Help with diagnosis and with practice plan.

K Vassili, modified 1 Month ago at 4/19/22 11:45 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 12/10/21 3:53 PM

Help with diagnosis and with practice plan.

Posts: 8 Join Date: 12/10/21 Recent Posts
I have finally decided to read the PoI. Initially I didn’t want to learn the map because I feared scripting and wanted authentic experiences. It seems dumb now because I never really given space to insight practice until now, and I probably needed it. Maps really helped me see difficult content as opportunities for practice instead of freaking out about them.

Just finished reading MC section on insight and this is an attempt to place me on the PoI. If you find anything out of place, unusual, delusional or probable scripting about my hypothesis, please correct me.

Also, I suck at languages. Please tell me if anything is unclear.
Basic Practice Background:
Become interested in meditation and Buddhism at a young age. Only started a regular practice 2 years ago based on samatha using the breath and metta(now I’m 26). 2*10 days metta retreat and some others shorter retreats. Tried noting on a weekend retreat but never used it after.

My experience on the PoI:
I suspect having passed through two A&P periods 1 or 2 years apart. The first, almost 8 years ago, I think was induced by trying to be as mindful as possible during the day. The mindfulness growed to a really high level fast and I developed a clear recollection of my though process. I was able to remember with accuracy the content of my mind in any moment of the day during the A&P period. I felt illuminated in my comprehension of spirituality, often thinking “This is it!”. And I was believing a lot bullshit J. I had trouble sleeping during those days as my energy levels where really high. Lucid dreaming and one OBE. That one out of body experience was what I suspect being my only A&P event. Woke up paralyzed with strong hallucinatory Jungle usually associated with OBES. Hands touching my body and something breathing in my hears. Spontaneously pulled out of my body and vortexing around my room without control. Back in my body, hallucination, back out again vortexing. Again and again. I tried to cry for help but I was paralyzed J. Finally that stopped with a vision/clear lucid dream of a woman speaking in a unfamiliar language, I felt really safe and in peace as I listen to her consoling me.
Can this be an A&P and A&P event?
I soon started chasing that high, without luck in reproducing it. It seems the right spiritual direction at the time.
I don’t know if the low that followed some months after was caused by dukkha nanas because lots was happening externally, I started university and I broke up with my girlfriend at the time.
But as I was feeling at rock-bottom I decided to dedicate myself to a spiritual life (At the time this had a vague definition) and a second high started. This time the symptoms were different. I felt an unbreakable willpower and confidence (I stopped smoking and never touched a cigarette again). My awareness had a google maps feeing to it, high from above. And others things I left out but no A&P event.
Both periods had the same spiritual mania to them and I never experience that kind of mania (also OBES) before or after.

Mouths after I suspect fear and misery manifested in order. Fear manifested as horror visions and the feeling of a dark and scary entity watching me as I was shifting from wake to sleep and in my casual attempts to meditation. This passed as I learned to be Equanimeous with fear. Misery followed.  Then the dukkha nanas cycled intermittently with some more serene periods (samatha helped a lot) in between for years. With misery being the major protagonist (it was easy to buy into it). They came up with variable intensity but they could totally be amplified or even brought up by life circumstances. Is it normal occurrence? 
I recognize that flavors of dukkha nanas can be found in all our experience and I could be suffering from narrative bias.

Doubts:
1)My mild depression seems to be also linked to problem with operativity and productivity in my studies. Its hard to know if depression cause the problem with opertivity or viceversa, probably both. When I can keep my deadlines the depression is a lot more bearable. I have for sure a lot to work on in my mundane, “morality” and psychological dimensions but I wonder if part of my discomfort come from being in the dukkha nanas. For sure part of my suffering seems to be existential and “objectless”. And I was a very positive and happy person before those highs.

