AF while in dark night

AF while in dark night Jon T 2/11/13 1:34 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/11/13 3:11 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Felipe C. 2/11/13 3:44 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/11/13 10:32 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/12/13 12:00 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/12/13 1:09 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/12/13 10:25 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/12/13 1:14 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Felipe C. 2/12/13 1:37 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/12/13 1:50 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/12/13 2:43 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Brother Pussycat 2/13/13 11:09 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/14/13 8:38 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Simon Ekstrand 2/14/13 2:06 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/14/13 8:45 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/14/13 8:52 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/14/13 9:56 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/14/13 2:29 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/15/13 7:55 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/15/13 10:01 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/16/13 10:48 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Felipe C. 2/16/13 12:59 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/16/13 2:25 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Felipe C. 2/16/13 6:22 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/16/13 10:20 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/17/13 5:40 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/18/13 12:02 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/18/13 10:34 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/19/13 9:22 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/19/13 9:23 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/20/13 8:51 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem 2/20/13 10:11 AM
RE: AF while in dark night Jon T 2/19/13 2:28 PM
RE: AF while in dark night Bruno Loff 2/14/13 1:26 PM
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 1:34 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 1:34 PM

AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
The emotions are so powerful right now that doing anything other than experiencing them is impossible. i have no choice but to do insight. investigating these emotions isn't possible because they don't seem to have a source. there is nothing in my life, nor any particular world view that is maintaining them. furthermore, reacting to the emotions makes them completely unpleasant whereas simply experiencing them can be quite pleasant. on top of that, while experiencing them, i am better able to be sensuous as the sensations of sound and texture appear to be on the same plane as these affective sensations.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 3:11 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 3:11 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hey Jon,

Here's a few things I can think to say that might be helpful.

Firstly, if you're interested in actualism and actual freedom, the af yahoo group would be a better place to discuss it. Interacting on there would be more likely to lead you to practicing actualism further. If you're already set on vipassana then engaging people on the DhO is the way to go, and feel free to ignore the below.

What emotions are you experiencing? There's got to be a reason behind them. There's always a reason, and if they're that powerful all the time there's got to be something you're doing that is making them more powerful than average. Try just asking yourself, when experiencing a powerful emotion, "What is wrong right now?" You might find you immediately start thinking a collection of jumbled, confused thoughts. Try following those lines of thought and see where they lead. The content of the thoughts will allow you to figure out what's bugging you. You might find reluctance to thinking those thoughts, at first, but stay with it and you might soon realize what's bothering you.

Once you know the general idea what's wrong, though, the emotion will still be there, and it will be difficult, if not impossible, to figure out what part of your identity is caught up in it and let that go. That part is really best attempted when you're enjoying yourself. What to do if you're feeling a powerful emotion at the moment, though? The idea isn't to react to the emotion and then try to get rid of it, but rather, to neither express it nor repress it. What does that mean, exactly? It means you don't keep spinning in circles worrying about what's wrong and you don't act out on it by, for example, shouting if you're angry (don't express it), but also don't try to pretend it isn't there or get rid of it by doing insight on it or something like that (don't repress it). Richard recently posted a good description of what that was like for him here. If you do that well enough then the emotion loses its grip and it'll be easier to feel happy, instead. Then you can further investigate it and next time you notice it starting up again, simply choose not to go down that road again. It might take a good number of times of it happening before you finally see that it's silly to do anything but that, though.

What did you mean when you said you had no choice but to do insight? In particular, what do you mean by "do insight"? Do you mean seeing the emotions as just sensations which are impermanent, dukkha, and not-self? I'd recommend against that if actual freedom is what you're interested in, as that would fall under the 'repression' category. That certainly wouldn't be equivalent to simply experiencing them, nor would experiencing them as pleasant when in reality they aren't. Further, you having done that in the past might be part of what's led to the emotions being so powerful right now. What did you do when you were in a bad mood as a kid? If the neither express nor repress method works then try that, instead.

Finally, the following is a bad sign in terms of actualism (although it's a good one in terms of buddhistic practices): "on top of that, while experiencing them, i am better able to be sensuous as the sensations of sound and texture appear to be on the same plane as these affective sensations.", particularly: "the sensations of sound and texture appear to be on the same plane as these affective sensations". In actuality, they aren't on the same plane at all - actual sensations of sound and texture are of a different nature than affective sensations - so if your experience is tending in the direction you described then you are headed in the wrong direction. This is one of the reasons I would not recommend trying to pay attention to physical sensations while in a bad mood. The result of that is ultimately going to be some way of ignoring the bad emotions. Sensuousness is about enjoying being alive by reveling in the senses. Hence, if you're in a bad mood, what's preventing you from enjoying the senses is not that the sensations appear to be in a different plane than the emotions, nor is it that you aren't perceiving the senses with enough detail; it's just that you're in a bad mood, so the bad mood is the thing to address, not the senses.

Hope that helps!
- Claudiu
Felipe C, modified 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 3:44 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 3:41 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 221 Join Date: 5/29/11 Recent Posts
Hi, Jon,

From what I know from you, you don't actually practice a lot of meditation, neither vipassana or samatha. Are you sure "dark night" is the correct term for your situation?

Although good days are more common than bad days as I progress in this actualist path, I still have huge emotional lows from time to time, but that doesn't mean that I'm in the "dark night". I would advice that you check out what is exactly meant by "dark night" in the MCTB book and then sincerely compare it to your current situation. Beware of adopting frameworks mindlessly in your self-diagnosis, for perhaps you don't have anything more than a hypochondriacal dark night that you're getting by reading these forums.

Perhaps you are particularly emotional due to some unapparent past or future event in your life? Ask yourself what could it be? Why am 'I' feeling like this right now? What is the belief behind it? Remember that investigating emotions is not equal to reacting to them.

Also, If the shit you are in is too deep, I would recommend that you take walks in nature and contemplate the now/here thing until you feel fine again. Remember that being in the emotional mode is like living in an entirely other dimension, as you've said in the past. It's often impossible to see clarity where there is only pollution.
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 10:32 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 10:32 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Hello Claudiu and felipe,

I hope all is fine.

What emotions are you experiencing? There's got to be a reason behind them. There's always a reason


Are you sure "dark night" is the correct term for your situation?....I would advice that you check out what is exactly meant by "dark night" in the MCTB book and then sincerely compare it to your current situation.


Perhaps you are particularly emotional due to some unapparent past or future event in your life? Ask yourself what could it be? Why am 'I' feeling like this right now? What is the belief behind it? Remember that investigating emotions is not equal to reacting to them.


Because these emotions don't seem to have a specific cause, I have called it 'dark night.' this morning, i read over the dark night descriptions in MTCB and it, unfortunately, matched my current condition quite well. Dr. Ingram says that after an A&P event, DN is inevitable and that A&P's can occur by non-meditators and meditators alike. And that one can slide back into DN at any time if ones doesn't continue onto fruition. That said, there are specific things which my mind latches onto to help explain these lows. I just don't buy that they are the reason. I just think it's the identity doing what the identity does. For instance, i drank too much last night and woke up with some reasons to feel regretful. On top of that, I have some interesting financial decisions i will have to soon grapple with. Neither situation is very stressful. I personally think that my serotonin levels are low and that it's cyclical. Why that happens, i don't know.

What did you mean when you said you had no choice but to do insight? In particular, what do you mean by "do insight"? Do you mean seeing the emotions as just sensations which are impermanent, dukkha, and not-self?


The affective sensations were too powerful to dismiss as silly. I wasn't looking at them through the lens of the 3 characteristics. I was just feeling them in real time.

I read over the link, claudiu. I found it quite helpful. Specifically, where R. puts thoughts in the expression category. From that, i have begun focusing on my thoughts. I want to think positive, ego-less and appreciative thoughts. Rather than just see the shadows move across the wall from my ceiling fan (and it is quite marvelous to have a ceiling fan, to not only have the means but also to be living in an age where that is even possible) and allowing my mood to lift as a result, I am now seeking to express joy at those shadows. I am intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts.

thank you both.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 12:00 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/11/13 11:36 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Jon T:
What emotions are you experiencing? There's got to be a reason behind them. There's always a reason


Are you sure "dark night" is the correct term for your situation?....I would advice that you check out what is exactly meant by "dark night" in the MCTB book and then sincerely compare it to your current situation.


Perhaps you are particularly emotional due to some unapparent past or future event in your life? Ask yourself what could it be? Why am 'I' feeling like this right now? What is the belief behind it? Remember that investigating emotions is not equal to reacting to them.


Because these emotions don't seem to have a specific cause, I have called it 'dark night.' this morning, i read over the dark night descriptions in MTCB and it, unfortunately, matched my current condition quite well. Dr. Ingram says that after an A&P event, DN is inevitable and that A&P's can occur by non-meditators and meditators alike. And that one can slide back into DN at any time if ones doesn't continue onto fruition. That said, there are specific things which my mind latches onto to help explain these lows. I just don't buy that they are the reason. I just think it's the identity doing what the identity does. For instance, i drank too much last night and woke up with some reasons to feel regretful. On top of that, I have some interesting financial decisions i will have to soon grapple with. Neither situation is very stressful. I personally think that my serotonin levels are low and that it's cyclical. Why that happens, i don't know.

The whole DN thing happening inevitably and without an out is not ultimately true, in my experience. I haven't had a dark night in quite a while now, nor have I experienced "insight disease" in quite a while, and I never even got 4th path - and 4th path doesn't even stop dark nights from happening. I have felt bad, yes, and it's always been because of something going on in my life. Part of what's making you feel bad is those two situations you mentioned: feeling regretful (might be some deeper stuff there), and having to deal with your finances. Those things your mind latches onto to help explain the lows - those are exactly the things bothering you! But that's what meditation can do to you, it gets you to ignore what you're actually worried about, thus preventing actually addressing it, which leads to continuing to feel bad. It took me a few months to realize this, myself.

Certainly it is cyclical - moods naturally come and go. You feel sadder one day and happier another day, but that doesn't make the former a dark night and the latter an A&P or Equanimity. "Identity doing what the identity does" is just a way to avoid addressing what's actually bugging you. I'll put it this way - not all identities would be bugged about the stuff you are, so why is your identity bugged about it?

