies (cognitive, psychoanalytic, Gestalt, etc. etc.) For example, in classical psychoanalysis you have free association - a kind of dynamic mindfulness of thinking and causality - an insight technique? Note that people are not routinely dropping into the A&P after experiencing these therapies, although of course it's remotely possible. With regard to the scenario of a PTSD sufferer dropping into the A&P after practicing mainstream clinical mindfulness - I'd be interested to know the extent to which this is happening. It needs to be balanced with the fact that these practices are apparently relieving a lot of real suffering.

There is a psych literature on adverse outcomes from meditation - it needs expanding and should be required reading for anyone involved in CM. I'm surprised to hear that the Spiritual Emergency Network has gone under - I think one of my profs was involved in it. Clearly this is the kind of initiative that's needed.

Absolutely agreed that JKZ is a turgid writer. Siegel is a bit better I guess. For my money, the most interesting psych take on mindfulness comes from Steven Hayes and his Acceptance & Commitment Therapy/Relational Frame Theory. In particular, RFT could probably give a plausible account of how noting practice works - it may be a promising theoretical framework for Daniel's project.

With regard to terminology, I think that there are useful 'clinical' terms that are underused in the dharma community- hypnogogic imagery, dissociation, suggestion, extinction and cognitive defusion come to mind.

Warm regards

Paul

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/13/11 10:38 AM as a reply to Paul Anthony.
First, and this is guessing - when the mainstream mindfulness movement discovers real concentration meditation, we will start to see a lot more negative (and positive) effects. The development of jhana, as i believe Daniel says in MTCB, gives a lot of power to an insight practice.
Meanwhile, in my own experience, the clarity and equanimity one can reach in concentrated states (and after) can be a great help in dealing with difficult personal issues, which might make it attractive to therapists.
So that's my guess for one possible "trigger event" for things to start going really wrong (and hopefully also really right).

Second, while googling for some studies on this, i ran into this dissertation: Neale: Mindfulness Meditation - an integration of perspectives from Buddhism, Science and Clinical Psychology (2006), which talks about both insight stages and adverse effects of meditation. Seems to be rather nice, from our perspective, so i wanted to make you people aware of it.

Third - i'm nowhere near qualified to really help with this, but i really hope we can start to see a more serious understanding of deeper meditation in psychology.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/13/11 11:06 AM as a reply to Villum (redacted).
One way to get people to do research on a topic you want at the masters level is to give small very scholarships to people for writing about a topic you want. I have seen grants at arround 700 dollars being offered to students writing about certain specific topics in their master thesis at my old university so I think this actually works pretty well. So many students don`t really know what they want to write about and if someone comes up witha good tiopic and will even pay them a tiny bit they will often choose to write about that topic.

This opens up the possibility for even not very wealthy people to inlfuence research to a modest degree. Since without such a scholarship the student probably would not write about the topic what you actually get in retrun for such a small sum of money is an netire years worth of work by a master students if the student is doing a two year program where one year is entirely devoted to the thesis. That is very cheap labour. So if you are a dharma lawyer or dharma doctor or anything else that pays good money maybe you could spare 1-3000 dollars ayear on having several people do EXACTLY the reserach you want to have done. If you make really good money as a broker or buisness lawyer or something and have plenty of money to use, say a 100 000 dollars, you could have an army of master students doing the research you want. It can be like your own little research institute or think tank.

You can also get some of this done for free. The fact is so many students are so lost when it comes to finding something good to write about giving them good well formulated and original ideas about research topics can often be enough to make them choose it as a topic. You could make a wepage with ideas and material for doing research on your chosen topics and then advertise the webpage by providing links to it in threads in student forums, forums where students in teh relevant fields will often parttake and by sending writing to countless psychology and medical departments and students organisations for psychology and medical students.

Sure the quality of the research won`t always be the best or the most recognized but it will form the basis for future research on higher levels.

Also, if your reaserch ideas are very, very good and you can formulate them in a way an acomplished researcher in your chosen field would understand and you talk to them about it, they might just do the research because it is interesting an beneficial for their careers. Researcher already steal ideas from each other all the time because of lack of ideas so it isen`t all that difficult.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/13/11 2:04 PM as a reply to Crazy Wisdom.
Incidentally, does anyone have a bibliography of (quality) research into these kinds of things (adverse effects of meditation, advanced meditative techniques, et.c.?)

