Agnostic's Log 2

agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
[EDIT: Adding link to previous log]

I am starting a new practice log with the explicit recognition that I suffer from strong narcissistic tendencies. To those of you familiar with my first log this will probably come as no surprise, possibly accompanied by mutterings of “about bloody time”.

In this log I will refer to myself as a narcissist as shorthand for having strong narcissistic tendencies. Of course we all have narcissistic tendencies to some extent and there is no clear demarcation between healthy and pathological, but I am reasonably confident that I am well to the right of center on the spectrum.

I haven't been diagnosed (yet) with full blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) but I am looking for a therapeutic diagnosis. My current therapist agrees that I have strong narcissistic tendencies, however it was me who initiated the subject and he is reluctant to classify me as a narcissist. Actually he is my sixth therapist in 15 years and none of my previous therapists brought it up either (obviously that’s not to say they didn’t think it). Part of the problem is that narcissists are very hard to treat. They only go to therapy if their situation deteriorates sufficiently and even then they find seeking help shameful and need to feel superior to the therapist. Narcissists are also experts at garnering sympathy. I went through several severe depressions and periods of suicidal ideation, but in retrospect they seem like elaborate bids for attention as my former sources of narcissistic supply dried up.

What really put me on track to recognizing myself as a narcissist was reading Sam Vaknin’s book Malignant Self-love: Narcissism Revisited. It was both a shocking and uniquely insightful experience. At almost every page I had the thought “that’s me exactly”. I had the feeling that the author was inside my own mind and explaining what it was like to be me. Vaknin is himself a narcissist and says that the prognosis is poor – the narcissist will always be a narcissist and the best they can hope for is to understand their condition and try to avoid creating so much suffering for themselves and others.

My purpose in blogging about being a narcissist on the spiritual path is twofold:

1) To try and help myself by being honest about my problems.

2) Possibly to help others who may be narcissists or have relationships with narcissists.

Please feel free to comment on any narcissistic patterns you observe in me, especially if I don’t seem to be aware of them. I will try to take the view that “if it hurts, it helps”. Naturally this log and your views and comments is a source of narcissistic supply for me, but I am sincere in my desire to reduce the suffering caused by my narcissism (or at least, as sincere as it is possible for a narcissist to be).

This log will probably end up being more related to “stuff” than meditation. I have basically spent the last year on a kind of home meditation retreat. Whilst I have had some relatively deep meditation experiences and insights into the “ultimate nature of reality”, I am painfully aware that my basic personality as a source of suffering has not improved all that much (or maybe it has and I’m just more aware of it, but that amounts to the same thing).

I am actually somewhat ambivalent now about the value of heavy meditation as a narcissist at this point in my practice. Whilst the serenity and insight of meditation seem to be valid universal experiences, they might actually worsen my narcissism because they encourage me to feel special and different. The “personality is fabricated” message of Buddhism is like catnip to a narcissist, because that’s how they’ve always felt about themselves and others (having constantly had to create new personas to secure new sources of narcissistic supply). However as a narcissist my real feelings are so deeply suppressed that I may not even be accessing them at all even in meditation.

In simplistic terms, the narcissist creates a “false self” because they were taught to deny their “true self”. A healthy Buddhist will see that their true self is still a source of suffering and learn to penetrate that illusion. A narcissist will tend to think that they are more enlightened than they in fact are because they already know the false self is a sham. But in reality they haven’t even gotten their suffering down to healthy levels because they are in constant denial of their true self. Maybe that is overly simplistic, but I would rather err on the side of caution.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I’ve been pretty busy the last 3 weeks, our kids nanny having finished and me taking over looking after the kids in the afternoons. My mind has been in turmoil digesting the realization that I am a narcissist. It seems like I’m going through a process described by Christine Hammond as Narcissism Awareness Grief, which is the grieving process which happens when someone becomes aware of narcissism. Most of the narcissism help genre is focused on the victims because narcissists rarely seek help, but I’ve been following it by imagining that I am the victim of my own narcissism (which is true but the irony is not lost on me!) Narcissists will only seek help if it is in their self interest - i.e. they become aware of their narcissism and are sick of the suffering it is causing themselves – so that is all I have to work with. As a narcissist I don’t recognize my own authentic self, so a fortiori I don’t recognize other people’s feeings/suffering. Anyway, here are the stages of "NAG" I’ve been going through.

1. Denial. I first started reading Sam Vaknin’s book 9 months ago and instantly recognized myself as a narcissist, yet I quickly put it on the back burner and told myself that meditation and the spiritual path would somehow dissolve the issue of their own accord.

2. Anger. Interactions with my wife and therapist 3 weeks ago brought me back to Vaknin’s book and the realization that I am a narcissist, leading to strong feelings of anger. Anger at my current and previous therapists for failing to diagnose it; anger at myself for failing to see it and then denying it; anger for the wasted years and needless suffering for myself and others due to my undiagnosed narcissism; anger at my parents for passing on their narcissism to me; and anger about receiving a life sentence with an “incurable disease”.

3. Bargaining. I’ve been questioning how my parents ended up as narcissists and why they got together and had 3 children who have all suffered and created suffering as a result. I’ve been questioning whether my meditation journey over the last year has all just been spiritual bypassing. I’ve been trying to cut myself a “bargain” where I say that the experiences on the cushion were valid and it’s how my off-cushion personality has used those experiences which is unhealthy, and that somehow I can keep the good and get rid of the bad.

4. Depression. I’ve already worked through a lot of depression over the last 10 years and accepted that my parents and upbringing will never change, so maybe I get a pass on this stage.

5. Rewiring. I’ve already done quite a bit of this in the past as well.

6. Acceptance. It seems too early to be thinking I’m here yet, but in the last few days I’ve started to recapture some equanimity. Radical acceptance through meditation has been quite a powerful tool.

My daughter was sick with the flu all last week and I was caring for her constantly, barely leaving the house. Actually we had a nice time together and I felt it deepened our relationship. I notice that I think about the effect on me first rather than what it’s actually like for her being sick, which is typical of a narcissist. However I feel like this kind of “enlightened narcissism” is the way forward for me. Based on my research, it seems unwise to hope that I will ever fully stop being a narcissist. But if I can focus on finding “me first” practices which help rather than hurt others then that seems like the best I can do with the selfish vessel I have. In retrospect my decision to start taking over the childcare 5 months ago seems to have been in the same spirit – it was motivated by a desire to reduce my own suffering by being less selfish, with the positive for my kids coming as a secondary benefit rather than being the main motivating factor. Maybe that is a bit harsh on myself, but I wouldn’t say it was better than 50/50 on the me/others motivation. After all, we’ve had a nanny for 7 years and I could have stepped in at any point but was too preoccupied with my work (which was barely successful). And I’m choosing to do it at a time when it’s much easier now the kids are both in elementary school together.

That having been said, I am painfully aware that I’ve passed on some strong narcissistic tendencies to my son (as well as possibly created some codependency in my daughter), so it is going to be a lot of conscious hard work over the next 10 years or so to try smooth those out as best I can. I’m still looking for the right therapist who can help me specifically with these issues. But it feels good to have finally identified the fundamental causes of suffering in my life and taking steps towards reducing them. It seems significant that I have decided to take on this role when my son is about the same age that I was when I was sent to boarding school. Whilst I had suffered basic insecure attachment, emotional deprivation and parental anger by that age (as has he to some extent), it wasn’t until I was sent away to fend for myself in a highly socialized afamilial environment that I developed a fully fledged narcissistic personality structure (false self) as a survival mechanism. Hopefully I can rewrite that chapter with my son. Taking a step back, narcissism is pure samsara in that it is such a faithfully self-replicating personality structure. I feel like this is probably the most important thing I can do before I die. My reasons for having a family were purely narcissistic, but running away from it will guarantee that the pattern repeats with my children.

In terms of meditation it’s been “quality over quantity”. There’s a clear dynamic pattern: more time caring for others => less time for meditation but deeper and more powerful meditation experiences. Kundalini is stronger than ever now. I have an extremely powerful headache which seems to be connected with the thought “I am a bad person”, but there’s a lot of flux around it and waves down into the heart and belly. The heart waves seem to be engender a vulnerable feeling of being connected to others and the belly energy (which I have barely tapped) seems to be more about a secure sense of simply existing without having to justify it or even think about it.

One of the things which really bugs me about accepting that I am a narcissist is that before I knew what NPD was I naively imagined that being a narcissist must be quite enjoyable. My thinking was something like - sure they leave a trail of destruction in their wake, but at least they are (or believe themselves to be) successful, attractive and powerful and can do whatever selfish and pleasurable things they like, damn the cost. But in reality being a narcissist is not at all like that. Narcissists really don’t love themselves at all, they hate themselves and have a hollow emotional core which they are desperately and futilely trying to fill with narcissistic supply. The hits of narcissistic supply are really fleeting and accompanied by an immediate comedown and feeling of dissatisfaction, because you know it’s all a fake, but still you can’t help looking for the next hit. It really is a crappy drug and I’ve had enough.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Kundalini is very strong now, almost overwhelming at times. I feel like my subtle energy body is being remade, accompanied by psychological shifts. The process seems to work best on an intuitive level, rather than thinking about what's happening and questioning what should be happening. I notice this during meditation when I get lost in some random thought chain and when I come back I'm surprised to find there has been some significant energy shift and kundalini is flowing quite pleasantly thank you. Whereas if I focus on the kundalini I get more painful blockages, presumably because I'm trying to control it on some level.

That still leaves me with the question of what higher authority I should or can trust during this process. The best answer I can come up with is just trust the process itself (kundalini shakti). It's how I imagine first time childbirth might be for a woman - trusting that the physical body will know what to do what it was designed to do. So I find myself thinking "ok, I give up, just do what you need to do". At a certain point I started to think about the lotus leaves opening in my head and wonder if that’s what’s happening with these energy waves in the head, but I didn’t feel ready to let that happen yet. I still haven’t felt much kundalini coming up the spine yet and my gut tells me that I need to let the kundalini work downwards through my heart and into my belly first.

Being a narcissist I naturally find it hard to trust higher authorities. They invoke in me jealousy, anger and suspicion. Whenever I consider gurus or deities I find myself adopting a critical attitude and thinking “why can’t I just do this myself”, probably because I have a narcissist need to think of myself as at least their equal. Of course self-realization has a long tradition and possibly narcissism can be transcended that way. But it’s dangerous because there’s always the risk that the part-realized narcissist uses that realization to secure new narcissist supply. Forewarned is forearmed.

My wife is travelling on business this week and I find myself missing her more than usual. I realize how much I take her for granted as a pillar of emotional and financial stability in my otherwise chaotic life. Of course that’s still a narcissistic point of view, it's all about what she does for me, I don’t actually spend much time thinking about her needs as a person in her own right. As I write these words I find myself cringing, but that’s more about being perceived as a shallow and manipulative person rather than remorse at actually being such a person. Anyway my goal is to be honest about what it’s actually like being a narcissist, so there it is.

