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Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 8/30/20 12:15 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 8/30/20 12:55 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 8/31/20 9:33 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 8/31/20 10:35 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Ben Sulsky 8/31/20 12:05 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/1/20 9:40 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 9/1/20 10:36 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Helen Pohl 8/31/20 12:20 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/1/20 9:41 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 8/31/20 3:10 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 8/31/20 5:03 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Olivier 8/31/20 5:37 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 9/1/20 10:23 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/1/20 12:01 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 9/1/20 12:50 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/2/20 9:28 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Brian 8/31/20 1:26 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 8/31/20 9:34 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Brian 9/6/20 12:55 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Brandon Dayton 8/31/20 9:49 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/1/20 11:32 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Papa Che Dusko 9/1/20 2:33 AM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/1/20 12:49 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Angel Roberto Puente 9/1/20 12:37 PM
RE: Oppressive Mindfulness Tom Robert Schwab 9/2/20 9:29 AM
Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/30/20 12:15 PM
I’m hoping someone can give some context and possibly advice and encouragement with some difficulty I have been experiencing for some months now.

After experiencing some moments of dissociative terror/panic in January (which I have posted about here) I stopped meditating for some weeks and slowly built my way up from 3-6 minutes in the morning to a 25-minute sit in the morning with various 1-3 minute mini-sessions throughout the day (I was doing either 50 or 75 minutes in the morning with the multiple mini-sessions before this happened). These moments have persisted to some degree but typically they can be seen and felt and have largely stopped and/or weakened.

What is happening more now is what seems to me like a kind of relentless or oppressive mindfulness that seems like a kind of new default process. I am still probably lost in thought much of the time-particularly during focused work on the computer, playing music, writing etc-but there seems to be a kind of automatic expansion back into a mindful awareness that can be very weird and uncomfortable to experience. It’s sometimes like my experience is just waves of nebulous impressions. This might seem like progress, but there is often a mid-high grade persistent fear and anxiety surrounding this state, even if the associated thoughts, emotions, sensations can be more or less seen for what they are: passing impersonal phenomena. This is not a non-dual state, but feels maybe like a partial-self state, like I am some shrinking entity trapped behind it all. When I find my experience revert back to a normal dualist state it seems like a relief and makes me reconsider this whole enterprise.

So my questions are:
  • Is this normal?
  • Can anyone give any context to this? Pit of the void?
  • Should I stop meditating? What would happen if I do?
  • Should I be meditating more? What would happen if I do?
  • What should I do?

Thank you very kindly to anyone who can help out!

Some context on my meditation practice:
I started meditating about six/seven years ago, but developed a daily practice (20 to 40 minutes) in the fall of 2017, using guided meditations from Joseph Goldstein and others found on YouTube and Insight Timer. I sat my first seven-day retreat at the Springwater Center in upstate NY in August of 2018 which consisted of open awareness and zazen in the style of Toni Packer who was influenced by Phillip Kapleau, Krishnamurti, and Huangpo Xiyun. After this retreat I sat regularly for an hour or so a day in this style, and have done maybe 10 informal weekend-retreats there since (sitting for 4-6 hours a day). I attended a Goenka 10-day course in May 2019, and started doing ‘The Mind Illuminated’ (TMI) style samatha-vipassana since June 2019, and have consistently sat an hour or two a day, while missing a couple of days here and there until the moments of terror happen as mentioned above.


RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/30/20 12:55 PM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
Yes, this sounds very normal to me. It tends to freak people out but it really is part of the progress. You are starting to see through the "photoshopping" of reality that your mind has been doing the whole time to make things appear more continuous and solid and distinct. Still, you are not seeing all there is to see about it. It may take some time to integrate it and find the rest of the pieces of the puzzle to see the whole picture. Also, there is a learning curve with regard to widening your approach and sort of zooming out. While you are going through that learning process, your mind has to let go of the more narrow focus for a while, because it hasn't yet learned how to do both. Later on, that will come together, and then you will have clarity both in the narrow focus and more widely. Your experiences will synch up again too instead of this weird perceptual delay that makes everything so nebulous. As you have already noticed, there is a cycling to this. The cycling will continue, but eventually it won't really matter as you are not what is cycling and those experiences will be such a minimal part of the entire range of perception that they don't bother you.  

Since you are already experiencing this cycling, your spiritual journey has already started, and once it has started, there is no stopping it. It can probably be slowed down, at least for a while, but there's no garantee that it will let you off the hook. The way you describe it, it doesn't sound like you are in any risk of real spiritual emergency even though it may feel like it. I don't mean to trivialize your experience or anything. It's just so very typical. Be gentle with yourself and don't push yourself too hard, as you are obviously scared. There is no need to rush. I see no reason to stop practicing, though, as practice is what will get you through this. 