Otherwise, starting to assemble (or improve) one might be a good idea? It's probably gonna be needed for most of the things suggested here.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/18/11 7:50 AM as a reply to Villum (redacted).
My lab has been working on compiling a master bibliography of all reports of all adverse effects from medical journals (in all languages), book chapters etc. I think it will be the most comprehensive list to date, but I am sure we are still missing some. If you know of any descriptions or anecdotal stories within various dharma books (or even texts), those would be good to include.
We are also collecting "realtime data" and documenting cases of meditation-related difficulties that are happening but have never been documented.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/19/11 9:31 PM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
One interesting anecdote can be found in the Biography of Ruth Denison:

Boucher, Sandy. Dancing in the Dharma : The Life and Teachings of Ruth Denison. 1st ed. Boston, Mass.: Beacon Press, 2005.

The story can be found in chapter nine, entitled, "Stepping Over the Edge" (pp. 116-124).

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/20/11 11:14 AM as a reply to Daniel Malinowski Stuart.
Oh, great, we don't have that one yet. Thanks!

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/20/11 3:58 PM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
There is an interesting story in Engler & Brown's "Transformations of Consciousness" in which a southeast Asian teacher (not sure who, but I think he was considered an anagami or arhat) takes on a female student who has what sounds like pretty severe depression and I think an eating disorder. She's very disturbed at any rate, sleep and appetite all messed up, very dark emotions.

He has her master jhanna meditation and the researchers ask him why: he answers that insight would be too painful for her at this point, the bliss and peace of jhanna will be very healing. Well, over a relatively short period of time, she begins sleeping more... and more... and eating well... and her emotions even out. Then she begins sleeping less... and less... until she is sleeping very little again, yet her emotions are much much more stable, she is much more peaceful, and her appetite has stabilized as well.

At this point he begins to instruct her to follow the path of insight, and she attains stream entry fairly quickly (a few days or a week I think). I'm just paraphrasing the story, but I think I have the gist of it here. The interesting points in the context of the thread seem to be that a) he is well aware, clearly, of the dangers of insight practice and b) she seems to undergo some fairly profound healing with concentration style meditation. Are you familiar with this story and the research in this book in general, Willoughby? I'm aware that the methodology used (TAT tests, I think) has fallen out of favor in the meantime, but it still seems like an important pioneering investigation into many of these issues.
-Jake

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
jhana depression dark night mental illnesses dark night jhanas
Answer
5/23/11 8:31 AM as a reply to . Jake ..
Yes, I have been very interested in whether concentration practices/jhana may be helpful for both stabilizing, and brightening the mind of both clinical case and Dark Nighters. It's a new twist on the age old dry insight debate: If we train in jhana first, will our stages of insight proceed more quickly with less likelihood of getting stuck in the dukkha nanas? This is actually one of my interview questions for teachers, and like everything else, they don't agree. Interestingly, there was a recent Dho thread (Dark night and Jhana) where a person (James Mitchell) with a particularly lengthy (decades?) dark night is asking the same question.
And despite thoughtful replies from Trent, Florian and Bruno, there wasn't much consensus.

I just got back from a weekend at BCBS on Jhanas with Richard Shankman, who wrote a book with interviews about Jhanas from a range of teachers (Bhante G, Pa Auk, Than Geoff, Ajahn Brahm, Leigh Brasington, Christina Feldman, Sharon Salzberg, Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield) (Great book BTW).

Than Geoff says in his interview that concentration practices in and of themselves can be destabilizing for some people (p 120)
Bhante G says that jhana practice is not for the "fundamentally discontent" (Beyond Mindfulness...)
I asked Shankman about this statement and he agreed and told many stories about psychoses arising from concentration/jhana practice.
When I interviewed Jack Kornfield, he said the same thing, he did not agree with the idea that somehow concentration/jhana practice would be protective against (insight) meditation-induced destabilization/psychosis.

Luckily, this is more or less an empirical question, and we can see whether the type of practice was a factor related to extreme dark nights, or whether a certain practice either improves or exacerbates symptoms. I have heard very different suggests from different teachers ranging from "stabilize/tranquilize with samadhi"; "avoid concentration practices"; "Note like you life depended on it" and "stay away from insight practices, as they tend to destabilize", keep meditating, stop meditating etc. Of course, not all approaches cleanly separate concentration and insight practices, like they do here or in the VSM. And then there is the issue of individual difference, what works for one is not always the best for another. This is what Trent and Florian were getting at, I think.

I would be very interested to hear others perspectives on this topic...

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 9:01 AM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
Willoughby Britton:
Yes, I have been very interested in whether concentration practices/jhana may be helpful for both stabilizing, and brightening the mind of both clinical case and Dark Nighters. It's a new twist on the age old dry insight debate: If we train in jhana first, will our stages of insight proceed more quickly with less likelihood of getting stuck in the dukkha nanas? This is actually one of my interview questions for teachers, and like everything else, they don't agree. Interestingly, there was a recent Dho thread (Dark night and Jhana) where a person (James Mitchell) with a particularly lengthy (decades?) dark night is asking the same question.
And despite thoughtful replies from Trent, Florian and Bruno, there wasn't much consensus.

