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wowwww this path is confusing
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9/2/14 5:55 PM
Hi everyone I haven't posted on my progress in a while, which i used to do frequently, so here goes.

The catalyst for me posting today is basically just a lot of intense depression the likes of which i haven't seen before. I just got back into college after hanging out at my house (across the country) doing nothing productive all summer, and it seemed like a lot of my friends had moved on, and it also seemed like I wasnt really cut out for or interested in my school work, these thoughts led to a really serious depression, or rather a serious amplification of the depression I was already experiencing.

I felt at the end of my rope and even when I tried to meditate and pay attention to the feelings in the body without reacting to them, they just seemed to grow and to force a reaction out of me. In this way things steadily increased in intensity. I ended up calling my dad which is something to talk about this with him, this was really hard for me to do because I normally hide my depression completely from everyone around me. I had a tearful conversation with him (crying is also something I haven't done in years)... Then per his advice (he is a doctor) I went to the school's counseling center and set up an appointment to talk to someone.

I talked to my mom for a bit on the phone and she suggested that maybe I was finally being honest about these things and that would surely help, that made me feel a bit better. Anyway, the reason I am posting now is because I really am not sure how to deal with depression and anxiety and such things... They really have been bothering me and controlling me for so long and I think I have tried a lot of different approaches and techniques but these feelings and negative views are just killing me.

So, um... I don't know... any advice? I notice that over the years I have occasionally made posts like these, then tried to figure things out on my own for a while, then come back with another "breakdown." Not really sure where this is leading.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/2/14 6:21 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
The conventional way to happiness is to develop interests in life that release the right neurotransmitters like dopamine (novelty, interest, goals, wonder), serotonin (pride), oxytocin (love, trust, positive relationships), endorphins (exercise).  If you're in school you need to be doing psychology tests to find out what you're likely to be good at and interested in so you can find a career that's right for YOU instead of what other's expect from you.  The Highlands Battery is a good test.  Develop interest and wonder in life.  

I did a book review of a book that helped me, The Practicing Mind:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5552028

The unconventional way is to develop disenchantment with depressive thinking and to see that it's a dead end.  When you become disenchanted you should feel okay whether you achieve success or not.  You can sit on the couch and do nothing and be totally fine.  You can enjoy a cup of tea and you're fantastic. Right Effort is really important here.
It is an effort to prevent unwholesome thought from rising. It is an effort to reject unwholesome thoughts once they have arisen. It is the effort to cultivate wholesome thoughts. An finally, it is the effort to maintain wholesome thoughts

I personally would develop both so that if one comes off the rails then the other can support.  If meditation is not doing well but school is doing well then that's good.  If school isn't doing well then you have the resilience of meditation skills.

Keep at it.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/2/14 6:33 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Hi, Adam,

I'm sorry that you are struggling with depression. I've been there--repeatedly. I went about 15 years without a breakdown (after 3 or 4), and then had a terrible one this past February. My regret is that I didn't go back on SNRI antidepressants sooner. I quit them almost 2 years ago because they were raising my blood pressure. Apparently, whenever I'm off them for long, I sooner or later end up with unmanageable anxiety and depression again.

Basically, I have endogenous (clinical) depression. Although situational triggers do make it go from low-level to catastophic, when I'm on meds. it is like a 2000-watt lightbulb has been turned on. In fact, once they finally kicked back in again for me second week in June, I rose out of the Dark Night and into EQ. And stream entry happened August 8. That is quite a trip--from not wanting to be conscious to stream entry.

Whether your depression is endogenous, situational, or "spiritual," if it is severe, and it sounds like it is getting there or is there, then my view is that medication should be tried. I don't know anyone who is helped by SSRIs, but SNRIs and Wellbutrin seem to work for many. 

You probably have life stuff/situations to work on, but this is how I've found things over the many years I've struggled with depression: You have to fix your chems first. Chems first; then issues.

Best to you, hang in there,

Jenny

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/2/14 6:44 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
My best attempt at soothing: I probably know how you feel. I'm in a very very similar situation if you subtract the supportive parents. Shoot me a message if you feel like chatting.

In my experience campus counselors are inadequate; finding a therapist with a style that you connect with is everything. You might try going here, typing the name of your city, and then narrowing the search by Mindfulness-based (or whatever style you find appropriate). I would also recommend trying body-based therapy either alone or with a helper... after finding a therapist, and making sure to inform them about the body-based work. Based on my research and the experiences of myself and a few friends I can say that body-based therapy will cause powerful openings and changes that no verbal therapy can accomplish on its own.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/2/14 7:27 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Hi Adam,

Glad to you know you're still alive... have often wondered where you went.

