RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Gabe, modified 12 Days ago.

Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/23/20 Recent Posts
I do a type of vipassana mindfulness meditation that can, at times, result in a lot of "negative" or unpleasant material to be brought into conscious awareness. During the meditation I simply note it and observe it's impermanent, non-self and empty nature.

However, as we all know, these negative thought-patterns, reactive habit-patterns also arise outside of my meditation sit and are exacerbated by the meditation and I was wondering what would be the best way to deal with this, from guys who have experience with being inside and out of the Dukkha Nanas.

On the one hand side, I have found anti-doting to be very effective (noticing a negative thought and immediately reframing into a postive one) at reducing neuroticism, and increasing postive emotion. This seems to be a form of suppression and building new habit patterns, and seems to be effective (at least for my age plasticity is still a factor).
On the other hand, I can also just be aware of negative thoughts, in a non-judgmental way, and do nothing. This seems to encourage my mind to keep projecting negative thoughts into conscious-space. The result of this is that I am more aware of my "shadow", underlying insecurities that drive my everyday behaviour, I see how in many ways I am the architect of my own misery. This also seems like a valid way to deal with negative thought-space. However, it goes without saying that I feel shitty while doing this, if not downright miserable.Thoughts?
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Chris Marti, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

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Take the negative issues that arise and explore them one by one in mediation. Not the stories, but the arising and passing away of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations they're comprised of. Doing this will allow you to explore each in the meditation space and one by one, experience them fully in order to make them less upsetting.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 701 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Chris Marti
Take the negative issues that arise and explore them one by one in mediation. Not the stories, but the arising and passing away of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations they're comprised of. Doing this will allow you to explore each in the meditation space and one by one, experience them fully in order to make them less upsetting.


It might take a week to do this. So set small goals.
Do you recommend I do this consiously? I.e. come into a sit with a short list of percieved issues, allow myself to think about them, then engage with them using vipassana to fully observe and feel their consituent sensations, thoughts, feeling tone ect?

Or should I just allow it to arise naturally?
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 701 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
If your having trouble post a new thread? Always be specific. (Edit. Specific could be applied to practice but it might take a round about way of working.) That's my advice.


​​​​​​​If you suspect a dark night, practice shamatha.

​​​​​​​If you are post stream entry, find your rhythm. Transforming the positive will cause you to enter review.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 701 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Also a therapist can be helpful if you run out of people to chat with!
George S, modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 1774 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Just to add to what Chris said, Wake Up To Your Life has some good exercises to help you do this kind of thing in a more structured way. It's chapters 5 and 6 on realms and elements. The basic idea is that repetitive thought patterns and reactive habit/behavior patterns are driven by underlying emotions (shame/guilt, anger, sadness) which couldn't be fully experienced at the time they originally arose, so they got trapped in the body. In some sense they "want" to be experienced/released, which is the cause of the repetitive thoughts/behavior, but it doesn't work until you can bring them fully into non-judgemental awareness, at which point they "liberate". Until you can do that the thoughts and behaviors just reinforce the trapped emotions in a vicious circle. The "elements" refer to the basic reactive emotional patterns (anger, rigidity, fear, anxiety, greed, dullness) and the "realms" are the mental states/thoughts/behaviors which ensue.

I found it to be a very effective practice to work with deeply entrenched lifelong reactive patterns. It's tough at first because you're bringing up a lot of old stuff, but it's a huge relief once you get over the hump. Also you are less likely to get caught in the same reactive patterns in future, because you start to recognize the emotions as they arise and they "self liberate" (fully experienced without a reaction).

