Insight Questions & Intro

Samuel K, modified 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 12:13 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 12:13 PM

Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/4/22 Recent Posts
Greetings yall. If this isn’t the appropriate place for this post, please let me know. 

I am a novice on this path and wonder if you will assist me with certain questions that have arisen? 

In brief;

I’m currently 38.5, unmarried, no children, little to no external responsibilities. I grew up low-income in MI, attended Tulane, was a Marine Corps helicopter pilot for ~10 years to Oct 2016. Since childhood I also focused on business and finance, including during Marine Corps time. 

Late 2016 was the darkest period of life to date as alcohol, sexual addiction, depression, self-loathing, hollowness of “American dream success” etc came strongly to head. 

2017 lived in Madrid Spain for a MBA, experienced first intentional psychedelic experiences and many blindspot insights arising from living in different culture. 

2018 & 19 in US & small business while giving more time, energy & resources to personal evolution. Initially western style “life-hacking”; Tony Robbins, Joe Dispenza, NLP etc, bio-hacking with supplements and technology, powerful intentional psychedelic journeys and simple meditation. 

Jan 2020 – Apr 2021, India for 15 mo; 3 month service w Sister Lucy & Maher Organization, first self-created 5 & 7 day dark retreats while dry fasting (no food or water). Sat a solitary 93 day Kayakalpa Kuti Praveshika dark retreat (in the first and last weeks I used a red lens flashlight or had them give me phone or computer for errands, otherwise ~65-70 days total darkness, 50+ of those consecutively).  My meditation practice was a cobble together of visualization, NLP, having read Goenka Vipassana Art Of Living book, psychedelic experiences & experimentation. Post that experience has been the most overt, long-term transformation of Life to date. 

Jan 2021 sat first Goenka Vipassana course, then two more as server over several months. 

May 2021 in the US on and off for ~5 months; felt very mentally & spiritually challenging, felt like I was energetically and morally swimming against the stream, old sex addiction escapist patterns reemerged for the first time in years.  August sat a 24 day solitary dark retreat in Mexico, most of it fasting and dry fasting. October sat a 9 day dry fast retreat with Dr. Filonov. 

June 2022 sat 2nd Goenka course in Spain, recognized incorrect parts of my practice, adjusted and experienced results unlike ever before. 

Since 2017 Have been living the majority of these years overseas including India, Uganda, Spain, Portugal, Montenegro, Mexico, Moldova, Macedonia (hmm lots of Ms, and I’m from Michigan heading to Myanmar haha) etc. Life continues to shift; experiencing more and more equanimity, relationships w family and friends greatly improving, releasing much fear of poverty & the previous control that money had on life.  Much more aware of and releasing escapist patterns with sexual addiction (greatly released though some seems to currently remain), substances (released alcohol and hookah tobacco fully end of 2017), reading, learning, "doing", planning and other forms of escaping which look positive from the outside.  Over these years observing how I continue to naturally and freely give more & more time and resources to people I know and “strangers”. Especially since India I have been living much of Life in flow, being pretty present in the moment, moving step by step with very little long-term planning. 

Also haha have been experiencing much more awareness of the seeming absurdity of Life, seeming pointlessness of Life, of “time passing”, of the seemingly bizarre upside-down world of “modern” society, especially in the US & West etc - sometimes with moderately strong psychological discomfort, melancholy, confusion and sadness, sometimes with curiosity and amusement, sometimes equanimously. 

From 2018 to Autumn 2019 I was attempting to split focus between business / money and personal evolution.  After Autumn 2019 I stopped working and have focused solely on evolution and service. I have been living on savings, VA disability pay and past investments, currently ~$3,000 per month.

Over the past several years I have been separating from external responsibilities and assisting parents, siblings, friends etc in being comfortable with me separating for extended periods of time with little to no contact. Since India and espec the past yearish, I have felt to separate fully from society and give sole focus to meditation and Life practice. Besides the four Goenka courses and a short, simple Eknath Easwaran retreat, I have been slowly and inefficiently reinventing the wheel (of Dharma – haha) through books and experimentation, i.e. I have had very little formal meditation instruction, only in 10 day retreats. Most of the experimentation and practice has been on my own as even my more “conscious” / “spiritual” friends currently only practice very part time and I have not yet connected with any real Dhamma communities. For some time I have strongly felt to receive extended formal instruction and live in Sangha with others who share values and intention. 

