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First time posting: several questions

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First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/1/17 11:42 PM
Dear all,

My name is Manu, and it's my first time posting here. I've been knowing the forum from some time thanks to a great friend who is active here, but I was afraid to read too much of it, because of the risk of taking things too litteraly, or to be misled by some advice I would not understand. So I took an extra year to deepen my practice and read MCBT (thank you, Daniel!).

I feel it's now the time to ask some questions, and I am really grateful in advance for any guidance you might have ! I realize this might be a long post but well, it has been maturing for some time now, so please forgive me. If you agree to advise me, please accept my deep gratitude. But please, make sure that you only answer if you know what you're saying, because I'm still largely pre-SE and I can take things very litteral...

In short, I started Vipassana with Goenka in 2013 at the age of 30, and have since done 4x10 days course, 2x 8 days Satthipatana, and 1x 10 days serving. I have more or less managed to maintain daily practice, initally for 30min, and in the last 6 months I managed to sit 1h almost every morning.

My life has overall improved drastically, except for some problems mentionned below.

Some background: I have always been a very very anxious person, formerly subject to big worries and occasional depressions. On the other side I'm also a very striven person, and considered as "brilliant" by some of my friends. The two things go together,  as a deep insecurity is the driving force to achieve things in the world, which also create huge pressure and more insecurity, etc.  Luckily, things have smoothed down since I started Vipassana. Before my first course, I was absolutely not a spiritual person. The course was a revelation.

The questions where I would need your guidance are:

1. Post-course depressions

A few times I went to a 10 day course, I came back depressed. After my third course in 2014, it was so huge, that I remember coming back and rolling and crying on the floor in a panick attack, not even knowing how I would simply exist. It was shocking. My last retreat was in November 2016, and I remember being super happy when I entered the course, yet on day 6 I started to generate monumental fears about the world (yeah Trump&Putin I thought about you guys), and came back depressed again. It took me a few weeks to be normal again.

So you have guessed my question... could it be a dark night ? It's easy to say yes, however it might also totally not be it at all, because:

- I have a personality that generates fear anyway

- in the first two post-vipassana depressions, there were actual reasons in my life to be depressed, as I was breaking up with my girlfriend and this tends to push me to the extremes. Last retreat, however, was more of a surprise.

- I would tend to say that I never crossed A&P, mostly because my concentration tends to be very low... Of course I've experienced tons of sensations, crawling ants everywhere, mini ectasy in Anapana, raptures, "lights out", feeling enlightened, etc, but definitely not the Bangha Nana that Goenka speaks of, e.g entire dissolution of the body with fine and nice sensations. I even regard myself as "particularly not gifted for Vipassana", given the amount of worries that I generate and the lack of concentration that results of it.

- I suspect that the depression might start at 5 evening, after Goenka speaks of wasting our lives trying to achieve things. So it might be a "philosophical depression", as I identify too much with what he's saying. I have even sworn to myself to stop listening to his discourses from now on. Also, in the Sattiphatana courses, I didn't get depressed (true, they are shorter).

Of course, I know that I actually don't need to know whether I'm in the DN or not, I just have to keep observing. The thing is, next month I'm going to a Mahasi-style course in Germany (15 days) and I'm slightly worried that if what I experienced before was not the DN... what hell could be waiting for me... and will I manage to work properly then ?

2. I feel close to something, but what... and how to move forward

After my last retreat, I decided to start noting, and it has been like WOOOW, this is soooo nice, as I can practice with more continuity than I ever could. It felt like I was doing a lot of progress off retreat, and after 3 weeks (at the end of the depression), I definitely entered something like the A&P while cycling on my bike, my mind was noting everything, I was super sharp, the world was utterly beautiful, it was the most beautiful state I had ever been. I wouldn't say I crossed it, but I'm pretty sure I at least entered it, of course I can be wrong (And two weeks after I was reacting, negative and tense like hell, due to my work - or accentuated by my work).

Now I'm having a little issue. Several times a week, during meditation, two things tend to happen:

- my eyes are closed but my vision becomes slowly very bright, as if someone was putting lots of light in the room. My breathing is very shallow. This tends to feel really nice.
OR
- I have a very sudden contraction of my eyes and foreheard, with many many sensations in the head. This tends to feel very alive yet scary and unpleasant. What is also surprising is can happen even when I was completely daydreaming the second before, as if it came by itself.

