Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

George S, modified 3 Months ago.

Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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[Link to previous log]

I had a couple of memorable dreams last night. In the first dream, I was interviewing for a finance job which I didn't really want. The interviewer was a younger guy and it turned out he was a meditator who could generate deep cessations on demand, which he demonstrated to me. Impressed, I decided to challenge him by asking what his walking around experience of nibanna was like, to which he sheepishly admitted he had no idea. So I explained to him my method of seeing nibanna, which didn't immediately work for him but he was grateful nonetheless.

In the second dream I was trapped in a room with a mass shooter. I was next to the shooter and was to be shot first, point blank in the head. I was bracing for the impact of the bullet, but I couldn't really feel it. Instead I felt a series of 3-4 "cessation type events" where my mind dropped deeper and deeper into no-experience voids. Before the last one I thought 'I'll be dead after this one', my breathing and heart seemed to stop, and afterwards I woke up.

​​​​​​​The two dreams seem connected in my mind. I've been thinking that I would like to try helping other meditators by video at some point, but I don't feel that I will be "qualified" until I've had more cessations. My sense of confidence in 4th insight path and walking around experience of nibbana has been growing since it happened 4-5 months ago, but I still feel some insecurity about having experienced only 1-2 “technically clean” cessations (closed eyed 'falling poof' as opposed to open eyed 'mind inversions').

It's also connected with deepening samadhi and continued rebalancing of my energy body (which I view as the physical counterpart of emotional purification and psychological healing). I think that the paucity of my cessations is due to the fact that I never spent much time in equanimity, and what little time I did was mostly during the first two paths. From third on I was processing too much emotional/energetic/psychological stuff and doing too much insight to have extended periods with a calm mind. In the last few weeks, with the renewed focus on the breath, I've been calming my mind again and experiencing deeper samadhi. Yesterday evening was probably the deepest yet. I felt like I was dropping to the bottom of the ocean, gently rocked by slow waves of energy coming down from my head and up from my belly. But energy is still quite turbulent and it feels like it will naturally settle more. Samadhi is clearly a good place for me to spend a lot more time just for its own sake. There's also the practical issue of my recurrent chronic fatigue, which also seems related to energetics, so I doubt I will be ready for many months from that perspective alone (I hope, but the reality is that some people don't recover enough functionality to regain anywhere near their former level of activity).

I wouldn't feel comfortable charging for it and would stick to dana as long as possible. I'm aware that my strength (insight generating ability) is also my weakness (many times my insights are wrong or else it's not the right time, and it's hard to know the difference!) So I need to work on my patience, my listening, and being more tactful with my suggestions and sensitive to how they are received, as well as less attached to outcomes. Anyway, it's just thoughts at this point and I'm open to advice/suggestions. My main motivation is that it gives me a sense of value being able to help other people. The most satisfaction I get is when I feel that my pain and struggles are helpful for someone else – the feeling of connection through shared pain. There’s a lot of suffering out there and at some point it will probably start to feel selfish spending too much time blissed out! In a few years my family won’t need me so much and it would give me renewed motivation in my practice. I feel like my narcissism is receding and not a primary motivator (although it's always hard to tell what one's deepest motivations are!) I don't know, maybe I'm getting ahead of myself and this is just another manifestation of my deep-seated aversion to equanimity lol.

In any case, I feel like the dharma saved my life really and I owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel, Shagrol, Chris and others in this community for their willingness to share it openly and freely offer their help. (I haven’t had any formal relationship or private communications with them outside DhO.) I would like to pass it on and continue the tradition in whatever way I can.
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Since you asked -- I believe you have more work to do on yourself before you can effectively help others. It seems you already know this, so I'm not sure why you're putting the teaching thing out in the open, unless it's just a trial balloon to see what reaction it gets. I can grok that you want to pass whatever you learned along, but I believe you need to closely examine the motivation behind that. It's quite common, but that doesn't mean it's the right thing to do.

For example, you say:

So I need to work on my patience, my listening, and being more tactful with my suggestions and sensitive to how they are received, as well as less attached to outcomes. Anyway, it's just thoughts at this point and I'm open to advice/suggestions. My main motivation is that it gives me a sense of value being able to help other people. 

I'd urge you to examine the sense behind the last sentence carefully. I would submit to you that that's not a good platform from which to try to help others.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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Yes I’m not ready yet. For one thing, I need time to see how much of my childhood stuff I’ve actually resolved. Teaching was in the back of my mind, but I suppose the dream brought it forward and I wanted to get feedback on what I need to work on - thank you for that.

I see how wanting to be valued for helping could be a problem - maybe I would get frustrated when I can’t help or don’t feel valued. I think I need to develop a better sense of my own value independent of work and relationships. Then I could offer assistance in a more neutral way. Is that what you were driving at?
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Siavash ', modified 3 Months ago.

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Sorry for jumping in between the exchange of you two.
I think when it comes to teaching dharma and the generosity around it, a good standard would be something like this:

You have your hand outstretched, if you have something really valuable in your hand, and the people and strangers that are passing by, can take it from your hand without any push or asking coming from you, and may give you a kick in the ass and then walk away, or totally ignore you after taking it, or maybe one of them return back after walking a few steps and say thanks, and walk away again, and you are fine with all of them, because you know that what they took and walked away, may be helpful for them, but they may not think that way, and you can't do anything about it. And you don't expect more.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thanks Siavash, that's a good way of looking at it :-)
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Stefan R, modified 3 Months ago.

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For what it's worth, you have been a wonderful teacher to me, George. As Chris said, it may be worthwhile to look into the psychodynamics of your motivations to teach, ultimately the action is wholesome, but the root may not be. But that's for each individual to find out on their own. You're obviously super thoughtful and mature.

You have a calming confidence and maturity that I can see in your writing. I think you'd be an excellent teacher in whatever capacity you decide to engage with it. 

I also have a lot of experience in Jungian dream analysis, I think your dreams are so fascinating through the lens of meditation and spirituality. Definitely themes of change, anticipation, striving, and doubt. Lots of interesting things to delve into!
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Thank you Stefan.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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Your dream analysis is perceptive and helpful. It's interesting to see how stuff goes underground and re-emerges disguised in spiritual clothes!
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Chris Marti, modified 3 Months ago.

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I see how wanting to be valued for helping could be a problem - maybe I would get frustrated when I can’t help or don’t feel valued. I think I need to develop a better sense of my own value independent of work and relationships. Then I could offer assistance in a more neutral way. Is that what you were driving at?

The question is for whom are you doing this teaching? It would appear from your initial comments about teaching that you're teaching for you. The beneficiary is you. So the motivation is not to teach but to make yourself feel good. I suspect this appears messy for you right now based on your comment above. Messy because you aren't seeing the obvious importance of the motivation you have versus what it probably should be. That's what needs to be examined - why isn't this motivational piece of self-knowledge more visible to you?

Again, I acknowledge your motivation to give back, but that's coming across as secondary.
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George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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I see what you mean, it’s a selfish motivation. I do care about other people's wellbeing, but maybe not as much as I would like to think. I probably have an underdeveloped sense of other people's needs. It's only been a couple of years since I started to recognize my own real needs (as opposed to selfishly acting out on a distorted perception of them). It seems like I’m in the middle of a belated process of healthy individuation ...
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 16 Days ago.

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​​​​​​​One thing that appears to me here is that today's teachers have to be willing to navagate the hurdles associated with meditators seeing doctors and taking meds. Your run of the mill meditation teacher that tells you to get off your meds if you want to make progress doesn't resonate. So there are often opportunities to teach in the informal setting that can often be impactful in their own way. Just like reading George's dream journal.

Edit: My main practice is now karma related work that has nothing to do with meditation other than entering a trance when I post or email about dharma-related activities.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago.

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Thanks for your teaching George S emoticon (or should I say agnostic! I didnt realise you changed your fucking forum name! )


now bugger off you little p...k  emoticon 


Metta, metta , ta ta  emoticon emoticon 
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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There's a large amount of stress being released from my body in meditation at the moment. Waves of tension flowing down and rocking me to my core. It's surprising to think how I could have been going through life carrying this amount of stress without being aware of it on anything more than a highly superficial level. It's also still surprising to me how this whole stress release process works so naturally simply by focusing on the breath and ignoring everything else as much as possible. It seems like magic really - just keep coming back to the breath and everything else works its way out. It's still hard to let go of the idea that I should be able to control it or understand it!
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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Falling back asleep after meditating, I had the experience of feeling like my brain was vibrating violently. There was a bit of fear as usual, but I let myself relax into it a 2-3 times. At one point it got too intense and I tried to back out, but then I changed my mind and relaxed back into it again. I remember checking to see if I could move my physical body, but it was paralyzed. I’ve had similar experiences in the past, maybe every few weeks or months when I’m meditating. When I’m awake and meditating I can also feel a sort of baseline vibration in the background. I try to tune into it sometimes but I’m not able to achieve the clarity and absorption in it which I can when I’m falling asleep, probably because the fear is holding my controlling mind back.

