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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosis

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I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/27/20 3:56 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Papa Che Dusko 11/27/20 3:53 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/27/20 4:32 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Papa Che Dusko 11/27/20 4:32 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/27/20 4:55 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis George S 11/27/20 5:39 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/28/20 6:16 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis George S 11/28/20 8:50 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis shargrol 11/28/20 5:59 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/28/20 7:08 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis shargrol 11/28/20 9:12 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/28/20 9:34 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/28/20 10:05 AM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis shargrol 11/28/20 2:43 PM
RE: Help with practice diagnosis Boris T 11/29/20 1:14 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Jim Smith 11/28/20 12:55 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 11/28/20 1:06 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Helen Pohl 11/28/20 3:02 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Papa Che Dusko 11/29/20 9:47 AM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 11/29/20 1:12 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Papa Che Dusko 11/29/20 3:22 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 11/30/20 6:17 AM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Papa Che Dusko 11/30/20 1:51 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 11/30/20 2:49 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Helen Pohl 11/29/20 3:11 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 11/29/20 1:12 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Tommy M 12/2/20 6:29 AM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Daniel M. Ingram 12/2/20 11:43 AM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Tommy M 12/2/20 12:38 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 12/2/20 3:46 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 12/2/20 2:57 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Tommy M 12/2/20 3:18 PM
RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi Boris T 12/2/20 3:40 PM
Hi all, 

I know my question is difficult / impossible to answer here but I’ll try anyway. I have a pattern that comes again and again, and I don't know if it is meditation related or my psychological issues related. For a couple of years, I keep having a "high" period - a lot of piti, lite jhanas, lights, subtle vibrations, lessening of doer / controller. Then follows a period of anxiety, fears and tears. Now, I have real reason for anxiety, fears and tears and I have a generalized anxiety disorder. But the thing is that when I have a "high" period, all the reasons for anxiety, fears and tears are still here but they don't bother me. 

So I am asking myself again and again if I am cycling through some Insight stages or I just have cyclothymia or something. You may say "See a psychiatrist” – I did and he can’t tell for sure. You may say “talk to a teacher” – I did with a couple of them and they can’t tell for sure.
It's clear that I don’t experience precise characteristics of Dark night stages but I do experience cycling from pleasurable periods with easy concentration and insights followed by difficult periods with a lot of non-comfort.
I get more and more equanimous towards this cycling but it would be encouraging to know that the thing is meditation / insight related rather than being just a part of my psychological difficulties.

Is it possible to evaluate my situation?
Thanks!

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/27/20 3:53 PM as a reply to Boris T.
Welcome friend emoticon 

Would you please tell us exactly how you practice meditation and for how long daily and in months or years. 

The more you tell us about the practice itself the better advice you will get I'm sure. 

Best wishes. 

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/27/20 4:32 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Papa Che Dusko:
Welcome friend emoticon 

Would you please tell us exactly how you practice meditation and for how long daily and in months or years. 

The more you tell us about the practice itself the better advice you will get I'm sure. 

Best wishes. 


Thank you!

I've being meditating for about 4.5 years following TMI until recently (stage 7-8 but with unstable technique). For less than a year I abandoned any formal instructions because my mind is blocked by holding instructions and intentions, even gently. So it is now mostly “Stop trying to do anything” mediation. In a “high” period my mind inclines toward stabilizing itself around piti in the whole body or the breath in my head and either goes jhana (not deep but still recognizable) or starts to observe how vibrations and energy currents are beautifully happening without "me / I" or any controlling instances. Sometimes that sense of dissolving of the doer/controller can be strong and very liberating but in daily life it doesn’t stick more than for a couple of days. Still, I think I was little by little transformed by this way of seeing, even if this transformation is not spectacular. 

When anxiety, fears and tear replace piti, I try to keep Do nothing meditation, sometimes have to stop my session before one-hour mark (exhausted be tears and painful energies). By the past, when the difficult cycle arrived, I just stopped meditating for a couple of weeks because I was completely discouraged and un-motivated. For the three last cycles I mange not to skip sessions.