I just got back from a weekend at BCBS on Jhanas with Richard Shankman, who wrote a book with interviews about Jhanas from a range of teachers (Bhante G, Pa Auk, Than Geoff, Ajahn Brahm, Leigh Brasington, Christina Feldman, Sharon Salzberg, Christina Feldman and Jack Kornfield) (Great book BTW).

Than Geoff says in his interview that concentration practices in and of themselves can be destabilizing for some people (p 120)
Bhante G says that jhana practice is not for the "fundamentally discontent" (Beyond Mindfulness...)
I asked Shankman about this statement and he agreed and told many stories about psychoses arising from concentration/jhana practice.
When I interviewed Jack Kornfield, he said the same thing, he did not agree with the idea that somehow concentration/jhana practice would be protective against (insight) meditation-induced destabilization/psychosis.

Luckily, this is more or less an empirical question, and we can see whether the type of practice was a factor related to extreme dark nights, or whether a certain practice either improves or exacerbates symptoms. I have heard very different suggests from different teachers ranging from "stabilize/tranquilize with samadhi"; "avoid concentration practices"; "Note like you life depended on it" and "stay away from insight practices, as they tend to destabilize", keep meditating, stop meditating etc. Of course, not all approaches cleanly separate concentration and insight practices, like they do here or in the VSM. And then there is the issue of individual difference, what works for one is not always the best for another. This is what Trent and Florian were getting at, I think.

I would be very interested to hear others perspectives on this topic...


What I really think you should investigate is grounding practices. Doing jhanas can be stabilizing I am sure but they will not normally ground you as in get excessive energy down from the head into the body. It is precisely too much energy in the head that is the cause of most "qigong psychosis" (although probably not dark nights) and generally when people get enough energy down they regain balance. You should check out the story of SFJane at thetaobums.com. She was bipolar and periodically psychotic, violent and suicidal and considered largely an untreateable case by psychiatrists. Her condition was probably in part genetic (many family members had similar problems), part a difficult upbringing and partly caused by unhealthy meditation practices. She cured herself entirely by using the meditation and qigong practices thought by Bruce Kumar Frantzis. His method focuses a lot on dissolving blocks nad getting it to go down in the body (and the earth). Her analysis of her problems was that she had lots of energy in her head wrecking havock and when she got it down large parts of her problems disapeared. THe Vipassana/jhana tradition is lacking in focus on grounding and in good techniques for grounding. Typical advice is to spend time in nature, doing hard physical laber etc. THis can take months. THe same results can be gotten with standing meditation or other POWERFULL grounding techniques within very short time frames such as days or a couple of weeks.
Search for SFJane at thetaobums.com and you will find her story. She also has a blog so you can google her, she is also active on youtube and she has written a book about her experiences.

Beyond grounding focus on overall harmonious energy flow will do a lot to smooth out the experience for troubled meditators. This means energy flowing in a balanced way in channels such as the microcosmic and the chakras and organs being relatively similar in strength (thus balancing each other) and individually balanced. Some very basic qigong practices will normally do this quite well within a reasonable timeframe. It is much more effective than the methodologies I have seen recomeded in Vipassana/jhana books. It can also be used to target issues much more specifically.

At the very least someone trying to stablizie with jhanas should keep their attention at the dan tien and not the nostrils or any higher center. This will keep energy down. I myself got horrible grounding issues after meditating at the sensations at the nostrils.

You might find the site biologyofkundalini interesting.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 9:34 AM as a reply to Crazy Wisdom.
Crazy Wisdom raises an important point. I see two things to look out for: how powerful and concentrated the mind is, and how ungrounded/grounded it is (which I correlate with being/not being prone to mental fabrications).

A concentrated mind that is not prone to mental fabrications sees things clearly, vividly and down-to-earth.

An unconcentrated mind prone to mental fabrications is a constant chatter box interrupting everyday life, but not very dangerous.

A concentrated mind that is prone to mental fabrications will manifest powerful hallucinations. When one buys into the content created by one's now very powerful imagination, this might possibly lead to psychosis (paranoia, seeing and hearing things), or delirium (traveling out of body, other dimensions, encounters with beings).

I think the general answer might be: if insight is too difficult, concentration is good for you (if you have the time to develop it), but make sure you are aware of the possibility of being tricked by your own imagination, and work on grounding (else you will loose yourself in some otherworldly realm and go loony).