2)The first 3 nanas. Cause and effect wasn’t perfectly experientially clear when I read about it.  Or better I don’t recall a moment in time when I had a strong and highlighted experience of it.  Mental impressions and intentions seemed subtle but became evident in the firsts days of insight practice. Its possible to be in the dukkha nanas without a clear seeing of the knowledge of cause and effect?
Also what I consider my 3C knowledge is dated some time before the first A&P. So not really sequential.
I think first nana is easily accessible.
3) I didn’t had a clear desire for deliverance, manifested as a strong pull to go “somewhere else”. The periods that looked similar I felt really hopeless so maybe there wasn’t anywhere to pull.
4)Unsure about my perceptual diagnosis. I have only experience the first samatha jhana so I’m not sure how 3rd and 4th vipassana jhana should feel. I’m for sure entangled in my background processing but maybe after so many years it feels like normal cognition.
Recent and current practice:

I never practiced insight because it felt destabilizing (the 3rd nana memories are still fresh in my mind even after all those years) but maybe sitting with the destabilization is what I really need.
I suspect being in reobservation now. Soon after my investigation started, overwhelming existential angst came up. Sit after sit until I was able to fully relax into it. Then it stopped. Sensation are still harsh but I’m using it to deconstruct any sense of solidity. Lots of spontaneous investigation of the 3C happening in my dreams and sleep lately.The other night my head exploded during a self inquiry session, I woke up with a very painful vibration in my head. Are this symptoms a something common during reob.?

 I noticed that there is still identification with the “witness” or “watcher”. During my Investigations I had moments in which I was able to see the impermanence and noself into the sensation associated with it. It became was just an impersonal process integrated into the general process. The kazoo player start to play with the orchestra, maybe. Not perfectly synchronized with the orchestra, there is still a lot of trying entangled into it. Still having some sense of control on other sensation attributed to prospective. But it was a peculiar state.
Happened during a recent investigative walk, part of a 1 day retreat, and on my bed after a objectless samatha session, a couple of days before reading the analogy. It seems related but still not totally it. Before that noself and impermanence were clear in both the senses and the mind (seems to be easier off cushion, normal?). But space didn’t had a vastness quality to it so I don’t know if it was EQ.
I loved my previous retreat as I would enter a really peaceful territory, I always thought it was a byproduct of samatha and metta. Could it be EQ even if I never looked for the 3C directly or practiced formal insight?


Plan for future practice:
The only way to be sure where I stand is to stay as honest as possible and to diligently practice insight in a 2 weeks retreat and see what happens (already planned, solo from 16/12/2021 to 30/12/2021). But it can be a bad idea if my discomfort is coming totally from another direction. And reaching real dn can fuck me up even more. 
Im still unsure on how to structure my insight practice:
1)Using Shinzen labels for noting + some extra labels if needed. Letting go of labels when they seem obsolete. In order to go up the “The Hierarchy of Vipassana Practice” ladder. Reaching to experience everthing that arises as an impersonal process.
I didn’t decided if doing anchored or just free noting.
Question about anchored:
doing noting from the impermanence of the breath in the belly, and slowly adding background to it, or just taking what arise in the background as object of investigation then returning to the breath, or a back and forth between the two modalities?

2) Adding Objectless samatha to the mix for extra concentration, clarity, tranquility.
Was prescribed to me by Stephen Procter for dealing with headpressure and I’m practicing it for a month now. I can enter a jhanic m&b stage through it, should I always start the investigation from here?
Even if it is a lightly blissful abiding is still tinted with the buzzing chaotic background (typical of DN?).
Should/can I use it as a doorway to noting practice? Or is better to go straight to noting in order to develop momentum?
Headpressure is still bothering me, I worry that it can get bad with high doses of practice.
 
3) Adding formal self inquiry or insatisfactoriness inquiry when feels right?

4)How should I practice in EQ? Still investigating impermanence and no self but from a more inclusive and panoramic prospective?


