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Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance

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Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/18/18 11:09 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Andromeda 10/18/18 11:28 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/18/18 4:57 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance shargrol 10/18/18 6:41 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/18/18 6:59 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance shargrol 10/18/18 8:19 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance shargrol 10/18/18 8:25 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance alguidar 10/19/18 9:55 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/19/18 4:18 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance shargrol 10/19/18 6:03 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Andromeda 10/19/18 6:38 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/19/18 7:09 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/19/18 7:16 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance JP 10/19/18 8:32 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Andromeda 10/19/18 9:02 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Andromeda 10/19/18 5:31 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/19/18 7:04 AM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Change A. 10/18/18 12:22 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance streamsurfer 10/18/18 1:01 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/18/18 4:45 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance shargrol 10/18/18 4:25 PM
RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance Tashi Tharpa 10/18/18 4:44 PM
Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 11:09 AM
OK, so as shargrol noted about Desire for Deliverance, this nyana is characterized by a sense of being somewhat empowered. The yogi thinks, “There must be a way out of this” and focuses on solving the problem, perfecting practice, finding better teachers, etc. "It has the flavor of some confidence and passionate seeking."

So is the effort to perfect practice, to find something new and better, always a wrong turn if you're in this stage? The mistake is failing to see that your sense of needing to perfect practice is just another reactive pattern?

If the answer to those questions is yes, then it seems pretty important to understand whether you're at the Desire for Deliverance stage or are somewhere else on the map. How do you tell? Is it the sense that something is wrong, that it needs to be fixed and that finding a new and better teacher or way of practicing is surely the answer? Any other indicators?

I can see a scenario in which a yogi who is not dark-nighting just gets interested in something--TMI or fire kasina or dzogchen or what have you--and pursues this out of a sincere curiosity. Of course, I'm asking for myself here: I don't want to spend the next several years working on TMI if, in fact, this is just a wrong turn, a way of 'not seeing' what's really going on.

[edited for brevity]
 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 11:28 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
I think the trap here that can stall insight progress is that we fool ourselves into thinking that we can "fix" something by using the intellectual mind and making changes to our lives or practice. And so it's a form of escapism. We get caught up in all sorts of plans, feel like we're setting off on a new exciting journey or embarking on a mission--which feels very nice!--and ignore the sensations that we need to pay close attention to in order to progress to the next stage. There's a sort of fundamental horror in the dark night that is real and can't be fixed--we just have to learn to be with it.

So ideally, one might recognize that tendency ("Oh, I'm trying to set off on a mission again/starting a new project/feeling bored/planning a new career/infatuated by this novel thing/switching practices/etc.") and funnel that energy directly into insight practice. You don't necessarily have to have an in-depth knowledge of the maps, but just knowing your own avoidance behaviors may be enough.

But I think you're totally correct in that sometimes people really do need to change their circumstances and it isn't just about sucking it up and practicing. Anecdotally, when this stage hits particularly hard for me, there usually IS something that needs to be changed in my life and the empowering aspect is helpful for taking a closer look at what that might be (and it usually isn't what I think it is at first). Typically the dark night is the worst time to actually be making major life changes though, and so I've learned to not be hasty and let the cycle complete before making any decisions on what to do about it or even being sure I've correctly identified the problem. People who haven't completed any insight cycles are at a big disadvantage here, though. 

I think this is one of those areas where having a teacher/mentor/experienced friend with insight who knows you and your practice would be very helpful. It's probably best to stick with the practice that got you there, but maybe not. I'm not so sure there's always a clear right/wrong answer. But the right person may be able to point out to you the experience you're trying to avoid that you need to pay closer attention to and save you a lot of trouble. And IMO by far the most important thing to do is consistent daily practice (both formal and informal through the day) and so as long as that energy gets poured into some legitimate practice it's probably fine. If one instead spends all the time and energy researching and comparing systems and techniques, the analytical mind has taken over and that is a problem. 

I'm not sure if my rambling answer is going to be any help at all, but there you go!

As to your specific situation--what are you feeling in your body and where? Can you probe around inside yourself and find where that urge to jump ship comes from? Find the little tendrils of discomfort, follow them back to anything? Can you feel your analytical mind looking to clamp down on something? 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 12:22 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
I've turned many turns over the years and I think I've learnt a lot about the human condition than if I hadn't turned at all. 