I highly recommend reading Daniel Ingram's book which is available for free here: mctb.org. It normalizes these experiences and gives lots of great advice on how to approach the different insight stages. 

Best wishes for your wellbeing and practice, and hang in there! And if things feel totally out of control, Daniel is great to talk to. You could send him an email if it ever comes to that. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 1:26 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
The fear you experienced may have been a sign of progress. I was warned by a vipassana instructor that I might experience it. But I was told it was usually very short in duration.

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 9:33 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thank you so very much Linda. 

I found your response to be very clear and reassuring, even if there is still fear and trembling as I write this.

Sometimes reading about these stages here and in books, as well as participating in discussion can make the anxiety/fear even worse. I suspect it can be counterproductive to read other bad 'trip reports' right?

Still, I am wondering what blockages you experienced during your difficult cycles. What helped you get through it? Are there any definite DOs and DONTs of this process?

Exercising, yoga, intellectual work, playing music etc. these all seem to be wholesome activities that distract me, but afterwards seem to make the expansion/contraction cycles more jarring. Should I stop these activities for a while? Social media and alcohol do the same but these are not so wholesome methinks so I have and continue to cut back on these.

Anyhow thank you again for your continued support!

Tom

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 9:34 AM as a reply to Brian.
Thank you for the reply Brian. Have you gone through these stages? What was helpful for you? 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 9:49 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
Thanks for posting this. I've been in the midst of something like this for the past few months now puncuated with a few really difficult moments of panic. My sense is that this is a normal part of the process. Your previous post also seems to match up some of my recent experiences and it's great to hear other wise responses.

I think you are likely still traversing some Dark Night territory.

Are you working with a teacher, or do you have some other support like a local sangha? Do you work with a therapist ever? Do friends or family that know about what you are experienceing?

I recently read this by Ron Crouch and I think it's helpful:
If you have crossed the A&P, then you are headed for the Dark Night. For
meditators going through this I highly recommend having a teacher that
understands this stuff. A good teacher will help you to move through these
stages with greater ease and will also help you to get a clear understanding
of the insights inherent in the experience. Navigating the Dark Night
without a teacher is possible, but it is not recommended.


You could get a ton of benefit by having the right support system right now. I am currently working with a meditation teacher that I speak with every two weeks, AND speaking with a therapist about once a month. I've found both to be very helpful. My wife is also aware of where I am right now and has been hugely supportive.

The analogy that I am currently using is that meditation is like traveling in a car on a road. Your practice is like the controls of the car -- you can choose to accelerate, make detours, pump the brakes ect. The road is the territory of your mind. Some places are bumpy, and others places are really bumpy. You're trying to get accustomed to the terrain, to learn to navigate expertly, but you don't want to crash in the process.  A meditation teacher can help you to learn how to manuever the car better (taking your foot off the gas helps), but additional therapeutic work can be very powerful in helping smooth out the bumps in the road. This is particularly important if you have a history of anxiety and depression or any other mental illness.

Metta practice is also good for me right now, as is any grounding practice like taking a hike in nature, interacting with other people, or eating a heavy meal.

Some discomfort may be necessary, but there is nothing wrong with trying to make the ride as smooth as possible. People do get into horrible fender benders or worse in the process. Save your heroics for when you absolutely need them, otherwise try to pass through the terrain as safely as possible.

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 11:32 AM as a reply to Brandon Dayton.
Hi Brandon, thank you for your reply and perspective.

I am working with a teacher who has experience with this territory and has been helpful, though I still struggle with doubt in addition to the fear and anxiety and occassional panic. I have met with him maybe a half dozen times so far and see him every few weeks or so. His advice is that this is totally normal and that I am in no real danger-it's all a part of the process. He seems to think I am making rapid progress on my own and that if I keep doing what I'm doing, this will eventually pass. I suppose I'd like more guidance about technique and potential blockages.

I do have fellow meditation friends and am loosely connected with various sanghas, but sometimes find reading/talking/listening to this stuff too much to be a bit overwhelming and anxiety provoking. Maybe that is simply something I need to get over? I haven't told my family too much of this for different reasons (they don't have any experience or knowledge of this stuff and I feel/worry that the extra concern coming back to me will just make things worse). I have looked into seeing a therapist but have not matched with one yet.

