Alerts

thumbnail
Daniel M. Ingram, 10 hours ago.

Liferay 7.3 Upgrade Done! Please us know in if it is working properly. Important

General

Dear All,

The remarkable Manish has managed to upgrade Liferay, the platform the DhO runs on, to version 7.3! This is a remarkable accomplishment, as Liferay upgrades have proved mind-boggling difficult, with each one we have done taking teams of people over a year each with many errors and failures along the way. Many thanks to Manish! If you find any errors, glitches, problems, or areas for improvement, please let us know in the dedicated thread below "Liferay 7.3 Feedback." Thanks!

Message Boards

Meditating Off-Retreat

thumbnail
Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
From the Vipassana Hierarchy thread:
Daniel M. Ingram:
This is more geared to the type of concentration one develops on retreat, but may apply just as well in daily life for those who are diligent and skilled or aspire to be.

Can anyone describe for me what hardcore vipassana practice looks like when done simultaneous with job/school/relationships/finances, etc...?

Is is like you just go through the dark night, and you are writhing in pain and dripping tears of agony, while your at the post office mailing off some important documents the whole time noting: "embarrasment, agony, terror, restlessness, frustration, desperation, agony, suffering, aversion, pain, agony, etc... and then later you have an important conversation with your intimate partner about some plans for a vacation coming up in a month from now, all while clinging to the walls to stabilize yourself from fainting as reality appears utterly groundless and centerless and every thought you is composed only of moderate fragments of syllables, with clashing noise replacing what used to be the normal flow of intelligence within an unidentifiable sphere of chaotic static, none of which you can actually see, and it doesn't even exist because nothing exists and nothing is anywhere to be found... and all the while you are both carrying on a harmless, functional conversation and simultaneously noting: "chaos, confusion, lost, frustration, distraction, fading, blank, nothingness, fear, confusion, haze, agony, suffering, suffering, suffering..." While also simultaneously using 1000000% of your attention with impossible amounts of effort just to notice anything at all.

Is it like that? Because somehow that seems pretty difficult for me to do.

I've been trying to practice as best I can while also living daily life, and what seems to be happening so far is something like this:
I lie down to practice (if I sit for even fifteen minutes, I will have terrible back pain for the rest of the day - as I do right now as I'm writing this, and wondering why I sat today... lol). So, I lie down and I apply attention with relentless effort, giving everything I possibly have to stay attentive with the sensations of the present moment. I may practice like this for a few minutes or a few hours, sometimes with mild or pleasant sensations, sometimes with mind-torturing agony sensations and furious suffering. Then, as I stand up and return to activities of life, I find myself either suffering tremendously or just spacing out or checking out and going through the motions. I can get myself into a happy state and usually, that's what I do. I get into a happy state and just do life from a happy place, but with very little investigation and usually the type of attention which is more reminiscent of a mild psychologizing type of attention. And, as it is, I've been experiencing a somewhat ongoing changing of experience and side effects, ranging from intense and rather uncomfortable feelings of intense intimacy with random people in my life, extreme changes in mood, intense emotionally charged memories which flood awareness, etc. Often when I reach the end of the day and have time to slow down before going to bed and I return my awareness to sensate phenomenon, there is often quite a bit of suffering and anguish.

At times I give in to the temptation to just say: "I'll wait until my next retreat, and just do as much as I can on retreat." And, then I switch back and say: "No, I want this now. I don't want to wait." And, then I power through and create all sorts of chaos in my experience of life, and things get so chaotic that I say: "no no, I should slow down and just take it easy and see if I can be functional enough in life just to make it to my next retreat." etc.

I'm tempted just to drop everything again and just find a way to go on retreat for a couple years or whatever it takes to get stream entry. But, I also think that someday if I ever get stream entry, or whatever the next step is, then I'll want to have a life that isn't just poverty and no possessions.

Anyway, I'm rambling a bit, as may be due to the "phase interference" of thoughts occurring right now, but perhaps the gist of my message has been conveyed.

Just to add to the picture, I don't think anyone in my life would recognize any Dark Night symptoms. To give an example, i just took the GRE and scored 97th percentile verbal and 99th percentile in math. So, I appear to be functional.