I’ve recently arrived in the US for several months to complete some final responsibilities and then intend to move in the direction of Myanmar in Sept or Oct for the 70days of visa at Mahasi Sayadaw, Panditrama or IMC (though currently to the best of my knowledge, the Myanmar centres besides Goenka, are closed to foreign meditators “due to covid”) and then currently intend more time in retreat / monastery / solitary practice in SE Asia or India. Currently I don’t feel inspiration or interest to stay any extended amount of time in the US / “developed world”, whether in retreat or out, though I am practicing to keep an open mind to possibilities in the West.

Since the first Goenka retreat Jan 2021 I have been almost daily practicing body scan technique. Since this Feb, reading initial parts of Practical Insight Meditation, I began basic noting throughout the day. I stopped noting after June’s Goenka retreat, and am solely practicing scanning 2+ hrs a day as well as regularly coming to awareness during the day and practicing in the moment. 

My relationship with discipline continues to evolve and the practice feels like it is expanding and becoming less effortful, however I can tell I’m missing key aspects of the technique for insight.  I feel I have a theoretical understanding of Anicca, Dhukka and Anatta, and some experiential understanding from the practice, and from psychedelic journeys in general, as well as one specific 5MEO DMT and one LSD journey where I seemed to experience the most all encompassing non-dual experiences in current memory. However I feel I actually understand very little about how to skillfully investigate these three characteristics, especially Anatta. I have also realized that I don’t seem to generally be aware of / noticing which are physical and which are mental sensations when I am scanning.

I haven’t given much energy to attempting to figure out where I’m currently at on the path (though it does feel bit awkward writing “I” & “my” so much lol as rarely use these sorts of concepts when not in public). 

I am committed to this path of purification and evolution. It is the intention to focus on awakening and move in that direction until it is attained. I am willing to dedicate basically all of the current time, energy and financial resources to this effect.

I was given MCTB at the beginning of the year by a Buddhist nun friend, read through ~1/2 of the different parts and now am rereading from the beginning ~1/2 through again.  I currently ingest very little content, even of spiritual / meditative matter, whether it is book, podcast, video or forums.  With that being said, though I don’t doubt there are many deep nuggets of wisdom on this website, I have not used much time to pore through it. 

Which brings us to the questions;

1.    With y’alls experience and Sangha I greatly appreciate feedback on any of what I have shared here.

2.     Will you please share which individuals you currently know of, whom you would sit with if possible. No matter where they are located or if they are or are not currently teaching. Ie enlightened beings, master teachers.

3.    Similar to the above, what monasteries, retreats, centres or just places, no matter where in the world or if they are currently open, you would choose to attend, live at, learn in etc if you could.  

That is a little bit about me, Friends. Thank you for the time and any wisdom you choose to share. Shukran, Dhanyavaad, Gracias e Obrigado. 



P.S. Interesting to read the MCTB sections cautioning about fasting and substances with meditation. I began extended fasting in 2017, then dry fasting (no food or water) in 2018, mostly for the health benefits. I dry fast 1-3 days regularly and once or twice a year, 7-9 days. As stated above I have combined multiple dark retreats with dry fasting.

 I recently reconnected with psychedelics after 2.5+ years of intentional separation.  It has felt interesting and inspiring to observe my ability to maneuver and integrate the journeys now after these years of practice. I have sat with a relatively broad variety of substances (including Iboga, Ayahuasca, L, psilocybin mushrooms, 5MEO DMT, Peyote, Salvia), each for a moderate or greater amount of journeys. Multi-month-long micro-dosing protocols of L, psilocybin, Iboga, salvia and San Pedro. I have combined journeys and micro-dosing during several dark retreats and during many days of a Goenka style retreat. I am very grateful and appreciative for what these substances have shared and how they’ve assisted me, especially with sharing glimpses of what exists beyond physical reality, many great opportunities to practice being in discomfort, equanimity, deconstructing unconscious mental boxes and universal Metta. That being said, as I continue in meditation, external substances continue to play a smaller and smaller role in Life. I shall keep the warnings in mind.
Chris M, modified 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 1:21 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 1:15 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 4691 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Hello, Samuel. Welcome to DO.

Are you running toward or running away from the "stuff" of your life? Your narrative, while fascinating, made me think that there may be something driving you beyond self-discovery.