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 10:14 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
I've recently come across a social cognitive neuroscience paper suggesting that 'labeling'
a technique whereby attaching a label to an emotional/mental state with as few words as possible, preferably using symbolic language, leads to a decrease in emotional arousal states. It reminded me a lot of the Mahasi
noting technique, and it may explain why it has proven so successful for many Dark Night Yogis.

Another cognitive emotion regulation technique alluded to in that paper that has been proven successful is
reappraisal, which also leads to a decrease in emotional arousal states. These are studies conducted by Ochsner & Gross (Columbia).

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 2:27 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
That is a very interesting way to see it Bruno. I haven`t thought of it like that before.

Another thing to consider is that classically in the yoga tradition and in the taoist qigong tradition there has been a lot of emphasis on preparing the physical body so that it is able to handle the powerfull energies in the higher states. This includes a lot of emphasis on near perfect physical alignment as misalignments in the body leads to wrong energy flow. It also means a basic strength and developing a reasonably flexible body because an inflexible body leads to blocked energy. One can do an experiment on the importance of physical alignement by meditating for twenty minutes while conciously holding a bad posture in ones back and then twenty minutes with a good posture and feel the energetic difference.

Beyond this doing basic asanas or physical qigong or tai chi etc. starts to run energy in the body in a relatively low impact way clearing out the channels gradually. Once the channels are already fairly clean and flowing meditaion is much smoother. These preliminary practices will normally make the chakras and organs (which have similar effects on energy balance as chakras) reasonably balanced as well. With this foundation there will normally be few problems and starting meditation is also quite easy as these practices have laid the groundwork for the mind being stilled with very little effort. Such a gradual approach also has the advantage of not shocking the mind so much with the higher states because you have gradually become acustomed to energyphenomena and changes caused by your practice without it ever being too big a change at once. When some comfort is developed with such things and one has learnt to integrate smaller changes in ones life going full speed dharmaoverground style is much less destabilizing.

Personally I think the rational way to go about a lifelong meditation project is to spend something like say a year on achieving the basic balance I talk about first and then start hardcore work wether it be insight meditation or serious kundalini stuff. This is cost effective because sucha foundation alows one to go at it full speed for the rest of ones life with much less risk of crashes which means one then must spend time picking up the pieces or just putting on the breaks a lot. It also means ones life as a whole will be much more balanced and less negatively affected by practice and so it is easier to maintain higher practice levels. It also means one starts of with an easy time gaining concentration and going up the jhanas. The ability to reach jhanas is very affected by how open ones channels are and how powerfull ones chakras and organs are and how much energy one has built up so the time spent affecting these things through the ground work is not ill spent in terms of jhana attainment. I also think it affects the progression of insight. I think some of the discussion between Bruno and Beoman (I think it was) about blocks disolving connected to insight gains suports this notion. It is also suported by the views of the taoist tradition the yoga tradition and I would presume the Tibetan tradition as they have a lot of similar energy practices.

I know Daniel has argued that because we all have endless amounts of "stuff" and issues it is better to ignore these for the most part in meditation as they take focus away from insight practice and slow us down and instead gain stream entry qucik because stream entry makes a lot of the issues just go away by themselves. I see the point but as it is likely people will have betwen 20-70 years of time practicing depedning on when they start and how long they live I think one year spent on basic baalnce is rational. Especially considering the amount of time consuming life quality killing trouble people tend to get in. Not to mention that big emotional issues coupled with high meditation states can, and often does, create huge imbalances in people. Also witht eh right methods one can gain a lot more balance than most people think if one chooses it as ones goal. If you look at these threads by Dmatawards at thetaobums you will see he has made the type of progress that would typically take years in therapy in a few months by doing the healing sounds and inner smile and some qigong and standing meditation: http://www.thetaobums.com/index.php?app=core&module=search&do=user_posts&mid=47895&search_filter_app=1&view_by_title=1

The one called lessons of the lower chakras is the most illustrative one.

I read a compilation of the classic buddhist meditations such as meditating on the elements, loving kindness, white sceleton meditation and a bunch of others. THese all sound like very good meidtations but I would not recomend them as balancing meditations for beginners as there are better alternatives in other traditions for beginers. Personally I found loving kindenss destabilizing. I think, and my teacher agrees, that it is much better to start with something like inner smile. He sees loving kindness as more of a second level meditation after basics are in place and so do I. Unconditional compassion etc. are quite strong stuff to start with emotionally. THe inner smile cultivates the whole range of desired positive emotions and is a very precise way of measuring if the energy body is on balance and balancing it if it is not. Rather than having a beginer sit and meidtate on the earth element in general or the fire element in general I would rather have them do a qigong set with movements ment to stimulate and balance all the elements. Rather than have people meditate on their own seceleton and contemplate their own death I would put them do to pranayama, mantras that have energy building effects in addition to stilling the mind or standing meditation which stills the mind, grounds you, creates perfect alignemnt, makes your body strong and flexible and builds your energy levels in a powerfull way. THe classical buddhist canone seems like it has great "level two" and great advanced level meditations but not so much for beginers in my opinion.