Having read your stuff over a few years, I get the impression that you're working really hard to accomplish something without knowing exactly what or how, and it's wearing you out. I imagine you're very often in conflict with yourself... like there's always an effort to exert some kind of leverage over yourself, but you can't find the angle of approach to exert real influence. I imagine every fresh effort brings with it some hope and enthusiasm, but ends up being more unproductive exertion/straining that depletes your energy without changing anything fundamentally. From the outside, it's like the effort of a man who's sincerely trying to lift himself into the air by his boot laces. (And either I'm projecting like a maniac, or I've been there too. Not just once, and not just briefly).

I guess everyone will offer suggestions based on their own experiences, projections and preferred techniques. I can only do the same, for what it's worth.

- I don't agree with just keep going. If you don't know what you're doing, and what you're doing is making you persistently unhappy, I think you're just going to keep hurting yourself until something changes in either your understanding or your technique. (Though I suppose it makes sense to mechanically cultivate some useful skills in the meantime).

- Don't know about medication; never tried it.

- I do agree that you need something somatically soothing. Whether body-work induces that (as Droll suggests), or whether you get it as a side effect of something else (my preferred option), it's more beneficial than being locked in an inner grapple with yourself.

Can I ask a couple of questions?

When you're not thinking about The Problem, is it still there? Is it like there's some crazy engine inside you that's making your life hell without your participation or your understanding? Or is it more like there's nothing particularly wrong, but every time you remember yourself and your gestalt, it feels like there's something that needs doing or needs fixing... but you don't know how... and the whole thing begins again?

If it's the former, I've got no clue and no advice. If it's the latter, which I suspect it is, then maybe.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/2/14 10:38 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Richard:
I appreciate the points about both conventional and unconventional methods. I think I am especially lacking in the dopamine and serotonin, doing alright in oxytocin though not great, and probably doing the best in endorphins.

It is so hard for me to get motivated to work on things at that level because deep down what i am really after is that unconventional bit you mention, i.e. being fine with just sitting on a couch due to having developed disenchantment with depressed thinking. You would think that disenchantment would develop after so much suffering through that type of thinking... I guess I still am under the impression  that there is some use to that type of thinking. The main technique I use for developing that kind of thing is trying to be present and non-reactive, and thus no longer fueling the thinking... I think the simple reason this doesn't work is that I really can't be non-reactive to things which I don't like. Like an intensely unpleasant feeling. Also when I try to be aware of thoughts I invariably start arguing against them or for them, I really have a tough time with just bare awareness of these phenomena.

Jen:
You are now the fourth person to suggest that to me today... both parents + school therapist + you. Maybe you guys are right. My fear is pretty much that they will work... for a while. Then that I will either be stuck using them with some level of dependency while they slowly weaken in how much effect they have. I think my reluctance to use them demonstrates that part of me just wants to be perfect, rather than healed... I hate the idea of being dependent on ANYTHING.

Droll:
Thank you for the soothing :]. I am sorry to hear that you lack the supportive parents. Also thanks for the offer of a chat, I am not sure right now whether I want to do it right now, probably because I have been talking about myself to person after person all day hah. I will send you my skype info though if that is a good option for you.

As for the body work, that is something I have not done before in an organized way though it seems alot like some of the natural movements the body makes in an experience of intense emotion. If I'm totally honest I then I'd question whether it is just a way to treat the symptoms rather than the illness, though even if it is that doesn't mean it wouldn't help.

John:
Hey man, thanks for responding. I am happy to have someone who has been with me through all this for years. You probably know more about my practice than anyone... I appreciate your support.

"Having read your stuff over a few years, I get the impression that you're working really hard to accomplish something without knowing exactly what or how, and it's wearing you out. I imagine you're very often in conflict with yourself... like there's always an effort to exert some kind of leverage over yourself, but you can't find the angle of approach to exert real influence. I imagine every fresh effort brings with it some hope and enthusiasm, but ends up being more unproductive exertion/straining that depletes your energy without changing anything fundamentally. From the outside, it's like the effort of a man who's sincerely trying to lift himself into the air by his boot laces. (And either I'm projecting like a maniac, or I've been there too. Not just once, and not just briefly). "

Yea that is a good metaphor. Like I am just pulling at the laces, give up in frustration, then realize "oh I am supposed to lift from the sole of the boot." Then I sort of pull one foot up for a bit, and get really excited and cement the belief that it is all about lifting from the sole, then the progress stops dead so i pull harder and harder until it seems futile and I doubt the legitimacy of the original "progress."

"I guess everyone will offer suggestions based on their own experiences, projections and preferred techniques. I can only do the same, for what it's worth."

Right, and I have no idea whether they have achieved something real or whether they are in the same position as me when I realize "oh I have to lift by the sole of the boot." Cuz i have given advice before, even under the impression that I was speaking out of my tried and true experience, later to completely give up whatever practice I advised.

