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Question about getting past content post stream entry

Hi,

I feel close to the next big step, which I think is second path, and am having weird experiences. It feels like I understand how to skillfully handle them, but I don't trust the output of my brain at this time.  I would greatly appreciate it if someone who has attained second path or better could provide reassurance that my understanding is correct.

Earlier today, I was extremely fascinated with thoughts about how everything is linked to everything else.  Then my brain suddenly interpreted things in a way that made it seem actually possible that the relative I could become the literal anti-Christ.  This caused fear to arise as this possible outcome seemed more and more likely.  I'm also aware of how silly this sounds to normal people.

Am I correct in my understanding that the right way forward is just to pay as much attention as I can to my perceptions as they arise with high concentration and surrender totally, no matter how messed up or disturbing my brain's interpretation of what's happening might be?

In case anyone is curious about my story,
  • I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder (Type I w/psychosis) in 2005. 
  • I've had two manic episodes, both with heavy psychosis (the latest resulted in at least what you guys call stream entry)
  • I took prescribed anti-convulsant meds as ordered until 2015, when I tapered off of them.  After tapering off, I experienced pleasant hypomania for about a year, which built up to full mania.  At some point during this unmedicated "manic episode," stream entry happened.  Then I experienced hard-core psychosis and powers territory and was disfunctional for a day or two.  I was involuntarily commited to a hospital for a week, but was fine and able to return to work a day after being released.
  • I only started formally meditating last week.  Activities which may have had a strong effect on my stream entry include 7 months of intense weight lifting immediately prior to mania/A&P and many hours smoking cigars alone while watching the sunset.  Incessant reading of fiction as a child likely contributed to high concentration.
  • I'm currently extemely accepting about things, barring occasional blips like the fear I described above.  It's all just okay and doing its thing. 
  • I've experienced profound flickering static in my visual field constantly since stream entry.  The "Nada sound" is clearly noticeable,  clearly discontinuous and made up of a bunch of different frequencies.  The touch sense is also discontinuous, but this isn't as obvious to me as sight or sound.  I haven't paid enough attention to smell or taste to notice flickering there.  Thoughts are still too absorbing for me to see them flickering.
  • Awareness still seems centered in my head.
  • Current practice is periods of choiceless awareness whenever and for however long feels appropriate.  Concentration seems surprisingly strong, and I can see some similarities to jhanic factors after reading descriptions of them, but trying to count perception changes to figure out which jhana I'm in seems to interrupt it and kick me back to lower levels of absorption.  I don't notice feelings of bliss or joy or happiness arising though.  I'm mostly fascinated by the flickering nature of things.
  • I feel like an idiot for not realizing sooner that even attention is doing its own thing without me controlling it.
  • I have become a damned Dharma chatterbox.  This stuff is just so interesting that I'm spouting off at the mouth to the people around me, despite suspecting that I'm still delusional.
  • I'm also having occasional strange suspicions that everyone else is already secretly enlightened and I'm late to the party.
  • I can't make myself feel specific emotions or get fruitions at will like stream enterers are supposed to.  In fact I didn't even recognize fruitions as total cessations of thought. 
MCTB fell into my life as if by magick at precisely the critical time and was a large factor in helping me not to freak out too much during a very intense and frightening experience.  I have also greatly enjoyed reading the posts on this message board and am benefiting immensely from the shared insights and wisdom.

Any input is welcome, and THANK YOU!

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
6/30/17 5:14 AM as a reply to dave m.
Dear dave,

Welcome to the DhO.

Sorting out bipolar/psychosis from dharma insights is sometimes tricky.

Tell us more about what you think was stream entry and why, as well as what happens now when you meditate now.

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
6/30/17 9:22 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Sometimes tricky?  It feels like a pretty constant state of affairs to me.  At the same time, I seem to know that I'm actively having to work to not see the truth as it is, which is both frustrating and funny at the same time.

To me, stream entry was like an action potential threshold that had been crossed.  I can't point to a single moment that was it, but I somehow became aware that I'm not driving this thing even though it sure feels like it, and I somehow accepted it enough to see a little deeper and to begin progressively surrendering, which furthers the process.

In a way "stream entry" seems to have been the point where impermanence acquired a relative degree of seeming permanence, no self acquired a degree of relative self and suffering acquired a degree of relative pleasure.  Hmm...

I don't know what happens now when I meditate now.  By the time I cognize it, it's gone.  Things seem to be clicking into place at a below conscious level.  I'll practice mindfulness throughout today and see what happens.

Thanks

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
6/30/17 9:09 AM as a reply to dave m.
Here's my saga at the intersection of mood disorder & hardcore dharma- http://noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com/?m=1

its worked incredibly well to heal me.  That being said, I have had 7 major shifts (including A&p), & I am still on a low dose of lithium.  I would give it time! 

