RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1124 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
After some recent encouragement, I have been contemplating the possibility of teaching (would not be for money).  This has led me to ponder how I would go about that, based on what I have seen.  One main thought that arises is that the progress of insight is undervalued & misunderstood in mainstream dharma communities (obviously) but also in pragmatic dharma communities (looking at trends over time in Reddit SE, for instance).  These misunderstandings are addressed in MCTB/MCTB2.  But they continue for students anyway, so I’ll share similar thoughts in my own words.  Basically, I would focus on having a balanced & integrated approach to the POI that addresses the common issues:

Issue 1 – They feel the POI is reductionistic.  That it takes deeply meaningful, life-changing personal experiences & reduces them to a one-word impersonal label.  This is a misunderstanding which paradoxically reduces the importance of the POI itself.  The process is not separate from the “spiritual path” as a whole.  The correction here is to realize that the very unfolding of one’s development across multiple axes can not be teased apart from the POI.  In other words, if someone is gaining knowledge of dissolution, they aren’t just in the dark night (“Oh, you’re just dark nighting”).  Rather, they are undergoing a process of transformation & the discovery of important knowledge that will probably be linked to changes in attitude & belief in other life areas. 

Issue 2 – The POI triggers comparison mind & self-criticism.  Ideally, self-worth would be decoupled from developmental phase (i.e. one’s cutting edge in the POI).  Core self-worth should be a fixed & ‘high-ranking’ dimension.  One’s practice phase should be a dynamic & gradually-increasing dimension from low to high.  In my opinion, when obstacles arise due to a student feeling bad about their place in the POI (in relation to their own path or vs others), it is a sign that additional work is needed on some level of self-worth.  That may be early-pre-verbal-attachment, mid-verbal-psychodynamic, or late-cognitive-behavioral.  That work should become the primary focus until a deeper warmth & security begins to emerge.  At which point one can continue the process of deconstructive insight, hopefully unhindered.  During the period of healing, the level of enthusiasm & work ethic which was brought to vipassana should be applied to healing, with the knowledge that it represents the opportunity for great progress & ultimately realization.  I want to also note that this healing opportunity can instead manifest in someone being too grandiose or overconfident (i.e. manic A&P proto teachers).  But the solution is similar (inflated self & deflated self are the same coin). 

Issue 3 – Awareness of the POI causes them to be too future-oriented.  A bit of present-moment inspiration & excitement about the future possibilities of practice is good.  Aspiration prayers in traditional dharma systems encourage this.  Unfortunately, the knowledge of developmental maps toxifies the practice for many students.  This is commonly (but not necessarily) intertwined with issue 2.  If someone has addressed issue 2 & still finds themselves not actually investigating the present-moment sensations, then they need to refine their technique with greater clarity to watch the thinking mind operate in each moment.  Then continue this clarity into moments when thought is not present.  Also, setting regular intentions to practice in the moment can help.

Issue 4 – They lack awareness of the range of POI experiences across & within practitioners.  Some people experience it primarily in the form of micro-phenomenology.  Others experience it primarily it as overt mood changes; or subtle mood changes; or just directly behaviorally without feeling; or in sleep & dreams; or in increases or decreases to concentration; etc.  The other side of this coin is that the way people pass through this process is wide ranging.  Some people (in some phases) need the right pointing out instruction or technique adjustment; some need to change parts of their behavior, relationships or lifestyle; some need to actually stop practicing for a while, before having a breakthrough.  This variation also presents a slippery slope with regards to disembedding from one’s state vs indulging in it.  You don’t want to just go with gut instinct all the time because the POI can motivate people to do crazy things & the very process of insight involves not indulging in the state you are in.  But you also don’t want to just assume that the answer is always solid, technical insight practice.  I think the best way to find this balance is to experiment & get feedback from teachers & dharma peers.   On a related note – people think that the POI is specific to a certain technique, like noting.  Or they might think it is one way of understanding practice which contrasts other systems.  The POI is most accurately understood as a meta framework with space for a variety of approaches to spirituality.

