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Problems with compassion

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Problems with compassion
Answer
5/8/14 2:07 PM
To give a brief summary of my meditation history, I took a Goenka course in 2012 where I believe I crossed the A & P and entered a dark night.  I found Daniel's book and really started ramping up my practice and around June of last year believe I got stream entry as outlined in the book.  If I had to guess where I am in practice currently, I would say I have started a new path and have not yet reached the A & P on this new path yet.  These are merely best guesses, but I could be wrong about any of these observations.

Recently in my meditation I have started noticing problems.  I sometimes do more or less but a typical session might be start with about 10 minutes of anapana, 50 minutes of body scans, and then 10 minutes of metta once a day (Goenka course style) Occassionally, on a weekend, I might do 3 or more hours in a day and seem to notice this even more. During my sit I will pay attention to sensations and try to observe the sensations while remaining equanimous.  I am usually able to do this fairly well with the occasional diversions here and there.   

The problem comes when I am off the cushion.  I find feelings arising of disenchantment and anger, and essentially feel like I am becoming less compassionate.  I tried to observe these feelings with equanimity, but it keeps arising.  The more I meditate, the more intense these feelings become off the cushion.  I am trying not to let it interfere with my day to day life and not act out on the people I am around, but I fear that I am regressing in my practice. 

I want to continue to practice and benefit from my practice, but this has been quite a roadblock and I am unsure how to proceed.  Is this a normal part of progress and something that will pass?  Am I possibly practicing incorrectly?  Or could this be something else entirely?  Thank you in advance for your attention in this matter.

RE: Problems with compassion
Answer
5/8/14 7:16 PM as a reply to Michael A Speese.
Personally I would continue the practice but take something on like the 7 factors of awakening.  I think you'll like it becuase it has a balancing effect and treats concentration and metta practice as a way of keeping hindrances at bay.  Energy in particular is so important in changing mental habits.  Abandoning what is unskillful, preventing it from arising, cultivating skillfulness, and sustaining it will show you what effort you need to get out of negative ruts.  It's important to understand that as you calm the mind your "stuff" will come up.  All the people who did you wrong and all the things you want to say to them will come up.  

The subtlty of the practice will become more important as you notice that blocking habits that come up is just another form of aversion.  Ruminating is more aversion.  Don't add rumination and make sure you welcome the mental habits that arise.  It's like inviting Mara for tea and quickly letting Mara out the back-door.  Habits come out of the unconscious so whenever you let go of mindfulness they will sneak in during those times.  This is why consistent mindfulness plus a use of one-pointed concentration on the breath when you get agitated can help keep things at bay.  Occassionally think about things that make you happy to nudge the mind into a new habit of positivity.  It's good to look at how functional you are when you're happy or have equanimity.

Equanimity is what you are developing when your "stuff" comes up and you can just watch it impassively and non-judgmentally.  Learn to watch things just pass away on their own.  Relinquishing things with effort is necessary sometimes because of the strength of the reactivity but try and just let it go on its own.  See an enjoyment and don't act on it.  See a hatred and don't act on it.  Don't have aversion that it's there but also develop the confidence to just watch it go away.  You'll know you have success when you stay with the body and everything just rights itself and you feel healthy relief.

When you're noting you're not clinging.  Sometimes a bare awareness is more relaxing than noting so Shikantaza is a good way to smooth out vipassana.  Use more noting when you're lazy and more bare awareness and soothing concentration when there's too much energy.

These practice quotes from Kenneth Folk have helped me a lot:
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"While you are practicing just sitting, be clear about everything going on in your mind. Whatever you feel, be aware of it, but never abandon the awareness of your whole body sitting there. Shikantaza is not sitting with nothing to do; it is a very demanding practice, requiring diligence as well as alertness. If your practice goes well, you will experience the 'dropping off' of sensations and thoughts. You need to stay with it and begin to take the whole environment as your body. Whatever enters the door of your senses becomes one totality, extending from your body to the whole environment. This is silent illumination."

-Master Shengyen
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Kenneth: See how the looping between body and mind IS the dissociation.

Mumuwu: Do you mean the moving out of the body to the mind and back?

I mean the creation of a third "thing," this pseudo-entity that is a composite of body sensations and mental phenomena. Living in this third thing is suffering because it takes you out of what is really happening in this moment; it becomes a proxy for experience. You can train yourself to stop living this proxy life of suffering by coming back to the body sensations in this moment. The body cannot lie. Being in the body is being present in this moment. Being present in this moment does not allow the pseudo-self to form. When the pseudo-self does not form, life is simple and free. It will be pleasant at times and unpleasant at times, but it is always free.