Just came across the following exercise in a book: 

"Expanding and Contracting Thought

Practice 'expanding' and 'contracting' thoughts. Consider as aspects of the thought the surrounding feeling, the sense of the one who thinks, etc. Investigate whether you can expand one aspect of this complex while condensing another. How does expanding and contracting affect the gravitational pull of thoughts?"

This made me think as to how deep the author must have been into their own mind to have come up with something like that!

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 1:01 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
The way I see it that you work on deeper levels of aversion, ignorance, or whatever. The dynamic stays the same, so it may seem you are on the same place as before, but you don't remember the mind state you had at time X in the past, so there's no comparison. The insight circle stays the same, but is on another place in your insight territory.

The insight methods do their work every second if you practice them, the way you feel about it changes a lot though... near and sneaky hindrance: doubt ;)

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 4:25 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
 I'm asking for myself here: I don't want to spend the next several years working on TMI if, in fact, this is just a wrong turn, a way of 'not seeing' what's really going on.

 


So... What were you doing before wanting to switch to TMI? What is appealing about TMI that makes it seem better than what you were doing?

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 4:44 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
So... What were you doing before wanting to switch to TMI? What is appealing about TMI that makes it seem better than what you were doing?

I'm not sure how to describe how I was practicing. Below is a DhO entry chosen at random from about a month before I took up TMI. I think it was much more on the vipassana end than what I'm doing with the TMI stuff. On the one hand, I feel like I took up TMI out of an interest and curiosity that seemed pretty wholesome. On the other, there was definitely a feeling along the lines of "Well, maybe this'll actually work, and I'll get the deep states of jhana and other things that I'm not experiencing now, that I feel bad about not having access to, and that other people routinely describe." That hope was definitely part of it. 

I had a horrific DN--really, a full-on nervous breakdown--in 2014. I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I went through. I'm pretty sure part of the appeal of TMI is the idea that you get to avoid horrific DNs. Not sure if that was part of the initial decision but I know it has been a factor in my thinking. 
Sat on the sofa and put 40 minutes on the timer. 
I felt like tuning into sensations without using verbal notes and wanted to investigate, in particular, sensations associated with the 'me,' the actor, doer, observer, etc. 
To start with, though, I tried to just take in and observe the sensations that were coming in. The eyes were open, so I started with the visual field. The eyes became still, just taking in the visual field. The large room, kind of like a 'great room' in a 1970s house, but with low ceilings, was vivid but also a bit shaky or shimmer-y. Other sensations came in: the birds outside, the warmth and pressure of the contact points on the soft sofa. 
Very quickly, my mind grew very quiet--not a lot of thinking for quite a stretch. The subtle sounds came up in the ears. I noticed some pulsing or rocking of the body, very faint. I turned attention in to the torso, head, heart center and could see the pattern of observer-sensations. There did seem to be a sense of this being irritating, like an obstacle. At a certain point I closed my eyes in response to a strong desire to do so. 
Then I think I made a mistake of sorts. I looked at the timer. Ten minutes had passed. I resolved to spend the rest of the sit focusing only on below-the-neck sensations. I wanted to sink into the body, like Casper the Ghost dropping down and getting out of the head. There was something worthwhile about paying attention more carefully to the tingling in the toes, slight pain in the left ankle, warmth of the body on the sofa, internal sensations in the chest, rising and falling of the abdomen, etc. But the initial intention, before making this resolution, had been to investigate the observer-sensations.
Now there was too much directing. I noticed the sense of conflict--a good chunk of the observer-sensations pattern was actually in and around the head, in addition to the shoulders and back of the neck, and yet I was supposed to be elsewhere. 
So for the rest of the sit I alternated between trying to loosen up on this resolution and then going back to it. Here, there was an opportunity just to take in the sensations associated with the process of conflict, but I didn't get it at the time.
Still, I had some success in noticing the observer-sensations and the sense of irritation or limitation there.
Various imagining thoughts came and went, distractions. All in all, a very silent sit--a lot was happening, but not a lot of self-talk or thinking, except for some of the stuff about directing, resolving and the intended and unintended consequences of that. 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 4:45 PM as a reply to streamsurfer.
streamsurfer:
 near and sneaky hindrance: doubt ;)
Oh yes. 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 4:57 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:
I'm not sure if my rambling answer is going to be any help at all, but there you go!

