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Life Story: one final attemp
6/10/11 2:22 PM
Disclaimer: this will be boring, read at your own risk

It isn't you, it is me. I am going to lay it all out the way it really was, and is, and just hope.

I was a fairly normal child, exuberant, awed by the world around me. My mother took me to a Baptist church. There I became very confused. The older kids and adults in the church did not behave at all according to what we were taught. The older kids were mean. The adults did not seem to sincerely believe what we were taught at all. The very goals of the church seemed to have nothing to do with what I was being taught in Bible class. It seems like every admonition of the Bible was flagrantly ignored. My father never went to church, but after my parents divorced, they church treated my mother very poorly and she was shunned. It all seemed very crazy to me, and I refused to go anymore after about age 11.

After that, I started having panic attacks, which were terrifying. I could even talk about them I would just go into a private room and run in circles trying to escape the inevitability of death. It was terrifying.

I lived in an all-white, lower middle class city in Texas. Christianity was the norm, and even Catholics were called devil-worshipers. Baptists were the most intolerant, and that was the predominant religion. I tried joining the Royal Ambassadors for Christ when I was a little older, it was supposed to be like the Boy Scouts. Instead, it was torment, verbal and physical assault, and a punch in the nuts any time one of the directors wasn't watching.

At this time I just because depressed, realizing that God and Bible were just fairy tales to be told on Sunday, and nobody believed a word of it. It was just there to make people feel better when someone died.

At about age 12 I started having panic attacks. I could not believe there was a God. I was just an animal trapped among my righteous tormentors, facing a hopeless utter extinction. I has spend a lot of time memorizing scriptures in Sunday School for ribbons. I was good at it. Now I started repeating back the Bible to my tormentors, and discovered that they had no idea of the content of the Bible, the message, and that they in fact did not care. It all meant nothing to them at all.

Depressed, I withdrew for a while, but after my parents divorced, my own mother turned the abuse she had aimed at my father against me, telling me I was worthless, and that I wasn't going to live off of her for the rest of my life, and that I would never be a man, and that the second I turned 18 she was going to kick me out. She said worse things that I will not repeat. Before that, she had always love me. I was utterly devastated. The pain was deep, and it erupted in anger. I began with my lifelong hypochondria, always fearing I have some deadly disease or condition.

I became quite a miscreant. I had been abused by my peers. I was being abused by my own mother. I was tormented by seeing God and religion as bullshit, leaving nothing else, just an animal existence and eventual death. I stole things. I was verbally cruel, and mocked my elders, whom I had no respect. I was full of hate, and destroyed property, and laughed at the pain of others. I was cold. I had other hoodlum buddies in a gang, but no friends. There as no talk of feeling. I never cried again after the age of 12. We fought, stole, harassed people, and destroyed things. But most of all, I was smart, and I was very cruel, so I would often dismantle the security of those I hated by trying to destroy their faith, logically, coldly, and cruelly.

The local police, who knew us well and hated us as we did them, were just waiting for us to finally turn 18, and when we did we ended up in legal trouble. At first, this was a big joke. We drank and did whatever drugs we wanted, and we bailed each other out. We got drunk and drove wildly. We stole things. Ah, but eventually they caught us, and made some more serious charges stick, and we ended up in jail, where some of my "friends" lied to let me take the blame for the worse stuff so they could get off. Suddenly, I didn't even have the scum friends I had accumulated over the years. I was alone, and shunned by all.

In jail, I found a book on Christianity, Buddhism, Muhammad-ism, and Hinduism. Hey, I had nothing better to do, so I read it. I dismissed the Christianity because of my personal experiences with it. Muhammad did not sound right to me at all, as it seemed to encourage the same kind of brutal and arrogant behavior I had found in Christians. Hinduism I flat could not comprehend. It seemed crazy. Only Buddhism worked for me. To the core of my being I could agree that desire was the cause of all suffering. It didn't offer heaven, which I didn't want for fearing Christian might be there. It offered actual freedom and peace.

The was in my early 20's, and with my background I had a long, long way to go. I was so conditioned to power and judgment and so amazingly conceptually bound that it took me long years, decades even, to get even the first glimpse that concepts are not real, and judgments are based on concepts, and that the desire for power is ultimately based on concepts. It took forever for me to see that the egoic concepts of the self are delusions, and will never, ever lead to anything I want. They are seductive lies. I was a very poor student. These things took decades to sink in.