In both cases, I become so aware of the phenomenon, that I loose all awareness and tends to kill them. I feel fear in letting them be, as if there was something behind it that I was afraid to see. Is this something common ? Do you have any advice about it ?

3. Daily life getting better and better, and yet some cycles can make it worse ?

This is something from the theory that I can't really understand well. Overall, with the practice, my daily life is improving, as I react much less to things: equanimity is clearly improving. What I don't really comprehend, is that suddenly the DN can kick it, so you have very dark thoughts, ok... but do you still make progress in equanimity ? It's like you progress in equanimty and then loose it all ? Or despite the depression you still find equanimity in it ?

4. When you are restless and obsessive and what you need to make progress is to concentrate and oberve it... but it's precisely when you can't concentrate at all

Well the question says it all. What do you do when nothing works ? Be aware of the negativity require some concentration, and in those moments it's just not there... any advice ?

That's about it for now. I thank you a million times for your help!!!!!
All the best to all of you
Manu

RE: First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/3/17 7:50 AM as a reply to manucho.
Hi Manu,
welcome on board! emoticon
You say you are able to maintain a regular sitting routine. This is really good. I think Shargol said it nicely in this thread :
The first sign of progress shouldn't be overlooked: it's the fact that you CAN sit everyday.

Now I'll try to address your questions to the best of my ability!
manucho:


1. Post-course depressions

A few times I went to a 10 day course, I came back depressed. After my third course in 2014, it was so huge, that I remember coming back and rolling and crying on the floor in a panick attack, not even knowing how I would simply exist. It was shocking. My last retreat was in November 2016, and I remember being super happy when I entered the course, yet on day 6 I started to generate monumental fears about the world (yeah Trump&Putin I thought about you guys), and came back depressed again. It took me a few weeks to be normal again.

So you have guessed my question... could it be a dark night ? It's easy to say yes, however it might also totally not be it at all, because:

- I have a personality that generates fear anyway

- in the first two post-vipassana depressions, there were actual reasons in my life to be depressed, as I was breaking up with my girlfriend and this tends to push me to the extremes. Last retreat, however, was more of a surprise.

- I would tend to say that I never crossed A&P, mostly because my concentration tends to be very low... Of course I've experienced tons of sensations, crawling ants everywhere, mini ectasy in Anapana, raptures, "lights out", feeling enlightened, etc, but definitely not the Bangha Nana that Goenka speaks of, e.g entire dissolution of the body with fine and nice sensations. I even regard myself as "particularly not gifted for Vipassana", given the amount of worries that I generate and the lack of concentration that results of it.

- I suspect that the depression might start at 5 evening, after Goenka speaks of wasting our lives trying to achieve things. So it might be a "philosophical depression", as I identify too much with what he's saying. I have even sworn to myself to stop listening to his discourses from now on. Also, in the Sattiphatana courses, I didn't get depressed (true, they are shorter).

Of course, I know that I actually don't need to know whether I'm in the DN or not, I just have to keep observing. The thing is, next month I'm going to a Mahasi-style course in Germany (15 days) and I'm slightly worried that if what I experienced before was not the DN... what hell could be waiting for me... and will I manage to work properly then ?

It's definately easy to say yes, it's sounds very classic. Now, you might also consider truth and reality at a deeper and maybe more pragmatic level. What are the implications if you take either stance? Now, if you are experiencing dark night, the antidote is to keep on practising (unless it's getting really serious in which case the standard advice is to tone down the practise and seek help).

In the other case, I'd like to point out that according to my experience it becames progressively easier to deal with difficult life situations, such as break up or death. You gain a more equanomous stance towards all life, that makes dealing with it's specifics much easier (as you seem to have noticed yourself according to question 3). So in this case also, the instruction is to keep on practising!

I'm no expert of Goenka style specifically, as I've never read or practiced accordingly. I've done noting according to MCTB. From my understanding both are vipassana-style practises. From this perspective, I'd suggest that when listening to Goenka's talks try to observe your thoughts and feelings. Focus less on the philosophical implications and become keenly interested on the stuff that is happening in you, triggered by his words. Feel the creepiness, the depressive thoughts, all the angst whatever it is. Try to remain on objective observer, looking at you own body and mind.