This time the visuals were better developed. There were captivating geometric patterns, one that looked like frogspawn or tapioca and after that one that looked like black crystals with a bright light shining behind. After that there was a pure white blob and when I focused in on the edge it was like a Mandelbrot set with a very intricate boundary which sort of exploded and grabbed my attention, but I got excited which threw me out of it. At some point I was watching a sequence of pages being flipped over very fast, containing something like my kids math homework. It seems related to all the scanning I have to do for their remote schooling! These visuals were much clearer and more developed than when I’m meditating, probably also due to fear and over-control as well as the general distraction of energetics/stress release which tend to prevent my mind from settling. It reminds me that for all my samatha practice, my level of absorption is not nearly as deep as it could be.
George S, modified 3 Months ago.

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My body is still releasing a lot of repressed anger. The energetic pains and discomfort that I feel are mostly related to pressure and tension in the forehead, jaw and belly. When I think about it - that's exactly the same stuff involved in getting angry (tensing belly, clenching teeth, bulging forehead veins)!

A big external trigger is when my wife or in-laws get angry with my son. I often feel as if I'm under attack as well, my adrenaline starts pumping and I feel deep anger rising, although I usually avoid reacting. Clearly it's the same old childhood stuff working its way out. When I get angry at my son then I tend to feel like my anger is "legitimate" (even if I know that I'm over-reacting), so it's harder to distinguish the new anger from the old.

There's not much to do with the anger at this point, except take it away and sit with it. It's a very familiar pattern by now - deepening concentration/relaxation tends to open up deeper areas of tension and have a temporary perverse side-effect of releasing hidden pockets of old anger.





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George S, modified 27 Days ago.

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Linda and Chris and Olivier were right. There are deeper levels of shame that I was unwilling to feel, so I was trying to help others to a certain extent to make myself feel better. I overstepped the line between responding to specific needs and giving unsolicited advice & lecturing (narcissistic “sage/savior” pattern).

If I had paid more attention to my own practice then I would have noticed that I was generating more energy from my interactions on the forum than I could discharge. I felt that something was off, because I was getting pretty buzzed (CFS symptoms), but I either couldn’t or didn’t want to acknowledge it (typical hungry ghost behavior!) So it seems that I put myself in a shameful situation as a way of bringing the issue to the surface. It’s hard to identify one’s own patterns sometimes, even if it’s obvious to everyone else!
george, modified 26 Days ago.

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Yeah I see this in myself too. Very hungry ghost. For me though I guess it's easier to see because the sensations are so gross where as you're probably dealing with very subtle/deep ones that are slippery. Well done for seeing it and posting it! 
George S, modified 25 Days ago.

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Well Chris pointed it out 2 months ago when he questioned my motivations for teaching, and I agreed with him … but it wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear, so I continued anyway!

If I look at my past addictions, I usually knew there was a problem quite some time before I stopped, but I usually continued or doubled down on the behavior until it became intolerable. It is much easier to let go once you’ve identified the real need which the addiction is designed to satisfy. Some of my addictions were probably as much about the shame of the hangover as the buzz of the hit. It’s a fascinating subject, because often the addiction can look very different or even opposite to the need it satisfies. Even meditation can be addictive!

Addictions seem to become deeper and more subtle. They are subtle in the sense that they are hard to see in oneself, but they are usually pretty obvious to other people and in retrospect. Actually that’s not even true, there are usually warning signs, but it’s hard to acknowledge them because they go to the core of one’s personality structure and basic behavior patterns. And when they are not causing major problems in daily life, they are easier to ignore. The phrase of shargrol’s that most sticks in my mind is about the near endlessness of our defense mechanisms! He has another nice way of putting it, which is defending what doesn’t need to be defended.
Logan G., modified 26 Days ago.

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Hi George, I got curious and went poking around in old logs to see what the fuss is about. My general feeling that they/you are correct, but I also feel that, regardless of *why* you posted, many of your pointers on my own practice have been legitimately helpful.
George S, modified 25 Days ago.

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Thanks Logan. Even on your log though, I had the feeling I was overdoing it at times.
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Stefan R, modified 25 Days ago.

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Just chiming in to say +1 to everything Logan said. You helped me a lot. And like I said earlier in this log, it may be the case of a good action inspired by less than wholesome roots -- only you'll know that, and only you can truly unpack it. At the very least be thankful that the behaviour is not self-destructive or toxic. 

I think you'd really enjoy Robert A. Johnson's books "Inner Gold" and "Owning Your Own Shadow". 


george, modified 23 Days ago.

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George you helped me so much too, I don't think I've said that enough. If you're suffering as a consequence though then it's not worth it. 
George S, modified 22 Days ago.

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No problem there at all. I'm happy for you that some of your patterns are opening up. I think this is a reflection of your commitment to practice emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 21 Days ago.

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For what it's worth, it could have been so much worse. I do believe too that a good portion of it was helpful to people, and obviously much appreciated. It's just that I have seen it escalate before, and I truly believe that it becomes self-sabotage. And I don't think you need more of that. And something that is subtly misleading doesn't always reveal itself as misleading for a long time or ever. It can be very hard to tell. I suspect we are all at risk of doing harm when being too enthusiastic about giving advice, and it seems like most of us go through such phases more or less, many of us to an embarrassing extent (oh my goodness!). Hopefully most of it can be repaired. That's definitely not just you. But over time, you have a pending movement that stands out a bit with regard to the reactional chains that repeat themselves, even though they do get subtler. I think it would be beneficial to unpack the dependent origination of that. And not just intellectually, but really learning to identify it as it happens and letting it self-liberate without suppressing any of it. Those entanglements of challenging emotionally charged habitual patterns have so many sneaky little roots hiding under the surface all over the place, even where one least expects it, for all of us. And yeah, with what seems like endless (fractal?) patterns of defense mechanisms. 

I wish it wouldn't get so polarized, pending back and forth between so much shame on the one hand and denial on the other hand. None of it does any good, and reality isn't that polarized. None of us is perfect and that's okay. There are many shades inbetween pitch dark and flourescent white, and that's probably part of the beauty. And gosh, the tension between those poles seems like torture. I wish you'll find a way to stop doing that to yourself. Maybe the torture gets more subtle too, but I suspect that it's still very draining?

I once had a collegue who said that she couldn't ever imagine having children because her own mother was so perfect that there was no way she could ever come close to that. I thought to myself that I was glad that I'm not perfect. I wouldn't want my child to feel like that. I suspect that a planet filled with perfect people would be a nightmare. 

I believe that your observations about getting buzzed are important to learn from. Well spotted! 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 21 Days ago.

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Just to clarify: I do believe that tapping into the shift(s) that you already tap into, is good practice. You might need it even more if you dig into the dependent origination of subtle reactive chains, to regenerate and stabilize yourself, as the digging can stir up things. 
George S, modified 20 Days ago.

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Thanks Linda. Lots to think about and work with! Self-defeating shame avoidance is definitely a strong pattern for me. Small amounts of healthy shame tend to trigger larger waves of repressed shame. Shame is a tough emotion to really feel. I’ve gotten better at it, but like you say the roots go deep and resistance manifests in (not so) subtle ways.

Now I think about it, most of my anger was/is related to shame avoidance, trying to deflect imagined or self-incurred threats/criticisms. Underneath the shame it seems there is a deep pool of sadness, which I’m only just dipping into. It actually feels sweet. It seems like this process reverses the development of the damaged child: first sadness/tears, then shame (“I feel bad therefore I am bad”), then anger/acting out (“I am bad therefore I act bad”), and finally depression (shutting down to numb the whole mess of repressed emotions). Everything is ok when it’s finally felt, it’s just resistance/avoidance which is the problem (speaking to myself here!)