Jon T:
What did you mean when you said you had no choice but to do insight? In particular, what do you mean by "do insight"? Do you mean seeing the emotions as just sensations which are impermanent, dukkha, and not-self?


The affective sensations were too powerful to dismiss as silly. I wasn't looking at them through the lens of the 3 characteristics. I was just feeling them in real time.

I read over the link, claudiu. I found it quite helpful. Specifically, where R. puts thoughts in the expression category. From that, i have begun focusing on my thoughts. I want to think positive, ego-less and appreciative thoughts. Rather than just see the shadows move across the wall from my ceiling fan (and it is quite marvelous to have a ceiling fan, to not only have the means but also to be living in an age where that is even possible) and allowing my mood to lift as a result, I am now seeking to express joy at those shadows. I am intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts.

Well, the point wasn't really about intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts... that once again sounds like ignoring what's actually making you feel bad and trying to pretend it isn't there.

Can you describe this more, when you said you were "just feeling them [the affective sensations] in real time"? What does that mean, practically? Why do you put it in the category of "insight" (which is a word used as a translation for "vipassana" which means seeing things as they really are according to Buddhism)?
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:09 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:09 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
"Identity doing what the identity does" is just a way to avoid addressing what's actually bugging you. I'll put it this way - not all identities would be bugged about the stuff you are, so why is your identity bugged about it?



I chose to go back and investigate. There may be some truth to what you say. Perhaps I was angry at myself this morning and early afternoon for not acting correctly. However, this low mood began early last week and reached the highest point thus far earlier today. I think I was disenchanted with my profession which led to me drinking more while earning and that may have built upon itself. I also began worrying about my appearance and diet more. So it is feasible that the identity is causing the low mood. I won't dismiss the biology factor, however. There is nothing different about my life before this mood first began early last week and now. And several weeks ago, when my life was worse than it is now (due to developments) I was in a better mood than I am currently. It is at least as feasible that certain parts of my brain chemistry are operating sub-optimally and that my identity is ignorantly identifying false causes.

But that's what meditation can do to you, it gets you to ignore what you're actually worried about, thus preventing actually addressing it, which leads to continuing to feel bad.


I do agree with this. Even if the identity is searching in the dark and latching onto a cause which isn't true then that twisted process should be identified and streamlined so as to get better results. Rather than focusing on the feeling and ignoring the identity, i can focus on the identity and manipulate it to get better results and then notice the more pleasant feelings that come with it. However, if it is mostly chemical then the low feeling will still be there. It should go away in due time, however, and accepting it (while still doing the above work) is better than having an aversion to it.

Well, the point wasn't really about intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts... that once again sounds like ignoring what's actually making you feel bad and trying to pretend it isn't there.



I still want to investigate. And this post is helping me continue that. But I do want to focus on intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts as a way to sustain an already positive emotion. This may also reduce the tendency of my mind to dwell on things like world affairs and what others think of me.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 10:25 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 10:25 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Glad to hear you've started looking at some of the reasons why you might be feeling bad! A few things:

Jon T:
I won't dismiss the biology factor, however. There is nothing different about my life before this mood first began early last week and now. And several weeks ago, when my life was worse than it is now (due to developments) I was in a better mood than I am currently. It is at least as feasible that certain parts of my brain chemistry are operating sub-optimally and that my identity is ignorantly identifying false causes.

I think talking about brain chemistry in the way you are is a bit of a red herring. It's true, if you're depressed then you probably have low levels of serotonin, and if you're happy you probably have high levels of serotonin. But that doesn't mean that serotonin levels fluctuate randomly and that your moods are then dependent on them, and that they have little to do with what is going on outside of what you eat. For example, I've found that when I take 5-HTP, it might be easier to feel better and there's sort of more of a space for self-awareness when a bad feeling is happening, but I can still feel pretty bad for extended periods of time. Thus, if you're feeling particularly low, I wouldn't discount it out of hand as being just biology.

One reason you might be feeling worse now than when you did last week is because you haven't done anything about the things that were bothering you, and you've been letting the mood fester by writing it off as 'dark night' and then not doing anything about it. If it's been persistent for the past few days then you've been constantly dwelling on it, whether you realize it or not, and that might be why the mood is worse now than before.

You bring up a good point about how several weeks ago, your life was worse yet you were in a better mood. This just goes to show that moods are not a good indicator of how your life is going. Actually, moods can be quite strange in that regard. Something that is categorically worse might end up putting you in a better mood. Check this oatmeal comic, for example. Basically, just because your life was worse before and you were in a better mood vs. now when you're in a worse mood doesn't mean that the mood is totally uncaused. You might just have started worrying about some less important things and that is what is making you feel bad now.

Jon T:
But that's what meditation can do to you, it gets you to ignore what you're actually worried about, thus preventing actually addressing it, which leads to continuing to feel bad.


I do agree with this. Even if the identity is searching in the dark and latching onto a cause which isn't true then that twisted process should be identified and streamlined so as to get better results. Rather than focusing on the feeling and ignoring the identity, i can focus on the identity and manipulate it to get better results and then notice the more pleasant feelings that come with it. However, if it is mostly chemical then the low feeling will still be there. It should go away in due time, however, and accepting it (while still doing the above work) is better than having an aversion to it.

How do you distinguish between identity and feeling? I notice you are attributing things as being caused either by the identity or by feelings. An important thing to notice here is that identity only arises out of feelings anyway. That's what I personally found quite interesting about the neither-repress-nor-express method. What would happen to me is that the feeling itself - say, anxiety - would come to the forefront and all sorts of thoughts would start spinning in all directions, all sorts of reasons to be anxious or things to worry about, etc., and I realized that those thoughts were indicative of parts of my identity that had formed as a result of that anxiety. Basically, the feelings and the identity seem inseparable, as the identity is formed out of those same feelings. If you ignore the feeling and focus just on the identity, you're missing the root cause - the feeling.

Jon T:
Well, the point wasn't really about intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts... that once again sounds like ignoring what's actually making you feel bad and trying to pretend it isn't there.


I still want to investigate. And this post is helping me continue that. But I do want to focus on intentionally thinking pleasant thoughts as a way to sustain an already positive emotion. This may also reduce the tendency of my mind to dwell on things like world affairs and what others think of me.

What I found works for getting into a good mood and staying there - works far better than positive thinking or meditating - is simply doing something that I enjoy doing. Playing video games, watching shows, watching movies, hanging out with friends, solving puzzles, walking around, etc. If you just figure out what you like doing and do that you will be put into a better mood. Once in a better mood you can then more easily investigate what you feel when you dwell on world affairs or what others think of you and why it is that you feel that way - the seeing of which will allow you to make a choice whether to continue to feel that way.

All the best,
- Claudiu
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:14 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:14 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
thanks for the comic. that made me laugh. very insightful too.

How do you distinguish between identity and feeling? I notice you are attributing things as being caused either by the identity or by feelings. An important thing to notice here is that identity only arises out of feelings anyway. That's what I personally found quite interesting about the neither-repress-nor-express method. What would happen to me is that the feeling itself - say, anxiety - would come to the forefront and all sorts of thoughts would start spinning in all directions, all sorts of reasons to be anxious or things to worry about, etc., and I realized that those thoughts were indicative of parts of my identity that had formed as a result of that anxiety. Basically, the feelings and the identity seem inseparable, as the identity is formed out of those same feelings. If you ignore the feeling and focus just on the identity, you're missing the root cause - the feeling.



We both agree that the identity makes sense of the feelings. It puts the feeling in a perspective so the individual can act responsibly. Correct me if i'm wrong, Actualism teaches us to investigate that perspective and change it so that shame, anxiety and fear are shown as silly and destructive and pride and greed are seen as unnecessary and destructive while joy and wonder are seen as totally appropriate.

We also agree that the feeling is the root. And I don't think we disagree that the identity needs to be re-structured. I think the perspective/identity needs to be changed so that more wonder and joy can come through. While feeling creates the identity, it is the identity which sustains the original feeling. To neither repress nor express is to experience the feeling bubble up, see the identity attempt to form around it and modify that process so the feeling is no longer sustained. Likewise, you do want to express felicity. This is what I am attempting to do by focusing on joyful self-talk such as 'isn't that sound pleasant'. You certainly don't want to 'neither repress nor express' felicity! So I want to experience felicity bubble up, watch the identity form around it and then encourage or prolong that process so that the identity can do what it is there to do, sustain feeling so as to encourage action. In this case the action is being happy.

I first started actualism in January of 2011. Let me just say I was an utter disaster of a human being. I was bitter, lacked confidence and slothful. I thought i was a great human being stuck in a mediocre to less than mediocre life. I blamed the world and my parents for my predicament and i lacked the energy to improve my lot. It was through self-talk that I have gradually changed. I questioned all my mental habits and modified them enough so that my current self-image is largely or even completely devoid of grandiosity and the only resentments i have are body image issues, some residue shyness and shame regarding my non-masculine car as well as shame i have towards my lack of material accomplishment. Through this post, i recognize them more concisely and will focus on those four things.

But the point i am trying to make is that it was self-talk that got me unstuck. To put it in kind-of-cheesy-douchbag terms, self-talk turned me from a static looser into a dynamic winner. But i am realizing through this thread that i stopped self-talk and began focusing on bare-attention with the hope that joy and wonder will bubble up spontaneously. And it does. but now i want to renew self-talk but instead of just trying to eliminate destructive mental habits, i want to encourage mental habits that sustain joy and wonder.

not all identities would be bugged about the stuff you are, so why is your identity bugged about it?


I like this. I will keep this in my forefront.
Felipe C, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:37 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:37 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 221 Join Date: 5/29/11 Recent Posts
And it does. but now i want to renew self-talk but instead of just trying to eliminate destructive mental habits, i want to encourage mental habits that sustain joy and wonder.


While what you are saying is a good idea, always consider that actualism consists of both minimizing good/bad feelings and maximizing felicitous ones. If you focus mainly in the maximizing, you then could be caught in a very confusing and powerful emotional web. It could be like crashing a bottle of perfume into a garbage can full of trash.

Remember the subtractive nature of the actualism method according to your PCEs: If perfection is already here/now, why is it not apparent to me? What is impeding me to perceive it? What do I need more in this particular situation? An additive or subtractive job? Both? Why?
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:50 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 1:50 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Felipe C.:
And it does. but now i want to renew self-talk but instead of just trying to eliminate destructive mental habits, i want to encourage mental habits that sustain joy and wonder.