Thinking about it more, I guess the thing about the Dark Night is that there is sorta a psychotic break phase that happens for me most times I get into Equanimity. Like, I go into an insurmountable twist of suffering that is literally impossible to overcome or fix or change or anything, and then by having nowhere else to go except completely into the direct experience of bottomless anguish, I pop out into ok-land. But, it often seems like it takes the confines of a retreat center along with at least a few hours of anguish to seal all the exits and pop the equanimity switch.

Anyone can relate to any of this, or shed some light on it?

Please forgive any extraneous details which may be irresponsible leaking Dark Night slime onto innocent bystanders.

Thanks,

Daniel
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
It's possible that your negative experiences practicing vipassana in daily life are due to not yet having attained what you have wanted to attain, namely MCTB 1st path.

I personally found that, once that had been attained, practice during daily life involved cycles through the progress of insight, some bigger, some smaller...the significance of that being, I never ended up regularly stuck in the Dark Night, but would have experiences at various times that were related to all parts of the progress of insight. This made practice in daily life (and whatever spillover there might be a tendency towards) much easier to handle.
thumbnail
Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
It's possible that your negative experiences practicing vipassana in daily life are due to not yet having attained what you have wanted to attain, namely MCTB 1st path.

I personally found that, once that had been attained, practice during daily life involved cycles through the progress of insight, some bigger, some smaller...the significance of that being, I never ended up regularly stuck in the Dark Night, but would have experiences at various times that were related to all parts of the progress of insight. This made practice in daily life (and whatever spillover there might be a tendency towards) much easier to handle.


Yeah, that seems to be what people report. So, I guess I should've been more specific and titled the post: "pre-path meditation off-retreat". At any rate, how does one go about attaining what I have wanted to attain, namely MCTB 1st path, while meditating off-retreat?
thumbnail
Pål S., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 196 Join Date: 8/16/10 Recent Posts
Is is like you just go through the dark night, and you are writhing in pain and dripping tears of agony, while your at the post office mailing off some important documents the whole time noting: "embarrasment, agony, terror, restlessness, frustration, desperation, agony, suffering, aversion, pain, agony, etc... and then later you have an important conversation with your intimate partner about some plans for a vacation coming up in a month from now, all while clinging to the walls to stabilize yourself from fainting as reality appears utterly groundless and centerless and every thought you is composed only of moderate fragments of syllables...

Sounds about right. This is actually a good thing with regards to insight practice. If something "solid" breaks up then awareness can 'slip through the cracks' and find the underlying "solid" sensation that's supporting the fragmented one.

I'm tempted just to drop everything again and just find a way to go on retreat for a couple years or whatever it takes to get stream entry.

You can easily get stream-entry in much less time than that, especially with your experience.

The tricky thing about 1st path is that you have no idea what it might be like or that it's even possible. The subsequent paths are easier in that regard.

That being said 1st path is really not that complicated: Somewhere in your mind you now have something that feels like a solid/real sense of "me". When you look deeper and deeper into this "me" you will find that "me" also gets more and more real/honest/solid. That is until you pierce the 'realest' "me" and you plop out on the other side with the realization that "me" was just a concept! Happy days.

The tricky part is scraping together enough mindfulness, pure intention and momentum to complete the investigation.
thumbnail
Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
Pål S.:
Is is like you just go through the dark night, and you are writhing in pain and dripping tears of agony, while your at the post office mailing off some important documents the whole time noting: "embarrasment, agony, terror, restlessness, frustration, desperation, agony, suffering, aversion, pain, agony, etc... and then later you have an important conversation with your intimate partner about some plans for a vacation coming up in a month from now, all while clinging to the walls to stabilize yourself from fainting as reality appears utterly groundless and centerless and every thought you is composed only of moderate fragments of syllables...

Sounds about right. This is actually a good thing with regards to insight practice. If something "solid" breaks up then awareness can 'slip through the cracks' and find the underlying "solid" sensation that's supporting the fragmented one.