Whether you go through the nanas doesn't matter as much as what those cessations do for you.  If you aim for lasting healing, therapy & habit formation can be just as helpful, although popping a few paths first doesn't hurt.

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
6/30/17 9:34 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah D:
Here's my saga at the intersection of mood disorder & hardcore dharma- http://noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com/?m=1

its worked incredibly well to heal me.  That being said, I have had 7 major shifts (including A&p), & I am still on a low dose of lithium.  I would give it time! 

Whether you go through the nanas doesn't matter as much as what those cessations do for you.  If you aim for lasting healing, therapy & habit formation can be just as helpful, although popping a few paths first doesn't hurt.
Thanks for responding.  I will take your advice and give it time.  I'm going to see if I can check myself into a mental health center, so at least damage will be minimized if a freakout occurs.  I'm definitely manic as hell right now, though it all seems to be okay.  I'll be reading your saga when I'm able.

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
7/1/17 5:03 PM as a reply to dave m.
I don't know if this helps, but:

On retreat a year ago, I was absolutely, totally overwhelmed by an abrupt explosion of violent imagary, like a montage of blood and gore being projected onto my mental sceen apparently out of nowhere. This lasted a few days. I would "see" blood being splattered onto my fellow meditators. I had recurring visions of a baby's head being cut off with scissors over and over, like on a loop.

From there, the imagery got even more upsetting, and I started imagining myself punching the living shit out of everyone around me, strangling them, etc.

I had a good relationship with the teacher there, and we both felt that I was in no danger — I could clearly see that these were not hallucinations, but merely very strong "daydreams" of a sort. I stuck it out, and resolved to sit for longer and be as in touch with my body as possible. That only intensified the horror I was feeling.

Around day 8, I remember suddenly dropping into a state of absolute equanimity, and the thought arose: "I am the Prime Evil."

That thougt lingered for a bit, felt true, then disappeared. From that point onward, the retreat was completely back to normal, and there were very good long term effects, including an increased capacity for talking about my shame and my resentments. I guess all of the blood and gore was just some sort of explosion of unconscious material. And thinking "I am the Prime Evil" was like a moment of over-identifiying with a shadow of mine, or identifiying it with completely so that it would never sink back into the recesses of my unconsious.

I mention all of this because I have personally suffered from psychotic episodes in the past, spent time at mental health clinics and was medicated for several years, and of course I worried that I was losing my shit when this outburst of violent fantasy occurred. But I feel like my mental health improved significantly since I learned to deal with the very lows of the dark night, and in particular since that retreat.

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
7/8/17 1:36 PM as a reply to Don.
Don:
I mention all of this because I have personally suffered from psychotic episodes in the past, spent time at mental health clinics and was medicated for several years, and of course I worried that I was losing my shit when this outburst of violent fantasy occurred. But I feel like my mental health improved significantly since I learned to deal with the very lows of the dark night, and in particular since that retreat.

Thanks for sharing that.  I was caught totally off guard by my first manic/psychotic episode and came very close to harming someone I care about.  After I came to my senses, I pulled a turtle maneuver and severed all social ties that I could, so this has been my biggest fear for the past twelve years.  While at the mental health facility this past week, another such incident arose, where I thought I was a wrathful Buddha and would harm a specific person.  Fortunately, I was able to calmly discuss these feelings with the staff and deal with it in a way that didn't lead to any violence or negative outcomes.  I'm beginning to interpret these things as just deeper ways of clinging to myself through fear, and am focusing on the fact that in each situation, I didn't actually harm anyone and didn't want to harm anyone at anytime.  I was just afraid that I would harm someone.  But checking myself into the mental health facility and getting balanced in a safe environment was clearly the right way to go for me.

RE: Question about getting past content post stream entry
Answer
7/8/17 2:07 PM as a reply to dave m.
dave:
Don:
I mention all of this because I have personally suffered from psychotic episodes in the past, spent time at mental health clinics and was medicated for several years, and of course I worried that I was losing my shit when this outburst of violent fantasy occurred. But I feel like my mental health improved significantly since I learned to deal with the very lows of the dark night, and in particular since that retreat.

I didn't actually harm anyone and didn't want to harm anyone at anytime.  I was just afraid that I would harm someone. 


Not knowing your situation in any detail, I feel I can only say that this whole "I didn't actually harm anyone, I was just afraid that I would" has also been a major part of my own experience. I have never actually even slightly physically hurt another person during any of these episodes, but the fear of it seems to make everything a lot worse.

I am no expert, but I am happy to make myself available if you just need to chat with a fellow... whatever we are, this kind of practitioner.