As to your specific situation--what are you feeling in your body and where? Can you probe around inside yourself and find where that urge to jump ship comes from? Find the little tendrils of discomfort, follow them back to anything? Can you feel your analytical mind looking to clamp down on something? 
Very helpful and resonant. The thing I wanted to 'fix' before was a sense of directionlessness, lack of momentum. I was doing half-assed sits of about 20 minutes, often just easing back on the sofa and sipping coffee. Not very mindful during the day. Not very motivated. I wanted a lineage, practice path, community and set of goals again. My motivation for posting on the DhO was to help jumpstart all of that. 

But what about the bare sensate experience of what was happening there--the sensations associated with feelings of directionlessness, lack of motivation, lineagelessness, absence of goals? Was I investigating that stuff, feeling where it was in the body, seeing it as another pattern of reactivity? No. 

Over the years I've shifted gears in practice a few times. Started with Shambhala as a kid, got heavily into KFD for a few years, dropped that and worked with a teacher in Jason Siff's group. Dropped that after a horrific DN in 2014.   

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 6:41 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:

But what about the bare sensate experience of what was happening there--the sensations associated with feelings of directionlessness, lack of motivation, lineagelessness, absence of goals? Was I investigating that stuff, feeling where it was in the body, seeing it as another pattern of reactivity? No.



There you go. As you can imagine, if you change up practice each time you are on this threshold...  Well, before I complete that sentence, what are your goals for practice? Is it really just a fear of missing out on the jhanas and nanas that other people report? What really motivates your practice?

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 6:59 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
What really motivates your practice?
I guess I still have faith that making progress means suffering less, causing less suffering and living a good life in which you're beneficial to others, basically feel good and help other people do the same. I've certainly experienced the liberation that comes from no longer trying to rage against the way things actually are. I've practiced enough to see that practice works. Still, I have a strong sense that there's a lot more to see through. I do know that one of the sources of suffering for me is the sense of being inferior in various ways--self-doubt in my capacities, sincerity, discipline, sensitivity, etc. So you could say the motivations are mixed. If I'm not careful, I can 'gun' for things out of that sense of inferiority when, of course, that sense is what needs to be investigated. 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 8:19 PM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
shargrol:
What really motivates your practice?
[...]
 I do know that one of the sources of suffering for me is the sense of being inferior in various ways--self-doubt in my capacities, sincerity, discipline, sensitivity, etc. So you could say the motivations are mixed. If I'm not careful, I can 'gun' for things out of that sense of inferiority when, of course, that sense is what needs to be investigated. 

You got it. When groundlessness, progresslessness, fear of not achieving, etc. shows up in a sit, go into that experience. That's the gateway.

Now the trick is that whenever you don't follow old habits and don't switch up practice to avoid the really difficult stuff --- when you get out of your psychological comfort zone --- then your psyche will rebel and/or freak out and tell you that everything is falling apart, you are doomed, etc. When that really hits as a state, that's reobservation. It's horrible, but it's also nothing much more than the mind freaking out because it doesn't know what to do. Eventually the futility of freaking out becomes obvious, we have a little cry, or a big cry, and then kind of marvel at how part of us is still a scared little infant but with an adult's imagination.

Again, it's important to be aware of that and really coach yourself ahead of time: "I'm going to sit with this stuff as much as I can, knowing that it's basically showing me all the maladaptive ways I deal with things seeming to be a problem. If it gets to be too much, I'll get up and walk it off... but I also know that this crap is exactly what I need to see to understand how I resist opening up to how simple things really are. Spirituality isn't a continuous blissfest and it isn't continual fear of void, it's just sitting here being okay with a sense of mystery, a sense of not having everything figured out, a sense of intimacy and not knowing that makes it even more intimate. And if I start freaking out, that's a kind of fear of this not knowing and fear of intimacy with how things are."

Anyway, that's something like what I would say to myself -- you'll need to figure out what you need to say to you.

Take your time, go slow, but also consider going _through_ it as an explorer, an adventurer, and as a mindful practioner. This is the stuff that no system or map can "teach" you. It's really something that needs to be your exploration.

Best wishes!!!

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/18/18 8:25 PM as a reply to shargrol.
By the way, based on the sit you referenced, it seems like your practice might benefit from a little structure to keep it from being too loose and unguided. What you want is quality, intentional practice, rather than just time spent on the cushion. Here's a standard structure I recommed for sitting, just to keep practice a little more directed. I don't think people need to follow such a structure all the time, but it's a good one for working through difficult/confusing phases...

Let yourself settle into sitting for 5 to 10 mintues, with no particular technique, just get settled.

