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Holy crap!
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1/17/14 5:42 PM
Hi everyone,

The last few months, and especially the last week or so, have been pretty intense for me practice- wise. I went to a retreat this summer that really got the ball rolling. Before that, I'd been sort of interested in meditation, but not serious about it at all. After that, I dove right in. I read a lot of stuff, listened to talks, sat with different groups. It was all good, helping me feel calmer and healthier overall. Then last fall I hit a really crazy dark night period with lots of panicky feelings and weird sensations. Searching around led me here and to other similar sites, which have been very helpful. I also had the good fortune to hear a speaker at a meditation class discuss the dark night right as I was going through it! So I took the advice given here and by the speaker to just accept and not resist the sensations and emotions. Then things settled down again for a couple of months. Meanwhile, my "real life" was pretty hectic a lot of the time but I continued meditating because it was still good for stress relief once I got past the dark night period. I also got more interested in the concepts of Buddhism, which really rang true for me, especially the suffering = grasping/ clinging notion, so my practice became a lot about letting go.
Sometime in December I remember meditating again, having a thought arise, and having the next thought be "That thought wasn't me- it was just another phenomenon, like my breathing and the external noises I'm hearing". I'd been able to "separate" from my thoughts a little before then, but that time it was clearer than it had ever been. Not much changed internally again for a while, although the holidays were busy and followed by another brief meditation retreat.
Then, last weekend... I stumbled across the "Liberation Unleashed" Web site that's linked to from here. That's when the fun really started! The "no- self" concept was something that I accepted intellectually, as we're all the products of evolution/ genetics, our upbringing, and society, and constantly exchange matter, energy, and information with the rest of the world. But there was still a gap between that intellectual understanding and my internal state, where I still had a deep- seated belief that there was a "me" in there running the show and making all the decisions, somehow independent from everything else. The LU Web site is hardcore non- duality of a sort that hit me like a 2x4. They have a guiding process/ "direct pointing" to lead people to the no- self realization, but I was too fearful to actually do that. But just reading a lot of their stuff got me thinking a lot and sent me straight back into a panicky dark night! More bizarre physical sensations- it felt like something had gotten started that had a life of its own. Once again, breathe, accept, breathe, accept. I'm still having some jittery aftershocks from this whole experience, but also feel I've come out the other side in some way. It feels like my sense of self has been rearranged. I don't feel like I have "free will" in the sense I used to- it's more like I feel different desires, and then one or another becomes sufficiently strong that action follows. This settled down into being more of a "normal" experience over the course of the week. I thought I was through the tunnel, but-
This morning, I was helping someone through a difficult situation, and a wave of compassion came up that pretty much knocked me over. I had to keep to myself for a while just to let it flow through. It hit me hard that while I still have anger and other negative emotions, they really suck and are unpleasant, while love and compassion are just so much more pleasant! Maybe there is something to the idea that there is some draw towards love and compassion at some fundamental level of human nature? I'm not a sentimental person and don't believe in free- floating love vibes that are out there for people to pick up on, but- holy crap!! I'm still having some DN sensations, and hope that's the last Major Realization I have for a while. And I do have a sense of being done in a certain sense, that somehow I've found something I've been looking for all my life but didn't even know I was looking for. I'm posting here because I'm hoping you folks will help reassure me that I'm not completely deluding myself here or going crazy.
Thanks to anyone who made it to the end of this tl;dr post from a newbie.

RE: Holy crap!
Answer
1/18/14 12:54 PM as a reply to Corinne Carter.
Corinne Carter:

...but- holy crap!! I'm still having some DN sensations, and hope that's the last Major Realization I have for a while. And I do have a sense of being done in a certain sense, that somehow I've found something I've been looking for all my life but didn't even know I was looking for. I'm posting here because I'm hoping you folks will help reassure me that I'm not completely deluding myself here or going crazy.
Thanks to anyone who made it to the end of this tl;dr post from a newbie.

The process of self-realization can be (is) a slow developing, gradual, grind-it-out process. Don't expect a satori moment, or that you will be able to easily recall it if such an experience does occur. For the vast majority of people, it takes mountains of patience and long endurance before the realizations begin to work their way into the deeper recesses of the mind. Keep studying your experience, keep an open mind, and maintain mindfulness. These three activities will help you on your journey.

The best advice that can be offered is to keep at it and don't give up until you've been able to touch all the bases in a way that you can honestly say that you have done the work necessary for putting an end to dukkha. This means being totally honest with yourself and not allowing yourself to get away with a mere intellectual grasp of the material which does not, in some profound way, truly affect the way you view life and the world and your place in it, because you are the only one interested in putting an end to suffering in YOUR life.

Rather than following other people's so-called short cuts to nibbana, best to return to the source of the material and begin to understand the journey from there. That way you cannot go wrong. Don't blindly accept someone else's interpretation until you can validate that through your own first-hand experience. Other people's perceptions can be deceiving to us if we don't know what absent masses they are talking about!