What, ultimately, do you want from your mediation practice? What's your end-game?

What would an idyllic, well-lived life look like to you?
Samuel K, modified 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 4:07 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 4:07 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/4/22 Recent Posts
Howdy Chris. Thank you for the welcome and the question. 

Running towards or away from, at different times it feels like one and other times like the other. Currently they seem to be two sides of the same coin. 

In general, for the past several years and continuing currently, I’m most appreciative of the equanimity that I experience to some degree as the daily norm, since I began diving deeper into this way of practicing and living. As basic examples;

I’m more able to be with father with his idiosyncrasies, which I previously used to take personally and feel wounded by, in the chaotic home of my childhood, where I used to feel strong hopelessness and aversion. 

I’m able to interact with people acting in ways that I’d previously feel threatened by and react aggressively or defensively, now with calm, patience and letting it drop from the mind within the day or days, without creating big stories or thought loops. 

I’m able to continue stepping in faith on this journey, without continual money stressing and planning, as I used to even three years ago.  

These sorts of basic things, I've tasted the early fruits of what I'd previously heard and read about in the old books, and I certainly appreciate these results over the results I was receiving in the way I was living previously. So, could say I’m running from the pain and hopelessness etc that I used to feel, which I now feel less of. Or could say I’m running towards the feelings of peace, equanimity and Love which I now recognize more of than I used to?

As I feel in to it now, and as I have in the past, it feels like I’m on this journey, operating in the ways I am, because thats just what comes from inside. Over the years I've released many of the overt unconscious conditioned responses and become more sensitive and attuned to what feels to be Truth or Love or Dhamma or whatever term we use and in my current level of awareness, it feels like that is behind the steps that I take. 

An idyllic life to me, currently looks like being equanimous and Loving in whatever situations arise, wherever I am, with whomever. Thoughts, words and actions coming from awareness and Love, free from craving and aversion. Haha that may sound cookie cutter, but I have (as we all do) strong experience with where craving / addiction goes, as well as aversion / meanness, and I’m interested in Living without them. 

Sigma Tropic, modified 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 4:56 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/4/22 4:56 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 370 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
 If you aren't significantly fucked to begin with you would not be fucking with your brain in this way, trust me partner. Just steer clear of this kool-aid they talk about here involving "dark nights" and relief and shame. If any of those terms enter your mind in relation to practice just ask for immediate clarification so someone can save you from WALLOWING those toxic notions. Please stick to the suggested topics of attainments; nibbana, skakti, ojas, and jhana samadhi etc.
Dream Walker, modified 10 Months ago at 8/5/22 2:10 PM
Created 10 Months ago at 8/5/22 2:10 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 1525 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Choose wisely who you take advice from here. Those who suggest that everything is roses and use black and white thinking might not be the best givers of advice. Of course they may still have useful pieces and parts as we all do.
Welcome to the Dho
Samuel K, modified 9 Months ago at 8/22/22 4:06 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 8/22/22 4:06 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/4/22 Recent Posts
Welp, Life did what it does, which is provide potential answers via unexpected, synchronistic routes.&nbsp;<br /><br />Long story short, through a series of fun little synchronicities, shortly after writing this post I wound up at a Tranquil Wisdom Insight Meditation (TWIM) retreat led by Delson Armstrong. A few days prior I had happened to hear of Delson on a Guru Viking podcast discussion with Daniel Ingram which I’d downloaded months ago, and I resonated with his communication style and energy.&nbsp;<br /><br />The retreat was excellent, the practice clicked and has parts (namely the Relax and Re-smile steps) which are so powerful yet so simple, that I was amazed I hadn’t thought of them before or seen them in any other techniques, and all apparently straight from the suttas. The Metta practice also resonates more strongly with me where I am currently, than the others I've practiced.&nbsp;<br /><br />Delson was an excellent teacher, really deep, powerful Dhamma talks, all straight from the suttas and very open and accessible in interviews and post retreat.&nbsp;<br /><br />The retreat centre itself; great, tranquil, nature, personal. And the members of Dhamma Sukha; great, tranquil, experienced.<br /><br />11 total meditators made a nice sized group and though the rules are less strict than Goenka centres, I found the meditators to be more serious than others have seemed to me in the past. Having the freedom to sit for 2, 3, 4, 5+ hours without interruption (which we all did) was really appreciated. Discussing with the other retreatants post retreat and hearing multiple of such a small group having had strong experiences / attainments / real world life changes, inspiring.&nbsp;<br /><br />Hearing from multiple people who had years or decades of previously practicing Mahasi technique (including Bhante Vimalaramsi who started Dhamma Sukha and previously lived for years at Mahasi monasteries in Myanmar) was very interesting.<br /><br />I don’t have the experience to speak on it for myself, but what they shared of their experiences as well as of the apparent origin of the Mahasi practice (in their current understanding, not from the suttas) gave me pause. I realized I hadn’t actually done enough legitimate homework on the Mahasi tradition and had been mostly going off of one resource (MCTB2). Very interesting to hear from them (and subsequently from googling) that the ñānas appear to be from post-canonical commentaries etc and not from the Suttas. I was initially rather mind-blown to hear them share that in their experience with thousands of TWIM practitioners around the world for many years, it is not uncommon for serious practitioners to attain Stream Entry and beyond, without experiencing the dark-night type extremes mentioned in MCTB2 which I had unconsciously taken to be part and parcel of the journey. Hearing first-hand discussions about people who had experienced psychological damage from those practices who subsequently went to Dhamma Sukha and other places for help, sometimes to no avail, was also sobering. Taking a moment to think, "of everything I've read of the Buddha and of everything I've read and heard from the suttas, have I ever heard of the Buddha instructing people to do things which He says may harm them?" &nbsp;I’m a novice here, just sharing my limited knowledge and experience, but these were interesting experiences for me.&nbsp;<br /><br />I have the opportunity to shift plans from Myanmar and return to Mother India to dive deeper into this practice, &nbsp;learning under Delson and so that is the current intention.&nbsp;<br /><br />Namaste. Best wishes.&nbsp;
T DC, modified 9 Months ago at 8/26/22 1:00 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 8/26/22 1:00 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 498 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Thanks for the writeups, and glad you found something that works for you.  A note on the dark night - as you noted with the TWIM folks, for most people it probably isn't that bad.  Personally I think it's better defined as a kind of minor meditation-related existensial-crisis-of-perception, although for a few select people their experience does apparently go completely off the rails, which MCTB highlights.  

