Not sure...

Rachel Rowden, modified 9 Years ago.

Not sure...

Posts: 3 Join Date: 12/7/11 Recent Posts
I would like to get some feedback. Maybe some advice. I will try to be brief...

Skipping over lots and lots of spiritual interest, practice, and experiences, I'll start about five years ago at a yoga studio. I went to see this youngish guy talk about "who you really are" and was sitting by myself in the back. As he talked the room started changing shape and he looked at me and said, "You, come up here." I had no intention of going up there as I felt very shaky, but I ended up keeping in touch with him and attending satsangs in his house off and on for about three years while also attending the satsangs of other, more famous people whenever I could.

The experience released kundalini and I went through and continue to go through mild-yet-exciting energy shifts as a result. The whole spiritual search/transformation has been sort of stair-step in nature with my last step taking place on the RT FB page. I was helped to see what they call no self and did experience a major shift that lasted around five wonderful days. Part of the RT schtick was to say that once you see no self you can never un-see it, but that has been frustratingly untrue for me. In some ways, yes. Like I don't have any desire to read spiritual books or even go to satsang. I'm generally more relaxed with less conditioning, but...there are issues.

It has been about four months since this no self stuff and I am feeling more and more disconnected. I rarely leave the house except for work, which I have grown to hate. While the relationships themselves (at work) seem lighter, if something hits my conditioning it is very, very painful and sets me off into what feels like a mini-depression. Looking back at the last five years I have become increasingly alone and it seems that I avoid people in order to avoid conflict and the negative feelings that are so strong. I think I used to numb myself with activity and having lots of friends and having fun, but that has all fallen away. I continue to have no set practice as I always felt that forcing such things was insincere and unnecessary. I used to meditate regularly but felt that I was being meditated, like I didn't really have a choice (and it was always very powerful and pleasurable, which it no longer is).

If anyone knows what this state is and how to get out of it, well, hugs to you! Thanks for reading...
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure... (Answer)

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Hi Rachel,

Welcome to the Dharma Overground (DhO).

The experience released kundalini and I went through and continue to go through mild-yet-exciting energy shifts as a result. The whole spiritual search/transformation has been sort of stair-step in nature with my last step taking place on the RT FB page. I was helped to see what they call no self and did experience a major shift that lasted around five wonderful days. Part of the RT schtick was to say that once you see no self you can never un-see it, but that has been frustratingly untrue for me. In some ways, yes. Like I don't have any desire to read spiritual books or even go to satsang. I'm generally more relaxed with less conditioning, but...there are issues.
(emphasis added)

Sometimes the way in which anatta is explained results in rendering "no self" a form, object and/or concept, that "self" is an unpleasant nature that can be expelled - and that expulsion would leave behind a wonderful, dispassionate, equanimous, kindly, trouble-free (etc) no-self.

In the record of the Buddha's explanation of anatta, the Anatta-lakkhana sutta, every sensation, thought, feeling and awareness we can experience as humans is assigned to "no-self". But no-self lacks a definition beyond its components.

To make a silly analogy, I could create no-cereal:
[indent]- carbohydrates are no-cereal
- sugars are no cereal
-protein is no cereal
-sweet smell is no-cereal
-crunchy texture is no-cereal
-lucky charm forms are no-cereal
-milk is no-cereal
-ceramic bowl is no-cereal[/indent]

What is no-cereal? Above, no-cereal is shown to be all the components of a bowl of cereal. There is no ultimate, permanent cereal in the world (sorry, Wheaties). How is that practical, this insight of "no-cereal"? How is no-self helpful? Why is no-self a seal of the Buddha's teaching?

In the Anatta-lakkha Sutta, it is recorded that the Buddha then explained how all the components of no-self are impermanent.

For no-cereal, this would be:
- "Is a sugar an impermanent or eternal? Impermanent, Venerable Sir."
- "Is ceramic bowl impermanent or eternal? Impermanent..."
- "Are lucky charms' shapes impermanent or eternal? Impermanent..."

I can now see how the components of a bowl of cereal are impermanent: the ceramic bowl breaks, becomes dust, becomes clay again, etc; the lucky charms shapes deform; the sugars become food for bacteria and fungus, become expended energy, become expelled waste, the sweet odor of sugar cereal dissipates, etc.

How can cereal be a thing of permanency if its components are always always changing? Even the components of "no-cereal" are "no-components"! Lacking permanent components, "cereal" is more accurately called "no-cereal". In this way, I can know the specific thing of what we discuss (cereal) and, culturally, I can acknowledge that cereal has no inherent, permanent existence, "no-cereal".

