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Bewildered but functional.
Answer
3/29/17 1:00 AM
About two years ago on retreat I had a memorable experience which I'll try to describe briefly. I think maybe A&P. Now I'm in a strange place that's hard to understand, unpleasant, tedious. I often feel bewildered, as if I just don't understand people or the world any more. Everything seems so dysfunctional. Yet I remain functional in my work and relationships. I have a task to do, and it just seems overwhelming. Then I interpret this 'overwhelm' as just a story that's arising in the mind, and I go ahead and complete the task without any problem, all the while the 'overwhelming' story is still playing.

Here's the experience: it was on the 5th day of the retreat. Up until then it had been super frustrating because I had almost continual headaches/sensations of pressure in the head, and everything seemed irritating. Concentration was crap. Nevertheless I continued showing up and doing a noting practice diligently. On the afternoon of the 5th day, I felt rabout eady to give up, filled with doubt. Suddenly all the difficulty drained away over the course of about 30 seconds. I was looking at a flower at the front of the room, and it seemed that I was 'with' the flower in an intimate way. (Not sexual intimacy... but strongly connected). I found I somehow gained a very flexible/malleable mind that could concentrate on anything, felt like I could sit for hours, etc. After the meal break, I went to my room and lay on the bed with eyes closed. I had a vision of being surrounded by hundreds of young people all friendly and chatting, as if at a night club. They all knew me, and were all friendly towards me. I seemed to be on the receiving end of an infinite flood of metta coming from the people, but also from space itself. There was a very strong spatial sense of these people. I opened my eyes, and the visual aspects of the vision subsided, but I could still sense the spatial aspects, and the presence of the people. I closed my eyes again, and the vision retuyrned. For the remaining days of the retreat everything was easy, and I occupied myself experimenting with my newfound concentration abilities. When I came home from the retreat, I found myself super motivated to work on concentration (probably trying to get back to that state), but it didn't go anywhere.

Since then, life threw some difficult stuff my way, and I went through a highly stressful 18 months or so. Formal practice became less regular. But something was changing about my relationship to the world, and it still feels like it's changing. I keep noticing what I call arisings of self. What this means is that I become aware that some story from the past has started up, accompanied by some negative emotional state. There are so many of them, all subtly different. I recognize them as states that I used to think of as 'me' but now they seem like somehting I read in a novel. As if written by someone else. I have the sense that I could choose to enter that story (in which case I would become that arisen self) but I generally just noticing the arising of it causes it to fade away. For example, I'll recall a situation in which I became angry in the past, and then the actual anger will also arise as well. It will seem I'm on the verge of becoming that angry person again, but it fades away. This happens over and over, many times every day. Each of these arisings seems like a fragment of what I used to experience as an integrated self. So I seem to have all these fragments, but they're not integrated any more.

I often have the thought that I could choose to 'enter' one of those fragments, i.e., to become that person, but that I always choose not to. A few times, I've decided to etst this by deliberately trying to identify with one of them. I've found that this is not possible. I can only become identified with them if I don't notice them arising in the first place. If I'm aware of them arising, then that awareness is incompatible with the identification process. 

So this all gets very tiring. Exhausting. I imagine that I must seem like a zombie to others, but they don't notice anything different. The world swirls around me and I feel disconnected from it, yet I appear to be functioning in it. I sometimes find myself yearning for things ot go back to the way they were because it seemed to make sense. I'm not depressed, I have energy to do my job, appreciate nature, laugh at jokes. But it's all strange. If I laugh at some funny situation, I'm simultaneously observing it as if standing apart, watching someone else do it. Hobbies that I used to spend hours on now seem pointless.

More recently, I'm finding more motivation to meditate. When I do so, it's very uneventful. It seems easy, although there's some dullness there.  I seem to settle in quickly, and generally enjoy it though nothing much is happening. I come out feeling calm and grounded.

So that's it. I don't know what's going on or where it's headed, but I'm growing weary of it.

RE: Bewildered but functional.
Answer
3/29/17 8:25 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
You're in a sort of half-finished state. Half free, half caught. You're free of most arisings of self. However, you're majorly caught in feelings of bewilderment and exhaustion.

RE: Bewildered but functional.
Answer
3/29/17 9:35 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Yes, I guess that's a good way to put it. It's odd to me that those experiences of bewilderment don't also register as arisings of self.

RE: Bewildered but functional.
Answer
3/29/17 9:50 AM as a reply to Neil Baylis.
Neil Baylis:
It's odd to me

Is that not bewilderment + selfing all in the space of five words? emoticon

RE: Bewildered but functional.
Answer
3/29/17 10:36 AM as a reply to Derek2.
Derek2:
Neil Baylis:
It's odd to me

Is that not bewilderment + selfing all in the space of five words? emoticon

Huh. When I think about that, I see that it's true. And then the idea of dropping it occurrs to me. And then fear arises.

A visual metaphor: I'm at sea, on a raft. Much of the raft has broken up, and pieces are floating all around me. There are still a couple of logs bound together, and I'm clinging to these for dear life, as if they are still the raft.