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My practice is faltering

Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

My practice is faltering

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
I came to this site recently after reading Daniel's book and rekindling my interest in meditation. Thanks to a lot of past practice I got pretty far pretty fast. Recently I made some posts questioning whether or not I was in equanimity which, although these are unresolved, is irrelevant. I was making very steady and rapid progress. It motivated me to practice more and more, I began meditating upwards of five times a day, and if I chose to I could meditate for 1-2 hours each time. I began feeling that I was really getting to know each jhana and feel confident in my breathing concentration and how to understand the three characteristics during this all while noting. I'd never experienced strong dark night feelings though, I've began to see them a bit more here and there when i go through the dukkha nyanas, but i've been very concerned that i am never sure that i hit reobservation, rather i seem to just go into equanimity and experience, much further down the line, some sort of formations feeling I think. I see a white light in the center of my vision, all the textbook stuff happens including the mental and physical worlds fusing, and it begins to be not unlike a strobe light, simultaneously growing narrower along with my stream of consciousness until, I'd imagine, cessation, of course my eyes start flickering a bit and my heart speeds up and I lose right before it seems to be swallowed up into nothingness, although I understand this to not even be cessation, the point is that I'm close, I hope.

Anyways, the other day as my insight practice was beginning to outshine my concentration dependency I experienced a very textbook dark night, since then my practice has gone to crap. I'm not nearly so mindful during the non-meditative day, it's difficult to reach mind and body when before I simply closed my eyes and it was more or less instantaneous. I'm lucky to hit a weak A&P whereas before I hit a strong textbook one within 5 minutes and had equanimity within 10-15. It's been a week of this crap. My confidence and resolution is dissipating. My faith hasn't, I've seen way too much. Oddly, when I'm in despair, all I can think about doing is meditating, the one thing that is sure to fail.

I forgot to mention, for the week that my meditation has sucked, when before it was characterized by superb concentration and absorption on the object, I just start dreaming now, wtf, I can't prevent it, I'm powerless, it's so frustrating. I tell myself the obvious, about all this self-grasping and clinging to old ideals, but to no avail. Then a few times recently, after much frustration and battling this monkey mind for half an hour I just have this sense of submission, and this strange feeling sweeps over me and there's a shift into third jhana feeling territory when I was previously in first or a weak second. There's some conformity nyana feeling that rings with my intuition, and like this is part of reobservation, like I'm supposed to be learning some final lessons before I continue with where I was before. This is far beyond my knowledge of meditation and how reobservation works, and the entire notion of being "stuck in the dark night". How could I be stuck in nyanas that don't even begin my meditation each day?

All that seems to make sense is that I'm:

1. In the dark night, though I don't fully understand this, as how can I be "in" something that is just a cycle of meditation, a meditation, as said above, which I must get to access concentration each time for as always and pray to my lucky stars that I'll hit the dukkha nyanas nowadays.

2. In a new cycle, which means all those near miss things were probably a ton of fruitions, the first one was epic, for sure, and it really changed me and had a sense of insight, but upon reflection doesn't really stand up to the most scrupulous demands of cessation. But it would explain why I could hit mind and body so freaking easily.. I mean at work (Burger King) I'd go piss in the urinal and meanwhile recollection on the sensations of the urethra and hit mind and body in a second and piss meditate, I'd do it waiting on the fries to fry, or the mop bucket to fill, I'd do it all damn day long, come home and hit the cushion for some big boy meditation. Now I'm just pissed off all the time and zoned out, quite a bit dissociated from the world, with an aversion to the cushion. Plus, it seems that to be in a new cycle I'd have to complete the old cycle during a sit, then hit fruition and then.. continue onward to a new mind and body in second path?? So confused about that deal.

3. I just suck, and never got far, and when I did it was contingent on some strong mindfulness and concentration which is no longer present, and I'm just PMSing over it, because I lost what I valued.

..

Please help me, I'm so lost.
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josh r s, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
all I can think about doing is meditating, the one thing that is sure to fail.


think of all the people on this site who have gone through dark night and then got out the other side. eventually it won't fail, it's just a question of when.

my advice is something i've often heard thanisarro bhikkhu say, which is this: don't worry about the effects, keep putting the causes in. keep working, your current mental state is partly due to what you've done before and partly what you do now, so just keeping putting the causes in as best you can and don't worry so much about the effects.

what is the most shallow level of stress you can find? i often look at the different levels of stress i have, at the deepest level there is stress about the events of the real world which manifests as emotion. then there is stress about feeling bad about the real world. then as spiritual practitioners we have stress about the actual feeling of stress, as you said it feels like "i suck." that's sort of the most shallow level, that's the one you will eventually have to get past before getting past the others.

have you ever read this?

