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many questions about where I'm at

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many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/19/15 2:12 PM
Everything I wrote got deleted!  I accidentally hit delete when my browser wasn't concentrated on the text box so the back-button was triggered...sigh...

Ok.  First off, it's really hard to ask questions on here without feeling like I'm secretly asking if I've made some glorious attainment, so my apologies if that tone is here and it bothers you.

I'm just going to recount my current spiritual life, and various issues I'm encountering, and any commenting will be appreciated.

Anyways.  I went to two Goenka retreats, and got really into meditating for like 2 months.  I've since stopped meditating formally.  However, it comes naturally sometimes.  Usually like three times a day.  I easily concentrate my way into what I believe is the first Jhana, and then I pursue mindfulness from there.  My mindfulness is as follows: I try to see new patterns in my mind body complex.  I look for sensations, and my reactions.  I try to name everything (often without actually labelling in my mind), from intention to desires to subtle sensations.

I've been dealing with a lot of issues.  A lot of thoughts I suppressed when I was younger have been haunting me.  Basically, some thought will appear that I'll realize I'm not comfortable thinking.  So, I'll challenge that status quo and think it, in an attempt to become more open minded.  Then I'll panic, because, you know, it's an uncomfortable thought and I've just willingly thought it.  Then there's this plateauing stage where I feel utterly hopeless because my fear of the thought has kind of solidified into a sensation on my body, and I can't "get rid" of that sensation.  Then the final revelation is always that I need not suffer about my suffering (because that's where real pain begins).  That is, I need not worry about the fact that there sensations on my body that I don't like, and thoughts in my mind that I dont' like.  So I come out of this process with a lot of equinimity, you could say.  Being extremely patient with my issues, and learning to accept them the way they are.

I guess I'm largely curious if the above account relates to the Vipassana maps.

Lately I've been in the plateau / freakout stage.  It sucks.  Largely because I just graduated from college and I just want to relax but nooooo, spiritual progress must be made...ha.

I'll give you another example of the earlier paragraph.  Recently, my roommate brought a guy home and she was hooking up with him, I had an exam the next morning so I was really annoyed because she was making a lot of noise and was keeping me up late into the night.  Like, a lot of noise...moaning, smacking sounds, etc.  It was super gross.  But I didn't want to knock on her door and tell her to stop, because that would have embarassed her.

A lot of really intense, disgruntled thoughts started clouding my mind.  At first I was suppressing these thoughts.  Telling myself not to think them.  But then it occurred to me that the thing keeping these hateful thoughts alive was my suppression of them.  So I thought them freely.  It was very painful, letting myself think these thoughts, because the "dark" part of my mind is very intense...but learning to allow thoughts is an important part of the spiritual path.  This next part is ridiculous...you will probably laugh or cringe.  But as my mind balanced out because I was letting the emotions and thoughts flow, eventually when I would hear my roommate making noise while she hooked up with this guy, I wouldn't get angry...rather, I felt a lot of empathy towards her.  In fact, it felt like I was her...I was a complete empath.  It was sort of like in the book Siddhartha, when he talks about putting his awareness in other beings...hawks flying above him, etc.  When I heard her, instead of getting annoyed, I was making love secondhand.  Duality was transcended, in a sense.

Another issue I'm dealing with is substance abuse!  Weed is everywhere, alcohol is everywhere, and I'm having so much difficulty keeping my mind clear when I'm engaged with these substances.  I mean it's a little bit more complex than that because I guess one of my major, recent revelations is that substance abuse isn't actually such a big deal, but even more recently I'm starting to wonder if I won't be able to escape this dark night (is that what it is?) if I keep clouding my mind.

Finally: I have a friend who is obsessed with Tantra.  Well, it isn't even that, he just has this personal spirituality that he is extremely adament about and Tantra happens to encompass a lot of aspects of it.  He has really opened my eyes to a lot of amazing, spiritual shit!

But I sometimes worry that maybe he doesn't know what he's talking about, because he's a little crazy.  He's a little too certain about his realizations.  One of my friends hates him.  But!  He seems to possess genuine insight.  And he's a good friend.

Let me talk about what he's told me about...please note, some of this stuff is really out there and does not jive with Vipassana at all, at least so far as I understand Vipassana.

He validated my realization that neurosis isn't actually a big deal, and it's evidence of natural mental processes we just tend to suppress.  For example, when body scanning my awareness tends to go places that I don't want it to.  Then I realized that that movement...that tendency...is the very sensation I need to be aware of.

He's obsessed with "imagery".  That is, the visual component of sensations.  Specifically, he believes that there is a visual component to every psycho-spiritual issue that you can classify as a deity, and that you have to transcend duality with these deities to free yourself from issues.  This is something I really have difficulty understanding but it fascinates me.