It's interesting to consider whether Mahasi style noting is to blame for more intense dark night experiences.  Certainly it can be a more mentally irritating and grating technique than more of a calming shamatha-vipassana approach.  But it is also very possible to practice MCTB style vipassana without driving yourself around the bend.  

Chris noted in another thread that greatest commonality "dark night yogis" seem to share is an overly intensive and driven approach to practice, which is a good way to frame it.  Seeking a balanced and reasonable approach to practice - and finding what works for you personally and knowing your limits - is probably the best protection against meditation related complications for most people, regardless of tradition.
shargrol, modified 9 Months ago at 8/22/22 5:27 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 8/22/22 5:27 PM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 1981 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Sounds good, but be wary of dharma tribalism. Even if you picked "my tribe" as the best tribe, I'd still say: be wary of dharma tribalism. emoticon   

Best wishes for your practice.
Susan B, modified 9 Months ago at 8/27/22 4:15 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 8/27/22 4:09 AM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 3 Join Date: 8/27/22 Recent Posts

Meditation and mindfulness have exploded over the last few years, and it is often being taught by those that have no idea that some minds are far more delicate than others.  I believe that  harm can come to unbalanced individuals that embark upon intense meditation techniques under those that are ignorant  of any  possible consequences. If these minds are to be “unlocked”  at all it should be by those that have the welfare of these people to the fore. 
Failure to do so is akin to letting a toddler or a small child play with a chain saw or a box of matches and an open petrol can!

​​​​​​​ There are far too many self-proclaimed “experts” out there and there are Youtube channels and retreats which people can go along to without anyone having a care for their welfare. Meditation ought not to be taught without regard to virtue and if you go via authentic Buddhist teachings and only listen to someone with the title of Ajahn they will not throw you in at the deepend with no idea how to rescue you if you have experiences that you are not ready for. They will ensure that topics such as generosity and goodwill are well established before they ever invite you to delve deeper.

Samuel K, modified 9 Months ago at 8/27/22 9:48 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 8/27/22 9:48 AM

RE: Insight Questions & Intro

Posts: 10 Join Date: 8/4/22 Recent Posts
Great shares all. I concur and will see you out there emoticon

Happy Journey