Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Navidson, modified 5 Months ago.

Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Post: 1 Join Date: 10/7/20 Recent Posts
About three years ago I began a dedicated meditation practice closely adhering to The Mind Illuminated, by Culadasa. I loved meditating according to the TMI method. I practiced on average an hour a day, roughly 25% metta and 75% attending to the breath. I reached about Stage 7 TMI. From the very early days of my practice, strong and pleasurable piti sensations were a notable feature of my sits. Off the cushion, I could always find pleasurable vibrations in my body after just a moment of quieting my mind. On the cushion, rapturous jhanic experiences were becoming the norm.

The reliable, joyous piti made meditation a total pleasure for me. Practice felt easy, and the benefits of consistent practice in my daily life were obvious. I felt calmer, more joyful, and kinder. Friends remarked on how much happier I seemed, and at least two were inspired to start their own meditation practices after seeing how it was working for me. I was full of confidence because my practice was looking like the very picture of success.

I think you know where this is going.

First I ran into difficult interpersonal trouble. My two closest friends at the time were a married couple, and they got divorced. This resulted in me losing one of them as a friend and gaining the other as a roommate. I will spare you the gory details but suffice to say there was a lot of drama and ill will in this period. This made concentration a challenge.

During this tumultous time, my remaining friend/roommate and I experimented with psilocybin mushrooms. I had three incredible trips. Several weeks after the last mushroom trip, I had a powerful experience that at the time I thought might be stream entry. Since then I've come to believe it was crossing the A&P.

Like I said, you know where this is going.

My relationship with my remaining friend/roommate turned sour. He no longer seemed like the incredible person I used to think he was. In fact he seemed like a world-class narcissistic asshole -- and now I was stuck sharing a home with him! I felt like I had invited a vampire into the house. I regretted siding with him in his divorce and losing my other friend; I was full of shame and guilt on that score. I also felt manipulated by him and was consumed with resentment. Daily life had become hard to bear. 

In my daily life, I no longer found enjoyment in anything. I am sure my experience fit the clinical definition of major depression with severe anhedonia. In my meditations, the piti stopped. Although I could still white-knuckle an hour of concentration practice, I never felt any real joy. Sometimes I thought I could feel the beginnings of piti arising in the form of subtle vibrations, but they never matured into a truly pleasurable sensations. Instead they felt like they were getting blocked by some kind of internal nubmness or tension, localized somwhere inside my head. Reaching he first jhana was no longer possible. I think relatedly, I also felt greatly diminished pleasure from sex -- almost none, in fact.

This past July I cut out that friend, moved out of that apartment, and resolved to re-dedicate myself to spiritual practice. This resulted in weeks of misery. Meditation was no longer bringing me any joy or peace of mind at all. As far as I could tell it was actually making me feel wosre. What was the point? 

I almost gave up, but decided to see if switching things up would work. I had always avoided straight-up vipassana, "dry insight" types of meditation because I believed what TMI said about needing mature samatha before attempting hardcore vipassana in order to prevent a serious Dark Night experience. My plan had to been to master the rupa jhanas before transitioning to an insight practice. But here I was in the Dark Night anyway: might as well try insight.

I switched from eyes-closed concentration on the breath in my bedroom to eyes-open choiceless awareness in the forest. The improvement in the quality of my sits was almost immediate. The concentration skills I had developed in the years of prior samatha practice definitely paid off big time now that I was giving choiceless awareness a chance. It only took a sit or two before I could easily see the inconstant, vibratory nature of visual phenomena. After sitting, I used the hike out of the forest as an opportunity for walking meditation, and on those walks I was moved by how dreamy and luminous the forest looked. A profound, tear-filled emotional release followed my fourth vipassana sit. I could feel so much tension in my body easing. In addition to seeing the nature of phenomena more clearly, I also gained some valuable mundane psychological insights into all the places I had gone wrong in my interpersonal relationships and created so much needless suffering for myself and others.

So, in short, things are going much better now. My mental life is no longer nonstop misery and frustration. I feel lighter and calmer. I still feel some notable areas of tension, especially in the head and the back of the neck, but I'm definitely looser than I was a month ago. 

But I still miss the piti.

Now that I have some tranquility again, I can feel fine vibratory body sensations when concentrating. I have been able to enter a jhanic state by reaching access concentration and then shifting my attention to these vibrations and letting them suffuse my body. This is a major improvement in my concentration ability since the start of my Dark Night, but it's a far cry from the joyous rapture that used to characterize my samatha practice. Notably, sexual joy has also not returned.