Issue 5 – They think the POI is something you graduate from.  This tends to be a more advanced problem & is less common.  Sometimes, people start within a Theravadan POI framework & then later discover a different system, like Tantra or Dzogchen.  I have seen cases where they tend to lose their pragmatic framework in favor of a more traditional view on the dharma.  With this, they may tend to think that “they aren’t cycling anymore” since they know practice primarily with awareness & integration & less with pure attention-based insight.  I don’t believe this is useful.  I can identify what I think is the POI, in every advanced practitioner I know, including those that are well beyond me.  To be clear, it isn’t useful to keep taking the cycles as the primary paradigm of one’s practice once one has gone through them 2 or 3 times (in a real way, not just in review).  But it is useful to keep being honest with oneself that ‘purifications’ & ‘integration process’ one goes through is, in fact, intertwined with the POI.  The reason this is useful is because it helps to parse out temporary side effects from permanent traits on multiple levels of development.
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These issues only need to be addressed if they come up.  Or, the issues themselves might come up but they don’t interfere with practice.  I.e. people might have low self-worth or reductionistic thinking yet still be able to move through the process.  Likely these will then be addressed later.  These are the main issues that have caused the POI to “go underground” in mainstream, contemporary dharma.  But rather than just always keeping the POI a secret, or overly emphasizing it as “the answer”, why don’t we take a balanced, integral-informed, psychology-informed, dharma-informed approach?

P.S. - I want to note some supplementary points. 
-I don't think all humans are going through the POI.  In this essay I am speaking about subset of humans that are fairly obviously going through the POI.  I am not talking about the muggles.
-Also, we have to be careful about victim blaming when it comes to the psychology stuff.  But that doesn't mean the psychology stuff isn't important, just that it needs to be carefully contextualized.  This becomes more important for those with heavier trauma loads.
-Life events & mental illness can and do intersect with the way people experience the POI.  This is complex.  Just because someone is bipolar doesn't mean they aren't also cycling.  This needs to be picked apart with care.
Edward, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 82 Join Date: 6/10/19 Recent Posts
All good stuff. Good luck with teaching.

​​​​​​​Ed
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Thank you.
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Well said.

One other thing is that when people learn the POI, they assume that they are supposed to resist or have a problem with the nana they are in and "make" the next nana happen. They don't hear/understand that the point is to fully experience and understand the nana they are in, which transforms it into the next nana. Even if the nana is something scary and dangerous feeling (FEAR) the point is not to avoid the fear and find the next nana (DISGUST), but rather to hang out in the midst of fear and learn what creates fear and how our unwise reactions to fear creates suffering. Usually people will instinctively use the POI as rationale for ignoring the things they don't like in meditation and trying to make EQ or SE happen. But the difference between the maturity and effectiveness of these two approaches is a night and day difference. 
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Oatmilk, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Hey Shargrol, 

your reply made me thoughtful. While this might be true, I wonder if there really is an "active" surrendering. In theory I could just sit on my bed and wait until it passes but fear can be quite overwhelming and when that happens, the body's flight and hide response would usually disrupt the "I just sit with it" mindset, or dissociation would happen. This entire notion of surrendering, or letting it be in my experience doesn't work since there will be resistance. Either in the form of mental distraction or distress. Mindfulness does allow for seeing what is and one could certainly try to understand what the point of each Nana is but aren't the Nanas rather a process in nervous system regulation instead of one actively doing something, or getting to knoe something? I'm sure learning through misery is great but I wonder if this entire DN framework is really something "holy," or just some changes in CNS processing combined with the release of trauma/psychological stuff. I mean frameworks  differ, in example Stanislav Grof uses the term Coex and people's opinion on how to deal with this differ too. In example using Qi Gong, or Somatic Experiencing to recreate  balance. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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This entire notion of surrendering, or letting it be in my experience doesn't work since there will be resistance. 

