Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Mark Spencer, modified 9 Years ago at 6/15/13 10:41 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/15/13 8:37 PM

Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 11 Join Date: 6/15/13 Recent Posts
Hello,
I am planning on leaving for a 5 day, 3 ayahuasca ceremony retreat which begins the 26th of this month. Now to try and make a long story short:

In October of 2012 I did my first 10 day Vipassana (Goenka) retreat. I had what I now know as an A & P event after reading Daniel's book and posts on this website, but had no idea what it was at the time. I believe I had one earlier in my life too without at formal practice.

My consciousness "burst" and I was one with all things and as soon as I recognized it happened it was over suddenly, but the bliss remained for a time after. I tried speaking to the teacher but I had a hard time articulating what had happened and his advice was just to give it no importance. Later on the retreat I had psychic visions, profound realizations about the universe, etc, (possibly still part of A & P), followed by fear and a general aversion to meditation practice, but then while still on retreat I managed to deal with these feelings and sit without much aversion but not with the profound realizations that I previously had. Immediately after the retreat, I had what I could only describe as a near psychotic episode (possibly part of the Dark Night). I tried going back to work the next day but was not myself at all and could barely function. My memory was terrible and I was having delusions. This lasted for about 2-3 days before I could fully function at work again. I stopped practicing for a while after the retreat, but have recently restarted my practice. I wish I had known about this website during that time as I had no idea what happened to me.

Currently in my practice, I am getting into "The 3 characteristics" insight phase during my sittings. This is just a best guess of where I am as I am getting neck, back and jaw spasms and assuming I did not attain 1st path, even though I do notice my life is different now than before the course. Knowing that another A & P could be right around the corner I am unsure what to do, as I have about 10 days until my retreat, which I have made a commitment to do. My concern is that if I keep practicing, I could hit another A & P and then be in a Dark Night at the retreat, which from what the accounts are on this website, might not be the wisest thing to do.

Should I just keep practicing and go for the A & P and hope I can get through the Dark Night in the days before the retreat or should I cease my practice until after the retreat?

My main concern is my work is a top priority for me and I just don't want to be dysfunctional when I come back. Any advice on this subject would be much appreciated. Thank you.
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Sweet Nothing, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 3:26 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 3:26 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 164 Join Date: 4/21/13 Recent Posts
Hi,

I leave it to the senior members to guide you. I am not even sure if one can revert back to previous stages after crossing A&P.
What you're describing does sound like A&P, but DN comes after Bhanga (Dissolution).

In all likelihood the chances of you getting through DN in such a short period are pretty slim. I have been in DN for exactly a year and I think just in the last 3-4 days I am beginning to enter low equanimity. Whatever the case, you could simply do Breath meditation along with Metta and avoid making much insight progress that way. Also, ordinary insight practice at home tends to be much slower than dedicated retreats.

Once back, do let us know how the Shamanic retreat was in terms of insight development.
Mark Spencer, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 6:24 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 6:24 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 11 Join Date: 6/15/13 Recent Posts
Sweet Nothing:
Hi,

I leave it to the senior members to guide you. I am not even sure if one can revert back to previous stages after crossing A&P.
What you're describing does sound like A&P, but DN comes after Bhanga (Dissolution).


Thank you for the input Sweet Nothing. I didn't know if one could revert back to "3 characteristics", and hence this is why I've had so much difficulty placing where exactly I am in the maps at the moment, but during practice I am getting the sensation of body parts tightening up "on their own", which I saw described as something that might be diagnostic of this stage.

My practice has picked up speed recently as I made a commitment to practice more before this retreat and I'm practicing as much as I can. On busy work days, it might only be 1/2 hour, but yesterday on the weekend for instance I did 2 90 minute sits and 3, 1 hour sits, with the mindset of I will just get through what I need to get through. I just needed a little guidance as I don't know if I'm being naïve in my thinking or just dedicated, so any help from senior members would be much appreciated.

The retreat is a silent retreat so during the day one is encouraged to meditate, which I plan on doing. Upon my return, I will certainly give you and the other members a report of how it was.
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Sweet Nothing, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 7:46 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 7:46 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 164 Join Date: 4/21/13 Recent Posts
The three characteristics are the key to insight progression, right upto the very end. The better we know the three characteristics, the deeper our insight penetrates.

From what I know through some Ayahuasca ceremony reports, being aware of the Breath is very important and can be the key to get out of some really dark situations.
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tom moylan, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 1:01 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 1:01 PM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
hey man,
so, you are going on an ayahuasca retreat but you are worried about banging into dark night territory because it might be detrimental to your work ethic / success?

ayahuasca is serious shit. it can be mildly pleasant to vastly upsetting. many who go through dmt based experiences describe them in shudderingly horrific terms. others as sublime connection to the universal truths etc. etc. that said, my masochistic streak has pointed me in that direction too but i've not followed up with it and don't plan to at this point in time.

i've been in the dark night for a loooong time now. it ain't fun. most would concur that once over the a&p the DN follows like the cart wheels follow the ox, so you probably already are in the DN, but that's just a guess.

to my way of thinking, throwing in a wild card like ayahuasca at this point is not something i would reccomend to anyone unless they had already experienced that or similar drug induced states many many times.

there are lots of big promises and claims with ayhuasca which sound really great but they are mostly "one off" realizeations that may or may not be "view changing". you come across as though you are uncertain and experimental which is not the place i would want to be when doing the big "A".

this is just my two cents and is meant as a caution, not a reason to freak out. i may have read more into your post than you intended but generally i think the plodding incremental approach is safer than take the big pill approach.

best wishes,

tom
Mark Spencer, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 2:01 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 2:01 PM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 11 Join Date: 6/15/13 Recent Posts
Tom,

Thank you for your input. I have been planning this retreat for quite a while now and have researched to the best of my abilities what the potential consequences of my actions are. I know that there is a potential for (and a strong likelihood) that I will be dealing with some terrifying substance.