My practice has largely switched to body scanning, metta, and karuna which I also find to be grounding, though I wonder if doing these grounding self-affirming practices is simply like going in reverse, only to have to traverse the same difficult terroritory again later? I also do mini open awareness sessions thoughout the day.

Anyhow, thanks again for your feedback and perspective!

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 10:35 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
I'm glad I was able to help somewhat.

I never found that reading about others' "bad trip reports" affected my practice negatively in any way, but being representative was never really my strong suit so that probably doesn't say much. If you think it may have that effect on you, then maybe that's the case. I don't know. For me the maps were a great help because they enabled me to mentally prepare and avoid many traps. 

I find that it's difficult to reply about challenges more explicitly than I have already done without being more explicit about the maps than I have already been. I'd rather not say something without knowing that it's okay. Hm... I would suggest that you think about how knowing about the maps might affect you and come to a decision. If you want to know about them, I can point you to what sections to read in Daniel's book and then we can talk about the specific stages. If you don't want to know about them, I'll have to think through what I could say that would be helpful anyway. 

As for activities, I find that yoga is both supporting and stabilizing for the practice. It needs to be balanced, though. Be careful with heavy breathing exercises such as fire breathing! People seem to use them as if they were toys, but they are not something to play with without very competent guiding. Make sure to balance the yang (muscles) with yin (fascia) and the energizing (such as backward bends) with relaxing (such as forward bends). I find that just being in the nature is very grounding. I never found yoga distracting. How do you manage to be distracted from your practice while doing yoga? I can't see how one could possibly do yoga without being very mindful and aware. It's like a meditation in itself. 

In what ways does the cycling become more jarring after those activities?

For me personally I have found it helpful to very regularly check in with what is going on inside. Just listen and feel and look internally to see what reactions are in play and get to know the patterns and see through them. That might freak some people out, though, so take it in small portions. It might be a good idea to actively look for what is actually okay. If you experience terror, you could look for all the signs that say that you aren't really in danger. Another thing that I find helpful is to look for the space around the jarring thoughts and feelings. 

Remember that the reality hasn't really changed its nature. You are just zooming in on other qualities of it than you are used to. It doesn't make it any different. 

Don't make drastic changes to your life style while being scared, I'd say. Changing habits can actually unveil suppressed emotions in a challenging way, and we usually don't make the best decisions while being scared. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 12:05 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
+1 to everything Linda said.  +1 to reading MCTB2 bits about the DN.

Personally, I found it easier to sit through DN nanas initially by doing some jhana practice first.  I've also found it helpful to just chill out for a day or two, do something you find relaxing or fun, have a beer or whatever.  It can also be helpful to set a strong intention to surrender.  It's also worth contexualizing using map theory and knowing that the negativity associated with the changed perceptual organization is stage specific.

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 12:20 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I second the yoga suggestion. Practice goes much 'better' if I do say, a half-hour gentle yoga before.

When I was a lot more anxious than I am now I sometimes did a bit of more strenuous exercise before my meditation, to help the body calm down. Squats, push-ups or something like that.

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 3:10 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thank you again Linda.

I should have mentioned that I have read much of the relevant sections in MCTB and will probably do so again. It seems I do find the maps helpful, but reading of other people's difficult experiences (that seem worse than mine) can fill me with a dread that things might get worse. I worry that this could have a self-fullfilling effect. Coming from someone who has gone through this process is a bit different however, so feel free to share what you think is helpful though please spare me any too graphic details of any hell realms you may have experienced! emoticon

Yes, Yoga has been helpful for me and probably is not the best example of what I was trying to describe (For me doing yoga and running are very mindful but self-building activites). When playing music for instance, very often I can spend quite a long time totally absorbed in the playing, singing, and performing, that I 'lose myself', and there is typically not a wider expanded awareness that accompanies it. It is like being 'in the zone' and when I stop a dualistic mindfulness comes back online and it can feel kind of trippy (Where was I during the playing? Why does it feel like 'I' am 'back'?). It seems that when mindfulness has been offline for some time (after a long period of focused work/music/conversation), it can be very jarring when it comes back online and the fear/terror/dissociation can seem more real and imminent. 

You wrote: 

Remember that the reality hasn't really changed its nature. You are just zooming in on other qualities of it than you are used to. It doesn't make it any different. 

