Help needed

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jenny v birkett, modified 11 Years ago.

Help needed

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/2/10 Recent Posts
I have been practising meditation for 10 years now and done many retreats. 3 years ago I felt my crown chakra open up. For the same period of time I have felt my body dissolve into subatomic particles. I have been able to feel the quality of those particles - for example if anger arises I will feel intense heat filling all of those subatomic particles in a whoosh throughout my whole body. (It's primarily body scanning techniques I have practised which seem to bring up this kind of experience more than other meditation techniques.) I sat a long retreat over the summer and on the second day I felt many other chakras open - my heart chakra (this has been happening on and off for a couple of years) opening at the throat, in between the eyes and at the lower spine. I had pleasant visions of Buddha's, indescribably glorious patterns, incredible colours and unpleasant visions of bodies decaying and skeletons. I then had repeated experiences of what seemed to be matter and not matter. It's very difficult to explain but the only metaphor I can use is that when you're a kid you make those books. You know - the ones of a running man. You draw on a page with him raising his leg, on the next page you draw his leg raising a bit higher, the next a bit higher and so on. You flip the book really quickly and it looks like the man is running. It was like that. I would be doing walking meditation and the whole process seemed to disintegrate into a series of moments with space in between the moments like when you flip through the book. Or I would be lying in bed and again it would disintegrate into a series of moments. Or I would be sitting and again there would be phenomena - the sitting and awareness and then complete absence but happening so quickly and sequentially. Phenomena / non phenomena, one after the other. My teacher at the time said it was a stream entry experience but I have my doubts. I have drunk alchohol since then (not vast amounts - but some,) and from what I have read stream enterers keep their sila very pure. It also was not the cosmic, unification of consciousness that I was looking for / hoping for. I have spoken to a tibetan nun - I didn't mention the stream entry thing but told her about the chakras and body disolving and she told me I had an imbalence of lung? And need to drink beer and eat meat. I'm pretty confused to be honest and would welcome any thoughts from more experienced meditators.
Many thanks.
Trent H., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jenny,

If you have specific questions you're looking for feedback on, you may find it beneficial to post those. Below are a few thoughts to contemplate, questions to ask yourself, and opinions on what you wrote.

As far as stream entry goes, did you notice a difference in suffering after the 'maybe event' in question? And regardless of whether it was stream entry or not, does the path ahead of you change based on whether or not stream entry occurred? In other words: why does it matter one way or another? The answer to this should be relatively obvious if you have specific reasons for meditating / something you are searching for / etc; and if you haven't defined or realized your intent with these matters, perhaps that is something to contemplate.

Your lungs are most likely fine. If you are worried about them, you may want to see a doctor rather than worrying about what came from the nun's silly imagination.

There is no 'spiritual' problem that directly stems from the ingestion of anything whatsoever, unless you believe there is, which is to say that you may hold yourself back based on that belief if it exists. There may be common sense health risks associated with said item of ingestion, or other medical risks based on the idiosyncrasies of your body in relation to said item. Either way, if you have no specific bodily problem with eating meat or consuming alcohol your personal growth won't be stalled by enjoying steak and beer.

Regards,
Trent
Susan Law, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 25 Join Date: 9/27/09 Recent Posts
I can't comment at all on the experiences you describe - however, maybe I can help a bit with the Tibetan nun's advice. When she says you have "an imbalence of lung" and could benefit from drinking beer and eating meat, she's not referring to the organs we call lungs. In Tibetan medicine, lung (rLung) is breath itself. In Wikipedia, a Tibetan doctor defines lung as follows:
...it is a subtle flow of energy and out of the five elements (air, fire, water, earth and space) it is most closely connected with air. However it is not simply the air which we breathe or the wind in our stomachs, it goes much deeper than that. rLung is like a horse and the mind is the rider, if there is something wrong with the horse the rider will not be able to ride properly. Its description is that it is rough, light, cool, thin, hard, movable. The general function of rLung is to help growth, movement of the body, exhalation and inhalation and to aid the function of mind, speech and body. rLung helps to separate in our stomachs what we eat into nutrients and waste products. However its most important function is to carry the movements of mind, speech and body.