Note (label with a word) or notice (recognize within awareness) body sensations for 5 minutes, 

Note or notice emotions/feelings for 5 minutes, 

Note or notice broad categories of thought (planning, doubting, investigating, "hoping" for better experiences, fantasies, storytelling, "narrating" what is happening, philosophizing, "mapping" the practice session, etc. --- make up whatever labels work for you) for 5 minutes.

Then 5 to 20 minutes freestyle (any notes/noticings)

Then, very importantly, stay on the cushion and sit for 5 minutes without using a technique, just letting yourself integrate what just happened.

(so 30 to 60 minutes total)

This kind of structure really helps bring people to the cutting edge of their practice.

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/19/18 4:18 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Again, it's important to be aware of that and really coach yourself ahead of time: "I'm going to sit with this stuff as much as I can, knowing that it's basically showing me all the maladaptive ways I deal with things seeming to be a problem. If it gets to be too much, I'll get up and walk it off... but I also know that this crap is exactly what I need to see to understand how I resist opening up to how simple things really are. Spirituality isn't a continuous blissfest and it isn't continual fear of void, it's just sitting here being okay with a sense of mystery, a sense of not having everything figured out, a sense of intimacy and not knowing that makes it even more intimate. And if I start freaking out, that's a kind of fear of this not knowing and fear of intimacy with how things are."

Anyway, that's something like what I would say to myself -- you'll need to figure out what you need to say to you.

Take your time, go slow, but also consider going _through_ it as an explorer, an adventurer, and as a mindful practioner. This is the stuff that no system or map can "teach" you. It's really something that needs to be your exploration.

Best wishes!!!
Thanks for this thoughtful response, shargrol. It seems like that openness to mystery and not knowing could be brought to any practice at any time. I'm going to sit with all of this, but I think working on samatha via TMI some of the time, and vipassana via the kind of structured approach to noting/noticing that you describe above feels about right to me. The TMI stuff has actually been leading me into difficult territory. In some of the sits, it has felt like a naturalist shot me with a tranquilizer gun. Tons of sleepiness and dullness. Sitting through that for a full hour, which I've been doing most days, is challenging. 

At the same time, the investigation in TMI is really of the breath sensations at the nostrils; the passive cultivation of introspective awareness/insight as taught by Culadasa, at least for me right now, feels pretty elusive. That could be handy for avoiding some of the more cutting, difficult stuff we've been talking about. Maybe I should see if I can find a balance between the two approaches that works for me. I feel a tension between the two here and a wariness about quitting TMI. I see that the wariness is rooted in a sense that if I were to suddenly stop, it would be the action of an inferior 'quitter' who can't hang with things. LOL. This stuff is right at the surface for investigation. 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/19/18 5:31 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
Andromeda:
I'm not sure if my rambling answer is going to be any help at all, but there you go!

As to your specific situation--what are you feeling in your body and where? Can you probe around inside yourself and find where that urge to jump ship comes from? Find the little tendrils of discomfort, follow them back to anything? Can you feel your analytical mind looking to clamp down on something? 
Very helpful and resonant. The thing I wanted to 'fix' before was a sense of directionlessness, lack of momentum. I was doing half-assed sits of about 20 minutes, often just easing back on the sofa and sipping coffee. Not very mindful during the day. Not very motivated. I wanted a lineage, practice path, community and set of goals again. My motivation for posting on the DhO was to help jumpstart all of that. 

But what about the bare sensate experience of what was happening there--the sensations associated with feelings of directionlessness, lack of motivation, lineagelessness, absence of goals? Was I investigating that stuff, feeling where it was in the body, seeing it as another pattern of reactivity? No. 

Over the years I've shifted gears in practice a few times. Started with Shambhala as a kid, got heavily into KFD for a few years, dropped that and worked with a teacher in Jason Siff's group. Dropped that after a horrific DN in 2014.   
There you go! And it looks like shargrol got you sorted out.

The only thing I'll add to that is that I recently learned from the Tibetan teacher and translator Ken McLeod that perhaps a better translation of the word dukkha would be "struggle" rather than "suffering." I really like this. It's all too easy to get mixed up about what kind of suffering we're trying to get rid of with practice and this can really gunk our intentions which are critically important to get right. Honestly, IMHO you can't really understand what goes away until it's gone no matter how carefully people explain it to you.