Another perspective that has soem value is the AYP perspective. In AYP they say that one must cultivate a basic level of "inner stilness" before one starts with the hgih energy producing practices like pranayama. I think there is some merit to that.

In the kundalini awakening process they say the main things are to stay grounded (they have a bunch of practices for that), keep the energy circulating in the orbit so it does not get stuck anywhere and keep yourself in very positive and balanced emotional states most of the time by doing the secret smile meditation a LOT. They add in more for balance than that but those are their three critical things for balance. They are able to put people through kundalini awakenings with minimal issues.

Another thing to take into consideration is that people in the west today are mcuh less groudned than people in the east (and west) used to be hundreds and thousands of years ago. We are distant from the earth and from nature. In many ways we have weaker physical bodies, chatter minds and buddhist teachers tend to say westerners have a lot more emotional issues than they have been used to in their students. Had the buddha thought in the west today he might have taught other preliminary practices.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 3:39 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:


A concentrated mind that is not prone to mental fabrications sees things clearly, vividly and down-to-earth.

An unconcentrated mind prone to mental fabrications is a constant chatter box interrupting everyday life, but not very dangerous.

A concentrated mind that is prone to mental fabrications will manifest powerful hallucinations. When one buys into the content created by one's now very powerful imagination, this might possibly lead to psychosis (paranoia, seeing and hearing things), or delirium (traveling out of body, other dimensions, encounters with beings).

I think the general answer might be: if insight is too difficult, concentration is good for you (if you have the time to develop it), but make sure you are aware of the possibility of being tricked by your own imagination, and work on grounding (else you will loose yourself in some otherworldly realm and go loony).


Brilliant, Bruno!!! You and Crazy Wisdom are hitting on something profoundly important here, in my experience. You've really articulated this very well. Grounded concentration, as you describe it, oriented towards appreciating the naturalness of the sixfold sense-field as a whole, is pretty much how I approach sitting practice/life practice altogether lately and it seems to bring clarity, stability and insight equally.

I would contrast this approach with both dry insight and absorptive/abstracting jhanna, in which attention is absorbed into ever more rarefied states. My experience with the latter is that, although it can give rise to what seem to be stabilized states, there is something "off" about them as they result from high concentration + mental fabrications (such as limitless space, limitless consciousness, and so on). I can see how they could go either way depending on whether one is mixing in idiosyncratic fabrications (personal or collective mythologies, for example) with the normative fabrications which define a given jhanna. One could craft powerful experiences of pseudo-realities quite easily this way. I'd rather just watch TV! On the other hand, if one concentrates on more and more rarefied states without mixing in proliferating fabrications, I can see how this could result in very stable states of bliss and contentment and stability, which could be healing for someone suffering from certain forms mental-emotional disturbance, but it seems that simply pointing out the difference between the sixth consciousness and the physical senses, and training someone to abide calmly here-and-now by not believing every mental-emotional movement of the sixth consciousness, and learning to appreciate the natural clarity and calmness of the six senses, would be a much safer way to go in general from straight up kasina practice, or focusing on the anapanasati spot, for ex, or dry insight.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 3:38 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Grounded concentration, as you describe it, oriented towards appreciating the naturalness of the sixfold sense-field as a whole, is pretty much how I approach sitting practice/life practice altogether lately and it seems to bring clarity, stability and insight equally.

THis is one of the reasons my teacher does not experience any of the problems of the cycles of insgiths but only experiences it as something htat helps i´him in day to day life as well.

By the way at the Kennethfolkdharma forum there is a thread (by Chelek I think) that compares the ajahn cha(n?) tradition with Mahasi. The awareness type in the cha(n?) tradition he said was more conducive to daily life and hte whole tradition less plagued by imbalanced practioners and more conducive to producing well psychologically harmonious people.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 5:48 PM as a reply to Crazy Wisdom.
Crazy Wisdom:
THis is one of the reasons my teacher does not experience any of the problems of the cycles of insgiths but only experiences it as something htat helps i´him in day to day life as well.
i agree wholeheartedly with your posts, Crazy Wisdom. i was going to post something saying essentially the same thing though a lot less eloquently. i feel MCTB should have a huge warning that the path it lays out is quite painful as it doesn't really lay the groundwork for grounding yourself. it does have several warnings about how the dark night will kick your ass, but doesn't mention that if approached a bit differently, perhaps one could save oneself some trouble. or maybe it does and i completely ignored those parts thinking "hah this is great! ill own that dark night and be enlightened soon", hehe.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/23/11 8:40 PM as a reply to Crazy Wisdom.
Yes, although practicing in a more MCTB style fashion was an important phase in my development, mostly because it allowed me to really live-through and express my spiritual materialist sub-personality in a gung-ho way, leading to seeing clearly the limits of such an approach and what it's an expression of psychologically.