That took care of my 30's, and by my 40's I was reading Krishnamurti very deeply ... only I was constantly frustrated at putting what he said into practice in my everyday life, with a job, wife, and children. It all seemed too detached from my actual life. Somewhere in there I kind of gave up on it and moved into biofeedback and neurofeedback, thinking maybe there wasn't any spiritual component to anything and that it could all be done mechanically. That failed. After a while I just gave it all up and played computer games.

Somewhere in there, my lifelong anxiety left me, and I stopped thinking every change in my health was impending death. I decide this cure had simply arrived just because of my age. I was nearing 50. I was feeling pretty good, not having had any anxiety for years, and then my wife decided she wanted out of our marriage. I looked around, and I had no friends. My father died that year. He was an atheist, but still the only one I could talk to in my family. At last I was really alone. The panic and anxiety was right back. This threw me into turmoil, and I finally found a non-duality group. It seemed to be a distillation of the only true things I had learned over my years of torment.

I am comfortable with the non-dualistic approach, but my mood is unstable and I don't ever have any lasting peace or bliss. Nor do I seem to have any insights that really change my life. For instance, I thought I was doing very well, but then I got an ear-ache and a swollen gland, and went right back into obsessing that I have cancer, just like 30 years ago.

I have done an amazing number of things, from talk therapies, drugs, hypnotism, biolfeedback, neurofeedback, meditations of all kinds. I have had all kinds of insights, from seeing the ego as a construct, from being completely immersed in the beauty of a rainstorm without a trace of self. Of course, maybe I am just crazy. I think I have had precognitions that were completely accurate, not just the bullshit kind where it was a likely possibility. I think I have seen ghosts, and quite clearly, though I wouldn't say I felt they were really there materially ... they seemed more like things out of time. Most of the time, I realize quite completely that my ego is utterly imaginary, and that egoic thoughs are harmful. I would very much like to say that the unbiased Witness that has always been here observing my life -- I would like to say that I know that is me. But I don't feel it. I still feel like my mind is me, and over and over I attack to my egoic thoughts and think I am that.

Over the years, I have felt like the entire world was illuminated with golden light. At times I have been in a world where everything was beautiful. At times I have been in horrible places of darkness and despair, but even then, my awareness was there, unwavering, still dispassionate, not judging, not trying to help or choose sides.

No one could be more tired of suffering, or more willing to let go of self, or will to free fall into the void. I do not have any fear of letting all this go. I am eager. I wish I could see the void so that I could jump in.

I have seen a lot of good people, and they are all encouraged by some of what I tell them. It is like I see things correctly in many way. But they don't seem to understand when I fall back into things I have already worked through. I seem to go back. Now I am back to being a hypochondriac, caught in fear, caught in "what it", afraid of being afraid, need to control an outcome -- resisting reality. Projecting a reality I don't want, which hasn't happened, and resisting that imaginary thing.

Clearly, I would seem to be simply crazy, or hopeless. I see no progress at all, and I don't have another 35 years to work on it.

Sorry to be a boring old man, but I have learned one thing, which is that wisdom can just as often fall from the young as well as the old.



RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/10/11 4:30 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
Hi John,

You have a number of options it seems if you wish to soak up the wisdom here and get your butt into gear to end some or all suffering.

You could follow Daniel's MCTB which you can find for free in the wiki section. Read it, and decide if what Daniel talks about is attractive to you. If you take up the noting technique of vipassana, and take it all the way to what people call 4th path, you would have changed your brain considerably. You could take it further an end ALL siffering and become actually free from the human condition of malice and sorrow.

You could also read up on actual freedom either here at the DhO in the AF section, or at the actual freedom website.

Here are some potential directions.

* You could note your arse off and make your way through the progress of insight and get stream entry. From here you could keep progressing to what is called 4th path here.

* You could get to 4th path. It ends some significant suffering but not all of it. You could go a variety of ways from here. Maybe be take up the bodhisattva path or take up AF and go straight to the end of suffering. There seem to be a variety of ways to end all suffering. AF is a new and fast route to the complete cessation of all becoming/being/suffering/malice/sorrow/craving and aversion (this is what I am doing)

* You could go directly to AF by cultivating the PCE (pure conscious experiecne/apperception) without getting stream entry.

* You could start to develop your concentration, maybe cultivate some access to jhanas to give you more clarity into the situation of the very moment.

* You could try jumping into noting phenomena a la MCTB.