I still feel that this process is causally unrelated to the “big insight” (that THIS is already what I was looking for), even if the insight makes the process easier. I think this is something that Daniel points to in the sections on the psychological & emotional perfection models:
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As I said before, working on our psychological stuff can have lots of value, and Western psychology has added a vast array of useful conceptual frameworks and techniques to the world of psychological health and human development, but I firmly believe that clearly drawing the line between insight practice and psychological work is essential to doing either well. I have been to therapy and really got a lot out of it, just on a totally different front from what insight practices got me. It is not that I haven’t had psychological insights of great value when on retreat, as I have had plenty, but those psychological insights came from good insight practice as some surprising and appreciated side effect rather than the other way around.

I feel like my appreciation of the big insight is deepening, even if the insight itself doesn’t change. And of course there are still deeper meditation states to explore and deeper layers of reactivity, denial and ignorance to uncover!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 20 Days ago.

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You really don't have to be perfect to be a fine human being. I'm not convinced that we need a second nintheye either. emoticon 

Finding that you are already there and tapping into it as much as you can is a perfectly valid method. In some of my other sanghas, that's how people start their path. It's trying to translate it to Theravadan maps that gets confusing. Practices don't always come in the same order. Starting at a different axis doesn't usually mean that one can skip some of the work and still have the full path. That's how I see it anyway. But the order can probably vary, so nothing wrong with trying out whatever works.

In the group classes I'm taking with Michael Taft, there are quite a few people who just like you and me started out with Theravadan based practices and then flipped over to working from a more Mahayana/Vajrayana-based direction. I know that at least some of them haven't had stream entry, and they are still getting a lot out of the practice we are doing. Others are meditation teachers and pretty advanced practicioners and still get a lot out of it. I don't think that the path has to be so linear as any map makes it seem. Maybe the whole diagnosing thing creates a polarization for you that doesn't help?

Knowing what goes on in one's mind, and the dependent origination of it, is part of the insight work, I'd say. I have heard Daniel talk about how after 4th path whenever an old chain of reactions would be uncovered, it would just immediately dissolve. It's complicated, though, because even though some very crucial aspects of selfing stuff dissolves, it doesn't necessarily mean that behavior changes. The behavior can still go on even if one doesn't feel involved in it or identified with it. But it's not supposed to be hidden, denied, associated with shame and so forth. Does that make any sense? 
George S, modified 18 Days ago.

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
I don't think that the path has to be so linear as any map makes it seem. Maybe the whole diagnosing thing creates a polarization for you that doesn't help?

I agree!
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Knowing what goes on in one's mind, and the dependent origination of it, is part of the insight work, I'd say. I have heard Daniel talk about how after 4th path whenever an old chain of reactions would be uncovered, it would just immediately dissolve.

Since the “big insight” I would say that I’m finding it easier to uncover and dissolve old reaction chains, but it’s certainly not always immediate. Anger generally passes through much faster than before with less of a reaction, but old shame and sadness are taking longer to experience and dissolve. However I’ve only been seriously meditating for three years, whereas Daniel was meditating for most of his adult life I think. The trend is clear for me and I imagine that old reaction chains will continue to dissolve faster if I keep practicing. But I think of this as psychological/emotional work rather than insight as outlined in Daniel’s quote above, and linking the two seems to be moving in the direction of psychological/emotional models.

It's complicated, though, because even though some very crucial aspects of selfing stuff dissolves, it doesn't necessarily mean that behavior changes. The behavior can still go on even if one doesn't feel involved in it or identified with it.

I think I know what you are saying, but this is the kind of statement that could be used to justify crazy wisdom type behavior, so one would need to add qualifications about the type of behavior, which gets into morality/behavior models.

But it's not supposed to be hidden, denied, associated with shame and so forth. Does that make any sense?

I don’t know what you are referring to as being hidden here. I’ve been pretty open about my psychological issues and shame is the natural emotion associated with that. I think of denial and ignorance (ignoring) as the same thing, so everyone apart from fetter arahants must suffer from it to some extent!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 18 Days ago.

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I'm in a similar position as you describe with regard to reaction chains, and I too figure that it takes a lot of practice which I lack just like you. We draw the lines differently between morality work and insight, but it's all just models anyway and we all need to find what works best for ourselves. I agree that staying away from the emotional models is healthy, and if your way of doing that is to draw the line where you draw it, then so be it.

I would definitely not use what I said to justify behaviors. On the contrary, that is where I would insist that morality work is still important and can't be replaced by mere insight. My dividing line is, to simplify it, that seeing what goes on is insight whereas modifying behavior is morality work. I find that they ideally need to go hand in hand, and that we need both. 

I meant hidden from yourself. As in not being able to see it or aspects of it as it occurs. I did not mean to imply dishonesty. Sorry if it sounded like it. 
George S, modified 18 Days ago.

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Ok yes, hidden from awareness but not intentionally hiding something (words!)

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you would justify such behaviors.

I agree that morality is (most) important and that insight and morality should ideally go hand in hand (although the sequencing may vary for different people). Maybe some of this comes down to different uses of the word 'insight'. For me, psychological & emotional work definitely involves "insights" (seeing what's going on in the mind and body) and I think those are probably endless, but they are different from the "insight" of "insight dis-ease" (the sense that there's something missing which needs to be seen to make experience ok). 
Logan G., modified 20 Days ago.

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This is kind of a leading question but also just a legit question to satisfy my own curiosity about the path in general:

If you feel you suffer at all, how much do you think you suffer these days?

Like is your average day pretty chill but with a couple moments of suffering when something gets triggered somehow? Is there an undercurrent of suffering that seems to be there whenever you go looking for it? Are you definitely directly suffering all of the time? Is there something that you don't think is suffering but then you realize later its suffering? Would you say your experience is 95% not-suffering and 5% suffering? Is that even a good way to talk about any of this?

My goal in my own practice is the cessation of suffering. I would like to not do that anymore. I also acknowledge that the desire for such is a form of suffering, but there is plenty of low-hanging fruit in my own suffering tree I will attempt to pluck first.

How close do you feel yourself to be to a cessation of suffering? Do you feel it is it even a reasonable thing to shoot for?
George S, modified 18 Days ago.

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Interesting questions! It took me a while to reply because I've been moving. Here’s my experience with suffering …

I kind of followed the three divisions - morality, concentration and insight - although I wasn’t aware of it until later.

About 15 years before starting to meditate, I went into therapy to deal with addictions and general dissatisfaction with myself & life. I had some success with the addictions, but ironically my suffering got much worse because I wasn’t able to medicate myself and push it away or act it out like before! That ended up in near suicidal depression, let’s say 100% suffering.

Stating to meditate and develop some concentration pretty much immediately brought the repressed anger to the surface, which broke the depression and reduced it to cycling through the POI. It’s hard to remember what a massive relief that was as the time, I would guess reduction in suffering to 40% of what it was before (obviously these numbers are impossibly vague, but just to give a general sense). After second path I stopped cycling so noticeably and made some more positive lifestyle changes, reducing suffering to say 20%.

Waking up to my narcissism resulted in a fairly significant increase in suffering – thoughts that I was a terrible person, beyond redemption etc. But learning about it, where it came from and how to work with it, brought that extra suffering slowly back down again (still ongoing to a certain extent).

The remaining suffering was what I would call “existential suffering”. What’s the meaning/purpose of life? What should I be doing with my life? What happens when I die? How do I attain total freedom from suffering? (nibbana, enlightenment, awakening, liberation etc.) Although it was relatively small suffering compared with before, it felt much larger because I was totally consumed with the search, spending all available time meditating and studying/thinking about the dharma! This also meant that smaller psychological & behavioral issues felt like they carried more weight, because I perceived them as “getting in the way of liberation”. Subjectively I might have felt that suffering was back up to 80% at times, although objectively it was nothing like that.

I think it's important to keep in mind the distinction between pain and suffering. Clearly there’s a certain amount of unavoidable pain (first arrow) that comes from just being alive - fatigue, sickness, accidents, misfortunes, aging, death - but you can avoid stabbing yourself with the second arrow (the mental suffering of trying to control what you can’t ultimately control). That’s easier said than done, it sounds like an impossible feat of positive thinking, but that’s where insight came in.

The big realization of insight was that ALL OF THIS is already happening by itself without any agent controlling it. There might be an annoying narrative voice running in the head saying ‘this is my life, these are my problems, this is how I was in the past, this is how I need to be in the future, this is what I need to do to get from A to B.’ But that’s all it is, a repetitive thought loop giving rise to the illusion of control where no control ultimately exists.

