Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Thanks in advance for reading this.

I had been doing samatha for 6 months, lost in the realm of jhana, and decided to switch over to vipassana. I had already done plenty of vipassana prior in my practice but I decided to dedicate my 65 minute sits solely to it and ignore jhana. 

After several weeks of practicing, I have found that I'm experiencing an overwhelming amount of mental suffering. It's as though I'm at war with my mind. I see every thought and they tend to be negative. My mind is annoying me. Things that I once enjoyed doing are now a chore. There is no respite from my nagging thoughts. Marijuana, which once was an aid to my oversensitivity, now amplifies mental chatter. 

I decided that I may be running too dry and too hot so I switched back to samatha today and that has seemed to help. Perhaps I need to alternate daily between samatha/vipassana?

Is this part of the path? Am I moving too quickly? Mediation and "progress" have seemed to come very quickly for me. Perhaps too quickly. 

I appreciate any feedback or suggestions. Thank you!
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Remind me again why you meditate? 
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Papa Che Dusko
Remind me again why you meditate? 


Sure! The reason that I meditate is that the mind is fascinating to me and that I want to be the best version of myself. Consciousness is intriguing and meditation has helped me understand things that are not possible with any other activity. Becoming more self-aware has helped me manage my relationships, especially with my spouse and children. 

I began about two years ago with the TMI method. After quickly reaching the upper stages of that method, I cycled the path several times. Many of the sits in those early days were like acid trips. I don't like to claim attainments, because everyone has their opinion of them, but I think I reached stream-entry within the first 6 months. 

Since then I've been doing a blend of samatha and vipassana. I had practiced the samatha jhanas for several months before my recent vipassana kick. I average 60 minutes per day. 

Thanks for reading.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Alternating between samatha and vipassana is a very good idea :-)

Ajahn Maha Bua, Arahattamaga

PROPERLY  DONE,  BODY  CONTEMPLATION  is  intense  and  the  mental effort  is  unrelenting;  so,  eventually,  the  mind  begins  to  tire.  It  is then  appropriate  to  stop  and  take  a  rest.  When  meditators  who are  engaged  in  full-scale  body  contemplation  take  a  break,  they return  to  the  samãdhi  practice  they  have  developed  and  maintained  so  assiduously.  Reentering  the  still  peace  and  concentration  of  samãdhi,  they  abide  in  total  calm  where  no  thoughts  or visualizations  arise  to  disturb  the  citta.  The  burden  of  thinking and  probing  with  wisdom  is  temporarily  set  aside  so  that  the  mind can  completely  relax,  suspended  in  tranquility.  Once  the  mind is  satiated  with  samãdhi,  it  withdraws  on  its  own,  feeling  reinvigorated  and  refreshed  and  ready  to  tackle  the  rigors  of  body contemplation  again.  In  this  way,  samãdhi  supports  the  work  of wisdom, making it more adept and incisive.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Thank you. This is helpful.
Sam Gentile, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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As Papa Che just said "remind me why you meditate." For my example, my  motivation was to reach Awakening, and I just reached Stream Entry by going through a progressive 2 year hard journey based on Daniel's path and my teacher.

There is not enough information in your query to answer it. First why do you meditate? Is it that you are beside yourself with negtivity? Youur mind is not annoying you. Your reaction to what your mind is perceiving is annoying you. What are your motivations? What is your current practice? How much time a day can make available for meditation? 
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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The reason that I meditate is that the mind is fascinating to me and that I want to be the best version of myself. Consciousness is intriguing and meditation has helped me understand things that are not possible with any other activity. Becoming more self-aware has helped me manage my relationships, especially with my spouse and children.&nbsp;<br /><br />I began about two years ago with the TMI method. After quickly reaching the upper stages of that method, I cycled the path several times. Many of the sits in those early days were like acid trips. I don't like to claim attainments, because everyone has their opinion of them, but I think I reached stream-entry within the first 6 months.&nbsp;<br /><br />Since then I've been doing a blend of samatha and vipassana. I had practiced the samatha jhanas for several months before my recent vipassana kick.&nbsp;I average 60 minutes per day.&nbsp;<br /><br />Thanks for reading.
Sam Gentile, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Kelly Gordon Weeks
The reason that I meditate is that the mind is fascinating to me and that I want to be the best version of myself. Consciousness is intriguing and meditation has helped me understand things that are not possible with any other activity. Becoming more self-aware has helped me manage my relationships, especially with my spouse and children.&nbsp;<br /><br />I began about two years ago with the TMI method. After quickly reaching the upper stages of that method, I cycled the path several times. Many of the sits in those early days were like acid trips. I don't like to claim attainments, because everyone has their opinion of them, but I think I reached stream-entry within the first 6 months.&nbsp;<br /><br />Since then I've been doing a blend of samatha and vipassana. I had practiced the samatha jhanas for several months before my recent vipassana kick.&nbsp;I average 60 minutes per day.&nbsp;<br /><br />Thanks for reading.


