Serotonin

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Paul Anthony, modified 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 1:30 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 1:30 PM

Serotonin

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
HI gang,

I haven't posted for ages. I guess this is the question that I've been poking at for the last couple of years;

Serotonin. What's it all about, Alfie? Are the Stages of Insight essentially serotonergic phenomena? That's kind of what my experience suggests. By experience I mean insight practice (studying with Ron Crouch), medication (for chronic headaches, also SSRIs) and going back a bit, psychedelics. I also think of many of the posts here over the years, and of Kenneth Folk's experience with SSRIs. (I recently took a pretty basic psychopharmacology course that filled in some of the details for me, very helpful). It's a complicated story but one character keeps on showing up.

One possible response is "ok, but so what?" or that it's too obvious to merit discussion. I don't agree - and right now I'm pretty convinced that this issue is at the cutting edge of dharma practice. I'd love to see Daniel add a chapter on this, for example. Comments?

Paul
Jonathan Marks, modified 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 6:41 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 6:41 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/4/13 Recent Posts
I highly doubt the stages of insight, have anything to do with serotonin. At the same time this reminds me a lot of Tibetan and Daoist practices, primarily because, they tended to think that Awakening had a lot to do with the circulation of some form of energy. I'm pretty sure the circulation of energy has nothing to do with Awakening.

The reason being that the circulation of energy doesn't fall into any of these categories: morality, concentration or insight.

At the same time, if you would like to believe that serotonin, and having enough of it, would grant you Awakening, then that essentially means that you can pop pills all the way to Nibbana. I don't think it works like that.
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Jake , modified 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 7:26 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/11/13 7:26 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Jonathan Marks:
I highly doubt the stages of insight, have anything to do with serotonin. At the same time this reminds me a lot of Tibetan and Daoist practices, primarily because, they tended to think that Awakening had a lot to do with the circulation of some form of energy. I'm pretty sure the circulation of energy has nothing to do with Awakening.

The reason being that the circulation of energy doesn't fall into any of these categories: morality, concentration or insight.



Hmm, wow.
In my experience 'energy' in the sense you are referring to just means a subtle, preverbal mode of experiencing as the body (subtle sensations). It's sort of like a direct machine-language appreciation of dynamics that also manifest at higher levels of 'software' with coarser structures-- more overtly verbal-conceptual and perceptual ones.

So any experience that can be had on a coarse, conceptual level, such as experiences of 'morality, concentration and insight' can also be had at subtler, less constructed levels, which 'feel' more energetic, sensate, subtle, direct, emobodied, complete, visceral, etc. In fact it seems like to really appreciate the depths of morality, concentration and insight one must penetrate to this subtle, pre-conceptual and non-verbal mode of experiencing: the 'energetic'.

So I wonder what you are talking about when you make such blanket conceptually definitive statements ("energy doesn't fall into any of these categories"). The latter statement sounds like it is being made by someone with more of a conceptual and less of an experiential view. To pretty much everyone I've spoken with who actually exhibits qualities of awakening, and in my own small share of experience that I might label with the term, 'awakening' itself doesn't fit into any categories, so...

It's too bad you aren't going to share experiential descriptions of your own practice and realization, because I would like to know what your experiential understanding of 'energy' or 'concentration, morality and insight' are? It would make it easier to get what you are trying to say.
Jonathan Marks, modified 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 2:42 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 2:42 AM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 14 Join Date: 7/4/13 Recent Posts
I actually used to do tummo.

What I mean by energy practices is the deliberate manipulation of "physiological energies" around the body, purely as "qigong", without any moral support, concentrative support or insight support. Thus say you take a random newbie at meditation, and basically tell them to apply the method of "internal alchemy", which involves in some schools, moving energy around the body, dan tian, through meridians, the microcosmic orbit, breathing exercises etc.

Would you say, cut and dry, that that person would become Awakened?

I don't think so.

You see it's not so easily methodized.
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Jake , modified 8 Years ago at 7/15/13 6:19 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/15/13 6:19 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Jonathan Marks:
I actually used to do tummo.

What I mean by energy practices is the deliberate manipulation of "physiological energies" around the body, purely as "qigong", without any moral support, concentrative support or insight support. Thus say you take a random newbie at meditation, and basically tell them to apply the method of "internal alchemy", which involves in some schools, moving energy around the body, dan tian, through meridians, the microcosmic orbit, breathing exercises etc.

Would you say, cut and dry, that that person would become Awakened?

I don't think so.

You see it's not so easily methodized.


Well, I would say based on my experience that methods produce experiences. So I totally agree; we cannot methodologize awakening! It's not exactly a mechanical process. But ignorance is, to some extent; and therefore can be remediated (to some extent) with methods.