While what you are saying is a good idea, always consider that actualism consists of both minimizing good/bad feelings and maximizing felicitous ones. If you focus mainly in the maximizing, you then could be caught in a very confusing and powerful emotional web. It could be like crashing a bottle of perfume into a garbage can full of trash.

Remember the subtractive nature of the actualism method according to your PCEs: If perfection is already here/now, why is it not apparent to me? What is impeding me to perceive it? What do I need more in this particular situation? An additive or subtractive job? Both? Why?


Ok. Fair enough. When I catch myself feeling this or that, i need to stop what i'm doing and investigate my thought patterns thoroughly until i come up with a firm game plan to get myself out of the trap. I should still maximize felicity however. I just don't want to ignore (thus repress) the other feelings.

I came back before i leave for the day to expand on something. I said that i don't have any grandiosity remaining. That probably isn't true although it's a bit confusing. The feeling i'm about to expound upon is either grandiosity or resentment or a combo. But i do feel bewildered and angry that common sense is utterly lacking amongst our human societies. I want to change that feeling into bemusement or wonder.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 2:43 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/12/13 2:43 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Jon T:
We both agree that the identity makes sense of the feelings. It puts the feeling in a perspective so the individual can act responsibly. Correct me if i'm wrong, Actualism teaches us to investigate that perspective and change it so that shame, anxiety and fear are shown as silly and destructive and pride and greed are seen as unnecessary and destructive while joy and wonder are seen as totally appropriate.

It's not that the identity makes sense of the feelings. It's more that the identity takes the raw affective energy and shapes it into more refined things like love, pride, etc. Without the (social) identity there would just be the instinctual passions, fear and anger and aggression and desire for example, that other mammals also have.

You're basically right, though it's not a matter of training yourself to see wonder as appropriate, but rather, maximizing wonder (& other felicitous feelings) because that is the best way to enjoy life which is what will eventually lead to an actual freedom.

Jon T:
We also agree that the feeling is the root. And I don't think we disagree that the identity needs to be re-structured. I think the perspective/identity needs to be changed so that more wonder and joy can come through.

Yeah, I agree. You want to become a happy and harmless identity instead of a sad or sorrowful one.

Jon T:
While feeling creates the identity, it is the identity which sustains the original feeling. To neither repress nor express is to experience the feeling bubble up, see the identity attempt to form around it and modify that process so the feeling is no longer sustained.

Yea, basically, although the process is modified by itself as a result of neither expressing nor repressing. I don't really know how to get rid of feelings, but it ends up happening if I investigate them.

Jon T:
Likewise, you do want to express felicity. This is what I am attempting to do by focusing on joyful self-talk such as 'isn't that sound pleasant'. You certainly don't want to 'neither repress nor express' felicity!

Yep that is true! You have this affective energy, and it can express itself as either bad feelings or good feelings or felicitous feelings. The idea is to have 100% of it being expressed/used as felicitous feelings. So you do certainly want to express felicity.

Jon T:
So I want to experience felicity bubble up, watch the identity form around it and then encourage or prolong that process so that the identity can do what it is there to do, sustain feeling so as to encourage action. In this case the action is being happy.

Ah okay, that makes sense.

Jon T:
I first started actualism in January of 2011. Let me just say I was an utter disaster of a human being. I was bitter, lacked confidence and slothful. I thought i was a great human being stuck in a mediocre to less than mediocre life. I blamed the world and my parents for my predicament and i lacked the energy to improve my lot. It was through self-talk that I have gradually changed. I questioned all my mental habits and modified them enough so that my current self-image is largely or even completely devoid of grandiosity and the only resentments i have are body image issues, some residue shyness and shame regarding my non-masculine car as well as shame i have towards my lack of material accomplishment. Through this post, i recognize them more concisely and will focus on those four things.

But the point i am trying to make is that it was self-talk that got me unstuck. To put it in kind-of-cheesy-douchbag terms, self-talk turned me from a static looser into a dynamic winner. But i am realizing through this thread that i stopped self-talk and began focusing on bare-attention with the hope that joy and wonder will bubble up spontaneously. And it does. but now i want to renew self-talk but instead of just trying to eliminate destructive mental habits, i want to encourage mental habits that sustain joy and wonder.

not all identities would be bugged about the stuff you are, so why is your identity bugged about it?


I like this. I will keep this in my forefront.

Alrighty, sounds pretty good. Good luck and have fun!
Brother Pussycat, modified 9 Years ago at 2/13/13 11:09 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/13/13 11:09 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 77 Join Date: 12/21/11 Recent Posts
"i want to encourage mental habits that sustain joy and wonder"

I recommend plenty of physical exercise. That will deal with the negative body image too.
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 8:38 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/13/13 3:43 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Brother Pussycat:
I recommend plenty of physical exercise. That will deal with the negative body image too.


I second that. If you want to know whether what is bothering you has a "cognitive/emotional" reason (a "story") or is simply the result of you being a smelly sweaty sack of potatoes (i.e. a "carbon-based lifeform"), you could do some regular physical exercise, which should help with the latter, without interfering with the former.

I'm not a fan of this "finding the reasons why you are unhappy" method. The method is capricious and unreliable, and it is very easy to buy into some "story" which supposedly explains why you are unhappy, but actually the story is just made up as a result of the introspective exercise.

One particularly illustrative example among many I could cite is the following. A friend of mine once decided to take a heavy object and hold it with his arm outstretched until he felt excruciating pain. Around the 40 minute mark he started thinking about life, about his issues. He reports that his assessment of how bad things were going for him was noticeably darker than usual; for instance, he started thinking that his professional choices had brought him to a place he didn't want to be and yet from which he could not turn away from.

Now if one looks at the content of the thoughts, there is a story there. If my friend pursues the story, he will find all sorts of reasons why he made the professional choices that he made, and why they weren't the right choices, etc etc. But actually, he just had to drop the heavy object.

And if you have the experience of having sex with someone you like, particularly after a long period of being lonely, you will have encountered a similar opposite effect. For instance, maybe you act particularly nicely towards your sister, and, if asked why you are acting so nice, you will say it is because you love her so much, and if pressed further you could give all sorts of reasons why you love her, making a nice story about how she is smart and sensitive and caring and backing that up with many examples. But actually the reason you are acting so nice is simply that you got laid the night before.

There are MANY MANY examples like these. The idea that your responses are modulated only by emotions that are caused by something which can be told in a nice story --- I am bummed out because I don't like my job or because my father hit me when I was a little boy or because of whatever --- is false, in my experience. Sometimes, the reason you are thinking badly of your job is because you didn't digest your lunch properly.

Now here is the warning, which I have repeated in numerous forms in this forum throughout the last year: if you make it an exercise to find reasons/stories that "explain" your bad feelings, you will find them. It is like a skill. With enough practice, any bad feeling can be explained by a convenient little story about how you were separated from your best friend during kindergarden or your nanny spanked you on your bottom or whatever.

Furthermore, and this is what is really impressive about the skill I am referring to, your story will come accompanied with all sorts of emotional-cognitive effects, possibly including:
  • Memories of the events that explain your feeling,
  • The conviction that you understood your feeling,
  • The sensation of having had an emotional transformation,
  • A temporary boost in mood and energy,
  • The feeling that you are doing something right, and that everyone should be doing this,
  • etc


These things are hilariously illustrated in the Jeff the Little Indian Girl video.

Notice that all of these phenomena might lead you to think that you had a real "personal breakthrough," when actually all that is happening is the pleasure of having deceived yourself. In the long term, this results in an improvement in your skill at coming up with false reasons and explanations on demand.

Now, I'm not saying that one shouldn't try to understand the reasons why one feels bad. I'm just warning about the dangers of a particular way of doing this.
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Simon Ekstrand, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 2:06 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 2:06 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 245 Join Date: 9/23/11 Recent Posts
Hi,

Bruno Loff:
Brother Pussycat:
I recommend plenty of physical exercise. That will deal with the negative body image too.


I second that. If you want to know whether what is bothering you has a "cognitive/emotional" reason (a "story") or is simply the result of you being a smelly sweaty sack of potatoes (i.e. a "carbon-based lifeform"), you could do some regular physical exercise, which should help with the latter, without interfering with the former.

I'm not a fan of this "finding the reasons why you are unhappy" method. The method is capricious and unreliable, and it is very easy to buy into some "story" which supposedly explains why you are unhappy, but actually the story is just made up as a result of the introspective exercise.


While I'm sure you're correct in what you write, I'd still like to highlight the fact that sometimes there actually is a "story" that needs to be dealt with, and if you don't take the time and energy to deal with that story you can go for years feeling like crap, without ever understanding what the problem is.

On the other hand a few days of to little sleep and I end up in the emotional dump, and there's no storying that's going to fix that, only a good nights sleep will.

So, in my experience, neither end of the spectrum should be ignored.

Metta,
Simon
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 8:45 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 8:45 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Simon E:

So, in my experience, neither end of the spectrum should be ignored.


I agree, and I do think there is real value in some of the narratives and understandings that can be brought about through introspection. Just pointing out that when purposefully looking for those narratives there might be stuff that comes up that is not an actual explanation, but rather merely the result of trying to find a narrative; and that this might still be accompanied by phenomena that appear to indicate that genuine understanding is happening, even if that is not the case.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 8:52 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 8:52 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Hi Bruno,

You point out a good few things to avoid doing quite well here. I'd like to elucidate the differences in what you rightly pointed out not to do and the investigate-your-feelings aspect of actualism which I would say is a good thing to do given a few other things are also in place (for example, a desire to enjoy life).

I think the main difference can be summed up as this: the skill you talk about developing is essentially another way to continue to express good or bad feelings. What ends up happening is that there is a bad feeling, then that feeling is expressed more and more in an attempt to find its root cause. Yet, instead of figuring out its cause, one instead creates more stories on top of it, which are now new reasons to feel bad, etc. It's pretty clear that one could do this forever, as, like you said, one can continuously come up with stories, fabricate things from childhood, etc. And there is an immediate short-term gain, as you said, in that you feel like you accomplished something, yet ultimately nothing gets done. You're just moving around your identity in a weird way.

