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Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 4:16 AM
Hello dear sangha!

Long story short: Meditated on-off since 2015. Ayahuasca retreat beginning of 2018 helped me pass A/P. Continued use of LSD before and after assisted me to what I believe was SE (Reduction in suffering, new perspectives, obsessed with the buddhist teachings etc.). Stopped psychedelics two months back as I saw it as another attachment and hindrance to practice. Have since then felt like I lost all ability to meditate, strong confusion over where I am and what to do. Felt like I started from the beginning a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I meditate each day for 1-3 hours. And would sit more if I had the time. Have lost interest in most stuff I used to like, as I see that the impermanence of the little happiness it provides. I feel the insight stages pass every now and then, albeit very subtly. I don't feel much energy in the body at all, except for some slight pressure on the forehead and my body jerking from time to time in meditation.

I am certain that I need to improve my concentration, but I am at a loss here. I've tried Kasina, breath awareness (in many different ways), open awareness. I've sat for long and short durations. Despite all this it doesn't seem like my concentration is improving. At the time it feels like I passed the frustrating stages of DN and reside in EQ, but I can't be sure since the stages are very subtle for me.

I would be eternally grateful if I could get some advice on how to move forward. 

Massive thanks and Metta.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 5:52 AM as a reply to Alex.
Could you explain what makes you think your concentration isn't improving?

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 6:01 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Hi Shargrol.

There used to be a lasting effect after my meditation practice. A markable sense of mental calm that stayed for a couple of hours. This does not seem to be the case anymore. A couple of weeks back, I seemed to be on the doorstep to first jhana as well, as opposed to now.

I can admit that after having meditated on psychedelics, I might have a thwarted view on how quickly and markably the changes in concentration appear.

How do you notice improvements in concentration? In what time spectrum do they appear?




Thank you for replying.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 10:21 AM as a reply to Alex.
I get the sense that you are hoping that meditation will just lead to pleasurable states? Unfortunately, it rarely works like that. 

Could you say more about why you are practicing meditation?

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 10:47 AM as a reply to shargrol.
I see why it might come off as that. However, I don't expect meditation to be all fun and pleasure. I have calmly sat through a lot of painful stages, hell and high water, and I know it to be a grand part of this journey. But, now I am sitting down on the cushion to meet hours of what seems like no progress. I don't feel much pain or anguish at all, neither pleasure or happiness. I try to see what I need to do but nothing really shows up. I can't access the jhanas either.

Essentially I practice for enlightenment, a life (more or less) free from suffering. I also aim at seeing oneness so that I truly can feel deep compassion and love for all beings. Beneath that I practice for deep concentration, peace and flow states so that I can do whatever I set my mind to with focused diligence.

Perhaps it will 'click' sooner or later and I will know what to do. But it is very difficult, without a teacher, to believe that all this sitting without even the subtlest sign of progress is actually moving "me" along the path of enlightenment.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 10:59 AM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
But it is very difficult, without a teacher, to believe that all this sitting without even the subtlest sign of progress is actually moving "me" along the path of enlightenment.

Have you read The Mind Illuminated? It's strength is that it presents you with a map of the terrain and helps you guage progress and troubleshoot your meditations.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 11:21 AM as a reply to Alex.
Hi, Alex.

What do you consider to be a sign of progress?

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 3:28 PM as a reply to ivory.
ivory:
Alex:
But it is very difficult, without a teacher, to believe that all this sitting without even the subtlest sign of progress is actually moving "me" along the path of enlightenment.

Have you read The Mind Illuminated? It's strength is that it presents you with a map of the terrain and helps you guage progress and troubleshoot your meditations.
Sounds like a suitable recommendation to say the least. Will look into it. Thank you!

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 3:40 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Hi, Alex.

What do you consider to be a sign of progress?
Hi Chris.

Basically, something that shifts from the norm. For example, reduction in time it takes to still the mind (circumstances considered), lasting insight or just the intuitive sense that "yes, this is it" regardless if it was painful or pleasurable.

I used to feel that there was a noticeable calm and focus after meditation before, which is not there anymore as far as I can tell, or it passes very quickly. I guess that is one of the ways I gauge whether or not I had a "successful" session.

Could it be the stage I am in? I'd say I'm on the verge (EQ) of 2nd path, but can't be sure of course. If that is true however do you have any specifics on what I should be looking for?

Thanks for replying. I really appreciate it. 

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 3:58 PM as a reply to Alex.
I get it. I've been through periods of practice in which nothing seemed to be happening at all, too. They can last for quite some time. They always seem to end, though, and I've never been able to identify any reliable reasons or causes. I suspect but cannot prove that things were brewing away somewhere because eventually some kind of pattern recognition or some other serendipity-type event would happen and, poof! The drought would be over.