Is this normal? If so, can I ever expect to experience that intense, joyful piti again, or is what I'm getting now all I should expect?
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 5 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 1581 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"But I still miss the piti"

Fasten you're seatbelt Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye bye emoticon Welcome to Dark Side of the Moon. 

Once we start realizing g that Jhana stuff is unsatisfactory there is no way back as it once was. The Honeymoon feeling will Never come back. Luckily for you as the last thing you want is to be a Jhana junky emoticon instead of working towards this fine thing called Awakening. 

Yes, many of us here share the same story of love, joy, rapture, calm and beauty until all just started to rot away and smell real bad.

Its called progress on the Path of Insight. emoticon you are safe and good to go! (But do fasten your seatbelts just in case there is some turbulence). 

I was a Shamatha meditator for years then got stuck in DN and gave up on meditation entirely in hope DN will go away. It didn't. I mastered enough strength and determination to follow Kenneth Folks freestyle noting aloud style (fused with a few tips from Shinzen and Ingram and made my own personal style) and that got me out of the Dark Night. 

Yes it can be done.  But you might not get your Honeymoon Piti back (maybe something More Better instead). 

Best is to really be clear about your new practice so you don't sit in doubt. You decide and put your heart into it. If it's Noting so be it. If it's something else so be it. No reason to mix up stuff as you will loose the momentum. If it's Noting then commit to it once or twice a day 45-60 minutes per sit, for the next 6 months. Start a log here on DhO so people can follow you and where you can ask questions etc .., 

Welcome to the DhO emoticon 
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 942 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Navidson:
... can I ever expect to experience that intense, joyful piti again, or is what I'm getting now all I should expect?

Is this similar to what you were doing? If not it might help:
http://www.leighb.com/jhana3.htm

Have you tried metta meditation? I think if you can do that you might be able to transfer over to piti.
https://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/guided_meditations/01GuidedMetta(4min).mp3

To produce piti, I just breathe in a relaxing way, notice the pleasant feeling of relaxation, let a slight smile emerge, and that triggers piti - sometimes I have to keep at it patiently for it to get going, but I can tell when  I am doing it even if the piti hasn't accumulated strongly so I just keep at it. I do this even when I am not meditating, so I can keep it cooking in the background while I do other things - if I get out of it for a while or my metabolism is not optimal it can take a while before I start noticing the piti accumulating. But just doing it, waiting for the piti to accumulate can take the edge off of unpleasant emotions - partly because I get a lot of other spiriutal feelings besides piti: metta, surrender, humilty, compassion, forgiveness, etc. (I don't really experience the standard stages of the progress of insight. I have A&P and high equanimity together a lot of the time.)

Also I find relaxation exercises help. For the jhanas, I think in terms of access relaxation more than access concentration. (In my experience dukkha = stress.) I find intesnse vipassana to be stressful (not the right word but as close as I can think of) - maybe that is why you are not getting piti now? I see the concentration in vipassana more like searching intently for a lost object whereas the concentration in samatha is more like looking at a beautiful sunset. Not that vipassana is bad, but I find it can be exclusionary of the mental states of samatha. Like the difference between the analytical or experiental (vipassana?) and empathic (jhana?) brain networks. I think vipassana activates different networks in the brain than are used for the jhanas. I usually do vipassana when I am feeling tranquil from practicing samatha first. And I do samatha after vipassana to get back to tranqulity.

I don't really like turning piti up to a high level. To me it seems nicer at a slow simmer. 

There are some states that are neither pleasant nor-unpeasant they can seem nicer than piti. Maybe if you can't get back to the piti you can find your way to something like that. In comparison piti seems kind of ... um ... uh ... immature, deluded, illusory? I am a big fan and user of piti so I don't mean that in a derogatory way, I'm just trying to describe what I experience - but that's part of why I think piti is nicer at a low simmer rather than a full boil.
shargrol, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 1494 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Take a step back and you'll see that your mind is an amazing thing. It comforted you with piti and then when you were feeling better it led you through a bunch of insights that will support much saner living in the future. Pretty cool!

This similar thing has played out many many times in my own life. I suspect this will happen many many many many times for you, too.