Kelly,

Thanks for providing yoour answer. It looks like I completly missed the ball on this one and let the others answer. Congrats on your path and going forward!
Sam
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Thanks Sam!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Dry vipassana can be very effective, but also edgy. If that doesn't work for you in your life or if it takes away your motivation, then maybe it just isn't your path. Making your vipassana more wet is perfectly valid. The best practice is the one that you actually do. 
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Interesting. Thank you for validating this, as I am finding motivation much lower than when I was practicing just samatha. It's difficult to say whether or not this is caused by meditation or just the normal ebbs and flows of life.
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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The issue you experience is caused by nervous system getting tired.
It is getting tired because you practiced it to stay on sensations for far too long without a break and it just does what you practiced it to do.

Normally we do not notice when and how parts of nervous system do this kind of switching and it is not really needed. We tend to deal with a lot of stuff at the same time and just thought you process changes, attention moves elsewhere, etc. When you start doing vipassana you actively correct awareness to stay on sensations and any switching in nervous system tend to throw your attention off track so when you practice to stay focused then you pretty much practice mind to not do these switches ==> dukkha.

What you should practice instead is for nervous system to do this switching but at the same time synchronize newly used parts with these which are going sleep so that attention doesn't drift. This is not the same as having it stay the same for however long you do vipassana practice sessions. The best would be to practice mind doing even more switching than it normally does and have everything perfectly synchronized so so while "you" are being actively focused on activity the things which actually are focused on this activity switch all the time.

This might sound complicated, especially when you have just reduced switching and threw your working attention to the trash (you might seem concentrated but it is narrow focus not able to react correctly, perhaps you already noticed it, perhaps not) but until mind gets more flexible in how it works while being more synchronized the best optimization target for your practice is just to concentrate much more on feeling pleasure/bliss during vipassana practices, even at the expense of perceived focus on activity. While always prioritizing pleasure just correct your attention to what you are doing instead of trying to stay on it. When you do the practice correctly with time you should notice how something about your awareness changes and it doesn't feel like continuously the same you.

Shamatha is much less involving for awareness and because it already is about pleasure it doesn't have as much issues as vipassana does. Still some people who can't seem to hit jhanas fail to do so exactly because they try to stay on the object with their awareness and when it moves they bring it back too hard instead of letting it drift but concentrating new awareness goes on the object. The even better way is to train awareness to just arise on jhanic version of object and with this jhana can be have so quick one can just have them all day long.
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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This is very interesting. My nervous system is "doing what I practiced it to do." This sounds correct in that when I have been doing vipassana I may be too strict and tight with my attention. Off the cushion, I have been observing a similar experience. My mind no longer tens wanders naturally as it once did years ago. Now I find myself snapping back into the present moment, but the present moment tends to be unpleasant for whatever reason. I'm a stay at home dad and I spend many hours per day, cleaning, cooking, doing house work, etc.. Perhaps I'm wrestling with the present moment and wanting something different. Previously, my mind would have been wandering while doing the dishes, and I would be lost in thought about something else.<br /><br />I'm going to switch back to jhana and gently allow my mind to switch between objects without too much intervention. I'll let you know where I end up.<br /><br />Thank you!
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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As you have already awakened to the God realms emoticon in your previous path maybe time to dip your toes into Vipassana and see how shit comes to be emoticon yes, unpleasant, agonizing, annoying, not liking, miserable, disgusting, etc ... emoticon In Shamatha we cultivate and are kind of in control. In Vipassana we clearly see this not the case at all so panic can arise. 

However I'm not sure what the best practice for you is right now and for that reason I'm out in hope someone of benefit chimes in. 

Best wishes to you! 
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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I would rather say that in shamatha people think they are in control but the practice itself doesn't sustain this control hence the issues of dukkha do not arise.

In vipassana since this is much more involving practice the control can be maintained hence the possibility to screw it up and have issues like these described in OP. Eventually people relinquish control just because using it causes dukkha, be it they realize how to practice or just overload their mind to the point that the very thing they used to keep active just get broken and it is not possible anymore. Yes, some people who claim 4th path did it like that and suggest this is the way.

