Safe to Proceed?

Robin Woods, modified 7 Years ago.

Safe to Proceed?

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
I realise I keep asking variants of this question so apologies if this is getting repetitive.....

I have (surprise surprise) a long standing history of anxiety and depression. I (think I) just got MCTB 2nd path (I've had 2 separate experiences of fruitions 7 months apart) so this is what informs this conclusion. My baseline concentration and mindfulness (ability to detect what my mind is doing in any given moment in daily life) are dramatically improved which I hope continues.....

I'm just asking - based on your experiences as I don't have any data source or understanding psychiatrist to turn to - whether you think I should just go for this now and not fear 3rd path DN too much? I'm not sure I could even stop if I tried at this point as noting in daily life has started to become habitual.....

Are the benefits I'm likely to gain in terms of sensory clarity and awareness likely to outweigh DN effects at this stage? I don't seem to be able to depressively 'ruminate' at the moment for instance...

Or is it true what they say about 3rd path being very confusing and kinda like a macro/fractal Dark Night itself?

Thanks!
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fivebells ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Safe to Proceed?

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
The DN doesn't have to be that bad. People struggle with it in the MCTB framework because MCTB practice is so rigid. The Buddha recommended many practices which are useful for DN phenomena, and it is worth stepping back from vipassana noting to master those practices as the phenomena come up. Other non-canonical practices like tonglen can be useful in this way, too.

It is not just a matter of trying to squash the phenomena down. You develop insight from these other practices. For instance, cultivating the recollections in the Mahanama Sutta, especially the last three, really hammers home the contingency, malleability, and broader perceptual impact of the interpersonal perceptions we choose to maintain, while at the same time being useful for some types of depression. Or for example, the contemplation of stillness (recommended for restlessness and anxiety) which makes it clear that there is a choice about where to rest attention, and that that choice has an profound impact on subsequent physical and mental fabrications. (You can do contemplation of stillness by noting the phenomena in the moment which are associated with a sense of stillness.)

So I would say go for it, but don't be afraid to pick up other tools beyond noting as the need arises. The canon is very clear that Buddha didn't get there just by noting his ass off, and neither did his immediate disciples.
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-- Timus --, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Safe to Proceed?

Posts: 47 Join Date: 5/17/10 Recent Posts
Hi Robin, I'll throw in some of my observations. I'm not there yet, so take my words with caution.

Robin Woods:
… I'm just asking - based on your experiences as I don't have any data source or understanding psychiatrist to turn to - whether you think I should just go for this now and not fear 3rd path DN too much? I'm not sure I could even stop if I tried at this point as noting in daily life has started to become habitual.....

One thing I've been realising over and over again during the last months is: I'm not doing this anymore, this is doing me now. (I know, sounds like an awful platitude …) Unlike during the first two paths, especially the first one, it seems to me like I essentially have lost control over the process. Maybe I could slow it down by avoiding practice completely, but my impression is that actually stopping it isn't possible. I haven't tried that, though.

Robin Woods:
… Are the benefits I'm likely to gain in terms of sensory clarity and awareness likely to outweigh DN effects at this stage? I don't seem to be able to depressively 'ruminate' at the moment for instance...

Or is it true what they say about 3rd path being very confusing and kinda like a macro/fractal Dark Night itself? …

To me the way to third path is significantly different than from getting to the first two. It is much more gradual. You are going to complete the progress of insight again and again. It takes me usually 3-6 weeks after which I run into a week or so full of fruitions. Often it seems like nothing has changed. But after a while you see that some solidity has been chipped away. It's like your view of the world is slowly corroding, is getting more and more porous. Accordingly, the dukkha ñanas show up much more often, but they also tend to pass much faster, and they haven't yet been nearly as intense as during first path (second path dukkha ñanas were kind of a cake-walk for me). Strangely enough, one of the more unpleasant things I run into from time to time is doubt. Doubt in the sense of: is this leading anywhere?

I like fivebells suggestion of branching out into different practice tools. That's what I've been doing too. On the way to first path I spent more than 95% of my formal practice time doing noting. My second path practice was almost completely open awareness without noting (suggested by my teacher). Now I'm doing metta, open awareness (mostly without noting), some kind of surrendering practice (a bit like centering prayer), and I spent a few weeks doing some koan-like thing. I had to be pushed a little bit by my teacher to try these things out, but I'm happy he did. At first I feared that I would loose momentum. But after a while I had to acknowledge that I was cycling, no matter what kind of practice I was doing.

One last suggestion: Try to work with a teacher, it's really helpful!

Good luck!
Robin Woods, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Safe to Proceed?

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/28/12 Recent Posts
Paweł K:
I (think I) just got MCTB 2nd path (I've had 2 separate experiences of fruitions 7 months apart) so this is what informs this conclusion

this by itself doesn't make you Sakadagami.

what changed going from 1st path to 2nd?


Haha - yeah - I realise this would've been much better if I'd posted a phenomenological account on kfd and had it externally corroborated. But:

* being pretty sure I've already completed one (pretty classic in presentation) cycle of insight including fruitions and (extremely hairy) review

* massive decrease in suffering and sense that there is any one to suffer

* mindfulness in daily life increasing exponentially and starting to become automatic

* dramatically increased ability to recognise when 'lost' in thought and that direct sensory experience is always better

* ability to drop into non-dual 'headless way' perspective

* massively increased sensory clarity and concentration over first path (getting into 1st jhana in toilet at work after 10 mins)

I make no claims as to having eliminated any fetters. It feels like a BIG shift. To me. At the moment.
Tom Tom, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Safe to Proceed?

Posts: 466 Join Date: 9/19/09 Recent Posts
Also, I know this is a bit personal, but a little bit more information on your mental health history other than "depression and anxiety" would help in predicting where your pitfalls would be: Such as:

1. Have you ever experienced depression with psychotic features?
2. Have you ever experienced hypomania?
3. Have you ever experienced mania? (w/ psychotic features?)
4. Do you have panic attacks?
5. Have you ever experienced psychosis? If so, describe (so you can ascertain its degree of severity.)
6. How would you describe your levels of anxiety on a scale of 1-10?
7. Describe a situation where your anxiety levels were at their highest.
8. Have you ever attempted suicide? If so, how many times?
9. Have you ever made a plan for suicide? If so, how many times?
10. Have you ever had suicidal ideations? If so, how many times?
11. How many depressive episodes have you had? Describe their relative severity.
12. Have you ever been hospitalized? If so, how many times and for which reasons: anxiety, mania, depression, or psychosis? (or some combination of these).
13. Medications being taken or not being taken

You don't have to respond to these on a public forum here (that's too much personal information), but you should think about all of these things. Since you seem concerned about depression the most, then I will point out that if number 8 is yes, then this could turn out to be quite dangerous. If number 9 is yes, but 8 is no, then this is dangerous, but not as dangerous as if 8 were yes. If number 10 is yes, but number 8 and 9 are no, then I would say that the degree of danger is significantly less.

Helpful?