These two articles give a short intro, but WUTYL has the full model and many exercises (Spectrum of Ecstasy also has a lot of examples):

https://www.aroencyclopaedia.org/shared/text/r/realms_ar_eng.php

https://aroencyclopaedia.org/shared/text/e/emotions_ar_eng.php

The nice thing about the practice is that the more shitty things are, the better it works :-) There was a period where my practice consisted entirely of replaying, fully experiencing and releasing reactive stuff from each day. The really deep stuff required some inner child work, but this was a great start and I still use it from time to time. It really helped me to integrate life and practice. The realms stuff also helped me to understand samsara much better. Anyway, enough of the hard sell! I hope it's helpful for you.
Thank you for the recommendation, I am currently in the habit of reading Dharma books, so I will start reading the PDF today, it seems quite relevant here.
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 8 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 701 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
Gabe
Thank you for the recommendation, I am currently in the habit of reading Dharma books, so I will start reading the PDF today, it seems quite relevant here.
I have got to the point that my only dharma option is to expand my recent posts subforum to 40 threads from 20
Catch the thought patterns as early as possible. At the proto-thought (urges, emotions) level if possible. 

And practice loving-kindness towards yourself - we ALL have our shadow aspects.
Eudoxos ., modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 44 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Hi Gabe,

what is the type of vipassana practice you do? Any insight practice will generate/uncover, sometimes loads of, negative stuff. I put down some suggestions; they might be based on misreading on what you wrote and/or my projections, so you be the judge as to what looks useful. Perhaps it could be framed as balancing perceptual / emotional axes of development? Not sure.

I'd advice against turning negative feelings into positive. Every action is a seed of habit, and if repeated, you might be losing contact with those negative feelings. Buddhists would call that cultivating delusion; and the cultivation itself is motivated by and strenghtens aversion to the negative (double-negative karma, yay!). Does not work in the long run.

I'd just go with noting in everyday life (not just negative, of course, but in general), and perhaps check out whether you have some expectation that the noting will fix the negative, or there is resistance against the negative present. Stroboscopic video-game rapid noting might be also hiding something, perhaps go less 3c-explicit and touch the stuff more, without following it. You say you are non-judgemental, okay, good (are you sure? ;) ); negative feeling still negative though, i.e. there is negative vedana (feeling/hedonic tone) which you should note as well, as resistance (hatred, in Theravada terminology) is an automatic consequence of the negative feeling tone if the mind follows it. If you feel more miserable, what is in there? I'd guess from my own experience that it could be helplessness, frustration, doubt, shame, anger, note all that (without following).

Having sat dozens of Mahasi retreats, I still find MBSR/MBCT very useful for integrating mindfulness into everyday life (in particular: stressing contact with body sensations, frameworks and exercises for dissecting the though/feelings/perception loops and patterns, dealing specifically with stress-increasing thoughts, difficult feelings, reactions to them such as dramatization/analysing away/self-pity/blaming, kind and friendly approach to oneself, practical tools for daily life etc), if that's something you'd be into — 8 weeks of relatively light daily practice (don't just read the books, it is a practice). No hardcore, but if you've done hardcore already, it pays off in terms of what you can get, provided you can be flexible to adjust to lighter mindfulness exercises.

As JW suggested already, metta practice is really useful, especially if regular; I have experience with Christine Neff's guided meditations: https://self-compassion.org/category/exercises/#guided-meditations again, no hardcore but useful.

And of course, if you have a chance, do an intense retreat in a center/tradition which can deal with the negative (any decent meditation center, I'd like to think).

Good luck and lots of patience!
Eudoxos ., modified 12 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 44 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
PS in case it is not clear. You are hitting very clearly what is the knowledge of disgust, adhinava-ñana (I don't mean it as diagnosis or prognosis of cycles and such; just the state). To feel shitty is its feature. You experience how the body and mind are full of suffering; it can be physical (like diarrheas, headaches, pains) or mental (stuck/sticky perceptions and thoughs, judging one's mind abilities, comparing with others, things gone wrong in the past).You put it very nicely:
I see how in many ways I am the architect of my own misery
So see the suggestions above are ways to bring in mindfulness, to learn from that rather than get flooded and overwhelmed.