I can see that all attributes of myself (including consciousness (which appears to have changed from birth to now) are changing, lack permanent anything. The Anatta-lakkhana Sutta records the Buddha as asking if it is worthwhile for people to cling to and suffer that which is impermanent?

Should I cry over spilt no-milk and no-cereal? Can I overcome my clinging to my self and its consequent, ever-dissatisfied and re-generating state? Anatta-lakkhana Sutta is a logical discourse on no-self.

However, the work and effect of this sutta comes into play in applying the insight of no-self. What do I crave? Is the impermanent object worth craving? Will "I" be the same craven person tomorrow? Great masters worked with food deprivation, no shelter and life in the wilds, sleeplessness, and so forth; I have comparatively smaller challenges to practice the insight of anatta. Nevertheless, applying the insight of no-self is still a rigorous practice.

If something can come into being, then it is subject to cessation. So, when "I" come into myself through a craving or a negative emotion or an expectation, then I can expect that "I" will come into something entirely different over time. This becomes cyclical in satisfaction-dissatisfaction turns. To be on the DhO indicates you may be suffering from the cycle and looking for liberation from the cycle.

[Edit for clarity:
So, with my bowl of cereal, I am not insisting that it does not exist, rather seeing how my bowl of cereal exists is more clear. And I eat my cereal, and can see how "I" exists. The more insight into this "how am I experiencing" develops (in terms of no permanent state, no-self), old assumed sensations can become refreshed, wonderous, slightly interesting, or just differently understood, but the insight is not necessarily mind-blowing or earth-shaking. If you think anatta is plausible, then "you" (as a constantly changing (de)composition) can develop such anatta understanding as you go about experiencing life.]

It has been about four months since this no self stuff and I am feeling more and more disconnected. I rarely leave the house except for work, which I have grown to hate. While the relationships themselves (at work) seem lighter, if something hits my conditioning it is very, very painful and sets me off into what feels like a mini-depression. Looking back at the last five years I have become increasingly alone and it seems that I avoid people in order to avoid conflict and the negative feelings that are so strong. I think I used to numb myself with activity and having lots of friends and having fun, but that has all fallen away. I continue to have no set practice as I always felt that forcing such things was insincere and unnecessary. I used to meditate regularly but felt that I was being meditated, like I didn't really have a choice (and it was always very powerful and pleasurable, which it no longer is).

If anyone knows what this state is and how to get out of it, well, hugs to you! Thanks for reading...


Is there a practice you are inclined to try or one that brought you to the DhO?

Is there anything in the "five wonderful days" you can draw upon to open your understanding of your state?

Best wishes.

[edits: spelling & possible clarity]
Rachel R, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure...

Posts: 3 Join Date: 12/7/11 Recent Posts
Wow. Thank you so much for your time and insight. You have been very helpful!
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katy steger, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure...

Posts: 1741 Join Date: 10/1/11 Recent Posts
Good to know.

The actual word "Anatta" (no-self) may be misleading in a Western society, today. The word "anatta" in the Buddha's time specifically responded to the pervasive Brahmanic culture of Atta (and, further, to certain entitlements, such as those prescribed in the Katyayana Srauta sutra and authorized on the postulate of a high-status person's self merging with Brahma (union with Atta)).

Today, post-thoery of relativity, there may be another noun/gerund/whatnot to describe the impermanency-flux-relativity of "my self" and the limits of my own agency (e.g., I can wiggle my toes, but I cannot wiggle your toes by the same interior agency) as opposed to this archaic word "no-self".

Best wishes with your practice.
Thomas A V, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure... (Answer)

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
Lol, no-cereal. Brilliant!

While the relationships themselves (at work) seem lighter, if something hits my conditioning it is very, very painful and sets me off into what feels like a mini-depression. Looking back at the last five years I have become increasingly alone and it seems that I avoid people in order to avoid conflict and the negative feelings that are so strong. I think I used to numb myself with activity and having lots of friends and having fun, but that has all fallen away. I continue to have no set practice as I always felt that forcing such things was insincere and unnecessary. I used to meditate regularly but felt that I was being meditated, like I didn't really have a choice (and it was always very powerful and pleasurable, which it no longer is).


This is all familiar behavior that I have engaged in. Try to notice this sort of fear of "putting your-self out there" when it comes up.

I would recommend that you start meditating again to power through this. For better or worse, you have to face the feelings as they come up, and if you're not (yet) up to the ability to do it instantaneously in daily life, then you need to do it on your own "on the cushion" or in another position.

