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Why are review phases the worst part?

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Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/10/17 5:19 PM
Hi,

This is question that keeps coming up for me when I complete a new cycle. Why do I have such a hard time with my review phases, compared to the rest of the cycles?

I've been on third path (as defined by Daniel's model) for a couple of years, and have gone through around 10 to 12 full cycles since that time. One the one hand, things are wayyyy more manageable than they used to be, including the dark nights (even when they fully kick my ass, I can handle it, and I know that the only way out of the anguish is to keep on going). I feel much more free and confident about what I'm doing in my practice. On the other hand, whenever I complete a cycle, and Review begins, I am shocked by how emotionally volatile I get. I have sudden moments of wanting to die... as in, out of fucking nowhere, I'll have thoughts like "I should just kill myself." And 30 minutes later, things are fine again.

Even during a longer-than-I'd-like dark night when I'm not practicing especially well, or when I backslide from Equanimity back to the DN, no matter how bad I feel or how reactive I get, I rarely reach the dips in mood that occur during Review. Sudden suicidal thoughts only seem to occur during Review. 

Assuming a Review lasts 4 weeks, I'd say the first week is the worst for this kind of stuff. The second gets better. By the third and fourth, this is no longer an issue, and by the time a new cycle starts, I've totally stopped noticing or having such thoughts.

By the way, please don't interpret this as a cry for help. I never feel tempted to act on these thoughts and I am not worried about it (I have plenty of psychological support and some good teachers, who don't talk about maps in the way you all do here). I just want to understand why this might be happening, and why this doesn't come up so much during the dark nights themselves. Wouldn't this kind of dark psychological material be more likely to pop up during, say, Re-Observation during the cycle itself?

BTW, my main practices are more open awareness-based than noting: Zen, Mahamudra, etc. But I also like to throw in some noting from Shinzen's approach sometimes.

Any advice very appreciated.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/10/17 6:14 PM as a reply to Don.
I am very new to formal meditation ... Spent many years in excruciating physical agony akin to torture and the only way out was through.  So... Many years in silence just struggling to breathe... Tons of experience with all sorts of mind- conscious stuff in the body -- just nothing you can label. And frankly, useful only to me... Or... To coping.... To... Reaching equanimity.

Things unfolded in such odd ways... Somehow life put it in the heart of a person who is utterly devoted to managing a tiny ashram in India and a real pro at heart-based meditation.  He was my breakthrough!!! I had no idea about Metta at the time...and only recently discovered that in at least one Sutta Buddha basically says  that compassion when cultivated in its fullest and purest form ... Can be enough to enlighten.

This I mention because miracles started to happen in the mind, body and my relationship to my spouse once I dropped all defenses of the heart and let the heart BE the center of my consciousness.  I let the heart expand to swallow the body with breath, would penetrate every cirmcumstance from the heart.

May I recommend that rather than seeing the mind and nervous system as being somehow a mental thing.... If the heart is incorporated.... There is then equanimity!! I grew up only valuing intellect, and so my heart was totally undeleoped.... There is the capacity for real christ-like love... Real buddhistic love and compassion that can lead to states of bliss and ecstasy in their own right.... But not to look for a high.... 

When the mind is dark with trouble or worry or heaviness of some kind, the antidote is love.  It is to love the suffering human being.... To be gentle, kind, nurturing.  Even to the point of some indulgence.

if for example, you are by temperament an ascetic (my joke about past lives is I must have been a Jainist!!), then it may be prudent to apply energies of indulgence in lovingkindness.  Do not let up on the cultivation of steady heart energies that are peaceful, and then wish peace to yourself. No matter what. If it is a good day or bad day, let that self blessing be a constant. I hated myself at first, so I just asked christ to help me have some love... I prayed .... The heart expanded... And then I just blessed mysled with peace. I o this with buddha to the same success, when I am not very loving.  I do not force it. This is a blessing as light as a feather.  Anything lighter than a feather is force. Force is not loving.

all that is needed by anything that suffers is love as gentle as a feather.  Send love to as much of your experience as possible: inhale the mind into the heart.  

This cannot help but work.  That I am alive and not insane is the proof.

Offered in great humility.... And with a feather-light weight... 

Life has taught me that the humblest of energies is by far the most powerful....

I can really appreciate, even after all rejection of any Biblical teaching, all the hidden hints and suggestions the New Testament contains.  The meek and humble .... That is where there is strength.  Never resist. Smile.  Smile and say ahhhh now I get to drink the beautiful shimmering waters of the heart.... 

No idea how to close a reply... New here... So closing just with Namaste.  Peace unto all states of consciousness anywhere arising.... (Just my standard intention...)

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 12:20 AM as a reply to Don.
Well here is a possibility..... Each complete cycle of insight is no longer doing anything for you..... During review some part of you realized this and gets really sad that yet again your not moving forward. Then you try it again....
This is a frustrating...message me if u want to chat

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 2:06 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
+1 for DW's advice.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 2:36 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
+1 for DW's advice.
The last paragraph here (http://noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com/2016/09/july-2016.html?m=1) describes my experience of getting *much closer* to Daniels definition of 3rd, with DW's help.  