This is what the Vissudhimagga says (Chapter XII, 4. Knowledge of Danger):

36. They appear as a forest thicket of seemingly pleasant aspect but infested with wild beasts, a cave full of tigers, water haunted by monsters and ogres, an enemy with raised sword, poisoned food, a road beset by robbers, a burning coal, a battlefield between contending armies appear to a timid man who wants to live in peace. And just as that man is frightened and horrified and his hair stands up when he comes upon a thicket infested by wild beasts, etc., and he sees it as nothing but danger, so too when all formations have appeared as a terror by contemplation of dissolution, this meditator sees them as utterly destitute of any core or any satisfaction and as nothing but danger.
As to the fast/slower noting, perhaps check out balancing the 5 faculties in MCTB (concentration an energy, in particular). If you note with too much energy (viriyā: perhaps vigor, agility), you won't give space for the feeling to be felt at all.
Thank you Eudoxos for you detailed and kind response.

As far as my practice, it is an hour a day, sometimes more, of mostly bare awareness/ fast noting, with soft labels every few seconds that keeps up the mindfulness, and allows me to label feeling-tone, pleasant-unpleasant, averse-patterns, striving ect.

Pretty standard but I've found my footing. The purpose of my question is to clarify what I should do outside of my formal sits, as I didn't how I should handle this. For example I find that after a session, depending on how it ended, I either feel very content and "equianimous" (hesitant to say I am reaching EQ), or I feel many reactive-patterns and shadow-thoughts arising and presenting themselves. I.e. intrusive thoughts, short-temperedness, interpreting positive or neutral situations as fundamentally negative (I see this because when I am equianimous, I interprety this situations postively).

I also cannot wait (and am terrified) of my first retreat! I would have went this year, but for obvious circumstances it is not possible. Nontheless, soon I believe I will have my first retreat, we will see how that will play out!

As far as metta is concerned, I should do more, especially since I am very receptive to it, makes such a big immediate difference for so little time spent compared to vipassana, but obviously has it's limits and a certain ceiling that cannot be broken through purely metta. All it takes is 5 minutes and immediately I feel so much more compassionate, so others and also myself. I think I don't do it because of some underlying belief that I am not worth being compassionate towards myself, which is one small facet of the shadow side I have been uncovering recently.
George S, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 1774 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Gabe
I think I don't do it because of some underlying belief that I am not worth being compassionate towards myself

I used to suffer from this. I think it's suprisingly common for people to find it easier to feel compassion for almost anyone else but themselves. Being compassionate towards yourself is really no different from being compassionate towards anyone else. 
  

I think it's suprisingly common for people to find it easier to feel compassion for almost anyone else but themselves.
Agreed, it seems ubiquitous. The reason I like Christine Neff's guided meditations are that they are structured differently than the traditional metta which starts with myself; and I think (or read?) that our western self-unworthiness pandemic is actually the reason for it. So she starts with sending the good wish to a good friend of yours first, than to both of you together, only then to yourself alone, then to someone you don't know much, then widening the circles.

Leigh Brainsgton touches the unworthiness topic briefly in this Michael Taft's podcast Diving Deep into the Jhanas and says it is a big failure of our culture we were not taught to have safe refuge within ourselves (something like that). I found that point interesting.

I understand better now that you are concerned about the off-cushion time. It is one of the anatta (non-self) characteristic of all phenomena that we don't have control over what we experience. Handle that with off-cushion mindfulnessas if comes and goes, again. Plus the metta aspect: don't be hard on yourself, know about your good intention, forgive yourself and learn from mistakes. Causes have effects; if short-temperedness is a habit (≠ fault) of your mind, it won't go away just because you don't like it.

May an opportunity for the retreat show up soon emoticon
A. Dietrich Ringle, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Skillful handling of negative thought-space outside of my formal sits

Posts: 701 Join Date: 12/4/11 Recent Posts
George S
Gabe
I think I don't do it because of some underlying belief that I am not worth being compassionate towards myself

I used to suffer from this. I think it's suprisingly common for people to find it easier to feel compassion for almost anyone else but themselves. Being compassionate towards yourself is really no different from being compassionate towards anyone else. 
  
And for me it all boils down to wanting my future self to have all the goods! 

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