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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

What was this? What to do next?

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What was this? What to do next?
Answer
1/19/14 1:20 PM
Hello.

About 10 years ago I went to a Goenka retreat. There I had the direct insight that unpleasant sensations are not suffering. It's the associated attachment and aversion to them that causes suffering. On the other hand, pleasant sensations are not happiness. This was realised on either day 6 or 7. For the rest of the retreat I lost the positive motivation to practice, even though I finished it, because I didn't know what happiness was. After that I slipped these insights under a mental rug and moved on with my life.

Fast forwarding to now. I started practicing meditation regularly again in May, last year. During this December I was having a rough time with meditation, and life in general. I started reading again about the dark night. I didn't think I was in it until I read it defined as a spiritual crisis. That's basicaly when I really recovered the insight I had on the retreat. This was a natural progression since I was realising that I give far too much importance to fear. I was becoming equanimous towards it. Then I became equanimous towards all experiences.

There are several things that have to be mentioned for the "differential diagnosis" (in no particular order):
1- I don't remember ever realising A&P;
2- I don't have experience with jhana;
3- I had depression and even psychotic sympthoms a few times in life;
4- After reaching this equanimity, I felt certain things which are described in MCTB: peace, equanimity, inner, bright white lights, two near misses, the initial chunckiness, fear of becoming crazy and almost total imunity towards this fear _ or any other.
5- I don't see this with a lot of clarity, ie, I don't think I see things as clearly as is described in MCTB.
6- One of the most significant things I experienced was a complete inability to do metta when the equanimity and peace were strong.
7- I don't practice with a lot of intensity: between 1 and 4 hours a day, averaging 1:45, maybe. Or, at least, I don't think this amount of practice would be enough to get me to the "equanimity stage".
8- After reaching this equanimity, I'm losing interest in some unwholesome things. They just don't interest me as much, or at all.
9- I do feel pleasant and unpleasant sensations and some of the associated suffering.
10- I fell back to the dark night at least once, after practicing anapanasati with high diligence, while abandoning metta. Now I think I am at equanimity again.
11- I don't practice mindfulness in the Mahasi style.
12- My mindfulness and concentration are better than before.


Can this be the equanimity stage?

If it is, what to do now?
My present practice consists of about 25 % metta, 75% insight. I am begining to find holes in this "self". As I observe things rising and falling I am begining to see that what observes is just a changing perspective that has no distinctive characteristic of "me". I think Keneth Folk's advice of observing the interaction of body and mind is a good way of making the necessary breakthrough, of experiencing not-self. Am I on the right track?

Thank you in advance and metta emoticon

RE: What was this? What to do next?
Answer
1/19/14 3:53 PM as a reply to Blue Jay.
Blue Jay,

Metta right back at you :-) I've been through something similar recently, so I can really empathize.

A couple of things: Garden- variety depression and anxiety are not the same as the DN, but they can interact and feed back on each other in interesting ways. If you feel the need, it could be good to get help from both a "regular" counselor and from people who know the DN territory. Different people have different expertise with this stuff.

I also felt some dissociation and reduction in emotional range during portions of my DNs. In retrospect it felt like my mind was coming to terms with and adjusting its responses to different kinds of stimuli, reacting either much more or much less strongly to various things than before. I'm now in a state characterized by much more equilibrium, and my normal emotional range is still present, hasn't changed much. So far, I also feel like it was worth going through the upheaval to get where I am now, but also realize that another DN could hit if more insight is on its way.

My DN was also like yours in that it wasn't "clean". I wasn't able to match up exactly where I was with the maps very easily. It might be that the DN experience is less "clean" in some cases, especially if experienced in the rough- and- tumble of daily life rather than on retreat. Eventually I gave up worrying about that and just focused on dealing with each sensation, emotion, thought as it came and went. For a while I also switched over almost entirely to metta and calming practices. Like you, I'd been more focused on mindfulness/ insight when the DN hit.

My suggestions: Keep doing metta and maybe also calming exercises like repeating a mantra without worrying so much about noting. Note the experiences as they come, go, and change, during your everyday life as well as during formal meditation. This includes any reduced emotional range. That may subside over time.

Others here are much farther along with this than me and will probably have lots of other good advice.

RE: What was this? What to do next?
Answer
1/19/14 8:13 PM as a reply to Blue Jay.
Blue Jay:
4- After reaching this equanimity, I felt certain things which are described in MCTB: ...two near misses...

Can this be the equanimity stage?

If it is, what to do now?
Don't miss emoticon

What is your goal? Stream entry I assume. just do what you did last time and see what happens...all you can do is get there and see if it happens..
good luck,
~D

RE: What was this? What to do next?
Answer
1/19/14 9:07 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
emoticon

Well, both times there was an almost total extinction of attachment and aversion. But if you try to not attach, you are attached. So I figured that through insight/understanding would be a better route. I have no clue if it is, though...