Anyways.  There's a lot of stuff in here.  Let me know what you think.  Thanks for reading.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/19/15 3:09 PM as a reply to a person.
Hello, you seem to be being pulled in many directions: Goenka, Herman Hesse, your Tantra friend, and now Dharma Overground. I would recommend that you pick one teacher and stick with that one teacher for a while.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/19/15 7:47 PM as a reply to a person.
a person:
Anyways.  There's a lot of stuff in here.  Let me know what you think.  Thanks for reading.
Was there a question in there somewhere or are you just looking for random thoughts?
~D

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/20/15 1:13 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
I'm just looking for random thoughts.  I guess I just want validation right?  But more than that, just some kind of a diagnosis of some of the stuff I've been experiencing.  Or the thoughts of someone who can relate to some of the stuff I've described...

Again though, I really loathe that tone of like "look at what I've experienced, am I enlightened??" that I tend to have when I post on forums like this.  So I hope you can understand that I'm more just feeling lonely in these thoughts and feelings and want someone to talk to about them.

There was a lot of spewing.  Sorry.

tldr of my post; I've been having issues with thought suppression, I suspect that it relates to the Vipassana maps.  Usually, when I stop suppressing a thought it results in equinimity or empathy.  There's other stuff that I've been discovering about myself that I can't describe, that make the spiritual path feel complex.  I also have a friend who's a little crazy but is also a good friend and who seemingly possesses genuine insight, so I'm just curious if anyone has any advice to offer me so far as sort of cherry picking spiritual advice from uncertified teachers is concerned.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/20/15 4:02 AM as a reply to a person.
Here are "random thoughts":
My mindfulness is as follows: I try to see new patterns in my mind body complex.  I look for sensations, and my reactions.  I try to name everything (often without actually labelling in my mind), from intention to desires to subtle sensations.
 Basically, some thought will appear that I'll realize I'm not comfortable thinking.  So, I'll challenge that status quo and think it, in an attempt to become more open minded.  Then I'll panic, because, you know, it's an uncomfortable thought and I've just willingly thought it.  Then there's this plateauing stage where I feel utterly hopeless because my fear of the thought has kind of solidified into a sensation on my body, and I can't "get rid" of that sensation.  Then the final revelation is always that I need not suffer about my suffering (because that's where real pain begins).

You have a good meditative intuition, go with that forever.  Always balance it with advice from other seekers and teachers who have spoken to a large sample size of yogis.
 Recently, my roommate brought a guy home and she was hooking up with him, I had an exam the next morning so I was really annoyed because she was making a lot of noise and was keeping me up late into the night.
Weed is everywhere, alcohol is everywhere, and I'm having so much difficulty keeping my mind clear when I'm engaged with these substances.

I recently graduated from a huge, state-university.  You are probably saturated by temptation and distraction.  A balanced path may very well be the answer.  You can't completely deny the crazy energy of your environment, yet you can't resist the pull inward to lead a contemplative life.  Trust your intuition when you meditate.  Meditate a lot, but not too much.  Trust your "conventional" intuition to find the ever-shifting balance.
 Then I realized that that movement...that tendency...is the very sensation I need to be aware of.

Tantra or no tantra, this is the real deal.  Explore with ruthlessness.  Fuck the dark corners, leave no stone unturned.  But also, stay with one technique for a very, very long time.  Like, long enough to drive you completely nuts.  In doing so, you'll unlock it all.  Also, staying with one technique in your environment, may provide a skillful sense of stability that you may not find in jumping around.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/20/15 7:50 AM as a reply to a person.
I've been dealing with a lot of issues.  A lot of thoughts I suppressed when I was younger have been haunting me. 

I've no idea how any of this fits in with maps of insight and so forth, but years ago when I started meditating first, I was dealing with a lot of issues.  I was highly prone to confusion, depression, very tangled thought patterns and all manner of unhealthy life habits.

I also had a lot of issues around having some kinds of 'spiritual experiences' and not knowing how they fit in with the world around me as I couldn't really talk about them with anyone, so I started thinking I'm either some kind of very special messianic hero or i'm just completely insane.  

What meditation first helped me with, even though I was expecting some cosmic explosions, was actually to become more and more steadily grounded, more self-accepting ... 
I really loathe that tone of like "look at what I've experienced, am I enlightened??" that I tend to have when I post on forums like this. 