What's the alternative? Keep ignoring our reactive patterns? Resistance is expected, but that's another reactive pattern. The cycle never ends - unless we stop, abide with it, and observe.
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Oatmilk, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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I am not talking about ignoring it, you can acknowledge it and accept it but I doubt that when you feel shitty you just sit down for 5 hours and try to fully absorb it. 
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Five hours is a bit extensive, maybe even torturous. These things can be eased into, you know. It's called "practice" for good reason  emoticon
shargrol, modified 29 Days ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1529 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Oatmilk
Hey Shargrol, 

your reply made me thoughtful. While this might be true, I wonder if there really is an "active" surrendering. In theory I could just sit on my bed and wait until it passes but fear can be quite overwhelming and when that happens, the body's flight and hide response would usually disrupt the "I just sit with it" mindset, or dissociation would happen. This entire notion of surrendering, or letting it be in my experience doesn't work since there will be resistance. Either in the form of mental distraction or distress. Mindfulness does allow for seeing what is and one could certainly try to understand what the point of each Nana is but aren't the Nanas rather a process in nervous system regulation instead of one actively doing something, or getting to knoe something? I'm sure learning through misery is great but I wonder if this entire DN framework is really something "holy," or just some changes in CNS processing combined with the release of trauma/psychological stuff. I mean frameworks  differ, in example Stanislav Grof uses the term Coex and people's opinion on how to deal with this differ too. In example using Qi Gong, or Somatic Experiencing to recreate  balance. 

I think it's important to notice that I never used the word "surrendering", nor did I say "let it be". 
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 615 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
shargrol

One other thing is that when people learn the POI, they assume that they are supposed to resist or have a problem with the nana they are in and "make" the next nana happen. They don't hear/understand that the point is to fully experience and understand the nana they are in, which transforms it into the next nana.
That is a good point.
Though imho it all depends on what this 'resisting' actually is. If that is actually studying mind by trying out things then this is great value for spent effort, even if it in the end doesn't work and ultimately might lead to admitting defeat and focusing on raw observation without struggling so much with research.
At least I see value in resisting if that is done correctly. Just as I see value in letting things be and just observing them.
On the other hand I see how it might be possible to make 'observation' in to exactly what you mention, just a method to move as quickly through nanas as possible as nanas, especially at some point of practice just move through no matter what, especially when observing sensation. Just observing them might and might be leading to insight but that imho depends on what is done with all the collected data. If nothing is done then what is the point? Mind might use this information in some way and self-correct but otherwise there is no real insight (defined as actual knowledge) born out of this.

In different words: it all depends.
Depends on what is the struggle and observation, what is the purpose of it and what this all is used for in the future.
If I was a teacher I would concentrate on what/how student describe they tried doing before saying any correction should be made. If they eg. mechanically noted sensations to move through nanas and that was all they did anyway I would consider this waste of time and recommend correction of behaviour. If they described lots of different things they tried and if they worked and for how long (most thigns do not work to make DN any more bearable for long) then I might at some point recommend them to just to note sensations for now and would not expect them to understand the purpose of this approach after they tried it and not abuse it beyond its actual usability. All depends on situation.
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1124 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
@shargrol - Great additional points.  They are "knowledges" after all - lessons.  Deep Mindfulness Collective had an interesting take of reframing them as "skills" in a course on it.  The point being to move away from the idea of "stages" with that word's connotations as primary.  I should also mention that your posts have been helpful in my framing of this view.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1660 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
We all have that "dancer" which needs to dance the dance emoticon That dancer might dance for a few years or a few decades and then give up dancing and only Accept what Is (just Fear, just Disgust, just EQ) 

That dancer is ignorant to the words of wisdom. It simply can't hear them. That dancer must come to the point of giving up "dancing" (thinking it knows better, or knows how to manage this) and just accept what is in all its glorious shape and form. 

One must become ripe to get to this point. Once at This point then the actual work can commence. This very Nana for the sake of This very Nana as if there will never be anything but it. 

