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Stuck in the middle of nowhere

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Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
7/19/18 7:21 AM
Around six months ago I asked for advice after completing the fourth cycle of the Progress of Insight and I was given a good one: revisit MCTB and the 12 path model. I did it and it pointed me in the right direction, more cycles to go through. So I set my heart on the task and one by one I've finished dozens of them. Like the 27 that Daniel mentions in the book.

The problem is I don't see any progress. Sure, I've had some insigths around non-duality here and there but, in the end, I don't have any feeling of progressing. It's more like going in circles, from dark night to dark night with brief intervals (merely days) of calmness. The DNs are as deep and as extenuating as the first time around. It really feels like this could go on forever, I don't see even a glimpse of overcoming (as in dropping the fetter of) fear or sadness or disgust or pain or greed or sexual desire or...you name it.

At this point I've even contemplated ending all this and living a conventional life. But I don't see much benefit in that route, it's like moving the ball forward to retake the task in the future and probably having to strive yet again just to reach the same point where I am now. Pointless in a sense and mainly motivated by...fear?

Can any of you who have traversed these stages provide some useful advice to break through? It's really appreciated.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
7/19/18 10:30 AM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
I found a good psychotherapist who was able to help me ground myself. What kept me in DN for so long was a lack of self-acceptance and my ideas of how I thought the world should be. Once I saw how my patterns played out, and stopped feeding them, I stopped falling back into DN territory. Acceptance was the way out. I also had a problem with alcohol, but once I realized how much it was causing me to suffer I stopped drinking. Your mileage may vary but I found the dark night and equanimity sections of MCTB to be indespensible.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
7/19/18 11:05 AM as a reply to ivory.
ivory:
What kept me in DN for so long was a lack of self-acceptance and my ideas of how I thought the world should be. ... Your mileage may vary but I found the dark night and equanimity sections of MCTB to be indespensible.
Just to clarify, I do complete the cycles (reach EQ and then fruition), I do not fall back from EQ to DN. But the cycles are so close to each other that you go over each ñana again every week (and DN ñanas tend to be longer).

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
7/19/18 11:13 AM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
Hi pointless, Im not an expert, just my to cent.


Fear, sadness, disgust, pain, greed or sexual desire are part of being alive, what we can do is try to handle more skillfully this experiences in a healty way. I will say make your main meditation object the aversion, the rejection, the denail, the acceptance that rise when this experiences happen. Is not easy but at least for me worked.

Also try to observe exactly what makes you feel bad, what exactly the sensation is, is more up, or more down? can you locate it? Maybe is a very fast thought or a stream of thinking/sensations that make you depress without you being aware? or is more like a draining sensation? where is this draining located? can you go deep in that sensation and be really open to it? Play with it, cast compasion to it, or kindess or just feeling or just do nothing and just observe, try to make distance or try to go in, just play, try evoke that sensations for yourself and see that they dont have power to you, that you can also evoke, cast them, get used to them like in gym doing repetitons of a hard exercices in time you will get used to it, and say "oh, yeah that mind pattern again, that kind of sensation I know them, not big deal". 

Is good to see how is your life going, maybe a part of you psychique is in desarmony with something going on, not able to accept, to deal with some aspect of your life or personality try to connect with that and work with it, best you can do go to therapist for guiedence and solid work!

Life is good things and bad things, good experiences and bad experiences is how it goes we like it or not, I saw embracing the dark side of life make my life more healty, realistic and more grounded. Is not like going for pain, sadness, fear but when it comes wellcome it, feel it and also be equanimous on that expirence, is a training itself but is really worth it the effort of doing it!

You talk about conventional life, and in conventional life is where I found more events related to fear, anger, resentmen, disgust, emotional instability greed, shame, sexual desire etc, this is the playground when we can train what we work on our meditation, as I said is not easy, and is not a day to night work, is day to day effort, sometimes you fall, sometimes you learn, and little by little  by daily effort, love and compassion you build something powerfull that protects you! I dont know if that makes any sense ^^U But for say it clear if a lot of dark night stuff are happening do loving and kindess practice, some kind of service work, at least that work for me, find your way out that make you feel more comfortable!

Big hug! Peace and Joy!



RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
7/19/18 11:24 AM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
pointless_researcher:
Just to clarify, I do complete the cycles (reach EQ and then fruition), I do not fall back from EQ to DN. But the cycles are so close to each other that you go over each ñana again every week (and DN ñanas tend to be longer).

I think what matters is that something keeps dragging you back into DN. That's what you need to find out and get sorted. There are plenty on this forum who have been through this. Let's hear what they have to say.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/15/18 12:29 PM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
The Buddha recommended maintaining a concentrated mind whenever possible and was constantly dwelling in the mental attitudes of the brahmaviharas. I'm not convinced that the less-concentrated, non-brahmaviharic, baseline Western adult mindstate sees more clearly than jhanic alternatives. A potential obstacle to maintaining concentration & brahmaviharas is the deep psychological attitude that such states are "weak" or pre-adult. This attitude may form in childhood when people shut down their emotions in response to perceived attacks & disappointments, or mirror emotionally frozen caretaker figures.

It's beneficial to do trauma work with a concentrated mind, exploring and releasing negative emotions associated with painful past events. Unprocessed trauma limits maximum baseline concentration, denying one the many benefits of this concentration.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/16/18 11:33 AM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
If your life isn’t improving despite having completed many insight cycles and you aren’t experiencing any deepening perception of emptiness, you should stop doing insight practices immediately. This was the case for me and I partially messed up my body’s energy system by continuing insight work. I now have energy stuck in the pingala (right-hand) major energy channel that causes uncomfortable kundalini-like symptoms. This was very difficult and confusing for me because I’d never heard of anyone developing energetic issues by doing insight practice after stream-entry.

Insight practice up to and past “technical 4th path” made my mind somewhat quieter and more resilient, but didn’t drastically improve my mood or increase perception of emptiness except for brief moments each day. This happened because I was traumatized and disembodied, with awareness habitually stuck in the head behind the eyes, while the rest of the body was relatively untouched by awareness and full of blockages caused by unprocessed trauma.

Was your life emotionally difficult or “flat” before stream-entry? Would you say that you’ve had trouble regulating emotions or felt emotionally numb? Did your life before stream-entry kind of suck due to trauma or in a nonspecific way? These would be signs that your awareness is limited by blockages/trauma that have to be worked through before you do further insight practice.

I recommend that you ease off noting practice and take up Your Breathing Body (https://www.amazon.com/Your-Breathing-Body-Reginald-Ray/dp/1591796598) or Mahamudra in the Modern World (https://www.amazon.com/Mahamudra-Modern-World-Unprecedented-Teachings/dp/1604075694/ref=pd_lpo_sbs_14_t_1?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=N06D7KPQVJB7XYXJFAK5). These systems will help you start working through blockages and building deeper concentration. I also recommend that you do some therapy with a modality that deals with emotional trauma directy, like EMDR, somatic experiencing, or Hakomi.

The 10 Points Practice (https://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/learn-to-meditate/learn-to-meditate-foundational-practices/) from Your Breathing Body is my main practice for working through blockages.

As a side note, Reggie Ray saw that I had heavy energetic blockages in a meditation interview. He specifically recommended that I stop doing insight practices and switch to body awareness techniques to dissolve the blockages. I misunderstood his advice, failed to ask for clarification, kept doing insight practices, and ended up developing physically uncomfortable energetic problems.

If you’re post-stream-entry, I assume that you have relatively easy access to jhana. Give yourself permission to hang out in jhana and soak up the bliss. Make sure you aren’t tightening any part of your body when you enter jhana and that there’s no aspect of “forcing” jhana to happen - this is also unhealthy.

I’d like to reiterate that if you have completed a bunch of insight cycles but your mind isn’t much happier and emptiness isn’t directly perceptible, it’s really, really important to stop doing insight work. Further insight cycles will not produce any benefit and the consequences can be serious - among other things, these energetic issues have forced me to stop practicing for long periods of time.


RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/16/18 3:28 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Thanks Matthew. As you said my life was "emotionally difficult" when I started, it was actually the reason I started. I never really intended to attain any path, as a matter of fact, I just wanted to avoid the pain of loss&rejection (a heartbreak). I'm in a much better mood right now though so, after a lot of work, it has (partially not completely) worked. Your thoughts were very insightful indeed.