"I don't agree with just keep going. If you don't know what you're doing, and what you're doing is making you persistently unhappy, I think you're just going to keep hurting yourself until something changes in either your understanding or your technique. (Though I suppose it makes sense to mechanically cultivate some useful skills in the meantime)."

Problem is, I don't really understand any alternatives. I have tried practicing hard, letting go of all practice, being natural, forgetting all about spirituality etc.

" I do agree that you need something 
somatically soothing. Whether body-work induces that (as Droll suggests), or whether you get it as a side effect of something else (my preferred option), it's more beneficial than being locked in an inner grapple with yourself."

Something else like exercise? Yoga?

"When you're not thinking about The Problem, is it still there? Is it like there's some crazy engine inside you that's making your life hell without your participation or your understanding? Or is it more like there's nothing particularly wrong, but every time you remember yourself and your gestalt, it feels like there's something that needs doing or needs fixing... but you don't know how... and the whole thing begins again?"

It is really hard to say and I have asked myself the same thing. Is it just that I believe something needs fixing which creates the problem? Or is there pain here somehow the brings about reaction that something needs fixing. I think this is pretty similar to what you're asking anyway though correct me if I'm wrong.

There are definitely times when everything seems fine, but is this because I forgot to create the belief that "something needs fixing" or is it because the pain was temporarily dormant? Anyway what is your advice if it is the latter?

I know I have had this conversation before... which is weird... you'd think something would change in me somehow sometime.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/3/14 12:35 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
Richard:
I appreciate the points about both conventional and unconventional methods. I think I am especially lacking in the dopamine and serotonin, doing alright in oxytocin though not great, and probably doing the best in endorphins.

It is so hard for me to get motivated to work on things at that level because deep down what i am really after is that unconventional bit you mention, i.e. being fine with just sitting on a couch due to having developed disenchantment with depressed thinking. You would think that disenchantment would develop after so much suffering through that type of thinking... I guess I still am under the impression  that there is some use to that type of thinking. The main technique I use for developing that kind of thing is trying to be present and non-reactive, and thus no longer fueling the thinking... I think the simple reason this doesn't work is that I really can't be non-reactive to things which I don't like. Like an intensely unpleasant feeling. Also when I try to be aware of thoughts I invariably start arguing against them or for them, I really have a tough time with just bare awareness of these phenomena.

This is a huge area you can work on. Sorry this is going to be a long post but there's lots you can add.  My practice for this problem is simple. Be ready with mindfulness when something doesn't go your way towards something small.  Try and play a game where you really get into it and it starts getting harder and you're losing more.  Try and relax your body and mind (letting go) when things don't go your way, and do the same when you win. Those sensations arise and pass away on their own. If you have particular enjoyments or tasks you don't like then try and do without the stuff you like for a test.  Try and do something you dislike as a test and look at the thinking that's happening.  I find there's lots of vedana thinking going on.  Even now when I do a chore there's a slight tightening that happens right away and when I'm in the task I notice this quick thinking and tightening and I relax the tension in the head and body.  Learn to relax your limbs because they often can look like they are ready for a fight or flight response out of habit. One of the breakthroughs I had last year was staying with the vedana tones in the body and just waiting for them to naturally pass away. It's almost like the brain resets if you give it enough time.

Rob Burbea has a great description of vedana and how there are pleasant and unpleasant frequencies happening all the time and you can tune into the pleasant ones.  For example when I have cold hands I can notice the pleasant parts of the cooling effects so the brain complains less. Nick likes to call it hacking vedana. Whatever you want to call it you need to see the middle path of things.

Look into intellectual understanding of the middle path from Nagarjuna.  Look into how the brain reacts to objects as if they are permanently 100% good or bad.  Purposefully look at things you like and find out what's imperfect about them and especially look at what's good about what you think is awful.  Is it really 100% awful?  If something was intolerable you would die.  This kind of cognitive therapy works wonders but you have to really use it.  

I've got the CBT process right here:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5211785

Memorize it and keep reminding yourself of the benefits of an action and the detriments of non-action. If you don't act that's a choice as well as taking action. Most self-help books that I read pretty much say you have to do different actions for about 3 weeks to a month before they feel comfortable as a new habit.  Until then you have to accept some discomfort. This is why working with vedana and watching discomfort naturally fade is really important. Lean into the discomfort.

To improve your practice of keeping presence and non-reactivity it's important to see that you're not having aversion to thinking or aversion to old habit impulses.  Aversion always makes us chase after a short-term enjoyment for a quick soothing but it's too temporary and leads to avoidance.