So if we see uncomfortable sensations such as confusion as "suffering" because they're unpleasant and think that's what we're trying to get rid of with practice, that's a huge problem because confusion will always arise. Progress stops and we're simply reinforcing habituated patterns. Instead, we need to stop struggling with the confusion, relax into it, just feel the sensations. At an advanced level of practice, we can get really good at resting in the sensations of confusion and other unpleasant things when they arise and it just becomes second nature. Of course, there's more to it than that, but this is a huge part of it.

BTW I've personally found that alternating between more shamatha-heavy practices like anapanasati and more dry techniques like vipassana has worked well. When the tension/discomfort/etc. has been relatively easy to find and the dark night stuff is clearer and more obvious, I've worked through it with dry techniques. It was extremely long walks through the city at a brisk pace that first got me through reobservation to high equanimity and that's still what I do when it hits hard. Admittedly, I'm a bit of a masochist, but it worked for me. If the ugly stuff is obvious, go straight there and consider it a gift.

Then there have been periods where the shamatha felt more obvious, needed, the right thing, and was easy to do, and so I did it. There wasn't any need to learn anything because it was just there. In hindsight, that seemed to be my body-mind's way of repairing itself, that it was putting itself back together in various ways and getting ready to go deeper. The comforting illusions we lose leave painful gaping wounds when they are torn from us and shamatha IMO can be helpful for the early stages of healing. At least, that's how it has been for me.

Best wishes for your practice!

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/19/18 6:03 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
It's funny, I really don't see a HUGE difference between practicing with TMI maps or MCTB maps -- whatever is going to happen during practice is going to happen and we all have to travel through our own personal pathway.  I admit I bite my toungue when people say TMI is going to save me from the dark night... I really doubt it. I think the language of TMI is less likely to promote using too much effort in meditation versus MCTB, especially the first version of MCTB.... but, that said, I've read a few meditation journals, including one report of someone on retreat with culadasa at chochese stronghold itself, where it was clear that the person was struggling in a very dark night way, but simply didn't use those words. The shadow side of TMI is a kind of denial that dark night-like experiences "couldn't be happening since I'm doing TMI".

The truth is somewhat paradoxical, although having the tranquility/concentration as a goal tends to induce that kind of practice, oddly enough tranquility practice often brings up unconcious/repressed psychological or traumatic experiences (it bubbles up). And while noting practice tends to induce a kind of dry objectivity/mindfulness, it often induces momentary and actual concentration/jhana states. Practice is much more of a mess than the maps would have us believe. This is why working with a teacher is so helpful. A good teacher understand the sloppy way progress actually gets made, rather than being literal/dogmatic about stages in a map.


One of my favorite quotes is:

"You can't plan the way your practice is going to go. The mind has its own steps and stages, and you have to let the practice follow in line with them. That's the only way you'll get genuine results. Otherwise you'll turn into a half-baked arahant."

Monk Fuang Jotiko in Awareness Itself


In my way of thinking, TMI and MCTB describes two sides of the same coin. TMI is all about adjusting attention/awareness to minimize distractions. MCTB is all about recognizing the flavors of distraction that often corrupts attention/awareness unless it is seen objectively. TMI talks about the nature of attention/awareness, MCTB talks about the nature of distraction, all meditators need to learn to objectify distractions and adjust attention/awareness -- how they choose to abstractly describe that process is a choice. 

For what it's worth, I think the balance between the two approaches is keeping attention on the breathing sensations, using that to become settled, and then after that point "noting" whatever is the distraction from that attention on the breath. This is from something I wrote for another yogi:

"When you get distracted from the sensations of breathing, look at your mind and notice some aspect of the distraction and simply label it with a word. The classic types of distractions are: 1) body sensations (discomfort, pleasure, pressure, tingling, itchiness, aches, interesting textures etc.) 2) urges (attraction, aversion, the urge to ignore or overlook) 3) emotions (joy, curiosity, sadness, frustration, confusion, depression, excitement) 4) "proliferation of thought" which is really how our mind just kind of creates a whole series of thoughts without really "thinking/analyzing" but rather just "work today was stupid I had to make that call and he wasn't there and now I need to send an email and..." What we do for that kinds of distraction, for example, is we just label the whole string of thoughts as one thing "work thoughts".

So to put this all together... You sit and let your body get settled for about 5 or 10 minutes. (Don't worry about how long, just let you body and mind calm down from all the stress of the day.) Then transition into mindfulness of breathing. Do that until you feel ready for the next step, maybe 5 or 10 more minutes. Next, keep doing the same thing, but now whenever you are distracted, notice the nature of the distraction, and just label one aspect of it, a sensation, an urge, an emotion, or a category of thinking. Make up whatever label makes sense to you -- there are no rules here. The point is to be able to more clearly see and understand what distracts you.