Then, after 3-10 weeks, the high period comes back, for 3-8 weeks.

What additional details can I provide?

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/27/20 4:32 PM as a reply to Boris T.
Thank you for adding extra info. It would be good to get a member with TMI knowledge to join this conversation. I know very little about it. 

You mentioned your psychology. Do you suffer from a condition? If so are you familiar with it and if you take meds and therapy? 

Also in general how is your life? Friends, family, jobs, hobbies? Have you noticed any changes in your life for better or worse? 

I see your daily sitting practice is about 1 hour long session once or more of either Do Nothing or Jhana based. I assume you never practiced Mahasi Noting? As you have joined this community am I safe to assume that you might be here because you are giving Noting practice a thought? 

Btw, my primary practice was Shamatha and after a few years I've got into a very difficult situation and could not find my way out of it. Then I decided to give Noting an honest try and in my case it worked as promised. I also suffered from PTSD for decades with meds and therapies and can relate to such difficulties. 

I hope we get other members join this thread. 

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/27/20 4:55 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
I do take meds against anxiety and I see objectively my life situation as sad. But my whole point is that this situation is the same all the time - when I have pleasurable periods of practice and when I have difficult periods. So my life situation is not changing; what does change it's my mental states. And I am sure that good periods are due only to my “jhanic / insight” periods because there is no other reason in my life to be happy but only from the joy that jhanic factors and non-self experience bring.

My doubt is whether my difficult periods also come from meditation (dukkha nanas) or not. And I am less concerned with difficulty of these periods but rather with the reason of the cycling that happens again and again over several years.

As to noting, my mind does it often spontaneously without labeling thing, but I strongly feel I don’t have to impose any single technique to my mind right now. Maybe at some later point. Now I need to stick to a passive and non-directive way of mediation. But again, noting often happens by itself.


RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/27/20 5:39 PM as a reply to Boris T.
Do you mind sharing what about your life situation objectively is sad?

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 5:59 AM as a reply to Boris T.
Boris T:
I do take meds against anxiety and I see objectively my life situation as sad. But my whole point is that this situation is the same all the time - when I have pleasurable periods of practice and when I have difficult periods. So my life situation is not changing; what does change it's my mental states. And I am sure that good periods are due only to my “jhanic / insight” periods because there is no other reason in my life to be happy but only from the joy that jhanic factors and non-self experience bring.

My doubt is whether my difficult periods also come from meditation (dukkha nanas) or not. And I am less concerned with difficulty of these periods but rather with the reason of the cycling that happens again and again over several years.

As to noting, my mind does it often spontaneously without labeling thing, but I strongly feel I don’t have to impose any single technique to my mind right now. Maybe at some later point. Now I need to stick to a passive and non-directive way of mediation. But again, noting often happens by itself.


Obviously there is no way that I can know your experience with just a few words, but I'm going to just blurt out a bunch of ideas. Maybe some will be helpful, but ignore them if they are not...

Sure, it's likely that some aspect of your experience is due to the dukka nanas. That's reasonable if someone has been practicing a number of years and has regular piti type experiences. That means you need to learn to fully experience the negative stuff, learn to allow those thoughts, feelings, and sensations to arise and pass. It also means it would be good to work with a meditation friend, teacher, group, etc. to give you some support for what you are experiencing.

It's also true that some aspect of your experience is due to psychological factors. You could have several defence mechanisms that are there to protect you from your sad situation... and maybe some of those reactive patterns and strategies causes you to be idealistic for a while and then when you use up all your happy chemicals, then you fall into depression/exhaustions. Basically some form of bipolar type mental disease.

It is interesting to me that you think passive and non-directive is the answer --- that might suggest that you tend to avoid dealing with aspects of your life, hope things will just go away, you don't trust yourself to find a way to get better, are afraid to look closely at your psychology, are overwhelmed and need more rest/healing and therapy rather than investigative meditation, etc. 

It's interesting that to me also that you are thinking of things as dukka nanas or not ---- that might suggest that you tend to have mostly binary (black or white) type thinking and could maybe learn to see more grey areas, more mixed situations, etc. when you think about the world, etc.

