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To begin... etc
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5/6/17 5:54 AM
Hello

I have been lurking here quite a lot, and did post something about two years ago I can't really remember now...
As many others, I have a history of depression and anxiety, also some history of psychedelic experimentation etc, so the terminology here makes me wonder... have I been "dark nighting" all these years etc. I am now 44, and about to start psychotherapy again after a depressive episode and years of stress around work etc. I am also wondering if it's a good idea to take up meditation at all. I sat with a chinese Chan-group for some time and used to practice quite a lot of yoga with sporadic meditation of the "inner stillness" kind, awareness of external sounds, sensations, thoughts mixed with breath awareness. Mostly meditation has given me good feelings and energy but also sometimes a strange feeling of being "shut off", too introverted or just dazed, like when you just got out of bed, walking into lamp posts kind of absent mindedness...

I am apparently fascinated with all this stuff but also thinking I'm not emotionally fit for going into it full on... Usually 30 minutes a day of breath awareness has been enough for me, sometimes more when I've felt inspired. Is it even possible to do this "slowly but surely"or will all meditation practice be destabilizing? I'm thinking I could get something out of it but I need more stability, not less. At the moment more interested in being happy than being enlightened. I did have a kundalini-like experience in my twenties etc so a lot of my life fits the model that says I'm already on the path etc but on the other hand have been quite functional for many years with almost no meditation, no medications etc. Perhaps I'm just not cut out for this, seems to be a reoccuring thought when reading about the more hardcore meditation experiences. At the same time I'm thinking, is there a way to be "sensible" about meditation like there is some sense in not taking insane amounts of mushrooms and go insane but instead taking a smaller amount of mushrooms twice a year and be sane? Or is "moderate" consumption of meditation pointless?
I would rather not get enlightened than risk my sanity, but as I said, some things seem to point out that I've "already begun" so to speak...

RE: To begin... etc
Answer
5/6/17 6:16 AM as a reply to Mat Nolan.
The short answer is ask your therapist.

The longer answer is that there have been a lot of people that have combined therapy, prescribed medication, and sitting practice in a helpful way. It seems like gentle forms of sitting where thoughts are allowed to pop into the head and be noticed is a "moderate" practice. Basically, it is like pretending that you showed up a therapy session, the therapist asked "what is going on in your thoughts and feelings?", and you tell them --- except that you simply watch your thoughts and feelings as an observer. Sometimes you will get caught in a thought or emotional story and get lost in a daydream of sorts, but eventually you will notice it. Then just start again. It's like your therapist let you rant and then asked "that's interesting, and what else?" So you do it all over again. It's like getting more therapy in between your actual therapy sessions.

That said, there is nothing perfectly "safe" so that's why it is important to work with a professional when having real challenges. Plus, working with a pro is the fastest way through this stuff. They can bring additional skills, techniques, or tools into the treatment. Might as well use every method and tool that is available.

Meditation and therapy will always have some element of destabilizing the current sense of self, then reintegrating a "cleaner" sense of self. In this case, you want to destablize the identification with depressive thinking and axious catastrophizing -- and basically see them as bad habit that you can drop. But there is usually some slightly beneficial reason for depression/anxiety, like it provides a sense of finding control in a situation where there isn't much control, or it provides a tangible although not ideal way to protect or care for yourself, which can be why it becomes a habit. A good therapist will help you tease that apart so that you can find more beneficial approaches to deal with negative self/worldviews and uncertainty. Meditation points out "oh look those are just thoughts and feelings" but many times some psychological work is needed to make a real difference.

Hope this helps!

RE: To begin... etc
Answer
5/6/17 7:04 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Very helpful answer, thank you. Yes that´s how I've been thinking about it, but I guess there s no "guarantee" I will not suddenly find myself in deeper territory so to speak. I am a sensitive person and sometimes feel I have been in communication with the "spirit world", even though I'm simultaneously sceptical about those experiences. I guess I have a feeling a lot can start happening if I dive in, and therefore am cautious. Also, it makes sense to deal with "stuff" first and then go deeper, however I suspect there is no point where one can say, OK now I'm done dealing with stuff... This also confuses me reading this forum, there is a lot of talk about people just wallowing in their emotional stuff etc, but what to do if it comes up? Ignore it? I'm not sure I can separate emotional stuff from deeper experience since I think it's all connected. As a Chan beginner I also experienced a short period of feeling like a superior robot, which I quickly saw how it can be a perfect way of not dealing with emotions, could probably go on for years... I guess my main goal is to deal with stuff, I think it's very relevant to do so...

RE: To begin... etc
Answer
5/6/17 9:08 AM as a reply to Mat Nolan.
The important thing is to connect with that part of yourself that seems to be wise and cultivate it. And little by little it really adds up. There are tipping points along the way, too. Moments when 90% of mania or depression goes away. Life really does change.

It can be easy to turn practice into spiritual pride (I'm doing superior practices, the world doesn't effect me the way it does others), but as you say, that's just a defense mechanism to pretend that "stuff" isn't there. The sad thing is it works for a while, then the house of cards comes crashing down.

The thing that fixes stuff is seeing it clearly and deeply realizing it isn't helpful. Of course if it was as simple as saying that, there would be no problem. The challenge is that there is usually some positive stuff confused (literally fused with) negative stuff. So dealing with stuff means untangling things. Ironically, the way stuff gets tangled is we try to do too much, fix too much, achieve too much --- we're our own worst enemy. That's why sitting down and doing nothing except watch the mind do its thing for a while is so important.

Spirit world stuff and sensitivity can be fine. It's part of being human. Lots of meditators old and new have that tendency, too. The important thing is to find a good balance so that it doesn't turn into a blind fantasy or become traumatizing. In general, it's better to have a foundation of basic sanity and bodily health before opening up to the subtle and unstable stuff.

Yeah, we're never quite done with stuff, but as you get used to listening to your body/mind, you develop a sense of when to explore and when to stay home, when to deconstruct and when to stabilize, when to open up and when to stay closed, etc.  The pattern in therapy and meditation is experience, integrate, experience, integrated... in nice manageable bites so that we don't choke emoticon 

RE: To begin... etc
Answer
5/6/17 11:20 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Super good sane advice, thanks again! Would of course like to hear more on these things, there's still something that doesn't add up for me in any spiritual "scene" so far... Most of my experience has been with tantric yoga people, who always seem to be saying, easy does it, balance meditation and energy stuff with grounding things, physical work etc and then go on to literally drive people to the brink of collapse on retreats with two hours sleep, little food, intense kundalini practice, cult like power structures etc... So I do have my doubts about the more extreme end of things, even though it seems the sanest people can be found round forums like this...