I tend to find most of my past behavior pretty cringeworthy, and reviewing my previous log is no exception. It’s totally self-absorbed. I realize that I did myself a disservice by allowing myself to get seduced by the idea that soft jhana is much of anything. There’s not much you can take for certain in meditation but I’ve seen enough evidence to know that (i) hard jhana exists; (ii) I haven’t gotten anywhere near experiencing it; and (iii) the obstacles to hard jhana are the hindrances. After a year of relatively intense meditation I realize that I’m actually right back at the beginning. What’s going on with me now is basic morality, a.k.a. being less selfish. Anecdotally it seems to me that people who get into hard jhana easily have better morality (less guilt), whereas people like me with poor morality have painful energy blockages which prevent them from getting into hard jhana. This reply from Nicky was very helpful to me in assessing where I am on the path, i.e. right at the beginning. It’s humbling to accept that you are not all you thought yourself to be, but also very humanizing and it just feels good to accept the truth which in my heart of hearts I feared all along anyway. I do have a newfound respect for why the insight-first path is considered by some to be unwise/dangerous and it's better to work on your morality first and then concentration/serenity. Sure I got some insight despite being morally lacking and of unstable mind, but it alienated me from my family and caused new suffering. The reality at least for me seems to be that you can't get stable integrated insight without hard jhana and you can't get hard jhana without proper morality.
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Che Guebuddha, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 65 Join Date: 8/19/11 Recent Posts
I think Adyashanti once said  "Everyone's doing a dance. You must dance your dance all the way out." Such dances can be very draining almost bordering with insanity at times hence me writing you the next paragraph;

I was totally lost when I decided to contact Kenneth Folk last year. I needed some one to give me a push in the right dirrection. Kenneth Folk told me that one CAN NOT do Mahasi style Vipassana if one is not in the Human Realm (if the Mind is not in the Human Realm) as only humans can notice all the sensation. This acted on me like a slap in the face, like a total wake up call! It helped! He gave me a teaching on the 6 Realms and how to recognise them, when Mind gets into any of them and also how to use the Bardo to find my way back into the human realm so to be able to continue with Vipassana practice. BTW, his 6 realm teaching is not the same as the one Tibetans teach. Im not good at teaching this stuff. I can only warmly suggest you contact him and ask about it. He is a very helpful person and also Daniel Ingram's friend. They had the same teacher Bill Hamilton. (also Shinzen Young was a good friend with Bill Hamilton). This is a good line of people.

I have a strong feeling this might help you a lot so to bring you in the place where you can actually do the Vipassana to Investigate sensations that make up your reality.

I wish you and your familly all the best.



agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice. I had thought about contacting him a year ago but had gone with a kundalini therapist instead, however I might consider it again at a suitable juncture.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I was listening to Tony Parsons again last night and I realized that I am falling into another dualistic trap with this narcissism thing. I’m falling for the idea that if only I could somehow fix my narcissism … then I would be happy. I’m forgetting that happiness is right here right now if I can give up the notion of I, the idea that there is a me who is lacking or incomplete in some sense. Suppose I was a healthy non-narcissist, I would still be subject to the vagaries of life, fortune and death. Presumably there are healthy people on the path as well, everyone is unhappy and seeking at some level. If I want to cause less suffering with my narcissism then it’s quite clear what I need to do – smile more, treat other people as if they really existed and their concerns and affairs are important, engage in more small talk and less big talk and constantly acknowledge my anger to avoid acting out on it.

My meditation yesterday morning was suffused with a basic feeling of happiness which was quite new for me. The pain in my forehead was gone and the strong painful/blissful sensations had subsided, I just felt happy and content, which is something I have basically never felt before. I attribute this shift to acknowledging my narcissism and seeing that my spiritual ambition is just as narcissistic as my former more worldly ambitions. Of course the happiness couldn’t last, it’s still too new and I feel like I don’t deserve it. By the end of the day I was back in fullblown personality crisis mode. I spoke with my therapist and we agreed that it was time for me to move on as he doesn’t really do the depth work and issues of transference. I had a session with a new therapist who does old school stream of consciousness listening. It felt cathartic and like the start of a new chapter … except do I really want or need to go down that route? Maybe, maybe not, I really don’t know at this point. I will probably have another session and see, but I want to avoid creating another dualistic ego trap.

Looking back, I think my depersonalization episode four months ago was a genuine taste of anatta but it was too much too soon for me to handle at the time. But it was enough to shock my ego that it really was under threat. So the ego devised a cunning plan: I’ll let you give up your business fantasies and look after the kids if that’s what you think will make you less selfish, just don’t fuck with my basic personality structure. Now I’ve broken the agreement and my narcissistic personality structure is coming under attack and my ego is pissed, hence the turmoil. It raises the question who is driving this attack on the ego? Is there a higher power (God/love/consciousness/the universe) guiding me to dismantle the ego? Or is there really nothing else and it’s just that I know in my heart of hearts that the ego is the cause of my unhappiness and suffering and therefore it has to be let go if that is to change. But how can the illusion let go of the illusion?

Kundalini is on the rise again and facial pains as I raise these unanswerable questions. I already know the answer – I can’t think my way out of this, I just need to let it happen – and yet I’m still not quite ready to let it happen. Just one more day my ego tries to bargain. Sure I’ll let you be awakened, just not quite yet. Meditation lately has been like an unpleasant medical procedure. I know there is a tumor in there and it needs to be removed, I’m resigned to go through with the operation, but still I’m too scared to let them take it out all at once.
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Che Guebuddha, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 65 Join Date: 8/19/11 Recent Posts
just my suggestions, brain storming if you wish. 

Instead of labeling your rich experience with "my ego", "the narcissist me" etc... instead of seeing them as opposing each other, maybe try to feel gratefull about them as they offer you so much clear material for investigation (sensate investigation). 

While at work today I've pondered about your experience and came to conclusion that the 6 Realm Model might not suit you that well. Such practice seeks to get out of other realms via Bardo back into the human realm. This way you can not learn about what your Narciss is made off. 

I feel Ingram's 5th Bend/Mode fit better your personality. Ingram invites us to get to know it rather than run away from it or eradicate it. Apparently all Bends/Modes have their Good and Bad side. Hence good to know them so one can act on them according to situations that arise. 

It might be helpful to drop the view of opposing sides and take on a view that these Modes/Bends go around and come around all the time. Even if an Arahant these maybe still go around and come around. 

ok. So this Narciss is gear to stay. Fine. As it's here to stay, in your home-Mind then get to know it well. 
how to know it? Noting technique would seem like your best option. Why? Because if indeed This is your Personality then you are mainly in the Deva-Azura Realm and these are realms of Jhanic absorption. Meaning they could just Solidify that persona even more. 

As you seem in a turbulent spot at the moment I think Noting Aloud would be of benefit to you. Why? It is very important to keep the stream of awareness unbroken during the Practice time so not to get lost in the objects hence reinforcing them more. 

I agree, you can not talk yourself out of this. emoticon 
but you can Notice yourself out of this emoticon 

take care. 

p.s. apologies if my writing sounds a bit off as I've had a hard (physically) day at work emoticon
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
If the primary issue here is treating narcissistic tendencies then it's best to stick with therapy. All the suggestions and comments that address the pros and cons of a multitude of meditation practices should take a back seat. Treating a mental illness like this is not the purpose of meditation practice.
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Che Guebuddha, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 65 Join Date: 8/19/11 Recent Posts
My aplogies dear Sir. I will leave the room now emoticon
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
My reply was to your post but it was meant as a general comment for everyone.
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Che Guebuddha, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 65 Join Date: 8/19/11 Recent Posts
No worries. I assumed the OP desired to find a meditation practice that can assist him in seeing the fabric of his condition. At times finding a stable footing to start walking on the path can be tricky so certain detours can help gain the clarity and resolution hence me suggesting such. 

i might have jumped to conclusions as this is a pragmatic meditation forum interested in awakening, moment to moment, sensation after sensation, matter of fact rather than doing psychoanalysis.

OP may have the last word of course as this is about his Mind. My respect to all. 
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Thanks Che and Chris for your concern. I should say that since I am a narcissist there is probably a part of me which is enjoying the attention (and quite possibly seeking it as well).

I think both your points of view are valid.

Che thank you for taking time during your work day to think about my situation. You are right, I should face reality and investigate in every way possible what it is like really to be a narcissist. In the past I have applied noting practice on the bare sensate level (sense impressions and very basic “proto-thoughts”). Now I shall try to apply it to more complex narcissistical thoughts such as “I am a good/bad person”, “I am better/worse than this person”, “I am attractive/unattractive”, “I am good/bad at X”, etc.

Chris, you shocked me a little as I don’t think of myself as being mentally ill, but yes you are right, at least according to Freud’s definition of mental health as the ability to love, work and play. I can maintain passable impressions of those abilities periodically but they usually fall apart. I’m going to keep looking for a clear therapeutic assessment, although it is proving harder than I expected. Part of the difficulty is that I have given up most of my grosser external narcissistic behaviors but meditational awareness has magnified my internal narcissistic mindset. I present as less of a narcissist from the outside whilst I feel like more of a narcissist from the inside.

The first step to recovering from an addiction (in my case to narcissistic supply) is accepting that one is an addict. I think that is what is I am doing, hence the feeling of relief at knowing what my problem really is as well as the deepening of meditative experience and feelings of happiness, despite the fact that it is painful to accept.

Of course we all have some narcissistic tendencies and it’s a question of degree. Since my narcissistic tendencies are so strong they are hard to ignore, which might prove a blessing. The incidence of NPD is anywhere between 1-10% and spirituality is a very appealing arena for narcissists, hence there is probably a significant population of narcissists on the path who aren’t really admitting it to themselves. Trying to identify the narcissism in others is something I do quite often (“what kind of person abandons their wife and newborn child to go find themselves?”) however it is itself a narcissistic thought pattern for me (“hey at least I’m a better kind of narcissist”) and probably best avoided.

I think awakening and mental health are probably orthogonal. To me awakening is about seeing that there is not a real me and then integrating that insight into daily life. A lot of therapy seems to be about building up a healthy sense of self, but from a Buddhist perspective even a healthy self is still a cause of suffering and has to be seen through. One therapist looked like she was reaching for the panic button when I started to tell her “I don’t know who I am, I don’t think I’m anybody really, it’s just an illusion that I’m such-and-such a person with a past”. However I will keep trying to find the right therapist, whilst trying to avoid further reifying my sense of self. Thanks to you both again.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Part of the difficulty is that I have given up most of my grosser external narcissistic behaviors but meditational awareness has magnified my internal narcissistic mindset. I present as less of a narcissist from the outside whilst I feel like more of a narcissist from the inside.

This is exactly why a medical/therapeutic situation is what you probably need. Meditation can be a negative influence in some cases. It is not a cure-all for every mental condition.

I think awakening and mental health are probably orthogonal. To me awakening is about seeing that there is not a real me and then integrating that insight into daily life. A lot of therapy seems to be about building up a healthy sense of self, but from a Buddhist perspective even a healthy self is still a cause of suffering and has to be seen through. One therapist looked like she was reaching for the panic button when I started to tell her “I don’t know who I am, I don’t think I’m anybody really, it’s just an illusion that I’m such-and-such a person with a past”. However I will keep trying to find the right therapist, whilst trying to avoid further reifying my sense of self. Thanks to you both again.

What's missing from most people's notion of the relationship of therapy to meditation is that meditation requires a healthy sense of self to start. Another incorrect assumption some folks maintain is that meditation will somehow erase the sense of self, which is just not the case. So if you are having mental issues and you pursue mediation based on false premises you're just asking for more problems.
shargrol, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1493 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Well said!
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
What's missing from most people's notion of the relationship of therapy to meditation is that meditation requires a healthy sense of self to start.