And depending on your age, occupation, and situation, this could just be a stage of human development where you need to learn to become independent of your situtation and focus more on real life and less on meditation practice.

So those are the general types of thoughts I have when I read your posts, but I can't know for sure if any of that is on target.

Hope it helps in some way.

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 6:16 AM as a reply to George S.
agnostic:
Do you mind sharing what about your life situation objectively is sad?


Yes but again my question is not about how not to suffer but whether the cycling is related to my practice or to my psychological issues. When I'm on my high meditative period with piti and melting of the sense of self, my situation doesn't bother me at all. The situation is unchanged. Even when I have dark night-ish periods, it's not the situation per se that bothers me but energies of anxiety, fear, loss, grief... They are not really related to my life situation but to overall existential feeling that I experience the life as a path of mental suffering, that I never managed to find a place among other people or in some activity in this life, that I am terribly alone in the most existential sense of this word.

I feel that I am also very unloved person, throughout my life, and that I always was needy as to people love and recognition. But I also clearly see that I don’t have some attractive qualities to get love and recognition, quit objectively.
But some insight I get showed me that I don’t need all these when I am blessed with “no-self” mental state, where all my sadness and neediness just disappear, and I am completely satisfied. But this liberating seeing doesn’t last and comes to me not so often.
Also, I can’t be very consistent with my practice because my mind strongly rejects any active technique (active noting, directing of attention, etc.) so I can do only passive practices that sometimes work great but other times less well. (But they work anyway much better than active practices, which time after time lead me to stop meditating and practicing all together).

That’s my life situation but I have to emphasize that the situation doesn’t change and I keep cycling, in my practice, between a state where I am free from suffering to a great extent and a state of suffering. But the most important is that my question is not about how not to suffer but whether the cycling is related to my practice or to my psychological issues.

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 7:08 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargol, thank you so much for your answer! The thoughts you are sharing in your reply are very interesting. I want react to this:

"It is interesting to me that you think passive and non-directive is the answer --- that might suggest that you tend to avoid dealing with aspects of your life, hope things will just go away, you don't trust yourself to find a way to get better, are afraid to look closely at your psychology, are overwhelmed and need more rest/healing and therapy rather than investigative meditation, etc."
 
My practice is passive not in this sense. It’s passive in the sense that my mind chooses what practice to do and I don’t interfere with whatever mental content or activities happen. But I don’t avoid anything. 80% of my practice is dealing with difficult metal content. I have a lot of purification, I often see how painful sensations dissolve into neutral or pleasurable energy current, I stay with what is, facing painful memories, etc. So passivity is not about avoiding something but about the choice of a technique that works for me.

As to therapy, I tried some and was very disappointed. I think I just have to accept that I am a broken person. A broken person can too live his life until the end, the way he’s able to, learning to accept his brokenness and pain rather than labeling it as a decease and let some other person try make you some socially accepted unit by inviting you do have relationships and goals that are judged healthy but that are of no interest for me.

I think that therapy is overrated in pragmatic dharma as a myth that we have by all means be happy and healthy. I think that some degree of unhappiness can be accepted through practice. And also Western people, even those practicing dharma, don’t want to bring death into equation. They want to heal themselves as if they have eternal life before them so it’s sooo important to be perfectly healthy and happy. But we all die very soon,the life we have is very temporary, so everything don't have to be fixed because it’s just a short journey. So being OK is enough, even with some pain and brokenness. Practice can help us to walk our way more gracefully and attain some liberation, but I don't think we sould be obsessed about getting everything right. Sorry for this ramble and thank you for you generous answer. I appreciate especially that:

"That means you need to learn to fully experience the negative stuff, learn to allow those thoughts, feelings, and sensations to arise and pass."

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 8:50 AM as a reply to Boris T.
I don't think you can really separate your practice from your psychological difficulties at this point, but it's significant that you want to try to do this. We are all cycling to some extent between experiences of bliss and pain, but attempting to compartmentalize them seems to result in extremes on either side.