This book was helpful:

http://books.google.ca/books/about/Clarifying_the_Natural_State.html?id=uoCa1aEVAzwC

It's important to welcome sensations that are unpleasant to prevent aversion from adding onto aversion.  This was a big deal for me. I couldn't get any farther without this:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9813/

When letting go it's important not to block thinking because that is more aversion:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/20/talk/18314/

The trick is to understand that when you notice your mind wandered then you're already back.  There's no need for added aversion. It's a totally superfluous mental loop. Mental loops are thinking about thinking.  They are exhausting when they are mental habits. They have to be let go of over and over again.  By letting go I mean not pushing away but just letting the impulse drop without feeding the impulse with rumination.

In summary, if you welcome unpleasant impulses and sensations and you don't block a wandering mind then impulses can freely arise and pass away without your clinging/ruminating/fixation blocking them.  That's two types of aversion dropped right there.

In the realm of conventional happiness and especially for dopamine you need small goals that you can perform and develop rewards. You need to develop a way to get immediate feedback so the brain can measure progress and correct your execution of the task. Overwhelming yourself with large goals will cause procrastination.  Sometimes when I procrastinate I try to do lots of small tasks and do them with mindfulness but AS QUICKLY AS I CAN.  As soon as you lose inertia the old habits come back.  Creating deadlines that others know about can motivate you as well though I prefer moving faster. When you complete tasks you'll naturally get dopamine and some serotonin.

I just posted a book review that has some lessons on the consequences of negative thinking on performance of any kind:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5576267

The Practicing Mind also blends well with the above because it talks again about how self-judgment affects performance.  Self-judgment releases cortisol and it interferes with performance.  

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5552028

Try practicing the Do, Observe, Correct process without judgment in your goals.

To summarize you start off by using meditation to let go of the old habit impulses and then you use concentration to gather your will. You need to find goals that are worthy of your values, break them down into smaller goals (preferably daily goals), create a reward system that gives you immediate feedback.  This way insight meditation reduces stress by letting go of clinging of any kind and then concentration can narrow your aim towards your goals (assuming you've broken them down into small daily tasks).  When you both fail and succeed along the way you can still use the insight practice to welcome unpleasantness and let go of fixation.  Then you would repeat the above and hopefully for the rest of your life.

I hope this is helpful.

Richard

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/3/14 9:50 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
I agree with your mother; it's hard work to keep all that stuff hidden behind a façade. I think it will be a relief to unburden yourself of the pretence and the sense of secret personal affliction.

If you can feel that relief, maybe you can feel an inkling of this relief too: You didn't create yourself. You're a nexus of countless historical, genetic, social, familial and biographical threads all woven together in a way that nobody chose, and for which nobody is ultimately responsible. You know this; but can you feel what it means? Can you allow it be that way (just for a while), and feel the same kind of relief (even in pain) that comes from not resisting something that's true any more?

If you ponder it for a while (as passively as possible, I would suggest), you might find that something happens to your feelings. Even your most intimate personal feelings (and failings).... aren't. There is a key difference between afflictive feelings and transcendent ones. But more on that later.

Meanwhile, here's a shot of morphine to the mainline:
- Deep, dreamless sleep is the peace of your true nature.
- Being-Awareness-Bliss, pure Consciousness shining by itself... that's you.

Sleep well ;-)

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/3/14 6:07 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
Hi Adam,

I know about emotional experiences you are dealing with personally, I work as a mental health counselor, and I maintain a mindfulness practice.  I am very new to DharmaOverground and the responses on this thread above hold a great deal of insight - I am quite impressed, so follow their advice.  Specifically, I agree with the comments by Richard that it is important to have a local therapist that you see regularly.  If you're interested in mainstream therapeutic methods that are similar to Buddhism, check out Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, DBT, and CBT practitioners who are integrating mindfulness practices.  But connection with your therapist is key, so try a few out and go with the one that you feel the best connection with.  Here's my other two cents: One key feature of depression is feeling like no one else has ever had the feelings that you are feeling; that you are alone and that there is something totally unique to "my"suffering.  Correct, this individual case is happening to you, so in that way it is unique.  However, the taste of the dark Hell feelings you are experiencing are quite actually common human emotions:  I've tasted the exact feeling you've had, many people on this forum have obviously tasted them, Aberham Lincoln tasted this sort of depression throughout his entire life, and so have countless humans throughout countless eons.  So when the emotions pop up strongly and when you turn your attention to them, remember to look at that pain and tell yourself that "the feelings are normal and numerous people have tasted and are currently tasting these emotions."  You are not alone.  It might also help to realize that depression is a teacher and that somewhere down the line you'll probably be asked to help someone else out who is going through what you are going through.  And when the universe turns to you for help, you'll have a very real experience that will inform your compassion.

Hope this helps a little bit.  Much peace, dave

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/6/14 7:52 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Hi Adam,

I have two bits of advice to offer:

1. A daily exercise habit can really help with anxiety and depression. Running, lifting weights, practicing a sport, yoga, following workout videos, etc etc. If you can find one or two forms of exercise you like and manage, say, 30 mins a day, that's a great start.