I agree that ideally it would be better to have a healthy sense of self before starting to meditate. However the question occurs to me that if you really had a healthy sense of self then why would you start to meditate? Maybe you think you have a basically healthy sense of self and start meditating for relaxation or to help with some external life stressor or to get deeper in touch with yourself or because you have a nagging sense there must be something more to life etc. Then what if meditation starts throwing up all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and you realize you may not be as healthy as you think? I guess that’s where therapy comes in. I think probably I have some sort of stigma about therapy due to narcissistic shame about needing help from another person.  Maybe it’s helpful to think about therapy as the lay-practitioner’s equivalent of the preparatory guidance that more experienced monks would provide to novices.

When I started reading Daniel’s book and got to the warning I remember thinking “well if I'm honest with myself I’m not in full health but I’m probably healthy enough to at least start on the path and I can back off and get help if necessary”. There was definitely some arrogance there, but there was also the sense that this was the way to real insight and I had to at least make a start, otherwise I would waste more years wallowing around in ignorance. And overall I would say the results have been as advertised. I’ve experienced strong anxiety and anger and some troubling psychological issues, but I feel like that stuff was there anyway and it required meditation to uncover it. I don’t think therapy alone would have done the same job from where I started, or at least not so fast.

I’m not sure I understand it when you say that erasing the sense of self is a false premise. The view seems pretty common across different spiritual traditions that the cause of suffering is the belief in a separate sense of self and the way to end suffering it to see this illusion for what it is and learn to drop it (i.e. “erase”  the sense of self). To quote MCTB:

With systematic debunking through insight practices of the illusion of some sense of a permanent, separate, independently existing self, we learn to perceive things as they are naturally.
...
I realize that most people go into meditation looking for stability, happiness, and comfort in the face of their own existence. I have just said that I have spent many years cultivating extreme experiential instability, careful awareness of the minutiae of my suffering and the clear perception that I don’t even exist as a separate or continuous entity. Why this would be a good idea is a very complex topic that I will try to deal with later, but I can honestly say that these practices are without doubt the sanest thing I have ever done in my life.


If debunking the self and adopting the perception that I don’t even exist as a separate or continuous entity is not erasing the self, then what is it?

You are right that I'm asking for problems, however to me that seems to me the purpose of the spiritual path – asking for more refined problems!
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Lars, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 420 Join Date: 7/20/17 Recent Posts
agnostic:

If debunking the self and adopting the perception that I don’t even exist as a separate or continuous entity is not erasing the self, then what is it?


When I watched Scooby Doo cartoons as a kid, the gang would be chased around the entire episode by a ghost or some other kind of monster. Lots of "jinkeys!" and "zoinks!" to be had as they ran around in a panic. Eventually one of them would grab the ghost, pull off the sheet and it turns out it was old man Jenkins the whole time wearing a bedsheet. When they realized this, old man Jenkins wasn't "erased", but the mistaken assumption that he was a dangerous ghost disappeared. As well, all the panic and suffering they experienced due to that mistaken impression also disappeared. I don't think it's so much about erasing the self, it's more about "seeing old man jenkins under the sheet" and realizing it wasn't what you thought it was (and the associated stress involved in that mistaken assumption is dropped as a result).
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Nice, Lars.
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Bardo, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 259 Join Date: 9/14/19 Recent Posts
Really great analogy!

Old man Jenkins was a bit of a whizz with the sowing machine, making evermore intricate character's episode after episode seemingly reappearing time and again. He was a persistent little bugger!
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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You are right that I'm asking for problems, however to me that seems to me the purpose of the spiritual path – asking for more refined problems!

Well, my verison of the purpose of the path has changed over time but I'd say overall, the purpose is to discover what we, as human beings, really are. How do our minds work?
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
There’s been a lot of sleep related disturbances the last few days and continuing kundalini process. I kept preparing posts but never had time to post. I was trying to edit everything into one long post and then I thought … why do I need to do this? Why do I need to give a blow by blow account of every little mental episode and energetic shift? They all seem like big deals to me at the time but a few days later and it’s all just water under the bridge.

I realize how self-absorbed and selfish I am in my practice. I start out with the best intentions of letting go, but the more I let go the more stuff bubbles up and then I get wrapped up in it all and forget it was letting go that got me to this point in the first place. And then just on a basic level I find myself grasping after the pleasant meditational experiences and resisting the unpleasant ones.

I take on board the comments above about not erasing the self but seeing old man Jenkins under the sheet (or the snake is just a piece of rope). The personality seems real on the relative plane of existence and inter-personal relationships, no point in denying that, but the more space I create in absolute existence the easier it is to step back and get some perspective on relative issues.

Rather than anatta or not-self I’m finding it more helpful to use words like “not mine” and “not me”, they have more of a personal impact for me. If I’m trying to focus on the breath and kundalini is distracting me then I say to myself “this energy is not mine, there is no permanent underlying me this is happening to, this is just an impersonal energy process liking watching a stream flowing around rocks”. If I’m getting frustrated looking after the kids and wish they were in bed then I say “these feelings are not mine, there is no solid underlying me they belong to, they are just feelings arising dependent on prior non-me causal conditions”. I’m not denying the feelings, if anything I’m feeling them more fully because I’m able to observe them without getting caught up in the story of “I’m suffering because of these feelings”. It seems to work in reducing suffering and I don’t think I’m disassociating, my external behavior seems better even if my head is a “total mess”.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Thanks to Tony Parsons’ Open Secret, I am realizing that the feeling of being on a progressive path towards awakening is itself the main barrier to awakening. A lot of my though processes around awakening go something like this: “I will be free once my kundalini blockages are cleared”, or “I will be more awakened once I can let go enough to attain a hard jhana”, or “I will be free once I am less of a narcissist”. These thoughts all have the same pattern: “there is something wrong with me which needs to be fixed before I am free/awakened”. And they all reinforce the basic underlying assumption – there is a real solid existing me which needs to be worked on. But if right now I adopt the attitude that there is no real underlying me, that these issues are all just impersonal conditioned thoughts which don’t rely on an underlying me in order to keep playing and self-perpetuating, then suddenly they cease and I see that I am already free.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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I was just waiting for my phone to be fixed, temporarily free of its hold on me, when suddenly it occurred to me that there's nothing really wrong with me at all. The only thing wrong with me is that I grew up believing there was something wrong with me and eventually started acting that way to confirm my belief. It's a very liberating thought - I don't need to impress or repel anyone any more to get attention, I'm fine just as I am. Then the thought occurs "but what next?" followed by the realization that "what next" is the problem and there doesn't have to be a what next. Everything is fine just as it is and taking care of itself. Past karma still needs to be burnt off but that's happening by itself anyway.
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Olivier, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Nice !
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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 The only thing wrong with me is that I grew up believing there was something wrong with me and eventually started acting that way to confirm my belief.

I feel as though you're lost in a hall of mirrors. You select the image that is most pleasing to you today, so today that's "you." Tomorrow, you might select another image because that one is pleasing.

Comments?
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
 The only thing wrong with me is that I grew up believing there was something wrong with me and eventually started acting that way to confirm my belief.

I feel as though you're lost in a hall of mirrors. You select the image that is most pleasing to you today, so today that's "you." Tomorrow, you might select another image because that one is pleasing.

Comments?

Well this is the first time that I've really accepted the thought there's nothing wrong with me. It seems like an improvement, but I get your point - "I'm a bad person" or "I'm a good" person, they are both just self-selected mirrors which are equally problematic from an anatta perspective.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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I've been having more clear insight of anatta in daily life than meditating recently, which is a reversal for me. When I started this game it seemed relatively easy to see that sense impressions and thoughts were anatta, but I failed to notice that underlying it all was still the basic assumption that it was ME who was choosing to play the game of dropping the me-ness in everything else. Now that my core personality is wobbling I'm finding myself seeing anatta in all sorts of daily life situations where I wouldn't have before, however when I meditate it seems harder to let go of the sense that this is MY experience. If I had to speculate I would say that the ego is willing to let you play sensory anatta games when it still runs the whole show, however once it's power comes seriously under threat then it starts to clamp down.

Yesterday I was crossing the road and I had one of those "there really is no me" moments. Reality was just there as it was with no need for a me to be there. I see no-me several times a day but then find myself getting caught up in the dream of a me again and have to keep reminding myself to let it go. In the evenings no-me tends to bring on feelings of anxiety and dread. It's easier during the day when I know there is another me activity round the corner. At nights I start to get the fear that me is really going to disappear for good. Last night I woke up at 1:30am feeling pretty depersonalized and lay away for an hour freaking out. I was having trouble remembering who I was, where I was and what my life was. I tried to remember Zachary's advice from my first depersonalization episode - to focus on the freakout itself. I had a hard time finding the physical sensations but I remember thinking they were mild and basically seemed ok. As for the existential panic, I found myself saying "ok panic is happening but there's still no me who is panicking" and that seemed to take the edge off it. At a certain point I was able to laugh about it and fall back to sleep.

Is this kind of experience normal? Mostly when I read people's accounts of realizing anatta it's liberating, blissful, realizing they are unconditional love etc. However I remember Suzanne Segal's book where it took her years to get used to being nobody. I have a big ego and narcissism issues so I suppose it should be no surprise that my ego has to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the cinema. I guess there is a reporting bias because the published accounts are by people who "made it" whereas the more troublesome cases are probably under-reported because they're not good for business and those people are more likely to get scared off the path.

A simple remedy would be not to meditate before bedtime or lie on my side so that I fall asleep faster, but that seems like a cop out to me. I try to fall asleep on my back if I dare precisely so I can watch myself fall asleep slowly and see what bubbles up from my subconscious. I feel like these fears and neuroses are in there and if I don't face them now then they will continue subconsciously to drive my behavior and probably resurface when I'm dying, wherever that may lead. I'm going to dump a couple more nighttime experiences here which I didn't post before, in case anyone has any insights.

A few nights ago I was falling asleep and suddenly I became aware that I was thinking a totally alien thought stream, almost as if somebody else had taken control of my brain and was using it to think their thoughts. Usually when I fall asleep slowly I notice the thought stream becoming more random and disconnected and that’s the sign I’m about to fall asleep. But this time it was a more coherent thought stream that was developing as I fell asleep however the content was completely alien to me and I suddenly snapped awake thinking “that’s just not me who is having those thoughts”. It was somewhat like a dream, except when I wake up from a dream there is a definite sense of I was asleep, I had this dream, the content might have been alien to me and I might not have had a clear sense of myself being in the dream, however it was definitely a dream that happened to me while I was asleep. Because this falling asleep experience was more continuously connected with the preceding waking state, it felt more threatening to my sense of identity.

The same night at 2am my daughter came into my room with growing pains and I had to get her medicine and milk and an ice pack and massage her to sleep in my bed. Afterwards I lay there awake for an hour feeling much more calm and contented, relieved that however messed up my mind might feel at least I can adequately perform the basic tasks of parenting. At a certain point I started thinking about her and her stuffies and suddenly I had the sense that I was inside her mind looking at the world from her point of view. Actually this kind of thing has happened with a few people recently when I think about them and on a couple of occasions I have found myself “allowing” other people into my mind to have a look around. Maybe I’m just imagining it, or maybe since we are talking about mental space here then imagining it is the same thing as it actually happening.

