Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met them?

b man, modified 7 Years ago at 3/17/15 3:53 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/17/15 3:52 PM

Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met them?

Posts: 199 Join Date: 11/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi All,

As I continue my search to find the right teacher, I am wondering about peoples experiences and turning points in thier journeys and specifically who was the person or group that dramacially acted as a turning point in your journey. 

If you had a teacher (formal or informal) that really unlocked the doors for you, how did you find them and what was it that you think made them such a big influence in progressing with your practice?

Blue Jay, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 8:16 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 8:16 AM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 95 Join Date: 1/19/14 Recent Posts
Hi B Man

The importance of randomness in life is something we are unwilling to admit. There were 3 turning points for me and all of them happened almost by chance. The 1st one was changing psychiatrist. I wanted to start on ritalin, to avoid so much procrastination, and my doctor didn't prescribe that. He recomended another guy who figured out I was misdiagnosed with a serious illness I didn't have. So he reduced my heavy medication gradualy and my life started turning around. The 2nd turning point was finding out what was the psychoanalytic explanation of psychosis. Even though I don't believe that explanation is universal, it was true of me. Since the origin of my psychotic breaks was strong agression turned against myself, I started practicing metta with me as the subject. Not long after that was the 3rd and decisive turning point. I read about the progress of insight in MCTB. I had a consistent practice for long while, then. I began contemplating impermanence. Soon after that came A&P, DN, EQ and 1st path. So I guess I owe it to my psychiatrist, my karma and to Daniel Ingram. If Daniel didn't have the courage to publish this information the way he did, I would be in deep trouble now. So thank you Daniel!
Jake, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 9:05 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 9:05 AM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 135 Join Date: 4/18/13 Recent Posts
I read your post yesterday b man and knew what I wanted to say but didn't really know how to put it into words. Blue Jay pretty much nailed it with the randomness aspect of life, which sums up my experience with the path so far. It is really all about going with the flow and doing what you are comfortable with at the time. Let me give you some examples from my experience:

- For the first 20 years of my life I had a very, very strong sense of self, I identified heavily with thoughts, I was living in my head 95% of the time, depression on and off, self conscious about my body

- During the summer of 2012 when I was 21, due to cause and effect, I picked up a book called The Power of Now and began to read it after I smoked some dank weed. This book triggered the A&P for me by basically revealing to me that I am not my thoughts after all, I am the witness to the thoughts. This experience was incredible, blissful, tranquil, energetic, etc. and lasted for about 2.5 months (wowzers), the biggest and most profound experience I have ever had in my life. This changed my life completely.

- The a&p stage faded and I got hit with a left hook by Mike Tyson, aka the dark night, intense fear, disenchantment, anxiety, misery, depression, dread, sadness, no sense of self, didnt know who I was, etc. I immediately began searching for answers because something like this felt unreal, it didn't feel possible, I had no idea what was going on. 

- I found psychology stuff on de-personalization and de-realization. These seemed to fit my experience but I knew that it had to be something more than this. Heck, I was freakin enlightened for 2 months! Lol, anyway, my search was going on for a few months and then I stumbled upon this forum and MCTB. It was around the Winter of 2012/2013 that I think I made my first post here, you can check it out and see for yourself the kind of state of mind I was in at the time.

- Found MCTB, read the section on the progress of insight and it lined up with my experience pretty much perfectly. Luckily at this time I had a supportive girlfriend who helped me deal with this anxiety and fear and dread. In early/mid 2013 I began to practice meditation. Basically I would just sit in a closet and be quiet. This seemed to calm me down and bring me back to "normal", although I knew some shit was definitely not right.

- For the next year or so I practiced on and off, not really sure what I was doing, but I kept reading and searching for answers. I met with Dream Walker over skype a few times and he talked to me about this stuff, the path, and informed me that I was not going insane. I began doing more reading, and little bits of information I read, at the time, seemed to hit home and stabilize me. For example, I remember reading something on Ron Crouch's website that said "during the DN, you will be inclined to blame external things for your current state of mind/experience. You will blame your job, your girlfriend, your schoolwork, making these reasons for why you feel miserable (paraphrasing)." This was a little tidbit of information that clicked for me at the time because I was constantly seeking a reason for why I felt this way. Thus, I began to ease up and accept my suffering for what it is rather than blame something else for it, a turning point in my practice/life.