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 3:05 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
The relationship between those sorts of repeated cycles out in the territory of the middle paths and more final, complete wisdom is clearly hotly debated.

On the one hand, there are those who hold the layer hypothesis, that if you do enough cycles for enough layers of mind, eventually there are no more layers of mind for which you need to lock in automatic perception of the true nature of those sensations, as all have been wired for automatic clarity/self-liberation or whatever you wish to call it, and, at that point, the insight process is complete on that axis, anyway.

On the other hand, there are those who hold the true-wisdom-it-a-totally-different-thing hypothesis, that wisdom is entirely unrelated to the cycles of insight, and arises through comprehension of that wisdom itself regardless of anything about learning to see various layers or patterns of sensations clearly.

Practically, there are reasons to hold both views at the same time.

Why is this?

If you hold the view that seeing each sensation or layer or whatever in the light of wisdom makes a diference is empowering, but it does often have a subtle future component and a subtle this-moment rejecting component that are problematic.

If you hold the view that practice and cycling is useless, this at once dodges the future compoent but might do so when the wiring isn't there yet to really get the immediacy of timeless and unshakable wisdom.

So, if you hold both views, then you can practice building the wiring and also realize that this right here must be it regardless of cycles and work to see that immediacy, that luminosity, that pristine directness that untangles the problem, which itself is good practice.

Koan: what is the difference between the Sutra Mahamudra approach and perfectly knowing the Three Characteristics of the Six Sense Doors?

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 3:35 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi 

Thanks for this thread Don. I can emphaise with the way in which painful stuff seems to repeatedly surface. 

I believe I am in this middle path territory so much of what has been said is very useful. I began to almost get uninterested with cycles. They happen, but I am loosing a sense of how to work with them in a way thats productive or deepening. 

Just to have a crack and Dan's Koan 'what is the difference between the Sutra Mahamudra approach and perfectly knowing the Three Characteristics of the Six Sense Doors?'

I would say there both is and isnt a difference:-) depending on view and level of perception. I think it depends on how one is looking at the 3cs. One can have a concept in that way of looking that is looking for 'something'  changes or 'something' that is Dukha. Which can initially seem how experience is, there seems to be an experience and then 'that' changes. But staying with the 3 cs revleals 'no-thing' that is changing, but just luminous fluxing experience. Which it seems to me starts to approach what Mahamudra is pointing to i.e. that very luminous aware nature of all experience (but not describing it in terms of the 3 c's). 

Thanks
B

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 6:26 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
@Daniel: Good koan.  It relates to the 2 arguments.  My 2 cents is that cycles are necessary for exhausting the discriminative/investigative energy of the attention.  This frees up bandwidth for the exploration of a discrete, higher speed of mind: awareness.  Observing the 3 C's is attention level stuff (vipassana).  Attention takes place within Awareness.  Awareness gives rise to attention.  Sutra Mahamudra is awareness level stuff.  However, before one can get traction with awareness, a good portion of the mind-body system has to have been vipassanized.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 7:25 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
Well here is a possibility..... Each complete cycle of insight is no longer doing anything for you..... During review some part of you realized this and gets really sad that yet again your not moving forward. Then you try it again....
This is a frustrating...message me if u want to chat


Thanks. What you suggest makes quite a lot of sense, actually. I do have that feeling of frustration during Review, like I'm moving forward but at the same time nothing is changing. I'll message you.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 7:50 AM as a reply to Don.
Don,

Third path can be a kind of overall dark night of the whole 4th path process.

You need to follow your own instincts on this, but FWIW, I'm in the "cycles aren't that helpful" camp. By now you can probably see that the cycles occur within awareness, so "what" is this awareness and "who" is aware? 

My sense is that when people relate more to cycles than awareness late during the road to fourth, then they are probably trying to hard and overly identified with "focused attention". There can be a benefit in doing more spacious dzogchen/mahamudra practice, but it's also easy to turn those into just a slightly different flavor of "focused attention" practice. 

It can also be worth pondering, what would "done" look like? Probably you'll feel a sense of bodily relaxation when you imagine being done --- that's the kind of relaxed awareness that should be cultivated. It's time to start trusting your wisdom more than your intelligence.

Hope that helps!

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 10:39 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
The relationship between those sorts of repeated cycles out in the territory of the middle paths and more final, complete wisdom is clearly hotly debated.

On the one hand, there are those who hold the layer hypothesis, that if you do enough cycles for enough layers of mind, eventually there are no more layers of mind for which you need to lock in automatic perception of the true nature of those sensations, as all have been wired for automatic clarity/self-liberation or whatever you wish to call it, and, at that point, the insight process is complete on that axis, anyway.