Please excuse my rumblings emoticon 
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1124 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
Nice analogy of the dancer.  I like "this very nana" as a subset of "this very moment/experience" also.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 190 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
I find this thread interesting because it's the first time I have seen the most basic issues of practice expressed plainly.
Noa DIssue 4 – They lack awareness of the range of POI experiences across & within practitioners. Some people experience it primarily in the form of micro-phenomenology. Others experience it primarily it as overt mood changes; or subtle mood changes; or just directly behaviorally without feeling; or in sleep & dreams; or in increases or decreases to concentration; etc. The other side of this coin is that the way people pass through this process is wide ranging. Some people (in some phases) need the right pointing out instruction or technique adjustment; some need to change parts of their behavior, relationships or lifestyle; some need to actually stop practicing for a while, before having a breakthrough. This variation also presents a slippery slope with regards to disembedding from one’s state vs indulging in it. You don’t want to just go with gut instinct all the time because the POI can motivate people to do crazy things & the very process of insight involves not indulging in the state you are in. But you also don’t want to just assume that the answer is always solid, technical insight practice. I think the best way to find this balance is to experiment & get feedback from teachers & dharma peers. On a related note – people think that the POI is specific to a certain technique, like noting. Or they might think it is one way of understanding practice which contrasts other systems. The POI is most accurately understood as a meta framework with space for a variety of approaches to spirituality.
Shargrol:One other thing is that when people learn the POI, they assume that they are supposed to resist or have a problem with the nana they are in and "make" the next nana happen. They don't hear/understand that the point is to fully experience and understand the nana they are in, which transforms it into the next nana. Even if the nana is something scary and dangerous feeling (FEAR) the point is not to avoid the fear and find the next nana (DISGUST), but rather to hang out in the midst of fear and learn what creates fear and how our unwise reactions to fear creates suffering. Usually people will instinctively use the POI as rationale for ignoring the things they don't like in meditation and trying to make EQ or SE happen. But the difference between the maturity and effectiveness of these two approaches is a night and day difference.
I'm not an expert on the POI but it seems clear to me that the “knowledge's” are mostly making a direct reference to psychological reactions to practice. I would like to suggest what can possibly cause the difficulty in following the advice and instruction given above. Reading the “Mind and Body” section in part IV of the MBCT2 it strikes me that there is a clear emphasis on “mental phenomena”.  Based on some early suttas, I understand that the mind and body stage is important because it is the first opportunity to engage in calming the body's reactions to mental phenomena. The groundwork done in this phase will determine how difficult, or easy, it will be to deal with the other phenomena. The fact that practice is a whole organism endeavor doesn't seem to register with many practitioners, of all traditions. To be aware is to see ALL our reactions in a unified calm manner.
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 1124 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
That's a great point - the somatic component is so important & frequently under emphasized.  In particular, people in very "developed" (in the industry/capitalism sense of the word) countries tend to be cut off from their body.  Which in itself can be a whole path of healing parallel with the development of transcendent insight.

Edit: You also bring up the old Theravada hermeneutics debate of choiceless awareness vs antidoting, with Burmese mindfulness fitting with the former (in general) & Thai mindfulness fitting with the latter (in general).  I thought the Guru Viking dialogue between Daniel & Dhammarato was a good reference point & suggested some possible resolutions - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vahMdJy7ECQ.  
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Brandon Dayton, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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The fact that practice is a whole organism endeavor doesn't seem to register with many practitioners, of all traditions. To be aware is to see ALL our reactions in a unified calm manner.