I have experienced much more stable and I think deep progress since switching (back) to this other style of practice-- very similar to the "chah" style. Chan, some forms of Dzogchen and Mahamudra, and Taoism are my inspirations. It helps to have the basic skeletal map of fractal stages:

(1) feeling good and opening up, energy through-put increases in the body-mind --> (2) deeper tensions and disturbances arise as increased energy through-put cleans out the pipes ---> (3) stabilization at deeper level of equanimity" to prevent fixating on any of these three phases, and instead experiencing an open-ended spiral development. Without this understanding, prior to encountering MCTB, it was all too easy to hit stage 2 (DN, in other words) and think things were going wrong, lay off, let things settle down, begin investigating again, re-enter 1 (A&P), and just go back and forth like that never really getting anywhere.

But no doubt, with a very driven attitude (insight disease) there is an inherently imbalanced approach happening. I've felt done with insight disease for almost nine months now, although I don't think I'm fourth path at all--- I wouldn't even claim second. Just seem to have largely dropped the sub-personality which was capable of obsessing on such things. Yet progress continues to deepen, while everyday life becomes more frictionless and enjoyable.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/24/11 3:38 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Great thread -

to add one thing, the comments above on concentration being destabilizing as well - there is a possibility for someone to have insight happen on its own if they do concentration incorrectly, which is what happened to me about 4 years ago. I thought I was conentrating on the breath really really hard but ended up having a strong A&P with no idea what had happened to me...

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/26/11 2:55 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
This is a good and important discussion and some great points have been made.

Just for those who were discussing MCTB: it does give extensive warnings about concentration and insight being destabilizing, and also about grounding attention in the body and not in mental stuff when possible. I could post a battery of quotes, but hopefully those are unnecessary.

I have said many times on this forum that whatever new or old but outside the tradition technologies help stabilize the Dark Night are a welcome addition to the tools we have for gaining insight in a skillful and healthy way, and have referred people to the AYP stuff when Loff started talking about it. It is good to hear of some others, as this is one of the largest problems facing the insight world. When this is worked out once and for all, it will be a great day.

I would like someone to import some of those technologies here, and have their instructions in DhO-friendly terms if possible so that people here can find this stuff in house: if you want wiki privs, I'll give them to you if you will do this, and we can have a section specifically dedicated to information that makes the Dark Night easier. Takers? Email or message me to let me know.

I personally think that when I was practicing, the fact that I generally did yoga in the morning on my early retreats helped. I also think that people in general somehow avoid grounding the attention in the lower abdomen when doing breathing/sitting and in the feet when walking, and I believe that if they do this they handle things a whole lot better than if they don't. I also think that rapid-fire, accurate noting that stays present to the more physical/auditory/visual aspects of the sensate field is powerful, keeps people out of their stuff and makes the Dark Night rapid, but convincing people to do these things is really, really hard, which is also a major problem. Why people won't follow time-tested instructions is beyond me.

I also see people walking slowly on retreats and taking walking times to do laundry, take showers, take naps, and the like, as no one knows where they are and they don't have the belief that it is as powerful as sitting, but if you walk at 2-3 miles/hour, and do this for, say, 9 hours/day, you will walk about 20+ miles/day or so, and this physical exercise really helps to keep things stabilized, I feel, particularly if you noted every single foot lift and fall. My early retreats with Christopher Titmuss also had periods of standing meditation where one felt one's feet in contact with the earth as object: also very useful for stabilizing. I don't think I realized at the time how useful these were, but on retrospect feel that they helped me a lot.

For Willoughby: pure concentration practice can be really stabilizing if it is on something like the breath, and really destabilizing if it is on something purely mental if not done well, as it increases the capacity to create full on powersy experiences, which some might term psychosis and hallucinations, and perhaps rightly so at times (fine line, isn't it?). The trick is: when one's concentration gets strong: keep it on track, as unguided it can cause all sorts of problems, like a fire hose that is not held properly flailing all over the place. I personally have found that jhana on the breath is really calming, and jhana on things like visualizations with mantra being the high stakes way to play the game: either really, really profound or really, really out there, or some mix of both. People doing jhana on mentally created phenomena or emotive phenomena (loving-kindness) need to keep up their guard when they open that hydrant: esoteric/vajrayana/tantric (not talking sex here specifically) traditions go on and on with warnings in this regard and rightly so. Turning the fire hydrant off is not so easy once one gets there, so until concentration goes back to normal, one must handle it like the potent thing it is, with respect and care, like any other power tool, weapon, large animal, etc.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
dark night
Answer
5/26/11 12:27 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
There is en entire team in the lab, led by Chris Kaplan, putting together a resource guide for ways to get through the dark night.
This will include comments from teachers that we have interviewed, and interviews with practitioners: what Dark night yogis tried and what actually helped (some of the most common suggestions were simply not helpful to some people), and Chris actually suggested setting something up on the Dho for this very purpose... to get a "Dark Night Toolbox" of sorts