On the other hand, there are those who hold the true-wisdom-it-a-totally-different-thing hypothesis, that wisdom is entirely unrelated to the cycles of insight, and arises through comprehension of that wisdom itself regardless of anything about learning to see various layers or patterns of sensations clearly.

Practically, there are reasons to hold both views at the same time.

Why is this?

If you hold the view that seeing each sensation or layer or whatever in the light of wisdom makes a diference is empowering, but it does often have a subtle future component and a subtle this-moment rejecting component that are problematic.

If you hold the view that practice and cycling is useless, this at once dodges the future compoent but might do so when the wiring isn't there yet to really get the immediacy of timeless and unshakable wisdom.

So, if you hold both views, then you can practice building the wiring and also realize that this right here must be it regardless of cycles and work to see that immediacy, that luminosity, that pristine directness that untangles the problem, which itself is good practice.

Koan: what is the difference between the Sutra Mahamudra approach and perfectly knowing the Three Characteristics of the Six Sense Doors?
You've hit on something really important for me here.

On retreat, particularly during Zen sesshin when I am not working on a koan but just sitting for long hours, I've noticed that if I rest in awareness and cease all effort, there is a predictable shift into a state of huge equanimity that appears to have nothing at all to do with the cycles. All seems clearly seen, and if something doesn't appear clearly there is no problem with that. No matter what the sensation are, no matter how horrible the emotional content, the feeling of it all happening to "me" (in an "it's personal! why me?" way) is gone. Having reached that state, I will dip in and out of it, but it takes less and less work to return to it, and I can spend the bulk of the retreat that way.

Staying with the gentle feeling of "knowing" for a few minutes can lead to this openness.

Also I was on a Mahamudra retreat during Review late last year, and by opening up to this vast awareness I felt like I had somehow "escaped" the cycles, both in the sense that the sensory aspects of the cycles were vastly reduced and also in that they were no big deal to deal with.

During daily life, this is much harder to do. Paradoxically I become more fascinated with content and, at the same time, I feel less motivated to "escape" the cycles because there really is a much more spacious, luminous quality to experience than before, so it just doesn't seem like that much of a big deal. Plus, it is clear that there aspects of my experience that I have not seen as empty, luminous, etc, so when I'm off retreat it is much easier to focus on seeing those, than on just resting in awareness and letting the whole thing be.

EDIT: To be clear, the above is why I can be so taken aback by the violence of the Review stage — that's when the "cyclical" part feels the most unbearable and most compelling, short-lived as it is.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 7:43 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:

Third path can be a kind of overall dark night of the whole 4th path process.



Wow. Yes, your whole post does help, but even just this one sentence helped unblock something. I'm not sure what yet, but thank you. I'll report back.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/11/17 2:16 PM as a reply to Don.
My experience is that in review I can concentrate too easily and I find myself in a sort of "power stage".

The concentration I get after a path is usually very strong, inestable and difficult to manage. Like having a lot of energy locked in my mind and body without being able to release it.

It usually happens when the afterglow begins to fade. Like the mind is very strong, but without good qualities.

I usually try to do grounding exercises (physical mostly).
Being aware of what's happening, of the tensions in the body also seems to help.

I never had suicidal thoughts, but I did had very, very weird ones (like anything is possible).

Anyway, it seems to relate to your problem. And yeah, it sucks.

Hope it helps.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/12/17 5:07 AM as a reply to Ernest Michael Olmos.
Then there is always that A&P mistaken for Fruition/new path phenomena, in which the Dark Night follows, so, what is thought to be a review phase (based on thinking that the A&P was Fruition), is actually just a straight-up Dark Night phase. Happens often enough.

That said, the barking craziest I ever felt inside was my first Review cycle after my first Fruition, felt like I was cracking at the seams for a few hours until it suddenly shifted to Equanimity, and all was well. Luckily, from the outside, I just looked a bit grouchy. Internally, wow, what a shitstorm. So, yeah, Review can initially be a rough ride, as the mind has the full power of the new path but has very little mastery yet.

RE: Why are review phases the worst part?
Answer
5/12/17 8:42 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
For me at least, a path fruition is very "detectable".
There is a blip, change of perspective, massive afterglow, big relief.

The change of perspective is so steady, continuous, and encompassing that I take that as the hallmark of a path. I usually "check" all the time if the change of perspective "holds" for the first three to five days, like it could go away (which it can't and won't).

That's why I can't detect fruitions, or I'm not sure about them in the review (because there is no change of perspective).

After a path, at least for me, my concentration abilities shoot up. And that concentration brings all sort of energy movement.
I know it's concentration phenomena because I get the same effects after strong visualization practices.

This is my experience, and you're right that the dark night might be involved.

It's difficult for me telling the difference between concentration and insight when there are energies involved and the mind is ungrounded. I relate body energies and crazy mind to concentration (and not AP/DN), but now that I think about it, I'm probably wrong.

You seem to know more about these things that I do emoticon.