That really resonates right now albeit in an abstract and intellectual way, though I have felt and seen this too to some degree. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 5:03 PM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
Ah, then it's easy. emoticon I haven't experienced any hell realms, apart from just the normal human experiences of being angry, which is actually often referred to as the hell realm. All my worst experiences of the darknight were before I took up a regular meditation practice. Doing the practice made things better. It is very helpful not to take one's thoughts too seriously, and seeing how the thoughts follow predictable patterns makes it so much easier not to take them too seriously. 

During the fear nana, remember that your mind exaggerates risks and dangers. It's probably not as bad as you think. The same goes for misery and disgust. Learn the pattern of how they follow each other and when to secondguess yourself with regard to what. In reobservation, don't take yourself too seriously at all, as it affects judgement and creates pipe dreams and gets one involved in very unneccesary conflicts. 

In the A&P, make sure to get some rest and stillness even if it feels totally unneccesary. The more wired up you get, the tougher the dissolution and the following dukka nanas. It can feel euphoric. It's fine to enjoy it, but remember that it's unbalanced and unstable and that your resources are limited. Take care of your mammalian body!

I have found that it is a good idea to be very careful with regard to what intentions I set, as they tend to have strong influence on what actually happens. Set skillful intentions with qualifications such as "in line with my highest good and for the benefit of all sentient beings" so that you don't trip over your own poor wordings. This may sound superstitious, but it really is good advice. I learned that the hard way but was able to fix it. Don't ask for more than you can take. Don't use wordings that would have bad implications if your subconscious were to take them literally.

I have also found that for me, whenever I suddenly feel bad (subtly bad, nothing hellish), it usually means that there is something to investigate. I developed the motto "Nausea is just a great vipassana session wanting to happen". In my experience, ignoring it or suppressing it is not a good idea, as it often makes it worse. It's better to either move towards it and really feel into it (which often shows that there was much less there than one thought) or actively shift focus to good feelings while honestly acknowledging and accepting that the bad feelings are also there. One option that has been very helpful for me is to just relax and let awareness process it on its own, but I may have been very lucky to just intuitively know how to do so from the start. The key there is to trust that the awakening process knows the way even if you don't, on a conscious level. I just let the body unclench, in its own pace, and the thoughts and feelings settle without adding any fuel to them. I feel that the awakening process can be trusted and relied on. It has its own wisdom, and in my experience it also has compassion. 

Great observations there! I would say that it's a good thing that you are conscious about the fear reactions resisting your new insight. From a duality perspective, noticing the unsolidness of the self can be terrifying. However, those thoughts and feelings are not you. You have nothing to fear. It's just erronious views struggling for their survival. The thoughts and feelings just feel like you because you are still identifying with them. Learning how to not do that may take a while. Meanwhile, be gentle with yourself! Allow yourself to feel good! You do enjoy listening to music and engaging with it like that, right? And it's not like you actually disappear. You just had better things to do than fully identifying with your discursive thoughts and stuff like that. Don't worry - the sense of a continuous and separate self will most likely bounce back very reliably even when you wish it wouldn't. It's an incredibly stubborn air castle. emoticon

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
8/31/20 5:37 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
"Nausea is just a great vipassana session wanting to happen".

This should be made into a tshirt emoticon

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 2:33 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
"playing music"

I will not say anything on the OP subject as you have got good advice already but as a fellow music player i am interested to hear more about your music journey emoticon If you have a Soundcloud or similar please do share! I would love to hear it! 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 9:40 AM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
Thanks for the feedback and support Ben. When jhana is available I enter it. I have also started a prostration/surrender practice. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 9:41 AM as a reply to Helen Pohl.
Thank you for the support Helen!

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 10:23 AM as a reply to Olivier.
Olivier:
"Nausea is just a great vipassana session wanting to happen".

This should be made into a tshirt emoticon

Haha, right! Another contribution to the legendary DhO virtual T-shirt collection. emoticon

To clarify the internal joke, there have been many comments lately on what post snippets would be cool on a T-shirt. 

I would sooooo buy that T-shirt. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 10:36 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
Tom Robert Schwab:
When jhana is available I enter it. I have also started a prostration/surrender practice. 

Sounds like a great way to build trust and faith in the process. Good. 

I believe prostrations are part of the rites and rituals referred to when the Buddha said that rites and rituals won't take you to awakening, but I think that what he meant was that they should not be believed in as they key itself just by doing the specifics of it. Some seem to have a religious belief in the rites per se. What I find is that the rituals are sometimes great symbolical pointers and often helpful as a means for developing the mind states needed for the other practice. Especially in difficult times I enjoy doing guru yoga and chanting mantras as it reminds me of what is important and gives me glimpses of the divine grace of the awakening process and the space that surrounds all the stuff that I contract around. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 12:01 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Yes, I will be sure to reread those relevant sections of MCTB.