There is no conflict between noting and living in your body, by the way, whether you note silently or aloud. You can note or not note, think, act, talk, love, live; there is very little you can't do; you just can't suffer. If you choose to note, understand that there is nothing magical about the noting itself. The noting is simply a feedback loop to remind you to feel your body and observe your mind in this moment.
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Keep practicing with breaks inbetween.  Get good sleep and exercise.  Eat well.

Metta

Richard

RE: Problems with compassion
Answer
5/8/14 9:48 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thank you very much Richard.  I'll will try some of you suggestions.

RE: Problems with compassion
Answer
5/9/14 12:08 AM as a reply to Michael A Speese.
I don't know if this would be helpful, but one must be careful with cultivating too much of what can feel like equanimity towards sensations, as this is often either aversion to unpleasant things (aka repression) or simple indifference, which can be heart-deadening, so be wary of such things. Better to stick to heartful and complete investigation and be less into trying to maintain something like a flat or neutral observer that is on this side and safe from the complexities of the human heart.

Also, how do you know you got stream entry?

Daniel

RE: Problems with compassion
Answer
5/9/14 6:15 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you for the advice Daniel.  I think what you say is what I've been doing lately in that I have been trying hard to maintain the position of the neutral observer, so I will certainly try to implement your advice.

As far as how I know for certain I got stream entry, the short answer is I don't, that is I've never been dharma diagnosed by a teacher if you will.  What leads me to believe this is about a year ago I really ramped up my practice for a few months (at least 3 hours a day, and at least 5 a day on weekends).  Approximately a year before that, I crossed the A and P and went into a dark night after a 10 day Goenka course.  I am pretty certain of that.  I believe I crossed the A and P before that while not formally meditating as well, about 5 years before at the Western Wall.  The stages I went through seemed to follow the stages in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha and the descriptions of those on this site.  In terms of Jhanas, it was after I began to notice formations in my practice.  Things that would happen before might be during my meditation, I would notice a bird chirp outside, and there was no differentiation between the bird, the chirp, and my body.  It all seemed to be part of the same terrain.  At the point I believe I may have got stream entry, I noticed a shift in my perception.  It was quite subtle and I might have not noticed the moment itself as something significant had I not read about it.  It was different than the A and P in that it didn't feel like an "Oh Wow" type of moment. 

After that, I felt a higher ability to feel my feelings fully.  I would feel something, happy, sad, whatever it was, but I wouldn't walk around holding on to that feeling.  The feeling of I did drop away in the sense that I didn't see myself as a separate permanent being, but in my day to day life, I wouldn't have same sense that I did during meditation of there being absolutely no boundary.  The months following my meditations did start with what I believe were A and P phenomenon, usually a Kundalini type energy that would radiate up my spine.  I also noticed what seemed to be consistent with fruitions, especially in the days following what I believe to be the stream entry event.  I started practicing less frequently than I was.

A few weeks ago I noticed that I seemed to have trouble getting into the first Vipassana jhana.  As I practiced more, it became easier to get into it and I started noticing what might be consistent with Vipassana jhana 1 and then 2.

I am in contact with an assistant teacher from the Goenka course.  I didn't share my experience, but when I was at her house after a group sitting, I mentioned the topic of stream entry, and she brushed off the idea that anyone could achieve this in regular practice.  She felt that arahants come once every maybe 500 years and certainly wouldn't be found in regular life. 

In any case, I will continue to practice, but I as a scientist I figure there are 2 distinct possibilities.  One is I got stream entry and am now on my second path.  The other is that I tricked myself into thinking I got stream entry though suggestion and have simply fallen back to square one as I decreased my sitting frequency.  Any input you would have would certainly be appreciated, as this is something I have been curious about since it happened.  Thank you for your response.

RE: Problems with compassion
Answer
7/3/14 11:09 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I don't know if this would be helpful, but one must be careful with cultivating too much of what can feel like equanimity towards sensations, as this is often either aversion to unpleasant things (aka repression) or simple indifference, which can be heart-deadening, so be wary of such things. Better to stick to heartful and complete investigation and be less into trying to maintain something like a flat or neutral observer that is on this side and safe from the complexities of the human heart.

Also, how do you know you got stream entry?

Daniel




Michael A. Speesler:
"During my sit I will pay attention to sensations and try to observe the sensations while remaining equanimous.  I am usually able to do this fairly well with the occasional diversions here and there."

Daniel, can you clarify your commentary?
During his 10-day course Goenka states that
during meditationone's degree of equinimity towards both positive and negative sensations is the measure of success.