It feels like you have suffered some serious rejection in your life, which I can relate to. The mind reframes the rejection as an assumption of being unlovable in a kind of primitive defense strategy ("I am unlovable therefore no one should love me therefore I will not experience the pain of rejection again"). It works for a bit, but it leads to anti-social behaviors which increase the risk of further isolation and rejection. It's a horrible vicious circle, but the good news is that the mind eventually figures it out and gets sick of the cycle of suffering and the way forward slowly becomes clear again.

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 9:12 AM as a reply to Boris T.
Boris T:
shargol, thank you so much for your answer! The thoughts you are sharing in your reply are very interesting. I want react to this:

"It is interesting to me that you think passive and non-directive is the answer --- that might suggest that you tend to avoid dealing with aspects of your life, hope things will just go away, you don't trust yourself to find a way to get better, are afraid to look closely at your psychology, are overwhelmed and need more rest/healing and therapy rather than investigative meditation, etc."
 
My practice is passive not in this sense. It’s passive in the sense that my mind chooses what practice to do and I don’t interfere with whatever mental content or activities happen. But I don’t avoid anything. 80% of my practice is dealing with difficult metal content. I have a lot of purification, I often see how painful sensations dissolve into neutral or pleasurable energy current, I stay with what is, facing painful memories, etc. So passivity is not about avoiding something but about the choice of a technique that works for me.

Actually, this does sound like passivity to me. There are many meditation techniques besides "not controlling" which could be used to help face the more specific challenges you have.


As to therapy, I tried some and was very disappointed. I think I just have to accept that I am a broken person. A broken person can too live his life until the end, the way he’s able to, learning to accept his brokenness and pain rather than labeling it as a decease and let some other person try make you some socially accepted unit by inviting you do have relationships and goals that are judged healthy but that are of no interest for me.

You see, this is very passive. No one is inherently a broken person. However, I agree that having some view that there is an easy, quick fix will ultimately create more suffering. But while we need to have modest expectations about the speed of healing, it makes no sense to totally accept brokenness and pain. The entire world of healing is available these days. There are a lot of ways to make becoming unbroken our personal project and to gently work on it, small step by small step. (It's okay to prefer social isolation while we are working on healing.)


I think that therapy is overrated in pragmatic dharma as a myth that we have by all means be happy and healthy. I think that some degree of unhappiness can be accepted through practice. And also Western people, even those practicing dharma, don’t want to bring death into equation. They want to heal themselves as if they have eternal life before them so it’s sooo important to be perfectly healthy and happy. But we all die very soon,the life we have is very temporary, so everything don't have to be fixed because it’s just a short journey. So being OK is enough, even with some pain and brokenness. Practice can help us to walk our way more gracefully and attain some liberation, but I don't think we sould be obsessed about getting everything right.

This is a very simple view of therapy and dharma. emoticon  Therapy is basically about facing facts and learning that we have some ability to change ourselves and our conditions. It's actually pretty hardcore, because none of our excuses work. While there are some bad therapists, for sure -- and I know because my family and friends have had some bad experiences -- it's also true that most people simply can't handle being honest with themselves about their personal power and that's why most therapy fails. Therapy really only works when people want to get better and aren't willing to stay in pain and brokenness.

And dharma is all about death. The hardest death of all, which is the death of our own defense mechanisms and self-limiting views. I don't think you'll find many people who are serious about dharma talking about eternal life and perfect happiness. Actually, all we tend to talk about is overcoming our own personal weaknesses and reactive habits... and the various self-directed meditation  techniques that make this possible. It's not about perfection, but it is about getting better. 

Honestly, I don't think you have had much exposure to good therapy or good dharma emoticon

But it really is true, that a first big step is not to beat ourselves up about our current situation or sadness. You are absolutely right about learning to accept things.  So yes, for sure, accepting is one of the biggest first steps.

The second big step is being ready to do what we can within our ability to make small improvements. And eventually those small improvements will add up to big improvements. There are many of us who had PTSD, depression, bipolar disorders, trauma, etc. and slowly overcame it. It takes time, but it is absolutely possible to heal.