2. I feel close to something, but what... and how to move forward

After my last retreat, I decided to start noting, and it has been like WOOOW, this is soooo nice, as I can practice with more continuity than I ever could. It felt like I was doing a lot of progress off retreat, and after 3 weeks (at the end of the depression), I definitely entered something like the A&P while cycling on my bike, my mind was noting everything, I was super sharp, the world was utterly beautiful, it was the most beautiful state I had ever been. I wouldn't say I crossed it, but I'm pretty sure I at least entered it, of course I can be wrong (And two weeks after I was reacting, negative and tense like hell, due to my work - or accentuated by my work).

Now I'm having a little issue. Several times a week, during meditation, two things tend to happen:

- my eyes are closed but my vision becomes slowly very bright, as if someone was putting lots of light in the room. My breathing is very shallow. This tends to feel really nice.
OR
- I have a very sudden contraction of my eyes and foreheard, with many many sensations in the head. This tends to feel very alive yet scary and unpleasant. What is also surprising is can happen even when I was completely daydreaming the second before, as if it came by itself.

In both cases, I become so aware of the phenomenon, that I loose all awareness and tends to kill them. I feel fear in letting them be, as if there was something behind it that I was afraid to see. Is this something common ? Do you have any advice about it ?
Sounds to me you could be in equanimity. Goenka criteria for A&P sounds strict, I don't think I would have qualified ;) How are you're sits in general? Do you feel like you are able to sit longer than before? Are you feeling gentle and relaxed, just fine with whatever? Slightly daydreaming is also typical, I think, and I recognize myseld from this contraction in the head/ feeling alive and a bit spooked kind of thing. It really feels like something big is about to happen. Now, what I did is just keep on practicing and with time they will start to loose their grip on you. A shift might feel scary, but try to concider all the factors that make it not scary. Read about people who have had shifts/stream entry/path moment. I can't remember that any of them would have regretted the experience. So it is nothing to be affraid of. Cultivate a little bit of bravery towards your inner experience. Nothing can go wrong. You can manage it all (but no need to do it alone, there are people around you who you can trust, other meditators like DhO'ers who you can ask advice from..). I've noticed that not even sleep paralyses can scare me now and those used to be scariest thing ever.

3. Daily life getting better and better, and yet some cycles can make it worse ?

This is something from the theory that I can't really understand well. Overall, with the practice, my daily life is improving, as I react much less to things: equanimity is clearly improving. What I don't really comprehend, is that suddenly the DN can kick it, so you have very dark thoughts, ok... but do you still make progress in equanimity ? It's like you progress in equanimty and then loose it all ? Or despite the depression you still find equanimity in it ?
Things change, but the important thing is that things change also for the better. Sometimes the mood is better, concentration is better, you experience life in a more positive manner. Just observe and notice all this fluctuation. Notice that the dark thoughts are just thoughts. Are they more true because they are so scary and horrible? Notice how the thoughts feel the most important thing at the time? Then what about some other time when the issue might not seem so grave and you are more relaxed about the whole thing? Did the situation change or did you change? Could you accept the fact that you are not always the same, but changing according to circumstances? Does this offer some help in dealing with the difficulties? No matter how hard it seems, it's bound to change so why take it so seriously?

4. When you are restless and obsessive and what you need to make progress is to concentrate and oberve it... but it's precisely when you can't concentrate at all

Well the question says it all. What do you do when nothing works ? Be aware of the negativity require some concentration, and in those moments it's just not there... any advice ?



I feel you! But, regardless of whether or not you can focus at the task, stay consistent and make time for a daily session. The quality of a session is in the big picture irrelevant to the progress you make. The fact that you cannot concentrate teaches you something about you, about being human. The most important commitment to make is to make it consistent. You don't have to sit 1 hour everyday. But make sure you sit at least 15 minutes. Actually just make sure you remember that you were supposed to observe. Do it for 5 seconds. Then do another 5 seconds when you remember again. Don't let yourself slack conpletely when it's hard. I know I start to make all sorts of excuses when meditation is harder. I've learned to notice when "I don't have time to sit and meditate" and then I see "A-ha, I'm having one of those periods". And then I sit even though it doesn't feel really that good. I'm not dissappointed because I'm not expecting anything from a single sit, and I've learned to trust the process. Trust you can gain by reading other people's stories and also observing you're own life.