There is a tendency to quit when it is no longer "powerful and pleasurable," but for the purposes of making progress one needs to see all sensations more or less "equally" (meaning they are to be seen for the "paper tigers" they are). Here this is done by noticing they all obey the three characteristics of impermanence, no-self, unsatisfactoriness. Try going through the four foundations: body sensations, thought sensations, mental state sensations (ex: irritation, annoyance, anger, etc), feeling-tone sensation (noticing whether it categorized as pleasant/unpleasant/neutral).

You are actually still "being meditated," so you might as well do some sitting to give yourself some breathing room. Spiritual progress has been described as a snake that gets caught in a bamboo stick. Once it is stuck, the only way out is through.

If you're experiencing mini-depressions ("very very painful") as a response to stimuli (I have experience with this), then there is strong aggregation of the unpleasant mental states (i.e. mindfulness isn't nearly as strong as it could be). I would recommend you start small at 30 minutes a day or so of meditation and then work up slowly from there. Otherwise, you may risk becoming too aggravated or increasingly depressed, leading you to stop enacting mindfulness altogether. (Ignore this advice if you want to sit and do pure concentration practices for a time). Once this sort of phenomena quits (the mini-depressions), then I would recommend increased meditation time.

There is some terminology used here to categorize this process (in DharmaOverground terms):
1st vipassana jhana - mind and body, cause and effect, three characteristics
2nd vipassana jhana - arising and passing
3rd vipassana jhana - dark night
4th vipassana jhana - called "equinimity" which doesn't mean you can't hold equinimity toward phenomena in the other stages.

Your description shows that at some time in the past you likely passed the arising and passing. Since you have not practiced for some time, it is likely your experience is floating around in the 1st vipassana jhana or it's possible you are in the 3rd (dark night). Three characteristics and dark night are generally unhappy unless they are attended to with mindfulness and equinimity (which is what I'm trying to help you develop).

So, in summary, you have several options.

You can learn to see the 1st vipassana jhana as the 1st samatha jhana which is very pleasurable and may give you some insight and stability, at least for now. (I.e. do concentration practices in your sits). By cultivating concentration, you can sort of delay insight while still sort of getting insight and making your life better, and I'm confident it would help you eliminate the "mini-depression" problem. Some people worry about getting too "attached" to samatha jhana and neglecting vipassana jhana (insight), but I don't think this is possible unless you have the meditation time of a monk. In my experience, Insight will propel you forward faster than you will be able to develop and "hold onto" these samatha jhanic states (i.e. unless you're sitting all day they will "decay" into vipassana jhana anyways).

You can do insight practices by sitting with the unpleasantness without trying to turn it into something pleasant. This will propel you through the stages until you hit the 4th vipassana jhana and get stream-entry at high equinimity. This is the goal and pretty much literally requires momentum. Meaning if you decide to do this dedicated for three days and make it to the 3rd vip jhana, but then stop completely. You will gradually fall back to the beginning. You can sort of wear the whole thing down over a long period of time though.

You can somewhat mitigate the unpleasantness by cultivating concentration and then doing insight from a more concentrated state. I, personally, haven't had huge success doing this and generally have had to face the unpleasantness as it is, at some point or another, but that's just me.


If you're not interested in this terminology and are interested in a different practice other than vipassana, do that, but make sure to do it regularly as the momentum factor will apply, and you will reach "stream-entry" (a sort of equilibrium with regard to this) anyways. I am vaguely familiar with the ruthless truth death-metal swearing aesthetic thing, but don't really know enough about it other than it is a direct pointing technique which is trying to get you directly to a non-dual awareness. A non-dual awareness is generally easier to maintain with further progress in insight as the equilibrium with regard to mindfulness has become automatic.

-Tom
Rachel R, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure...

Posts: 3 Join Date: 12/7/11 Recent Posts
I am going to be reading and rereading this post, definitely. I so appreciate your time and thoughtful answer and will be sitting as you suggest. It's funny that I never really thought about it as an aid to my situation, I guess because I never had a set practice. You were the universe banging on my hard head, I guess. Big thank you, bigger hug!
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Not sure...

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Hi Rachel,

You will probably get better and more specific answers from others (and you have already gotten some), but I thought it was worthwhile to highlight these two points:

1) The way to get out of the state you're in is, ultimately, by continuing to practice (whether meditation or something else), even though it might not seem to be helping in the short term.

2) You can't judge whether your practice (for example, meditation) is effective based on whether it feels pleasant or unpleasant at any particular moment; you need to realize that some practice is always better than no practice, even as you search for ways to improve the ways you implement it.