There are many ways to solve this issue. Best however to know what the issue is and make educated decision rather than do bunch of stupid practices and and think they are absolutely necessary to solve the issue which is somehow fundamental where this issue itself doesn't really exist until it is caused. At least I myself would not call method which just happen to work as the right method. Using wrong methods comes with issues and often proponents of these techniques won't tell you about them, especially if they are convinced they are skipping the details for your own good but also because they simply do not know better.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Hi Ni, 
you talkn to me emoticon 

Im very much bellow your level mate. I'm an amoeba in this vast labyrinth of spiritual sewers. 

I come from the Shamatha and Jhana background back in 2009-2012. That practice/Jhana was at one stage devasted by Dissolution. I didn't even know what happened until someone pointed out in 2011 to Ingram's book. Only then things got clear to me.

However, like you I also laughed at Vipassana folks. "What loosers" I was thinking. I only had respect for Shamatha as in whole body breathing/calming. 

Anyway, many years passed and in 2019 I decided to contact my teacher Kenneth Folk and decided to do full on Noting Aloud practice. After about 5 months of daily home practice the mind entered EQ Nana and stayed there for  around 4 weeks. Off cushion while playing with my son a cessation happened (big one. Not a bleep or nod-off but the one you can't tell how long it lasted nor could you tell anything about it while "in it", but only after consciousness came back online). 

in my experience Shamatha style practices did not result in path closure. 

However I must add that I used open eyes Kasina gazing while noting aloud which would up the concentration as well. This way it was not as dry. 

You Ni seem to generalize about this which is your freedom to do of course. 
Maybe include Karma into your scenarios as not all humans share same karmic loads. Some have tons of good points to waste them on Jhana stuff while others not a single good karmic coin. For those Noting is just the thing. 

Anywho, I'm off to change my baby boys diapers now emoticon they are full of shit emoticon emoticon emoticon 

Best wishes to you all. Papa Che out (I think I need to buy more diapers today) 
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Thank you.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Ironically, being the best version of yourself means accepting the things you most dislike about yourself! It takes a while to see some of that stuff. A lot of suffering is generated when there's a gap between what you think you should be experiencing and what you are actually experiencing. Obvously you can change some stuff, but beyond a certain point happiness simply comes down to accepting things as they are. Everyone has annoying thoughts, but fighting them gives them more power. They're nothing worse than clouds in the sky on a sunny day :-) The "fascinating" thing about the mind is how it creates its own suffering independent of external conditions - e.g. the things you once enjoyed which are now a chore. When you first notice that it feels like things are getting worse, but slowly with greater awareness you learn to stop doing it to yourself ... giving myself a little pep talk here as well :-)
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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This is so helpful! I've been being too rigid with my vipassana practice it seems. It's keeping my mind snapped in the present moment so tightly that it is causing extra suffering. Much of my days are filled with activities that are well, "unpleasant." Cleaning, cooking, housework, driving children around, etc... Like you said though, our minds create suffering where there is not actually suffering. 

In the days before my practice, my mind would be lost in the thought stream while doing these tasks. Now, since my mind is always snapped on the present, I'm fully experiencing each experience, and I guess I tend to not like most of them. It's a healthy dose of reality. I recall Shinzen saying something about this when he had to live with some Japanese monks. They made him do the shit work and it was mental torture for him. Besides letting my mind wander away from tasks while I'm doing them, I'm not sure how to finding grace in cleaning up cat shit or wiping pee off the toilet seat in my bathroom.

Accepting things the way they are. Thank you for reminding me of this. 
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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When I don't like something it's usually because there's something else I'd rather be doing, so I'm not fully present. The fantasies do become more refined though: sex -> money -> jhanas -> enlightenment. I'm  all too familiar with the experience of feeling resentful looking after my kids because I would rather be meditating so that I can be more in the present moment lol.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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What's the zen saying? 'Before enlightenment - clean up cat shit, wipe pee off toilet seat. After enlightenment - clean up cat shit, wipe pee off toilet seat.' emoticon​​​​​​​
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

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The smile makes all the difference!
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Haha. "Leave me alone kids! I can't help you beat Mario Odyssey right now. Can't you see that I'm meditating!?" 

What do you mean by "the fantasies become more refined through..."?