The other morning I woke up spontaneously at 4am and lay on my back meditating. For the first time in weeks I found myself going through the nanas (recently I’ve been dominated by kundalini which I guess is A&P territory). I got to equanimity a couple of times, experience got real slow and granular, I started to become aware of the gaps between formations, I felt like I was in fruition territory but each time I fell back with fear and restlessness. After a couple of hours I got tired and turned on my side to sleep. Suddenly I found myself in the familiar situation of semi-awake but trapped in my paralyzed body vibrating harshly. This time I was able to relax and ride it out for longer, playing with it a little, semi-waking up, moving a hand and then falling back into it. At one point I was stuck vibrating too hard, freaking out, and became aware of  my wife getting up. I called out “help” several times but when I asked her about it later she hadn’t heard anything. It was definitely a lucid experience. I was able to zoom in and look at some plants and enjoy their beauty, then zoom out and fly a little. I saw a field of stars and zoomed in real close until they became little pinpricks of light and then vanished and some other weird hallucination popped up. At another point I say a young calf flayed and bloody and I had the idea that the vibrations were related to my past meat consumption and suffering animal toxins in my body. The overall tone of the trip was still harsh, but it was definitely more fun, pleasant and lucid than previous ones. I want to say this is a good thing as it seems I’m working the harsh vibratory energy out of my system and freeing up my subtle body, but I don’t want to read too much into it or get overly fixated on such experiences as they are a byproduct of purification and not the end goal.
agnostic, modified 1 Year ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I woke up again last night after an hour and went through another anxious depersonalization experience. There was slightly less depersonalization than two nights ago and more anxiety, also bits of my body felt like they didn't belong to me.The anxiety reminded me a bit of how I would get anxious sometimes trying to fall asleep when stoned on marijuana, although this is much worse. That used to happen before I really got into meditation. I'm also on antibiotics which I read can cause hallucinations & delerium, although my first depersonalization experience was 4 months ago so the antibiotics are probably incidental. Interestingly my mother called me yesterday afternoon which I usually find uncomfortable and she had just arrived for her annual stay during the DP of 4 months ago, so that could be a pattern.

I think the anxiety which anatta causes me could be related to my insecure attachment style. I read somewhere that the infants primary attachment style becomes the model for its attachment to itself and whether it can form healthy self-esteem. My attachment style (from later self-obervation of relationship with mother and others) seems to be anxious-avoidant, so if the theory is true then that would explain why I get anxious when my self "leaves the room". I assume people with a more healthy relationship to self are more relaxed when they see their personality depart, because they are secure in the knowledge that it will come back when they need it. Anyone care to comment?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 12 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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agnostic:

I think the anxiety which anatta causes me could be related to my insecure attachment style. I read somewhere that the infants primary attachment style becomes the model for its attachment to itself and whether it can form healthy self-esteem. My attachment style (from later self-obervation of relationship with mother and others) seems to be anxious-avoidant, so if the theory is true then that would explain why I get anxious when my self "leaves the room". I assume people with a more healthy relationship to self are more relaxed when they see their personality depart, because they are secure in the knowledge that it will come back when they need it. Anyone care to comment?


I have a very limited statistical foundations for saying anything in general, and that is an understatement, but I have an earned secure attachment style and I have learned to love it when the self dissolves. The people I know that look terrified just from talking about any kind of transcendence of the self have very insecure attachment styles. 
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I have a very limited statistical foundations for saying anything in general, and that is an understatement, but I have an earned secure attachment style and I have learned to love it when the self dissolves. The people I know that look terrified just from talking about any kind of transcendence of the self have very insecure attachment styles. 

Hi Linda!

I just reread your insighful comment - sorry I never acknowledged it the first time around. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions to see if your experience might be relevant to where I'm at currently.

I keep waking up 1-2 hours after falling asleep with self missing (no sense of being me) and a swimming feeling. This triggers anxiety which sometimes is mild enough I can lie in bed with it for an hour and fall back to sleep, whereas other times it starts to feel overwhelming and I need to do some grounding activity for up to 4 hours to take my mind off it and allow the anxiety to settle before I can fall back to sleep.  

The first time it happened 6 months ago I really thought I might be going crazy and need psychiatric intervention, but I was able to ground myself by talking to my wife about it (tough for her) and fortunately I had Suzanne Segal's book to hand which I devoured in one sitting and recognized as approximately the same type of (non-)experience, just not immediately permanent. Since then there have been a few milder instances, but this week it has been happening almost every night and even during the day after naps, and the rest of the time there's still a subtler sense of not-me.

In a sense it's not a problem because it's seen that it's not happening to me, but it's spooky nonetheless. (I'm not trying to be clever with words here - saying "I see" just fails to capture what's happening, or rather not happening!) Zachary's advice to notice the sensations around the freakout has sometimes been helpful, although the "not happening to me" approach seems to work better at taking the edge of the anxiety first and then there's more relaxation to start noticing what's going on in the body. But sometimes the anxiety feels just too intense to start investigating and then I have to resort to grounding. Talking to my wife doesn't really work because she doesn't have a background at all in any of this stuff so it's alarming and confusing for her when I start talking about not being me.

The fact that it starts while I'm asleep suggests that there's something trying to happen if only I would get out of the way. On the other hand, it does seem to be triggered by stress such as sickness (currently the coronavirus) or intentionally possibly with the Dharma scuffles I've been starting lately on DhO. The fact that it seems to be caused by stress would tend towards a psychiatric interpretation (DP/DR), however I've read enough of other practioners' experiences to tend to believe that it's more likely just one more delightful fruit of the path. My gut sense is that this kind of thing is what is supposed or expected to happen on the path (at least to people with troubled backstories such as myself).

If you have the time or the inclination, here are my questions. Please don't feel the need to answer all of them, just whatever is relevant for you.

How did you learn to love it when the self dissolves?

Had you already earned a secure attachment style first, or that was part of the process?

When self dissolves for you, is it a sudden or a gradual experience? What are the triggers? Do you feel you have any control over it?

You mention transcendence of the self - when self dissolves for you, do you still feel like it's you having the experience of transcending something? Or merging into something? Or is it more like the complete loss of self I'm describing?

What was it like before you learned to love it?

Sorry this turned into a much longer question than I was expecting! I haven't logged in a while to I guess that's happening too.

If anyone else is reading and has insights or experience they want to share, please feel free to jump in!

For context, bigger picture right now there is fundamental questioning going on about whether I should be practicing at all. I seem to have managed to convince myself that self doesn't really exist and so there's no choice to practice or not to practice. Under this interpreation, the diminished illusory self is merely putting up resistance to what is known already to be the final outcome. Kundalini is so strong that I'm not meditating much for the time being, it's like throwing gasonline on the fire.

I'm also getting a sense of differing viewpoints within DhO about no-self vs not-self. MCTB talks about the "creepy" and "utterly disconcerting" depths of no-self, which seems closer to my experience, but other people are saying it's not-self in Buddhism not no-self (I'm not really clear on the difference). Practically speaking, I'm more interested in trying to find aligning experiential viewpoints than debating terms though.
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Zachary, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Zachary's advice to notice the sensations around the freakout has sometimes been helpful, although the "not happening to me" approach seems to work better at taking the edge of the anxiety first and then there's more relaxation to start noticing what's going on in the body. But sometimes the anxiety feels just too intense to start investigating and then I have to resort to grounding. Talking to my wife doesn't really work because she doesn't have a background at all in any of this stuff so it's alarming and confusing for her when I start talking about not being me.

That's right. Continue to gently be aware that the freakout isn't you. Grounding is great, I can personally vouch for forms of standing meditation like Zhan Zhuang. Do you have someone you can share these things with in person who can contextualize them for you in a skillful way? 
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Zachary:

That's right. Continue to gently be aware that the freakout isn't you. Grounding is great, I can personally vouch for forms of standing meditation like Zhan Zhuang. Do you have someone you can share these things with in person who can contextualize them for you in a skillful way? 

Hi Zachary!

Thanks for keeping an eye on my log and the reminder on grounding. I will try pacing my bedroom next time (where I am currently quarantined, probably adding to the intensity). I don't really have anyone to share with, apart from DhO. It's a tricky thing to talk about because it can seem threatening to people (myself included!)  On the most basic level it's not an experience that "I am having", hence it's ridiculous really to be trying to compare with somebody else's experience. Humor definitely helps, because it's literally the most absurd thing in the world.

Maybe I was just driving a little too fast. Tough balance to strike though. My practice would get stale, I would ramp up the intensity, leading to vanishing, leading to the realization that there is no one there to practice and nowhere to get to, leading to stale practice etc. Anyway, it seems to be more sustainable now and life is basically ok and appears to be the practice itself, so maybe this is the new normal and it will settle.

Cheers
agnostic
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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agnostic:
Zachary:

That's right. Continue to gently be aware that the freakout isn't you. Grounding is great, I can personally vouch for forms of standing meditation like Zhan Zhuang. Do you have someone you can share these things with in person who can contextualize them for you in a skillful way? 

Hi Zachary!

Thanks for keeping an eye on my log and the reminder on grounding. I will try pacing my bedroom next time (where I am currently quarantined, probably adding to the intensity). I don't really have anyone to share with, apart from DhO. It's a tricky thing to talk about because it can seem threatening to people (myself included!)  On the most basic level it's not an experience that "I am having", hence it's ridiculous really to be trying to compare with somebody else's experience. Humor definitely helps, because it's literally the most absurd thing in the world.

Maybe I was just driving a little too fast. Tough balance to strike though. My practice would get stale, I would ramp up the intensity, leading to vanishing, leading to the realization that there is no one there to practice and nowhere to get to, leading to stale practice etc. Anyway, it seems to be more sustainable now and life is basically ok and appears to be the practice itself, so maybe this is the new normal and it will settle.

Cheers
agnostic

You seem well within the speed limit to me, just dealing with the fact that your vehicle is now capable of going from zero to infinity in ten seconds and you're learning your touch with the gas pedal. The real key is not what's on the speed limit signs, but staying with the general flow of traffic, which is generally speed limit +5. And, as Bill Murray told the groundhog, Don't drive angry.

It does seem like this condition is "the practice itself," that no-self is kind of a pure non-stop vipassana noting without a noter, with no choice involved. 

Have you read Bernadette Robert's book, The Experience of No-Self? She is sticking to her cover story of being a Catholic contemplative, and there are few people better on John of the Cross and the dark night of the soul. But she thinks that John X did not go all the way, given her experience of no-self. I think he did, and was simply prudent enough to not want to get imprisoned or killed for heresy, in the charged climate of religion of the Counter-Reformation. But in any case, she goes there (and has been getting accused of various heresies since she was 18: the dharma mind-fuckers are a universal across all traditions). 
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Tim Farrington:

Have you read Bernadette Robert's book, The Experience of No-Self? 