Hope this helps and best of luck to you!

RE: First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/4/17 9:57 AM as a reply to manucho.
Manu,

It sounds like you have a combination of psychological and meditation-related challenges, but I would say that you have a lot of potential for making progress in meditation. If the depression or fear becomes too overwhelming, definitely use professional assistance. There's no reason not to use all of the options that you have in order to make progress.

Although it's hard to be 100% certain from just a short description, it sounds to me that you indeed have gone through A&P at some point and are now experiencing a mix of A&P, dark night nanas, and breaking into equanimity. Retreats are helping you make progress, but retreats are also making things volitile.

For better or worse, this is somewhat normal. You are starting to see your negative patterns clearly, but they are also still overwhelming you. This is a challenging time, but also one that has a lot of potential.

I went through something very similar in my early practice. One of the best things you can also do is to talk directly with someone. It's best if you can find a more senior student/practioner that you can talk to in person. Skyping is also good. I worked with a teacher as I was moving through some of this same territory in my practice.

(After typing all of this, I'm realizing that I would much rather Skype with people rather than type for a half hour! emoticon -- so folks should feel free to send me a message if they want.)

Here's some thoughts/advice that might be helpful...
 
Retreats can be be opportunities for making peace with your body and mind... or seeing how your habitual attitudes make problems worse. Usually both kind of insights happen on retreat. We learn to give up control, go with the program, accept aches and pains, stay on schedule, and as a result we access a clarity of mind that we normally don't have access to.

Retreats can also be like pouring gasoline on smoldering embers. If we have the hot coal of a negative habit, the gasoline will make it burst into flames. That may sound scary, but actually what that allows you to do is see that negative habitat much more clearly and then wisely deal with it. 

Classic negative habits that show up on retreat include:
  1. Straining or forcing ourselves to make progress happen. This kind of controlling is the exact opposite of being in the present moment with mindfulness and equanimity. It makes the current moment into a big problem that must be fixed and makes finding peace something that can only happen in the future. Peace is found right here, right now. 
  2. Pushing negative thoughts and feelings out of the mind, until they roar back and overwhelm us. This is basic psychological repression. If negative thoughts or feelings come up, they must be welcomed and treated gently. You almost have to be like a loving parent to your worries and concerns. You have to let your inner fears be heard and acknowledged.
  3. Indulging in our own certainty about how things are, good or bad. Retreats make the mind really powerful and we can have lots of positive creative thoughts that send us off track... or lots of catastrophizing (look it up) thoughts that exaggerate how wrong things are and make us despair. The mind is particularly strong, making good practice possible, but also can lead to forgetting about practice completely.
  4. Intellectualizing practice. The whole point of meditation is to learn how to fully experience the present moment, without covering it up with greed, aversion, or confusion. This might sound like an intellectual exercise, but it is more about simply being aware of what is occuring, not thinking about it, not planning for the future, not getting hung up on the past. It's so simple, but very hard for humans to do, because were always thinking "about it", not experiencing it. It's very common to think more about practicing while on retreat than actually doing the practice. (Almost all of us have been on retreat and started to plan how we would practice when we got home, what new cushions we were going to buy, maybe some new incense too... and before you know it, 20 minutes of daydreaming about practice has taken place.
  5. Making things complicated. Meditation practice is simple. Relax, and experience what is. If you have a habit of getting lost, use the breath or noting practice as a way to get back into the experiences that are occuring right now. When in doubt, if you are aware of body or breathing sensations, then you are in the present moment. Rest in the present moment. Notice when worries come up, note those worries, and then rest in the present moment. Notice when all forms of ill will show up, note those forms of ill will, and then rest in the present moment. Simple. Simply doing this will allow you to become more sane and fully awaken. The mind will naturally drop bad habits and adopt good habits, and all you have to do is see them clearly. When you see them clearly, the mind will want to drop them. But that means really looking at the yucky stuff in our hearts and minds. That's the hard work: being brave enough to see things clearly. But it's simple work too, just relax and experience what is occuring right now.

A few times I went to a 10 day course, I came back depressed. After my third course in 2014, it was so huge, that I remember coming back and rolling and crying on the floor in a panick attack, not even knowing how I would simply exist. It was shocking.