Are you saying that this is how you would practice? In agony, and clenching at the wall, while going about daily life? Meditating through every little experience, no matter what is going on? If so, that's what I was asking about... if that's what it looks like for those people who have had success with this. I haven't gone so extreme as to try to meditate and Dark Night right through every experience, like those situations like relationships, etc. Or, maybe I have tried this some, but not with much success so far. My experience has been more like what Beoman describes in the post here, that the meditation part of my brain switches off in order for me to function in the world.


I'm tempted just to drop everything again and just find a way to go on retreat for a couple years or whatever it takes to get stream entry.

You can easily get stream-entry in much less time than that, especially with your experience.

While I appreciate the sentiment, I don't know why you say that. I have no idea how much time it will take. I do know that so far I've spent about 200 days on retreats which were 10-days or longer, as well as probably another 100-200 days of short retreats, combined with a few years of intensive daily practice. Not to mention the ten years of practicing all sorts of methods and techniques which I went through before finding vipassana.

The tricky thing about 1st path is that you have no idea what it might be like or that it's even possible. The subsequent paths are easier in that regard.

Yes, that's exactly my experience. I have no idea what stream entry is or what it would be like or if it's even possible. Agreed. I'm ready to start doing some subsequent paths, but I suppose I gotta get this one done first.

That being said 1st path is really not that complicated: Somewhere in your mind you now have something that feels like a solid/real sense of "me". When you look deeper and deeper into this "me" you will find that "me" also gets more and more real/honest/solid. That is until you pierce the 'realest' "me" and you plop out on the other side with the realization that "me" was just a concept! Happy days.


Again, I appreciate the sentiment, but your description did not sound "really not that complicated" to me. emoticon

The tricky part is scraping together enough mindfulness, pure intention and momentum to complete the investigation.

Yes, which brings me back to my original question (ie. how to scrape together enough mindfulness, pure intention, and momentum while meditating off-retreat?) Do you do this by just meditating straight through every event all day long, and somehow manage to function in near-psychosis by somehow putting daily activities on autopilot while diligently continuing with the work of scraping together mindfulness and momentum? Or, is there some other way that it's done, such as what's suggested by Beoman, that the meditating mind just shuts off while doing daily activites but somehow the scraped together mindfulness and momentum still somehow becomes sufficient to "plop out"?

Thanks for your comments,

Daniel
thumbnail
Pål S., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 196 Join Date: 8/16/10 Recent Posts
Daniel Johnson:

Are you saying that this is how you would practice? In agony, and clenching at the wall, while going about daily life? Meditating through every little experience, no matter what is going on? If so, that's what I was asking about... if that's what it looks like for those people who have had success with this. I haven't gone so extreme as to try to meditate and Dark Night right through every experience, like those situations like relationships, etc. Or, maybe I have tried this some, but not with much success so far. My experience has been more like what Beoman describes in the post here, that the meditation part of my brain switches off in order for me to function in the world.

No. I did not meditate in those situations, what I meant is that I relate to the experience. I did not do high frequency noting in daily life as I felt it only made things worse.

Yes, which brings me back to my original question (ie. how to scrape together enough mindfulness, pure intention, and momentum while meditating off-retreat?) Do you do this by just meditating straight through every event all day long, and somehow manage to function in near-psychosis by somehow putting daily activities on autopilot while diligently continuing with the work of scraping together mindfulness and momentum? Or, is there some other way that it's done, such as what's suggested by Beoman, that the meditating mind just shuts off while doing daily activites but somehow the scraped together mindfulness and momentum still somehow becomes sufficient to "plop out"?

In my experience momentum applies to two different aspects: Long-term and short-term. You need long-term momentum to swim out into the ocean and stay there, not letting the currents drift you back to shore. You need short-term momentum to be able to dive all the way down to the ocean floor.

In the months before path I would use every free moment (not in daily life activities) to contemplate "what am I?" and similar type inquires. Peeling back the onion. Being utterly honest.

Obviously I'm no teacher, but if I could offer one advice it would be this: Don't just go through the motions and hope for lighting to strike. Use your intuition and do what you think would work if someone held a gun to your head. emoticon

I wish you the best.
thumbnail
Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 196 Join Date: 12/29/10 Recent Posts
"So, I lie down and I apply attention with relentless effort, giving everything I possibly have to stay attentive with the sensations of the present moment."

