What were all those states and experiences?

Peter Riedler, modified 9 Years ago.

What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 7/12/12 Recent Posts
Hello, my first post – I have read recently MCTB and come across this forum and finally I begin to
make sense of what has happened to me over the last 30 years.
I crossed the A&P in 1981 at age 20 without any meditation practice or knowledge of spiritual teachings. It was quite intense and prolonged (six weeks of sublime happiness, at times I could see a blueish light flooding the body, nature showed an incredible beauty and aliveness) followed by a dark night of an almost life-threatening gravity with four weeks of almost complete insomnia, I lost 10 kilos weight and in the final stage the whole body seemed to be made up of a solid mass of despair, fear and physical pain. I came out of that in a single instant the moment I let go of the last hopes and I experienced an infinite relief (Was that some sort of equanimity?). It took some time for my body to heal but over the next few months I felt just fine and at ease.
Anyway I did not have the good fortune to come across effective teachings or teachers to show me how to progress from there and I entered a difficult stage without any access to experiences of peace and joy (a regression into the dark night?).
Then, exactly a year after the first time the blissful A&P-experiences came back (another regression?), this time not followed by a dark night but rather a period -a few months - where I was quite cheerful but felt physical pain (again a regression? 3 characteristics?). Afterwards for a long time I was quite ok, had also the impression of being happier than most people around me but was never able to experience the blissful stages I had experienced at age 20/21.
Then; in 1989 there happened some sort of a spiritual accident as a consequence of an extreme disappointment. The moment I gave in to the temptation to see the disappointment as justified and gave some kind of an inner consent to it it felt as if some dark energy entered the system (what the heck was that?). After that I was completely in ordinary consciousness and it took me years to recover. Over the following years there were a few ups and downs but it was only five years ago that a decisive progress happend. There was suddenly a shift in consciousness, a sensation of being at home, of finding again a long forgotten happiness which reminded me of the"feel“ of the period before the first A&P. (Perhaps Mind&Body?). This is still the main stage I am in. I came across a few teachings and practices that proved helpful (ACIM, there was an valuable experience with direct pointing at LU) but only recently I realized the importance of training my concentration skills (mainly after reading MCTB ). When I meditate and concentrate on the breath sometimes I experience a deep relaxation of the brain which makes it easy to stay with the meditation object. However up to now it doesn't last for prolonged periods of time but I keep practicing (is this the beginning of access concentration?)
Perhaps it seems strange to have crossed the A&P at age 20 and at to be still struggling with access concentration at age 51, but it seems what has happened.
Any diagnosis of the various stages described here would be helpful and of course any suggestion how to proceed.
Thanks
Peter
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Ian And, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 783 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello Peter,

Welcome to the DhO.

You've presented quite a bit of rambling information here. Let's see if we can pare it down to make something of it. Perhaps some revelations will occur in the process.
Peter Riedler:
Hello, my first post – I have read recently MCTB and come across this forum and finally I begin to
make sense of what has happened to me over the last 30 years.
I crossed the A&P in 1981 at age 20 without any meditation practice or knowledge of spiritual teachings.

What is it exactly that you mean by "crossed the A&P"? We'd be interested to learn what your perception and definition of this is. (There isn't a right or wrong answer here; just want to know what you're thinking, that's all.)

Peter Riedler:

It was quite intense and prolonged (six weeks of sublime happiness, at times I could see a blueish light flooding the body, nature showed an incredible beauty and aliveness) followed by a dark night of an almost life-threatening gravity with four weeks of almost complete insomnia, I lost 10 kilos weight and in the final stage the whole body seemed to be made up of a solid mass of despair, fear and physical pain. I came out of that in a single instant the moment I let go of the last hopes and I experienced an infinite relief (Was that some sort of equanimity?).

Anyway I did not have the good fortune to come across effective teachings or teachers to show me how to progress from there and I entered a difficult stage without any access to experiences of peace and joy (a regression into the dark night?).

Then, exactly a year after the first time the blissful A&P-experiences came back (another regression?), this time not followed by a dark night but rather a period -a few months - where I was quite cheerful but felt physical pain (again a regression? 3 characteristics?). Afterwards for a long time I was quite ok, had also the impression of being happier than most people around me but was never able to experience the blissful stages I had experienced at age 20/21.

Then; in 1989 there happened some sort of a spiritual accident as a consequence of an extreme disappointment.

The moment I gave in to the temptation to see the disappointment as justified and gave some kind of an inner consent to it it felt as if some dark energy entered the system (what the heck was that?).

After that I was completely in ordinary consciousness and it took me years to recover. Over the following years there were a few ups and downs but it was only five years ago that a decisive progress happened.

There was suddenly a shift in consciousness, a sensation of being at home, of finding again a long forgotten happiness which reminded me of the"feel“ of the period before the first A&P. (Perhaps Mind&Body?).