As far as you depression after retreats --- this can come from the let down of hoping to make progress and then falling short. The worst depressions can happen when you reach "Desire for Deliverance" and then go off retreat. You feel like you failed and that without being on retreat, you'll never get out of this mess. Because the mind is very powerful after retreat, if you then slide into the worst aspects of misery and fear, it's going to feel horrible. So I can imagine that you hit a dark night nanas like "desire for deliverance", the stage of really wanting to make progress, and then came off retreat, and went through "fear" and "misery" and all of that together would basically be a panic attack, anguish, and having little hope for the future.

It doesn't need to be that way, of course. The "trick" is you need to see these mind states as mind states. It's worth taking the time to really study the nana descriptions and see if you can notice how they are showing up your life and practice. 
 
The way to soften this is to be very aware of how the way you view things causes suffering. Desire for deliverance is all about striving to attain something spiritually, Misery is all about thinking things will never change and wallowing in sorrow , Fear is all about buying-into your views of a worst case scenario. If you see these as something that natural happens, but can be observered clearly, then you will begin to see that just because your mind is afraid, it doesn't mean you have to buy into that fear. It will feel scary, but you don't have to believe it's actually true.
  
My last retreat was in November 2016, and I remember being super happy when I entered the course, yet on day 6 I started to generate monumental fears about the world (yeah Trump&Putin I thought about you guys), and came back depressed again. It took me a few weeks to be normal again.
 
Same thing here. Fears can arise (especially in this crazy world in these crazy times emoticon ) , but see them as a fear and not THE TRUTH. My old teacher Kenneth Folk would like to say, there are only three things that can happen: things could get worse, things could get better, things could stay the same. He would use that expression a lot, to emphasize we really don't know how anything will turn out, so why pretend we are certain that things are going to get worse, better, or are going to stay the same? We don't know. But the mind will try to make us believe it does. emoticon
 

So you have guessed my question... could it be a dark night ? It's easy to say yes, however...

 
Yes. And I say that because of course you have life challenges, but these things are also coinciding with meditation practice, especially the intensive retreats. You are the classic dark night yogi that has access to stages that are  post A&P but you haven't  stabilized in equanimity.


Of course, I know that I actually don't need to know whether I'm in the DN or not, I just have to keep observing. The thing is, next month I'm going to a Mahasi-style course in Germany (15 days) and I'm slightly worried that if what I experienced before was not the DN... what hell could be waiting for me... and will I manage to work properly then ?


I had many of these same fears -- which is one of the main reasons why I'm motivated to reply to your questions. I would say you shouldn't be afraid. You have already tasted the dark night and if you prepare properly, this retreat could be very beneficial. It is a great opportunity.

After my last retreat, I decided to start noting, and it has been like WOOOW, this is soooo nice, as I can practice with more continuity than I ever could. It felt like I was doing a lot of progress off retreat, and after 3 weeks (at the end of the depression), I definitely entered something like the A&P while cycling on my bike, my mind was noting everything, I was super sharp, the world was utterly beautiful, it was the most beautiful state I had ever been. I wouldn't say I crossed it, but I'm pretty sure I at least entered it, of course I can be wrong (And two weeks after I was reacting, negative and tense like hell, due to my work - or accentuated by my work).


Welcome to Equanimity. Yes, you see here how noting allowed you to get to a stage where everything was beautiful and JUST HOW IT IS? That's equanimity. (I was shocked when my teacher pointed this out to me. So obvious, but I never considered it!) 

Equanimity naturally arises when we stop having greed, aversion, or confusion about the current moment. The first few glimpses are AMAZING, but there is a new challenge: can you simply allow equanimity to be equanimity?

On retreat, you may re-experience dissolution (laziness), fear/terror, misery, disgust/shame, desire for deliverance. If you can recognize these as mind states and note them, then you will make progress through the dark night nanas. 