(...I think this forum is a safe place to share your experiences.  emoticon  ...)

and overall I became more OK with just being OK  !  
After that perhaps, the ground was clear enough for any seeds of actual insight and the real fruits of meditation to start planting themselves.(then i probably became a little less normal again ;)  )

In short, meditation first had a very therapeutic effect for me, and maybe not everyone seems to have this experience, but for me it really helped me to deal with life in very ordinary down-to-earth healthy ways.


So I hope you can understand that I'm more just feeling lonely in these thoughts and feelings and want someone to talk to about them.
that was exactly what i could've done with a lot more of when i started first, yep.  I think its normal and healthy.  
I read all the experiences and thoughts (and seemingly aimless rambles ! ;)  ) you wrote and all sound just fine.  This practice is starting to help you to free yourself from your automatic stories.  Keep going!   (and everything Noah said ;) )

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/21/15 5:13 PM as a reply to a person.
how did you feel after the retreats? Was the second different from the first? if so, how?

It sounds like your life is quite manic. I would maybe try and go travelling, in a foreign country, for a while and work out who you are on the road, by yourself. It would give you time to meditate, it would take you away from the drugs and it will change your life. But hey, I kinda really want to go travelling at the moment, so I might be projecting my own desires a little here!

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/21/15 7:12 PM as a reply to b man.
thanks Cian and Noah S.  I appreciate your advice and words.


to b man and gordo:

I've definitely crossed the a&p.  That's the only part of the Vipassana maps that I'm positive about.  It first happened when I was 19, when I was feeling depressed after taking magic mushrooms.  I focused on my name (no idea why...well it makes sense actually, my sense of identity was really strong) and felt that I came into contact with divine love for like 30 minutes.

I've been to three retreats.  The first was...all over the place.  Notable mystical experiences at this first retreat: feeling like my ego was gone and I could essentially fall into Goenka's chanting, almost ride it like a stream of water.  When this occurred concentration became very difficult, it was like extreme, transcendental laziness.

At this first retreat I also had an experience where I felt my ego totally dissipate (I use the term ego because it's straightforward), I felt like I "was the room".  I remember looking at the wall and thinking I was the wall.  I even looked at the sun the next day, and felt that I was the sun.  Rather, the sun felt as close to me as my hand did.  Just an extension of myself.

At my second retreat I spent most of it dealing with a mental problem that had become associated with a sensation on my body.  I was very depressed.  If this wasn't the "dark night of the soul", I don't know what is.  I spent most of this retreat being intensely mindful / concentrated.  My concentrative powers definitely improved!  I came into contact with some new types of sensations too...notably, pseudo-visual sensations.  This rotating feeling in my skull that I could sort of "see".  I eventually resolved to stop being so depressed and just focus on impermanence...I resolved to be very mindful.  This resulted in a lot of equnimity and a lot of calming down.  Near the end of this retreat I observed some tension in my neck and it dissolved, then I had a very intense A&P.  Or was it the A&P?  I don't know.  I remember thinking, "I'm seeing everything that's going on in my mind body complex.  I'm not missing a beat.  The peaks, the troughs, everything."  This feeling of smooth, clear seeing permeated me for days.  In some ways, it is still with me.

At my third retreat I was dreadfully, psychotically depressed the entire time.  On the final day I became motivated enough to really, seriously be mindful and to focus on the impermanence of the sensatiosn in my body which helped with my issues immensely.  My issue was similar to the one I had at my second retreat; I had associated a mental problem with a sensation in my body and it was driving me crazy.  I was dealing with a lot of thought suppression.  It became clear that to meditate properly I had to stop suppressing my thoughts.  Letting them out was extremely painful.  So yeah on the final day, I dealt with these issues a lot by just noticing the impermanence of everything...finding comfort in that.  Ultimately, I left this retreat with the following realization: never suffer about your suffering.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/21/15 7:20 PM as a reply to a person.
Gordo . .:
Alcohol, weed = drugs.
Dharma and drugs wont work.
If everyone around you is on drugs you are probably on them as well. (Birds of a feather) There is a parallel ( drug free) environment in your world now. At the moment its hidden from your view, and will not become apparent until you change your habits. ( when you let go of one possibility other possibilities will become apparent ).
Of course being young has its obsticles, there are so many temptations. It may be better to leave the meditation for a while, at least until you have dealt with certain issues. Unless you've crossed a&p.
Best wishes.

Oh and also, yes it's pretty clear to me that I'm "reaping what I've sewn".  I am surrounded by drug users.  Drinkers, smokers, trippers.  Part of it is just college but it's also very closely intertwined with my past; I've been smoking weed and drinking since I was sixteen, never been a buyer but when it's presented to me, I take it.  Thus I have sewn seeds of drug use.


