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Introduction, a question, and a thank you

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Hi everyone! I thought I should introduce myself, since I’ve been lurking for a minute and I would love to get involved. Here is a rather quick (yet somehow also lengthy) overview of my journey with meditation. At the end are a couple questions and a thank you. Your insights would be appreciated, though no pressure for a response. Mostly, I just want to say hi and let’s be buddies.

2009 - 2013: Insight-Focused Practice
  • Was dealing with a LOT of emotional pain stemming from trauma
  • Turned to meditation as a way to heal (in addition to therapy and other stuff). Insight meditation practices were my primary thing for meditation.
    • It turns out when you’re dealing with trauma, it’s wicked hard to sit with your own brain (whoops).
      • It felt like I was lowering myself into a tank full of piranhas, and all of them had my face.
      • I did this for years, and while a learned a LOT about myself, it was incredibly painful and my practice was inconsistent as a result.
    • Went on two different weekend-long meditation retreats
      • Retreat #1: Periods of relaxation, along with periods of intensity
      • Retreat #2: Pretty much total agony throughout. This was in late 2013 and I realized I needed to try a new approach
    • Everything just felt more intense with this approach. Had a Kundalini experience — which was neat — but also a lot of intense darkness at times.

2014 - Mid-2018: Concentration-Focused Practice (while gently easing into insight when it felt right)
  • Found a concentration meditation practice that worked really well for me. It was incredibly healing to see how there was deep peace and bliss within me all the time. From there, I would ease into insight practice, which felt more healing and natural.
    • In the beginning, ended up beaming like a goofball, it felt so nice.
    • This practice served as a bedrock for my emotional healing, since it was so grounding and solid. Seeing that it was possible to feel good again, it gave me the courage to continue the deep work with trained therapists and actually make real progress. It turns out working on your Stuff is a really worthwhile effort!
      • Now, I feel peaceful and upbeat most of the time, two words I never thought I would use to describe myself. My interpersonal relationships are healthy and strong, and I’ve learned the very difficult skill of unpacking and exploring my Stuff. Highly recommend you do this, if you need to.
  • My practice evolved and opened up to be more expansive. Bliss gave way to softly-pleasant vibes, then more peaceful and steady sits.
    • Definitely delved into darkness at times, but with a strongly grounded practice (and other healing techniques I learned along the way), I’d process and keep going.
  • Oh and also, lots of low-key weird stuff starting happening during this time period. Like dreaming of/sensing things before they happened or feeling intense feelings for no reason, only to have a friend reach out to me right after to express those exact feelings.

Summer 2018:
  • Generally, my practice has felt expansive, steady, and good, so I tried a one-day meditation retreat. It was great! Left feeling totally normal and grounded (not the intense dark stuff I encountered during my earlier retreat attempts).
  • A week after the retreat, I was meditating and at one point, it felt like the walls between me and everything else suddenly clicked off for a moment. It felt as if “I” disappeared.
    • Since then, I’ve felt like I could point to that experience and say, “THAT is what I’m searching for.”

My goal: To make that non-dual view my natural one

My current approach/plan:
  • I generally learn best when I start with a simple framework and scale it up if needed. My natural tendency is to overthink things, get too caught up in the details, and not end up doing anything because I overwhelm myself. Don’t wanna do that. So:
  • Meditate for an hour a day during the workweek (20 minutes of “just sitting,” 20 minutes focused on the breath, 20 minutes walking meditation). Aim for ~2 hours per day on the weekends.
  • Go to a one-day retreat each month
  • Go to multi-day retreats when my schedule can allow it (likely one per year, maybe two)
  • Focus on core Buddhist ideas, such as the Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths
  • Currently reading Daniel’s book and The Three Pillars of Zen

The reason why I am reaching out to you all:
  • Any suggestions on how to proceed from here? What worked for you? Really aiming to stay dedicated, yet not get bogged down by details, if that makes sense.
  • Also just wanted to say thank you for having a space where one can geek out over the wild and wonderful (and sometimes terrible) things our brains can do.

RE: Introduction, a question, and a thank you
Answer
8/31/18 5:53 AM as a reply to BeeBoop.
Welcome to the DhO! Nice intro and backgrounder.

Any chance this thread tees up some of the considerations that could be in play as you formulate some stuff?

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/9309118

RE: Introduction, a question, and a thank you
Answer
8/31/18 3:40 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Thanks, Tashi! Yes, I checked out that thread earlier and there was a lot of wisdom in it. I just re-read it and pulled out some concrete ideas in relation to my question (especially the suggestion of starting a meditation log and this quote from Chris Marti below).
The overall purpose of the process we're engaged in is to awaken. To follow a vipassana practice means that we engage in an investigation - how does the mind work? Where does "suffering" come from? Can we eliminate suffering and, if we can't actually do that, can we discover enough about its causes to effectively eliminate suffering's ability to "ruin our lives?"

Will keep going gently yet consistently and see what turns up. Thanks again! Excited to be here.

RE: Introduction, a question, and a thank you
Answer
9/1/18 7:02 AM as a reply to BeeBoop.
Erin, congratulations on what you have accomplished! Wishing you continued progress!!

Moments of clarity, presence, really leave a mark in the heart/mind --- wow, this is how wonderfully simple it could be, so intimate, so effortless. It can really motivate practice.

The tricky thing (and you have experience with this) is that we all have a lot of unfinished thoughts, feelings, fears that seem to be part of past trauma or just the unfinished work of developing as a human adult. So often times when we sit, we don't find connection and presence, but rather we get drawn into particular details of our experience or particular details of our memory...  It's like we're taking care of unfinished business, or completing a bunch of thoughts that were started and not finished, or integrating some of the experiences of past trauma into our current mind...

I just wanted to say that this is entirely part of the process. We go deep into this stuff and then come out the other side with greater presence and equanimity, back into the muck and back out into presence, confusion then presence, muck then presence, a string of thoughts then presence, etc.

When presence is here, it's enough to simply dwell it it, savor it, let it be felt in heart/body. It "teaches" us just by experiencing it. And when we're drawn into the details, it is enough to be mindful of what is arising. You can trust the process that got you to where you are now. 

For what it is worth, I think Daniel's book pairs well with Ken McLeod's book "Wake up to your life".

And your approach/plan looks great. 

Best wishes!

RE: Introduction, a question, and a thank you
Answer
9/1/18 9:56 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks, Shargrol! Yes, I totally agree that it's an ever-evolving process in which we can revisit stuff and release over and over again. It's really nice to know that presence is always there, even if we're currently making our way through muck.

It looks like my library has that book, so I'm gonna get it. Thanks so much for the recommendation!