The idea with actualism is that one shouldn't continue to express the bad feeling (by creating stories out of it and using them to justify the feeling), but rather, neither express or repress it. Instead of looking for stories while in the grip of feeling bad, you simply choose not to express it (for example by conjuring up all sorts of thoughts out of it). But you also don't sweep it under the carpet and repress it, either. What remains is the feeling itself. This will be hard for meditators at first as the hard-gained habit of breaking it down into impermanent sensations that aren't fundamentally distinguishable from sensations of sight or touch in the body will kick in. But if you can learn to break that habit, then there's just the feeling, and it has nowhere to go. It is going to change somehow - that energy will start being expressed differently - and if your goal is to enjoy life it will gradually come to be expressed as felicity, instead. In any case, the feeling will lose its grip, and that's when it's a good idea to investigate what was behind it in the first place.

Maybe a rough diagram would help. Let's say this is the causal chain of your current mental state:

[indent]trigger --> bad feeling --> initial bad thoughts from the feeling[/indent]
What you described people doing is turning it into the following:

[indent]trigger -->bad feeling --> initial bad thoughts from the feeling --> expressing feeling by making up more stories[/indent]
What I suggest doing is turning it into the following:

[indent]trigger --> bad feeling[/indent]
And then:

[indent]felicitous feeling[/indent]
Once the mental state is 'felicitous feeling', then it's a good idea to investigate that bad feeling and to find the trigger that caused it. When the bad feeling is no longer happening there's a much lower chance of making up stories to explain it away.

Some direct comments on what you wrote:

Bruno Loff:
I second that. If you want to know whether what is bothering you has a "cognitive/emotional" reason (a "story") or is simply the result of you being a smelly sweaty sack of potatoes (i.e. a "carbon-based lifeform"), you could do some regular physical exercise, which should help with the latter, without interfering with the former.

The thing is, if something is bothering you, that very being bothered is an emotion, so by its very nature it is an emotional problem. Exercise can definitely help, of course. It produces feel-good chemicals which automatically put you in a better mood, and a better mood always makes it easier to think effectively, be it solving puzzles or considering one's emotions.

Bruno Loff:
One particularly illustrative example among many I could cite is the following. A friend of mine once decided to take a heavy object and hold it with his arm outstretched until he felt excruciating pain. Around the 40 minute mark he started thinking about life, about his issues. He reports that his assessment of how bad things were going for him was noticeably darker than usual; for instance, he started thinking that his professional choices had brought him to a place he didn't want to be and yet from which he could not turn away from.

Now if one looks at the content of the thoughts, there is a story there. If my friend pursues the story, he will find all sorts of reasons why he made the professional choices that he made, and why they weren't the right choices, etc etc. But actually, he just had to drop the heavy object.

This is a great illustration of why trying to figure out what's wrong while in the grip of a bad feeling isn't ultimately very effective. Feelings are not a very accurate way of gaining information about anything except the feelings themselves. There is something to what your friend was feeling, though. The immediate cause was the heavy object being held out, of course. But that put him into a bad mood. Once in the bad mood, his mind and heart went to a few places immediately - he started worrying about his job and feeling bad about it. While that bad mood was not the time to reflect on his professional career, it definitely says something about his identity that those are the things he started worrying about.

Bruno Loff:
And if you have the experience of having sex with someone you like, particularly after a long period of being lonely, you will have encountered a similar opposite effect. For instance, maybe you act particularly nicely towards your sister, and, if asked why you are acting so nice, you will say it is because you love her so much, and if pressed further you could give all sorts of reasons why you love her, making a nice story about how she is smart and sensitive and caring and backing that up with many examples. But actually the reason you are acting so nice is simply that you got laid the night before.

And this is a great illustration of why good feelings are not an accurate way to evaluate the world, either. Under the grip of a good feeling you can start making up all sorts of stories which are not ultimately the reason you think or feel that way. The reason is just the good feeling itself.

Bruno Loff:
There are MANY MANY examples like these. The idea that your responses are modulated only by emotions that are caused by something which can be told in a nice story --- I am bummed out because I don't like my job or because my father hit me when I was a little boy or because of whatever --- is false, in my experience. Sometimes, the reason you are thinking badly of your job is because you didn't digest your lunch properly.

As I said above, I think it's a bit more complicated than that. If you really had no issues with your career, then even in a bad mood you wouldn't start worrying about it. Yet if you have issues that perhaps aren't large or you usually don't think about, those can start coming out. But of course, tiredness, hunger, thirst, sickness, etc., can and do all negatively impact your mood, and if your goal is to enjoy your life, it makes sense to take the lowest-hanging fruit, first. If that means fixing up your diet and exercising a little every few days, then go for it.

Bruno Loff:
These things are hilariously illustrated in the url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRVwQrQ9xFM]Jeff the Little Indian Girl video.

Notice that all of these phenomena might lead you to think that you had a real "personal breakthrough," when actually all that is happening is the pleasure of having deceived yourself. In the long term, this results in an improvement in your skill at coming up with false reasons and explanations on demand.

Now, I'm not saying that one shouldn't try to understand the reasons why one feels bad. I'm just warning about the dangers of a particular way of doing this.

Indeed, and thanks for pointing it out. Nice youtube link, by the way, but it's too bad it didn't include the "this personal breakthrough was just BS" segment shortly after.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 9:56 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 9:56 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Maybe a rough diagram would help. Let's say this is the causal chain of your current mental state:

[indent]trigger --> bad feeling --> initial bad thoughts from the feeling[/indent]
What you described people doing is turning it into the following:

[indent]trigger -->bad feeling --> initial bad thoughts from the feeling --> expressing feeling by making up more stories[/indent]
What I suggest doing is turning it into the following:

[indent]trigger --> bad feeling[/indent]
And then:

[indent]felicitous feeling[/indent]
Once the mental state is 'felicitous feeling', then it's a good idea to investigate that bad feeling and to find the trigger that caused it. When the bad feeling is no longer happening there's a much lower chance of making up stories to explain it away.

Actually I'd like to revise this a bit. It seems there's really two components: there's figuring out why you're feeling bad, then there's somehow finding a way not to feel bad anymore.

It's usually, though not always, pretty straightforward to figure out why you're feeling bad. Something at work. Something a friend said. Holding a weight for 40 minutes. Etc. You usually don't have to dig much deeper than that to find the trigger.

Then there's figuring out how not to feel bad anymore. What it comes down to is that you take that bad feeling seriously - you put value in it, or feel that it is justified - and that perpetuates the feeling. There might be various reasons for this, but the two most obvious ones are 1) it is instinctual - getting punched puts you in a bad mood pretty automatically, or 2) some part of your identity is caught up in it and you can't let it go.

This is where the diagram I drew above comes in. If you stay with the bad feeling, then, as I mentioned in my "2/12/13 10:25 AM", all sorts of things will start coming up trying to justify or perpetuate it. Eventually you'll come to see how it works, how the bad feeling functions, how it makes you tick, what part of you is caught up in it, etc. That's when it loses its grip. At some point you can't take it seriously anymore because you see it for what it is - just a feeling - and that's when you can choose to feel happy, instead.

Once you've done that with a particular feeling, it will probably come up again and again. However, each time is easier because you've already seen it as silly. That's where the "nipping it in the bud" part comes in. Once you've already seen through a particular part of your feeling-fueled identity, then you get an idea of what triggers cause it, and you can choose not to go down that road again sooner, rather than later. But that won't work if you haven't already seen it as silly.

If you can really make no headway with it then it's probably not a bad idea to just go do something fun, instead, and maybe come back to it once you're in a better mood. The advice about exercising and stuff still applies.
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 1:26 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 1:26 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:
Indeed, and thanks for pointing it out. Nice youtube link, by the way, but it's too bad it didn't include the "this personal breakthrough was just BS" segment shortly after.


You can watch the whole episode, it comes later. I highly recommend "Community," very funny stuff.
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 2:29 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/13 2:29 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Well said beoman. Here are my favorites.

I think the main difference can be summed up as this: the skill you talk about developing is essentially another way to continue to express good or bad feelings. What ends up happening is that there is a bad feeling, then that feeling is expressed more and more in an attempt to find its root cause. Yet, instead of figuring out its cause, one instead creates more stories on top of it, which are now new reasons to feel bad, etc. It's pretty clear that one could do this forever, as, like you said, one can continuously come up with stories, fabricate things from childhood, etc. And there is an immediate short-term gain, as you said, in that you feel like you accomplished something, yet ultimately nothing gets done.You're just moving around your identity in a weird way.



The idea with actualism is that one shouldn't continue to express the bad feeling (by creating stories out of it and using them to justify the feeling),


What it comes down to is that you take that bad feeling seriously - you put value in it, or feel that it is justified - and that perpetuates the feeling.


But of course, tiredness, hunger, thirst, sickness, etc., can and do all negatively impact your mood, and if your goal is to enjoy your life, it makes sense to take the lowest-hanging fruit, first. If that means fixing up your diet and exercising a little every few days, then go for it.


(By practicing the actualism method....)
Eventually you'll come to see how (the feeling) works, how the bad feeling functions, how it makes you tick, what part of you is caught up in it, etc. That's when it loses its grip. At some point you can't take it seriously anymore because you see it for what it is - just a feeling - and that's when you can choose to feel happy, instead.


Once you've done that with a particular feeling, it will probably come up again and again. However, each time is easier because you've already seen it as silly. That's where the "nipping it in the bud" part comes in. Once you've already seen through a particular part of your feeling-fueled identity, then you get an idea of what triggers cause it, and you can choose not to go down that road again sooner, rather than later. But that won't work if you haven't already seen it as silly.


If you can really make no headway with it then it's probably not a bad idea to just go do something fun, instead, and maybe come back to it once you're in a better mood. The advice about exercising and stuff still applies.



Now I'd like to add one extra thing: There is no difference in the way good and bad feelings should be treated. Pride should be identified, the trigger should be noted, and the feeling should be seen as silly and the identity should dismiss the feeling (typically with thoughts like 'it is pointless and counter-productive to think in that way. i should, instead, think about and appreciate the nuances of this moment.) The exact same way we dismiss shame. I think this is my most recent discovery. While in a decades long depression, once i learned how to dismiss shame, i chose to focus on cultivating pride. But since pride relies on shame, i was never able to totally put an end to feeling bad. Now i want to practice dismissing pride as well.