I can relate to what you're going through, having had some of the same myself recently. But this sentence from your post leaped out at me, because what people have told me, and what I've read elsewhere, is that "relentless effort" can be counterproductive. It's the relaxation into awareness, not the aggressive pursuit of it, that works.

This is the last thing you want to hear when you're hurting and just want to make it stop. I was also told to surrender, surrender, surrender, and that was the last thing I wanted to hear as well. How can I be accepting of feeling so awful? I have started moving out of Dark Night now, however, and it was the relaxation of effort, the shrug and saying to myself, so this is how it is, that helped. Of course this is my second time with it, and I could easily slide right back down into it again. Metta to you.
thumbnail
Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
Jane Laurel Carrington:
"So, I lie down and I apply attention with relentless effort, giving everything I possibly have to stay attentive with the sensations of the present moment."

I can relate to what you're going through, having had some of the same myself recently. But this sentence from your post leaped out at me, because what people have told me, and what I've read elsewhere, is that "relentless effort" can be counterproductive. It's the relaxation into awareness, not the aggressive pursuit of it, that works.

This is the last thing you want to hear when you're hurting and just want to make it stop. I was also told to surrender, surrender, surrender, and that was the last thing I wanted to hear as well. How can I be accepting of feeling so awful? I have started moving out of Dark Night now, however, and it was the relaxation of effort, the shrug and saying to myself, so this is how it is, that helped. Of course this is my second time with it, and I could easily slide right back down into it again. Metta to you.


Thanks, and I think I get what you are saying. I've had a lot of struggle understanding right effort over the last few years. And the Dark Night was tough for me for this reason.

As of my last retreat, I think I might have finally gotten a clear understanding of what right effort is and how to reproduce it. When I say relentless, I don't mean agressive, I mean unrelenting... as in, not missing even a single moment. In speaking with Daniel Ingram and others, it seems that this is a crucial ingredient for breaking through equanimity and to stream entry, because the mind tends to drift a lot in the equanimity phase. Even in Dark Night, the best technique still seems to be unrelenting with awareness, albeit in a gentle accepting and ever-relaxing way. In fact, it's this combination which seems to allow the tracking of peripheral interference that makes up the dark night. And, maybe it's the seeming paradoxical impossibility of this that makes the Dark Night so torturous - the feeling that you can't go forward (aggresive) and you can't go back (relenting).
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Daniel Johnson:
Anyone can relate to any of this, or shed some light on it?


Sounds similar to what I went through pre-stream entry...

Daniel Johnson:
Is is like you just go through the dark night, and you are writhing in pain and dripping tears of agony, while your at the post office mailing off some important documents the whole time noting: "embarrasment, agony, terror, restlessness, frustration, desperation, agony, suffering, aversion, pain, agony, etc... and then later you have an important conversation with your intimate partner about some plans for a vacation coming up in a month from now, all while clinging to the walls to stabilize yourself from fainting as reality appears utterly groundless and centerless and every thought you is composed only of moderate fragments of syllables, with clashing noise replacing what used to be the normal flow of intelligence within an unidentifiable sphere of chaotic static, none of which you can actually see, and it doesn't even exist because nothing exists and nothing is anywhere to be found... and all the while you are both carrying on a harmless, functional conversation and simultaneously noting: "chaos, confusion, lost, frustration, distraction, fading, blank, nothingness, fear, confusion, haze, agony, suffering, suffering, suffering..." While also simultaneously using 1000000% of your attention with impossible amounts of effort just to notice anything at all.


This did not happen to me. During daily life, if I was interacting with somebody, the part of my brain that meditated would shut off, so I could have nice + pleasant convos. When I wasn't, I was internally raging+raging+raging and oh-god-this-sucks and im-gonna-go-home-and-meditate and when i did it sucked also and it's like why can't i just keep my awareness on a damn object?