Do you see any kind of pattern here? The process of self-realization is a process of not just asking questions and receiving answers, but of being able to see the answers for oneself.

For instance: "I came out of that in a single instant the moment I let go..." This should tell you something. Are you able to see it? Perhaps not. Perhaps it skips over your head. Or perhaps you're not certain how or why it occurred? Or how to do it again.

And again: "...without any access to experiences of peace and joy..." and "...the impression of being happier than most people around me..." and "...as a consequence of an extreme disappointment..." and "...it felt as if some dark energy entered the system..." and finally "...a shift in consciousness, a sensation of being at home, of finding again a long forgotten happiness which reminded me of the 'feel' of the period before the first A&P..."

These are all personal impressions, perceptions if you will, in their essence determinations of personal reality. Each of these presents a moment of self-identification. In other words "this is me, this is what I am, this is my self."

Is this really how you see yourself? How you identify yourself? Or is it only a matter of what is seen without being connected to any personality? What is seen is only the seen; what is heard is only what is heard; what is cognized only what is cognized, it has nothing to do with a "perceived" personallity. . . . This latter is a matter of insight. See?

The reactions patterns here tell a story. Are you able to see that? . . . Perhaps not. Not yet, anyway.

Ask yourself: "How do I use meditation and contemplation? Do I use it only to experience bliss and joy? Or do I use it to be able to see things more clearly so that I'm not always getting in my own way (through self-identification) to cause myself dukkha? Why can I let go of some things, but I am unable to let go of others? Why do I remain attached to some things that happen to me?" These are some of the questions you need to be able to answer for yourself. This takes concentration, self-honesty, and being able to look deeply into your own mind to discover the reaction patterns that are holding you back so that you can let go of those patterns. This isn't easy. But no one ever said it would be.

Peter Riedler:

...but only recently I realized the importance of training my concentration skills (mainly after reading MCTB ). When I meditate and concentrate on the breath sometimes I experience a deep relaxation of the brain which makes it easy to stay with the meditation object. However up to now it doesn't last for prolonged periods of time but I keep practicing (is this the beginning of access concentration?)
Perhaps it seems strange to have crossed the A&P at age 20 and at to be still struggling with access concentration at age 51, but it seems what has happened.
Any diagnosis of the various stages described here would be helpful and of course any suggestion how to proceed.

Keep cultivating that "deep relaxation of the brain" as you call it. Sooner or later, it will give way to insight. Once the mind is able to calm down and you're able to see things much clearer, insight will occur. What is obvious will become obvious to you, and you will be able to see it as obvious. Use meditation for cultivating calmness and mental clarity in order to be able to access insight.

One thing I found that helped to prolong these moments of calm leading to insight was to cultivate absorption states (also known as jhana). Being able to access these states and to remain in them during sittings helps to recondition the mind toward quietude and clarity. Yet beyond this, the ability to stop the mind from proliferative thinking (to quieten the mind from speculation, especially negative speculation) will help serve the cultivation of greater insight and wisdom about how the mind works, which in turn leads to equanimity and contentment.

In peace,
Ian
Peter Riedler, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 7/12/12 Recent Posts
Hello Ian, thank you for your reply.

What is it exactly that you mean by "crossed the A&P"? We'd be interested to learn what your perception and definition of this is.


I have learned only recently about the notion af the "A&P" while reading the description of the insight stages in MCTB. On reading this it seemed obvious to me that this is what happend when I was 20 years old (a state accompaniesd by extraordinary causeless joy followed by a period of intense suffering without an apparent cause). But may be I am wrong and that experience was something else altogether. Anyway to me it was a life-altering event, a turning point, there was the sure feeling of" being in contact with the true thing", with the "essence" so to speak with varying intensity - not in meditation (I wasn't into meditation at that time) but while going about the day in ordinary activity or while walking in nature.


Do you see any kind of pattern here?


Well ok, the pattern seems to be: "me and my story" and "me and my chasing after happiness and bliss".


For instance: "I came out of that in a single instant the moment I let go..." This should tell you something. Are you able to see it? Perhaps not. Perhaps it skips over your head. Or perhaps you're not certain how or why it occurred? Or how to do it again


That moment was an instant of utter defeat. The letting go of the last hopes was the giving up of attachment to things and convictions that I identified with that seemed to promise happiness.
Doing it again? Yes, maybe I should try to let go of the sense of self sought in "me and my story". Anyway those are only memories to be noted the moment they arise.


Ask yourself: "How do I use meditation and contemplation? Do I use it only to experience bliss and joy?

Well I admit that the main motivation for me to meditate was the desire to come again into contact with those unforgettable experiences, the "essence". But perhaps the most effective approach for this is as you suggest to see the pattern of self-identification and to let it go.