I got a stack of books on my desk and hers among them, but my reading has gone way down. It sounded like a complicated story for her. Mostly I'm just trying square it up with the Buddha because if it's not the same thing then obviously he's right and I'm wrong.
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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I'm hoping you guys are aware that there is a difference between having literally no sense of self (DPDR in psych terms) and being aware that your sense of self is impermanent, causes discomfort, and is clearly not "you." The latter is the Buddhist version that I call "not-self." If you literally have no sense of self AT ALL it is indeed dislocating and alarming. This can happen for some short periods of time due to having an effective meditation practice but it should not be a permanent result. I 've had episodes of no self for short periods but they never lasted very long. They did help lead to a more permanent realization of not-self, however.

Just another piece of informaton to think about.
agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:
I'm hoping you guys are aware that there is a difference between having literally no sense of self (DPDR in psych terms) and being aware that your sense of self is impermanent, causes discomfort, and is clearly not "you." The latter is the Buddhist version that I call "not-self." If you literally have no sense of self AT ALL it is indeed dislocating and alarming. This can happen for some short periods of time due to having an effective meditation practice but it should not be a permanent result. I 've had episodes of no self for short periods but they never lasted very long. They did help lead to a more permanent realization of not-self, however.

Just another piece of informaton to think about.

Hi Chris,

I'm trying to figure the distinction. When I started meditating hard again 16 months ago I learned to see how the sense/thought experience field was being manufactured on the fly and was impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. But it was still the same old me getting in and out of the meditation seat. Walking around I could also see the 3Cs in experience if I tried, though most of the time I was lost in the same old neurotic thoughts about myself (what should I be doing, what happened 27 years ago, what's going to happen in 5 years time etc.) I could take the bigger thoughts/issues and also break those down into the 3Cs. But it was still the same old ME running the show.

When I read and listened to Tony Parsons 10 months ago something clicked and I recognized that no-self is simply the way it is and anything else I ever tried to do would just be avoiding that. Actually, I didn't make the distincition between no-self and not-self. I just assumed that this was what anatta looked like when it got up close and personal, the kind of logical endpoint of continuing this process of breaking down the selfing experience.

Anyway, despite it being a revelation, I had my buddhist practice to worry about so I put it on the back-burner and went back to practice. Then 6 months ago, after heavy meditation and some personal stress, I had my first experience of no-self (which I assumed was ultimate anatta), the experience of just nobody being there at all and no idea who I was. Alarming, but it wore off and I assumed that's the way things were supposed to be headed and my anxiety was just a function of my conditioning, other people can and do it seems find this more enjoyable and that's how it would ultimately end up. Since then there's been more and more episodes of no-self and generally declining anxiety about it and more acceptance of the way it is.

Nowadays I really have no idea who I am anymore, and it's fine. I don't mean oh I'm lost in my life and don't know what I should be doing, I mean there's just no one here would could really decide to do anything much different from the way it already is. I can still respond to external demands (probably better because there's no resistance), I can still file my taxes, take care of my children, get angry if boundaries are crossed etc. When I'm filing my taxes I'm not saying "I'm not me" while I'm thinking about them, but it's kind of just happening by itself and if I stop for a second I can see it's the case. No-self means there's no inclination to make any alarming life choices, former conditioning still operates but without the acting out caused by the neuroses associated with self-identification. (Dharma skirmishes were a function of that conditioning, logical mind trying to reconcile models and tease out relationship between practice and no-self, because it can cause suffering. Communication was not very sensitive, also a function of conditioning.)

Here's a more concrete example. I made a major lifestyle change 10 months ago to give up my all-consuming and hopeless business efforts and look after my kids instead. For the "old me" that kind of thing would have been impossible without huge amounts of agonizing and resistance, but as soon as I had the idea the opportunity arose for it to happen and it's been happening just fine since then. The old me would have immediately created this new role of stay-at-home-super-dad and tried to make a thing about it, but now it's just dadding taking care of itself. I'm not the best dad, I lose my temper frequently, but that's fine it's just dadding doing it's thing. If I start thinking "I shoudn't lose my temper" then I get angry about that and it's worse. When dadding is doing itself there's just a certain minimum amount of anger that comes with this conditioning. If you asked me "do you love you your kids?" I would honestly have no idea how to answer (of course I tell them that I do). I do as much as I can for them and I would die for them in a heartbeat, but it's just dadding doing it's thing. I was watching a nature documentary last night about a polar bear and her cubs and it's just like that, the mother bear doesn't need to have the idea she loves her cubs or who she is in order to do her thing.

Bit of a tangent there, but my point is that no-self doesn't necessarily mean that life is a disaster (although sometimes that can happen for a while it seems 'til things settle down). Life can take care of itself just fine without there needing to be a me in charge of it. Even my business picked up a little when no-self started dabbling in it out of curiosity with no sense of "I must make it happen like this" any more.

My sense is that DP/DR is an unfortunate conditioning reaction that can arise to anatta/no-self/not-self. I think Suzanne Segal was in and out of therapy for 10 years after no-selfing, I don't think they had DP/DR then but that's probably what she would have been diagnosed with today. And then she met Jean Klein who recognized it and it was all fine, just life living itself. Until that unfortunate brain tumor caused some recontraction into self, which is understandable. But those other random public no-selfers walking around seem to get on fine until they die without creating any major public disturbances. If they are starting a cult then it's probably not no-self. Former conditioning does continue, so anything is possible in principle, but I think the mentality it requires to be a psycopath is quite incompatible with no-self revealing itself. Almost all of the no-selfers had some spiritual practice background, even if mostly they say it had nothing to do with no-selfing afterwards.

Long way of getting around to my question: How does "a more permanent realization of not-self" differ from no-self? It seems really hard for me to imagine we are talking about two different things here ...
Mathias, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Agnostic --
Long way of getting around to my question: How does "a more permanent realization of not-self" differ from no-self? It seems really hard for me to imagine we are talking about two different things here ...

I agree! We're not talking about two different things.

The difference lies in what "you" are identifying with. The sense of self is just another object that arises in the mind, like a chair, or a bed, or a bottle of beer. When I say "a permanent sense of not-self, I'm referring to the mind seeing this self-object arise in real time and seeing it's nature in three characteristics - it's not permanent, it's causing some discomfort, and it's not me. This impermanent, ever-changing sense of a subject is built into the nature of human perception. Without any subject-object distinction, there can be no perception. So at some level, no matter how minuscule, the mind is creating this duality, even if a person claims to have, literally, no sense of self. Thay may have lost their identity or otherwise think they have no self at all, but the process at play begs to differ. They are very likely not identifying very strongly at all with the object "I/me/mine" in their experience, and thus the perception of no self.






agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:
Agnostic --
Long way of getting around to my question: How does "a more permanent realization of not-self" differ from no-self? It seems really hard for me to imagine we are talking about two different things here ...

I agree! We're not talking about two different things.

The difference lies in what "you" are identifying with. The sense of self is just another object that arises in the mind, like a chair, or a bed, or a bottle of beer. When I say "a permanent sense of not-self, I'm referring to the mind seeing this self-object arise in real time and seeing it's nature in three characteristics - it's not permanent, it's causing some discomfort, and it's not me. This impermanent, ever-changing sense of a subject is built into the nature of human perception. Without any subject-object distinction, there can be no perception. So at some level, no matter how minuscule, the mind is creating this duality, even if a person claims to have, literally, no sense of self. Thay may have lost their identity or otherwise think they have no self at all, but the process at play begs to differ. They are very likely not identifying very strongly at all with the object "I/me/mine" in their experience, and thus the perception of no self.





Agreed. Phew! Seems to be just a matter of semantics (thicket of views). The mind is creating a sense of subject-object duality but it's no more interesting, special, indicative of an actual duality or made of a different kind of stuff than a banana. Perception is no different or indicative of an actual duality than any other physical process such as a leaf blowing in the wind. Guess the semantics speak more to different methods of presentation in the gradual vs sudden schools.

Thanks for dragging me backwards through that thicket!

Cheers
ag
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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This stuff seems to always come down to semantics, at least once you start to grok it.

<<I think Tim somehow transmitted the typo virus to me. Holy crap (get it, holy crap?), my last few posts are full of them.>>
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:
This stuff seems to always come down to semantics, at least once you start to grok it.

<<I think Tim somehow transmitted the typo virus to me. Holy crap (get it, holy crap?), my last few posts are full of them.>>

Well, in the context of the non-self/no-self seminar in progress, i think of St. Paul, who said, "Not I, but Chris in me."
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Siavash, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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... typo .... my last few posts are full of them

Your writings look more emotional to me these two days! ;-)
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Siavash:
... typo .... my last few posts are full of them

Your writings look more emotional to me these two days! ;-)


It's that old time Kundalini shakipat zap, transmitted by agnostic, rippling through the community. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Something is definitely rippling through the community. Fascinating. Maybe the virus is text born? Maybe learning how to use code (yes, that helps) is risky business right now. We wouldn't want it to get into the code and have a complete IT collapse in the midst of everything now, would we? 
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curious, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:

The sense of self is just another object that arises in the mind, like a chair, or a bed, or a bottle of beer. When I say "a permanent sense of not-self, I'm referring to the mind seeing this self-object arise in real time and seeing it's nature in three characteristics - it's not permanent, it's causing some discomfort, and it's not me. This impermanent, ever-changing sense of a subject is built into the nature of human perception. Without any subject-object distinction, there can be no perception. So at some level, no matter how minuscule, the mind is creating this duality, even if a person claims to have, literally, no sense of self.


YEAH!  No need to fear the self and suppress it. And also no need to seek out the self and promote it. It just arises and passes away, constantly. Sometimes it can be asuric (manic and powerful). Sometimes human. Sometimes heavenly. Sometimes hungry. Sometimes filled with physical desire. Sometimes filled with pain. They all pass. None need cause clinging and suffering.

Sometimes we find deep absoprtion in something new, and that crowds out everything else. That too will passs. Causes and conditions eventually lead to ongoing arisings. We are human, and our bodies will have emotions. We are social, and our interactions will trigger behavioural tendencies. 

Yet before this, while lost in the no-self absoprtion, it is possible to form intentions. What characteristics do you choose to have? Metta?  Compassion?  Patience? Skillful work? Love? Honouring of long shared history? In time, love becomes less selfish than before (because it used to be about your own needs, right?), and then even more deep and satisfying but without clinging. You will recognise that we are all interconnected, and none more so than you and your loved ones. To some extent, they are you, and you are them. Compassion for them is compassion for yourself.

However, once you get these realisations, try not to use them as an excuse for excessive cocaine and wild sex, or getting drunk and driving your sports car into the window of a joke shop in Scotland while trying to impress a girl.
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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curious:

However, once you get these realisations, try not to use them as an excuse for excessive cocaine and wild sex, or getting drunk and driving your sports car into the window of a joke shop in Scotland while trying to impress a girl.

Guess there's something to be said for sowing your wild oats, if you have to, before ahem getting enlightened. No way I could have handled this shit when I was 18.
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:
I'm hoping you guys are aware that there is a difference between having literally no sense of self (DPDR in psych terms) and being aware that your sense of self is impermanent, causes discomfort, and is clearly not "you." The latter is the Buddhist version that I call "not-self." If you literally have no sense of self AT ALL it is indeed dislocating and alarming. This can happen for some short periods of time due to having an effective meditation practice but it should not be a permanent result. I 've had episodes of no self for short periods but they never lasted very long. They did help lead to a more permanent realization of not-self, however.