---

Perhaps some more tranquility is what you need... what about trying the TWIM approach? I think it will lead to far less pain...
thumbnail
Daniel Johnson, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

This did not happen to me. During daily life, if I was interacting with somebody, the part of my brain that meditated would shut off, so I could have nice + pleasant convos. When I wasn't, I was internally raging+raging+raging and oh-god-this-sucks and im-gonna-go-home-and-meditate and when i did it sucked also and it's like why can't i just keep my awareness on a damn object?

---

Perhaps some more tranquility is what you need... what about trying the TWIM approach? I think it will lead to far less pain...


1) Yes, that's what happens for me, but then how did you build the "momentum" which is so often talked about here, how did you scrape together enough mindfulness, given the gaps in the day when your meditating brain would shut off. So far, stream entry hasn't been something that I can just stumble into. So, I'm going with plan B... maximally perfect technique executed with maximal effort for maximal duration. If I can pull that off, then at least I will know that I've done my best and if still no stream entry, well... I'll just continue with the plan until I get stream entry or die trying.

2) Does the TWIM approach lead to the benefits reported with MCTB stream entry: notably, a dramatic increase in ability to concentrate, a dramatic increase in the clarity to distinguish phenomena, and a life-changing permanent shift in personality and perception? If so, I may be interested.

btw, right now my assesment of the situation is that actualism practice has been really useful for me, but seems to be limited by: 1. the lack of ability to achieve highly effective and prolonged concentration 2. the immense haze of unclarity over phenomena. So, I've been practicing noting vipassana for the sake of penetrating through the vast onslought of delusions which fill my mind, along with the idea that perhaps there is some point (called stream entry) in which there will be a shift and many of the delusions will be wiped out in one fell swoop.

Thanks for your comments,

Daniel
thumbnail
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 2198 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Daniel Johnson:
1) Yes, that's what happens for me, but then how did you build the "momentum" which is so often talked about here, how did you scrape together enough mindfulness, given the gaps in the day when your meditating brain would shut off. So far, stream entry hasn't been something that I can just stumble into. So, I'm going with plan B... maximally perfect technique executed with maximal effort for maximal duration. If I can pull that off, then at least I will know that I've done my best and if still no stream entry, well... I'll just continue with the plan until I get stream entry or die trying.


I figure I might as well describe how I got SE, since my situation seems similar (practicing daily life). Maybe the story will help... I will summarize what I think were the important parts at the end.

I had far less meditative experience than you... having started 11 months before. And I think I was a pretty poor meditator in terms of concentration and stability. So I don't think you are lacking in those qualities. I also really, really wanted to get it without having a clue how, which it seems you do too. So far, so good.

My problem, though, was that I wasn't getting to Equanimity (the nyana). Once I got to Equanimity the first time (in a clear way where I knew what it was, at least), it took a week or so... here is where we differ since it seems you've spent plenty of time in Equanimity based on your other posts.

Let me back up a bit. I had been practicing, not having had a clear A&P so with no clue where I was, though it was definitely Dark Night looking back. Then, for 2-3 days or so, I noticed really clearly that I was in the A&P (see old post here). I would see colors whenever I closed my eyes and meditating was remarkably easy and pleasant and fun and seemed like I was gaining insight. Then that abruptly stopped and this time I knew I was in the Dark Night, only now it was even more amplified than before. (This was all in daily life practice, with mindfulness shutting off when busy and agony coming back when not.) I think what helped here was that I started doing candle flame kasina. This seemed to boost my concentration enough so that I could actually realize what was going on.

Then I went to visit family across the country. 6 hour plane ride meditating in re-observation was not pleasant. Clenched my muscles so tight and was so angry that I couldn't even meditate properly. Next few days, more of the same. Then one night instead of watching a movie w/ my family[1], I did some candle flame kasina, since I associated it with good things (noticing A&P), and then sat down + meditated... in the midst of irritation and frustration and anger and why-is-it-all-so-painful it all suddenly lost its edge of being painful. The same things were there, but, in 2-3 seconds, the suffering from it was just gone[2]. And I realized that it was only the reaction to it that made it painful. Equanimity!! (old post about it here).