My advice is to trust that simple, daily, non-heroic vipassina practice will take your through many highs and lows but always leading to greater clarity and sanity. It doesn't always go the way we want in the moment, but when we look back, we can see there was a strange method to all the madness. emoticon

Best wishes for your practice!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I feel ya. It might be a good idea not to stay too attached to the strong vibrations, because they are more of a sign than a destination. Holding on to them is sort of like setting up camp along the road because there is a road sign for your holiday destination, like "Camusdarrach Beach, 80 miles". I have been missing my vibrations a lot because I did get attached, and I still get nostalgic about the time when it was all vibrations and getting sucked into altered states, but there is so much more to it than that. I'm still learning how much I miss that is already right here right now because I'm looking for something "special". There is an inherent liviliness to the stillness that is so much more nuanced and sweet, and that also has a lightness to it that the jhanas don't. The divine hides in plain sight. 

As for piti, that does happen sometimes, and now and then I get into a phase where jhanas want to happen. It's not gone. It's just not a top priority right now. I have actually noticed that there's a tendency for me to push through the piti because I experience it more like a thick veil than as joy. The light spaciousness that is always there behind the veils is more attractive now that I have gotten a taste for it. I think I will develop more single-pointed concentration later, when I have managed to lock in the spaciousness. On the other hand, who knows if that will even seem like a good idea then. 
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Helen Pohl, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 81 Join Date: 8/10/20 Recent Posts
Is there anything I can do when piti and stuff like chakras are going all out(or at least that's what it feels like) in the middle of the night? I can't sleep! >_<
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Helen Pohl:
Is there anything I can do when piti and stuff like chakras are going all out(or at least that's what it feels like) in the middle of the night? I can't sleep! >_<
There is supposed to be a Tibetan seed syllable, pronounced "peh", that helps with that if you shout it out while focusing on your mind. I didn't know about that when this would happen for me in a way that was disturbing my sleep, so I haven't tried it. There was a time when I definitely would have tried it if I had known about it. I finally managed to get out of the jhanas and the repeated fruitions long enough to reach my ipad and turn on netflix. That actually helped. Apart from that, I mostly enjoyed those nights. It's like the waking nights with a small baby. It can be tiresome but it's also sort of a miracle and it doesn't last.
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Helen Pohl, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 81 Join Date: 8/10/20 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
Helen Pohl:
Is there anything I can do when piti and stuff like chakras are going all out(or at least that's what it feels like) in the middle of the night? I can't sleep! >_<
There is supposed to be a Tibetan seed syllable, pronounced "peh", that helps with that if you shout it out while focusing on your mind. I didn't know about that when this would happen for me in a way that was disturbing my sleep, so I haven't tried it. There was a time when I definitely would have tried it if I had known about it. I finally managed to get out of the jhanas and the repeated fruitions long enough to reach my ipad and turn on netflix. That actually helped. Apart from that, I mostly enjoyed those nights. It's like the waking nights with a small baby. It can be tiresome but it's also sort of a miracle and it doesn't last.

Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely try it out next time I'm having a difficult night. =)

You're right it can be enjoyable in a way. But being next to useless the next day at work...not so much emoticon
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Jim Smith, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 942 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
Helen Pohl:
Is there anything I can do when piti and stuff like chakras are going all out(or at least that's what it feels like) in the middle of the night? I can't sleep! >_<

One thing that sometimes helps is trying to meditate on the breath in a relaxing way (samatha not vipassana) while lying down. If you try to keep the mind focused while lying down it often leads to drowsiness. An alternative to breath meditation are these relaxation exercises which also work well for me, they are like meditation, you have to focus the mind to do them.
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Helen Pohl, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 81 Join Date: 8/10/20 Recent Posts
Jim Smith:
Helen Pohl:
Is there anything I can do when piti and stuff like chakras are going all out(or at least that's what it feels like) in the middle of the night? I can't sleep! >_<

One thing that sometimes helps is trying to meditate on the breath in a relaxing way (samatha not vipassana) while lying down. If you try to keep the mind focused while lying down it often leads to drowsiness. An alternative to breath meditation are these relaxation exercises which also work well for me, they are like meditation, you have to focus the mind to do them.

Thanks for your comment, Jim. =) It's just that I've always meditated lying down, doing samatha(or so I thought) exclusively for ~4 years. It still landed me in this mess, so to speak. Falling asleep has been difficult for me at least since age 7, and now that I've entered perimenopause it's worse than ever. I am, for the most part, accepting this though...I don't mean to complain. It'll end some day.
Matt, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 26 Join Date: 2/7/11 Recent Posts
I had a similar experience myself. The first few times I hit the first jhana it was like simultaneously being electrocuted and dissolving into an intense whole-body orgasm. (Actually, it was so strong at first that I couldn't stay there for more than a few seconds. In some ways I miss those days, but in many ways I kinda don't...)