Insight was a bit of a mindfuck. Up until that point I had a vague assumption/wish that nibbana must be some kind of permanent super-special jhana state (“buddhist heaven”), and that if I could just get good enough at meditation then one day I would awaken to nibbana and my life would be radically different. The big insight turned that completely on its head - recognizing it’s never going to happen, there is no such thing as a permanent mental state - this current experience, WHATEVER IT IS, is already it, always was and always will be. The big insight basically solved the problem of existential suffering. The narrative still runs at times, but it’s impossible to take it seriously like I did before. Insight also helps a lot with pain (physical/emotional/psychological), knowing that there is no avoiding the experience puts the second arrow out of reach and somehow makes the pain taste sweet.

Another irony is that as my tolerance for pain has increased, so has the amount of pain that I actually feel! (Bill Hamilton’s ‘suffering less, noticing it more’) Not just my own pain, but also the pain of others (including that inflicted by me). I know that’s not a great selling point, and I used to have questions like is it really worth it, this crazy project of deconstructing my life/mind/personality to attain a dubious freedom from suffering?! I got two answers to that question (well maybe they are the same). Firstly, once I stopped adding so much new pain (morality) then, barring misfortune, it’s mostly “karmic” pain which I was going to have to experience anyway due to my conditioning. The way I see it, meditation is a way to accelerate that process, rip off the band-aid and have a pure concentrated experience of the pain so that you don’t have to spend the rest of your life avoiding it, acting out on it and making it worse. The second answer is that you really don’t have a choice anyway! Insight shows that experience is inescapably happening exactly the way it already is, whether you see it and accept it or not (the illusion of control). Obviously one does appear to have choices, but if you look closely enough you see that they are all totally conditioned.

In terms of my day to day experience, I spend most of my time just doing whatever needs to be done and I’m fundamentally ok with that in a radically different way from before (because of the insight that experience doesn't need to be different from what it already is). Life continues to be a series of (apparent) trade-offs, but they are not a problem like they used to be. For example, sometimes I think that it would be nicer to have more time to meditate (for relaxation, emotional/psychological development, cool experiences) but my life is still in a pretty busy place with family, work, responsibilities etc. That used to feel like a big problem when I was banking on meditation to lead to freedom, but now I know that freedom is always already right here in the moment, whatever the circumstances, it’s more like ‘fine, that’s just the way it is, no problem.’

I used to be very fit until I got Covid last year and then developed chronic fatigue syndrome. There were days when I couldn’t even take a shower without collapsing back into bed for the rest of the day in pain and fatigue. Even now my basic functionality is still very restricted. That would have caused big mental problems before, but now I’m basically accepting of it. Who knows, maybe it’s just paying back karmic debts. I see now that karma runs very deep.

Anyway, that’s just my experience. I’m sure you’ll get different answers from different people!
Logan G., modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Waking up to my narcissism resulted in a fairly significant increase in suffering – thoughts that I was a terrible person, beyond redemption etc. But learning about it, where it came from and how to work with it, brought that extra suffering slowly back down again (still ongoing to a certain extent).


Would you say this stuff is first-arrow or second-arrow?

I think it's important to keep in mind the distinction between pain and suffering. Clearly there’s a certain amount of unavoidable pain (first arrow) that comes from just being alive - fatigue, sickness, accidents, misfortunes, aging, death - but you can avoid stabbing yourself with the second arrow (the mental suffering of trying to control what you can’t ultimately control). That’s easier said than done, it sounds like an impossible feat of positive thinking, but that’s where insight came in.


I have this intuition (also some people seem to report this, and It's how I interpret 'There is the end of suffering') that I can be free all of the the second-arrow stuff. I suspect that's not true of pain.

The big insight turned that completely on its head - recognizing it’s never going to happen, there is no such thing as a permanent mental state - this current experience, WHATEVER IT IS, is already it, always was and always will be.


I have had one small glimpse of this, but it didn't 'stick' so to speak. At the time it was definitely a mind-fuck, but also I had this feeling like 'I guess if the conditions are correct I will continue on this path even though truly there is no control here'. Real feeling of letting go and letting the meditation meditate itself.

Another irony is that as my tolerance for pain has increased, so has the amount of pain that I actually feel! (Bill Hamilton’s ‘suffering less, noticing it more’) Not just my own pain, but also the pain of others (including that inflicted by me).


Man I feel this these days. I feel like I've cleared away some thought-identification cobwebs only to reveal just heaps of emotional pain under there. I've also noticed that some of my emotions have gotten more 'pure' somehow. Sadness in particular is easy for me to feel, and it has almost no teeth anymore at all - it's just a thing that happens in my body, just part of awareness.

Firstly, once I stopped adding so much new pain (morality) then, barring misfortune, it’s mostly “karmic” pain which I was going to have to experience anyway due to my conditioning.


What is karmic pain?

I used to be very fit until I got Covid last year and then developed chronic fatigue syndrome. There were days when I couldn’t even take a shower without collapsing back into bed for the rest of the day in pain and fatigue. Even now my basic functionality is still very restricted. That would have caused big mental problems before, but now I’m basically accepting of it. Who knows, maybe it’s just paying back karmic debts. I see now that karma runs very deep.


Sorry to hear that. Glad its something you can accept. Continuing on the last question, what are karmic debts?

Thanks for writing that up! I appreciate it.
George S, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Would you say this stuff is first-arrow or second-arrow?

​​​​​​​I would say that the first arrow is the physical experience of shame and the second arrow is the narcissism which is a mechanism to avoid the feeling of shame. ​​​​​​
​​​​​​​
I have had one small glimpse of this, but it didn't 'stick' so to speak. At the time it was definitely a mind-fuck, but also I had this feeling like 'I guess if the conditions are correct I will continue on this path even though truly there is no control here'. Real feeling of letting go and letting the meditation meditate itself.

That seems to be a common pattern, having various kinds of glimpses which eventually lead up to a "big one" which sticks (as in you can't unsee it even if you wanted to). After a glimpse you know that “it” is there and then you start trying to figure out how to see it again, which ironically keeps it hidden! I went through a sort of process of elimination, figuring out how all the things which I hoped/wanted/expected “it” to be couldn’t actually be it, slowly eroding the mind’s tendency to look for it outside of immediate experience.

Letting the meditation do itself is a really good practice, but still there are states and memories/expectations, so “it” is not specifically to be found in meditation ... it encompasses ALL of your experience. Letting go is good, but still there can be the idea ‘I just need to let go more’, which has a certain impossibility built into it.

What you say about continuing on your path whilst recognizing that there is no control is exactly right. In a very real sense you will wake up one day and realize that EVERYTHING had to happen for you exactly the way it did. And it really is your path, you can learn a lot from other people but you also have to kind of read between the lines and see what’s really going on with you and this odd awakening business. ​​​​​​​
​​​​​​​
Sadness in particular is easy for me to feel, and it has almost no teeth anymore at all - it's just a thing that happens in my body, just part of awareness.

It seems that different people feel different kinds of emotions more easily than others. I would suggest focusing on the ones you think you don't feel! Because one is dealing with defense mechanisms, it’s hard to uncover repressed emotions in isolation (or maybe it just takes longer). During first/second paths I was intensely vipassanizing what felt like my entire sensory field, but I had no awareness of repressed shame and sadness. That’s why reactivity practice in daily life is great, because this repressed stuff is showing up all the time in the way we interact with others, project stuff onto them, have unintended consequences of our actions etc. It’s pretty easy to see in other people, so all you have to do is turn the spotlight round on yourself! That’s where honest feedback is helpful (and I feel like you don’t quite always get that when you are paying someone for their services ... maybe just my projection!)
​​​​​​​
What is karmic pain? … Continuing on the last question, what are karmic debts?

I’m just talking about dependent origination/cause & effect really. Everything has prior conditions and often you can trace it back to genetics, family, upbringing, education, social/cultural/economic background, and then all the consequences of the (apparent) choices you made based on those conditions.

Thanks for writing that up! I appreciate it.

​​​​​​​It helped me as well to write things up and put them in context, so thank you!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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George S:

I went through a sort of process of elimination, figuring out how all the things which I hoped/wanted/expected “it” to be couldn’t actually be it, slowly eroding the mind’s tendency to look for it outside of immediate experience.