* You could start recording your practice on whatever route you take here at the DhO and allow others to help and guide you.

* You could keep reading threads and pleading for help and never choose what you want and never progress to where you wish to be. Where do you wish to go and get from here?

To end some suffering or all suffering for good or something else?



RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/10/11 4:38 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
Your first post here was 4/20/2011. Have you tried any of the methods anyone suggested in that thread consistently over the past 2 months? You seemed interested when tarin linked to the page about re-observation - have you followed up on the book?

Maybe I should step back, a bit. What are you seeking by posting here? You didn't ask any questions in this post.

for what it's worth, when you say "I seem to go back.", that's a very predictable pattern that's laid out in MCTB.


EDIT: Ah in your other thread you said you do try meditating but "Even when my meditation is better it isn't something relaxing and enjoyable. No bliss or special insights ... well, maybe a few, but nothing big. I'm not after bliss or special stuff, I just want the benefits of meditation, which I can't get if I can't meditate."

you're basically in a really shitty part of the path right now, the Dark Night as we call it. my recommendation is to do vipassana meditation, which doesn't involve trying to feel good or blissful but simply involves watching what's going on. if you do it well enough then you'll get to stream entry sooner or later. it seems you've hit equanimity before, the patches from which you fell back into things you've worked through, already. the reason you fall back is because you basically slacked off when you went past the things you worked through, not blaming you it's just that when you hit a calm spot you think "that's it", and you don't know that there's just a little more to go until you can change your brain permanently by getting stream entry.

the technique in practical insight meditation seems to work well to get people to stream entry. from there you'll have a much better vantage point on what to do next. i also recommend reading MCTB in its entirety as it gives a really good framework for getting it.


also, when you say "being completely immersed in the beauty of a rainstorm without a trace of self.", that might have been what is termed a PCE in the Actualism practice that nick is referring to (the goal of which is AF, which is a permanent experience of the word without a trace of self as the self has been completely extinguished). you didn't seem to like the AF trust website, saying the dude suffers from narcissism, but for what it's worth people have followed his advice and have gotten to the same place he is, that is, permanent experience without a self, i.e. without suffering.

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/10/11 5:37 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
Hi John, thank you for sharing your story.

We have given you many suggestions already.

The way to solve your problems is to understand what you want, understand how to get there, and then do what needs to be done.

(1) Understanding what you want is what allows you to prime your intention. If you don't clearly know what you want to get out of meditation, your results will be vague and murky. Do you want to end all suffering and live in a PCE-like condition (we call this actual freedom)? Do you want to see through the illusion of self as an entity or centerpoint? (we call this 4th path, which also diminishes suffering and makes getting AF easier)

This is very important. Intent is the fundamental driving force of the mind-changing game.

(2) After you understand what you want, you should inform yourself of all the mental techniques that are known to take you there. You should know instructions, expected outcomes, expected obstacles, expected amount of dedication required, etc. I.e. you should know the methods and the maps.

(3) Then all that is left is for you to transverse the territory: do what needs to be done, and that's it. This is always the most time-consuming part.

So please, start with number (1), then we can help with number (2), and then you can proceed to number (3).

I hope that was clear.

That said, if you're getting the impression we're not really helping, that we are missing your point repeatedly (which comes to mind since this is your third post here in the same vein, and your choice of subtitle "one final attempt"), then it might be worth it having a voice conversation with someone from this forum. This will certainly clear up any misunderstanding which might be happening because of the text-based medium.

If you would like to voice-chat, my skype name is bruno.loff .

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/11/11 5:51 AM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
Why not try a Goenka retreat, even if you are not sure where to go next?

I don't have the kind of progress that others are talking about here, but I can recognize myself in some of what you wrote: before my 1st retreat I was absolutely desperate to heal. I didn't believe psychology was the answer. I was pretty much drowning in social/situational anxiety all day at work, especially that I was working in an open plan type of office. It was so bad my anxiety was already hitting full on in my stomach when I was in the train not even half way to work. I never wanted to take pills because I always knew all this pain was in my mind, and made no rational sense. I also experienced two panic attacks, the second one was in India last year and I'm such a wuss I was really scared of passing out emoticon

Based on that experience, I can say the 1st Goenka retreat may be hard. All this suffering will show up as sensations in the body. But it's only ten days and if you are stubborn like I was and refuse to give up (medicine, alcohol, drugs, etc), then you will get results. As Nikolai pointed in other threads, you're bound to get something valuable to use for other practices.