Thank you for your help
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Ian And, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 783 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Peter,

The reason I addressed you in the way I did was because you are a bit older than many who come here seeking guidance and direction, and therefore I assumed that you had more "life experience" experience under your belt and would appreciate not being patronized by the general run-of-the-mill pablum that often gets handed out (not always necessarily here, but on forums like this).

In other words, you're at a stage in life where you can't afford to play around the edges of truth. It is well within your ability to achieve an awakening in this lifetime, if you really want it.

To know what Gotama taught with regard to the relieving of suffering, you have to become familiar with the discourses in which he taught. There's nothing like going to the source — the horse's mouth — when trying to figure out what is important about what he taught.

While this can be a daunting task, if you know what to look for and what to study, you can cut down the learning curve and focus on those things that will directly affect the quality of your life and how you perceive it. The main themes that Gotama explored are all contained in brief explanation in this thread: Essential Books from Theravadin Resources, along with suggested reading material. There's a lot there; but the more you become familiar with the source of the teaching, the quicker you should be able to progress.

Peter Riedler:
Yes, maybe I should try to let go of the sense of self sought in "me and my story".

This is a good overall beginning insight to take hold of and start running with. And toward this end, focus on being able to strengthen your overall mindfulness through realizing the benefits of increased concentration ability by way of meditation training. When you are able to keep the mind from wandering off into discursive thinking (or becoming dull), you should notice a marked change in the way you perceive the world, as well as in the way you handle the circumstances which daily confront you. Being able to see the truth enables you to deal directly with the truth, and not with side issues or delusions about what is happening.

Meditation training helps you begin to be able to watch how your mind processes incoming information so that you can be aware of what is true and what is not. It helps you become able to break through delusion by being able to see its creation at its source. This all takes work; but at least you have a starting point and a direction on which to begin making progress.

Peter Riedler:
But perhaps the most effective approach for this is as you suggest to see the pattern of self-identification and to let it go.

This is what the teaching on anatta (or "without self") is all about. This is an advanced realization which, because our sense of self is so ingrained in us from cultural and social conditioning, is difficult to fully grasp internally. Conceptually, it can be easy enough for us to see, but letting go of the conditioning is what is so difficult, because it goes against the grain of our mental conditioning. But once you make the breakthrough to realizing this truth and how the conditioning arises, it becomes gradually easier and easier to let go.

Realizing this truth may not happen overnight. There are discourses in the Pali canon that can help make the path toward this realization shorter. Just know that the more you strive to contemplate and see this truth, the sooner you will reach its realization.

Anatta, of course, is part of the three characteristics of existence: anicca (impermanence), anatta, and dukkha (dissatisfaction). These are also characteristics of the five aggregates — form or matter (rupa), feeling (vedana), perception (sanna), volitional formations (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana) — which make up the formation of what we identify as our personality. Study of what the aggregates are in relation to your own direct experience of them can often bring about an appreciation of a realization of anatta.

One of the things that helped me was seeing the connection between anatta and the arising of vedana, and how whenever a feeling arose (especially an unpleasant feeling), it begged me to identify myself with it. When you can begin to see these subtle interactions of mental phenomena, you begin to get an idea of the way out, the way to freedom from these conditioned thoughts and impressions. And that's when you begin to appreciate what Gotama taught!

In peace,
Ian
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Nick Myers, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 12/9/11 Recent Posts
One of the things that helped me was seeing the connection between anatta and the arising of vedana, and how whenever a feeling arose (especially an unpleasant feeling), it begged me to identify myself with it. When you can begin to see these subtle interactions of mental phenomena, you begin to get an idea of the way out, the way to freedom from these conditioned thoughts and impressions. And that's when you begin to appreciate what Gotama taught!


I love this, that it BEGGED you to identify it with yourself. Awesome, that's a good way of putting it. when I re-discovered anatta, my experience was all about investigating whether there is actually anyone behind all those thoughts, concepts, beliefs, ideals in which seemed to make a me so "solid"

I likened it to a rubber band ball, that it seems like a ball right? It's solid, it bounces, its shaped like a ball... but the more bands you pull off, the smaller the rubber band ball gets. Until reaching the last strand you notice there is nothing in the middle of the ball to begin with but it appeared to be a ball.

That's how the self is, all these sensate qualities clump together and relate it to a self that isn't there if you investigate in everyday experience. The thing that is saying, "I am this way or that way." Is nothing but a thought of identification, nothing more.
Peter Riedler, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What were all those states and experiences?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 7/12/12 Recent Posts
Thank you Ian, valuable advice especially what you write about feelings and their interaction with thoughts.
I have just begun to read the Majjhima Nikaya and Bikkhu Bodhi's anthology „In the Buddha's Words“.
I'm still a bit puzzled what those past experiences possibly might have been expressed in Theravada-terms, but anyway the focus is on present practice.

Thank you again

Peter

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