And here's the interesting thing: you should have no worries about how many times you get distracted. In fact, you should even think "I hope I get distracted a lot, so I can have lots of opportunities to clearly see what distracts me."

(Adding in: and I do really recommend the 5 minutes of sitting without using a method at the end. Oddly enough, this seems to really catalyzes progress.)

So that's what I would recommend as a next step. This practice does two things. It adds in "vipassana" or insight practice to your breath meditation which is mostly a "samatha" or calming practice. But the coolest thing about it is it allows you to use distractions as fuel for practice, because you turn all the things that distract, frustrate, confuse, depress, worry etc. into things that you note and label with a word and use to make your mindfulness practice stronger."



Hopefully you can see that there are ways to tweak practice to fit the individual yogi and that having an intentional structure really reduces the tendency to kind of be lazy during big parts of hour long sits. It is often better to do a good 45 minute sit rather than sit too long. All a longer sit does in this circumstance is train the being-lazy behavior. 

So for example, during your tranquilizer dart sit, if you spent that sit doing mindfulness of breathing, but then noted all the sensations, emotions, and thoughts which made up the overall sense of being tranquilized. Noting something at least as often as every outbreath, or even a little more frequently to ramp up the energy of attention. That's the gateway to either moving from dissolusion to misery (in the progress of insight stages) or your dullness would turn into the airy, tingly, and cool body tone of the third vipassina jhana. You don't need to change anything about those kind of sits, except ramp up the mindfulness of the experience, so that it becomes an intimate object of investigation. In otherwords, you change a dull trance into mindfulness of the experience and the inimate mindfulness will induce further concentration. If you never quite break out of the dull trance after 45 minutes, end it there. No sense training yourself to be in a trance. If it happens again, then practice in the standing position.

You see, a yogi has to learn how to adjust both effort and method to the conditions that arise during practice. A teacher can definately help, but so much of this is true trial and error on behalf of the meditator. We all need to learn how to meet our own experience and intuitively learn to use different "tools" to break out of trance and cultivate mindfulness. Sometimes I think meditator aren't given enough of an endorsement to make the practice into their own art. But it really is an art, not a formula.

And it's very subtle, because mindfulness of a trance-like state looks and feels a lot like being in a trance, but the attention/awareness has a definite flavor of "knowing" the trance. So every state is workable, we just need to get the energy of attention higher that the intensity of the trance. The trance doesn't need to completely go away. In fact, you kinda want it to stick around so you can really investigate it -- why is it so seductive?, what lies does it tell about itself?, what does this numbness want to hide or protect?, how is this trance a confused form of compassion?, what if I had compassion for the natural instinct to go into trance but looked at what is happening objectively?, is this trance really going to relieve tension, resistance, suffering, problemness, etc? If you get interested in the what and why, even "difficult" sits are very very engaging!


Well, that was a long post --- thanks for slogging through it! 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
Answer
10/19/18 6:38 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:


You see, a yogi has to learn how to adjust both effort and method to the conditions that arise during practice. A teacher can definately help, but so much of this is true trial and error on behalf of the meditator. We all need to learn how to meet our own experience and intuitively learn to use different "tools" to break out of trance and cultivate mindfulness. Sometimes I think meditator aren't given enough of an endorsement to make the practice into their own art. But it really is an art, not a formula.


+1 to all that shargrol, but especially the quoted bit.

For various reasons, I didn't have teachers or even friends to talk to for many years and just had to figure things out by myself using books, online resources, obsessive practice, and good ol' trial and error. Looking back now, I can't help but think: "That's insane! Nobody should do that!" But the truth is, it worked. I wasn't following any map or formula, just tinkering with things on my own and trying very hard to see clearly. Initially, without any hope of relief--that came as a big surprise. So it's really just about paying close attention to the finest details that make up our realities. 

And I think there's tremendous value in the view of practice as an art form. Maps and models can be helpful at times, but they are really just representations of other people's perspectives on something (and a temptation to think we can "get it" analytically). Better to focus on creating one's own unique work of art than trying to replicate another's. Let's pretend we're all painters--ah, this Culadasa guy does a great job with colors, think I'll incorporate that aspect into my own work. Oh, Daniel is really talented with light/shadow, going to borrow some of that.