But methods without views are non-existent. In fact, the point of using methods is not simply to generate experiences, but to do so in such a way as one's preconceived views (about, self, solidity, continuity etc) are challenged. In the dropping of those preconceived but existentially-expressed-in-one's-way-of-being views, awakening can occur. Especially if the bodymind has been prepared through the purification which arises with diligent sincere application of methods.

Hey, James, thanks for an interesting conversation!
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Paul Anthony, modified 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 1:39 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 1:38 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Jonathan Marks:
At the same time, if you would like to believe that serotonin, and having enough of it, would grant you Awakening, then that essentially means that you can pop pills all the way to Nibbana. I don't think it works like that.


Well, with respect, I think this is a bit of a straw man argument. Experiencing stages of insight (e.g. A&P, etc.) is not the same as achieving Nibbana, so to hypothesize that the biological background process for these experiences is related to serotonin and/or dopamine is not the same as saying that serotonin/dopamine will get you Nibbana. I don't think it works like that either. But I don't see much evidence for the position that serotonin has nothing to do with it.

On the contrary, it seems as though serotonin may have everything to do with it. Even in a lab setting psilocybin (serotonin agonist) is a very reliable producer of mystical experience. Daniel's whole thesis appears to rest on the essential structural similarity of all mystical experience. Therefore, psilocybin is presumably really triggering the A&P, Dark Night, etc. to use his model. I can see the argument that this isn't Nibbana but I can't really see the argument that it's irrelevant.

Thanks, Paul
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Songtsan Crazyfox-Tiger Ali, modified 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 9:39 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 9:39 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 24 Join Date: 7/11/13 Recent Posts
Not only serotonin and dopamine, but other things like acetylcholine, endogenous DMT, neuropeptides, etc. Likely dozens of chemicals all co-creating the experience. I imagine that the brains of advanced meditators who have experienced extreme absorption states are like little chemical factories gone wild. They have done MRI imaging of meditators which has shown interesting results as far as various areas of the brain being over or under stimulated. Dissections of lifelong yogis found pineal glands the size of almonds, whereas most humans have pineal glands the size of peas. The pineal gland is where much of the 'God' chemicals are produced, including DMT-like chemicals.

Anyone who thinks that chemistry doesn't effect spiritual experience should go research western science for a while...they will find that it is all linked.

Some day, perhaps thousands of years from now - they will probably have some type of electrical helmet that one wears which will almost instantaneously make one enlightened by altering brain wave patterns, stimulating certain areas, etc. One can at least hope. emoticon Enlightenment in a can. lol.
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Paul Anthony, modified 8 Years ago at 7/13/13 2:06 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/13/13 2:06 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 71 Join Date: 6/22/10 Recent Posts
Hey Songtsan,

I don't know much about those super-sized pineals, but I take your point that it's a bigger picture emoticon I still think serotonin's a pretty good place to start though. I guess what I'm advocating for is a more neurochemically-informed pragmatic dharma. Note that this could be entirely traditional - I'm assuming that traditional retreat practices around sleep, food, sex, sensory deprivation, etc. are all affecting serotonin and the rest.

Thanks, Paul
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Songtsan Crazyfox-Tiger Ali, modified 8 Years ago at 7/13/13 5:06 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/13/13 5:06 PM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 24 Join Date: 7/11/13 Recent Posts
Indeed. I am with you on this. Western science is so behind eastern technique, and eastern explanation of how things work is so behind western science of how things work. If they would join forces more often, we would probably see more people becoming enlightened. Juts my opinion. In the end, all science, religion, spirituality, philosophy, no matter how misguided, is at its most idealistic, a search for the truth. If everything is in essence a search for the truth, I see no reason for division.
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Songtsan Crazyfox-Tiger Ali, modified 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 2:32 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 7/12/13 2:32 AM

RE: Serotonin

Posts: 24 Join Date: 7/11/13 Recent Posts
As far as chemicals go, I think dopamine would be as much or more important for any bliss states. When speaking of insight gained through awareness, yes chemicals will be involved, but it is not about the chemicals, they are just a part of the structure of the experience. Insight happens with wisdom awareness, and yet is also dependent on one-pointed concentration...so yes, if your dopamine is too low or too high, or if serotonin is too low/high, you might have trouble concentrating..so actually yes, I think that a stable level of these chemicals will assist in meditation attainments. If you want to make sure you always have enough building blocks in your system, take 5-HTP and mucuna pruriens (w/40% L-DOPA by weight)...the closer you come to a stable homeostasis, the easier it will be to fall into absorption states. Find that perfect level.