This is a different system of understanding the mind and body - and also of understanding meditation. I believe that eating meat and maybe even drinking alcohol are sometimes considered grounding in this system. You will probably get more helpful advice from within the tradition you're practicing.
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jenny v birkett, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/2/10 Recent Posts
Hi,
Thanks both of you for responding. The main reason why I want to know if I am a stream enterer Trent, is it would be nice to know that the end is in sight and that I won't go down to a lower realm in the next life. As for reduction in suffering, there has been a deepening in equanimity towards conditions - but this could have happened as a natural by product of my meditation practise anyway.
Thanks for the info on Lung Susan. I have read a bit about it on the internet. It makes me more confused actually because in body scanning traditions, the goal seems to be to dissolve the body whereas the Tibetans view this dissolving as an imbalance of the air element. It seems very contradictory. Either way it's nice to be given free license to go down to the pub!
Susan Law, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 25 Join Date: 9/27/09 Recent Posts
jenny v birkett:
Hi,
[...snip...]
Thanks for the info on Lung Susan. I have read a bit about it on the internet. It makes me more confused actually because in body scanning traditions, the goal seems to be to dissolve the body whereas the Tibetans view this dissolving as an imbalance of the air element. It seems very contradictory. Either way it's nice to be given free license to go down to the pub!


Hi Jenny -
My guess is that if experiences at least superficially like what you describe had occurred as an effect of a Tibetan method of practice they might well indicate imbalance. Perhaps that's what your nun friend is basing her response on. The methods are really different, and produce very different results at different stages of the path - even though the ultimate goal is the same.

Susan
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jenny v birkett, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/2/10 Recent Posts
Hi Susan,
I've actually never tried any Tibetan practices. I was practising a Mahasi retreat at the time. I went to the nun to glean some info on the chakras. I read on the internet that the tibetans go more into this so I thought she might be able to shed some more knowledge on the subject...
Trent H., modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
jenny v birkett:
The main reason why I want to know if I am a stream enterer Trent, is it would be nice to know that the end is in sight and that I won't go down to a lower realm in the next life. As for reduction in suffering, there has been a deepening in equanimity towards conditions - but this could have happened as a natural by product of my meditation practise anyway


Hello,

As far as diagnosing whether or not there was entry, there are many criteria that can be looked at. I think that most of them or perhaps all of them show up in MCTB. You may want to give that a critical read.

What "end is in sight" if stream entry occurred? And what is your goal; what are you searching for or trying to achieve?

As far as "lower realms" are concerned, you've got nothing to worry about there. There is no such thing as a "lower realm" outside of the impassioned human imagination. Death for a body is oblivion of consciousness, just like deep sleep, and that is that. Reflecting personally, I was not here (or anywhere) prior to birth, just like I will not be here (or anywhere) after death.

Regards,
Trent
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Nikolai S Halay, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 1648 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
David C Johnson:
Upon the realization occurring Nibbana then occurs and you will never break the precepts again.
David



THis traditional view of never breaking the precepts again just doesn't really hold up for me. I mean I followed them to the best of my ability for years, at least the main 5. But I also went through long patches where I tripped over the 5th one, no intoxicants. I got 1st path at the beginning of this year, no doubt. But I also now have the occasional alcoholic drink with friends in the spirit of participation. I never take it to getting drunk because it gets weird as I am hyper sensitive to what it is doing to the mind and body when alcohol is in the system. But one drink now and then doesn't seem to inhibit my progress. I think abstaining from intoxicants can help you on the path no doubt but now that I've got to this stage all ideas of being overly anal about precepts has dissapeared. I feel so much more open to experience but at the same time I know the limits of what wont harm me.

I love the other 4 precepts so I observe them naturally anyway. But when I got 1st path I wondered about the traditional view of not being able to break precepts and experimented with lying. Basically, one can still lie. But the truth is I just don't want to. The truth in any situaton seems to be what I am pulled to so maybe that holds up tot he traditional view. But if I remember correctly, the Buddha never mentions people who have attained paths automatically not taking intoxicants. But I could be wrong.
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
I can really resonate with that experience, both from things I've learned in meditation and from more mundane psychological insights. The psychotherapist Alfred Adler had a term for when you make someone aware of the bad/painful effects of something they're doing -- he called it "spitting in their soup." All behaviors (according to this framework) occur because a person at some level thinks that the behavior will fill some need of theirs.