​​​​​​​Thanks.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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People are different, of course, but for me it is much easier to "stop doing it to [my]self" if I don't take on too much at the same time. I need to rest in something less formed (not formless but vibrational) inbetween being aware of all emotions and thoughts fully formed. I think I do vipassana the way Ni Nurta suggests, but with less precision. I never really powered it through, breaking my mind, possibly because it was already broken after several burnouts. Vipassana was restful for me because it would immediately tilt over into something doing itself, and it clearly had jhanic qualities. Now that I'm trying to bring that spacious restfulness back up to everyday life challenges with Dzogchen, I'm stressed out, so I need to take baby steps and rest with my version of vipassana which is wet and rather centerless, because life is much easier to deal with as vibrations. Using vipassana to rest is probably rather atypical. I'm saying this for two reasons: 1) to illustrate how differently one single method can manifest, which is why telling other people what works best in general terms is like giving wayfinding directions without knowing the other person's starting point; 2) to emphasize that insight practice doesn't have to be dry and edgy in order to work. Lead with your own strengths, as far as that will take you. At some point we will all have to deal with our weaknesses as well, but if we're lucky, by that time we are better suited for it. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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The precision is an illusion. Contrary to how it might sound like I do not see each neuron and do not need to. They have simple minds and can reorganize itself based on visualizations if they are in the right format and they will be once you see the format and you will see it once you consider the perspective of the neuron. It sounds more complicated than it really is ;)

In any way the best way and which doesn't require overdeveloped internal perceptions is just making sure practice is something that is enjoyable and moves things in the direction we want them to move (which definitely isn't "an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering") while making sure the the methods are executed correctly, so no drifting off thinking about stuff while eg. doing Mahasi noting but having them sensations noted.

Or maybe differently:
The effort should be put on achieving goal of the vipassana practice and not to doing the execution itself. The "what" is important, not "how". Mind will figure the best way of "how" to do stuff if we let it. If however we are to diligent in executing the "how" of the practice, with this how being just our guess as to how it should be done then it will cause more issues. Here maybe more jarring experience than it needs to be. That said some Dark Night (as this is what OP describes) is usually unavoidable and not the end of the world.

BTW. Your vipassana version is not what I think is referred to as vipassana in the OP. There I think the issue is caused by being to efficient on centering on sensations as they arise and doing so with what feels like the same awareness that noticed previous sensation. Do that for some time and it will teach nervous system to always use the same awareness for everything and this cannot not lead to dukkha (only because nervous system need rest, robots do not have this issue... at least if they have good radiators ;)). On the other hand you can teach mind to notice stuff with the different awarenesses independently and this will lead mostly to pleasure. This is fine but if taken to extreme it doesn't synchronize these awarenesses in any way hence kinda fails some of the goals of vipassana or even meditation in general. The best reference is EQ so having both center and periphery in equal proportions, not focusing overly too much on any, allowing things change when they need to, and still having this nice concentrated focused mind... which is of course easier said than done, especially in the middle of DN ;)
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J W, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Ni Nurta
It sounds more complicated than it really is ;)


Agreed! emoticon
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thank you for sharing your perspective. The way you describe your insight practice is way I would describe my jhana practice. I begin with the breath as the object but soon switch to vibrations as the object. Attention/awareness shifts naturally between vibrations, thoughts, emotions, etc. Perhaps this method is not true samatha but a blend?  

I find it much more pleasant to do this than to force my mind on sensations and ignoring jhana as jhana is pleasant and sensations tend to be neutral or sterile.

I guess what I'm trying to do is to gain some perspective from others to find the correct tact for my practice.
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J W, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Marijuana, which once was an aid to my oversensitivity, now amplifies mental chatter. 

What's the cannabis situation, are you using it still or laying off?  I've noticed at times like this when the mind is more active and 'chatty', like you say, cannabis / psychedelics can sort of put you over the edge more easily and so it may be better to not use it while the mind is so naturally stimulated.  Sounds like you've got enough things to note as it is (reflecting, thinking, analyzing, etc...)

Best wishes!
Kelly Gordon Weeks, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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Thanks for sharing your experience. 

I typically vape cannabis once or twice a day but have decided to lay off because it was causing too much mental chatter. I didn't realize that this was happening until I read a newly published book called, Chatter. Interestingly, edibles don't seem to cause chatter. I love cannabis and it can be a helpful tool. For example, I am introverted but cannabis flips that I become more extroverted under the influence. 

I'm an HSP and cannabis has the opposite effect on my nervous system than the typical user. It tends to chill other people out, but for me, it's like drinking an espresso.  About 4 months ago I cut way back on my caffeine intake as well. Now I only drink 1 cup of matcha right before I meditate. My HSP nervous system runs hot, so I have a very low tolerance to chemicals. I also quit drinking alcohol 3 years ago! 

Thanks for asking!
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J W, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Vipassana Creating an Overwhelming Awareness of Suffering

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I also quit drinking (well, mostly) about 5 years ago and that's when I became more of a daily cannabis user.  Still going strong with the caffeine though, hah!  I agree, it can be a useful tool. I did notice the same thing about mental chatter though, last year I would notice that I was going through POI cycles and that at certain points in the cycle my mind would be naturally overstimulated, so I didn't do cannabis during those times. 

Sounds like you are making some good progress and maybe that can be uncomfortable at times but not a bad thing.. emoticon

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