You will, however, at some point hit a wall. Your noting won't make anything better, you won't know what to do, and you'll feel like you are potentially going to freak out. Welcome to "reobservation"! This is both the easiest and the hardest nana. All you need to do is say to yourself "okay, this is my mind freaking out. I'm going to study what it does and learn all my stupid ways of thinking." That's it. It's that simple. You just recognize there is nothing you can do to manipulate or fix the situation, and you just let your mind do what it will do while you watch it. It's sort of like watching a baby cry itself to sleep. You can't comfort it, you don't want to just ignore it either, you just sit there and let it cry it's eyes out, watch it begging you for comfort, but you just sit there and go "shush little dear baby, relax, relax, and go to sleep". 

Usually you will touch upon some of the deepest feelings you have and will feel a little weepy or you might really cry hard. No big deal.

Because next you are in low equanimity. The worst is past, you are settling back into practice again. you can note again. You can watch your breath again.

And then you are solidly in equanimity. You realize what your problem has been all along. You've been fighting what is. You have been trying to fix how things are rather than just being aware of things. Wow. So simple, just be aware of things as they are. And you notice your body relaxes and adjusts itself on the cushion. You notice at lunch how you can simply eat and your mouth know just how to chew the food, so simple. And you notice how pleasant it is just to do a simple walking practice. Wow.

And your goal on retreat should be to make a connection with this equanimity. Because to get from equanimity to stream entry you need to learn to flood all of the dark night situations with equanimity. 

Because you will re-experience situations that feel like the dark night many many times in your life, practice or not. It's just a part of life. But if you can bring equanimity into those situations, then fear is just fear, scary but not the end of the world. Misery is just misery, but not something that leads to depresssion. Disgust is just disgust, but not something that makes you want to destroy everything you hate. Desire for deliverance is just wanting to make improvements, without something that makes you think you are horribly lacking. And reobservation is just a momentary freak out, like a summer storm that you know doesn't last long and will have a sunny day following soon behind it.

You see what I mean?

Once equanimity can be found in all experiences, the Stream Entry happens on its own and so does full awakening. It's all about not being tricked by the mind into believing that whatever you happen to be thinking/feeling right now. A thought is a thought, a feeling is a feeling, and things are going to change in the future. Thoughts and feelings are "best guesses" about how things are, but not necessarily true and not necessarily true for all time.



- my eyes are closed but my vision becomes slowly very bright, as if someone was putting lots of light in the room. My breathing is very shallow. This tends to feel really nice.
OR
- I have a very sudden contraction of my eyes and foreheard, with many many sensations in the head. This tends to feel very alive yet scary and unpleasant. What is also surprising is can happen even when I was completely daydreaming the second before, as if it came by itself.

In both cases, I become so aware of the phenomenon, that I loose all awareness and tends to kill them. I feel fear in letting them be, as if there was something behind it that I was afraid to see. Is this something common ? Do you have any advice about it ?


There are a few things that this can be.

Going through the A&P can include seeing internal lights, sometimes brightening, sometimes like there is someone shining a flashlight acrossed your closed eyelids. 

Strong concentration in general can cause lights to appear. You might want to look up "nimitta" -- some people see a light which they can then use as an object of concentration, by continuing to gently focus on it. 

The flashes/shocks can be "A&P" events, flashes of the Fear nana, snapping out of jhana, lots of possible things. Don't get greedy for experience. Note these things. That's it.



This is something from the theory that I can't really understand well. Overall, with the practice, my daily life is improving, as I react much less to things: equanimity is clearly improving. What I don't really comprehend, is that suddenly the DN can kick it, so you have very dark thoughts, ok... but do you still make progress in equanimity ? It's like you progress in equanimty and then loose it all ? Or despite the depression you still find equanimity in it ?


What happens is each time you go through DN you learn how to recognize it as just mind states, not reality. You also can bring equanimity into those situations, too. It's kinda paradoxical, if you can experience DN without resistance, then it just moves through you without creating suffering. If you fight it, then it beats you up. It usually takes us many times through the DN before we learn that lesson emoticon Eventually, we realize that if we feel like we are beating our head against the wall... maybe we should stop. emoticon


4. When you are restless and obsessive and what you need to make progress is to concentrate and oberve it... but it's precisely when you can't concentrate at all

Well the question says it all. What do you do when nothing works ? Be aware of the negativity require some concentration, and in those moments it's just not there... any advice ?


If you aren't aware, you aren't aware. It happens. But we all will have moments of mindfulness, even in the worst DN nanas, that's why progress is possible.