2. Practicing good study habits -- including having a skillful attitude towards studying -- is so important. Without these things, school can be really painful and miserable. You say you're not "cut out for or interested" in your school work. You might want to ask yourself whether this is because you're studying the wrong thing/in the wrong major, or whether you "just" need to find a way to change your approach to studying. This can be a really tough question -- talking it over with people and journal writing can help (it helped me).

Changing your approach to studying might involve cultivating genuine interest in the subjects, devoting more time and/or studying more slowly, keeping your level of mental energy/engagement up while you study (which could entail taking more frequent breaks, or going somewhere nice to study like a park), or overcoming procrastination (so you're spending more time actually getting things done and feeling accomplished, and less time wallowing in anxiety thinking school is just awful and you're lazy and you have no self-control... er, rant over...).

I hope this advice isn't too simplistic, although sometimes simple solutions work well enough. emoticon Good luck man.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/13/14 2:16 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Imported from another thread:
Adam:
Well, to me it just doesn't seem to matter
all that much whether i am in "mi" or "dd" or "ro" I just want out. And
even to distinguish between ro and eq seems possibly unskillful as what I
really want is access to something that doesn't really
distinguish between anything and anything else... i.e. unconditional
peace/happiness
. That's why insight nanas and even paths have never
really gotten my attention.


In my personal experience, that's where the Consciousness-only teachings really excel... by taking you right to the essence of all experience. Instead of chasing the pleasing parts of multiplicity, you're drawn back to the common feature(s) of everything... the one taste, as it were. It's a great equaliser. It results -- (for me, anyway) -- in a durable, unforced equanimity that's a good foundation for any further inquiries or practices.

Can I ask: of all the things you've practiced so far in your life, what has actually delivered the most benefit to you in terms of peace, happiness and understanding?

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/14/14 8:45 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
I didn't see the last two replies till just now, I was returning to this thread to give some updates on the week since that first post. What has been happening in a nutshell is that I am living my life as best i can, then whenever the familiar feeling starts coming up i instantly try to be as present as possible. It is interesting how it has been working, almost like a "hand to hot stove" reaction. As soon as a certain feeling appears, which i can immediately distinguish from other feelings, there is an intense arising of presence. The feeling usually has an accompaniment of negative thoughts about the future, and those are basically not taken seriously and discarded, labeled as "imaginative, speculative, biased, negative thinking." The approach is a bit different from what has come before because I am just dropping the emotion like a hot coal, whereas before I might have used it to "motivate" myself into some action or I might have gotten upset about it being there. Perhaps something inside of me has realized how dangerous and useless that particular feeling is. Perhaps it is repressive and won't lead anywhere though. I will see.
of all the things you've practiced so far in your life, what has actually delivered the most benefit to you in terms of peace, happiness and understanding?
This should be a simple question I think, but for me it isn't. The reason it isn't is because I am not sure if all the peaceful happy times were just based on how much I bought into the idea that my practice of *whatever* was working for me. Such that I would feel really happy and could be quite peaceful if I just believed I was "getting somewhere" because I bought into the conceptual explanation of how this practice worked. I think the time I felt happiest in this way was practicing Byron Katie style with the 4 questions. Then again it might be that she is an incredibly impressive presence/speaker and her description of her freedom is more radical than anyone else's.

I was also pretty happy around when I first came to the DhO and heard Tarin talking about Actual Freedom, perhaps for the same reason. He described his freedom as being quite complete and he also had a very alluring innocence and sincerity quality. For all I know these people tricked themselves then tricked me... or maybe thats the cynical self that is trying to protect its depression talking!

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/20/14 7:20 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Thanks for the update, Adam. (I know what you mean about it being hard to separate cause & consequence wrt practices and results).

Anyway.... you wrote in for suggestions, so here are some of mine, based on my own experiences and my understanding of yours.

- There may be a quick fix or a radical final solution, but you're unlikely to find it by groping at it from despair or shallow optimism. You've been through enough cycles of optimistic beginnings -> disappointment -> dejection, despair, confusion -> clearing the work bench, starting afresh, trying something else -> optimistic beginnings -> disappointment -> and so on. Better to settle into something that will allow for these natural cycles, but will also mature and ripen over time, and take you somewhere you haven't been before.

- Don't waste your energy trying to manipulate emotions directly (e.g., trying to feel something you're not currently feeling; trying not to feel what you are currently feeling; trying to change this current feeling into a different feeling). It only wears you out, doesn't make you genuinely happy, and is downstream from where the action really is. (My experience is that working directly with emotions is like trying to clean up a river downstream from the source of the pollution. Others will disagree, and for plausible reasons; so I can only suggest that you look to your own experience and judge for yourself).