What do I mean by "absent masses"? An absent mass is anything being referenced that you do not understand. Things like understanding the significance of the four noble truths, the noble eightfold path, the five aggregates, the three characteristics of existence and their significance within one's experience, and the pinnacle of the teaching, how dependent co-arising works (having observed its operation through direct observation). When you know these five "things" (teachings) down to the marrow of your bones, then you will have arrived at the origin and apex of your journey.

With regard to absent masses, don't let a word (or term) go by that you do not understand the meaning of. Look up and get clear on the definition of every word or term that you come across so that you can be able to relate to it experientially and therefore understand what the speaker is pointing at. Also, and this is very important, make deadly certain that you understand the intent behind the word's usage. An example might be the Pali word kamma (karma, in Sanskrit). Kamma is not some kind of metaphysical payback system of universal retribution (be it good or bad), but rather as the original teacher once stated in a discourse: "It is volition, monks, that I declare to be kamma. Having willed, one performs an action by body, speech, or mind." (AN 6.63) The volition he is speaking about is the mental volition (intention) of the doer. Knowing whether or not one is experiencing a mind full of anger or a mind full of compassion or an equanimous mind toward whatever activity one is observing will assist one in being able to see the origin of that mind state and thus be able to deal with it skilfully with wisdom.

Another word that people can become confused about is the Pali term nibbana (nirvana, in Sanskrit). In times past, people used to equate it with the Christian understanding of the word "heaven" as a kind of physical or spiritual place. However, it is not that. My first clue about the true significance of this word came when I happened upon reading about it in an Alan Watts book (The Way of Zen) in which he pointed out (using the Sanskrit word) that " has been variously connected with Sanskrit roots which would make it mean the blowing out of a flame, or simply blowing out (ex- or de-spiration), or with the cessation of waves, turnings, or circlings (vritti) of the mind. . . . If nirvana is related to the cessation (nir-) of turnings (vritti), the term is synonymous with the aim of yoga, defined in the Yogasuttra as citta vritti nirodha — the cessation of turnings of the mind." This would make it synonymous with the Dhamma's understanding of nibbana as "unconditioned reality, the reality which does not arise and fall away. The destruction of lust, hatred, and delusion. The deathless. The end of suffering." And thus, the extinguishing of mental conditioning while in its place leaving only equanimity toward (mental) formations (ideas, concepts or thought).

You may find some assistance along the way by selectively turning to certain readings that may lend support to a deeper understanding of these teachings. Some that I have found particularly inspiring and clarifying are contained in the thread Essential Books from Theravadin Resources. Contemplate these works wisely, and you may speed up your journey.

In peace,
Ian

RE: Holy crap!
Answer
1/18/14 2:08 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Thanks so much for your response! I appreciate the time you took to make it and its thoughtfulness. I especially appreciate your counsel of patience. I have a decent level of familiarity with the Buddhist teachings in a general sense, but am by no means a scholar on the subject. I'm attending a class which is going to focus in detail on the Satipathana Sutra for the next several weeks, not just as an intellectual study but with a lot of relating it to our practices here and now. I expect that to be helpful.

The fireworks I've experienced over the last little while have been very eye- opening, since I no longer think of enlightenment as some fairy tale thing, but as something that happens to real human beings. I most definitely have quite a bit of further work to do. I remember reading somewhere that this is less about experiences/ phenomena themselves than about how one relates to the phenomena. I think that's where my work lies at this point. That and ethics/ morality- incorporating whatever level of insight I've gained into my day- to- day life. I know one doesn't really have control over this process, but right now I'd strongly prefer moving along more slowly and evenly than the fast and turbulent ride I've been on.

I really appreciate a community like this where I can discuss such things very openly, compare notes, and possibly get helpful advice like yours. It's something like being able to report one's results from the lab (meditation practice and life) to other researchers for reality checks. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone here. Any of you may have written a post that I've read and benefited from during my time as a lurker here over the last few months. I'm especially grateful for material about the Dark Night phenomena, which should be discussed way more openly and frequently, IMHO.

RE: Holy crap!
Answer
1/18/14 7:20 PM as a reply to Corinne Carter.
Corinne Carter:


The "no- self" concept was something that I accepted intellectually, as we're all the products of evolution/ genetics, our upbringing, and society, and constantly exchange matter, energy, and information with the rest of the world. But there was still a gap between that intellectual understanding and my internal state, where I still had a deep- seated belief that there was a "me" in there running the show and making all the decisions, somehow independent from everything else. The LU Web site is hardcore non- duality of a sort that hit me like a 2x4. They have a guiding process/ "direct pointing" to lead people to the no- self realization, but I was too fearful to actually do that. But just reading a lot of their stuff got me thinking a lot and sent me straight back into a panicky dark night! More bizarre physical sensations- it felt like something had gotten started that had a life of its own. Once again, breathe, accept, breathe, accept. I'm still having some jittery aftershocks from this whole experience, but also feel I've come out the other side in some way. It feels like my sense of self has been rearranged. I don't feel like I have "free will" in the sense I used to- it's more like I feel different desires, and then one or another becomes sufficiently strong that action follows. This settled down into being more of a "normal" experience over the course of the week.