This is the first time I have seen you tangibly describe what you did (which of course doesn’t mean that you haven’t written it before somewhere). Not a bad method. A more thorough description of this could possibly be very helpful to people, although I imagine that the specificities might vary depending on individual conditioning. Despite the latter, I think there could be something helpful in a thorough methodological and phenomenological description of the stepwise procedure of eroding that tendency. Do you already have it described somewhere that I have missed, or is it something that you haven’t yet put in print? I think it would be helpful with a summary that addresses the following:
- how you decided where to start
- how you knew where to look next (at all the different turns)
- how you made sure that you hadn’t missed some blind spot
- what steps you undertook to gradually erode different aspects of the mind’s tendency to look outside of immediate experience
- how your experience is today with regard to the different things that would previously take your focus away from the immediate experience (I’m not just thinking of striving for liberation here, but a wide variety of stuff that we humans escape into)

This sounds like it could be a huge writing project, and with the chronic fatigue you mentioned I can totally understand if that isn’t your first priority at the moment (I have been there myself). I just thought to mention it anyway, because it’s such a short time period for you that it might be easier for you than for most to remember the steps. I mean, I have seen you strive as hell for strict attainments while at the same time expressing huge amounts of fear with regard to letting go. We had some long exchanges about that. It wasn’t that long ago. A little more than a year ago, I believe. You seemed to really feel like shit back then. And then shortly thereafter you had some intense arguments with people (about the same time as you got covid, or am I mixing up the timeline here?), made some big confessions about being jealous of gurus, and had this Big Insight of yours, all within a short time period (it was an intense time for many of us, though, because of the covid situation). So because of this extremely short time frame, maybe it wouldn’t been so exhausting to write it down? And because of that, it could also be very to the point. Not so much of the usual meandering that people seem to go through. If you could pinpoint in a straightforward manner how you went about it, I’m sure many would appreciate it a lot. Without exhausting yourself, of course.
George S, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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I actually wrote the whole thing up here shortly afterwards at your request, and you completely dismissed it!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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I'm actually trying to wrap my mind around it now and see if there's some tech to learn from. Sorry that I sound like an interrogator. 

Sure, I was pretty sceptical about it - and dismissive, admittedly - because you had already been sure about being done with the insight right there in April if I remember correctly, when you played that protagonist role, and it seemed to happen out of the blue as the culmination of being an asshole in discussions. And right before that you were terrified about the whole thing. I remember that so vividly because of the exchanges we had in your log there. Some posts in that exchange played an important part in my private life, which I'm very greatful for, as I got to know someone through your log. And you had just recently come out as a narcissist and had been warning me thoroughly about how you would turn every interaction into narcissistic supply, so I took your word for it when you all of a sudden made claims that sounded grandiose. And then when you made the same claims again, you rewrote the timeline to make that big insight happen later. That's what it looked like to me. Can you blame me?

But we all rewrite our timelines over and over because we learn that our initial assessments of something were overly optimistic, and you wouldn't be the only one who had some 'false alarms' of attainments (horribly misleading word and I know that you don't want to use that word either, but I use it now just to simplify), so I'm trying to re-assess it as an example of that rather than merely a grandiose narcissist thing. And I'm dealing with some fears here, because I still have your warnings ringing at the back of my head. I have seen narcissists tear communities apart with manipulation, and nearly shred friends of mine to pieces, so it's a real fear. So every time I rejoice in your development - which I do - I get scared that I'm being played. 

And I have previously been sceptical also because you have been mapping yourself based on MCTB2 mappings without ever describing its crucial signposts, the cessations and the door moments. But the focus on cessations and door moments in MCTB2 and on this forum is pretty big in comparison with other contexts, and I have recently been reassessing that focus in my own bias. I have come to understand that my own door moments have been extremely lucky, as they usually don't present so clearly. Also, if your logging started when you were in the pretty confusing middle paths, clear door moments is actually a lot to ask. So I'm not asking for that anymore.

What I think would be very helpful, though, if you can remember it now or find a way to reconstruct it, is the more specific investigations that you undertook. The specific questions that drove them, the methods you used (sequentially), and how you arrived at specific insights. You skip over those parts pretty quickly when you retell your story. I remember that you asked a lot of questions in other logs than your own, so whatever documentation exists is probably spread out on many different threads. Maybe it could be reconstructed if you use the "my posts" function. It would be a great service to other practicioners, as that territory is a mess for most people going through it. So I was asking about the specific tech in some more tangible wordings rather than your life story, if that makes any sense, and especially from that middle path territory and onwards, because that's something that's rare to find. 
George S, modified 14 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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I didn’t rewrite the timeline, but I can understand if it’s unclear, there was a lot going on last year!

My two cessations occurred in early 2019 before I started logging on here, but I described them in an early post which is linked from my first log. The first one I thought could have been a near miss. The second one was pretty clear, but I had doubts that it could be second path already. After that I started getting into deeper psychological strata, whole life practice and other “third path” type stuff. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “door moment”, but the third “moment” for me happened while crossing a road later in 2019. It wasn’t a cessation, I described it as reality suddenly synching up and totally knowing itself. It was as if I suddenly saw everything exactly as it was for the first time. It was very powerful but it only lasted an instant and I downplayed it at the time because it didn’t fit into the model of what I was expecting, which was a third path cessation like the other two. If I had to pick a door I would say not-self, because that’s the characteristic I was investigating deeply at the time (to the point that I had convinced myself that I didn’t exist at all!) What I’ve been calling the “big insight” was in November 2020. There was some insight stuff leading up to it, but the experience of the moment itself was very much like the third moment, except this time it stuck and it’s basically always available for me now. I would say it was the impermanence door, because the insight leading into it was the total fabrication of the personal sense of time.

What was going on around April 2020 was a temporary fixation in a nondual mindstate. It felt very powerful at the time, but I was straining to maintain it and it broke down after a few weeks, at which point I acknowledged it and settled back down to regular practice again. You are right that I was posting a lot of narcissistic stuff around that time. Looking back over some of it now is pretty cringing, makes me think who was that person?!

When I realized that I was a narcissist it felt like a life sentence, realizing that my whole personality structure was suspect. Suddenly it seemed like all of my behavior was driven by the need for narcissistic supply. Being open about that (and yes dramatic) was itself a source of narcissistic supply, but it was motivated by a genuine desire to understand how narcissism worked and get to the bottom of it – because I knew it was the biggest source of suffering for myself and others. It wasn’t until earlier this year that I did the inner child work and started releasing the toxic shame, which is when the narcissism started to lift (not saying it’s all lifted). I understand your fear, and consider myself to be on probation as far as narcissism is concerned.

I feel like the summary I already linked to above summarizes the most important pieces of “tech” that I used. I’m happy to answer any more specific questions on techniques mentioned there. I pieced a lot together by rooting around on other people’s old logs and seeing how stuff evolved for them in real time, as well as reading shargrol’s posts very very carefully. 

After noting, the two practices which had the biggest impact for me were nonduality and realms/elements. Nonduality for me was all about deconstructing the seeker/seeking dynamic (which when taken too far, which I did, leads to a temporary state of absolutely nothing to do, which is one of the ego’s last defense mechanisms). Realms/elements was important for understanding and reducing my off-cushion reactivity, but the real kicker was using it to see how meditation itself was fueled by reactivity and is essentially just a continuation of samsaric state cycling. Up until that point I was assuming that deepening meditation states would lead to some kind of new state of awakening. Deconstructing the formless realms was also important (deconstructing space, awareness, no-thingness and statehood). The last big one was deconstructing time and the personal narrative, which is what precipitated the ‘this is already it’ realization (fourth moment).

I will try to address some of your other comments/questions more specifically below.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 14 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Thanks for replying! 

I believe you when you say that you didn't rewrite it in the sense of changing the time stamp for your latest big insight moment. It just seemed like it to me at the time, when I wrote that dismissive response, because of your previous claims and how they had been phrased. Let's just leave it at that. I was reading it within a specific context back then, and now we have a different context. 

First of all, yay for all the improvements that you have gone through, in your practice and in your life! That's really awesome. 

In the following paragraph, I comment on your report and describe my own stance with regard to different aspects of it if it were me, which of course it isn't. I'm neither disputing your assessments or supporting them, because I can't. 