I'd say have patience but I never did under these circumstances. One thing I would recommend is to try to focus on the feelings you're having related to the dilemma you perceive: what is the feeling of impatience like and when does it arise? What is the anxiety related to generating different experiences like? Can you find that feeling as it arises? What's generating those feelings? Sometimes the seeds of change can be found just under what seems like barren soil.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/26/18 4:05 PM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
Hello dear sangha!

Long story short: Meditated on-off since 2015. Ayahuasca retreat beginning of 2018 helped me pass A/P. Continued use of LSD before and after assisted me to what I believe was SE (Reduction in suffering, new perspectives, obsessed with the buddhist teachings etc.). Stopped psychedelics two months back as I saw it as another attachment and hindrance to practice. Have since then felt like I lost all ability to meditate, strong confusion over where I am and what to do. Felt like I started from the beginning a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I meditate each day for 1-3 hours. And would sit more if I had the time. Have lost interest in most stuff I used to like, as I see that the impermanence of the little happiness it provides. I feel the insight stages pass every now and then, albeit very subtly. I don't feel much energy in the body at all, except for some slight pressure on the forehead and my body jerking from time to time in meditation.

I am certain that I need to improve my concentration, but I am at a loss here. I've tried Kasina, breath awareness (in many different ways), open awareness. I've sat for long and short durations. Despite all this it doesn't seem like my concentration is improving. At the time it feels like I passed the frustrating stages of DN and reside in EQ, but I can't be sure since the stages are very subtle for me.

I would be eternally grateful if I could get some advice on how to move forward. 

Massive thanks and Metta.
Hi Alex

Have you considered that maybe the experiences with LSD were a state similar to the A&P and instead of reaching stream entry back then that you've now entered into the DN?  Or maybe that you've just recently moved into the DN for 2nd path?  A&P -> DN is what I'm reminded of based on your descriptions of how once meditation felt so beneficial and now you have a desire to return to those experiences.  Also, even though many have reported that concentration meditation helps "smooth out" the DN, there have been other comments that it's more difficult to reach deep states during that stage.

One thing I do if I ever realize that I'm questioning if I'm making progress is to be extra aware of the sensations of striving/desiring/mapping and to clearly note them and investigate them when they arise.  I also pay attention to how sensations are always arising and passing no matter what, regardless of any intent.  Basically I try to chill out with any thoughts of progress or the maps and just try to clearly see what happens right in the moment, even if what is happening is that I'm frustrated with progress and the lack of percieved tangible benefits.

Hope this helps, and I'm open to hearing about what others think of this too as I'm not nearly as experienced as many on this board (so don't hesitate to let me know if I'm spewing nonsense)

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 5:49 AM as a reply to Alex.
Hi Alex, try Shikantaza for a few weeks, see how it feels.

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 1:12 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I get it. I've been through periods of practice in which nothing seemed to be happening at all, too. They can last for quite some time. They always seem to end, though, and I've never been able to identify any reliable reasons or causes. I suspect but cannot prove that things were brewing away somewhere because eventually some kind of pattern recognition or some other serendipity-type event would happen and, poof! The drought would be over.

I'd say have patience but I never did under these circumstances. One thing I would recommend is to try to focus on the feelings you're having related to the dilemma you perceive: what is the feeling of impatience like and when does it arise? What is the anxiety related to generating different experiences like? Can you find that feeling as it arises? What's generating those feelings? Sometimes the seeds of change can be found just under what seems like barren soil.
I have noticed that a couple of times as well. Albeit, that wonderful serendipity showed up faster those last few times. 

I got strong will and have no difficulty dropping everyday activities to sit for an hour extra each day, but because of the lack of sense that I am focusing on the right thing or certainty of where I am on the maps, it feels like I am sprinting really fast.... In circles. Haha!

I must say that I don't find it too dificult investigating that frustration when it appears, leading to its dissolution. But of course, it could still be more subtle layers of sensual desire (pleasurable states) and ill will (sort of criticizing myself for not being better) that I have not yet been able to eradicate. I like that last part! You gave me something to look for  emoticon

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 3:00 PM as a reply to rik.
rik:
Alex:
Hello dear sangha!

Long story short: Meditated on-off since 2015. Ayahuasca retreat beginning of 2018 helped me pass A/P. Continued use of LSD before and after assisted me to what I believe was SE (Reduction in suffering, new perspectives, obsessed with the buddhist teachings etc.). Stopped psychedelics two months back as I saw it as another attachment and hindrance to practice. Have since then felt like I lost all ability to meditate, strong confusion over where I am and what to do. Felt like I started from the beginning a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I meditate each day for 1-3 hours. And would sit more if I had the time. Have lost interest in most stuff I used to like, as I see that the impermanence of the little happiness it provides. I feel the insight stages pass every now and then, albeit very subtly. I don't feel much energy in the body at all, except for some slight pressure on the forehead and my body jerking from time to time in meditation.