I read a previous post by someone who said when they did Ayahuasca, they were in a Dark Night which may have made it worse than it had to be. If this is a consequence that I have to deal with, then I am determined to deal with it, but if I can avoid unnecessary pain that may not be needed to benefit from the medicine, then obviously I'd prefer that route.

For all I know, I am still in a Dark Night. I suppose a better question to pose to everyone is, is one always in a Dark Night after an A & P event until they reach stream entry? I am not quite clear on this.

I have some experience with entheogens ie mushrooms, lsd, smoked dmt, and salvia and I am familiar with what a "bad trip" is (even though it may not be on the level of what I am about to experience), however I have never done anything in a shamanic setting. My plan was this was going to be my last exposure to entheogens no matter what the experience, good or bad.

I'm really just trying to get a sense of if meditating more before the retreat will be good, because it will help me stay more equanimous and grounded or bad because I may make my Dark Night more intense right before doing something that is probably already going to be unpleasant.
Mark Spencer, modified 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 2:02 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/16/13 2:02 PM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 11 Join Date: 6/15/13 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice Sweet Nothing emoticon
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Thom W, modified 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 9:48 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 6:54 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help (Answer)

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Mark, if the shamanic work is something you are called to, listen carefully to your instincts and intuition, and follow that call without fear.

Medicine work, when done with clear intention and a genuine guide, is profoundly transformative, but effects this transformation through strongly amplifying the waveform of experience (vastly wider range of beautiful and challenging experiences) with the protection of sacred space, refined intention and the skill of the teacher (in whatever form).

In this sense, it has very similar aspects to going on meditation retreat, where the practices have the potnential to penetrate the depths of psyche and beyond into the wider, transpersonal field of experience.

As such, the best advice is to always stay as grounded as possible in the direct sensate apprehension of what is happening, always - whether this is simply the sensations of breath as per anapana practice, or moving through more exotic transpersonal experiences, traumatic experience or blissful experience. If you can stay grounded in the direct sensate reality of whatever arises, the greatest insight and healing will arise. It could be said that the point of realisation (awakening / enlightenment) is for the totality of experience, no matter the content, to shine just as it is in it's original self-luminous spontaneity - the environment where compassionate activity cannot help but happen and suffering has no hold. Shamanic work is a hardcore and colourful way to learn to do this, but the work is at base the same.

One benefit of shamanic work is that is has potential to go deep into the psycho-somatic process and release bound and unintegrated stuff that would otherwise take a long time to get to, if ever. This healing can bring a much greater capacity for joy that it can be exceptionally good for a dark night yogi.

That said, the dark night is a place where content based reactions are more common, and direct unmediated experiencing (bare attention) is made more tricky. Learn what is a story and what is direct experience, and learn to do this quickly in real time. Learn to differenciate between the raw sensate base of experience and your reactions, abstractions and subtle resistances to it. Enjoy the process of quieting the mind and stay as close to sensate experience as possible.

This is the meditation practice that will be of most benefit. Keep it simple. Refine intention - why are you doing this work? For what end? For who? Be super clear going in, with a quiet mind and clear perceptions, grounded in body and breath. If you do this it drastically reduces the potential for the difficult material to "harm" you.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask, or mail me directly at findthom at me dot com.

I wish you the best!

Thom
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Thom W, modified 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 9:34 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 9:34 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
I also wanted to mention in reference to your concern about work, that there is always an important integration period after something like this. If you're in reasonable psychological / physical health now it's highly unlikely to be so intense that you're unable to work, however you may feel significantly more delicate, emotional and generally intensely sensitive in the days following...Or you may not. Even if the ceremonies themselves are not so intense (also possible - try not to expect anything in particular) then there can be things shaken up under the surface that will need to be sensitively responded to in the times after. After (and during if possible) continue your sitting practice, in the simple direct way as I mentioned. Having done a Goenka vipassana will be of great help in this regard, it's perfect that you have that as a background. Use it, many people don't have that blessing and are much more susceptible to getting lost in the content.

If you can, throw all preconceptions away and embrace humility and un-knowing. It's an unfathomably mysterious, powerful and profound teacher...I wish your experience to be all that it needs to be for you to continue your path in its fullest.

Cheers

Thom
Mark Spencer, modified 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 9:38 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 6/17/13 9:38 AM

RE: Planned Shamanic retreat and path help

Posts: 11 Join Date: 6/15/13 Recent Posts
Thank you very much for your response Thom.

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