The truth is I completely lack any kind of concentration. My concentration skills are rudimentary primarly because I've never really ever needed them as I've always being able to traverse the ñanas without effort (even now), just by being barely aware of the context. It's my weak point (even after streamentry) and the jhanas seem quite far right now. But I'm taking the advice and leaving insight meditation aside for some time and working on improving my śamatha. It will be a welcome change, less stressfull, something I probably need. Thanks again!

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/16/18 4:27 AM as a reply to pointless_researcher.
Hello brother,

We don't really know one another, and so I can only give you feedback based on what you've shared.  Regardless of if my comments are hit or complete miss, my hope is to encourage in you a change in perspectives that at the very least, might help you move forward.  We are after all, our own best teachers.

You have attained stream entry.  Only you can verify this in the end.  Stream entry is not the total destruction of ego, it's the wisdom that sees the truth that Self is really just an illusion.  A remnant of ego will remain throughout the paths, with varying strength, based on the practictioners individual life and karma.  If in your life situation you have an extremely strong sense of Self (the strength of identity is gained through particularly strong attachments and clinging) then it's of course possible that you still feel like you have this identity, which lives on in the form of mind habits.  You might have taken a rebirth into a new, very similar ego, which means you might have inadvertantly laid new roots where all the fetters can take hold.  It might be time to reinvestigate the skandhas and dependant origination.

The other big point I want to make is that you say you have mastered meditation on the cushion, can navigate the higher states of concentration with ease.  Even the Buddha encountered master meditators that were not enlightened as a result of their efforts, and he helped correct their views.  I mention this as a reminder that meditation and concentration practices alone will not guarantee you the noble goal of liberation that you seek.

I strongly encourage you to take a step back and return to the seemingly basic teachings about the noble eightfold path.  You might master Right Concentration, but it's off the cushion that the remaining spokes of this wheel are really important.  Morality.  Right Effort.  Right Motivation.  These are the spokes of the wheel that should be gaining strength off the cushion.  With developed concentration and mindfulness it should be an easy task to maintain that mindfulness, to watch your mind as you live your life.

Trauma in our past karmic makeup can make ego really sneaky, as it clings to certain needs and desires, because it so desperately believes it needs these things to validate its own worth, or to recreate some world in which everything is OK.  It's this clinging you need to identify.  It's this clinging that defines what your individual path looks like.

When you master the jhanas and you plow through the fields, you may gain valuable insights about non-duality and so forth, sure, but if you only repeat this practice, you are mowing previously mowed strips, and you are missing all the trees.  Take a step back from the cushion.  Be gentle with yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Allow yourself to take the time to really see the path.  It will reveal itself.  The cushion will wait for you and it will be there when you know what remains to be done.

Best wishes to you.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/16/18 11:44 AM as a reply to Chris.
It isn't possible to master even the first jhana without working through most of one's emotional trauma and eliminating or suppressing habits of clinging at a deep level. Per The Mind Illuminated, the purification of trauma happens at the fourth of ten stages, with jhana mastery only being attained after stage ten. Likewise, the mind cannot master concentration while regret from unethical behavior is present. Regret can be repressed, but this will also limit one's concentration.

Someone who has truly mastered one or more jhanas will have some of the jhana factors present at all times in daily life. Gary Weber, for example, almost continually experiences the absence of directed thought & examination, which is a factor of the second jhana. To paraphrase the Buddha, someone who has mastered concentration thinks when he wants to think and does not think when he does not want to think.

RE: Stuck in the middle of nowhere
Answer
8/17/18 4:14 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Everything you're saying is relevant to my case. You've nailed why I can't master concentration. Though I have to say that vipassanā meditation arises traumas and blockages in a similar fashion (during the DN) and allows you to overcome them. It's just that it is more difficult to do so because the state is less grounded/peaceful. I know because I had to do it the hard way.

But Chris wasn't misguided either. I've probably been too much focused (obsessed?) with "skillfull means", "meditating", "goals" or "abandoning suffering" and I've left crucial off-cushion matters in the process, that actually includes something as trivial as living. And i'ts time to take a step back, relax a little and get a new outlook.

Both of you were right in the end. It's amazing to see how much people can infer just by reading a few lines, I'm in awe.