I am certain that I need to improve my concentration, but I am at a loss here. I've tried Kasina, breath awareness (in many different ways), open awareness. I've sat for long and short durations. Despite all this it doesn't seem like my concentration is improving. At the time it feels like I passed the frustrating stages of DN and reside in EQ, but I can't be sure since the stages are very subtle for me.

I would be eternally grateful if I could get some advice on how to move forward. 

Massive thanks and Metta.
Hi Alex

Have you considered that maybe the experiences with LSD were a state similar to the A&P and instead of reaching stream entry back then that you've now entered into the DN?  Or maybe that you've just recently moved into the DN for 2nd path?  A&P -> DN is what I'm reminded of based on your descriptions of how once meditation felt so beneficial and now you have a desire to return to those experiences.  Also, even though many have reported that concentration meditation helps "smooth out" the DN, there have been other comments that it's more difficult to reach deep states during that stage.

One thing I do if I ever realize that I'm questioning if I'm making progress is to be extra aware of the sensations of striving/desiring/mapping and to clearly note them and investigate them when they arise.  I also pay attention to how sensations are always arising and passing no matter what, regardless of any intent.  Basically I try to chill out with any thoughts of progress or the maps and just try to clearly see what happens right in the moment, even if what is happening is that I'm frustrated with progress and the lack of percieved tangible benefits.

Hope this helps, and I'm open to hearing about what others think of this too as I'm not nearly as experienced as many on this board (so don't hesitate to let me know if I'm spewing nonsense)
That is certainly possible and I have thought about it. Although I have seemingly permanent changes since that event on 5/5. These changes are in general:

- Markably reduced suffering
- Strong belief in the buddhist teachings and that enlightenment is "real"/ possible
- Increased awareness/ understanding of suffering
- Loss of interest in what I used to like/ seeing impermanence in what they bring
- Calmer, more content
- New perspectives (large and small scale stuff)

The event itself can be summarized like this;
1. Building up of energy/ concentration
2. Seeing two snakes in my mind's eye crawling up my spine + intense energy appearing in lower end of back, and slowly moving upwards
3. Along the ascent of energy I "lost awareness" a couple of times
4. Energy moving through my chakras + lots of emotions and visions + massive release as it moved on
5. Energy reaching head + Intense fear -> miserable visions and emotions -> re-observing what I thought would be my new life
6/7. Accepting things as they were -> Being engulfed in incredible white light + lost perception but still experienced the whiteness and non-duality somehow. Thought "tried" to appear like "This is bad or this or that..." but they disappeared right away until there was nothing.
8. The light disappeared and perception returned -> I had no centre of self, walked strangely, had a sip of some strong juice but it tasted like "nothing", like the mind wouldn't categorize it. I could also so every interuption in consciousness.
9. A few hours later the concentration had decreased, but I felt a bit changed. For a few days later I felt some remnants of that strong energy in the lower back.

Please have a say on what you think this experience was about.

Thank you, Rik. I will definitely take that advice with me.  

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 1:37 PM as a reply to alguidar.
alguidar:
Hi Alex, try Shikantaza for a few weeks, see how it feels.


Hi Aulguidar!

Just read up on it. Found out I have done this a few times before. It is very calming. I always thought of it as mindfulness of the mind. 
Will do this more regularly.

What has your experience with it been?

Thank you for the advice emoticon

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 3:17 PM as a reply to Alex.
Alex:
rik:
Alex:
Hello dear sangha!

Long story short: Meditated on-off since 2015. Ayahuasca retreat beginning of 2018 helped me pass A/P. Continued use of LSD before and after assisted me to what I believe was SE (Reduction in suffering, new perspectives, obsessed with the buddhist teachings etc.). Stopped psychedelics two months back as I saw it as another attachment and hindrance to practice. Have since then felt like I lost all ability to meditate, strong confusion over where I am and what to do. Felt like I started from the beginning a couple of weeks ago.

Now, I meditate each day for 1-3 hours. And would sit more if I had the time. Have lost interest in most stuff I used to like, as I see that the impermanence of the little happiness it provides. I feel the insight stages pass every now and then, albeit very subtly. I don't feel much energy in the body at all, except for some slight pressure on the forehead and my body jerking from time to time in meditation.

I am certain that I need to improve my concentration, but I am at a loss here. I've tried Kasina, breath awareness (in many different ways), open awareness. I've sat for long and short durations. Despite all this it doesn't seem like my concentration is improving. At the time it feels like I passed the frustrating stages of DN and reside in EQ, but I can't be sure since the stages are very subtle for me.

I would be eternally grateful if I could get some advice on how to move forward. 