- The initial DN for me was intense, most of what happened is a blur, but at the time I did not feel comfortable or ready to begin working with a teacher. I still had no idea what I was doing or what the path was all about. Now I have some idea, but I am still a noob.

- In June of 2014 I attended my first Goenka retreat. This was yet another turning point, it solidified meditation and all of this Buddhist stuff as being legitimate. This was right when I graduated college, 22 at the time, and started my full time job. I was meditating everyday but it was not to progress through the inisght path, it was merely to maintain my sanity.

- In January of 2015 I quit my job and started working with a teacher. At this point, I felt comfortable and felt like it was time to work with a teacher. I knew some stuff about the progress of insight, knew what stream entry was, and knew that it was time to get serious and make some progress.

- On March 18 of 2015, I am writing this post. It has been a couple months since working with a teacher and I can now identify (75% of the time) where I am on the progress of insight during my daily meditations. I am noting much, much more in daily life, off the cushion, practicing more and more everyday. Just this past week I have had a taste of (what I believe) is high equanimity, and have had a few near misses of first path. This week alone has been another huge turning point in my practice because I am seeing more and more that this stuff is very very real and works.

Hope that helps b man. Pretty much every bullet point is a turning point in not only my practice but in my life. At the time of these experiences I felt insane and unstable but didnt give up and kept making progress, even though at the time it felt nothing like progress. 

I guess my point is, go with the flow! There were a few instances that were bigger turning points than others. Now that I vomited this all out, to answer your question again, everyone on this board acted as a turning point for me at times, some more than others, but in terms of actual practice, my teacher of 2 months ago has been a huge help.
tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 12:07 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/18/15 12:07 PM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
one single person cannot hold that place in my life.  everyone is a teacher but my first best teacher in the realm of sila was my father.

lots of fine people have taught me many great things in different realms and most of them i have never met in 'real life'.  so i will answer with a list of my spiritual teachers:

Lao Tse
Bikku Bodhi
Joseph Goldstien
Ole Nydahl
Tilopa, Naropa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Shantideva, Guru Rinpoche
Sharma Rinpoche
Ayya Khema
Ajahn Succito
Daniel Ingram
Ayya Khema
Ajahn Succito

and some very kind people on this website.
Jo Jo, modified 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 6:23 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 6:21 AM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 47 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
I agree very much with the others that chance played a big role in meeting significant people.

First significant person for me was a therapist. I was about 32 years old and had suicidal tendencies. I had been working with my therapist for about one year. We had nice talks but that pretty much was it. I sought the fault in me at that time. One day I met another woman on the stairs to her practice. I felt immediately inclined to her; she had a strong physical presence and radiated a friendliness and empathy I had never met before. It turned out she was a fellow therapist. I decided to work with her and put in quite a bit of effort into switching over to her.

From that time my therapy took off and within a year I was done with it. My new therapist was a Sannyasin and she introduced me to meditation without me knowing it. Much of our sessions consisted of sitting together in silence, her holding up an atmosphere of friendliness and acceptance until I was ready to speak, and then she merely mirrored what I had said, with simple metta, no sugar coating, no judgments, no systems, no solutions. That was a real turning point in my life. She also suggested to take up some kind of formal meditation practice, but I wasn´t into that at that time. But she had planted the seed, so to say.

Second person was my second Zen teacher. I had read about a Soto Zen temple in France. They offered weeklong summer retreats for anyone, as a kind of "adventure holiday" emoticon . This guy was the abbot over there and he happened to give a talk in our city. So I went there. He had very much the same strong physical presence and friendliness as my former therapist; and he was intellectually very clear, without the slightest "stink of enlightenment". So on my next holiday I attended one of those nine-day-retreats. After 8 days I had a very strong A & P experience, an experience of unbelievable physical and emotional freedom which lasted for about 6 weeks and turned my notion of myself and my life upside down. This has kept me going ever since. So this guy had put me firmly on the track.