Just another piece of informaton to think about.
ChrisM (using that to address you to avoid possible mis-typings as "Christ," seriously), I'm just glad you're in the conversation, for starters. I may have kicked up my heels a bit too high at points, playfully, but I'm alert to the distinctions between DPDR, and various kinds of psychoses, and also of the very painful degree to which someone like Suzanne Segal was unable to sort it out a literal experience of no sense of self, as only a battered veteran of the no-man's land between psychiatry and spirituality can be. I think I've felt sort of exuberant here partly because it seems to me there's room to be, partly because agnostic's sense of humor seems fully operational, and partly because my sense of you as the jikijitsu here is that you're damn good at it, and i count on it, as I count on the DhO community to call me on shit when it seems, uh, called for. I've had episodes of no self, and i've had psychotic breaks, and i've had episodes of no self within psychotic breaks, and episodes of no self in stone cold sobriety, but i'm basically the kind of person who should not be allowed on a meditation retreat by any responsible organization, and my meditation practice at this point is to a certain degree against medical advice (AMA, as they said last time they let me of the locked ward because i had duly proved to a judge's grudging satisfaction that i was not a danger to myself or others) (five years ago, just for that info to be in the mix for anyone concerned). So all of my utterances can be taken with that gigantic grain of salt. My actual working vocabulary is of the soul seeking the kind of "union" that allows the "self" to do the will of the all-merciful God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, so my cross translations can be sloppy, too. Thank you for the cautionary note. As I said, I count on you.
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

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Tim --

Thank you for the cautionary note. As I said, I count on you.

And I truly appreciate having your trust.

It's my intent that folks do have a sense of, well, safety here. I'm doing my best as this is just a non-paying side gig. Gig is not the right word, however. I used to make money doing this. Can you imagine that? Big companies paying some nerd like me real money to manage, or host, or moderate, their message boards.

agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Chris Marti:

It's my intent that folks do have a sense of, well, safety here. I'm doing my best as this is just a non-paying side gig. Gig is not the right word, however. I used to make money doing this. Can you imagine that? Big companies paying some nerd like me real money to manage, or host, or moderate, their message boards.


Thanks again Chris. You do an amazing job. Judging by the amount you put into carefully reading and responding where necessary on just the threads I've been involved in, it must take you a serious number of hours.

And what with all the craziness that can go down, it must seem at times like trying to herd chickens whose seed has been spiked with LSD and amphetamines. Still, must be more interesting than the IBM message board I would imagine.

Surely we must be able to figure out some way to get you paid. Don't people on DhO buy shit? Meditation cushions, plane tickets to far away meditation retreats, psychiatric medications, bucketloads of therapy ... Or maybe just a simple "Would you like to pay the moderator button" at the top?
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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agnostic:
Chris Marti:

It's my intent that folks do have a sense of, well, safety here. I'm doing my best as this is just a non-paying side gig. Gig is not the right word, however. I used to make money doing this. Can you imagine that? Big companies paying some nerd like me real money to manage, or host, or moderate, their message boards.


Thanks again Chris. . . . Surely we must be able to figure out some way to get you paid. Don't people on DhO buy shit? Meditation cushions, plane tickets to far away meditation retreats, psychiatric medications, bucketloads of therapy ... Or maybe just a simple "Would you like to pay the moderator button" at the top?

No no no. With all due gratitude and respect for Chris's gift of time and very skillful energy, I think even a penny would crash this site. Yes, meditators buy shit, but they don't buy it on DhO. and they don't spend it on DhO, and no one is making it, on DhO. One of the best things about Daniel Ingram is the way he doesn't make a penny from being an arhant, and indeed does his work at his own expense, as the gift to all sentient beings that it is. As Chris does. Chris wasn't complaining about how much money he could be making doing this for some corporation, he was laughing, because it is genuinely amusing. That's just not this gig. Yes, he could make tons of money just about anywhere, and he knows it. But God help us all, please, not here.
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Tim Farrington:
agnostic:
Chris Marti:

It's my intent that folks do have a sense of, well, safety here. I'm doing my best as this is just a non-paying side gig. Gig is not the right word, however. I used to make money doing this. Can you imagine that? Big companies paying some nerd like me real money to manage, or host, or moderate, their message boards.


Thanks again Chris. . . . Surely we must be able to figure out some way to get you paid. Don't people on DhO buy shit? Meditation cushions, plane tickets to far away meditation retreats, psychiatric medications, bucketloads of therapy ... Or maybe just a simple "Would you like to pay the moderator button" at the top?

No no no. With all due gratitude and respect for Chris's gift of time and very skillful energy, I think even a penny would crash this site. Yes, meditators buy shit, but they don't buy it on DhO. and they don't spend it on DhO, and no one is making it, on DhO. One of the best things about Daniel Ingram is the way he doesn't make a penny from being an arhant, and indeed does his work at his own expense, as the gift to all sentient beings that it is. As Chris does. Chris wasn't complaining about how much money he could be making doing this for some corporation, he was laughing, because it is genuinely amusing. That's just not this gig. Yes, he could make tons of money just about anywhere, and he knows it. But God help us all, please, not here.

Fair enough. I'm sure he will get a cushy rebirth from dealing with our crap all day long.
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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[quote=agnostic
"Fair enough. I'm sure he will get a cushy rebirth from dealing with our crap all day long."]

In the Pure Land, at worst. The bars will be open 24/7, drinks on the house, or on me (charged to my debit card in my hell bardo), no hangovers.
T, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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You asked! I know they are directed to Linda, but you also opened to others. 

This may not be relevant to what you mean, as I have only had... episodes of very clear seeing, we'll say. 
How did you learn to love it when the self dissolves?
I didn't, exactly, for my part. The very first time it happened, it was eerie, somewhat uncomfortable, and yet very freeing all at the same time. The direct experience of no control/controller was alarming. The funny thing is, it took me roughly... 4 minutes before it dawned on me it was being witnessed in that way. it lasted maybe 20 minutes. It is like what Daniel talks about in MCTB when he is heading to the bathroom in the night, during a retreat. The only difference is that I wasn't outside my body, that I noticed. I was still in the ordinary state of experience, except there wasn't anyone there, in a sense. I found it mildly alarming, and yet when it reverted to ordinary perception - I missed the freedom and openness. I read on here somewhere someone positing that the mind tries various perspectives as we meditate - like trying to find the right pair of jeans that fit just right. This can lead to alarming perspectives sometimes. I chalked it up to an odd-fitting pair of jeans and keep on meditating. Since, it has not been as dramatic. 
When self dissolves for you, is it a sudden or a gradual experience? What are the triggers? Do you feel you have any control over it?

No control over it. Just happened. Since then, it has only been in specific ways, like with sight. My vision has changed in a way that it feels less mine when I look around. Sitting in nature, looking at the forest, I have a sense of overwhelm with the beauty and magic, and depth. It doesn't feel like there's a me at all in those moments. I can make it happen by observing the forest or at least the outdoors. Inside, it doesn't give the same feeling. So kind of control. The trigger is witnessing natural existence in its glory. A tree standing in a meadow. In those times, it is just experienced that way. It happens when seeing. So... sudden. The one I mention above was also very sudden. I was watching Rupert Spira, got up to walk... only I wasn't there walking. 
You mention transcendence of the self - when self dissolves for you, do you still feel like it's you having the experience of transcending something? Or merging into something? Or is it more like the complete loss of self I'm describing?

I do not feel that I transcend anything in these instances. There's nothing to transcend. I feel like a false veil or view falls away and everything simply is; totally unfiltered. In both cases - despite the former 20 minutes being alarming in some regards, it also felt very natural, in a way. I had no thought of "me" whatever. When I "access" this vision I talked about, it also has absolutely nothing to do with "me," so there's nothing to transcend. It doesn't feel that way, anyway. It's sight happening and the result on my nervous system is huge appreciation, love, and amazement. 

...or intentionally possibly with the Dharma scuffles I've been starting lately on DhO.

I've enjoyed the dharma scuffles. It's helped me feel out certain ideas and things that have knocked around for a bit, and to see others chime in with explanations that are fascinating and different than they have explained them before. It's all very useful material. 
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Hi T,

Thanks for sharing your experiences. It sounds like a similar kind of thing and your conditioning reacts with less alarm hence more ability to enjoy it.

I'm definitely feeling a bit stupid for having gotten up on my high horse about it like it's something special. I mean, I know the experience (if that's what we can call it) is nothing special. I guess the "special" I'm trying to bring is squaring it against the beast of Buddhist logic, which is just a function of my programmer-type brain.

Do you see any consistent relationship between these experiences and your practice?

Thanks
ag
T, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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Do you see any consistent relationship between these experiences and your practice?

Mmm... they only happened after I began practicing...?


I would say that the vision change is absolutely due to practice over time and trying to do some clear/direct seeing and tuning into that. 

Regarding the distinction Chris brings up and the one you mention not/no self. I get no distinct impression of vision being me, or that what was occurring when I was on... autopilot, I guess.... was me. There was definitely still a sense of being something. I'm not sure if that's what Chris was pointing to or not, but I've only had very mild bouts of feelings on DP/DR. 

EDIT: I re-read what Chris said and understand it better the third time. The sense of self is a fabrication and an experience; can't be me. So it's not self. That experience disappears on me from time to time... perhaps it's just seen through for a period of time. I'm not sure I can say. Generally, the sensations of self exist as normal and I'm regularly operating in a sense that I'm a self, despite the fact I have seen substantial evidence to suggest otherwise. That said, there's a fine line here because in that 20 minutes I didn't really have any sense of self at all. it was like... living as Zelda with something else entirely running the controller. I grabbed a chicken's legs and flew over a fence, in fact (no, I didn't) completely out of the blue. So... there wasn't even the sensations of self involved there. So perhaps it is a bit more murky than I thought after reading a third time.....
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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I will get back to replying more in this thread later, but while I remember I'd like to mention that I think that not only the concept of not self is misleading, but also the concept of self in itself (uhm, that sounded weird). I happen to know that there is a huge confusion about what self is in social sciences and philosophy. There is no consensus as to what it would supposedly be, but many different suggestions. Also, it is entangled with the concept of identity that suffers from the same problem. How can we even talk about whether or not there is a self when nobody knows what it is? There IS subjectivity. Subjectivity can take different shapes. What shape will be the baseline in the end, I don't know. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I will get back to replying more in this thread later, but […]

Oh, fuck it, I won't be able to adress any of that in any skillful way. I'll just say thankyou so much to both T and Tim for your very kind words. Much respect and love to the both of you. 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

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agnostic:
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I have a very limited statistical foundations for saying anything in general, and that is an understatement, but I have an earned secure attachment style and I have learned to love it when the self dissolves. The people I know that look terrified just from talking about any kind of transcendence of the self have very insecure attachment styles. 

Hi Linda!

I just reread your insighful comment - sorry I never acknowledged it the first time around. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions to see if your experience might be relevant to where I'm at currently.

I keep waking up 1-2 hours after falling asleep with self missing (no sense of being me) and a swimming feeling. This triggers anxiety which sometimes is mild enough I can lie in bed with it for an hour and fall back to sleep, whereas other times it starts to feel overwhelming and I need to do some grounding activity for up to 4 hours to take my mind off it and allow the anxiety to settle before I can fall back to sleep.  