I apologize for the long and poorly written post. Thanks for reading it.
Danny S, modified 5 Months ago at 12/10/21 9:16 PM
Created 5 Months ago at 12/10/21 9:15 PM

RE: Help with diagnosis and with practice plan.

Posts: 54 Join Date: 6/18/21 Recent Posts
Hi Vassili,

I had a lot of questions about noting and practice specifics and which of my experiences were which nana and whether my nanas were "real" after reading MCTB. One thing I found extremely helpful, as did countless others on this site, was reading this compilation of posts from Shargrol, a long-time DhO member who is uncannily good at giving pragmatic dharma advice: https://shargrolpostscompilation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html
Definitely check out the posts under Stream Entry, which are kind of organized by what stage they apply to.

Here's what I add, speaking from my limited experience:

I'm not an expert at diagnosis, so take this with a grain of salt, but my guess would be that you are hovering between ReObs and EQ after going through pretty classic A&P and DN phases earlier, which is what Daniel calls the "standard pattern". In other words, perfectly normal emoticon

I feel you with the head pressure. The kind that seems to increase whenever you practice and is really annoying? From what I've learned, it seems like it is basically a weird side-effect of practice that doesn't signify much or need to be "fixed". The fact that it seems to increase during practice used to make me think it meant I wasn't practicing correctly when it happened. Much better was to treat it like I would pain in my leg. Notice it and any aversion associated with it, and just let it be.

As far as shamatha goes, I find that it is like using an ice pack to numb the soreness resulting from the exercise of insight practice. It reduces the pain for a while, but it comes back soon after I remove the ice, and in the long run, the best cure for soreness is to remove the lactic acid in your muscles with more exercise! Some people are way more talented at concentration practice than me, so for them it's probably more like getting a professional massage, but even then, the exercise is what comes first.
Eudoxos , modified 5 Months ago at 12/11/21 1:33 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 12/11/21 1:33 AM

RE: Help with diagnosis and with practice plan.

Posts: 103 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Hi Vassili, the first 3 ñanas are often not clear, that is not the problem, and the first glipse into 3c comes in ñ3, just before A&P/4ñ (so what you had is actually very much sequential). The desire for deliverance can manifest in different ways: e.g. pull towards meditation, frustration with / anger at one's own misery and the impulse to get out of it. The DN is not necessarily linear, one can get stuck or fall back; especially from desire for deliverance back to misery, oscillating back and forth (which is a typical depression attractor).

Tension headache can be related to excess effort, by pushing too much. Some people (like me) have very strong conditioning of effort, it is so habitual as to be difficult to even notice, let alone to let go of!

Retreat is an excellent idea, I would advice against doing the retreat solo, though: having a guide you trust might make it more beneficial in terms of insight. She will help you be aware / adjust your approach to meditation (which is, of necessity, tainted with hindrances and unbalanced in terms of the faculties), and you can offload the decision-making to her (instead of self-diagnosing *and* deciding what/how to practice *and* practicing) and just let the process unfold. The insight is happening by itself and you want to get out of the way.

HTH, take care.
K Vassili, modified 1 Month ago at 4/19/22 11:45 AM
Created 5 Months ago at 12/12/21 2:31 AM

RE: Help with diagnosis and with practice plan.

Posts: 8 Join Date: 12/10/21 Recent Posts
Thanks Danny and Eudoxos!

Eudoxos I just written a mail to a teacher I'm in contact for an opinion and in order  check in during the retreat. I was a bit wary to write to him because I'm not sure he teach noting. 
The headpressure really came up out of nowhere after 2 years of low effort practice. A lot of tension and trying, difficult to let go. Maybe a change in attitude or something else, I really thinked of hundreds possible causes emoticon. It really help to think of it and treat it like a leg pain for now. 

​​​​​​​Danny I also read your other reply, very useful. Your description of low EQ reinforce my suspect of where I am on the maps and that I m in the right direction. Shargol compilation is a gold mine! 
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