RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:18 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 6:37 AM

Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Hello there,

I have been practicing for about 25 years or so, and have reached a place in my life – being a first-time parent, for example – where I feel driven to take stock of where I am.

When it comes to my spiritual practice, I face a challenge: I don’t really have the slightest clue.

Part of the reason is that I’ve always had this type of ‘if you meet the buddha on the road’ attitude to my practice; experiences come and go but I just keep on going (somewhere I know not).

Another reason is that I have had a pretty eclectic history of influences. The main traditions I have interfaced with, in no particular order are Zen, Dzogchen, Advaita Vedanta, neo-Advaita, Taoism, and Christian mysticism.

Yet another reason is that my memory is the shits.

I’ve never had an in-person teacher, and so never anyone to help me orientate to a map. What’s more, until now, I’ve honestly never had the urge to locate myself on any map.

So, if you have a spare moment or two, I was wondering if you might help me find where I am. If so, I thank you very much; if not, I totally get it time is scant.  

If you do leave a reply, don’t worry about having to explain any jargon, I can figure it out on my own end!


So, I tried compiling some of (what seem to me) to be the most important experiences and describe them below. I’ve done so many different practices it’s hard to really tie any of the to any single one in particular – so I don’t even try. I also have had them multiple times in the past and they tend to revisit me from time to time in the present. The list is in somewhat chronological order, though.   

  • Feeling suddenly struck, as if by lightning, by the incredible strangeness of is-ness. Everything is one thing, and it is a complete mystery. This is usually accompanied by maniacal laughter, an intense infusion of energy, and the urge to grab people by the collar of the shirt and get them to acknowledge this strangeness.
  • Feeling a sudden and completely certain sense that everything is amazing and completely okay – in the deepest possible sense.
  • Feeling that my current experience is a waking dream filled with dream characters (including myself)
  • Feeling that my current experience is paper-thin, as if there is nothing ‘behind’ any of it.
  • Feeling completely absorbed into the now.
  • Feeling completely absorbed into a great stillness that pervades everything.
  • Feeling that I am the context in which everything is occurring (including my own body). For example, I feel as if I am walking through myself.
  • Feeling that I am the absolute, the godhead, the ground of all being – and being puzzled by what exactly I am doing all this existence stuff for…
  • Feeling that I am intimately, and lovingly connected with every single object.
  • A sense of falling ‘backward’ into myself, into a black void, and then being reborn (along with the world) as a unified whole.

All of these have come and gone – some staying for only an instant, but others tending to stick around for longer.

There is one more that has not faded, but it is difficult to call it an experience as such.

Around a couple of years ago, there was something that flipped in me. Whereas before I felt like I was outside looking in (like a wizard looking at a scene through one of those magic pools), after this switch I feel as if there is no distance between anything, that everything occurring in this body is melded into this whole scene without a center. Everything is simply where it is, so long as it appears. There is simply this – in constant flux. I actually find it hard to describe – as I find it hard to remember what it was like before. Moreover, this does not come and go; it simply is this way (and seems obvious that it actually always already was this way). Also, all the experiences that I listed previously rise and fall away in this. It also seems to be true that after this switch, these experiences are easy to call up if I want to (but I honestly don’t find much motivation to do so).

While it seems to me that I could deepen these experiences I listed, it is obvious to me that this wholeness cannot be developed. It just is.

Then again, what do I know? Not much really…

Does anyone know where I am? Where to next? Is there a next?

Thanks for your time!  
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Chris M, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:23 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:23 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello, Brent, and welcome to DhO.

I've edited your post above to appear in much larger font size. I didn't change any of your language or your other formatting. I suspect you posted from a text editor of some sort, like MS Word. When you do that, it's best to paste from plain text as opposed to the originally formatted text, which contains all sorts of formatting code that the DhO system does not handle well.

- Chris
DhO Moderator
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Pepe ·, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:39 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:38 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 575 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi Brent, welcome to DhO.

The kind of glimpses/experiences/insights you describe looks more akind to non-dual teachings. There's a Facebook group (Awakening to Reality) where you may have feedback around these experiences you have had. 

Here you have a shortened version of their guide, that include the map and pointers for the different stages/phases. It's a work in progress, but you'll find lots of useful info.

Also, check their blog, starting here.
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Chris M, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:49 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 7:49 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
... I feel driven to take stock of where I am.

Brent, this makes me curious.

You've been practicing for 25 years, yes? It occurs to me, based on your original post that maybe the last thing you really need to do is start to investigate where you are on someone's map. You describe a long and very nice series of experiences and a current mode of existence that most practitioners would be very, very envious of. You certainly have the tools you need to cope with the changes in your life. You've managed a nice, productive practice for a long, long time.

So... why this, now?

TIA!
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:35 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:35 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Thanks, Pepe, I really appreciate you taking the time! Looks very interesting/helpful!
Since I'm new here, I just wanted to clarify something: Your message seemed to suggest that this forum is not geared toward non-dual teachings?
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:36 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:36 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
I did indeed paste it from Word. Thanks for editing the formatting, Chris!
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:42 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:42 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Great question.
The honest answer is I'm not sure. 
But here are a couple of things that came up:

1. I feel 'done' in a sense, but this seems insane to me from a skeptical perspective. I've based my practice around moving on to the next thing, but for a while now nothing has presented itself. I am concerned that I am simply missing something...