The first time it happened 6 months ago I really thought I might be going crazy and need psychiatric intervention, but I was able to ground myself by talking to my wife about it (tough for her) and fortunately I had Suzanne Segal's book to hand which I devoured in one sitting and recognized as approximately the same type of (non-)experience, just not immediately permanent. Since then there have been a few milder instances, but this week it has been happening almost every night and even during the day after naps, and the rest of the time there's still a subtler sense of not-me.

In a sense it's not a problem because it's seen that it's not happening to me, but it's spooky nonetheless. (I'm not trying to be clever with words here - saying "I see" just fails to capture what's happening, or rather not happening!) Zachary's advice to notice the sensations around the freakout has sometimes been helpful, although the "not happening to me" approach seems to work better at taking the edge of the anxiety first and then there's more relaxation to start noticing what's going on in the body. But sometimes the anxiety feels just too intense to start investigating and then I have to resort to grounding. Talking to my wife doesn't really work because she doesn't have a background at all in any of this stuff so it's alarming and confusing for her when I start talking about not being me.

The fact that it starts while I'm asleep suggests that there's something trying to happen if only I would get out of the way. On the other hand, it does seem to be triggered by stress such as sickness (currently the coronavirus) or intentionally possibly with the Dharma scuffles I've been starting lately on DhO. The fact that it seems to be caused by stress would tend towards a psychiatric interpretation (DP/DR), however I've read enough of other practioners' experiences to tend to believe that it's more likely just one more delightful fruit of the path. My gut sense is that this kind of thing is what is supposed or expected to happen on the path (at least to people with troubled backstories such as myself).

If you have the time or the inclination, here are my questions. Please don't feel the need to answer all of them, just whatever is relevant for you.

How did you learn to love it when the self dissolves?

Had you already earned a secure attachment style first, or that was part of the process?

When self dissolves for you, is it a sudden or a gradual experience? What are the triggers? Do you feel you have any control over it?

You mention transcendence of the self - when self dissolves for you, do you still feel like it's you having the experience of transcending something? Or merging into something? Or is it more like the complete loss of self I'm describing?

What was it like before you learned to love it?

Sorry this turned into a much longer question than I was expecting! I haven't logged in a while to I guess that's happening too.

If anyone else is reading and has insights or experience they want to share, please feel free to jump in!

For context, bigger picture right now there is fundamental questioning going on about whether I should be practicing at all. I seem to have managed to convince myself that self doesn't really exist and so there's no choice to practice or not to practice. Under this interpreation, the diminished illusory self is merely putting up resistance to what is known already to be the final outcome. Kundalini is so strong that I'm not meditating much for the time being, it's like throwing gasonline on the fire.

I'm also getting a sense of differing viewpoints within DhO about no-self vs not-self. MCTB talks about the "creepy" and "utterly disconcerting" depths of no-self, which seems closer to my experience, but other people are saying it's not-self in Buddhism not no-self (I'm not really clear on the difference). Practically speaking, I'm more interested in trying to find aligning experiential viewpoints than debating terms though.

Interesting questions. I'll do my best to answer.

I don't believe anymore that it's accurate to make a clear distinction between psychiatric issues and spiritually-related distress. I think that's just different modes of sense-making, thus using different frameworks, and I think it can be helpful to use them in an eclectic way because changing perspectives can help when one gets stuck, just like switching language sometimes helps with writer's block bacause new metaphors invite new lines of thinking. Insecure attachment sounds to me like a perspective that could be helpful for you. It might be a good idea to remind yourself that you are filtering your experiences, or not-your experiences, from that lens, which might make them at least partly fear-based and thus distorted. I don't mean that in any condescending way. I think most of us, or probably all of us, distort our experiences in some way. Actually, I think it's inherent in any experience, even when there is knowing that there is no experiencer. I think that's what makes experience possible. And I think we could also call it creation instead of distortion. Experience is creation. I don't see emptiness as an abyss or cold void. I see it as the space or non-space that makes anything possible because nothing is yet born but the joyful and playful drive to be aware tends to pop up as it just can't help it. It loves to play. It loves to merge, and thus it has to separate itself in various ways. There is no plan to do it. It just arises from pure joy. 

It would start during sleep for me too, or when I was trying to sleep, the period just before stream entry. Mainly I had the experience of having my different senses turned inside out, if that makes any sense. I think that would have been spooky for many people, but I loved it. I guess it helps that I'm a bit of a masochist and love the feeling of surrender. Seriously. Also, I was really really tired of being me. I had wanted to throw up myself for many years. I even wanted to join the Borg collective. The feeling of total surrender is liberating. I highly recommend it. 

So how did I learn to love it when the self dissolves? Uhm... I think it may have been during sex. Hm, yeah. That and other kinds of overwhelm. I'm autistic so touch can be overwhelming for me. It used to give me sort of extatic seizures. I have had seizures from other kinds of sensory input as well, non-epileptic ones. Oh, I almost forgot! As a child I used to merge with sensory input. I guess it was something jhana-like. It would make me completely forget about existing as a separate formation for a while. Unfortunately that was seen as pathological by people in the environement so I had to un-learn that stuff, which led to many years of insecurities and anxiety. It was made very clear that I wasn't only separate but also divergent. So maybe I had secure attachment in the very beginning, before having to be separate. I'm not sure. I do know that I spent most of my life with an insecure attachment style, for several reasons that are irrelevant here. But somehow I found my way back. Sensory experiences were key. They are so much richer when the self dissolves. Nothing is lost but everything is gained. Have you ever merged to the extent of directly feeling somebody else's pleasure from meeting you intimately? Or the joy of the existence? Have you been the skye, or the ocean? It's amazing! Why would anyone want to limit themselves to being one separate single entity? That's just flat. 

I think this may have been part of the process of developing a secure attachment style. Something else that was key in the process for me was accepting the fact that I'm polyamorous and starting to embrace it (in a consensual way) without shame and guilt instead of living in denial and limiting my heart. When I threw away the norms that had kept me from embracing it, I threw away a bunch of other limiting norms about what relationships should be like, what happiness should be like, what kinds of pleasures were appropriate, and so forth. Yet another key component was that I had my diagnoses prior to that and threw away limiting norms about function. Also, I had some therapy, and I had sessions with a children's psychologist regarding parenting my child who is also neurodivergent. I wanted to learn how to be able to more fully meet her needs, but the psychologist taught me that I needed to take care of my own needs. That was revolutionary. Because my needs tended to manifest in ways that differed from norms, I had gotten so used to having them stepped over that I didn't even consider the possibility of them being valid. So I guess I worked on two fronts: establishing boundaries and surrendering boundaries. I think both were really important for me. Maybe I needed to learn that it is safe both to establish boundaries and to willingly give them up. And that giving them up doesn't have to be irreversible. They can be established anew. 

So yes, in the sense that control exists, I do have control of it. Not that there is any control ultimately, but that doesn't really matter. I'm safe. It can happen very suddenly, but that's because I let it happen, because I welcome it. Actually, I think that further along the path, the sense that there is an I that lets it happen will probably dissolve, but that doesn't scare me. Well, it probably does scare processes in the mindstream that thinks it's me; otherwise it would already be like that. But the main feeling is that I look forward to it. The lack of control that I expetience now is that is doesn't happen often enough. I want more of it. Which is a paradox, of course, as you already know. The I that seeks it is what needs to go. But that's okay. It's just a limited version anyway. The centerlessness is so much richer. Even the I knows that. It just doesn't know how to fully let go of the delusion yet. It can't imagine itself not being there, even though it isn't there and never was, and yet experience is. Does this make any sense? I'm trying to convey another lens to your experience. Of course it's still a lens, but it is a joyful lens. Since experience is created anyway, why not create it in a way that is blissful? We are free to do that.

What are the triggers? That depends. As mentioned, it used to be overwhelm. It could be both pleasant overwhelm and scary overwhelm. The scary overwhelm could lead to scary experiences of dissolution of the self. In fact, when I tried meditating as a teenager it scared the crap out of me and then I avoided it for twenty years. However, after sufficiently many experiences of pleasant overwhelm, I noticed that the dissolving self was really the same thing in both cases. I had just framed the experience differently. So I stopped doing that. And suddenly I had the possibility of having mental orgasms from intensely unpleasant experiences. That was a mindfuck. Now it's usually more subtle. It happens when awareness recognizes itself. My practice involves doing my best to enable that kind of recognition in basically any situation. And do you know what? Shargrol once mentioned in a much cited post that it's as mundane as being aware of wiping one's ass, and I have seen for my(not)self that it's true. 

Do I have the experience that it's me experiencing transcendence? Sometimes, sometimes not, I guess. Does it matter? All experience is self-aware. The experience is there. It's vivid. I don't care who's having it. When it is, it is. I never have any experience of not experiencing anything. There are different degrees of separation. Without any separation whatsoever, there would be no experience. But nobody would be there to know that. Merging presupposes separation. Separation is both the experience and the experiencer. Delusion is when we are unaware of that. When we are aware of it, it's a dance. The dance of stillness. The melody of silence. 

Something like that.

I think I already answered the last question.

I have been pondering for a while whether you would find joy and peace in so called soul retrieving practices. That's not soul in the Christian sense, not as any separate entity that can be reborn or judged upon death. The Tibetan concept of soul has to do with what we are free to manifest when are consciously responding instead of reacting. The practices are very free from guilt and shame and work with symbolic tools. I find that they give you something constructive to work with once the delusion is seen through. It goes beyond nihilism. Instead of stopping with the idea that everything is "just" a construction, it works with creation. We might as well construct something beautiful while we are at it, don't you think?
T, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 275 Join Date: 1/15/19 Recent Posts
Sensory experiences were key. They are so much richer when the self dissolves. Nothing is lost but everything is gained... Or the joy of the existence?

Gad dang, Linda! You fucking nailed it. Yes to this. If you read my reply to agnostic - this is what I'm aiming to articulate and experience with the vision now. You just woke it up by "speaking" about it and boy-o did it resonate. 

Also - I appreciate your peaceful energy and interactions here on the DhO. 

with as much metta as I can generate, 

T.


agnostic, modified 9 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Linda,

I saved the best 'til last :-) Thanks for your beautiful words and peaceful energy, which is a welcome antidote to the dharma testosterone which sometimes flows a little strong in these parts!

I don't believe anymore that it's accurate to make a clear distinction between psychiatric issues and spiritually-related distress.

I agree, although it has all sorts of inconvenient legal, social, economic and cultural ramifications, so we are unlikely to hear anyone with any degree of authority saying it any time soon. It sucks to be homeless in the West, I do what I can (b/s I could do more) but I still feel anger to see that suffering and know that in many cases the underlying "psychiatric" issues are culturally conditioned, which could lead to dramatically different outcome on say the Indian subcontinent. You know, living the blessed homeless life and all that. Obviously high infant mortality sucks too, but would the entire western democratic-capitalist structure collapse if we took care of the homeless? (which we could easily afford to do) Maybe, it's a strong incentive to keep people climbing the greasy pole, seeing a writhing mass suffering at the bottom. Dukkha, either way? (just rambling here, no need for anyone to respond)

Insecure attachment sounds to me like a perspective that could be helpful for you. It might be a good idea to remind yourself that you are filtering your experiences, or not-your experiences, from that lens, which might make them at least partly fear-based and thus distorted. I don't mean that in any condescending way. I think most of us, or probably all of us, distort our experiences in some way.

