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Description of Cessation
Answer
1/11/21 7:18 PM
Hi guys, just want to write out my experiences and get some feedback on where I seem to be at and how to continue.

I'm in my mid 20s and have been meditating or practicing some kind of consciousness/awareness technique since 13/14 years old. I started because of a traumatic event (closest family member in hospital for repeated suicide attempts), and had been spending 2-4 hours a day ages 7-10 lying down thinking about death - I became very scared of death around age 6-7, specifically what oblivion would feel like. I would try to comprehend what not existing would be like, and would regularly have very intense nightmares linked to this. A quick description of the recurring night terrors:

  • Trying to reconcile small sums of money that became impossible to equate or make sense of as they would continually grow smaller. The smaller it would get, the bigger the feeling of panic. Also, the opposite, some quantity of something expanding to infinity. Both of these caused panic and I felt total loss of control, I couldn't understand them just like I couldn't understand not existing.
  • A giant black worm that set the whole city on fire.
  • A bunch of little men digging in the ground beneath a very green and blue glass domed field/lake. A very pretty woman watched over them.
I'm including these details because I think they're interesting, but it's worth mentioning that my family was experiencing financial stress at the time and these is pretty explainable. I also read a lot of sci-fi and played a flash game about miners and Satan (you guys know the one).

After this traumatic event, I spent the next summer in a state of complete suffering. I felt like I was going insane, and developed a very nasty solipsist delusion (the way out of this, is to just trust in the existence of things outside of yourself and fall through it) in order to feel some sense of control over my life. For about 6 weeks, I experienced abject emotional, existential, physical pain through a combination of severe anxiety and depression. I couldn't hold back all the negative experiences and emotions I had contained up to that point and basically just accepted that I was going to suffer for a while. After I felt like I bottomed out in terms of how much pain I was in, I looked up some techniques online to manage anxiety which basically boiled down to bury it down and ignore it (some variation on CBT) and I used this technique to begin to rebuild my mental state enough to keep up appearances at school the next fall. I began to focus more on physical outlets such as sports and later weightlifting and that was enough to carry me through high school. I chose to study engineering at the local university and struggled academically for the next few years. I experienced depression and anxiety throughout my undergrad and was able to improve my performance through hard work and the influence of some good friends. After my junior year, I began internship work for the next year and began dating someone. Pretty typical story - I was well set-up on paper with a good internship at a top company and had met someone that fit with that path in life, but soon realized that once given freedom to explore personal growth, I naturally gravitated towards trying to find solutions to the trauma I was still holding in and "managing" once in a while. The job turned out to be very toxic, the relationship turned out to be unequal, and I was completely unsatisfied with life. I knew what I had to do and broke things off as soon as I could manage while trying to be a decent person and focused on balancing work and answering whatever question I thought I needed to answer. At this point, I was willing to acknowledge the existence of some unresolved spiritual issues and understood that I had to work through my mental blocks to return to that painful summer and re-experience it, or "complete" it. I knew this instinctually and was also reading as much online material as possible. I gravitated towards Buddhist practices because of the practicality of the methods to solve the suffering I was now experiencing more than ever (MCTB was very useful, thank you). I finished my work term as well as possible and returned to school, now trying to balance coursework with this spiritual work at the same time. I spent some desperate days skipping class, holed up in an empty apartment, eating nothing but honey for 3 days and praying to Indian gods for deliverance (I'm not Indian). I scraped together some acceptable grades and applied to a graduate degree in software engineering, as I was previously working in the petroleum industry. 

After lockdown and WF/study-from home, I knew I had opportunity to make a final push towards the end. The social isolation was good and I made good progress in my practice. My practice was very undisciplined and I usually did it while listening to rap music in bed, but it was doing its job. I think it's worth mentioning that at this point I had 8 years of experience noting every thought that passed through my head, good or bad, observing thoughts/emotions as they rise, accepting spiritual work/ practicing acts of kindness, strictly only acting according to my values, seeking symmetry of thought, acting selflessly (or trying to) and practicing prayer (went through Catholic school system but was agnostic). 

At the end of last summer (August 2020) I was laying in silence and I had my first cessation experience. I don't remember much about it other than the feeling of needing to strive towards something (spiritually/materially) was greatly diminished or gone, and I knew that my soul was safe. I kept going and experienced at least 2-3 more cessations that felt more substantial. I was inside my brain stem, not in the brain, but in the spine that supports the head, and I whited out. I would feel refreshed and contemplative after each experience. These would occur during sessions of meditation or during/waking up out of naps to recharge after intense sessions. I also began experiencing hot "pops" of heat energy in areas of my head where my mind felt knotted, and after these I felt very alive. I would be able to let go of localized knots of rage/anger, mostly on the right side of my head, and after each unknotting or pop I felt more peaceful, more in control, and able to relax more into quiet balance/ better mental symmetry. I repeated this until there were no more whiteouts or pops. I also began to practice total surrender in order to find a way to release all of this energy into the world. 