I can't access your personal experience moment to moment, so there's no way for me to tell what it's like except from your words, and words are so frustratingly limited. I have had several shifts that have stuck so far, but I'm sure I haven't had the final shift according to my standards. I think it's awesome that you have had shifts that have stuck. I believe that, I think, except for those times when I get paranoid because of your narcissism. As for whether it was the final shift with regard to insight, that's not for me to say. I'm generally very sceptical because it is so common to prematurely think that one is done with that part. When it comes to myself, I have access to my moment to moment experience, which makes it possible to weigh in that in my assessments. If my moment to moment experience were to 100% convincing as fourth path experience with no doubt whatsoever, I don't know how much weight I would give to the rest of the phenomenology. If it were not, I would personally, for my own practice, not be content with details as those you reported here. But that's me. And maybe you are 100% sure based on your moment to moment experience. If so, then awesome! If not, then I would carefully consider Chris's comments to you in the this moment thread. I think that I would personally, if it were me, check in with a skilled teacher anyway, just in case I had missed something, and continue to do so now and then for the rest of my life. I have the impression that often even highly realized dharma teachers check in with someone who is even more realized from time to time. I prefer to err on the cautious side in matters like this. Please don't take this as me questioning you. I'm just being very honest about my own stance with regard to the practice. 

As for the tech, I was curious about the more hands-on microdetails on the exact subquestions you were addressing, sequentially, and how you went about doing the investigations. Thick descriptions of what happened moment to moment, of what exact knots were resolved by each investigation, and of how the moment of resolving manifested. That's because I'm a phenomenology nerd. I know it's not everybody's cup of tea. I just asked anyway, because if you would happen to have notes somewhere that could be put together to such a report, that would be a veritable goldmine. If you don't, then don't worry about it. But I sure look forward to any further details that you might post below. emoticon 
Logan G., modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Thanks for the clarifications George!

In particular, thanks for the note on the emotions we don't see well. They're a big blind spot for me. Even hearing other people mention repressed emotions multiple time before somehow has slid across my mind without sticking, probably because my mind is like 'no way don't look in there that's terrible lets just forget that'. I think I'm starting to see just how much my mind avoids some stuff now. Kind of creepy honestly haha.

Also, I would certainly read the write-up Linda is suggesting if you wrote it!
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Ni Nurta, modified 19 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Imho serious Buddhist won't sette for anything less than absolute perfection. It is pretty much what 8-fold path is about imho.

How do you deal with unskillful thoughts?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 19 Days ago.

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 I sort of agree with that, but I think it's a very different sense of perfection than habitual conceptualizations of perfection and also nothing that has any relation to shame. 
george, modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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So correct me if I'm wrong but Mondays will still feel like shit after SE? Thanks for sharing your story George : ) 
George S, modified 18 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Yes Mondays will still be Mondays emoticon
george, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Shit is a loaded term and probably shouldn't have been used there. But for me at least there are some Monday's that are shit and some Monday's that are amazing
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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You do know that insight empties out views of karmic debt and karmic pain, right? Because those concepts are based on a misunderstanding. 

edit: Actually, it doesn't just empty out karmic debt, but renders it totally illogical. There is no such thing. Unless you are talking about the ripening of karmic seeds. But that's not a debt, just dependent origination. Cause and effect. The way you are phrasing things, it sounds like you are still assuming a doer that owns the doing. You might need to dig deeper there.

Pain is real, but differentiating out some specific part of it that is karmic is misleading. It's all karma, and not in the sense of getting what one deserves, but dependent origination. 
george, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Hey Linda I take it that's for me? Yeah I do, I just don't understand it as deeply as you or George S does. Yes I can see feeling shit on a Monday is a concept which is why I I replied with "shit is a loaded word" and when I write this now I understand it even more. So thank you for that : )
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 17 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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No, it was for George S. Sorry for being unclear. 
George S, modified 17 Days ago.

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Yes you are right, I was just being sloppy and using karma as a high-level stand-in for dependent orgination/cause & effect. Thanks for the catch!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Okay, good. It sounded to me like it might be another guilt-shame circle based on an idea of a separate self, but words really are inadequate, and the further we go on the path, the more frustratingly confusing language becomes when we try to compare notes. 

So you aren't dismissing nonduality or whatever one wants to call it, just the temporary nondual absorptions as the final destination? Then we are in agreement. 

Personally, I still need to finish that part of the journey before it's time to quit the search. I sometimes get pissed off when you keep calling it insight disease, as if that were the problem. I still have some deconstruction to do, and just quitting the search won't do that for me. I already know that the temporary states aren't it, but I can't just skip past them. I need to find all the hidden assumptions that cause the suffering for me
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Linda can you get of his back now?!! You have said enough! 

If people don't chirp like you and people you admire then they are wrong and pissing you off! 

Now you are pissing me off with lecturing George on and on! Will you ever stop!

Yes there is insight disease. This just is This, awake or not awake. Chase your waterfalls if you want. Stop telling people that they are right only if it agrees with your view! 

emoticon with much Metta of course emoticon 

Best wishes to both!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 16 Days ago.

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I AM off his back. That's the whole point. 

Maybe it was my turn to be the antagonistic asshole, which is sometimes jokingly described as an integrated part of the path.

So sorry for being an asshole. Just trying to see the dependent origination of it and learn something.
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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"and learn something."

Actually while I was writing my repliy I wondered what Realm my mind was in. And which Realm you and which George was in. 

Im just too dumb for this 6 Realm practice. I struggle to place mind states or attitudes into Realms. I guess being no analytical person it's just not for me. I move through life with my belly feel. I think KF's 3 Speed Transmition is likely best suited for me.
1. Noting
2. Self-inquiry
3. Mahamudra
and keep switching gears depending on the terrain I guess, rather than looking at it as some hierarchy (example Mahamudra being better than Noting etc). 

Anyway, emoticon sorry for brainstorming in your log G! 

​​​​​​​All the best! 
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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I think George S was more in the human realm than I have been lately, Papa Che. And if you were in a hell realm or something when reading my latest post, that was probably because you spotted that I had been there and were trying to save me from it, as well as saving all poor beings there from me. I was already crawling out of it, through a detour in jelaous god realm or something, but approaching human realm. You don't suck at it. You just didn't see that I had already realized it and were trying to repair it. I guess that's an indication that I wasn't that successful in repairing it. Point taken. 

I'm going to officially apologize in the this moment thread for being such an ass. I reacted out of fear and was out of line. 

So yeah, I'm officially off your back, George S, and humbly apologizing, or trying to. Let me know if some crawling is needed beyond the crawling I'm about to do in that thread. I'm also trying to say that I'm interested in advice with regard to the deconstruction aiming at third path, if you have any tangible tech to share. That is, stuff that comes before it's time to give up the search, because it would be too soon for me to skip forward to that. I think it's more complicated for me, so it might be the case that I need to vipassanize the hell out of some aspects of it. 

It might take a while to write that apology. I'm travelling at the moment and running out of battery and my powerbank is unreliable. I also want to make sure that I don't make things worse. I'm not even sure exactly what triggered what patterns for me. It's some messy entanglement. Seeing this mess of mine actually makes it easier for me to understand how it was possible for you earlier, George, to antagonize like that and then come out of it so soon without having to be a master manipulator. The mind really plays such tricks on us human beings, and sometimes it catches us off guard when we were starting to hope that we had put the worst behind us. So I get it now. It's that easy to suddenly be the asshole. And thankfully, it's also possible to come to se it. And it probably takes a lot more practice to catch it as it happens. 

I really am sorry for how I behaved. 

edited to add: I added apologies as editings at the end of a couple of my posts. Then I thought it might be best to just let that thread rest in peace rather than bring it up again. I hope that's okay. We were triggering each other in a way that just looks awful. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 16 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
I'm also trying to say that I'm interested in advice with regard to the deconstruction aiming at third path, if you have any tangible tech to share.
Free dharma tip: Go back to mind state before any path, deliberately.
Intention: fix your normal mind state and become comfortable using it.

So far you are most probably fixated on some progress or whatever to get to some place which is a pipe dream and forgot what is important. I assume this because I was doing exactly the same, for years, and at some point I had the idea that is the basis for this advice and it is one of the best practice decisions I ever made.

That is, stuff that comes before it's time to give up the search, because it would be too soon for me to skip forward to that. I think it's more complicated for me, so it might be the case that I need to vipassanize the hell out of some aspects of it.

I do not think this whole 'give up the search' applies to bodhisattvas emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 15 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Ni Nurta:

Free dharma tip: Go back to mind state before any path, deliberately.
Intention: fix your normal mind state and become comfortable using it.