Sorry for this ramble and thank you for you generous answer. I appreciate especially that:

"That means you need to learn to fully experience the negative stuff, learn to allow those thoughts, feelings, and sensations to arise and pass."

Excellent, this really is the most important first step. Best wishes Boris!

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 9:34 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you for your wise and helpful answer. I agree with almost all points of it. Curiously, I am not getting antisocial, on the contrary I am a warmer and more attentive to people than a couple of years before. I tend to accept the situation without blaming neither people nor myself. And I am not desperate because I see the potential of my practice to accept things as they are.

Thank you for emphasizing that meditation effects and psychological issues can’t be separated.

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 10:05 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you shargol. I will think you answer over. 

When you say that I have not had much exposure to good dharma... Do you think that TMI and Do nothing meditation are not a part of good dharma? I often have poweful and liberating purification experiences. I often go from piti to equanimity and abide in in. I am systematically observing what is called annicca and anatta, often with great strenght and clarity. What am I doing wrong? 

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/28/20 12:55 PM as a reply to Boris T.
Have you tried experimenting with changing your diet? Some people find cutting back on carbohydrates stabilizes mood swings.  I found cutting back on carbs helped improve my meditation practice but it took me several attempts to find the right way to do it. I am not a vegetarian. I eat about 600 Calories from carbohydrates a day, so it is not a keto diet but it is much less carbs than most people eat.

I also find exercise makes a difference too. I am okay with walking but running or weight lifting has a bad effect on my mood.

Everyone is different but there is a possibility you might find it helpful to experiment with other factors like diet and exercise.

Also I don't know how severe your moods are or what the ultimate cause is. If the cause is not meditation it can better to deal with it outside meditation than use meditation as a crutch to let you ignore an underlying problem (malnutrition is a good example of that) .. but having said that, one of the effects of a long term meditation practice is that you may find that you stop caring so much about your mood, you become less attached to your ideal that enlightenment means you should be happy all the time and just accept moods with equanimity - like you find a place in your mind where you are content as you observe your moods coming and going - you stop resisting or craving them. They become sort of like the weather, they add flavor and variety to existence. I never understood how people could like sad movies until I started experiencing this kind of detatchment and I started to appreciate the different flavors of emotions, like spicy food, or maybe coffee or beer,  - at first it is unpleasant until you devleop a taste for it.

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/28/20 1:06 PM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Thank you Jim! Lack of good diet and exercise are very releveant in my case. And I agree with the idea of accepting moods with equanimity rather than aiming for constante happiness.

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/28/20 2:43 PM as a reply to Boris T.
Boris T:
When you say that I have not had much exposure to good dharma... What am I doing wrong? 

I was being a little provocative there emoticon  Sure, TMI and Do Nothing are fine. Just one slice of dharma, but fine.

You might like to read some tantra (for example: http://arobuddhism.org/articles/embracing-emotions-as-the-path.html and maybe Dzogchen (for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qY11h9HOhwg) as well. I liked this book early in my practice: https://www.amazon.com/ESSENTIAL-WISDOM-TEACHINGS-Peter-Fenner/dp/0892540532

The reason I say that is that (based on your words) you don't seem to have a good foundation in "right view", which is really important. My only hope is that by thinking and reading a bit more, you'll see and really get in your heart that 1) you are not fundamentally broken and 2) that the goal of practice is not just some hippy-dippy happiness, but rather becoming clear minded, independent, and basically sane in the real world.

No big deal, just based on what you were saying about the practical dharma world, it didn't seem like you were finding the good stuff. But maybe you are, so no worries, just ignore what I said! emoticon 

I'd like to chime in here as well and say that you could try improving your gut microbiome, too.

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/29/20 9:47 AM as a reply to Helen Pohl.
Helen Pohl:
I'd like to chime in here as well and say that you could try improving your gut microbiome, too.

I agree. Eating healthy sure is a good thing. However I would add some daily 45 minutes of Freestyle Noting Aloud as OP experiences resistance towards noting practice (profoundly contacting matter of fact arisings and passings without having lapses in noting for the duration of the sit). 