It should be noted that joy and wonder are not to be dismissed. They are considered innocuous because they release the grip of the identity rather than fuel it. So when one feels joy or wonder, the feeling should be identified, the trigger should be noted, the feeling should be seen as essential, and the identity should actively express the feeling (typically with thoughts like 'man isn't that cool' , or by jumping for joy or singing in the rain or whatever).
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 7:55 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 7:55 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Jon T:
I think this is my most recent discovery. While in a decades long depression, once i learned how to dismiss shame, i chose to focus on cultivating pride. But since pride relies on shame, i was never able to totally put an end to feeling bad. Now i want to practice dismissing pride as well.


He he emoticon bla bla bla

I hope you get what you want, provided it is truly beneficial emoticon
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 10:01 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/15/13 10:01 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
He he bla bla bla



I thought mr. claudiu retorted your position quite well. What is your disagreement? I will say that my equation of pride and shame is an example of begging the question. So I'll attempt to answer it, briefly. Most of us know a person who have taken a weakness like a stutter or a cowlick and turned it into a strength by whimsically incorporating it into their personality. This is taking something they once were ashamed of and making it something they are now proud of. That's evidence that the two are related. And just the simple fact that you have to be ashamed of something to be proud of another thing points to this as well. If society deems height to be ideal then a tall person might be proud of that and a short person might feel shame for it. A tall person wouldn't proud unless there were short people who felt ashamed. It seemed obvious to me so i didn't bother to answer the begged question.

I hope you get what you want, provided it is truly beneficial


thanks.


Since the beginning of this thread, I have noticed a few things. 1) I am quite defensive. Anytime someone is very happy, i am resentful at him/her. 2) I am not only afraid of what others think, i am at odds over what i think. I am constantly evaluating myself in light of this or that ideal, some of which are mostly my own. This habits triggers a non-ending shame. 3) I wasn't doing the method correctly. I was doing mostly self-therapy combined with bare attention. As a result, I was also doing a lot of repression. I understood the emotions psychologically and i did get to the point where i understood that they were silly (and inferior to happiness) but instead of staying with the emotion while training my identity to dismiss it, i just dismissed it outright. And, without realizing it, i tried to force myself into happiness. 4) Now that I'm doing it correctly (i hope), i am noticing that i stay with the emotion even as the identity is acting objectively. So I feel an emotion. I identify it as anger. I continue to feel anger while i identify a trigger. continue to feel it while i think through the costs and benefits of staying angry (there are no benefits). i continue to feel it while i think of reasons not to be angry.. eventually the anger leaves. i feel a positive emotion, maybe bliss. i identify the bliss as a release of stress from no longer feeling angry. I use the innocuous emotion to train my identity to express itself correctly: "Aren't those clouds so cool." At this point, the emotion may change to joy and i continue to train my identity to express itself joyfully.
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 10:48 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 10:34 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Jon T:
I thought mr. claudiu retorted your position quite well. What is your disagreement?


There isn't a disagreement, I do not think Claudiu retorted to my position at all, he told a very familiar story about how feelings are unreliable, which was not my point at all. My point was that stories and speeches are unreliable. I would further add that the reason that stories are unreliable is not because they are "based on feelings," my tentative opinion is that it is a feature of the symbolic/speech processing itself.

And I thought that your shame vs. pride bit was a good example of a highly dubious story, hence I concluded you probably missed at least some of the point of what I was saying.

Let me propose this thought experiment to you: suppose either of two things could be the case; either (A) your story about getting rid of both pride and shame vs replacing shame with pride is indeed a true personal or emotional insight, or (B ) this story is simply an artifact of having had ultimately meaningless thoughts accompanied by sensations of pain and pleasure at appropriate times (for example, pleasure while reading the AF website, pain while feeling shame, pleasure when shame goes away, etc).

How would you go about distinguishing the two scenarios?

I mean, can you conceive of an experiment that you can do to determine which case it might be, an experiment that isn't tainted by the fact that you seem to be more inclined to believe in (A)?

I could also ask, how many stories similar to the pride vs. shame have you already had in your instrospective enterprise, and how many were more than a temporary fling, a passing fit, a fleeting discourse? How can you trust that you really found an explanation, unless you have a way of testing it rigorously?

How do you know the speech is not merely junk, a verbal artifact that gets expressed due to reasons that have nothing to do with the meaning of the words that are expressed? Like it would be the case if you were to say "I hate my job because it is repetitive," but actually you are saying it because you have digestive issues due to the composition of your intestinal flora, and the symptoms are more noticeable during working hours.
Felipe C, modified 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 12:59 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 12:22 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 221 Join Date: 5/29/11 Recent Posts
Hi, Bruno,

How about experiential cause and effect?

If you can see your pride and shame shine, after being insulted by a person or whatever common action in the world, the trigger of the emotional response is clear... I have a belief of who I am and that's being challenged by someone else. As this belief is pretty obvious, and everyone can see within themselves these reactions to these actions again and again in their experience, that's pretty much tested. If the 'feeling insulted' is that predictable and clear, why can't it be the same with more complex or less obvious emotions such as boredom or depression or whatever? Perhaps is not a single linear phenomenon but a knot of causes and conditions.

You bring a good point in the sense that we humans tend to be pretty reductionist, as emotions are a multifaceted problem where causes and conditions mix to bring a particular result. However, when you advance in this practice, you also see experientially, with the help of those untied stories and beliefs, how feelings stop to arise or arise with lower volume than before, even when one is sick, hungry, weak or dehydrated.

Instinctual or social aspects and physical aspects can conform occasionally the eternal question of the chicken and the egg, so dismissing one of the two aspects here discussed is unwise, or at least a form of laziness or uncommitted agnosticism, when one tries to resolve the problem of suffering. If the chicken and the egg are the problems of suffering according to this reduced scenario, then I need to aim to kill both in order to solve it, and not just speculate which one of them is the original cause. The sequence won't matter anymore if I take care of both, anyway.

But now I fully agree with the healthy part. Recently, I've adopted a healthy diet, I'm sleeping well and doing exercise regularly, and the results are of great support for my actualism practice. One just have to be aware of the nature of the emotional results of these actions, ie. to be careful of not constructing different self-developmental beliefs from those. For example, feeling pride or a superiority complex because of my habits, etc. It's the same with actualism and calenture... making beliefs out of concrete actions.
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 2:25 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 2:25 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Hi Bruno,

I agree with both you and Felipe. In other words, one never knows what is really happening so I can easily be lying to myself. But, I nonetheless, believe that life is better than it was: It seems to be because i am pinpointing emotions as they come up and dealing with them more constructively.

I do not think Claudiu retorted to my position at all, he told a very familiar story about how feelings are unreliable, which was not my point at all. My point was that stories and speeches are unreliable.



I agree that stories are unreliable. I highly doubt that the objective reality of any one situation can ever be adequately understood. If I am stuck in traffic and feel irritated, my identity may only be a fraction of the cause of said irritation. But it is a cause. Do you not agree that it often is a cause? Training my identity to not react counter-productively is the most reasonable solution to that one particular cause. If I adequately train my identity and yet still notice that I feel irritated then I can begin to address possible causes as I become aware of them. If there is a cause which is more constant than the identity then it would make sense to address that cause first. Hence,

But of course, tiredness, hunger, thirst, sickness, etc., can and do all negatively impact your mood, and if your goal is to enjoy your life, it makes sense to take the lowest-hanging fruit, first. If that means fixing up your diet and exercising a little every few days, then go for it.


Say there is a person who's identity is perfectly trained: He is always aware of this bounty called life. He understands the power of emotions in others. He has no strong desires other than enjoyment and relative safety. He perfectly separates facts from emotions. Would you agree with me that he is less likely to suffer from unpleasant moods and painfully sharp emotions and he is less likely to physically harm or irritate others (assuming their agenda doesn't conflict with his)?
Felipe C, modified 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 6:22 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 6:17 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 221 Join Date: 5/29/11 Recent Posts
Jon T
I agree with both you and Felipe. In other words, one never knows what is really happening so I can easily be lying to myself.


Just for the record, I was not implying that 'one never knows what is really happening'. I think that this actualist practice has showed me a lot of what is happening with me {how I tick} and my fellow human beings. So, in that case, even if I don't know entirely what is happening with me, now I have a lot of clues that make that self-knowledge more and more probable as experiential evidence accumulates.

My point was that the same we see clearly the causes and effects in obvious identity reactions, with practice one can find them out in harder reactions such as boredom or depression. I agree with Bruno in the exercise part {which, by the way, I always dismissed before}, but I don't agree with him in his complete agnosticism {with agnosticism, I'm referring to his belief of 'stories and speeches are unreliable'}. To me, believing that implies losing the war, without even battling.
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 10:20 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/16/13 10:20 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Felipe C.:
Jon T
I agree with both you and Felipe. In other words, one never knows what is really happening so I can easily be lying to myself.


Just for the record, I was not implying that 'one never knows what is really happening'. I think that this actualist practice has showed me a lot of what is happening with me {how I tick} and my fellow human beings. So, in that case, even if I don't know entirely what is happening with me, now I have a lot of clues that make that self-knowledge more and more probable as experiential evidence accumulates.

My point was that the same we see clearly the causes and effects in obvious identity reactions, with practice one can find them out in harder reactions such as boredom or depression. I agree with Bruno in the exercise part {which, by the way, I always dismissed before}, but I don't agree with him in his complete agnosticism {with agnosticism, I'm referring to his belief of 'stories and speeches are unreliable'}. To me, believing that implies losing the war, without even battling.


Just for the record, I was not implying that 'one never knows what is really happening'.


Those were my own words; i wasn't trying to paraphrase you.


but I don't agree with him in his complete agnosticism {with agnosticism, I'm referring to his belief of 'stories and speeches are unreliable'}. To me, believing that implies losing the war, without even battling.


I do agree with him here. But I don't consider it a problem. It's all stories so choose the one that is the most beneficial.
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/17/13 5:40 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/17/13 5:40 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
I have expressed myself in a somewhat ambiguous way, I am sorry:

Bruno:

How would you go about distinguishing the two scenarios?


