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Why am I not backsliding?

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Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/13/20 6:57 PM
Hello everyone! My first post here, though I have lurked for a while, and I am grateful for this community. emoticon

So I started meditation about 6 years ago (2014) and kept up a very consistent practice up until about 3 years ago (2017) when I went on my first and only 10-day Goenka retreat. I was doing solely vipassana practice for about 30 min-1 hr a day prior to the retreat, skipped next to no days. 

During the Goenka retreat, nothing notable occurred. I think I was honestly struggling to maintain a stable equanimity amidst the pain and racing thoughts throughout the retreat, so I went back to my "normal" life thinking nothing of it.

A few days after returning to grad school, I ran into a horrid horrid Dark Night. Physical heaviness that made it difficult to move and breathe, like there was a weight on my heart/chest, and a pervading sense of meaninglessness in everything. After a thought to go do something/anything, the immediate next though would be "well what's the point? the feelings I get from doing this thing will not last, so might as well do nothing." There was a complete lack of focus/concentration. I could not read two sentences without feeling like I needed a break. I could not find the motivation or will to do anything, and eventually ended up dropping out of grad school because I was drowning in work and could not bring myself to do any of it. This was very unusual for me. 

This Dark Night lasted about 1.5-2 solid years, until I somehow managed to come out of it WITHOUT a consistent practice. I have been working as a school teacher for the past 2 years without a daily practice, and it seems as though I am progressively becoming more and more equanimous, which I find strange considering many who stop practicing are said to slide back into prior stages of insight.

It seems as though my suffering has vanished, as though nothing can bother me. All of my bad habits (weed, masturbation, junk food...) seem to have ceased without my conscious involvement, as if there is no attachment to anything. I am losing more and more attachments and becoming more and more free as time has passed this year. It seems as though the world cannot sway my sense of inner peace/freedom. 

It simultaneously seems like my sense of self, or ego, is eroding, and I can track this. I have less preferences, less judgments, less thoughts, more space. Things just "are" and there is a general okay-ness about everything.

My question is: how can this be? I would expect to be cycling through Dark Night territory from lack of consistent practice. Am I mistaken about being in equanimity territory? This is definitely a state of consciousness that I do not have experience with before: so free!! I have not practiced all year and this state has remained, and is evolving for the "better."

This isn't a concern, but I guess I am wondering how to be using the maps to apply to my situation (are they 100% reliable?), or if anyone has any insight about my current situation. I still have Dark Night PTSD and would dread having to revisit that level of misery lol (*half joking*)

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 6:47 AM as a reply to Brian.
To state this in simple terms:

The maps are not the territory. You may not have been in a dark night situation. Everything that happens to us isn't due to our mediation practice (although of you read these boards...)  Maps aren't destiny, and everyone is different.

Go live your life!

emoticon

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 7:03 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I appreciate your response, thank you. : )

Yes, it seems that is the conclusion that I have come to based on my experience: that perhaps the maps are not the territory.

Though, I would be surprised if that was not a Dark Night that I experienced. There was a clear A&P during a mushroom trip which is what got me into meditation.

And that "Dark Night" was so time-locked to the Goenka retreat and such a radically different state of consciousness than I have ever experienced (and had many of the Dark Night characteristics described in MCTemoticon that I felt that is what must have happened. I initially tried to meditate my way out of it without knowing what was going on but gave up hope (I didn't know about the maps at the time).

Anyways, I was once a very very motivated meditator, but it seems that will is now gone. Feels nice I suppose, guess I just wonder if I should be hittin' the ol' cushion regardless. 

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 10:25 AM as a reply to Brian.
Brian:
 All of my bad habits (weed, masturbation, junk food...) seem to have ceased without my conscious involvement, as if there is no attachment to anything.
Interesting that you consider weed and masturbation to be bad habits, I can understand that point of view.  And I wonder what kind of food you consider to be 'junk' emoticon

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 11:44 AM as a reply to J W.
I guess they are not bad in and of themselves, just the relationship I have with them, which was not healthy. lol The pull, the justification to do them in the face of negative consequences, all that good stuff.

And I guess one man's junk is another man's...treasure? .....Golden arches!! Lol

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 11:55 AM as a reply to Brian.
Brian:
I guess they are not bad in and of themselves, just the relationship I have with them, which was not healthy. lol The pull, the justification to do them in the face of negative consequences, all that good stuff.

And I guess one man's junk is another man's...treasure? .....Golden arches!! Lol

Lol, right on, just joshing around. I do wonder about the net effect(s) of smoking and psychedelics, especially when you're combining it with meditation... I guess the jury's still out for me.  I do try to go through periods of complete sobriety and notice how that affects my meditation (im in one of those periods now).  I guess like anything, moderation is key IMHO.

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 5:07 PM as a reply to Brian.
Brian:


This isn't a concern, but I guess I am wondering how to be using the maps to apply to my situation (are they 100% reliable?), or if anyone has any insight about my current situation. I still have Dark Night PTSD and would dread having to revisit that level of misery lol (*half joking*)

I don't really follow the map, I don't think progress necessarily has to occur the way it shows, I did not practice that type of vipassana, and my own progress didn't conform to the maps.  However if the map is right for some forms of practice, and you did experience a dark night, that would have come after A&P, and it is said that after A&P, progress in inevitable. So that would explain why you are not backsliding. You passed the point of no return.

https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/part-iv-insight/30-the-progress-of-insight/4-the-arising-and-passing-away/
However this stage manifests, the A&P is a major milestone on the path of insight. It is also a point of no return, since soon the meditator will learn what is meant by the phrase, “Better not to begin. Once begun, better to finish!” as they are now too far into this to ever really go back. Until they complete this progress of insight, they are “on the ride”, and may begin to feel that the dharma is now doing them rather than the other way around.

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/14/20 6:58 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
[quote=
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However this stage manifests, the A&P is a major milestone on the path of insight. It is also a point of no return, since soon the meditator will learn what is meant by the phrase, “Better not to begin. Once begun, better to finish!” as they are now too far into this to ever really go back. Until they complete this progress of insight, they are “on the ride”, and may begin to feel that the dharma is now doing them rather than the other way around.

This resonates very much with what I am experiencing. It no longer feels effortful, but rather that progression is just happening. Thank you for finding that quote. : )

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/15/20 1:50 AM as a reply to Brian.
Sorry to disappoint you, but that doesn't explain it at all. The dukkha nanas are part of the inevitable progress if you pass the point of no return. They can be very mild, though. They don't always live up to the name dark night. I would say that most of the time they don't. 

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/15/20 8:17 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
How was your own experience the first time around?

RE: Why am I not backsliding?
Answer
10/15/20 10:01 AM as a reply to Helen Pohl.
I don't know when my first time was, so I really can't tell. It wasn't due to meditation. I may have been cycling my entire life. That would explain a lot. I was a very weird kid.