So far you are most probably fixated on some progress or whatever to get to some place which is a pipe dream and forgot what is important. I assume this because I was doing exactly the same, for years, and at some point I had the idea that is the basis for this advice and it is one of the best practice decisions I ever made.


My mind state before starting my practice wasn’t worth living. I would rather die than go back to it, so it’s not an option. Four decades was enough. I think I was messed up at such an early age that I need the practice to find my normal mind state, if there is such a thing, and to be present right here and right now. Thanks anyway.

Ni Nurta:

I do not think this whole 'give up the search' applies to bodhisattvas emoticon


I actually vowed not to give up until I reach full Buddhahood, which is being a Bodhisattva in that tradition, so it literally doesn’t.
george, modified 15 Days ago.

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Hey Linda, maybe vowing to full Buddhahood can be the very thing that is limiting you also words are very limited. What do you really mean by full buddhahood?
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 15 Days ago.

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Why do you assume that I'm limited? I'm following the process as it is already proceeding, which is just as it should be.

What full Buddhahood is, that's an empirical question. Can't answer it, don't want to project limitations to it. 
george, modified 15 Days ago.

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I didn't say YOU are limited I said there is something limiting you. I apologise if it came across that way.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 15 Days ago.

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That's what I meant. Limited by something. Why would it be limiting? I see it as a great openness. 
george, modified 15 Days ago.

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Ok that makes sense and very insightful. I guess I see myself as limited. Thanks!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 15 Days ago.

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Don't take my word for it. Explore it. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 15 Days ago.

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"Intention: fix your normal mind state and become comfortable using it."

Thats the main reason I still keep to playing music, keeping honeybees, painting oil on canvas and annoying the fine people of DhO emoticon 
George S, modified 13 Days ago.

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As I’ve been feeling-in to shame more deeply, I’ve started noticing feelings of disgust more as well (stuff that I would have ignored before). I had a “disgusting” dream last night involving food and sex, and it got me thinking about the relationship between disgust, shame and sex. The theory which makes sense to me is that disgust evolved first as a disease avoidance mechanism, and then shame evolved as self-directed disgust as a way of motivating compliance with social norms (which became necessary as humans started living in bigger groups).

Since sex exposes one to the risk of both diseases and social norm violations, it seems that it could be “healthy” to feel a certain amount of disgust & shame around sex. I’m not talking about moral judgements here, I still think consenting adults should be allowed to do whatever they want as long as no one is being taken advantage of (which is a whole other topic). In the past I’ve tended to think that people who were less open about sex were more repressed, but now I’m wondering whether it is me who was repressing my shame!

​​​​​​​The common reaction of kids learning about sex is often surprise and disgust (ew my parents do that!) And research shows that getting sexually aroused requires having to overcome a certain amount of disgust. Language also seems to suggest disgust repression (sick body!) I wonder if that relationship can work the other way, which would explain how one can get aroused by “disgusting” acts (or maybe that's just repressed shame needing to be felt). I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but the subconscious is indeed a strange and interesting place!
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Siavash ', modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Maybe it's differet for different people.
Maybe aversive type people feel more disgust.
For me human body is disgusting a lot of times and a lot of repression has to happen.

But I guess there is another factor, or maybe another way of looking at it, which I think is mind-states. Mind-states seem to be coloring our experience (Culadasa has talked about this in his older talks). This color here is brighter in a mind-state of joy, but the same (yes, nothing is the same!) color is dim in a mind-state of despair.
Sexual attraction seems to come with a certain mind-state that changes how one feels about sensory input. What was disgusting before, now becomes attracting.
And probably it should still feel disgusting in other mind-states in order to have a functioning life!

-- Edit:
And I think it's true that shame is self-directed disgust. It seems obvious.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 12 Days ago.

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Sex is indeed something that can be deeply entangled in all sorts of sankharas, which is why one's sexlife may go through a number of changes as the path progresses even though I wouldn't say that it's like the old models. I'd rather not express myself normatively here, with shoulds and shouldn'ts. It can probably manifest in different ways. For me, I was aware of entanglements involving shame and disgust from the beginning of my sex life, actually from when my sexuality started to develop when I was a little kid. There were lots of changes happening there long before I started my practice, some of them quite radical. I did a lot of emotional work around it, in it, and through it. I have explored my boundaries quite a lot, as well as explored the entanglements. It can be quite fascinating. I know lots of people who are very much into doing what you mentioned, that is, turning the disgust and shame into turn-ons. It seems to me that there are both healthy and unhealthy ways of doing that, and that there is no one-for-all solution for what is what. For me personally I have found that already with stream entry, some hooks fell away. Feelings remained but they were no longer loaded in that very personal way that I associate with shame (we might use the word slightly differently). So to put it bluntly, kinks stopped being kinks. That double-binding was simply no longer there. Not that I ever identified with any of them, like many people do, so maybe they weren't really kinks to begin with. I guess that depends on how you define it. Anyway, I could still enjoy them, but I no longer craved them, and that changed some dynamics in very obvious ways. Some dynamics had been based on the craving, and for me it was now about empathy and merging with others' pleasure. I'd say that the development in that direction has continued, but I have also gotten to discover new nuances having to do with the art of tuning in and the dance that can happen there. Somehow I have also learned how to override side effects from medicines beyond expectations. I can also play with embracing emotions without buying into them as mine like I used to do, so if I want to play with shame, I can now do that again, but it's empty. It's still vivid, but it's like when one is intensively enjoying a good movie or theatre play. 
George S, modified 11 Days ago.

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I'm just noticing that the more I'm willing to feel shame directly, the less impulse I feel to do things which generate feelings of shame.
Logan G., modified 11 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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Totally, that feels intuitively right. I feel like there's some kind of connection between basic emotions and the elements stuff. When I've managed to tap into some of the liberated forms of the elements it feels similar to the light feeling of feeling emotions directly, and seems to have a similar effect of reducing feedback-loop stuff around those emotions/elements.
george, modified 11 Days ago.

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Yeah I find this too. Shame doesn't feel good likewise anger etc so we become skilful in navigating these difficult emotions. Thich nhat hanh has a great book which discusses cultivating the seed of positive emotions (something like that) called "the heart of the Buddha's teaching" 
Logan G., modified 11 Days ago.

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Cool, I will check that book out!
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 9 Days ago.

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I'm not so sure that shame is something that can be felt directly, but we probably use the wording "feeling directly" in different ways. Because of the teachings I have received, I have come to think of it as stripping it naked from labels, stories and peferences to feel the awakened energy of the feeling. When doing so, all emotions are free as a raw potential, and it's all good. But shame isn't really an emotion, but a complex entanglement of stories, emotions, reactional patterns, memories and so forth, and can't be isolated from our being in the world as a social person.

Also, do you distinguish between guilt and shame? A common distinction is that guilt has to do with actions whereas shame has to do with social identity. Is that how you use the words, or do you use them differently? Just trying to understand. 
George S, modified 9 Days ago.

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I experience most emotions like this to varying degrees - a habitual pattern of sensations in the body + possibly some derived mental stuff (labels, judgements, stories, memories) + possibly some reactive behaviors (ways of avoiding unpleasant sensations or prolonging pleasant sensations).

Before I started meditating and working with the emotions, I experienced them mostly as the behavioral/mental reactions. The more closely I work with them, the more I experience them directly as the physical sensations with less of the secondary mental/behavioral reactions. I don’t see shame as different in that respect from the other primary emotions (anger, fear, sadness, joy, surprise, interest, disgust etc.)

With the more deeply repressed emotions, I was so habituated to avoiding the physical sensations that I wasn’t really aware of them, even in open awareness type meditations. It was only by studying my mental/behavioral reactions that I was able to become aware ‘oh ok, there is a powerful set of deeply buried sensations here underlying these reactions.’ Maybe if I had sat long enough then this stuff would have made it into awareness unprompted (although one does see very experienced meditators who seem to be repressing certain emotions.) Even after second path I wasn't aware of much shame, I was still caught up in pride (which was compensating for the shame!) Working with the mental/behavioral reactions can look like an overly intellectual/psychological approach, but for me it’s an accelerated way of getting to the direct physical experience.

