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Introduction and A&P Experience

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Introduction and A&P Experience
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11/15/17 6:52 PM
Hello my name is Nick and this is my first post. I have just begun to open up about this experience to people in the dharma world so I deeply appreciate any comments or reflections. For a long time I felt alone in all of this until I started stumbling across the online community.
 
For a number of recent years, I was living a very different life from now in Los Angeles. Immersed in the music scene, I had been performing and recording with a couple up and coming bands enjoying international touring and recognition. After a decade of pursuing this dream and lifestyle, I was beginning to see more clearly my problems with heavy drinking and a general dissatisfaction with life. One night in April 2015, after a 60 day sober stretch, I decided to indulge in some cocktails. The next morning after recalling my uncontrollable emotions under intoxication, I experienced a strong realization that my problem was something beyond drinking vs not drinking. 

With absolutely no previous understanding of eastern philosophy / religions / traditions, I decided to investigate and practice meditation. Serendipitously, I had recently ordered some books to read on an upcoming tour. One of them: Buddhism: Plain and Simple by Zen teacher Steven Hagen, would change my life forever.

After a few days of practicing short periods of meditation, the book came in the mail. I was instantly captivated by the concepts. It was almost as if I had always knew these truths but they were obscured by something. One night, while reading part way into the book, something miraculous happened. In a span of about five seconds I knew my life had changed forever. Years of emotional baggage melted away and I was immersed in a state of tranquil bliss and love. It was beyond euphoric. There was an omnipresent sensation of free falling through the universe that lasted for weeks, sometimes to the point where it was overwhelming and almost uncomfortable. I didn't get much sleep, but didn't feel the need. My perception of consciousness was greatly expanded, for I felt that it had become panoramic, enveloping the space around me. My friends and family, none of them spiritual in any sense, we're at a loss of words and probably thought I was losing it. Previously, I was convinced that it was impossible in this human life to be content. It was the first time that I had felt that things were "ok" and "perfect" just the way they were and that there was some all-pervading love that permeated every atom in the universe. 

This experience served as an intellectual renaissance in my life. I began to read feverishly. I moved through works by authors across traditions. While many of these books were brilliant and in some ways "insightful", I still felt lost, had questions and didn't understand completely what happened to me that day. I began to wrongly speculate that perhaps enlightenment was a fleeting "experience" as opposed to a "condition". 

The months went by and the euphoria faded but I retained a very deep understanding. My fear of death vanished and I suffered greatly less. My meditation practice faltered off and on (mostly because I had no direction and still had no idea in hell of what I was doing). I returned to battles with drinking vs not drinking. I quit my band and left LA in 2016 to hike the entire Pacific Crest Trail. Last October, after the hike, I moved to my birthplace of Grass Valley, CA to begin pursuing a career in solar energy. 

This last year has been particularly grounding but I still have had discipline issues. I have found that holding the understanding that I uncovered without coupling it with Dharma practice can lead to dangerous nihilism. A couple months ago, completely on a whim, I took LSD at home alone. It was a painful, dark trip but I took a walloping of the best self-criticism. I knew that I needed to get my shit together for good and pursue the Dharma whole-heartedly.

I turned to the internet and found an incredible community (you guys) of Dharma intellectuals. On the podcast "Deconstructing Yourself" by Michael Taft, I was particularly moved by one of the guests, Daniel Ingram and subsequently downloaded his book. In the stages of insight section I found it. The Arising and Passing Away. How and why it took two and a half years to find out what happened to me on that spring day, I'll never understand. I can't thank you enough, Daniel, for pointing me in the right direction. I now practice every day.

I visit a local insight meditation center weekly but the teachers are very busy and only seem to offer one on one attention to students who go on retreats. I figure there is enough direction and resources online to keep me going for now until I can find the time for an extended retreat.

Thank you for being here and reading. I hope this finds you all in peace. 

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
11/16/17 3:24 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Welcome Nick!

You sound like you need friends in Dharma more than anything else. Feel free to start a practice log and 'friends' here will chip in with suggestions or encouragement! Retreats are great to power through, but I think that overcoming the distractions can be done anywhere. I started off meditating in the most difficult of situations in the monastery I'm in, during chanting, Thai sermons, in the alms truck, etc. - attempting to be mindful at all times... Looking back, I believe that refusing to see these external obstacles as insurmountable was the key to 'quick' progress.

It will be great if you can go to a retreat, if not self-retreats should work just as well if you discipline yourself. Oh and addictions will not go away by themselves magically. Yes they will become easier with progress but know yourself and your limits - work on them when you have the capacity to do so. But no self-excuses though, same with lack of access to retreats. It is all in you, after all...

Best wishes! emoticon

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
11/16/17 6:06 AM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
hi! wellcome, interesting story!

What practice/meditation do you feel more drawn to?

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
11/16/17 2:17 PM as a reply to Yilun Ong.
Yilun Ong:


It will be great if you can go to a retreat, if not self-retreats should work just as well if you discipline yourself. Oh and addictions will not go away by themselves magically. Yes they will become easier with progress but know yourself and your limits - work on them when you have the capacity to do so. But no self-excuses though, same with lack of access to retreats. It is all in you, after all...

Best wishes! emoticon

The alcohol thing has been really easy to snuff out once my meditation practice became more important. I've moved on to bringing attention to other habits such as a fidgity nervous mental and physical tick I have had all my life that I've noticed is simply a lack of mindfullness and wanting to break away from the present moment.

A retreat is on my docket for 2018. In the meantime, as I am 32, single, no kids and have 3 day weekends, some home retreats are definitely possible. Thank you for your reply and words of encouragement. emoticon

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
11/16/17 2:27 PM as a reply to alguidar.
alguidar:
hi! wellcome, interesting story!