I have been listening to a Jack Kornfield guided meditation on mindful loving awareness that has been very helpful for acknowledging and holding difficult sensations, emotions, and thoughts. 

I also really connect with this advice of yours; it generally seems to work for me too, indeed it describes my default insight practice, even if I still suffer from doubt:

"One option that has been very helpful for me is to just relax and let awareness process it on its own, but I may have been very lucky to just intuitively know how to do so from the start. The key there is to trust that the awakening process knows the way even if you don't, on a conscious level. I just let the body unclench, in its own pace, and the thoughts and feelings settle without adding any fuel to them. I feel that the awakening process can be trusted and relied on. It has its own wisdom, and in my experience it also has compassion."

When fear and anxiety come on-line I do find it best to simply relax and notice. Sometimes this means I stop what I'm doing and sit for a few moments just to observe, whereas othertimes I continue doing what I'm doing (driving for example) and just kind of let the fear/anxiety manifest.

Also, I think this identifies the root problem:

"I would say that it's a good thing that you are conscious about the fear reactions resisting your new insight. From a duality perspective, noticing the unsolidness of the self can be terrifying. However, those thoughts and feelings are not you."


There is a lot of resistence to these insights and that seems like it will be very difficult to work through, but knowing that you and countless others have experienced this makes things seem a little more manageable.

"Meanwhile, be gentle with yourself! Allow yourself to feel good! You do enjoy listening to music and engaging with it like that, right? And it's not like you actually disappear. You just had better things to do than fully identifying with your discursive thoughts and stuff like that."

What also kind of worries me is that I think I am being gentle with myself! I am only formally sitting for at most 25 minutes in the morning. and am able to enjoy myself for a lot of most days, it's just these waves of fear and dissociation come, and they seem to come more frequently now... I find myself longing to be distracted, wishing I had taken the blue pill!

Anyhow I might be being a bit dramatic and certainly self-indulgent. I once again appreciate the generosity of your feedback! 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 12:37 PM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
     After reading some commentaries where body practices like yoga are
recommended, I feel I can speak of a skill I mastered that made me
fearless in regard to weird and negative perceptions; relaxation
.
Although Samatha is always mentioned as a component of meditation,
and instructions to relax are frequently heard in guided meditation, it is really
impossible to understand the depths of relaxation by sitting.
Reactions that are felt in the body such as fear and it's continuum,
panic, can be disrupted by deep relaxation. When this ability is
mastered, the fearful attitude changes to, an explorer of the mind
“bring it on” one.
     Stages of learning can start with progressive muscle
relaxation done in the corpse yoga asana, autogenic training, Open Focus and an
understanding of Hypnosis based suggestion. With practice you will be
able to recognize habitual reactions and tension patterns in the
body. It will become part of your expanded awareness.
     I can tell many stories of the incredible results of this practice for
myself, and for patients in the psychiatric setting where I taught. I
once used it to get rid of a bump on my heel that made it very
painful to walk, I believe it's called a Plantar Fasciitis. As I
went deeper into relaxation I concentrated on the heel and suddenly
heard a sharp pop. The pain was gone as if it was never there. Give
it a try.

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 12:49 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Thanks for the interest. I just started this channel. Hope you enjoy! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnBq4PbV3-5h4d2ogyqxKaw

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/1/20 12:50 PM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
I started out with about the same amount of practice per day and things happened fast for me too. Sometimes it just does. Maybe you are more ready for it than you think. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/2/20 9:28 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
That's good to know Linda. Can I ask what your practiced looked like as you got SE? How long were you sitting? What kind of insight practices? Were you doing retreats? Was it a gradual process to build up to or do you dive right in? 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/2/20 9:29 AM as a reply to Angel Roberto Puente.
Thank you for the suggestions Angel. I will continue my somatic scanning practices and look into other progressive relaxation techniques. 

RE: Oppressive Mindfulness
Answer
9/6/20 12:55 AM as a reply to Tom Robert Schwab.
Sorry for the delayed response. No, I didn't experience the fear, as far as I can remember. I switched away from the Mahasi tradition to one that I think suits me better. IIRC, Daniel mentioned seeing the flickering of experience himself possibly even before training. In a similar way, I had been experiencing soft jhana before training, sort of like the story of the Buddha under the rose apple tree. But for me, noting is very difficult and laborious. So I do V. Vimalaramsi's 6R method. As far as I know, this approach does not involve the distinctive unpleasant/difficult stages.