Massive thanks and Metta.
Hi Alex

Have you considered that maybe the experiences with LSD were a state similar to the A&P and instead of reaching stream entry back then that you've now entered into the DN?  Or maybe that you've just recently moved into the DN for 2nd path?  A&P -> DN is what I'm reminded of based on your descriptions of how once meditation felt so beneficial and now you have a desire to return to those experiences.  Also, even though many have reported that concentration meditation helps "smooth out" the DN, there have been other comments that it's more difficult to reach deep states during that stage.

One thing I do if I ever realize that I'm questioning if I'm making progress is to be extra aware of the sensations of striving/desiring/mapping and to clearly note them and investigate them when they arise.  I also pay attention to how sensations are always arising and passing no matter what, regardless of any intent.  Basically I try to chill out with any thoughts of progress or the maps and just try to clearly see what happens right in the moment, even if what is happening is that I'm frustrated with progress and the lack of percieved tangible benefits.

Hope this helps, and I'm open to hearing about what others think of this too as I'm not nearly as experienced as many on this board (so don't hesitate to let me know if I'm spewing nonsense)
That is certainly possible and I have thought about it. Although I have seemingly permanent changes since that event on 5/5. These changes are in general:

- Markably reduced suffering
- Strong belief in the buddhist teachings and that enlightenment is "real"/ possible
- Increased awareness/ understanding of suffering
- Loss of interest in what I used to like/ seeing impermanence in what they bring
- Calmer, more content
- New perspectives (large and small scale stuff)

The event itself can be summarized like this;
1. Building up of energy/ concentration
2. Seeing two snakes in my mind's eye crawling up my spine + intense energy appearing in lower end of back, and slowly moving upwards
3. Along the ascent of energy I "lost awareness" a couple of times
4. Energy moving through my chakras + lots of emotions and visions + massive release as it moved on
5. Energy reaching head + Intense fear -> miserable visions and emotions -> re-observing what I thought would be my new life
6/7. Accepting things as they were -> Being engulfed in incredible white light + lost perception but still experienced the whiteness and non-duality somehow. Thought "tried" to appear like "This is bad or this or that..." but they disappeared right away until there was nothing.
8. The light disappeared and perception returned -> I had no centre of self, walked strangely, had a sip of some strong juice but it tasted like "nothing", like the mind wouldn't categorize it. I could also so every interuption in consciousness.
9. A few hours later the concentration had decreased, but I felt a bit changed. For a few days later I felt some remnants of that strong energy in the lower back.

Please have a say on what you think this experience was about.

Thank you, Rik. I will definitely take that advice with me.  
RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice

Diagnoses - A&P

Practictice advice - describe practice better than  "Now, I meditate each day for 1-3 hours"

You need to supply the minimal information such that a person could look at it and give you an opinion. Be wary of those who offer advice without any supporting information. Unless you possibly expected that we should backtrack your every post to find out all about you.
Good Luck!
~D

RE: Advice for diagnosis and practice
Answer
7/27/18 4:12 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
I was hoping for a reply from you, Dream walker. I like what I have read from you. I want to begin by thanking you for taking the time to help out.

A/P you say. I am certainly open for that. That would explain the bothersome last two months. As well as my current, seemingly balanced view on my life. Might be in early EQ then (prior to SE). I will look more into what has been said about progression through that stage. If you have any specific advice, I'd be grateful. 

- Practice -
Duration per session: 30-80 minutes
Total per day: 1-3 hours
Formal meditation on cushion: Most often I try to focus on the breath where it is most clearly felt, notice distractions tugging on attention, re-apply attention on breath. After 10-20 minutes thus becomes a bit easier. At this point the body usually starts swaying a bit. For over a month I have stopped this, locked my body straight and tried to concentrate on the breath, which has often led to a semi-pleasurable state with some small swhirls or colored dots from time to time. Today was the first day in 1-2 months that I tended to the movements of the body and let go of trying to block them. I stayed mindful and watched. As during the A/P and weeks after this quiet swaying turned into violent flailing with my arms, breath of fire and, other yogic movements. A greater sense of body awareness after that session.

I've tried kasina, but seem to use my eyes to much and haven't practiced it long enough to know how my mind works during that practice.

Sometimes I just sit and try to be mindful of whatever comes up into the mind. Watching what I believe are formations. In my experience they are like "mind movies" with a strong pull. I can sort of hear, see, feel what they are without being sucked into them until they vanish.

I am turning more and more into just sitting down and letting whatever wills unfold, trying to stay awake and aware meanwhile.

Lay-noting during day when I am aware that I am suffering. When activities are not demanding, I try to be mindful of my body, thoughts.

I want to add that I have had moments in meditation that seem like nodding off but then suddenly twitching, still different from when I have been really tired. They have not as far as I can tell, brought any conscious insights. But they certainly seem like sudden interruptions in consciousness.

Hopefully that provides a clearer picture of my practice.