Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental health?

Lorenzo Galli, modified 3 Months ago at 1/6/24 11:27 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 1/6/24 11:27 AM

Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental health?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/6/24 Recent Posts
 
SUMMARY: I've had mental health issues in the past, including a sort of hypo-mania, and I'm wondering if insight meditation practice is suitable for me.

Hello everybody,
I've been practicing mindfulness meditation intermittently for the past 16 years, starting when I was 17. 
I always used it more as a means to fight stress and cope with the severe health problems I had. I learned to focus better and not to identify with my thoughts between other things.
My health issues lead me to have three liver transplants due to a recurring auto-immune disease. After the last transplant, one year ago, primarily due to a combination of anxiety for the possibility of death and an abrupt cessation of and withdrawal from an anxiolytic, I experienced a very unpleasant altered state: I had the feeling of being stuck in a simulation that my mind was running, which was controlling what I and others were saying and doing. Sometimes, it felt like I was stuck in time, and time wasn't passing, but mostly being in a simulation.
As soon as I resumed the benzodiazepine, I felt ok, and I didn't have this problem anymore. My psychiatrist also gave some antidepressants and stabilizers - however, in very low doses.
I didn't feel like I was in a simulation anymore. Still, in the following months, I had a few episodes of hypo-mania, where I was a bit disconnected from reality and feeling grandiose. 
Things got better and better. I managed to reduce the doses of psychopharmacological drugs to the minimum, and I'm leading a happy life. 

I started meditating again 6 months ago, and it has been going great. I learned more about Buddhism for the first time, and now I encountered MCTB2. I like Daniel's style and way of thinking about the dharma and insight meditation.
However, I was a bit worried when I read about the possible side effects of this particular way of practice, including hypo-mania, that I personally wouldn't want to re-live. 

What would be your advice for me?

Thank you very much in advance

Lorenzo
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Bahiya Baby, modified 3 Months ago at 1/6/24 10:10 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 1/6/24 10:10 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 457 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
My meditative journey has seen me repeatedly face all my deepest fears, worries and neurosis. Oftentimes in very dark, frightful and difficult ways. I suffer a lot less now, I don't have the same manic, depressive or anxious experiences... But the path here was not easy, so far it has been pretty heroic to be honest... Of the people I have met in my life I believe very few would chose to go through the experiences I have had.  

It's your choice man, but whatever it is you're afraid of... You'll have to meet it. 

If you were to start. I'd recommend having a confidant, someone you trust very intimately, who you are not romantic with, with whom you can speak freely. Also id recommend a therapist who isn't afraid of meditation. I'd say do a lot of metta and have a deep read of mctb2 and the chapter on the three characteristics. This forum too is a great resource. 

​​​​​​​You wouldn't be here if you didn't want to do it. I get that. And I respect it. I guess I'm trying to say meditation might dial up your crazy for awhile and if you're not ready to deal with that then tread carefully. 
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 3 Months ago at 1/7/24 12:55 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 1/7/24 12:55 AM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 2710 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Best is to contact Daniel Ingram via his email. He is very helpful and also knows a lot about such issues and how meditation related to this. Check his web site to find his email address. 

Best wishes! 
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 3 Months ago at 1/7/24 4:12 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 1/7/24 3:59 AM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 351 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
I'd say reach out to cheetah house *before hand* and ask them their advice. Also if you get in touch with them or Daniel I'd strongly asking about harm reduction strategies when it comes this 

https://www.cheetahhouse.org/​​​​​​​
Lorenzo Galli, modified 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 6:44 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 6:44 AM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/6/24 Recent Posts
I wanted to update you on my progress with my meditation practice if it’s of any interest to you.I reached out to Daniel, who suggested trying for Loch Kelly’s work on Glimpses, which was immediately very effective.From the first Glimpse, without having any expectation of or knowledge of the approach, when he said, “What is here now when there is no problem to be solved,” I shifted to what I thought was Local Awareness or Awake Awareness - a great sense of calm and peace that I rarely “achieved” when practicing Vipassana meditation.I tried the other glimpses; some didn’t work, but some worked exceptionally well. I had my first experience of non-duality, and it was an incredible feeling. Per my understanding now, my task was to try to reach it again and try to stabilize it so that I could one day feel it in my daily life.Unfortunately, as the course progressed and the glimpses became more and more complex, I struggled to follow the instructions and achieve Awake Awareness or non-duality. It became frustrating because I couldn’t “achieve it.” I could go much more efficiently in a calm, relaxed, and “non-thinking” state, but I struggled to feel non-duality like I did a couple of times - and more than anything, I couldn’t move awareness as he said I had to do.
This caused quite a bit of frustration and the feeling of having regressed (both with my meditation practice and my back pain, which returned those days by an unfortunate coincidence). I had a tough week.
I wondered if switching to a goal-oriented practice like this one - even if probably it wasn’t supposed to be goal-oriented, but it was for me - didn’t help. So, I scaled back from 1 hour of practice every day to 10 minutes and moved back to a “just try it” mindset without caring too much about achieving a particular state. I felt much better the rest of the day, less removed from reality, and more present during the rest of the day. This, however,might also be because I managed to start training physically again, and my back stopped aching. 
Now, I feel kind of a mess, and I don’t know what to do: I experienced non-duality, which was awesome and desirable. Loch Kelly says it’s possible to eventually stabilize it with enough practice, but the frustration from not getting it ruined my days. I thought about returning to a non-goal-oriented practice, but it feels like the coward way out and much less helpful.
I already wrote Daniel, but I'm open to advice from others if you have any! 
​​​​​​​Many thanks!
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Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 2:54 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 2:52 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 457 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
I don't know much about loch Kelly, I hear good things, but there's quite a bit of language there that's a red flag for me. 