Shame and guilt seem to be very closely related. The standard distinction is that shame is directed at the self (‘I am a bad person’) whereas guilt is directed at the action (‘I did something wrong’), but if you experience a lot of free-floating shame I think it’s hard to notice guilt independently of shame. The underlying physical sensation for me is pretty much identical - a sort of sinking feeling in the stomach and a rush of blood to the head (what I would experience as a kid when I had done something wrong and was waiting for my parents to find out). I’m experiencing it right now as I’m writing this!

I’m not sure to what extent any of the emotions can be isolated from having evolved as highly social animals. Some of them do seem to be more socially oriented than others, e.g. shame and guilt are directly related to perception of compliance with social norms. On the face of it the joy of jhana doesn’t seem to be particularly social, but happiness evolved as a way of signaling that we were attuned to our physical and social environment (and you can use metta as an object for jhana!) There’s similar sorts of evolutionary stories for the other emotions which include social elements.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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It's great that you are repressing less now. Don't push it too much, but be gentle with yourself. Getting rid of all of your defences at once may be too much and either cause a backlash or retraumatize. 

Yeah, I can see that vipassana won't be different with regard to shame compared to basic emotions. That makes sense. I did a lot of that on my way to second path. That kind of work dissolves the feelings into emptiness insofar as it reduces them to physical sensations that lack the strong emotional charge. I'm doing a different kind of work now, and maybe that's not your cup of tea at all, which is okay, but I'll mention it in order to explain what I meant. I'm approaching emotions from the other end, that is, from emptiness, and bringing them back to form without their mundane luggage, so to speak. It's very hard to describe in words what that does. One way of saying it might be that the emotion transmutates into an energetic potential free from the usual heaviness and without the distortions that would result in unskillful action. Instead, it's like there's compassion in all emotions, but with different kinds of energies. That's nirvana to me, and I have only started it. 

I wouldn't rush to that in your case, as you have repressed so much. The vipassana is probably a gentler way of letting the feelings surface while developing tools for dealing with them. The approach I'm using has a tendency to bring stuff up very fast and overwhelmingly at times, and it's probably better to do it with support and guidance from teachers. Traditionally it isn't even taught until one has established a link to the Buddha of compassion, at least in some lineages. I suppose a really good therapist might suffice. 

The entanglement of guilt and shame is one of the knots I was referring to. There's a lot of sankharas right there. No need to push that either, though. Take care! 
George S, modified 8 Days ago.

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That sounds similar to realms/elements practice, where you intentionally trigger the emotion to have a pure experience of it without the reactive behavior, in order to transmute it from its "distorted" form into its "liberated" form. I found it very powerful and still do it to a certain extent, although more often now I have an unreactive experience of the emotions as they arise in daily life ("self liberating"). I wouldn't necessarily equate it with nirvana, but it's closely related.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 8 Days ago.

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Great. But your descriptions of shame don't sound all that selfliberated to me, or did I misunderstand you? Maybe try some of that realms work on it? 

​​​​​​​There are also practices based on other mandalas, such as the five Buddha families, that might be helpful with regard to shame. Personally I find it powerful to slice it and dice it on several different axes in order to uncover and tease out all the entangled roots and branches. And since you have already gotten so much out of the realms practice, you have the basic mandala tech already which will work in your favor. Once you have worked with one mandala, the others will come easier. 

(Edited to translate from autistic wording to what I hope is normal speak to avoid misunderstandings)
George S, modified 8 Days ago.

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I'm much more comfortable feeling shame now. It’s not totally free, but it's not the same problem it used to be in terms of reactions, urges, storylines etc. As I process the old shame I’m starting to feel more sadness now, which seems to be the next big repressed emotion for me.

I think realms/elements practice is great, but I find the elements themselves a bit restrictive to cover the full range of emotions. The five basic patterns are fear->anger (water), insignificance->greed (earth), loneliness->consuming (fire), anxiety->busyness (air) and overwhelm->depression (space). You can sort of view shame as self-directed anger for example, but it doesn’t fully capture the nuances. I find focussing to be a more flexible framework for opening up specific emotional knots. I don’t think it really matters what you call it though - the basic idea is to identify an emotional block in the body, recognize that it fuels a certain “realm” (mental state, worldview, behavioral pattern), and slowly liberate it by feeling into it without reacting or indulging in storylines. The nice thing about realms is that it provides a comprehensive roadmap of samsara which shows that every mental state is reactive on some level (including the most refined meditation states). That was a key insight for me in leveling the experiential playing field - recognizing that no one mental state is intrinsically more or less preferable than any other.

I haven’t heard of mandalas before in this context, do you have a reference? I briefly checked out the five Buddha families and it talks about the same elements/colors, but maybe there is a more detailed description somewhere.
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 6 Days ago.

RE: Agnostic’s Log 7 (Keep on Truckin')

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What a lovely development! Glad to hear it. I know from experience how messy entanglements of shame and perceived guilt can be, and how incredibly healing it can be to dissolve the knots. I internalized so much of it growing up with divergent wiring, so often misunderstanding others and being misunderstood. Those entanglements can be so decapacitating. I have been able to untangle several layers of that mess, but some roots are most likely still hidden. Earlier in life, when I have tried to get off my antidepressants, such thought patterns have popped up again. They are sneaky bastards, slippery as eels. 

Yes. My take on it, which comes from my own work with those feelings, is that it's because of their complexity. That's what I was clumsily trying to address earlier when I said that we can't really experience them directly in the same way as with more pure emotions. First we need to untangle them, to uncover all their different components. And the realms practice doesn't explicitly address the entanglement of different components, right? It can definitely be integrated into the practice, though. I remember having read a post from Shargrol with regard to Ken McCleod's elements practice, from the same book, about how he thought that one element was the big deal in some situation, but then found that underneath that, another element was the major issue. I'd say that goes for all versions of slicing and dicing. In the teachings on working with emotions by Lama Lena, we were taught to follow every little branch and every little "crossreference" (my own wording) of those roots because it's a whole web that just goes on and on and on. And ultimately we are left to do the hard work on our own, because nobody can tell us exactly where to look for our own knots. That's why I came to think of combining different mandalas because they slice and dice differently and may therefore help to point at previously neglected nuances. They are all comprehensive models that guide us to to uncover samsaric patterns.

I'm sorry, I assumed that you had been working with the whole chapter on dismantling reactive emotions in McLeod's book, including the elements mandala. I also forgot that maybe McCleod isn't actually that explicit about it being a mandala practice. I'm not that much of a tantrica, but I'll try to explain what mandala practice in this context is about. If I'm mixing something up, I hope somebody will correct me. There are mandalas that are sort of mnemonic devices, as Tibetans have a very visual culture. To simplify, one could say that the mandalas are threedimensional mind maps, but they are also loaded with symbolism to speak to our subconscious (which is of course complicated by the fact that symbolism has strong cultural connotations). There are several different versions of mandalas for the elements, with differing symbolisms and differing connections to feelings. For instance, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche teaches a different mandala than Ken McLeod, and that also makes the dakini practice different. Then the different components of the practice are spatially organized around a mandala as well. If you look at the elements practice, with the dakinis, in McLeod's book, there are instructions for visualization that involve a center being surrounded by other aspects. The mandala character of it isn't that elaborate in those descriptions (checking it now). I suspect McLeod has taken away components to adapt it to a western context. I'm used to those components being more elaborate to provide more nuances. There are just traces of it in his instructions. Usually you are in the center of it, and you are surrounded by different aspects in four directions around you and above you. There are ritualistic elements of the yiddam dissolving into you, different aspects dissolving into you as the yiddam (for instance people that you have different kinds of relationships with), taking away the separation, and then further dissolvings as the transmutation goes on. There may also be a component beneath you, as in the Vajrasattva ngöndro where samsaric patterns come out through eliminatory orifices as creepy crawlies that are transformed by being devoured by Yamantaka, slayer of death. I have been taught a few different mandalas in closed teachings, and I'm sorry to say that I'm not allowed to convey any details about it. I have probably already said too much. That's not very helpful, I'm afraid. As for the five Buddha families, they are associated with different samsaric patterns as well as the different wisdoms that those patterns are supposed to transmutate into. There may be different versions of that too, I don't know. Lots of teachings are available online. Lama Lena regularly does a working with emotions retreat, which is based on donations but otherwise free of charge. I think there are some requirements for access, but those aren't hard. If I could afford it, I would take Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's elements course. SF Dharma Collective offers free Vajrayana teachings on youtube with mandalas. I have heard that they are good. Look for Chandra Easton. 

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