But if a person becomes aware that, for example, their attention-getting behaviors actually irritate everyone around them, it's like the "food" they were eating (attention) to fill that need (love/social interaction) becomes less tasteful. You can still eat the soup even though it has spit in it, just like you can still strive for attention even though now it's been made distasteful by your awareness that it irritates people.

To relate this to the 5th precept, you can still use an intoxicant even though you realize what unpleasant effects it has on your mind. But it's less desirable. Having observed with some mindfulness what the effects of marijuana are on my mind, I can see how unskillful it is to get high if my actual desire is to be happy. THC's euphoria is short-lived, in the times that it even produces euphoria instead of anxiety. Then the "relaxation" commonly believed to be a form of serenity is seen to actually be a rather dukkha-rich state of dysmotivation made of mostly mind moments of unpleasant vedana combined with neither-unpleasant-nor-pleasant vedana. The euphoria is a minor component of this mind state compared to the bland and aversive states.

Having seen this doesn't prevent me from occasionally making the aforementioned choice. However, the reduction in usage is no doubt dramatic ever since the erroneous thought that "getting high is fun and very enjoyable" was clearly seen through. (Or at least, "more clearly seen through" than before. I'm sure stream entry and above would reveal way more about that than I've seen so far.)
Trent H., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
J Adam G:
The psychotherapist Alfred Adler had a term for when you make someone aware of the bad/painful effects of something they're doing -- he called it "spitting in their soup." All behaviors (according to this framework) occur because a person at some level thinks that the behavior will fill some need of theirs.


Behavioral motivation is far too complex to responsibly shoe-horn into a framework like this. For instance, the attention-getting person would not necessarily have to stop anything, nor necessarily have to feel bad about irritating the others; nor does the attention-getting necessarily have to have anything to do with filling a need. This whole precepts nonsense resides in the realm of morality, beliefs, and emotional identification. It has very little to do with "Insight" of the Buddhist variety, although it is important to look at on its own, or in well developed texts/discussions. The reason I mention this is because neurotic behavior (example: "THC feels good but it makes me feel bad because it goes against the precepts") does not get one anywhere in these matters. On the contrary, sagacious rational thinking-- which is the hall mark of the human brain-- just might do the trick. Furthermore, the loss of the 'ego' (who 'I' think 'I' am) does not have any direct correlation to what one thinks or feels about things from a moral standpoint, unless one has been scripted into such behavior.

The reason I mention this is because if you want something done in regard to behavior or otherwise, you should just do it. If you want to be a kind person, then do that or figure out how to do that. Don't "wait for stream entry" just because some guy with a hard-to-pronounce name says it'll make it easier to be a "good person" (whatever that is). I don't mean to imply that anyone is stating that explicitly, but it is vitally important that one thinks for oneself in an honest fashion about what will lead to what in regard to these matters.

Regards,
Trent
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Trent H.:

Behavioral motivation is far too complex to responsibly shoe-horn into a framework like this. For instance, the attention-getting person would not necessarily have to stop anything, nor necessarily have to feel bad about irritating the others; nor does the attention-getting necessarily have to have anything to do with filling a need.

Neurotic behavior (example: "THC feels good but it makes me feel bad because it goes against the precepts") does not get one anywhere in these matters. On the contrary, sagacious rational thinking-- which is the hall mark of the human brain-- just might do the trick.


All points with which I totally agree. Adler's thoughts about motivation, while certainly more on track than those of his contempororary Freud, can't come close to explaining all human behavior. Knowledge gained from neuroscientific and psychological study since Adler's time has definitely shown a much clearer picture. This is why I added the qualifier "theoretically" to my statement of Adler's belief about motivation. Perhaps I should have made it clearer that I wasn't claiming that his theory was all-inclusive. I did, however, choose to use that framework for the examples I used. I think it's one valid way of looking at what happens when a person who desires fulfilling and meaningful social relationships and interactions realizes that some of the things that they were doing in those interactions were actually undermining their efforts.

I also think it's one valid way of explaining how, having had some mundane-level insight as a side-effect of trying to do fundamental high-dharma insight practices, I (being the example used) saw that a behavior that was contrary to the Buddhist precepts was actually unskillful much of the time. The fact that the behavior may break a rule written down over 2000 years ago for followers of a religion I don't belong to is of no concern. (No offense to anyone who practices Buddhism as a religion -- I just think that its meditation practices, and much of its psychology and philosophy are great, but I'd never pass as a "good Buddhist.")