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/26/11 12:32 PM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
Hi Willoughby,

I collected some advice from both KFD and DhO yogis awhile back and put that advice here:
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/testimonies-of-dark-night.html

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/26/11 4:08 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Here's something I've thought about a lot. Feel free to split off into a separate post if this is going off topic, but thought it's close enough to include here.

Are the stages of insight a progression that starts only once someone does something meditative/inclines their mind certain ways, or is it a fundamental thing all human brains wind up doing regardless? I never really meditated until last year, but I think it's likely I crossed the A&P doing psychedelics back in high school. So, since there are so many people who have crossed the A&P or had extensive Dark Knights without being aware of it at all or without having actively meditated before, I'm wondering what it is (or if it's known) that initially triggers the insight stages and then pushes them along all the way up to A&P.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/26/11 4:37 PM as a reply to Steph S.
I have speculated in the past that it was connected somewhat to all the kundalini movement that goes on inside the body. I'm talking from my own experience. My first AP set off a lot of wizz bang energetic movement in my body which never stopped moving about from that moment. I dont know much about kundalini but the AP I had fit descriptions of kundalini arising.

After that i was a dark night yogi for well over 8 years. Then when I got to 1st path, I was able to see clearly what was occuring in the body going through the dark night. A kind of surge of energy would move up from the base of the genitals up the spine and park itself at each of the chakra spots where all sorts of unpleasant sensations would be set off. In turn the mind would react with all the symptoms that dark night seems to entail....I would see how fear would be set off as vibrations were set off in the gut area, then move up to misery which was mostly in the solar plexus and heart area, then disgust which seemed to be the heart then the throat area. When I moved into equanimity, the energy would move from the throat to the third eye spot and I would feel the shift from re-observation to equanimity. From the third eye I felt the energy move up to the crown and this is where the mind transitioned to high equanimity. A fruition would occur at either the crown or the third eye spot. For me all the dark night sensations where in the gut, the solar plexus, heart and throat. When I had a fruition, the energy would automatically reset to being just above the genitals and then once again move up the spine parking at each of the chakras for different periods of time. I practiced for a long time in the goenka tradition and feel the entire boy at all times as a mass of subtle vibrations so it is easy to see this energetic movement. it seems related to the cycle of insight. It always seemed obvious to me that there was a connection....but hey, I could be wrong. im relying purely on my own experience.

Nick

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/26/11 4:41 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
Here's something I've thought about a lot. Feel free to split off into a separate post if this is going off topic, but thought it's close enough to include here.

Are the stages of insight a progression that starts only once someone does something meditative/inclines their mind certain ways, or is it a fundamental thing all human brains wind up doing regardless? I never really meditated until last year, but I think it's likely I crossed the A&P doing psychedelics back in high school. So, since there are so many people who have crossed the A&P or had extensive Dark Knights without being aware of it at all or without having actively meditated before, I'm wondering what it is (or if it's known) that initially triggers the insight stages and then pushes them along all the way up to A&P.


well, i think it's essentially inclining your mind in a certain way. psychedelics seem to be likely to get you to incline your mind in a way that leads to an A&P since they mess with reality so much. meditation is a structured method of inclining your mind a certain way.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/27/11 6:23 AM as a reply to Willoughby Britton.
Practically speaking, we are missing a technique that allows dark night not to be a problem. Imagine, for the sake of example, that if you were to do thing X in a retreat setting for one week straight, this would make dark night no longer a problem.

Then we could say: "if you come across DN, you do thing X for a week and that's it, you can then proceed to gain insight without debilitating mental pain."

Then insight meditation would become a viable mechanism for the masses.

I'm not sure such a thing might even exist, though. It could well be the case that in order to end the pain you have to go through it, that one must face the monsters one kills, so to speak. For instance, if one were to take opium or another painkiller, would progress of insight even be possible?