What are the useful things we can absorb from teachers/other practitioners and make our own?

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 7:04 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:
...a better translation of the word dukkha would be "struggle" rather than "suffering." ... if we see uncomfortable sensations such as confusion as "suffering" because they're unpleasant and think that's what we're trying to get rid of with practice, that's a huge problem because confusion will always arise. Progress stops and we're simply reinforcing habituated patterns. Instead, we need to stop struggling with the confusion, relax into it, just feel the sensations...

BTW I've personally found that alternating between more shamatha-heavy practices like anapanasati and more dry techniques like vipassana has worked well. 
Thanks, Andromeda! That all makes a lot of sense. The struggle is the suffering, not the sensations being contacted. And if you can take the sensations associated with struggle as object and see/feel them clearly...

But I also take your point that intellectual understanding of all of this is only partially useful. Gotta do it. Thanks again!   

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 7:09 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
...tranquility practice often brings up unconcious/repressed psychological or traumatic experiences (it bubbles up). And while noting practice tends to induce a kind of dry objectivity/mindfulness, it often induces momentary and actual concentration/jhana states. Practice is much more of a mess than the maps would have us believe...


Yeah, and in fact TMI Stage 4 is all about 'purifications.' Sounds a helluva lot like DN to me. Also, the Tibetans have this phrase 'the geyser of black mud.' Clearly, they recognize that shamatha-vipashyana as practiced in their different schools can/will dredge up difficult material. 

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 7:16 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Hopefully you can see that there are ways to tweak practice to fit the individual yogi and that having an intentional structure really reduces the tendency to kind of be lazy during big parts of hour long sits. It is often better to do a good 45 minute sit rather than sit too long. All a longer sit does in this circumstance is train the being-lazy behavior. 

So for example, during your tranquilizer dart sit, if you spent that sit doing mindfulness of breathing, but then noted all the sensations, emotions, and thoughts which made up the overall sense of being tranquilized. Noting something at least as often as every outbreath, or even a little more frequently to ramp up the energy of attention. That's the gateway to either moving from dissolusion to misery (in the progress of insight stages) or your dullness would turn into the airy, tingly, and cool body tone of the third vipassina jhana. You don't need to change anything about those kind of sits, except ramp up the mindfulness of the experience, so that it becomes an intimate object of investigation. In otherwords, you change a dull trance into mindfulness of the experience and the inimate mindfulness will induce further concentration. If you never quite break out of the dull trance after 45 minutes, end it there. No sense training yourself to be in a trance. If it happens again, then practice in the standing position.

You see, a yogi has to learn how to adjust both effort and method to the conditions that arise during practice. A teacher can definately help, but so much of this is true trial and error on behalf of the meditator. We all need to learn how to meet our own experience and intuitively learn to use different "tools" to break out of trance and cultivate mindfulness. Sometimes I think meditator aren't given enough of an endorsement to make the practice into their own art. But it really is an art, not a formula.

And it's very subtle, because mindfulness of a trance-like state looks and feels a lot like being in a trance, but the attention/awareness has a definite flavor of "knowing" the trance. So every state is workable, we just need to get the energy of attention higher that the intensity of the trance. The trance doesn't need to completely go away. In fact, you kinda want it to stick around so you can really investigate it -- why is it so seductive?, what lies does it tell about itself?, what does this numbness want to hide or protect?, how is this trance a confused form of compassion?, what if I had compassion for the natural instinct to go into trance but looked at what is happening objectively?, is this trance really going to relieve tension, resistance, suffering, problemness, etc? If you get interested in the what and why, even "difficult" sits are very very engaging!

Right. The phenomena and the knowing of it, arising together. I really like this point--"every state is workable, we just need to get the energy of attention higher that the intensity of the trance." I think this is why walking meditation, as Andromeda mentioned, is emphasized so heavily in the Mahasi tradition; it helps get the energy up. Thanks a million for all of the very clarifying help. I really appreciate it! :-D

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 8:32 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
It's funny, I really don't see a HUGE difference between practicing with TMI maps or MCTB maps -- whatever is going to happen during practice is going to happen and we all have to travel through our own personal pathway.  I admit I bite my toungue when people say TMI is going to save me from the dark night... I really doubt it. I think the language of TMI is less likely to promote using too much effort in meditation versus MCTB, especially the first version of MCTB.... but, that said, I've read a few meditation journals, including one report of someone on retreat with culadasa at chochese stronghold itself, where it was clear that the person was struggling in a very dark night way, but simply didn't use those words. The shadow side of TMI is a kind of denial that dark night-like experiences "couldn't be happening since I'm doing TMI". 

