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Vivid Memories During Practice

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Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/2/18 8:50 AM
It seems like I go through phases where I'll spontaneously remember events that I hadn't thought about in years in incredibly vivid detail during my sits.  I know I should stick to the technique that I set out at the beginning of the session but sometimes I'll have a moment of realization about how what happened in these moments has shaped my present day behavior and when given this opportunity I like to think about it for a bit because sometimes that will lead to even more forgotten memories.

Anyone have any advice for working with these moments and taking something useful from them?  I'm interested to hear if there are any practices/frameworks for therapy/self-work that actively seek out "old" memories to better understand our current motives.

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/2/18 9:26 AM as a reply to rik.
Culadasa talks in The Mind Illuminated about vivid memories, thoughts, and visions that arise as part of his Stage 4 (of 10), often accompanied by what he calls "discursive brilliance." The mind is quiet enough from the samatha/vipassana approach for all this material to more fully manifest, he says. His instructions and the illustrations are very poignant, especially regarding the painful, traumatic memories. I recommend the book, but basically the idea is to recognize that this is a natural occurrance and to ignore the arisings in favor of the breath (as his main object of meditation) and "let them come, let them be, let them go." If they persist, turn the mind to the arisings in the body that accompany them until they subsist. He asserts that a lot of emotional/traumatic material will be cleared this way, making the dukkha ñanas much easier to navigate later on. I've had a lot of preliminary success with this method, FWIW.

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/2/18 8:53 PM as a reply to JohnM.
In the same book Culadasa outlines several other pertinent practices, including the mindful review and the analytical meditations. Namgyal Rinpoche taught us dredging, which is basically getting into a very good state through samatha and then purposefully digging up memories and traumas to clear with the light of awareness. Powerful and effective. The important thing is to work from a very wholesome base consciousness.

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/2/18 9:09 PM as a reply to JohnM.
Thanks!  These sound exactly like what I was thinking about.  I recently acquired a copy of TMI but let someone borrow it before I got too far in.  I'll check it out when I get the book back

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/3/18 2:46 AM as a reply to rik.
Cool!

At the heart of these practices is what Namgyal (teacher of Culadasa's two main teachers) called "raising question."

When beginning a sit, breathe up to a point about a foot above the crown of the head and rest the attention there. Now raise a question (like "what was that memory all about?", etc.) and wordlessly hold the question there until the feeling of it is fully formed. Then breathe out and let the question and the attention shower down through your body. Drop the question and focus on the meditation object(s). At the end of the session, breathe back up to the area above the crown of the head, do a brief phenomenological review, noting anything that arose, shower down on the outbreath. Take prominent visual, auditory, somatic, etc. feedback (often counterintuitive or easily discounted as not relevant) that presented itself as the question for the next session, and so on.

An example, with question/review between sessions: a disagreement at work -> during sit, headache developed -> question/review -> general numbness on left side of head -> question/review -> image of yellow kitchen counter -> q/r -> my mother's voice -> q/r -> memory of being slapped on the head in the kitchen for talking back to my mother -> compelling psychological insights and flooding sense of release -> apply strong attention and awareness to bare noting of physical sensations accompanying this -> episode fades and resume attention to samatha object or noting etc.

Rinpoche was fond of saying, "no question, no Awakening."  This is one practical application of that principle.

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
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8/3/18 4:40 AM as a reply to JohnM.
Really good advice JohnM. 

And rik, you don't really need to actively seek out these memories, but basically you just deal with them as they bubble up. The mind is pretty amazing and it seems like practice will take us into the memories/experiences/emotions etc. that we need to deal with to make the next step of progress. So in general, you can trust that things will bubble up when the time is ready for them to bubble up. And if they bubble up, it's time to look closely at them in an objective/curious way, see what you can learn from the old memory, but also allow it to go when it goes.

RE: Vivid Memories During Practice
Answer
8/3/18 5:18 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you shargrol!

I wanted to add some great advice that Shannon Stein gave me recently, that in light of the following quote seems especially pertinent. The five hindrances and the seven factors of enlightenment can provide a wonderful set of analytic parameters to appraise and adjust our practice. Again (my interpretation) these might best be used in the mindful review stage after formal sits, so as not to interfere with the practice through discursive thought, or when the chips are down and a session seems to be stagnating beyond repair. From Daniel and Shannon's book The Fire Kasina page 112*:

DANIEL:
Obviously, in the world of meditation, there is a great debate: to ignore psychological stuff and stick with concentration, or to allow issues to surface to develop healthier relationships to challenging patterns and gain insight. There are positive points to both, but you definitely do not want to wallow in psychological issues.

SHANNON:
In the Satipatthana Sutta, the discourse on the four foundations of mindfulness, there is scholarly controversy concerning the correct translation of the fourth foundation, ‘mindfulness of the dharmas’. Where the translators agree, though, is contemplation of the five hindrances and the seven factors of awakening are to be included as part of this foundation.
Indeed it proved invaluable for me to be well-versed in working with the seven factors of awakening, in particular to be able to recognize when joy and tranquillity were low, which often coincided with a rise in my habitual hindrances of fear and doubt. (the configuration of the specifics on this will be different for each meditator.) When I was at risk of wallowing in the unproductive, if all else failed, remembering to cultivate and tune into a soft physical and mental joy and an inner tranquillity, worked well to allow for a deeper letting go into whatever was happening.


*https://firekasina.org/