- Be prepared to feel not so good at times. Fighting or resisting it wears you out more than letting it be there for a while. Letting it be there is also more likely to give you a taste of the natural (affective, but still somewhat effective) antidotes to acute personal misery. Afflictive feelings aren't as painful when they're experienced in a less personal way... and that's when the more transcendent feelings (love, compassion, beauty, feelings that have a bitter-sweet or painful-but-valuable tone) can start to arise in their place. This happens not from direct dis-identification / dissociation but from an organic loosening, widening or expansion out of your currently too-narrow identification as an isolated, vulnerable, uniquely afflicted 'me'. Not to be rushed or forced, but allowed over time.

- You're an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable guy, and you have a penchant for inquiry. But pure intellectual inquiry can easily lead deep into the thicket of views with no way out. I would suggest continuing with inquiry, but only if one or both of these conditions is met: (1) your inquiry is directed toward systematically removing built-in assumptions and bringing you ever closer to something that is more primary / fundamental, the substrate of your thoughts and/or 'substance' of them; (2) you have a reasonably pleasant and comfortable place to keep coming back to when you're inquiring. (Personal note: this is where direct path advaita excels for me; it's deeply soothing at an organic / somatic level, like it takes out thick layers of unnecessary tension and obscurity).

- Don't look to psycho-spiritual practice or insights as a way to shirk everyday social reality. Go through the motions if you have to. If you hold such things at arm's length figuring you're going to be 'free' soon anyway, you'll create a wider and wider gulf between your inner world and the world you still have to (reluctantly) participate in... and that's a recipe for something breaking down. Go through the motions, at whatever modest level seems appropriate, even if your heart isn't in it... until maybe it is.

(Will add more as it occurs to me, pending feedback).

All the best...

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/20/14 8:44 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
"There may be a quick fix or a radical final solution, but you're unlikely to find it by groping at it from despair or shallow optimism. You've been through enough cycles of optimistic beginnings -> disappointment -> dejection, despair, confusion -> clearing the work bench, starting afresh, trying something else -> optimistic beginnings -> disappointment -> and so on. Better to settle into something that will allow for these natural cycles, but will also mature and ripen over time, and take you somewhere you haven't been before."

yes the despair and optimism have a shallow quality to them, they are often a play put on for myself by myself i think. It is possible to "allow" the cycles, see them as natural and take them less seriously. Then sometimes something deeper comes along and I figure "better take that seriously." After a while that level of depth becomes integrated into the category of things not to be taken seriously.

"Don't waste your energy trying to manipulate emotions directly (e.g., trying to feel something you're not currently feeling; trying not to feel what you are currently feeling; trying to change this current feeling into a different feeling). It only wears you out, doesn't make you genuinely happy, and is downstream from where the action really is. (My experience is that working directly with emotions is like trying to clean up a river downstream from the source of the pollution. Others will disagree, and for plausible reasons; so I can only suggest that you look to your own experience and judge for yourself)."

Yes this is all true. However how exactly do I not try to manipulate emotions directly? When they are there I react to them in some way or another. Maybe I go watch youtube videos and play video games, maybe I sit down for a serious focused contemplation, maybe I start ruminating about some topic. I think it is pretty hard to separate the emotion from the attempt to manipulate it. I wonder what the source of the emotion is in your opinion?

"Be prepared to feel not so good at times. Fighting or resisting it wears you out more than letting it be there for a while. Letting it be there is also more likely to give you a taste of the natural (affective, but still somewhat effective) antidotes to acute personal misery. Afflictive feelings aren't as painful when they're experienced in a less personal way... and that's when the more transcendent feelings (love, compassion, beauty, feelings that have a bitter-sweet or painful-but-valuable tone) can start to arise in their place. This happens not from direct dis-identification / dissociation but from an organic loosening, widening or expansion out of your currently too-narrow identification as an isolated, vulnerable, uniquely afflicted 'me'. Not to be rushed or forced, but allowed over time."

Yea I think i know what you mean about the more expanded as opposed to narrow emotions are, and yes they are a bit more comfortable. However I really am not sure of my opinion on them in terms of their value, they seem to lack "innocence" and seem like a place to get stuck.

"You're an extremely intelligent and knowledgeable guy, and you have a penchant for inquiry. But pure intellectual inquiry can easily lead deep into the thicket of views with no way out. I would suggest continuing with inquiry, but only if one or both of these conditions is met: (1) your inquiry is directed toward systematically 
removing built-in assumptions and bringing you ever closer to something that is more primary / fundamental, the substrate of your thoughts and/or 'substance' of them; (2) you have a reasonably pleasant and comfortable place to keep coming back to when you're inquiring. (Personal note: this is where direct path advaita excels for me; it's deeply soothing at an organic / somatic level, like it takes out thick layers of unnecessary tension and obscurity)."