I don't claim anything, but am curious for feedback or shared experiences to mine. I am looking for suggestions for further practice, and am open to establishing a more disciplined practice. I still get morose, can be incredibly lazy and unproductive, still care about other's opinions of me, etc. However, I'm able to "shake it off" and even when I'm not physically/mentally sharp, I'm not concerned and can easily handle the sensations, which anyone who has been seriously depressed knows is not something seriously depressed people do. I have been practicing sending as much metta as possible into the world, but reading this back I realize that I still have a lot of personal ego and agenda for whatever reason, which means maybe I should hold back on the metta for now. Any thoughts or suggestions for my personal direction would be appreciated.

Thanks,

shaoshao

RE: Description of Cessation
Answer
1/12/21 5:24 AM as a reply to shaoshao.
emoticon
hello, shaoshao, and thank you for this gorgeous introductory post.

btw, any relation to the legendary game character Shaoshao Li ("Shāoshāo" is written as "蛸焼", meaning "octopus dumplings".) 

but i digress, lol.

I was very moved by your story. It's a mini-epic of human soul survival, and it is heartening and inspiring to know how hard you had to work to get where you are now. I have no doubt that whatever got you here will carry you along your way as well, and what a blessing it is for you know what what you have survived. You are tough as nails, clearly. I love tough as nails.

I spent some desperate days skipping class, holed up in an empty apartment, eating nothing but honey for 3 days and praying to Indian gods for deliverance (I'm not Indian).
John the Baptist, who also experienced some desperate days, is said to have lived in the wilderness on locusts and wild honey. It is important in such circumstances to keep up whatever protein consumption you can. But again, you're clearly a survivor.

At the end of last summer (August 2020) I was laying in silence and I had my first cessation experience. I don't remember much about it other than the feeling of needing to strive towards something (spiritually/materially) was greatly diminished or gone, and I knew that my soul was safe.
My first life-changing "spiritual" experience, which I take in retrospect, in the vocabularly of DhO (which I did not acquire until decades later), to be an A&P event, was like your experience also when I was in my mid-20s, also after a grueling period of depression and life stress, and also after some time in isolation. It also had that vivid, palpable liberating sense of the urgency and striving evaporating, and of an enveloping cosmic safety. It seemed obvious to me at that point that it had been that way all along and my eyes had just opened to it. I could see my life, and the lives of those I knew and loved, in that light with tremendous compassion, it was just so clear we were all doing the best we could, blundering toward love. It really set my course, in a lot of ways, for decades after that. Your experience seems to be on that life re-booting scale. What a blessing. Now you're really fucked, lol.

You said you've read MCBT, with gratitude, and you're using the language of "cessation" for this experience. In MCBT terms, whether it is an A&P or a cessation/fruition/stream entry is beyond my pay grade, and you say you're not claiming anything in any case, just wanted to put it out there and get on with the meditative work, which is job one, and the rest of it comes out in the rinse cycle. 
I am looking for suggestions for further practice, and am open to establishing a more disciplined practice.

Well, whatever practice you've been doing so far sounds pretty good. Establishing a stable, disciplined practice is the main place it's at, as far as I'm concerned. This is a highly practice-oriented community, and the sheer range of gifted, experienced meditators from various tradition is astonishing, so as your specific concerns and practice questions emerge, I think you'll get good answers. You've had that influx of certainty about cosmic safety, and now you want to integrate that, to root it in your life, to explore the implications. It is steady practice that helps make the space to do that. The Bodhisattva vow to keep practicing, with compassion, until "all sentient beings are saved", seems particularly relevant in your case: may your practice help all sentient beings experience that sense of being safe that you experienced. And may whatever head pops, internal thermodynamics, unknottings, etc. that they need be included in the package, all for one low price! (T.S. Eliot spoke of "a condition of complete simplicity, costing not less than everything," which seems about the right price range to me, lol.)

I will say, as a bipolar person who has suffered relative extremes along my own way, that therapy and even medication can be a fantastic complement to your meditation practice; there are psychological healings possible in the array of therapies that meditation can't touch. You sound amazingly stable and you're in a great place, which is all the more reason to consider integrating such tools into your workshop.


Again, welcome to this sangha. Somebody like you showing up here, against all odds, having swum rivers, climbed mountains, and crossed deserts to get here, is such a joy. 




RE: Description of Cessation
Answer
1/12/21 5:53 AM as a reply to shaoshao.
Hi Shaoshao, and welcome emoticon

I agree with what tim says, particularly about establishing a daily consistent practice ;)

It could be a cessation but it seems unlikely if you weren't practicing regularly - cessation is usually the result of a lot of disciplined/continuous/deep practice over quite some time. Not saying you haven't done a lot, of course - bravo for your trajectory.

Have you checked out the video by Dan Ingram describing SE ? It's on vimeo. There's a typical sequence that precedes the event, and then sorts of "symptoms" afterwards, and you didn't describe that exactly it seems to me. But then certain aspects about what you described could fit... And since you weren't practicing with that framework in mind, who knows how much you might habe picked up. 

In any event, the advice is the same afaic : develop a daily practice, preferably one session of at meast 48 min, and then perhapq adding other little sessions to frenshen up, balancing concentration/mental quietness and deep observation of the present moment's experience in all its glorious manifest aspects, and keeping a personal journal or one on here with us or both emoticon this will move you along wherever you might be on the path - and this might be second path or not, time will tell.

Kind regards

RE: Description of Cessation
Answer
1/12/21 7:26 AM as a reply to Olivier.
Hey man, nice link to DI's Vimeo. Just checked it out, was helpful emoticon

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