I've had exactly that happen from LU. As I'm sure you're aware, you were always feeling different desires until one became so strong that action followed; it's just that the awareness and clear perception of it was shocking.

All I can say is keep noting everything, whenever possible, and look for the awareness that you've missed something in your noting. For instance, sometimes I'm noting and get this sense of worrying I'm not doing it right, or some other worry comes up... that's the time to expand your noting out to noting the worrying and thinking itself.

RE: Holy crap!
Answer
1/19/14 12:37 AM as a reply to Corinne Carter.
Hello Corinne,

And welcome (to posting) to the DhO.
Corinne Carter:
I have a decent level of familiarity with the Buddhist teachings in a general sense, but am by no means a scholar on the subject.

Just to be clear from my previous reply and the link to some reading material (some of which is "scholarly" in nature), you don't have to be a scholar in order to read, appreciate, and contemplate other thoughtful people offering their impressions of the teachings. On the off chance that they may be onto something, it only makes sense to explore and see whether they might have some insight into the subject matter that we ourself might have missed or overlooked and profit from. Use their impressions about the teaching as a springboard to look at your own experience to see whether or not you can see the same things they are pointing out. You might surprise yourself by the insight that may arise using this process! That is the way I approached it. Very gratifying and fruitful approach, I might add. Helped to speed up my comprehension and deeper understanding of the teachings. And that cannot be a bad thing. Although it does take some concentration and self introspection.

Corinne Carter:

I'm attending a class which is going to focus in detail on the Satipathana Sutra for the next several weeks, not just as an intellectual study but with a lot of relating it to our practices here and now. I expect that to be helpful.

Oh my. How extraordinarily synchronistic. If that is the case, you might want to obtain Analayo's book Satipatthana, The Direct Path To Realization. It will provide you with what I am sure will be a compatible take on the practice of satipatthana in addition to the class you are taking. You may even experience some moments of profound insight about the practice if you are especially observant.

Satipatthana literally means the "establishment of mindfulness," and the sutta itself outlines four distinct areas of our experience of which to become mindful. The mindfulness, to be useful, should extend to becoming aware of just how, in each area, thoughts and impressions originate and arise. It will provide you with insight into the origin of such sensations as your DN experiences so that you can begin to see them just as they are, providing an opportunity "to just accept and not resist the sensations and emotions." Ideally, without the coloring of reaction (bias) toward them, so that just the bare, unadorned impression/reaction/emotion can be examined and recognized for what it is: a thought-moment, light as a feather and twice as empty. Meaning: of no, or little, consequence.

But also, to see that place, generally starting with vedana or the feeling aggregate, of the origin of their arising. Once you see the origin of where the reaction is coming from, you begin to understand more fully how the mental process works, becoming exposed to it, perhaps, for the first time in your awareness. Focusing on the vedana aspect of experience helps one to become aware of this process at it root starting point, which in turn, in time, will be helpful in being able to dissipate the reaction, changing the response to one of equanimity (neutrality), thereby neutralizing dukkha (unsatisfactoriness) with regard to the event.

Corinne Carter:

I know one doesn't really have control over this process, but right now I'd strongly prefer moving along more slowly and evenly than the fast and turbulent ride I've been on.

Slow and steady growth is greatly to be desired when one is just getting their feet wet in this practice. Yet, as you point out, sometimes events conspire to go out of our control. At such moments, you just have to hang on and ride out the storm, while at the same moment practicing mindfulness with equanimity in order to help you over the rough spots. The mindfulness will keep you alert for any respites you might become aware of over the course of the storm. In other words, insights that will help lessen the impact of the storm, assisting in your ability to endure.

Storms are just opportunities that help us find resolutions to experiences we weren't aware we had the strength of fortitude to endure. They are a venture into the unknown, prodding us to make the unknown known and less frightening as we stay focused on finding a solution so that we can resume being peaceful. Use them to expand your awareness of the things that evoke strong reactions within you, so that you can get over those reactions (let them pass) while remaining focused on resolving the matter. If we allow our reactions to get in the way, they distract us from finding solutions to whatever confronts us.

RE: Holy crap!
Answer
1/19/14 9:52 AM as a reply to Ian And.
Thank you again for your thoughtful replies, Ian. I'm just started on getting a clearer idea about some of these concepts, and how they relate to my own experience. I have enough of an intellectual bent that this sort of study can be enjoyable, especially if I think I'm gaining something practical from it. I've looked at some of your other posts, and you've clearly put a lot of effort into this type of work. Thanks for sharing some of the benefit of it with me.

And thank you, JC, for providing corroborating evidence of an experience that lots of people outside of these sorts of communities would be likely not to relate to. This sort of thing is another important part of what I need now. It's confusing and difficult enough to go through this process without hearing others speak from their own experience of it. It gives me a lot of respect for what Daniel Ingram went through, or anyone else who has been through this territory flying solo.