You seem to have thought that I was asking this question rhetorically to mean that "we can never really know what the causes of our speech really are," but this is not what I meant at all. Actually, I am genuinely interested in knowing if you have methods in place to determine whether your insights are real insights versus being just bla bla bla.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 12:02 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 12:02 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
I have expressed myself in a somewhat ambiguous way, I am sorry:

Bruno:

How would you go about distinguishing the two scenarios?


You seem to have thought that I was asking this question rhetorically to mean that "we can never really know what the causes of our speech really are," but this is not what I meant at all. Actually, I am genuinely interested in knowing if you have methods in place to determine whether your insights are real insights versus being just bla bla bla.

That's actually a great question, and I'm curious about Jon T's answer as well. I also don't think that we can never really know what the causes of our thoughts/speech really are. That idea doesn't make sense to me.
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 10:34 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/18/13 10:34 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
Actually, I am genuinely interested in knowing if you have methods in place to determine whether your insights are real insights versus being just bla bla bla.


I'd first have to determine what my insights are. I guess my main insight is that the stories we tell ourselves sustain our current mood and "institutionalize" physical triggers to facilitate the arousal of that mood over and over again. We can choose to starve our mood by refusing to nourish it as we become aware of it: We can change the stories we tell ourselves; we can change our personal narrative to maximize good moods, bad moods or innocuous moods. It's our choice.

My second main insight is that innocuous moods are superior to good or bad moods.

So, are those insights real or just bla bla bla? The only method I can think of is to test it on myself.

So, if I am both subject and researcher than how can i be sure of my conclusions? I can't be sure. I can measure actual tangibles, however. Money, sex, material things like a car or a house, less colds, more friends - these are things that can be quantifiably measured. It's not a tit for tat thing so I still can't be totally sure. But i think we both agree that if my own narrative says that I am a happier person and the above-mentioned actual tangibles have increased in quantity, and my own narrative is expressing a confidence that the method will continue to work than it would be foolish to change now.

Say there is a person who's identity is perfectly trained: He is always aware of this bounty called life. He understands the power of emotions in others. He has no strong desires other than enjoyment and relative safety. He perfectly separates facts from emotions. Would you agree with me that he is less likely to suffer from unpleasant moods and painfully sharp emotions and he is less likely to physically harm or irritate others (assuming their agenda doesn't conflict with his)?


I am interested in your answer.
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 9:22 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 9:06 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Jon T:
I am interested in your answer.


I have something to say, but I can preamble this post with a disclaimer saying that the issue of verification is for me an open problem.

First of all:

Jon T:
So, are those insights real or just bla bla bla? The only method I can think of is to test it on myself.


I used to think this, but now I think that it incurs a problem. When doing activities that are liable to change my own perception of things, it a common result that my own appreciation of those changes is also influenced.

Here are a few examples: (1) in Portugal it is extremely difficult to get to medical university because of high competition (few places in the university for all the people who want to take it), so high-school kids competing for these positions have to spend many hours studying to get 98%- 100% average grades, effectively depriving them of most of their free time. It seems that in order to justify this sacrifice, many of these students take on an arrogant worldview that they are somehow better than their fellow man. Medicine students and doctors are typically arrogant, and this is enforced in medical school where they are told that they are the "crème de la crème" of society. (2) You will find in religious circles people sometimes feel superior to common folk, or that they are doing the work of god, or some other similar view. Particularly so in people who gave up (or failed to obtain) certain pleasures in life. (3) In meditative circles it is often openly stated that this or that view is the "Ultimate Truth." This seems to happen more strongly to those who have dedicated a significant fraction of their lifetime to the practice.

So it seems clear to me that when going through a transformative experience which you deliberately worked to bring about, your view of its merits is also affected.

So let me make an analogy with science. After having realized the extent to which my own speech can be bullshit, I have taken refuge in the scientific method.

In science, it is also true that if you work in developing a certain worldview, you are more likely to see it confirmed than you are of seeing it falsified. So to the extent that science aims to be rigorous, it becomes a very important and fundamental problem to avoid the introduction of bias into the scientific process.

Science attempts to solve this in many ways, but one of the most fundamental mechanisms is peer-review. Not even the greatest scientist can avoid some bias, but it is the hope that many people working separately with different mindsets can progressively eliminate each other's biased thinking.

Hence by analogy, it is my contention that any way of assessing the merits of a certain introspective practice will necessarily require external input.

This is difficult in itself, because it requires a lot of interaction with intimate friends, the kind of friends who are willing to pay attention to what you say and do. This kind of friendship is rare and not always available.

But additionally there is the following difficulty: typically by our own human making we mostly interact with those people who have views similar to our own. So, for instance, if we do meditation, we seek people who do that also; if we are portuguese medicine students, then in all likelihood so are the people we see every day; if we are actualists, we project and design houseboats emoticon. And if the people who we interact with, our best friends, happen to share our particular bias, then there is no chance in hell that they are ever going to point it out! No fish will say to another fish "dude, have you noticed all the water recently?!"

In science this problem was pointed out by a historian called Thomas Kuhn, when he coined the term paradigm, to denote the set of beliefs and practices shared by most of the scientific community at a given time. The paradigm defines both the questions that are considered important, and also the methods through which these questions are to be studied. [1] And there are two aspects of the practice of science that are equally important: one of which is to explore within the boundaries of the current paradigm, in order to deepen its reach, and it is also important to maintain an open mind towards ideas that go against the current paradigm. People who ask new questions, or answer old questions in different ways. If that doesn't happen, then science becomes institutionalized and eventually stagnant. I could cite several examples as I know quite a few, but that is besides the point here.

My point is that, continuing the previous analogy, the evaluation of a certain introspective practice requires not only high-fidelity external input, but a particular kind of input: a critical one.

So when assessing the merits and shortcomings of my practices I look not only to hear what my friends have to say, but I am more keenly interested in their critique than I am in their praise.

This makes the matter of assessment doubly difficult: not only it requires intimate friends that pay attention to you and spend time with you, these friends should also have the wit and the ability to see your actions critically and say so in your face. If close friends are rare, close friends who call you on your bullshit are even rarer. I am fortunate to have a couple of those, too.

So this is my current take on the matter of assessing the benefits of my introspective practices: It matters little how good the practices make me feel (and they often make me feel pretty good), or whether colors look brighter and sounds sound crisper (which they often do), or any other subjective criterion such as being "always aware of this bounty called life." My assessment is currently based on the input I get from a couple of close friends. And I get this input with a special attention and emphasis on the criticism that is offered, so as to avoid the mentioned effects of thinking that meditation is good simply because I do it myself.

And when I started doing this, it turns out that my assessment of introspection has changed quite radically. It went from something everyone should be doing and will eventually bring peace to the world, to something I personally need to do because of reasons I can't fully understand and that will hopefully eventually bring peace to me, while hopefully bringing the least amount of trouble and pain to others. My proselytism is at an all-time low, and I am very happy for that.

More specifically, making an assessment by what people have said about the matter, I am forced to come to the conclusion that the benefits are few and far in-between, at least so far, and that there are many unpleasant side-effects to it also. I summarize the feedback I got below [2, 3].

I wonder what would happen if you were to make the same exercise?!

Of course, many people are not in the privileged position of having friends who will pay the kind of attention to them that my friends did. I recall that most people I hung out with during my actualism phase either accepted, admired, or were uninterested in what I had to say, and were not able or willing to pay much attention to what I did, as they were too busy partying and having other intense sensory experiences... enjoying life, as it were.

It is funny that, despite no longer having such a great opinion of the result of meditative practices, I am still actively engaged in those practices, including taking ridiculous time-off for retreats and so forth in the upcoming years. I personally think that, past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory...

Your truly,
Bruno


[1] In introspective practices the same idea can be applied. For instance if we take actualism, then feelings and identity are the issues considered important, and there is a restricted number of methods through which an actualist may go about exploring these issues in order to gain more understanding (for instance, meditation is not one of these methods).

If we take christian faith, the issues are different (though they intersect), and the methods are also different.


[2] With regards to meditation and physical practices (yoga/chikung/etc), I had the following feedback:

(1) meditation makes me more calm and my mood is more balanced; (2) physical practices make me more healthy and are a sign that I am taking good care of myself; (3) introspection makes me take on a perspective which is so distinct from the norm that it is impossible to have meaningful conversations with the vast majority of people; (4) my interest in doing all sorts of things which I used to enjoy doing pretty much died out (e.g. drinking, partying, certain kinds of entertainment, career, political engagement) (5) it makes me more isolated.


[3] With regards to actualism, during the time that I practiced it, I had the following feedback:

(1) some people said I was super zen, that nothing could affect me, that I was somehow "not one of them" or "lived in a different world," with frequent comparisons to buddha or gandhi; some thought I lived "on the edge," and some enjoyed listening to me talk about how life was great; most people I hung out with either accepted and even admired what I had to say, or were too busy partying to be interested; (2) some close friends were uncertain of what to think: my speeches about actualism were enticing and convincing, but simultaneously confusing in some way; (3) one close friend in particular gave me several examples where I had acted in a way that he thought was selfish, but at the same time I described my own motives as generous, and examples where I had acted in (what he thought was) vengeance, but I myself described my own motives as innocuous.

With respect to this last item (3), I eventually came to agree with my friend, and this was one of the things that made me drop actualist practices. This was the beginning of an exploration of the disconnect between what I think and say, and what I actually do. I learned that there is a huge difference between how we justify our actions, and the real reasons behind them. I also learned that a story isn't true just because it sounds nice, although the fact that it sounds nice makes me want it to be true (and that this is one of the major political forces in the world)... I learned a lot of ugly things which I think are true.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 9:23 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 9:23 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
It is funny that, despite no longer having such a great opinion of the result of meditative practices, I am still actively engaged in those practices, including taking ridiculous time-off for retreats and so forth in the upcoming years. I personally think that, past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory...

I'm curious, could you go into why this is a bit more? According to your [2] footnote, it seems that the only positive effects of meditation (not of the physical practices) are that it makes you more calm and balanced, yet the negative effects are that you can't have meaningful discussions with most people, your interest in things you enjoy dies out (!), and you become more isolated, not to mention spending a lot of time on it that you could spend otherwise if you weren't meditating.