This is a great point. I know you're referencing Mind and Body here but I was quite surprised by how somatic the DN was for me. Lots of unpleasant sensations in the body. Took a lot of passes to start relaxing through it.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Angel, 

I was a unified and calm manner practitioner for 3 years emoticon I did calm-abiding Shamatha. However, at one stage shit broke loose and I lost it. Made a huge mess of my life (maybe not that huge but still). It would have helped if someone pointed out "hey dude, this is classic POI shit called Dukkha Nanas, let go of your laser sharp A&P and move to the periphery". I had no idea about MCTB back then (2011). Then a friend mentioned Dark Night and DhO (2011). However I could not find a way out even after reading the book. My dancer still needed to dance it's dance emoticon 

7 years passed before my dancer got fed up with escaping Dukkha and decided that the only thing one can do is just be with This moment as it is, until death takes us apart. There was no wish to awaken, or to attain. Just be with it as it is. Utter Acceptance. 
and it was not pretty. But felt purifying afterwards. Also opened up the EQ stage in a more "stable" way. 

Clinging leads to suffering. 
We cling to the practice. We cling to meditative experience. We cling to those promised fruits on this path. We cling to POI. We cling to attainments. We cling to views. 
Clinging leads to suffering. 
There is no way around this emoticon calm say you? Well I know one can cling to calmness also emoticon 
Its the name of the game; clinging and seeing the clinging. Seeing that struggle and agony all that misery, that disqust, that fight for "pleasa
nt experiences" , a
gain and again, leads to giving up the dance and just be. 

The dancer wants to keep dancing the dance. The dancer needs to come to the point of giving up dancing the dance. However seeing that dancer fail again and again is 
also part of this whole path journey.

Again emoticon excuse me rumbling too much. Be well. 
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

Posts: 190 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Hi Papa, I don't know exactly what you mean by "calm abiding" but if you mean just trying to stay relaxed we are not talking about the same thing.  In mindfulness of breathing there is from the beginning a process of investigation. All thoughts produce a reaction in the body.  When actively experiencing the whole body there is the beginning of insight into what this reaction is. From there the next step is calming bodily activity, this a learning process that sets the foundation for dealing with the deeper layers of the mind that will be loosened as practice progresses.  My view is that if this work is not done at the beginning shit will hit the fan when the heavy stuff comes up. That is all of practice," but rather to hang out in the midst of fear and learn what creates fear and how our unwise reactions to fear creates suffering," (shargrol) .  At any stage unifying body and mind is the gateway to samadhi. That's the game. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Calm-abiding Shamatha as "I know I'm breathing in calming the whole body, I know I'm  breathing out calming the whole body". So yes emoticon we talking about the same and shit did hit the fan at some stage for me anyway. 

We can see that not all practitioners get hammered by DN (Dukkha Nanas) as hard or at all (maybe). We don't know why this is. I assume it's Karma (we can say psychological baggage). 

I don't think we can find one way to fit us all. I think teachers like Kenneth Folk who talk about "triangulating" between teachings as needed, are closest to the "solution" of teaching this stuff.

And some people simply have to burn in hell longer than others until they give up the struggle and just accept it all as is (hence get the ticket out of there if they can accept the entire hit). 
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Ni Nurta, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Most importantly Kenneth will burn the longest in buddhist hell of all ;)

Secondly severity DN depends on clinging certain things to which clinging cause DN in the first place. Some people are naturally better at eg. not clinging to mental states or internal experiences than others and are more life oriented which will make DN less severe for them.
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Angel Roberto Puente, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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It has become more difficult to follow the thread without the tree view but we try.  Noa D, I really appreciate your effort to be inclusive in understanding the whole picture of what practice entails.  You seem to have broad learning in different traditions.  I really can't follow you in that respect.  I have learned a lot from this forum and have been happily surprised that, when you look under the hood, the end results of good practice are the same without regard to the method used. People are different and have to find the practice that fits their temperament, but the salient goal of practice is to "fully experience", and this must include the whole being.  The level of verbal "understanding" needed depends on the way the person's mind functions, we don't all need to be a Daniel Ingram.  Keep us posted on your work.
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Noah D, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: A Balanced Approach to the POI

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Angel Roberto Puente
It has become more difficult to follow the thread without the tree view but we try. 
R.I.p. tree view (& thanks for the encouragement)

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