One Goenka retreat is only 10 days, you do whatever is taught, you can decide to drop any doubts and laziness because it's only ten days. You don't have to run in circles and doubt and wonder what to do with so much information out there. Just trust the people there, for ten days. If you're really suffering from anxiety like I was, the pain gives you the motivation to give your best to those ten days.

It may not in an of itself alleviate all suffering in ten days, but it will make life much easier for a couple months or so afterwards, and then you will be in a much better position to try things on your own.

There is also an aspect of the retreat that I see rarely mentioned in forums, is that you have "assistant teachers" there, who seem to be doing something to help the students. I don't know exactly what is going on so I won't speculate too much, but I couldn't help noticing a boost in energy and concentration on the days where I sat with the teachers for the "student checking".

EDIT: to be clear I think one should not disregard the fact that for some people, it would be a lot more helpful to go on a retreat, get directions, and just go along. Before my 1st retreat I had read a lot about vipassana and never realised what it was, it sounded too simple. It completely disregarded the very real pain that I was experiencing. So many times I had searched the web with keywords like "meditation anxiety" and I found teachings similar to Sayadaw's "just note the sensation". Yeah right. None of these ever helped me, all it did was intensify the pain. It never eluded me that anxiety is so much related to "self". It's not THAT EASY folks. For some people, it DOES NOT WORK. You can't see the water when you are drowning in it. First, reach for the surface and get a breath of fresh air, then from your new vantage point, see if you can see the water. /rant off

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/16/11 3:11 PM as a reply to Bruno Loff.
Yes, I understand what you are all saying, which is that I am jumping around a lot and not really working a program. I can see that after so much effort, I don't have a lot of confidence in anything, and not being so young anymore, how many more paths can I devote myself to for years with no result? My suffering was too intense for the last month, so I apologize for being in a panic and over-posting, wanting some kind of instant fix.

I can state what I want: I want to be out of the Dark Night (or call it what you will) that I've been in for a good part of the last 40 years. I want to no longer be focused on "me" at all. Ideally, I want to live in joy and freedom, seeing the world as it actually is without filters. I will settle for just not suffering so much.

To be honest, I want to be out of the Dark Night right now. I am very tired. I desire nothing else, no immortality, special powers, respect or adoration. But I'm not looking for another temporary fix, something that will fail at the next hardship I face. At this point I feel uncomfortably narcissistic, because my life is always about my suffering. So I just want the basic thing -- no self. Intellectually I know that this "me" is a construct, conceptual, and illusion with no reality ... but at the slightest threat to it I go into a panic.

If AF works, fine. If it maybe works for a few people who do it just right for ten years, I don't have time for it. If beating a drum works, I'll do that. You are all very kind to help.

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/16/11 3:54 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
John W Hooper:
I can state what I want: I want to be out of the Dark Night (or call it what you will) that I've been in for a good part of the last 40 years. I want to no longer be focused on "me" at all. Ideally, I want to live in joy and freedom, seeing the world as it actually is without filters. I will settle for just not suffering so much.

To be honest, I want to be out of the Dark Night right now. I am very tired. I desire nothing else, no immortality, special powers, respect or adoration. But I'm not looking for another temporary fix, something that will fail at the next hardship I face. At this point I feel uncomfortably narcissistic, because my life is always about my suffering. So I just want the basic thing -- no self. Intellectually I know that this "me" is a construct, conceptual, and illusion with no reality ... but at the slightest threat to it I go into a panic.

yea dude just start meditating a LOT, note every second of every day, read this guide on the level of effort required, start a practice thread (where you report, phenomenologically, what happens when you sit, every day) either here or on KFD. lots of people get stream entry, it's very do-able within a few months, but you're going to have to put in a lot of effort! starting a practice thread in particular would probably benefit you as people can offer advice on where you might be, what you should look for if you may be missing anything, etc.

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/16/11 4:56 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
John W Hooper:
So I just want the basic thing -- no self. Intellectually I know that this "me" is a construct, conceptual, and illusion with no reality ... but at the slightest threat to it I go into a panic.

This was almost my exact experience before getting stream-entry. From your writing and many years of experience you are probably very ripe for stream-entry, it doesn't have to happen 'somewhere down the road' if you not let it.

You go into a panic when you begin to dissolve; when you yourself see, first hand, your own illusory nature. But isn't this what you want, to dissolve?