Every once and a while the inquiry leads to a place of "less knowing" rather than "more knowing" and I think that is probably the skillful direction.

I think my practice has been turning since the meltdown that started this thread towards "not knowing" which specifically means not having preconceptions or tightly held views on who I should be. Recognizing to some degree that however I am right now is how I have to be and it is already unnavoidably natural, pure and innocent in a sense. In this way I am recognizing that the apparent split between how I act/think/feel and how I want to act/think/feel is an illusion... I am acting thinking and feeling exactly how I want to. Becoming conscious of that insight by writing this feels a bit weird. Previously it often seemed like nothing I felt or did could be natural or honest but now it seems like nothing i can ever do or feel would be unnatural or dishonest... but what has really changed?

"Don't look to psycho-spiritual practice or insights as a way to shirk everyday social reality. Go through the motions if you have to. If you hold such things at arm's length figuring you're going to be 'free' soon anyway, you'll create a wider and wider gulf between your inner world and the world you still have to (reluctantly) participate in... and that's a recipe for something breaking down. Go through the motions, at whatever modest level seems appropriate, even if your heart isn't in it... until maybe it is."

This comment hits me in some way but I can't figure out exactly what to say about it. Maybe it is that the apparent reluctance to participate in everyday social reality is just a story I tell myself somehow.

I continue to appreciate these conversations, though maybe they are just commentary on something that is just going to have its own unpredictable way.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/20/14 10:44 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:

Yes this is all true. However how exactly do I not try to manipulate emotions directly? When they are there I react to them in some way or another. Maybe I go watch youtube videos and play video games, maybe I sit down for a serious focused contemplation, maybe I start ruminating about some topic. I think it is pretty hard to separate the emotion from the attempt to manipulate it. I wonder what the source of the emotion is in your opinion?

Reactivity is based on causes and conditions.  Develop 7 factors of awakening (especially investigation and Right Effort). Everytime you use your intention to develop this there should be a question in your mind when you get results. "Shouldn't I do this all the time?"  It's easy to examine the practice instead of practicing.  The answer to most questions is to keep practicing consistently. Secondly you can note what is absent and them start developing the conditions of mental peace (mindfulness of 4 foundations, metta, concentration, virtue, etc.) Don't analyze your practice just keep doing it with intention and action. Don't look at anything as being deficient but natural cause and effect (meaning you can create new causes and effects that reduce stress). It's important to take responsibility for the cause and effect you put in the past but with a sense of allowing/acceptance and then intentions to cultivate differently. This wouldn't be to measure yourself but to gain better effects.

Thoughts must be included in your investigation (meaning you don't repress them or add clinging stories to them). If you are aware when thoughts are present you can see it's the not allowing/not welcoming that's the problem. Thoughts don't hurt when there's mindfulness but when there isn't mindfulness then they do. Welcome the unpleasant thoughts but don't feed stories to them so they vanish naturally. Even simple things like paying attention to the breath when I'm agitated is a big relief.

"Be prepared to feel not so good at times. Fighting or resisting it wears you out more than letting it be there for a while. Letting it be there is also more likely to give you a taste of the natural (affective, but still somewhat effective) antidotes to acute personal misery. Afflictive feelings aren't as painful when they're experienced in a less personal way... and that's when the more transcendent feelings (love, compassion, beauty, feelings that have a bitter-sweet or painful-but-valuable tone) can start to arise in their place. This happens not from direct dis-identification / dissociation but from an organic loosening, widening or expansion out of your currently too-narrow identification as an isolated, vulnerable, uniquely afflicted 'me'. Not to be rushed or forced, but allowed over time."

Yea I think i know what you mean about the more expanded as opposed to narrow emotions are, and yes they are a bit more comfortable. However I really am not sure of my opinion on them in terms of their value, they seem to lack "innocence" and seem like a place to get stuck.

Watch how "letting it be", (which is the correct prescription), often still has some aversion in it, so it really isn't letting it be.  Welcoming is a much better way to make sure you're developing equanimity that's a fresh response to the unpleasant. For me it's like the difference between switching a light on or off.  Equanimity mixed with indifference or nihilism is something to avoid. Welcoming can counter this and of course you have to do it ALL the time to get maximum benefit. Note with a sense of welcoming/allowing.

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9813/

Just a couple of observations and things that have helped me above in the blue.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/21/14 1:44 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
Yes this is all true. However how exactly do I not try to manipulate emotions directly? When they are there I react to them in some way or another. Maybe I go watch youtube videos and play video games, maybe I sit down for a serious focused contemplation, maybe I start ruminating about some topic. I think it is pretty hard to separate the emotion from the attempt to manipulate it. I wonder what the source of the emotion is in your opinion?