What practice/meditation do you feel more drawn to?


Thank you for reading! I feel very much drawn to the insight techniques as mentioned in Daniel's book. While focusing on the breath, I've experimented with noting and body scanning. The thing with noting is that I am aware of so many multiple sensations that mentally "speaking" a word to reference them kinda defeats the purpose. I've turned to using just a mental "note" - or I think Daniel mentions mentally noting with a "beep". Body scanning for me takes a little bit away from the mediation object. I've just started reading The Mind Illuminated by John Yates. I really dig his model of attention vs peripheral awareness. Basically at this point its come down to working on focus on the meditation object while simultaneously widening the periphery.  

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 7:29 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Thanks Nick for the great introduction. I was drawn here by the more recent discussion about A&P. How did the Mind Illuminated practices pan out for you? How do you feel your practice has progressed over the past year and a half? I’d love to know more.

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 8:16 AM as a reply to JohnM.
JohnM:
Thanks Nick for the great introduction. I was drawn here by the more recent discussion about A&P. How did the Mind Illuminated practices pan out for you? How do you feel your practice has progressed over the past year and a half? I’d love to know more.

Hey John,

Although I think it's a great practice, I never stuck with TMI. In those early days I was too stubborn for such a disciplined framework. I had much better luck with a very dry, very free form practice inspired by MCTB, just noticing the three characteristics through the six sense doors, following my heart and intuiton down various avenues of curiosity. That strategy was successful for MCTB technical 1st and 2nd paths. Since then the territory and shifts have become mysterious.

In the past few months I've been working via Skype with a lineaged Theravada teacher named Dhammarato (student of Bhikkhu Buddhadasa). He has had a massively positive impact on my practice and understanding of, as he calls the "Supra-mundane Dhamma". His approach is very different from much of what I had been exposed to. He posts talks with his students here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjxg5GJFsRqnS-YLTzyrjLQ/videos.    

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 10:49 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Hey Nick, Interesting story. Nice job on 1st and 2nd path. I'm interested to know about your teacher Dhammarato. Does he teach for free? I have had a reall good teacher in the past but funds have been low for a while and I have been looking for someone that may do it for free. Free teachers that are awake seem to be hard to come by.

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 2:38 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Dustin:
Hey Nick, Interesting story. Nice job on 1st and 2nd path. I'm interested to know about your teacher Dhammarato. Does he teach for free? I have had a reall good teacher in the past but funds have been low for a while and I have been looking for someone that may do it for free. Free teachers that are awake seem to be hard to come by.

Yes he teaches for free via Skype from his home in Thailand. He is highly critical of teachers paid to teach the Dhamma. 

I will check with him if he is accepting new students and PM you.

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 3:13 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Thanks! Can you explain more about what you said above about " He has had a massively positive impact on my practice and understanding of as he calls the " Supra-mundane Dhamma". Like what changed with you and what changed from what you had been doing? Better instuctions? Just having a teacher? Having a direction? I am just interested because sometime I am not sure which way to go or what I should actually be doing. It's like a free for all which can be good but I have also noticed I sometimes get lost in trying to do whatever seems cool or what I hear others doing. Also you said in noting you had turned to using just a mental "note" instead of labeling. When you say "note" do you meen just thanking the word note or using the "beep" like Daniel talks about?

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 5:37 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Hey Nick! Welcome emoticon

I’ve been a member of this nice community for a while (I lost my old profile). I just stumbled upon this thread and I’m happy you found your way to the Dhamma. 

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 7:43 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Dustin:
Thanks! Can you explain more about what you said above about " He has had a massively positive impact on my practice and understanding of as he calls the " Supra-mundane Dhamma". Like what changed with you and what changed from what you had been doing? Better instuctions? Just having a teacher? Having a direction? 
Dhammarato is very traditional, lineaged Theravada teacher, student of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu (who was the coolest - check him out if you haven't). Of many things, the most important I've learned is that joy is not a byproduct, but rather a skill to be developed. He's shown me how joy can be used as fuel for sati and how it propels the noble eightfold path. I used to be a very dry practitioner obsessed with nanas, cycles and perspective shifts. He teaches to have only the immediate goal of "being here now". It was a bit like going back to kindergarten but after a while I realized how off the rails I had let myself become, overlooking Right View. Working with him has brought me into having a more intimate connection with The Path and The Dhamma, yet I feel that my practice is more pragmatic than ever. 
Also you said in noting you had turned to using just a mental "note" instead of labeling. When you say "note" do you meen just thanking the word note or using the "beep" like Daniel talks about?
Neither. I would just "know" that I'm perceiving an object directly, rather than taking the extra step to "note". Does that make sense?  

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 7:46 PM as a reply to Travis McKinstry.
Travis McKinstry:
Hey Nick! Welcome emoticon

I’ve been a member of this nice community for a while (I lost my old profile). I just stumbled upon this thread and I’m happy you found your way to the Dhamma. 
Hey Travis, this is an old thread, recently revived. I've been here for a while. Thanks for the welcome anyways! emoticon 

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/13/19 8:25 PM as a reply to Nick O.
Wow! That’s really powerful.  I’m in the obsessed with nanas, cycles and paths phase and know that’s not really what I need all the time. Not saying it’s not good to know and get these things but I’m already wired to move fast and chase things. So it’s good to hear about joy and right view coming from someone who’s been there. And yeah I get exactly what your saying about “knowing” instead of noting. Thanks for explaining all that. 

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/14/19 6:42 AM as a reply to Dustin.
Sent you a PM.

RE: Introduction and A&P Experience
Answer
7/14/19 10:09 AM as a reply to Nick O.
My bad. I didn’t look at your “join date” haha