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/17/11 12:20 AM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
John, you need to practise CBT, since you believe that no one likes you. No one can function in the World believing they are unworthy of friendship and love.

Repeat the phrase: "Everyone likes me just as I am", but as you say the words to yourself, embody that attitude. Live the phrase in your body and in your behaviours. People will respond to you differently, creating a feeling of connection that you crave and it will do this within minutes. Build on it daily. Remember this important point: the words do not create the self-worth, nor do your behaviours. Self worth is created by other people's response your behaviours. When other people like you, you tend to like yourself. This was your parents' job, but since they failed, you have to go about it this way. You cannot do it alone, it requires other people's input and validation. While that may sound disempowering, well... too bad if it sounds that way. No one on this planet has developed self-worth on their own, it has always come about from how other people behave towards you.

Do not meditate before you achieve this feeling of being worthy of connection and friendship, because it will aggravate your condition, possibly beyong the point of coping. I can promise you this will work for you, as I've set out above.

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
6/17/11 12:17 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Listening to the feedback, maybe the sudden onslaught of medical problems, and the return of fear, panic and anxiety that had at one point gone away, is just the last ditch efforts of the self to stay in control. Seems rather extreme to me, but I have to admit it worked.

I am going to do as Beoman suggests and increase my meditation time to the maximum my life will allow, starting a practice thread so that I know I am on track. I have had a lot of "stream entry" in my life, I think, but it has always been short-lived and random.

Thanks everyone!

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
7/1/11 2:19 PM as a reply to Sigfried Von Hilsheimer.
A cursory glance at 1st 2nd and 6th steps on the noble eightfold path sets a lot of people straight. 1st having a right view is a view in accordance with the truth of suffering/stress, cause of dukkha, cessation of dukkha, and path the leads to that cessation. 2nd is right intention: three skillful intentions of letting go, loving-kindness/friendliness, and compassion (very important to direct these skillful intentions to oneself) and right efforts: effort to prevent,abandon unskillful/unwholesome states of mind - develop, maintain skillful/wholesome states of mind. this is what being quite secluded from sense pleasures and secluded from unwholesome state of mind means.

lastly, i don't know you, and yet i do. I hope that you have the courage and perseverance to achieve what you heart so desires, real unconditional freedom. stop meditation window shopping and really see the thing thru. Its all just a big fat theory untill you live it.

emoticon peace!

RE: Life Story: one final attemp
7/1/11 1:07 PM as a reply to Ross A. K..
Nipuna Ross A.:
stop demanding that this happen when you want it to. this is why (i believe) people shouldn't advertise their attainments, because the average Joe compares his progress to those that make the claims. or some can be so deluded that they twist a model to fit there current state. or you can memorize some map and count off the imaginary insights in your head, come out of the meditation and think you got enlightenment, when after all the mental masturbation you're even more deluded. most are part right and part wrong, or all wrong and no right, and some really are unbound.

On the DhO Home page:

The Dharma Overground is a resource for the support of hardcore meditation practice. It is a place where everything related to the support of practice may flourish, including where to go on retreats, what techniques may lead to what, an in depth look at the maps of possible states and stages, discussions about how to determine what experience was what, and in general anything that has to do with actually practicing rather than what typically occurs in standard meditation circles. Here you will find a robust and variable community of people with a wide range of experience levels, perspectives and interests, though all loosely bound by the same basic principles of empowering, helpful, engaged dharma and exploration of the possibilities of the mind.

In general our basic principles and attitudes favor:

pragmatism over dogmatism: what works is key, with works generally meaning the stages of insight, the stages of enlightenment, jhanas, freedom from suffering in what ways are possible, etc.
diligent practice over blind faith: this place is about doing it and understanding for yourself rather than believing someone else and not testing those beliefs out
openness regarding what the techniques may lead to and how these contrast or align with the traditional models
personal responsibility: you take responsibility for the choices you make and what you say and claim
a lack of taboos surrounding talking about attainments
the assumption that the various aspects of meditative development can be mastered in this life
the spirit of mutual, supportive adventurers on the path rather than rigid student-teacher relationships
and the notion that the collective wisdom of a group of strong practitioners at various stages and from various traditions and backgrounds is often better than following one guru-type.

Here is an alternative forum that may be a better fit for that viewpoint:


RE: Life Story: one final attemp
7/1/11 1:23 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Yeah I just edited that.
Thanks for pointing out my bullshit, really i do appreciate it!