Not long after I had a big shift in my practice, and actually for a few years after that it was pretty hard to get back into the jhanas. I'd seen too much of the vibratory nature of perception, and unfortunately my big trick for getting in in the first place was to solidify the sensation of the breath, which was now basically impossible. Oops.

For me, I found that qigong helped. I spent a lot of time practising the microcosmic orbit, and found that once I could get some energetic sensations moving around, that gave me enough of a platform to get into the second jhana, and then onwards and upwards (or downwards, depending on your point of view). But the piti sensations after doing the microcosmic orbit were - for want of better terms - much more 'refined', 'smooth' and 'orderly' than the old 'finger-in-electrical-socket' experience.

They've never gone back to their original levels of craziness, and if I spend too much time on the first jhana now the energy tends to want to move in a kundalini direction instead. My system seems to have been running a bit on the hot side for the last couple of years and I'm prone to migraines if I don't cool things down from time to time, so I haven't played with this much. However, I've found that some of the bodily pleasure has started to return in the first jhana, particularly if I pass through 1 into 2, spend a while settling in 2, then step back down to 1 for a little while.

That said, my interests have changed significantly over the last few years, and I'm now much more drawn to peace than to excitement. Resting in the stillness of awareness is not as 'fun' as the first jhana, but it's more (don't say 'nourishing', don't say 'nourishing')... it's more nourishing somehow.

So if you're really keen to get the energetics back, I'd suggest spending some time with energy practices - although my very strong recommendation is to follow a practice which heavily emphasises building a secure foundation in the belly/dantien/navel chakra before running energy anywhere near the head, unless you enjoy headaches and nausea. Alternatively, as others have suggested, make the most of your insight progress and keep at it, and you may find in time that your tastes change enough that you don't miss it any more.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 5293 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Wow, what a great post, Matt! Very insightful and also creative. I have sometimes been worrying a bit that my piti might be too weak nowaydays, but your post reminds me there are many different ways in. If one doesn't work for some reason, there are plenty of other ways. Thanks!  I especially like the hack of approaching the jhanas in a non-linear way to improve the experience. That's good craftmanship. Also, it is really good to hear that I'm not the only one who suddenly has trouble accessing jhanas after a shift in the practice. Thankyou for that!
agnostic, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 1266 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
The barriers to getting into jhana are the hindrances, usually desire and aversion. It sounds like you WANT to
get into jhana as a way to ESCAPE your situation. If you can ACCEPT it then you should be good to go!
angelicphase, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Cut off from piti. Will it ever return?

Posts: 7 Join Date: 7/3/18 Recent Posts
Hey Navidson, I feel like I can relate to your experience almost to a T. I first began with TMI, dove headfirst into daily practice, and somehow veered deeply into insight territory along the way. I was able to experience energetic states quite easily, along with entering into a witnessing state where I no longer seemed to be pulled into suffering - achieving peace and stability I had never experienced in my entire life. I eventually developed an interest in my own emotional and psychological well-being, as I still had great difficulty with relationships, along with experiencing the death of my father and ostracisation from my family at the time. After going deep enough into these issues I seemingly opened pandoras box, unleashing a life-time of pain and suffering that I had never dealt with, which to this day seems to come up cylically in waves. This has also had the unintended consequence of cutting me off from experiencing those energetic states, which I now only experience fleetingly.

Perhaps what you may be experiencing could be considered a type of purgative or cleansing process - or as others have mentioned a dark night of the soul of sorts. Rather than seeing the absence of these states negatively, you may in fact gradually be being guided towards experiencing the world in a much richer and deeper capacity. In my own life I have had to carefully examine my relationship to energetic or transcendent states, which I have come to realise can be quite addictive in nature. It may not necessarily be the absence of these states that is the problem, but rather unconscious cravings for them in their wake, with these states being similar to the rush or high stemming from any other addictive behaviour which we use to escape from ourselves. Personally, I feel I have reached a point where these experiences do not even seem desirable, as they are always transitory and dualistic in nature, although it has been a challenging process to get here. 

I hope you might find my own account relateable or helpful.