The next day was rough. Suffering came up again and I panicked. I really did not want to go back into Dark Night. I read MCTB chatper on Equanimity, which said that the entrance to it could be rough, so I attributed it to that. And I meditated every chance I could.

The next few days up to plane ride back, meditation was different. I noticed I could pay attention to awareness - I noticed if I inclined the mind to the foot, for example, first there was inclining, then attention moving to foot, then foot sensations. And I got really sleepy. The visual field got deep calm blue and for times I wasn't sure whether I had nodded off or whether there was so little going on that I just wasn't noticing it...

Back at home, started going to work again. I took frequent breaks meditating in the bathroom, spacing out at my work station, etc. Basically slacking off in order to meditate. Around this phase I got nifty 3D visuals (blue visual field turned into 2d-flat smoke turned into 3d-cool smoke).

I don't remember the day it happened. And looking back, I have no idea why what I did worked. It was almost like spacing out, except not quite. There was no irritation. There was boredom, but no irritation.. and I just kept looking, I guess. And one day there was a weird thing and I wondered if the feelings in my body afterwards was a bliss wave. It didn't seem like it, and I thought it'd be funny if that was it. The next day I got really blazed and then was very obviously cycling A&P-Eq-Fruition-Afterglow-A&P-etc. So by then the deed had been done.

---

So, to sum up: it seemed momentum started building, starting from that clear-A&P that I went through, as a result of doing the candle-flame kasina. The broken-up daily life stuff after that was just lots of pain mixed with distraction. The vacation was like a quasi-retreat, in that, although I was still distracted by family, I was able to meditate for longer periods. This got me to Equanimity, which was quite important. Then I had quasi-retreat conditions again due to plane ride back, and that combined with extra slacking at work and meditating at home was enough to do it. It might just have been that moderate temporary increase in meditation time which jiggled the conditions enough to let it happen, along with the slightly better concentration from doing a bit of candle flame.

I don't think I can shed more light on why it took so little time from Equanimity to SE... terrified of falling back along with knowing that buying into that terror would cause falling back led to practicing with enough intent + proper effort, I guess, and then interesting things were happening with free-floating awareness so that captured my attention enough to pay attention to things but in an unfocused enough way to allow the supramundane thing to happen.

Daniel Johnson:
2) Does the TWIM approach lead to the benefits reported with MCTB stream entry: notably, a dramatic increase in ability to concentrate, a dramatic increase in the clarity to distinguish phenomena, and a life-changing permanent shift in personality and perception? If so, I may be interested.


I'm not sure whether it will lead to the same shift as MCTB stream entry. The practice seems to be aimed at getting you to experience what they call NS (which I think is different than what we call NS), to watch dependent origination stop + start again, and to let go of ignorance by watching how it stops+starts (using NS to stop+start it). Once you see this to some degree you get what they call stream entry (basing all this off of this post). I don't know the details of that.

However, it's probably not helpful to think of it that way. It's a different approach to practice. I mentioned it because, in my own practice, there has been far too little emphasis on tranquility and equanimity, which I think has caused lots of pain and also hindered progress. The TWIM method seems to lead to calm states of mind that are also highly conducive to investigation. When I can do it right it's like how I would want my mind to always behave.

Daniel Johnson:
btw, right now my assesment of the situation is that actualism practice has been really useful for me, but seems to be limited by: 1. the lack of ability to achieve highly effective and prolonged concentration 2. the immense haze of unclarity over phenomena. So, I've been practicing noting vipassana for the sake of penetrating through the vast onslought of delusions which fill my mind, along with the idea that perhaps there is some point (called stream entry) in which there will be a shift and many of the delusions will be wiped out in one fell swoop.


Good you bring up actualism, cause I think the TWIM method is far more in-line with actualism. Actualism is all about lessening 'self' until it is no more (with PCEs in the meantime). TWIM seems to have the same approach - lessen the 'self' (the RELAX step). MCTB-Vipassana, on the other hand, is about really aggravating the 'self' until it manifests in all sorts of twisted ways (dark night), settles down (equanimity), until something interesting happens which causes it to change its shape 'permanently'[3] (change of lineage).

