Better never to begin...

Erasmas II, modified 9 Years ago at 11/2/13 11:31 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 1:10 PM

Better never to begin...

Posts: 10 Join Date: 9/19/13 Recent Posts
First off, I acknowledge that I'm soliciting free advice given little information. Thank you in advance for bearing with me.

I've done three Goenka retreats now. Having developed some very bad habits there (even thinking about meditating makes me very tense), I'm now re-evaluating my dharma life. Originally, I sat the Goenka retreats to feel better, to come out of some nasty emotional habits. It worked, at first. For months after my first retreat I was on emotional afterglow, seemingly very equanimous and free. I think some psychedelic experiences may have potentiated the effects of the meditation.

From there I went down. Old and new psychological stuff has left me somewhat depressed, somewhat isolated, carrying around tension and self-loathing, compounded by some neurophysiological tension after a bad episode with some dissociatives. I'm by no means broken, just down.

Better never to begin. Once begun, better to finish.

I've never experienced the A&P. I've heard it repeated around here that, once the A&P is crossed, there's no turning back. Should I begin the path of insight? If so, how? I've been looking into Mahasi noting after someone at a Goenka retreat revealed to me that there are other forms of Vipassana out there. Problem is, the Goenka center won't let you try more intense courses if you've been dabbling in other techniques. So I'd be starting over.

Or should I try to resolve my mundane life, and reapproach meditation later?

Any help is much appreciated.

Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 1:38 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 1:33 PM

RE: Better never to begin...

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

As to whether you should or shouldn't do meditation, that is up to you to decide. Meditation brings about radical change; it's stupid to do it if you think you shouldn't.

As to whether you have crossed the A&P, that is very, very likely, given that you are posting this stuff in the first place. Just remember back to some time in your life when you were really enthusiastic about this or that happening in your life; when it was especially easy to feel pleasure (bodily pleasure, intellectual pleasure), where maybe you were charismatic and had a lot of energy, and this grew and grew. And then it was no longer there, and things suddenly started being more difficult, and you started having to deal with psychological stuff. Maybe it was just a few hours during an LSD trip.

As to whether you having crossed the A&P means that you necessarily should do meditation, it doesn't. That is your choice to make. I know people who have crossed the A&P and still choose not to do it, and lead interesting and engaging lives nonetheless. In my case, I don't feel I have a choice, I feel that I need to know where it leads.

Now, in case you decide to continue doing meditation:

With respect to using different techniques, just do it. Don't fall under any organization's bullshit dogma. If you ever use the goenka retreats again, just lie and say you've been a good boy, and during those retreats use whichever technique you think will take you further. Be pragmatical; explore; take responsibility for your own practice.

With respect to solving mundane life vs. doing meditation... I know very well the tension that you refer to, but you shouldn't polarize the matter in this way ("should I do A and not B or B and not A?"). Remember that meditation is aimed at making your life better, and that includes mundane life as well. It is best not to let your mundane life completely fall apart, even if that means you'll take longer to attain whatever you wish to attain through meditation. In the end, you need to eat and can't just zone out into the psychosphere. On the other hand, expect that certain sacrifices are necessary if you wish to maintain a meditative practice. This means changing habits non-conductive to a daily practice into those that are; this means reading about meditation and learning from others; this means taking the time to do retreats.

Oh, and good luck emoticon
Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:49 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 2:49 PM

RE: Better never to begin...

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:

With respect to solving mundane life vs. doing meditation... I know very well the tension that you refer to, but you shouldn't polarize the matter in this way ("should I do A and not B or B and not A?"). Remember that meditation is aimed at making your life better, and that includes mundane life as well. It is best not to let your mundane life completely fall apart ...

Periodically the issue of 'spiritually bypassing' comes up on this board. In case you aren't familiar with the term it refers to using spiritual practice-- states that arise from practice, or even the trappings of a spiritual culture-- to avoid and mask and evade pressing issues in our life.

It just struck me, reading Bruno's thoughtful response and this quoted section in particular, how this phenomenon is encapsulated in this dilemma of spiritual practice *vs* everyday life. If we are framing it in this way to begin with, then we need to look very closely at this issue of bypassing, because in order for there to appear to be a dichotomy between life and practice there must be an underlying escapism. Practice will take us away from life. Or life will take us away from practice and awakening. Now, in itself there is nothing remarkable or bad about this-- after all, meditation 101 reveals that getting away from unpleasant experiences and trying to engineer and prolong pleasant experiences is reflective of the basic ignorance that fuels suffering. So it's hardly surprising that we tend to carry over this attitude to the beginning phases of our practice. And likely, this attitude will pop up in subtler and subtler forms of dualistic dilemnas as practice deepens.

It's a matter of balancing and context I think: in formal practice we want to work towards being with the flow of our life as it is without resistance. This can definitely carry over into everyday life (informal practice, awakening). And this latter is totally compatible with making *choices* in everyday life that reflect our preferences-- actively working to maximize enjoyment and minimize unpleasant activities is just a normal part of conducting our affairs and it would be perverse to attempt the reverse, or use spiritual insight to justify or rationalize letting our life fall apart based on some misconceived notion of nonattachment. But as Bruno also points out, we may find ourselves faced with choices between unwholesome and wholesome activities in everyday life in order to support a consistent formal practice. If you can just side-step the whole false dichotomy in the first place you may save yourself a lot of unnecessary suffering masquerading as 'spiritual practice'.
Richard Zen, modified 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 7:16 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 9/19/13 7:15 PM

RE: Better never to begin...

Posts: 1665 Join Date: 5/18/10 Recent Posts
Try CBT with lots of consistency. In fact if you do meditation also do CBT along with it. A psychologist I bumped into at a restaurant by accident told me to do both.

Rigid thinking hurts:

Rational Emotive Behaviour


Focusing Gendlin

Some people do the above (very intensely and diligently) and find it's enough. Meditation also looks at thoughts ultimately so they both go in the same direction. Both make you tolerate your negative affect by exposing rigid thinking (CBT) and the Phenomenology of thinking (Meditation).

Good luck with whatever choice you choose because it's important that people try something rather than sleepwalking through life.