Speculating: As well as having the full suite of normal human passions, some people have an extra level of self-awareness or self-consciousness. (Cause or consequence of a neurosis). Part of the energy that would normally be channeled into stuff like finding a partner, establishing a career, striving to compete and excel in worldly ways, etc, has either been blocked for some reason, or has been turned back upon itself in ways that aren't typical. Instead of being mostly transparent to ourselves and engaged with the world, our own thoughts and feelings become things to work upon and change. But we lack the leverage. And because of this, we get pulled into a cyclone of interactions with ourselves, trying to exert some kind of beneficial influence, but not knowing how to get a handle on it. For some people it's a spur to artistic expression, intellectual / cultural achievements, etc; for others a psycho-spiritual quest. Either way, it's bound to be wearying, frustrating and depressing sometimes.

I don't know how much of your current feelings are primary, life related, and how many are a side-effect of an urge to fulfilment of some kind that's currently not succeeding. I can only talk to you here about the secondary ones, of course. (Being no stranger to them).

(Will pick up the rest separately).

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/21/14 1:51 AM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:

Yea I think i know what you mean about the more expanded as opposed to narrow emotions are, and yes they are a bit more comfortable. However I really am not sure of my opinion on them in terms of their value, they seem to lack "innocence" and seem like a place to get stuck.



Understood and agreed. I wouldn't make a religion out of them. I just figure that if you're still subject to the afflictive emotions (whether you believe in their ultimate validity or not), it doesn't make sense to eschew the healing feelings.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/21/14 6:18 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Adam . .:
However how exactly do I not try to manipulate emotions directly?

Two really simple possibilities:

When you're in contemplative mode: Treat them as if they're all 'made of' consciousness, and so are your thoughts. When you're looking at thoughts and feelings that way, being curious about their composition as well as their content, you're not directly in their grip any more, and you don't feel as much need to manipulate them. (And 'you', the would-be manipulator, are 'made of' the same stuff anyway). Also consider: nothing that's made of consciousness can truly harm anything else that's made of consciousness. Seeing things this way changes the way you feel, without direct manipulation. (If you were to employ this globally, I guess it's analogous to the shift from content / mental proliferation to the 3Cs, except here there's only 1C).

Other possibility: Work around them and focus on the situation instead. It's what people have always done. ;-)

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/22/14 6:01 PM as a reply to John Wilde.
Another thing I meant to suggest is: When you've chosen a path or practice, give it some time to work in progressive, organic and possibly mysterious ways over time, rather than constantly checking to see how you're faring, how you're feeling, and trying to consciously manage the process to bring about best results right now. Settle in for the ride, take the rough with the smooth, don't look for immediate and dramatic change, but look back every once in a while to see what's happened.

Obviously, this suggestion won't apply if you choose actualism, but for anything else I think it's sound -- especially for someone who's prone to practice in fits and starts, like you and I have been.

RE: wowwww this path is confusing
Answer
9/30/14 9:19 PM as a reply to Adam . ..
Alright folks, here is an update:

Since that first post things have changed a bit for me. The event (being incredibly depressed for a few days) that caused that post to be made looks "huge" in hindsight, and I find myself subconsciously dividing up memories into before/after that event. In the first few days after that event, I noticed a certain escape from suffering that was previously less obvious to me. The escape was basically to "pretend" that there was nothing but this moment. This practice, when done wholeheartedly, would dissolve whatever disatisfaction (minor or major) was present. I would literally just focus 100% on the present moment (including whatever emotional feeling was present) but with such intensity that not even subtle mental images or daydreams or interpretations would arise (including the image/interpretation of "I am practicing such and such"). If this could be maintained even for a minute or two then the feeling would fade and I would find a sense of joy, ease, care, and quality in whatever I was doing.

Since then (about 1 month ago) I have been able to replicate this "trick" over and over to a really good effect. The hindrance to this arises whenever I start to believe that I am either doing something very harmful by doing this, or I am avoiding dealing with something by doing this. The overcoming of this hindrance occurs when I decide that nothing is worth creating a problem over and suffering. This "trick" can't be done by brute force, because if I believe that I really do need to create a problem and suffer over "xyz" then I simply won't do it (i.e. focus 100% of my attention on the present). So I either find myself in that state of joy/ease that arises after the presence, or I find myself suffering without being fully willing to confront the suffering (in which case the suffering is relatively minor). Or I find myself in the process of confronting the suffering (once it starts to get too intense) which is mostly about having enough courage to "abandon" problems by becoming completely present and giving rise to none of the "tanha" that creates them.

In this way of writing things it definitely looks like "running away" or "repressing" and I often see myself as doing that in practice. Yet I note that whenever I *actually* become fully present rather than worry about the idea that being fully present is repression/avoidance my life is at its best. So, every time I think about whether or not this is the right direction I have plenty of doubts, however when I actually do it it pays off hugely and immediately.