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Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity

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I am a 41 year old male with a childhood history of trauma and dissociation. 5 years ago things in my life went bad and I ended up with a case of PTSD with pretty bad anxiety and depression. I attended a Goenka 10-day Vipassana meditation retreat with the hopes of fixing myself. Before attending the retreat I had done chakra/energy meditation and visualization for 3 years. On day 6 of the retreat I experienced the body mind and world dissolving and a volcanic explosion of rising energy from the base of the spine occurred. A process began where some form of energy seems to roam the body looking for tension and the mind looking for beliefs and then goes to work attempting to dissolve these painfully but ultimately with good results. For weeks after the retreat I increasingly began to experience psychic and spiritual powers of various sorts. Eventually fear got the best of me and I sought medical intervention. I was on meds for 6 months but the process never completely died off so with my doctor's support I went off the meds and dove back into practice. That was over a year ago. Now most of my anxiety, depression and ptsd have been cured and I am currently set to attend my second Goenka retreat in a few weeks. I am a little apprehensive about becoming overwhelmed again, but my mind has changed so much since back then that I am for the most part confident I can handle it. For a while I thought I had attained stream entry, but I am pretty sure I am just touching into equanimity and I expect there to be additional dark night stages in the future. Where exactly in the map of stages is stream entry anyway?

Any tips on staying grounded and not freaking out and attaining stream entry would be appreciated. emoticon

Based on responses I wanted to clarify... What has been noticed is that the instruction to practice Vipassana by being aware of sensations and remaining equanimous is not as easy as it sounds. It has been noticed that there are very subtle layers of aversion, craving and delusion and that true and complete equanimity is extremely challenging. Any tips on achieving this? Or is achieving this equivalent to becoming an Arahant and can only be discovered with introspection?

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 6:07 PM as a reply to KundaliniLinguini.
@Josh, In one of Shinzen Young's videos he talks about continuing a meditative practice while being on psychoactive medications. He seems to advocate continuing to take the medications as long as necessary, even if they effect the way you experience practice as well as day-to-day reality. To this experience, he applies one of his catch phrases, "recycle the reaction". So if the medications are coloring your experience on the cushion, apply your technique (mindfulness or otherwise) to whatever you are experiencing at that moment.

Another related analogy he uses is that of weightlifting. He argues that if your goal is to improve your bench press as much as possible and you haven't worked out in a while, then it's probably not a good idea to attempt to lift bench 500 lbs initially. You run the risk of injuring yourself and sidelining effective practice for quite some time. He uses this analogy both to advise students not to push them themselves too far before they're ready and to encourage them to take psychoactive medications when they would be beneficial.

The Dark Night, when you hit it, can produce quite a bit of anxiety and depression, even in those who are no history of them. In order to get some insight into this territory before you experience it in practice, I would recommend reading the sections in Daniel's book (MTCB available as a free PDF) on the 15 stages of insight. This will also give you a better understanding of where stream entry lies on the path, it's is stage 15 (Fruition) the first time you experience it.

Given what you've said, I would be cautious about attending a Goenka retreat at this time. My understanding is that they often want you to commit to staying for the duration of the retreat (10 days, etc.) This could potentially put you in an awkward situation if you do experience a "freak out". You might be much better served by a local shanga that offers weekend or one-day retreats.

You might also check out some of Kenneth Folk's materials. He talks about being cured of anxiety and depression after achieving 4th path (arhatship). He also mentions that he weaned himself off of anti-depressant medications after hitting this point. He is the link to the relevant chapter of his book...

http://contemplativefitnessbook.com/book-one-story/off-the-ride/

Assuming that reaching 4th path is universally beneficial in regards to its effect on the symptoms of anxiety/depression (perhaps some 4th pathers can comment) then I think there is wisdom in trying to get there as safely and soundly as possible. Most of us don't want to delay reaching our goals whenever possible, so I understand the "faster is better" mentality. But we also want to get there in one piece. It's up to you whether you'd like to approach the practice as more of a marathon or a sprint.