Maybe MCTB-stream-entry would help. But I think an effective TWIM practice will lead to more effective concentration on the cushion and in daily life, as well as tranquility so you aren't suffering so much during the mean-time, which tranquility will also allow closer investigation of phenomena (that is the limiting factor for me, currently - tranquility.)

Another way to look at the two approaches: on the one hand you can aggravate those delusions until you feel like you are exploding and reality is crumbling around you in a glorious ruin until you can't take anymore and you finally let go, then you push your concentration up until your brain does something which doesn't necessarily end those delusions (and might introduce new ones) but at least allows further clarity... on the other hand, you can work on lessening those delusions as they come up, paying attention to them more + more closely, and calming them down which only allows you to look even more closely.

Take this all with a grain of salt, since I haven't tried it before stream-entry. This is all in hindsight and just reflects my current take on practice (namely that I wish I had been more tranquil about it). My take on TWIM is also highly informed by my take on Actualism and understanding of suffering in general, which might differ from others'. You should probably read more about it before deciding whether it's for you...

Anyways, that was sort of a ramble, sorry about that. I hope you find some of it useful.


[1] I noticed several times that I opted to meditate instead of doing an activity, and I was always happy I did.
[2] By my current standards it wasn't, but at the time that's what it felt like.
[3] Until the next change of lineage, or self-extirpation.
Thomas A V, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
This is actually more how it goes, off retreat (in my experience):

You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile. If you are unable to to participate in a group retreat environment, you will be assigned, without notice, an adequate practice environment that may or may not suit your ideals. Deal. Regardless, you will be assimilated. Your thoughts of attaining or not attaining on a future retreat are irrelevant. Your worries about monetary concerns in the future are irrelevant. Resistance is futile and will only lead to your further suffering in this moment.
Thomas A V, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Meditating Off-Retreat

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
Thinking about it more, I guess the thing about the Dark Night is that there is sorta a psychotic break phase that happens for me most times I get into Equanimity. Like, I go into an insurmountable twist of suffering that is literally impossible to overcome or fix or change or anything, and then by having nowhere else to go except completely into the direct experience of bottomless anguish, I pop out into ok-land. But, it often seems like it takes the confines of a retreat center along with at least a few hours of anguish to seal all the exits and pop the equanimity switch.


Also, I don't think anyone has addressed this question yet. I have experiences with quite a few actual "psychotic breaks," and what little advice I can give you is to not script yourself into thinking what happened in the past will exactly happen again. Sure, it might be painful, it might be crazy, it might be indescribable, it might be horribly traumatic if you were not so dharma-oriented and focused on mindfulness/present moment, but it won't be the same. It might be mundane, it might not, but it won't be the same. If you're afraid of these states, that's fine, but you will be forced (and you're being forced) to make your way through them regardless. When the fear disappears, and it will, you're going to go for it (aren't you? Of course you are, because you have to) Why do you need the confines of a retreat center when this happens? Have you tried asking "the universe" to give you the proper environment you need to get this done? (off retreat, if need be, on retreat, if need be) The powers are unreliable, but they are very reliable in this sort of request.

Since you're calling it a "sorta" psychotic break, then I'm assuming you're functional enough in this state to get this done without the aid of hospital staff? Without the aid of anyone??

"Like, I go into an insurmountable twist of suffering that is literally impossible to overcome or fix or change or anything, and then by having nowhere else to go except completely into the direct experience of bottomless anguish"

Sounds scary, sounds frightening, sounds fun in a sadistic sort of way!? Why not ;) It IS impermanent, even if at the time you believe it to be permanent (and these fleeting moments of the fleeting sensations of belief in the permanency of utter anguish...well, this kind of suffering must be the reason the buddha taught?)

In the words of MCTB, you're laying on the operating table with a gaping wound and you're afraid of the pain of the needles that are needed to stitch "yourself" up. Said another way, when the surgeon goes to stitch them up, you say yes, then when it starts, you say no. Regardless, you continue to bleed all over the floor while the surgeon sneaks in stitches. Luckily, you have an infinite supply of blood.

Announcements