My best advice is to closely look at the descriptions of the nanas in MCTB and write down 10 "notes" that describe how those nanas appear in your own practice. Reobservation, for example, is classically restless and obsessive -- how does that show up in your body and mind? How do >you< know you are restless and obsessive? A big part of making progress is really learning how your habits of body and mind show up. 

Whenever you are restless and can't concentrate, simply say to yourself: "okay, I'm unable to even think right now. I'm just going to sit here and do nothing. Or maybe I'll just do a one-breath meditation. I'm just going to relax into just this breath. Inhale-exhale. Okay, that went okay, I'm still restless and obsessed, maybe soon I'll do another one-breath meditation. No rush. No big deal. Okay, maybe just this breath I'll pay attention. Inhale-exhale. Just relax. No big deal. Just one breath. Inhale-exhale" etc.

When I prepare for a retreat, I do an inventory of all of the things to be aware of, my old negative habits, my good patterns. I write reminders to myself and try to memorize them.

You can prepare by study and intentional practice. You could imagine going through each of the nanas and what notes you might make. You could make several resolutions about how you intend to practice and behave on retreat. You can make sure you continue consistent practice at home, so you flow smoothly into being on retreat. You can make sure you connect with kindness to your self and your actual situation and make sure you practice well but don't strive too hard. Lots of things like that will help.


Hope this helps!

Remember a retreat is about RELAXING INTO THE PRESENT MOMENT. You don't need to force anything. Your mind is naturally aware. Your inner wisdom will naturally drop bad habits and adopt good habits. You just need to give yourself time to see things clearly. A retreat is perfect for this.

It's basically a positive feedback loop. The more you relax on retreat, the clearer you see the present moment. The clearer you see the present moment, the better your mind will drop bad habits and adopt good habits. The more you drop bad habits and adopt good habits, the more you can relax. And the more you can relax... etc.

Good luck, best wishes. Gentle and consistent practice is the most important thing.

RE: First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/4/17 10:54 AM as a reply to manucho.
I think developing concentration for enjoyment is really important. Joy should be a part of the path and it can give you something to look forward to. A metta practice that includes positive affirmations and reparenting can heal a lot of depression and C-PTSD. Don't repress emotions but use them skillfully.

I would recommend:

Right Concentration - Leigh Brasington (Really enjoy yourself with this).
C-PTSD From surviving to thriving - Pete Walker (Heal past trauma, if your depression is linked to it).
The Tao of fully feeling - Pete Walker (Learn to express emotions in healing ways).
Boundaries and Relationships: Knowing, Protecting and Enjoying the Self - Charles Whitfield (When practicing Buddhism you are quite open to abuse from others who target empathic types. Learn to protect yourself).
Lovingkindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness (I haven't read this one but I want to emoticon. )
Loving The Self Affirmations: Healing Childhood Brainwashing (Everyone can benefit from this one).
Working with Anger - Thubten Chodron (Another one I want to read because when you heal you can get a lot of anger over past situations).

That's a lot of reading but ultimately you have to put the books down and keep practicing.

Make sure to use meditation to find wounds in your memories and the use metta, self-affirmations (the ones that resonate with you), and boundaries, and self-parenting to heal the self. Then as you practice insight you'll have resources you can turn to, to develop positive emotions.


RE: First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/7/17 5:29 PM as a reply to manucho.
Dear Jehanne & Shargrol

Thank you so much for your knowledgeable answers. I am very grateful, especially when I see the length of your answers, I can imagine it has taken some time to write... and I find them spot on and definitely useful.

Please forgive the actual short length of my answer, it's because you have answered it all and I don't have new questions at that time.

Shargrol, I will indeed prepare the next retreat the way you describe it.

Regarding having a "teacher / councelor", I didn't know where to find one... now I know where to find you guys.

I wish you all the best and maybe talk to you soon, hopefully not too soon as I manage without the forum haha

Hugs,
Manu

RE: First time posting: several questions
Answer
3/7/17 5:33 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard,

Thanks a lot for the long list !

Yes I think I see what you mean. Training concentration helps the one who don't have it, and I've experienced in the past how making a sort of metta with positive affirmations can be extremely useful.

Since things are progressing at the moment, I won't insist too much on new litterature, but I'll definitely purchase "Right concentration" and see if it can help me at my next step.

Again, thank you for your advice.