This is just my view on this and I might be wrong of course emoticon One is to decide for one self how and what to do. 

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/29/20 1:12 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Thank you for your suggestion. Why do you recommand that I abandon my current techniques and switch to this kind of noting? What benefits could I get by doing this?

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/29/20 1:12 PM as a reply to Helen Pohl.
Great advice, thank you!

RE: Help with practice diagnosis
Answer
11/29/20 1:14 PM as a reply to shargrol.
Awesome links, thank you!

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/29/20 3:11 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Absolutely. I think doing many different things might lead to some kind of synergy.

Boris T:
Thank you for your suggestion. Why do you recommand that I abandon my current techniques and switch to this kind of noting? What benefits could I get by doing this?

We awaken to different aspects of the mind. You have spent time in getting to know the mind in Jhanas and calmness, bliss and rapture. Then you felt these things being impermanent and they dont satisfy. You can go back to chasing them but they will keep dissolving and passing away as they are what they are emoticon Impermanent and dont satisfy. With each new Jhana bliss the next one is lesser good until they totally loose that sweetness as one knows its never going to satisfy.

So what can one do in such a place of realisation but turn to other aspects of the mind and in this case Mahasi Noting does offer another approach to get to know the unfolding of our own experience as it is without solidifying into pleasant states. Look at it as using another tool in the gym. You have used one tool and developed musscles and now you pick another tool for different musscles so they too get stronger.

This is just a suggestions inspired by my experience with Shamatha and much later with Noting. Both are great and both work on different aspect of the mind-body. 

However you do what you feel is best for you at any time as you know yourself better than any of us here emoticon 

Best wishes!

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/30/20 6:17 AM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
I agree with your analysis but actually I am already doing silent noting mostly, much more than jhanas.

It could be a good idea to maybe start a practice log here on DhO where you describe your daily meditative experience and maybe you might get some interesting and helpful tips from other practitioners. Just a thought emoticon

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
11/30/20 2:49 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Thank you for this suggestion!

Hey Boris,

Plenty of great advice already given by others here, so I'll throw my hat in the ring and hope it's of some use to you.

What you've described sounds, in many ways, like my own experience in terms of the cyclical nature and the confusion over whether it's practice- or psychological-related. What may surprise you is that what you're experiencing is nothing special, and probably far more common than you might think. Being inclined towards spiritual practices can bring with it a tendency to try to correlate our real-life experiences with those of the maps we encounter along the way, e.g. Dark Night.

It's a form of what's known as "spiritual bypassing", and it's a pernicious trap to fall into. I know because I've done it plenty and only really dropped it in the last 3-5 years.

We try to use spirituality as a way to avoid embracing the mundane, often painful experiences we face and to escape from this world. After all, we know in our heart that life is suffering because that's the first Noble Truth, and so it seems to make sense to reimagine our woes as being purely related to our spiritual practices, e.g. we might conceptualize our suffering in the here and now to be the result of "bad karma", or be related to the process of burning off those patterns.

One of the problems we face with this is that it's all too easy to, as I've said, try to "escape from this world" and into a more perfect, spiritual world where all of the pain and torment makes some sort of sense to us. In reality, all we're doing is avoiding the difficult and often incredibly painful issues we hold inside of ourselves, rather than stepping up and leaning into the pain.

It was only when I truly stopped "spiritual bypassing", went to war with myself and really felt the pain of what I was going through that things began to change. All the heartache, the traumas, the suffering on every single level had to be confronted, no matter how much it hurt or how much I wept. I had been playing the victim to myself for so long, and I finally realized that there was no way in the eight hells that I was going to live that way any longer. Years and years of believing that I was at the mercy of my mental health, my circumstances, my traumatic experiences, all of it to propagate this sense of myself as being undeserving of happiness, love and compassion.

I hated myself, and that in turn became misanthropy. My inability to love myself became an inability to love others. My lack of gratitude for this precious human life became depression, anxiety and mental torture...and every single goddamned bit of it was of my own doing. In realizing this, something unravelled within me and, gradually and with continued self-work, gratitude and compassion, the 'cycling' stopped.