     Best,

-Sam

P.S. I looked for the Shinzen citations but could not find them. perhaps someone else know which videos cover these points.

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 6:29 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Interesting.

I assume you read what I wrote about having been off of meds for over a year now and still continuing a pretty intense daily practice. If I didn't make that clear that was my mistake.

Perhaps also I might differ in my opinoon from Shinzen Young. Are there really any shortcuts on the spiritual path? Can one really bypass all their karma by attaining 4th path and then discontinuing meds? If so it would seem to be a great way to cheat karma.

Since the entire universe including body and mind are just a projection of consciousness, and aren't really real but more like a dream or simulation, we can't really say that any psychological disease has a physical origin, since there is no such thing as physical reality. No such thing as matter or energy. Physical reality is more of the effect than the cause in a sense.

Given that point of view, aren't all mental illnesses just dark night symptoms?

If there are true psychotic disorders which prevent people from practicing correctly, then what could this represent from a spiritual reality perspective? Do these people have such bad karma that they are effectively banned from attainment during this lifetime? Surely if a person's karma would preclude them from attainment, one could not bypass such a state of affairs using medication could they?

In this context, what are psych meds? Are they some sort of helper spirit like a Deva of some kind? Or aren't they just intoxicants?

I may have more wild and extreme experiences than some, given my karma, but I am determined to accept my karma and not bypass it.

I have gained tremendous equanimity compared to my first retreat, which I completed despite the wildness. I have learned to notice when I am applying too much force and back off and deeply relax, which I could never do before. If anything, I can just sit there and practice relaxation the whole time and not make insight the focus.

I appreciate you taking the time to warn me and look out for my safety! If I feel I am in danger I will leave, no matter what they say.

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 6:38 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:

You might also check out some of Kenneth Folk's materials. He talks about being cured of anxiety and depression after achieving 4th path (arhatship). He also mentions that he weaned himself off of anti-depressant medications after hitting this point. He is the link to the relevant chapter of his book...

http://contemplativefitnessbook.com/book-one-story/off-the-ride/

In fact, in reading the Kenneth Folk article, I might start claiming I am an Arahant since I was able to get off meds and cure my depression and anxiety LOL!!!

By the way, I have attended multiple 5 day retreats with a local sangha in the past year.

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 7:36 PM as a reply to KundaliniLinguini.
KundaliniLinguini:

I am a little apprehensive about becoming overwhelmed again, but my mind has changed so much since back then that I am for the most part confident I can handle it. For a while I thought I had attained stream entry, but I am pretty sure I am just touching into equanimity and I expect there to be additional dark night stages in the future. Where exactly in the map of stages is stream entry anyway?

Any tips on staying grounded and not freaking out and attaining stream entry would be appreciated. emoticon


@Kundalini, Just curious, if you believe all is well and you are 100% over your anxiety, why do you say you are "a little apprehensive about becoming overwhelmed again" and "Any tips on staying grounded and not freaking out.. would be appreciated"?

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 7:46 PM as a reply to Shamadhi Sam.
Shamadhi Sam:
KundaliniLinguini:

I am a little apprehensive about becoming overwhelmed again, but my mind has changed so much since back then that I am for the most part confident I can handle it. For a while I thought I had attained stream entry, but I am pretty sure I am just touching into equanimity and I expect there to be additional dark night stages in the future. Where exactly in the map of stages is stream entry anyway?

Any tips on staying grounded and not freaking out and attaining stream entry would be appreciated. emoticon


@Kundalini, Just curious, if you believe all is well and you are 100% over your anxiety, why do you say you are "a little apprehensive about becoming overwhelmed again" and "Any tips on staying grounded and not freaking out.. would be appreciated"?
Well anyone who says they are 100% anything is probably delusional. I could always use a little extra support and help and advice.

RE: Crossed A&P, been through first dark night and achieved some equanimity
Answer
1/9/16 8:54 PM as a reply to KundaliniLinguini.
KundaliniLinguini:
I am