All kinds of states come and go, some are very beautiful, it's noticing them come and go, noticing them change, noticing what they're made of as they do so that's important. Trying to stabilize transient blissful states is a sure fire way to frustrate yourself. 

Can you tell me more specifics about how you're practicing moment to moment. 

I'm not particularly in favor of goal oriented practice myself. I think you need to steep yourself in experience and come to know it deeply as it shifts and changes. 

I am also a mental health sufferer. I had very very severe chronic issues for many years which I no longer suffer from. 

Happy to help. But also you're working through a system I have no familiarity with.

​​​​​​​Seeking stability is likely what got you into this mess to begin with. I would notice more how states are unstable, impermanent, don't lead to lasting satisfaction etc. 
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 3:00 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/1/24 3:00 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 775 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Sounds good on the insight front! My experience is that nonduality comes and goes and has different flavors and depths. But it's not really something we can do. It does itself. So trying to do it shuts it down. No big deal, by the way. It will do itself again later. What is important is not the state itself but having seen it. 
Lorenzo Galli, modified 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 7:47 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 7:47 AM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/6/24 Recent Posts
Thank you for your answer.
The instructions are about moving awareness around (e.g. Send your awareness in the corner of the room and make it look at yourself). Sometimes I manage to actually do it, but most times I don't. This leads me to become a bit frustrated, probably due to a bit of perfectionism and usually being able to do most things well.
I do think that a less goal-oriented approach would be less stressful, but maybe I'm scared I will not be able to achieve awakening if I don't set a goal (that's how I do most things...)
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 9:10 AM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 9:07 AM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 2710 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Lorenzo Galli
Thank you for your answer.
The instructions are about moving awareness around (e.g. Send your awareness in the corner of the room and make it look at yourself). Sometimes I manage to actually do it, but most times I don't. This leads me to become a bit frustrated, probably due to a bit of perfectionism and usually being able to do most things well.
I do think that a less goal-oriented approach would be less stressful, but maybe I'm scared I will not be able to achieve awakening if I don't set a goal (that's how I do most things...)

Hm ... I would STOP with that practice of looking at oneself from another part of the room! Yes your hunch is right on this. Such practice can cause stress. Stress which is not helpful or of benefit. 

Sitting quietly with eyes closed or just slightly open and calmly being aware of the breathing in sensations of the body and breathing out sensations. Calming the body with each in and outbreathing. 

"I breath in, calming the whole body, I breath out calming the whole body". And give yourself a permission to enjoy this emoticon 

One can start safe by practicing no more than 10 minutes a day. 

Thid practice is called Calm-abiding and is very much safe. 

Each time you get distracted, you gently return back to the breathing sensations and calming the whole body. 

You can even internally repeat words "calming in (when breathing in), calming out (when breathing out)" aware of the body sensations. 

​​​​​​​Sending best wishes to you! emoticon 
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Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 4:20 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 4:20 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 457 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Daniel obviously had a reason for recommending this to you but from my point of view it seems like it may not be a good fit. At least for now 

The only thing I really recommend is just sitting. Breathe, relax, observe, let go, breathe, relax, observe, let go... Etc

​​​​​​​This is very fundamental meditation. Do not try to do anything with attention just observe your experience exactly as it is. 
Martin, modified 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 6:59 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 6:59 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 775 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
Let me just second Geoffrey's suggestion to reach out to Cheetah House before you start any new practice and ask them for their advice. It's what they do. They have spoken to many, many people who are meditating with mental health problems. 

https://www.cheetahhouse.org/​​​​​​​

Also, I should mention that Loch Kelly's stuff is not supposed to be mastered in a month. You play with it, let it sink in, play with it some more. It's a slow and gentle approach, which may have been one of the reasons that Daniel recommended it. There is a lot to be said, not only for slow and gentle approaches and the results that they produce, but also for the training effect of sticking to a slow and gentle approach. There is a discipline there that can be helpful in a general way. Wanting big payoffs now is, in some sense, the very problem that meditation is intended to help with. Learning not to give in to the desire to try and get things right away is part of the Buddist path. 
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Bahiya Baby, modified 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 7:01 PM
Created 2 Months ago at 2/2/24 7:01 PM

RE: Should I start practicing insight meditation considering my mental heal

Posts: 457 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
Also, I should mention that Loch Kelly's stuff is not supposed to be mastered in a month. You play with it, let it sink in, play with it some more. It's a slow and gentle approach, which may have been one of the reasons that Daniel recommended it. There is a lot to be said, not only for slow and gentle approaches and the results that they produce, but also for the training effect of sticking to a slow and gentle approach.

This makes sense to me and is great advice. 

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