It's not that I stopped feeling negative emotions or getting frustrated, but the arising of those feelings are now acknowledged and accepted as they happen. I don't run away from them or try to escape into abstractions and spirituality; instead I lean into the pain. I suffer, consciously and with gratitude for even having the good fortune to be able to suffer in the first place. That may sound a bit ridiculous, but it's something that works for me and helps me to break through all of the negative shit I've accumulated through my thoughts, words and deeds.

We often don't realize just how lucky we are to be able to feel this suffering and pain, and I don't mean that in any sort of masochistic way. To bring it all back to the Buddhadharma, we've had sufficient good karma to have been reborn as a human being, and to have the opportunity to hear the Buddhadharma and seek liberation from the cycles of death and rebirth. My eyes are welling up as I write this because it's the profound wisdom of the Buddhas that brought me back to life when I had all but given up, and I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, wish for you to see this yourself and free yourself from a cage of your own construction.

I'll leave it here for now, but I hope that this gives you at least a glimmer of light in your darkness.

Hey, is this the Tommy M of Yore, of Fire Kasina at the Tower of Halbar, etc? If so, great to have you back! Reach out and say hello.

If not, welcome!

Very short addition: if there is energetic bliss and cycling TMI stage 7-8 followed by darkness, that has that insight feel. Doesn't mean other things aren't going on, but sounds very normal to me.

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
12/2/20 12:38 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
'Tis the same, my brother of the secret flaming altar!

I had messaged you on here, but I'll e-mail you directly. That would have been the most sensible thing to do first, I know...hahaha!

Much love. 

RE: I am sure to be cycling but through what? - Help with practice diagnosi
Answer
12/2/20 3:46 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you Daniel. Indeed, my experience is always full of strong energy currents, vibrations and lights (stages 7-8 with strong emphasis on seeing impermanence and anatta). For some period of time, they are pleasant (bliss, tranquility, equanimity), then the ton just changes from "plus" to "minus" and become painful. I am almost sure that there is no direct correlations with external circumstances. Yet, with each cycle the unpleasantness is more and more physical, losing its psychological counterpart, and is met with more and more equanimity. I feel I am able to stand these cycles with less and less resistance and "bleeding". My doubt is just about how much of what is happening is due to meditation and how much to mondain psychological problems. 

Thank you Tommy for your post. I could have some degree of spiritual bypassing, but I don't think it's really prominent. On the contrary, I am facing more and more of difficult stuff - trauma, "dark" sides of myself, fears, etc. I think all I am doing for a couple of years is learning to face all this stuff with greater acceptance and equanimity. With every cycle, I have more and more courage to look in the eyes of my pain. So I don't think I am really in bypassing mode, enven though I am sure the meditation is the best tool to deal with my psychological issues.  

What do you think based on this additional information from me?

In combination with your reply to Dan, I'm inclined to err on the side of insight now too. It seems that your situation is likely an unfortunate coalescing of circumstances, perhaps continually recurring in this manner as a way of bringing conscious awareness to the need to deal with that which is preventing deeper insight. The universe has a darkly comical way sometimes of bringing causes and conditions together, for reasons only understood in retrospect.

What I would strongly suggest in terms of your practice is to turn your focus to working with the Four Immeasurables. That might seem unlikely, especially since I'm usually pretty militant about attentiveness but I feel like it's relevant to your situation. Practice generating those feelings directly from your heart center; fabricate them if needs be and really, truly feel them as if your upper chest is ablaze.

Once you've established them, project them from your heart and outwards to all sentient beings. At the same time, absorb their suffering into your own. In actuality there is no distinction between you and them, so their suffering is always your suffering...but you have the unique opportunity to reverse the flow, so to speak, and send them all of your joy, compassion, loving-kindness and equanimity.

I think I mentioned similar practices earlier, but I cannot stress enough just how much of a difference this makes; not just to you directly, but to the whole of samsara.

I love your advice about the Four Immeasurables! I have some experience with metta and I really should dedicate more time to this practice.

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