Is it that the positive effect of being calm and balanced outweighs all the negatives, and you haven't found any other way of being calm and balanced yet? I mean, what was the purpose of your entire approach if what you learned as a result is that meditation has mostly negative results, yet you go ahead and do it anyway. I think your reasoning of "past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory" is a prime example of spiritual "bla bla bla", to use your term... what do you think?

Regards,
- Claudiu
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Jon T, modified 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 2:28 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/19/13 2:28 PM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/30/10 Recent Posts
I 100% agree. I do, however, wish you gave me credit for acknowledging the problem of perception. I also wish you answered the question i posed.

The problem for me regarding external verification is that i don't have friends that are that close to me. i do have several friends that will call me out but i only see them a few times a year. For this reason, i emphasized the external tangibles like more money, more friends, etc.


And when I started doing this, it turns out that my assessment of introspection has changed quite radically. It went from something everyone should be doing and will eventually bring peace to the world, to something I personally need to do because of reasons I can't fully understand and that will hopefully eventually bring peace to me, while hopefully bringing the least amount of trouble and pain to others. My proselytism is at an all-time low, and I am very happy for that.


I would think that it'd be better if you fully understood those reasons. I can only speculate as to why you don't know them by now. I'd like to hear your take. It is a problem that you don't trust your own investigations: Remember, the story doesn't have to be true. It just has to be a reason to start the process of self-conditioning to be more thoughtful and have more skillful thought patterns.

Regarding external verification and proselytism: Of those friends who will call me out but whom i only see rarely is one who has said twice now that i seem happier and more at peace. He and his wife are new age types and i had mentioned buddhism over the phone to his brother once or twice. But i didn't bite that time. I just said thank you and that i was happier. He asked me if i meditate and i said no and that seemed to end it. I don't proselytize because actualism is too new and too cult-like for me to endorse. i do endorse it. I just don't go out of my way and at that time i didn't want to turn the conversation on it's head when we were already having a good time anyway. if I ever get to VF then I will more actively endorse it. But proselytizing was never an issue for me.

Now I used to proselytize on this forum. I envisioned myself as some sort of spiritual adventurer of whome people would write whole chapters and this forum was going to be the record of my journey. I now know that was just a big part of a dysfunctional identity. That particular part of it lasted for several months even after I fully identified it. And it disappeared so slowly i didn't even know it was gone until much later.


More specifically, making an assessment by what people have said about the matter, I am forced to come to the conclusion that the benefits are few and far in-between, at least so far, and that there are many unpleasant side-effects to it also. I summarize the feedback I got below [2, 3].

I wonder what would happen if you were to make the same exercise?!



The only unpleasant side effect in my practice is a dormant tendency to put a happiness and/or EE's and my one PCE on a pedestal and become bitter or frustrated if i couldn't sustain those moods. That is probably very common but totally unnecessary. If this is occurring then you aren't following the 'neither repress nor express" part of the method. And are probably too exclusively focused on 'fake it until you make it.'

To answer your question, I can't rely solely on the input of others because my friends don't know I'm an actualist and i don't do tai chi or meditation. Many of them didn't know me before my "conversion". And those that did, live too far away.

With respect to this last item (3), I eventually came to agree with my friend, and this was one of the things that made me drop actualist practices. This was the beginning of an exploration of the disconnect between what I think and say, and what I actually do. I learned that there is a huge difference between how we justify our actions, and the real reasons behind them. I also learned that a story isn't true just because it sounds nice, although the fact that it sounds nice makes me want it to be true (and that this is one of the major political forces in the world)... I learned a lot of ugly things which I think are true.


It sounds to me that you began investigating your actualist identity. But rather than dropping the unessentials and choosing to just focus on manipulating your identity so that it supports joy, wonder and basic problem solving while minimizing pride and shame, you chose to jettison the whole bag. Is that fair?
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 2/20/13 8:51 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/20/13 8:51 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Claudiu:

Bruno Loff:
It is funny that, despite no longer having such a great opinion of the result of meditative practices, I am still actively engaged in those practices, including taking ridiculous time-off for retreats and so forth in the upcoming years. I personally think that, past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory...


I'm curious, could you go into why this is a bit more? According to your [2] footnote, it seems that the only positive effects of meditation (not of the physical practices) are that it makes you more calm and balanced, yet the negative effects are that you can't have meaningful discussions with most people, your interest in things you enjoy dies out (!), and you become more isolated, not to mention spending a lot of time on it that you could spend otherwise if you weren't meditating.

Is it that the positive effect of being calm and balanced outweighs all the negatives, and you haven't found any other way of being calm and balanced yet? I mean, what was the purpose of your entire approach if what you learned as a result is that meditation has mostly negative results, yet you go ahead and do it anyway.


I could go into it a bit more. Firstly, you should note that the two footnotes mention the feedback I got from other people about the effects of meditation and actualism. Internally I can see all sorts of benefits and interesting stuff that I would like to explore. So far, my dislike for the negative effects such as isolation does not overpower my curiosity and enjoyment of the stuff I like. Furthermore, there is this perceptual itch that I feel I need to scratch, and this specific aspect I do not understand at all...

By "no longer having a good opinion about meditation," I mean that I no longer think of it as "the way to bring peace on earth" or "the way to see the Ultimate Truth" or anything of that standard. It doesn't mean that I think it is a bad thing, just that I don't think it is a good thing either.

Nowadays, I think of meditation as a specialized skill that I develop as a hobby, and nothing more. And like any such hobby, the fact that it takes time makes those who practice it prone to isolation, and the fact that not many people do it makes those who do less likely to share a common subject of interest (hence less likely to have meaningful conversations with most people). Furthermore I have several such hobbies (most of my hobbies are specialized and almost all of my tastes are quite unusual), hence it is natural that I suffer from both isolation and difficulty in having a subject to talk to with most people.

As for my interest in things dying out... well each of those is a story of its own. For instance, let's take going out drinking. As I meditate and understand and see more of my internal processes, a lot of the reasons that I would go out drinking suddenly leap forward from the subconscious mind to the foreground, and when they do they seem to become stale or even bitter. Part of the enjoyment of going out, for instance, was to sell an image of myself. I would have long conversations about how "I am this" and "I am that," and my friends would sell themselves as "this" and "that" also, and we would all pat each other's back and agree that we are very much "this" and we are very much "that," and that would give us pleasure. But when I saw the internal mechanisms that made me say those things, they started seeming like utter bullshit and I can no longer say these things with the pleasure that I did. And this is just one among several pleasures I stopped having when going out, but they all bare the same pattern of no longer being able to engage in some conditioning without seeing it for the muddy shit that it is.

A similar thing happened with career, political engagement, and all the other stuff. Fact is: a lot of these activities are driven by trigers and phenomena that are dying out in me.

Now, from the point of view of my friends, all they see is that I no longer feel like going out to get drunk, and they don't understand why because they do not see any problem in believing they are this and that, so that is what they have to say to me. And, from their point of view, this is unpleasant, and they are entirely right, as I rarely join them in those activities.

Hence my sentence: meditation is something I personally need to do because of reasons I can't fully understand and that will hopefully eventually bring peace to me, while hopefully bringing the least amount of trouble and pain to others. That means that I am willing to compromise my meditation time and opportunities, but that still hope to be able to pursuit it.

Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

I think your reasoning of "past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory" is a prime example of spiritual "bla bla bla", to use your term... what do you think?


Well, Claudiu, with respect to having a choice, you seem to make a distinction between pursuing meditation and pursuing actual freedom, where I make none. The point is that we are both pursuing something, trying to change something about how our perception works. If I were to decide that actual freedom is my goal after all, that wouldn't have changed one iota emoticon

I personally think you don't have a choice other than trying to transform your perception to the point where you will feel peaceful wherever it is you currently do not, and it is the same lack of choice that I am claiming for myself.

If an actualist chooses to say that he is working for peace on earth, down-to-earth enjoyment, or whichever moto is fashionable among actualists nowadays, that to me is just as deluded as when a very "spiritual" person says that he is striving to see the Ultimate Truth, or his True Nature, or whatever. To be clear: it is not that the two goals are the same, I think they are not, but with respect to having a choice in pursuing something, I think both the actualist and the spiritualist are utterly wrong. (You are just doing it because you must, not because you "bravely decided you would".)

One more thing: when you label what I write as "spiritual," you should remember that I know exactly where that label comes from, and what purpose such labeling typically serves within the actualist community. And I know of many other tricks of speech that are part of the whole actualist trip, as only an insider could. Same thing goes when you write, as you have in other posts, "wouldn't reincarnation be a blast," or "isn't life wonderful" or some other actualist... erm... psittacism emoticon

All I can say is be careful dude. The way in which you are repeating these sentences and modes of thinking is so familiar to me that it makes me think you are going through the same kind of internal-speech reinterpretation based on the af writings that was, in essence, what was sick about my own actualist trip... Actualist philosophy can certainly be used to distort things, and that is why I have suggested we think about ways of assessing the benefits of our introspective activities.

Jon and I both shared how we try to discern, as objectively as possible, the merits of our practices. Summarizing: he does so by measuring in tangibles, and I do so through feedback from close friends whose discernment I trust. I am curious to know what methods you employ yourself.
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 9 Years ago at 2/20/13 10:11 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/20/13 9:58 AM

RE: AF while in dark night

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
I could go into it a bit more. Firstly, you should note that the two footnotes mention the feedback I got from other people about the effects of meditation and actualism. Internally I can see all sorts of benefits and interesting stuff that I would like to explore. So far, my dislike for the negative effects such as isolation does not overpower my curiosity and enjoyment of the stuff I like. Furthermore, there is this perceptual itch that I feel I need to scratch, and this specific aspect I do not understand at all...

By "no longer having a good opinion about meditation," I mean that I no longer think of it as "the way to bring peace on earth" or "the way to see the Ultimate Truth" or anything of that standard. It doesn't mean that I think it is a bad thing, just that I don't think it is a good thing either.

Nowadays, I think of meditation as a specialized skill that I develop as a hobby, and nothing more. And like any such hobby, the fact that it takes time makes those who practice it prone to isolation, and the fact that not many people do it makes those who do less likely to share a common subject of interest (hence less likely to have meaningful conversations with most people). Furthermore I have several such hobbies (most of my hobbies are specialized and almost all of my tastes are quite unusual), hence it is natural that I suffer from both isolation and difficulty in having a subject to talk to with most people.