Not condescending at all, correct as I am coming to understand. At this point though it just doesn't feel like a big enough issue to try go refashioning my attachment style. What was that, something about clinging to self or no-self.

Experience is creation. I don't see emptiness as an abyss or cold void. I see it as the space or non-space that makes anything possible because nothing is yet born but the joyful and playful drive to be aware tends to pop up as it just can't help it. It loves to play. It loves to merge, and thus it has to separate itself in various ways. There is no plan to do it. It just arises from pure joy. 

Beautifully put, you could bottle this and sell it. Nothing appearing as something, just for the sake of playing with itself before disappearing back into nothing. Nirvana is samsara is nirvana. Etc. Etc. Etc.

I had wanted to throw up myself for many years.

Amazing, in just 10 words you summarized the last 10 years of my life!

So how did I learn to love it when the self dissolves? Uhm... I think it may have been during sex. Hm, yeah. That and other kinds of overwhelm. I'm autistic so touch can be overwhelming for me. It used to give me sort of extatic seizures. I have had seizures from other kinds of sensory input as well, non-epileptic ones. Oh, I almost forgot! As a child I used to merge with sensory input. I guess it was something jhana-like. It would make me completely forget about existing as a separate formation for a while. Unfortunately that was seen as pathological by people in the environement so I had to un-learn that stuff, which led to many years of insecurities and anxiety. It was made very clear that I wasn't only separate but also divergent. So maybe I had secure attachment in the very beginning, before having to be separate. I'm not sure. I do know that I spent most of my life with an insecure attachment style, for several reasons that are irrelevant here. But somehow I found my way back. Sensory experiences were key. They are so much richer when the self dissolves. Nothing is lost but everything is gained. Have you ever merged to the extent of directly feeling somebody else's pleasure from meeting you intimately? Or the joy of the existence? Have you been the skye, or the ocean? It's amazing! Why would anyone want to limit themselves to being one separate single entity? That's just flat. 

I sometimes get absorbed into pure sensory experiences (sky, trees, wall etc). As I kid I was happiest just pottering around on my own doing stuff (fishing, climbing trees, building camps etc.) I think I'm just a loner, which sounds lonely but actually I find the stress of interacting with other people too much makes me feel alone and separated from the world. Being with the kids is fine because they're like not ahem real people yet if you know what I mean (5 and 7). Being a loner was seen as pathological once I went to school, which is probably where the real separation started to set in. These days doing stuff is more of a pure sensory experience anyway without the sense of me doing it, so ultimately we probably end up in the same place here.

The most pleasure I was able to wring out of this body was freestyle masturbation where I just took as long as I wanted to do whatever the body wanted without thinking about it. All kinds of unusual stuff came up naturally which I could never imagine having happened if there had been someone else in the room. Maybe sounds lonely, but at the end of the day it's just a bunch of nerve endings being stimulated and a mind (possibly) thinking about stuff and there's any number of ways and combinations of bodies that could happen based on conditioning, the net result is the same.

And anyway, meditation has become so pleasurable (despite kundalini pains) that it's hard to imagine any kind of sex or drug even approaching the bliss. And then the bliss starts to get tiresome and there's just a pleasant abiding in the here and now. Damn that Buddha guy knew what he was talking about. So sad seeing people getting fucked up on drugs when you know they could have 1,000 times the pleasure for free and no suffering (ok, well apart from the slight jhana hangover).

So yes, in the sense that control exists, I do have control of it. Not that there is any control ultimately, but that doesn't really matter. I'm safe. It can happen very suddenly, but that's because I let it happen, because I welcome it. Actually, I think that further along the path, the sense that there is an I that lets it happen will probably dissolve, but that doesn't scare me. Well, it probably does scare processes in the mindstream that thinks it's me; otherwise it would already be like that. But the main feeling is that I look forward to it. The lack of control that I expetience now is that is doesn't happen often enough. I want more of it. Which is a paradox, of course, as you already know. The I that seeks it is what needs to go. But that's okay. It's just a limited version anyway. The centerlessness is so much richer. Even the I knows that. It just doesn't know how to fully let go of the delusion yet. It can't imagine itself not being there, even though it isn't there and never was, and yet experience is. Does this make any sense? 

Yes this is exactly the dynamic I was trying to allude to rather unskillfully in that dharma battle. EVERYTHING IS ALREADY HERE. The only thing that appears to happen is we start to think we've lost something and go looking for it and feel separated. And even when we feel separated and missing something, that's also just part of everything that's already happening and not a real separation or loss. Whether it's good or bad, it's all good.

I have been pondering for a while whether you would find joy and peace in so called soul retrieving practices. That's not soul in the Christian sense, not as any separate entity that can be reborn or judged upon death. The Tibetan concept of soul has to do with what we are free to manifest when are consciously responding instead of reacting. The practices are very free from guilt and shame and work with symbolic tools. I find that they give you something constructive to work with once the delusion is seen through. It goes beyond nihilism. Instead of stopping with the idea that everything is "just" a construction, it works with creation. We might as well construct something beautiful while we are at it, don't you think?

I know where you're coming from. I'm playing around with the idea of manifesting things in "my life". Actually becoming Dad was something like that. I've started incorporating that into my work a bit now. But I'm wary of getting too creative with it (given my conditioning). Since I don't see myself as really existing with free will and choice, there's nothing really to do other than respond to people's needs as they present themselves, which should lead to whatever manifesting is necessary.

It's been nice getting to know each other a bit better in front of tons of other people.

Take care
agnostic
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
agnostic:
Hi Linda,

I saved the best 'til last :-) Thanks for your beautiful words and peaceful energy, which is a welcome antidote to the dharma testosterone which sometimes flows a little strong in these

[…]



For some reason I didn't see this until now. Did you save a draft? That makes it easy to miss, because when it's finally published, it's way back in the thread where the draft was oroginally placed. 

Hi! That's a lovely post! 

I totally agree about the homeless people. We spend a fortune on keeping mechanisms in play to make sure that nobody gets any more support than what they have "earned" according to some arbitrary norm. We could use those resources to actually help people, but instead we use them to prevent help. That's cold. It creates schisms and suspicion inbetween people. 

I'm glad you get what I'm saying. I often feel that language isn't my language. Sure, I can use fancy wordings, but they are all so... linear. My thought processes tend to branch off in many different directions, and then continue to branch off - and this practice-related stuff is beyond that as well, beyond thoughts. 

Wanting to throw up oneself sucks. You have my sympathies there.

That nerve-end stuff doesn't work for me. I think antidepressants killed some synapses there. I'm really glad that meditation leads to greater bliss, just like you said. Otherwise I would be totally dependent on others for my pleasure. I need to merge. Thankfully now I can merge with a pebble, and they never say no. 

Manifesting what is necessary without making too much fuzz about it has a seemingly simple beauty with depths to it hidden under the surface.


It's been nice getting to know each other a bit better in front of tons of other people.


I like your humor. And yes, it has. You take care too!
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Chris Marti, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Anyone up for a DhO in-post quote editing class? Raise your hands! Our quotes are getting so long I'm exhausted by the time I get to the new part.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I know how to do it. I'm just lazy. Sorry. Or economic with my executive energy.

(Can I offer you a scrolling class? No?)
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curious, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 893 Join Date: 7/13/17 Recent Posts
[quote=
]
Definitely.
agnostic, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
Anyone up for a DhO in-post quote editing class? Raise your hands! Our quotes are getting so long I'm exhausted by the time I get to the new part.

I know how to do it but sometimes (like today) for some reason the quote mark button isn't in the toolbar to make the quotes which is annoying if you want to do more than just one quote at the beginning. I have to open up an old post with inline quotes to edit and then copy one out into the new post.

Didn't realize that saving as draft creating an earlier timestamp, thanks Linda.

One more thing, is it possible to subscribe to individual threads which you did not create so you get latest posts by email? (I know how to do it on ones I created).
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
There. Fixed it.

Seriously, though, I think an educational thread about how to edit quotes is much needed. I have seen many broken quotes. It's a great idea.
Tim Farrington, modified 11 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 2404 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Chris Marti:
Anyone up for a DhO in-post quote editing class? 

Yes, please!
Like, how you you break down the quote you are replying to into those wonderful discrete boxes I've seen masters of the form use in longer, specific response mode on multiple specific points?
do you have to using "code" somehow?


emoticon is it appropriate to bypass into an homage to Papa Che? Or what?


so yeah. as one of the worst offenders on the massive carryover of intricacies in reply-with-quote, definitely up for a learning session.

I am put in mind here of the Zen story of the two monks who hit a muddy patch of road. There is a nice woman there, well-dressed, unable to go on down the road without soiling her clothes. One monk just picks her up and carries her across the mud, violating multiple dharma protocols. He and his companion monk walk on, and a few miles down the road, the companion says, "What were you doing, back there, violating multiple dharma protocols to even touch that woman, much less pick her up?' And the other monk says, "I put her down right there on the other side of the mud, amigo. You're still carryng her."

The carry-over of reply-with-quote so far for me is like trying to get the woman across the mud, and carry her baggage too, and then ChrisM and everyone else has to go through the baggage over and over. Or maybe i am carrying the metaphor even beyond the muddy patch, and should have set it down a mile or two back. Or, or . . . 

Okay, maybe the zen story is too much of a stretch here, and has no salience. I just love that story. Let the lessons begin soon, amen, thank you, Reb Marti.
agnostic, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 1258 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I guess it helps that I'm a bit of a masochist and love the feeling of surrender ... The feeling of total surrender is liberating. I highly recommend it.
...
Have you ever merged to the extent of directly feeling somebody else's pleasure from meeting you intimately?
...
And suddenly I had the possibility of having mental orgasms from intensely unpleasant experiences.

Hi Linda,

Somehow your words worked their magic on me!

I surrendered to Kundalini Shakti, just totally let her have her wicked way with me. Very liberating, as you say.

I've always framed the intense migraines as painful and unpleasant, but now they are a source of euphoric downwards energy release. I think you just did the impossible and enabled me to get out of my own head!

That's all it took - making the connection between meditation pain and other ahem pleasurable forms of pain!

I won't say I'm grounded now because I'm as high as a kite, but a grounding channel has opened.

Your polyamorous tentacles are far-reaching ;-)

Thanks,
agnostic
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 10 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic's Log 2

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
agnostic:
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:

I guess it helps that I'm a bit of a masochist and love the feeling of surrender ... The feeling of total surrender is liberating. I highly recommend it.
...
Have you ever merged to the extent of directly feeling somebody else's pleasure from meeting you intimately?
...
And suddenly I had the possibility of having mental orgasms from intensely unpleasant experiences.

Hi Linda,

Somehow your words worked their magic on me!

I surrendered to Kundalini Shakti, just totally let her have her wicked way with me. Very liberating, as you say.

I've always framed the intense migraines as painful and unpleasant, but now they are a source of euphoric downwards energy release. I think you just did the impossible and enabled me to get out of my own head!

That's all it took - making the connection between meditation pain and other ahem pleasurable forms of pain!

I won't say I'm grounded now because I'm as high as a kite, but a grounding channel has opened.

Your polyamorous tentacles are far-reaching ;-)

Thanks,
agnostic
Oh, cool! I suspected it might be worth sharing even if it was a bit personal. You're welcome. 

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