Third person was Ayya Khema, via a book of hers. Four years after I had hit A & P, I dropped formal sitting practice because I did not see the point in it any more. Actually at that time I didn´t have a clue what to do on the cushion. Six years later I came across a Ayya Khema book in which she describes some basic meditation techniques. This opened my eyes and I went straight to the next corner Zendo to resume formal practice. So Ayya Khema brought me back to the practice, although it, in the following years, remained rather half-assed.

Fourth person was my current Zen teacher. Around two years ago, my job changed and I couldn´t follow my yearly retreat routine any more. A friend suggested I might attend his teacher´s retreat, a Rinzai guy who lives in Japan and comes over to Europe twice a year. So I did. And I entered a completely different world.

My Soto Zen sangha had become a nice foundation for my everyday life. I had worked mostly with the ethical part of the teachings, but on the enlightenment side, after my initial A & P experience, nothing much had happened. The Soto tradition explicitly discourages people from "seeking for enlightenment", and even from talking about it, and I had simply put up with this. Assumed this disappointment was part of the practice. Never once I had tried to seriously talk to the teacher about enlightenment and how to get there - for years on end.

Now, with this new teacher, I came across a bunch of people who were actually and actively heading for samadhi (deep concentration state), for kensho (I guess that is equivalent to A & P). They seemed to think that even enlightenment was possible, and they openly talked about this stuff. In addition, in the Rinzai Zen tradition you have regular talks to the teacher.

This guy now breaks my attraction pattern, so to say. He looks twenty years younger than he is, yes, but when you´d meet him on the streets you wouldn´t notice anything special about him. He looks entirely unremarkable, at first sight, no obvious radiance whatsoever. He even has one or two character flaws, and deals with that quite openly. And he isn´t really friendly, either. Obviously he has a thorough training in kindness and empathy and applies both in a somewhat technical way; but underneath this I sense a relentlessness in him that I didn´t see in my previous teachers.

He doesn´t want to hang out with his students, he doesn´t want to know about their psychological stuff, he wants them to get the point. When I first listened and talked to him I sensed that but didn´t know what it was. I thought well this is really serious here, so I want to stay with him, but I couldn´t have put my finger on it. What I understood however was: His retreats have a backbreaking number of sitting hours, and I understood that I could stay with him only if I increased the number of my daily training hours significantly. So this guy got me going concerning the extent of my everyday training.

The fifth one is Daniel Ingram and his focus on the fact that meditation practices have a technical side to them and can be described and trained systematically.

About the same time when I met my current teacher, I stumbled into DHO and read MCTB. This helped me to see eventually what my current teacher is actually doing: he is hammering away on the technical aspects of the matter. I might well have missed this and mistaken his talk for mystical if I hadn´t been on DHO trying to figure out what you guys are actually talking about, and what it is that I am DOING (or NOT doing) on and off cushion.

The funny thing is that now, when I see my previous Zen teacher, I start understanding him in a new way. He uses a metaphorical language which you can easily mistake for mysticism, but now I see that he certainly knows what he is talking about; he is just not as relentless and single-minded as my current teacher. I had spent years with him completely missing this.

So I agree with the others here that it was mainly chance that brought me into contact with significant people. I´d suggest to visit as many teachers´ talks and retreats as possible and follow your intuition, and never put up, for let´s say more than one year max, with a teacher-student relationship that seems unclear or unsatisfying to you. And please, do always talk openly to your teachers, challenge them and let them challenge you.

By the way, three days ago during retreat I hit a significant point; A & P again or maybe even SE. I didn´t figure out yet; my teacher doesn´t use this map system.
tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 9:47 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 9:45 AM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
By the way, three days ago during retreat I hit a significant point; A & P again or maybe even SE. I didn´t figure out yet; my teacher doesn´t use this map system.
can you describe this in detail? perhaps in another thread if you haven't already done so?
Jo Jo, modified 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 10:21 AM
Created 7 Years ago at 3/19/15 10:21 AM

RE: Who was that person who acted as a turning point for you when you met t

Posts: 47 Join Date: 9/30/14 Recent Posts
OK, I´ll do so in my Jojo Practice Log. Will take a bit time though since I´m pretty bad at exact descriptions.