2. I am making a concerted effort to become more open about my practice, and I think I wanted an opportunity to reach out to like-minded people

3. I'm a father now and have begun to wonder how my practice related to my psychological health, personal growth, emotional maturity etc.
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:49 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 8:49 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Ah one more: I have always been very iconoclastic - but I'm beginning to regard this attitude as more arrogance than anything else...
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Chris M, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 10:11 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 10:11 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Ok, thanks, Brent. I get it.

There's a sense of being "done" that came for me when the mystery of how the mind works so hard to create the self/other or subject/object dichotomy was solved. The urgent sense of seeking went away after that and hasn't returned for over a decade. But I still work on lots of things, and I'm nowhere near "done" in an absolute sense. I don't think there is such a thing as being completely and utterly done, frankly.

Welcome again!
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Chris M, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 10:31 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 10:31 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Your message seemed to suggest that this forum is not geared toward non-dual teachings?

These message boards are for discussing dharma of any kind, Brent. Sometimes folks make the distinction since these boards were created by a prominent Theradava/Pragmatic Dharma person (Daniel Ingram) but it's ultimately the same dharma. The processes we use are far less important than the results.

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Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:20 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:20 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
That makes sense! Yes, here the self-other distinction is gone too - and it does not appear like it's coming back. So, in that sense, I feel done searching. At the same time, I am nowhere near done in any other domain - just ask my wife ;)
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:40 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:40 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Good to know. Totally agree. I just wouldn't want to be spamming folks with stuff outside their interests....
Brent Stewart, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:41 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:41 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Can I ask, though: Do you still work on attaining different spiritual insights/ experiences? 
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Chris M, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:51 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:51 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Lately I have been practicing jhanas, so the answer is yes.

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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:52 AM
Created 29 Days ago at 6/2/22 11:52 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 6439 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Sounds like a great place or non-place to be. I think you answered your own question about where to next and if there is a next: both you and your wife already know. emoticon Morality work always remains, right? The possibilities for development are infinite, and with the greatest hindrance overcome, you can truly embrace it and flourish. That's awesome! I'm happy for you. 
Brent Stewart, modified 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 5:08 AM
Created 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 5:08 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 9 Join Date: 6/2/22 Recent Posts
Yes! You're totally right, Linda. Thanks for putting it so nicely emoticon 
shargrol, modified 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 5:53 AM
Created 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 5:53 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 1763 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Hi Brent,

If you haven't read "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha"  (https://www.mctb.org/) that will give you a lot of very precise discussion of "where you are" in terms of strict meditative practice --- more so than almost any other book.

If you haven't also read "Wake Up to Your Life" (https://www.amazon.com/Wake-Your-Life-Discovering-Attention/dp/0062516817) that will give one of the best discussion of "reactive patterns" and methods to work with emotional/experiential knots. 

I just finished reading "Already Free: Buddhism Meets Psychotherapy on the Path of Liberation" by Bruce Tift and really liked how he talked about the paradox of practice/no-practice, psychology vs non-dual, and his emphasis on interpersonal relationships as being the place where there will be anxiety, co-dependency, avoidance, and other shadow stuff.

Lastly, and this might be too obvious, but going on a week long meditation retreat is guaranteed to show you what you need to see about your own mind. So that's always an option to consider. 

Hope this is helpful in some way.
George S, modified 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 10:06 AM
Created 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 10:06 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 2466 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Congratulations on becoming a father emoticon Having a child definitely brings up our own childhood issues, as well as being a keen reminder of our mortality! It’s hard to process all of that in real time while in the trenches of parenting, sleep deprivation, relationship changes etc.
T DC, modified 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 11:42 AM
Created 27 Days ago at 6/4/22 11:35 AM

RE: Thoroughly Disorientated

Posts: 448 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing Brent!  

My interpretation / summary is - you've been practicing for a long time in a number of reputable, effective, and well known traditions, had many glimpses / interesting experiences, and at least one that stuck.  In a pragmatic path schema, that puts you wholly on the path, and likely somewhere between MCTB 1st - 4th paths.

So, given you seem interested in further progression, what to do now? The simple answer is keep going!  Further progression will always yield further results and further personal development and transformation. 

Some will say progression in insight ends at 4th path, but I disagree - in my experience the path of insight goes far far beyond 4th path, and spiritual progression generally goes on infinitely beyond that.  So there's really no risk of hitting a dead end, except perhaps in the realm of creativity in practice, which folks here are always happy to help with.  ;)

Also, some unsolicited practice advice, if you're in approximate 4th path / non-dual territory, where experience is feeling largely spacious, empty of fabrication, and "done", it can be helpful to check out emptiness / Buddha nature teaching such as Mahamudra and Dzogchen, which are specifically designed to guide further progression at an advanced / non-dual level of attainment.