I've got to admit that I've got the same kind of intuition about TMI.  I think it's interesting there to distinguish between on-cushion and off-cushion Dark Night phenomena.  I've historically leaned a lot more towards dry insight where I had a lot of difficult sits, but the hardest part by far was coping with off-cushion DN stuff.  I even had a decent amount of time where everything was completely fine during my sits and I was getitng quite concentrated and relaxed on the cushion, but then DN stuff came up off-cushion at a magnified level.  I can definitely believe that following TMI diligently could assist in reducing the magnitude of both on- and off-cushion DN phenomena, but I'd be surprised if it was actually able to bypass them entirely.  From the TMI subreddit, it sounds like there are a lot of people who make it to around Stage 4 and get stuck or frustrated for more than a year -- which sounds a lot like the classic "Dark Night yogi who has passed the A&P" phenomenon.

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 9:02 AM as a reply to JP.
JP:
shargrol:
It's funny, I really don't see a HUGE difference between practicing with TMI maps or MCTB maps -- whatever is going to happen during practice is going to happen and we all have to travel through our own personal pathway.  I admit I bite my toungue when people say TMI is going to save me from the dark night... I really doubt it. I think the language of TMI is less likely to promote using too much effort in meditation versus MCTB, especially the first version of MCTB.... but, that said, I've read a few meditation journals, including one report of someone on retreat with culadasa at chochese stronghold itself, where it was clear that the person was struggling in a very dark night way, but simply didn't use those words. The shadow side of TMI is a kind of denial that dark night-like experiences "couldn't be happening since I'm doing TMI". 

I've got to admit that I've got the same kind of intuition about TMI.  I think it's interesting there to distinguish between on-cushion and off-cushion Dark Night phenomena.  I've historically leaned a lot more towards dry insight where I had a lot of difficult sits, but the hardest part by far was coping with off-cushion DN stuff.  I even had a decent amount of time where everything was completely fine during my sits and I was getitng quite concentrated and relaxed on the cushion, but then DN stuff came up off-cushion at a magnified level.  I can definitely believe that following TMI diligently could assist in reducing the magnitude of both on- and off-cushion DN phenomena, but I'd be surprised if it was actually able to bypass them entirely.  From the TMI subreddit, it sounds like there are a lot of people who make it to around Stage 4 and get stuck or frustrated for more than a year -- which sounds a lot like the classic "Dark Night yogi who has passed the A&P" phenomenon.

I'm similarly skeptical about the supposed lack of DN. Also, even if you manage to sail through it quickly and easily at times there's a lot of value in getting very familiar with that territory. It's a fundamental part of the human experience that I personally do not want to flinch away from. Of course you can overdo that, but IMO TMI goes too far in the other direction and paints an overly rosy, unrealistically pleasant picture of things and really glosses over some important stuff despite its many strengths. I have to wonder how many practitioners will truly find it that easy and actually make genuine continued progress. And how many feel there is something wrong with them because they are hitting DN, and how much better they would be served to have all that discussed a bit more openly.

RE: Wrong turns at Desire for Deliverance
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10/19/18 9:55 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
By the way, based on the sit you referenced, it seems like your practice might benefit from a little structure to keep it from being too loose and unguided. What you want is quality, intentional practice, rather than just time spent on the cushion. Here's a standard structure I recommed for sitting, just to keep practice a little more directed. I don't think people need to follow such a structure all the time, but it's a good one for working through difficult/confusing phases...

Let yourself settle into sitting for 5 to 10 mintues, with no particular technique, just get settled.

Note (label with a word) or notice (recognize within awareness) body sensations for 5 minutes, 

Note or notice emotions/feelings for 5 minutes, 

Note or notice broad categories of thought (planning, doubting, investigating, "hoping" for better experiences, fantasies, storytelling, "narrating" what is happening, philosophizing, "mapping" the practice session, etc. --- make up whatever labels work for you) for 5 minutes.

Then 5 to 20 minutes freestyle (any notes/noticings)

Then, very importantly, stay on the cushion and sit for 5 minutes without using a technique, just letting yourself integrate what just happened.

(so 30 to 60 minutes total)

This kind of structure really helps bring people to the cutting edge of their practice.


Damn, this is pretty much what i do.emoticon

I just add 5 to 10 min of inquiry, like " where am I ?"