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/27/11 8:04 AM as a reply to Steph S.
I've wondered about this too (the causal links leading to entering the a&p). As my first (remembered) experience of this took place in late adolescence (about fourteen or fifteen), after I'd dropped a bagel on the ground and watched it roll around and around like a coin to finally land face down on a dirty floor, to which perception "I" responded with a massive build up of frustration and irritation and solid, red-hot lead bowling ball like anger in my chest region, after which the bowling ball (and the world) exploded in the most powerful relief, and I stood there with my inner world a vast dark space and the sensate world vibrating in clarity as if I could see every atom made of liquid luminous translucent glass,and a voice said "just eat the bagel" and things stayed all bright and clear externally and silent and spacious and dark inside for a few weeks afterwards.

But why did it happen? It would be years and years before I'd ever try to sit. Although I did spontaneously begin practicing somewhat during regular activity, and noticed for instance that things went smoother when I'd just "let thinking think" or "let walking walk" and so on.

So why did it happen? Well, from my earliest memories, I have been deeply interested in life, suffering, experience, reality, death, meaning, and so on, and often as a child had experiences I'd recognize as broadly "esoteric", such as waking paralysis, vivid dreams, noticing thoughts as sensate patterns of sensations while falling asleep, and so on. But who knows?

Perhaps being interested in life and experience and meaning in a sustained and curious (i.e. open) way is simply all it takes, and depending on the intensity of this mode of engagement, a&p is inevitable at some point. The problem is if one hits this point when not ripe, emotionally and thus in terms of identity, one will intuitively balk at the implications of a&p, namely that one must let go of the solid fixed identity based on memory and so on (at least let go of it AS a fixed identity).

And that's what the DN seems like to me--- all the symptoms of resisting this process of divesting oneself of one's fixed identities. The more resistence, the more fear, disgust, and misery. The more unripeness in the personality, perhaps the worse the DN will be. In short I think there may be a natural time, in terms of conventional human psychological development, to investigate the nature of identity, emotion, experience, and so on-- and when ripe, these things seem to become clear in a more smooth way. So trying to skip the DN or make it easier may be as simple as determining 'what are the conditions of psychological ripeness, developmentally, for investigating the roots of identification processes and afflictive emotions". In other words, looking at what's called post-formal operational development, post-conventional development, in developmental psychology.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/27/11 11:38 AM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Bruno Loff:
Practically speaking, we are missing a technique that allows dark night not to be a problem. Imagine, for the sake of example, that if you were to do thing X in a retreat setting for one week straight, this would make dark night no longer a problem.

Then we could say: "if you come across DN, you do thing X for a week and that's it, you can then proceed to gain insight without debilitating mental pain."

Then insight meditation would become a viable mechanism for the masses.

I'm not sure such a thing might even exist, though. It could well be the case that in order to end the pain you have to go through it, that one must face the monsters one kills, so to speak. For instance, if one were to take opium or another painkiller, would progress of insight even be possible?


I was watching Adyashanti's webcast 2 weeks ago and he gave a pretty cool nugget of advice. He didn't mention it relating specifically to the Dark Knight (I don't think he talks stages does he?). He told a story of when the Buddha was having a particularly rough time during meditation, he put his hand on the ground to feel the Earth. This was his way of knowing that the Earth was real and the horrific things happening in his mind were not. This could be really helpful. Maybe people can pick something that stays consistent throughout their practice to actually touch, that actually exists if things get too freaky. I like the Buddha's use of the ground - because it will be there no matter where you are. Even approaching the Dark Knight with the knowledge that the Earth below exists and is available as a tool for grounding might provide some level of okayness with what's about to happen.

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
5/27/11 11:52 AM as a reply to Steph S.
Steph S:
I like the Buddha's use of the ground - because it will be there no matter where you are.
i suppose one shouldn't meditate while skydiving =P

RE: Clinical Mindfulness and Hardcore Dharma
Answer
6/8/11 10:43 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hello Daniel and others:
I appreciate the intent to try and set up a program, referral network and/or some guidelines.

One problem I have seen in the field of addiction counseling is that once it became a licensed profession, several of the excellent hard core counselors (I knew) left the field, because they were required to jump through a number of hoops that were too costly and repetitive. Also, the illusion of control kicks in a great deal in organizations.

I don't know. I prefer to continue to make information available to people and perhaps one day, the corner coffee hang-out will have groups or anyone can ask and someone local will be able to refer to someone who has had a similar insight, and the awakening process can become more community based and not institutionally based or organizationally based, because this is/for everyone.

After all, if we can just be more accepting and loving with one another, we can help ease each others struggles and support each other through the tough times, and share beingness.

How to bridge these things? Places like this are a start.

This is a wonderful wish for all humanity. And, the integrity issues are also complex, because we know how deep insight can arise and actually working the steps or walking the 8-fold path is not seen clearly, and how to do that. So a structure or referral network can also be abused or misused as well.