Alcohol is sort of a conundrum for me.  It interferes less with my mindfulness / concentration than other drugs, and does not exagerate my neurosis in such a way that I am worse off after having consumed it.  However, hangovers are shitty.  It's bad for my body.  And consuming it all the time is bad for my meditation, most definitely.  I feel like it's harder to "see" what's going on in my body but the onset of that symptom is slower than with weed...weed just obliterates everything meditation related for me, all it does is make me feel mystical for awhile and then shitty for the second half of the trip.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/21/15 11:58 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah S:
Here are "random thoughts":
My mindfulness is as follows: I try to see new patterns in my mind body complex.  I look for sensations, and my reactions.  I try to name everything (often without actually labelling in my mind), from intention to desires to subtle sensations.
 Basically, some thought will appear that I'll realize I'm not comfortable thinking.  So, I'll challenge that status quo and think it, in an attempt to become more open minded.  Then I'll panic, because, you know, it's an uncomfortable thought and I've just willingly thought it.  Then there's this plateauing stage where I feel utterly hopeless because my fear of the thought has kind of solidified into a sensation on my body, and I can't "get rid" of that sensation.  Then the final revelation is always that I need not suffer about my suffering (because that's where real pain begins).

You have a good meditative intuition, go with that forever.  Always balance it with advice from other seekers and teachers who have spoken to a large sample size of yogis.
 Recently, my roommate brought a guy home and she was hooking up with him, I had an exam the next morning so I was really annoyed because she was making a lot of noise and was keeping me up late into the night.
Weed is everywhere, alcohol is everywhere, and I'm having so much difficulty keeping my mind clear when I'm engaged with these substances.

I recently graduated from a huge, state-university.  You are probably saturated by temptation and distraction.  A balanced path may very well be the answer.  You can't completely deny the crazy energy of your environment, yet you can't resist the pull inward to lead a contemplative life.  Trust your intuition when you meditate.  Meditate a lot, but not too much.  Trust your "conventional" intuition to find the ever-shifting balance.
 Then I realized that that movement...that tendency...is the very sensation I need to be aware of.

Tantra or no tantra, this is the real deal.  Explore with ruthlessness.  Fuck the dark corners, leave no stone unturned.  But also, stay with one technique for a very, very long time.  Like, long enough to drive you completely nuts.  In doing so, you'll unlock it all.  Also, staying with one technique in your environment, may provide a skillful sense of stability that you may not find in jumping around.

Is noticing impermanence the key to equinimity?  I just feel a little puzzled...I'm aware of a two things that are key to meditating:

mindfulness (noting sensations)
noticing the three characteristics...no-self, impermanence, suffering

like how should I go about my mindfulness?  should I be aware of the beginning and the end of as many sensations as possible? the no-self of as many sensations as possible?  the suffering of as many sensations as possible? because otherwise, if I'm just being mindful, it seems like I run the risk of shifting into the first jhana, at least so far as I understand the nature of that jhana.  But is that true, or can I simplify my meditation into just pure mindfulness?

I have run into a state of mind before where I've become almost angry and extremely mindful of impermanence.  I'm curious about that state of mind.

RE: many questions about where I'm at
Answer
6/23/15 5:58 PM as a reply to a person.
Your insights about thoughts is really important, well done on that. The supression is the problem, not the thoughts themselves. In fact, they aren't actually "yours" to begin with so no reason to feel bad about them anyway. I think a lot of issues (if not most of them) in the so called spiritual community is a result of repression. People believe that they shouldn't think or feel a certain way and end up supressing things, which then bubble up in the form of unconscious behavior. That's probably the root cause of all the sex scandals in Buddhism.

In the end I find that this whole trip towards enlightenment is about releasing and letting go of everything, and that means that nothing can be hidden. As Jesus says in the Gospel of Thomas: "Know what is in front of your face, and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you. For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. [And there is nothing buried that will not be raised.]"

Regarding alcohol and weed I would recommend you stay away from alcohol, it really hasn't much to offer. Weed is a lot more interesting but the main issue here is HOW you use it. If you're using it at parties (like I assume from your post) then it certainly won't help your spiritual growth much and may in fact hinder it. It's a (mild) entheogen so it will open you up to energies and spirits, which is not a very good idea when you're around a bunch of spiritually polluted retards at a party. If you use it alone it can actually be very beneficial to both yoga and meditation, though of course some purists may admonish me for saying so. It's a sacred and healing plant, very helpful if used correctly, not so much if abused or used incorrectly.

Regarding your experience of empathy that sounds nice and is definetely within the realm of "normal" mystical experiences. In fact it is something that I have found very useful and interesting in my own practice. It's quite possible to "connect" with other body/mind systems and experience what they are experiencing.