What IS of concern is that the precepts seem to have been written not only for the good of social order or just because "that's what good people do," but also because many of the behaviors they describe can be causes of suffering in a mundane sense, and obstruction to serious dharma practice. So, if the increased mindfulness that results from doing heavy duty insight practice also causes a person to see the negative effects of breaking a certain precept, which is a part of their mundane life, it can make them not want to break that precept (often) anymore.

I think this is one way of explaining some of the statements that "such and such level of enlightenment makes you unable to do these bad things." I don't believe those statements for a second -- but I do believe that the process in the above two paragraphs can and do occur. I also think that reasonable descriptions of how enlightened people often choose more skillful behaviors could be magnified and exaggerated into the dreadful limited emotional and behavioral range enlightenment models, which may explain one of the many reasons that such models exist today.
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jenny v birkett, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/2/10 Recent Posts
Hi everyone,
Thanks for your posts. I have read both Practical Insight Meditation and Progress of Insight David, and my experiences did seem in accordance with the books - although it's pretty hard to tell and I'm very hesitant of making any definate claims. I do however have absolutely no doubt that there is no self as I saw how dependant origination works, directly from my own first hand experience.
I asked my teacher about breaking sila and he said it was possible for stream enterers to break their sila - although they wouldn't necessarily want to. Other monks and nuns I have spoken to however have stated that stream enterers wouldn't. It seems to depend on who you talk to.
I'm pretty confused about the stage of dissolution though to be honest. In Goenka's tradition AT's seem to think it can happen repeatedly whereas in the Mahasi tradition my teacher said it only happens once. Any ideas anyone?
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the prisoner greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hi jenny,

jenny v birkett:
Hi everyone,
I'm pretty confused about the stage of dissolution though to be honest. In Goenka's tradition AT's seem to think it can happen repeatedly whereas in the Mahasi tradition my teacher said it only happens once. Any ideas anyone?


the territory in question (the culmination of the stage of arising and passing away and the shift into dissolution - frequently known on the dharma overground as 'the arising & passing event') can happen repeatedly, but generally happens in a big and noticeable way only either once per path or once per period of serious practice.

on another note, the experience(s) you describe in your original post sound far more like a&p than stream entry. how you handled what came after that would determine whether or not i would agree with the tibetan nun you mention, as while drinking beer and eating meat can be a pretty good way to ground down during a rough dark night, it's also potentially a momentum breaker.

tarin
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jenny v birkett, modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Help needed (Answer)

Posts: 9 Join Date: 3/2/10 Recent Posts
Well - 2 years on and it was stream entry. No shadow of a doubt although it took me a long time to accept this. It is possible to drink and completely indulge in breaking the 5th precept in a variety of ways post stream entry. I went through a lot of pain and confusion for a while. I didn't live up to the scriptures ideal and therefore thought I couldn't have had a stream entry experience. The first 3 fetters were broken but because my stream entry experience was so unremarkable and I was still drinking in social situations I couldn't reconcile myself to believe it was true. I had an idea of how I would be cleansed and bright eyed afterwards. Feeling like a god among men. The fact I was still experiencing pain, suffering and confusion did not seem to be contingent to this idea. I realise now how naive this view was and how it's a very long path with shifts in perception and understanding of the way it is rather than a big bolt of lightening.
My teacher told me I must have had a stream entry experience in a past life and that's why the actual event was so unremarkable. I turned away from the practice for a while as I couldn't be doing with the questioning, confusion and guilt with regards to the 5th precept. The practice chose me though and it lives me. Whether I want it or not, it seems to have it's own agenda and all I can do is surrender to that. It wouldn't let me rest for long.
It's all good for now though and that confusion and questioning has gone. I hope this post helps some other people out there who haven't followed the conventional path. People who might go to the pub, live active social lives, have had stream entry experiences and not think it's a big deal. (Or even have been aware they've had it in my case until I'd been told by my teacher and still I didn't believe it.) It's a broad spectrum out there....
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fivebells ., modified 8 Years ago.

RE: Help needed

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
It's wonderful that you've found some peace on this matter.