Ah okay, that makes sense. I know what that's like as I have certain interests that not many share so I usually don't talk about them, but it is really nice when I find someone who does.

Bruno Loff:
As for my interest in things dying out... well each of those is a story of its own. For instance, let's take going out drinking. As I meditate and understand and see more of my internal processes, a lot of the reasons that I would go out drinking suddenly leap forward from the subconscious mind to the foreground, and when they do they seem to become stale or even bitter. Part of the enjoyment of going out, for instance, was to sell an image of myself. I would have long conversations about how "I am this" and "I am that," and my friends would sell themselves as "this" and "that" also, and we would all pat each other's back and agree that we are very much "this" and we are very much "that," and that would give us pleasure. But when I saw the internal mechanisms that made me say those things, they started seeming like utter bullshit and I can no longer say these things with the pleasure that I did. And this is just one among several pleasures I stopped having when going out, but they all bare the same pattern of no longer being able to engage in some conditioning without seeing it for the muddy shit that it is.

A similar thing happened with career, political engagement, and all the other stuff. Fact is: a lot of these activities are driven by trigers and phenomena that are dying out in me.

Now, from the point of view of my friends, all they see is that I no longer feel like going out to get drunk, and they don't understand why because they do not see any problem in believing they are this and that, so that is what they have to say to me. And, from their point of view, this is unpleasant, and they are entirely right, as I rarely join them in those activities.

Ah okay, that makes sense. I can see why political engagement, career, and propping up your own self-image would cease to be as enjoyable as they once were once you started digging around in what makes you tick. I do make a distinction between those kinds of things and other things that are enjoyable like playing video games & playing an instrument, for example.

Bruno Loff:
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem:

I think your reasoning of "past a certain point, any choice in this regard is mostly illusory" is a prime example of spiritual "bla bla bla", to use your term... what do you think?


Well, Claudiu, with respect to having a choice, you seem to make a distinction between pursuing meditation and pursuing actual freedom, where I make none. The point is that we are both pursuing something, trying to change something about how our perception works. If I were to decide that actual freedom is my goal after all, that wouldn't have changed one iota emoticon

I personally think you don't have a choice other than trying to transform your perception to the point where you will feel peaceful wherever it is you currently do not, and it is the same lack of choice that I am claiming for myself.

If an actualist chooses to say that he is working for peace on earth, down-to-earth enjoyment, or whichever moto is fashionable among actualists nowadays, that to me is just as deluded as when a very "spiritual" person says that he is striving to see the Ultimate Truth, or his True Nature, or whatever. To be clear: it is not that the two goals are the same, I think they are not, but with respect to having a choice in pursuing something, I think both the actualist and the spiritualist are utterly wrong. (You are just doing it because you must, not because you "bravely decided you would".)

I see what you mean now - it's something different than what I thought initially - but I still disagree.

What I initially thought you were referring to was the momentum that you can get as a result of practicing MCTB-style vipassana, especially after the A&P, and even more so after Stream Entry. It's the sort of thing people around here talk about as 'I' no longer have a choice in the matter, or now it's "the dharma doing the dharma", or things like that. I personally felt that way for many months, as well - that I had to pursue this meditative goal, that even if I didn't want to it would happen on its own anyway, etc. That in particular what I was referring to as 'spiritual "bla bla bla"', and I call it "bla bla bla" because even though I felt that way for many months, I don't, now - I managed to break that momentum and do something else, instead. What it comes down to is that you make a choice in allowing that momentum to take you forward and you sort of surrender to it, but the choice is still there.

In terms of pursuing *something*, then we needn't restrict it to just actualism or meditation. It's part of what it is to be a human to seek the best possible outcome and to work towards that, isn't it? For example, before I ever heard of meditation, I'd spend a lot of time on schoolwork because I thought it was important. Even if you're not pursuing anything, you still have to be alive, so in a sense you're then choosing just to drift along instead of having a longer term goal. But I still think it's a choice *what* you pursue, and I'm definitely capable of no longer pursuing actualism. I don't see why I wouldn't be.

Bruno Loff:
One more thing: when you label what I write as "spiritual," you should remember that I know exactly where that label comes from, and what purpose such labeling typically serves within the actualist community. And I know of many other tricks of speech that are part of the whole actualist trip, as only an insider could. Same thing goes when you write, as you have in other posts, "wouldn't reincarnation be a blast," or "isn't life wonderful" or some other actualist... erm... psittacism emoticon

It seems to me you read certain words or phrases that are used on the AFT site and then, instead of considering the words themselves, you just assume they are being used mechanically, without consideration for their meaning (which is what a psittacism is). But I take care to always understand the meanings of the words I'm using, and I often phrase things differently just so they don't happen to fit into the way Richard happens to phrase things in an attempt to prevent that very reaction.

Bruno Loff:
All I can say is be careful dude. The way in which you are repeating these sentences and modes of thinking is so familiar to me that it makes me think you are going through the same kind of internal-speech reinterpretation based on the af writings that was, in essence, what was sick about my own actualist trip... Actualist philosophy can certainly be used to distort things, and that is why I have suggested we think about ways of assessing the benefits of our introspective activities.

I know where you're coming from because I've been on both sides of it. Pre-understanding actualism, I would read Peter & Vineeto's stuff on the AFT and I would think they were just repeating what Richard was saying without having really thought about it, so them agreeing with Richard didn't add any weight to what he was saying. But after understanding actualism, everything they wrote does follow logically. There really is meaning underlying what they write, it's not just bland and blind repetition, but again I can see why it might look that way.

The interesting thing I find when reading what you write is that everything you write about actualism and actual freedom in your experience (complete with internal-speech reinterpretation, having friends intrigued yet confused when you talk about it, etc.) was also my experience after I decided to pursue actualism yet before I visited Richard. Thus I actually agree with all your criticisms and they did apply to me in the past, I just don't think you're criticizing what I'm doing now. For example, when you wrote "(3) one close friend in particular gave me several examples where I had acted in a way that he thought was selfish, but at the same time I described my own motives as generous, and examples where I had acted in (what he thought was) vengeance, but I myself described my own motives as innocuous," I didn't see that as a criticism of actualism because I actually saw it as an application of actualism - you basically tricked yourself into believing you were generous and innocuous, yet you later figured out that actually you were being selfish and vengeful. That's part of what it's all about, figuring out what your actual motives are. That you can delude yourself about your motivations using actualist language and thinking you're progressing on the actualist path is certainly interesting, but it's not a criticism of actualism per se.

Bruno Loff:
Jon and I both shared how we try to discern, as objectively as possible, the merits of our practices. Summarizing: he does so by measuring in tangibles, and I do so through feedback from close friends whose discernment I trust. I am curious to know what methods you employ yourself.

I no longer see it as a practice that is somehow separate from life. I mean, it's not that life is happening, then there's also this practice thing, and eventually I will get there while in the meantime life will happen either way. That is how I saw meditation, at least. With meditation what happened is that it became just practice all the time, and I sort of tried to ignore the fact that life was still happening. Now it's just a matter of life happening, and living that life.

As such the point now is to enjoy my life more, because that seems like a good goal to me. If you are rolling your eyes here you'll have to inform me as to how that is an actualist psittacism, because I also had this goal way before I even started meditating. I didn't really know how to go about it very well, though, so I would end up avoiding things that I didn't like, such as most social interactions as they made me anxious. This sort of caught up to me as I never figured out how to not be nervous in those, and they kept happening more and more, especially living with roommates in college.

As that is the goal, then the way I evaluate how well I'm doing is by seeing how much I'm enjoying my life. This is subjective, of course, because I'm the only one that can really know how I am experiencing my own life. Of course others can comment, like if everyone says I look terribly unhappy then there's probably a reason for that and that'd be a cue to investigate something. So it's not a matter of ignoring what other people say.

And that's... really it, as far as I can tell. It's rather straightforward. In terms of knowing whether a story is true or not, let me reply to your earlier questions to Jon.

Bruno Loff:
Let me propose this thought experiment to you: suppose either of two things could be the case; either (A) your story about getting rid of both pride and shame vs replacing shame with pride is indeed a true personal or emotional insight, or (B ) this story is simply an artifact of having had ultimately meaningless thoughts accompanied by sensations of pain and pleasure at appropriate times (for example, pleasure while reading the AF website, pain while feeling shame, pleasure when shame goes away, etc).

How would you go about distinguishing the two scenarios?

I mean, can you conceive of an experiment that you can do to determine which case it might be, an experiment that isn't tainted by the fact that you seem to be more inclined to believe in (A)?
[...]
How do you know the speech is not merely junk, a verbal artifact that gets expressed due to reasons that have nothing to do with the meaning of the words that are expressed? Like it would be the case if you were to say "I hate my job because it is repetitive," but actually you are saying it because you have digestive issues due to the composition of your intestinal flora, and the symptoms are more noticeable during working hours.

It's simply a matter of realizing that 'I' am not this incredible enigma and that it's just a matter of figuring it out. I'm a programmer, and I work on rather complicated systems. Often I've had a bug that was completely weird, and it made no sense whatsoever. Nothing I wrote could cause this bug to happen. It was impossible for this bug to happen. Maybe the operating system broke, or something. But then I'd spend hours (or sometimes days) tracking it down, and it would always be a really convoluted, sometimes interesting but often annoying combination of factors that came together to produce that bug. There was always a good reason for it.

Now it's not that I could string a bunch of words together and whatever they ended up being, that would explain the bug. Some explanations are simply incorrect. I'll even often come up with an explanation that I think is right, but then when I implement that fix, the bug still happens. That simply means the explanation, though plausible, was wrong.

It seems the same with 'me'. I can say random words, and they can be accompanied by feelings of pleasure and pain, but some string of words will explain why 'I' feel this way, and others won't. Some things will work to change that, and others won't. It's about meaning and understanding, not feelings that the words give me when I repeat them in my head.

Bruno Loff:
How can you trust that you really found an explanation, unless you have a way of testing it rigorously?

With a bug it's easier to tell when it's been fixed because you just run the code and see if it works. With 'me', it's just a matter of seeing if that emotion keeps coming up, or if I keep harping on and on about it internally with my thoughts, or if I react in ways without knowing why, etc. If an explanation is wrong, then it'll keep bugging me.