edit: just listen to those other posts, i've only experienced dark-night type stuff once and i managed to get out of it with what is described in that link, all that other stuff is just my rationalizing and might not be useful at all
Trent ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 361 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hello,

Suppose there were a caravan of men with carpentry and construction as their trade. These men, seeking comfort for themselves and their families and friends, accept a job to build a grand home for a wealthy local merchant. The merit and reward for completing this task is very great, because the company of men must travel to a far distant land and reside there while they complete the task. Within their group are men of various specialties. Some specialize in building foundations, some in roofing, some in painting, some in engineering, some in flooring, some in planning and acquiring materials, some in maintaining the camp during the construction, and so on. There are also some journeymen among them specializing in traveling long distances, over rugged terrain and smooth, through plains and forests, across rivers and valleys, around lakes and chasms, and so on as their past experience and skill allow.

The day comes when preparations are complete and the caravan sets out for their destination. As they travel, each of the men specializing in the various terrains takes the lead when appropriate, and the caravan travels together, safe and sound … so far, so good. Now, suppose these men encounter a terrain that is particularly difficult to cross, and, resulting from a disagreement about how to proceed, split into two groups, and thus set about traveling two different routes in two different directions. Furthermore, having set this standard, the same result later happens to each of those groups as well. What was previously a consolidated team has divided into four groups, and this division leads to further difficulties and disputes; with their knowledge divided, their supplies and resources divided, and their man-power divided, they fall upon many hardships they wouldn’t have if they had otherwise remained together, consolidated, and resolute in their direction.

Eventually, some weeks later, the four groups arrive at the construction site and prepare their camp. The men specializing in planning and managing set out to take account of the men and their supplies, and find that many of their company perished, turned back, or became lost during the journey made arduous by their division. These losses to the team's expertise and morale lead to other various problems for the group, and the task of building the merchant’s house suddenly seems much more daunting than it was before. Short-handed and disheartened, the men wonder whether or not they can even complete the task, let alone to satisfaction and their work’s reward.

The meaning of the metaphor is this: you are the caravan and its ability, the group’s expertise represents one's faculties; mindfulness, skillfulness, discernibleness, resourcefulness, etc., the terrain represents the nanas and/or the ‘path’, the division (and cohesion) of the group is one's intention(s), and the home to construct is the state of consciousness (and the resultant reward / fruit).

Trent
TJ Broccoli, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 93 Join Date: 3/1/10 Recent Posts
hello joshua,

it sounds to me like you're going through your first dark night, not a second cycle. but whatever the case, if you've been practicing, anything new and unfamiliar is usually good news, no matter how bad it might feel--you're breaking new ground, making progress. a few things about the dark night:

you absolutely cannot trust your thoughts and feelings in the dark night ñanas, no matter how logical, sane, and true they may seem. the more you hold on to your ways of reasoning, interpreting, analyzing, judging, making conclusions, thinking, making sense of anything, the tougher the resistance you'll face. the mind is simply out of tune at the moment. i don't know what it technically involves (frequencies/energy/or what) but the mind is like a musical instrument with strings getting tuned but not yet in harmony, and sometimes you might think, well it's gotta be either this thought (a bit flat) or that thought (a bit sharp), and believing either one will get you nowhere because neither one is it. only when you let go of this complicated mind, let go of the need to know anything, and let the effects work themselves out (as josh mentioned) will things start tuning up.

think about it--what's the only thing you have that's totally fail-proof? the only way to stay perfectly clear from any kind of wrong view? how can you orient your mind so that there's not a chance you're gonna screw it up and generate new tensions, complications, or hindrances? the only thing you can really really trust is how things appear to your perception at the sense doors--feel that sensation, see that, hear that, taste that, smell that, notice that thought arise. those are your only faculties for direct knowledge and your express ticket for moving in the right direction, so keep your watch at the sense doors like a top guard dog, and every thought and feeling that arises concerning practice (that's not about paying attention to the senses) is potential bullshit and not to be trusted, and a waste of precious moments of practice opportunities.

possibly the worst way that the mind messes with you in the dark night is to make you think your practice is crappy and your efforts aren't going anywhere. towards the later dark night stages, what often happens is that the worse it feels and the harder it gets, the farther along you are, closer and closer to the tipping point before equanimity ñana.

make use of every second you have in your sits and daily life to pay attention to bare sensing without adding a single interpretation or analysis about what's going on. dump all your energy into paying attention to the present sensations more and more constantly, subtly, intensely, objectively (non-judging), and equanimously as possible. you can't waste one second of possible practice, things are already bad enough. stay vigilant, stay innocent/unknowing, stay determined, and everything will fall into place.

jill
steven cundiff, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 40 Join Date: 10/11/11 Recent Posts
TJ Broccoli:
hello joshua,

it sounds to me like you're going through your first dark night, not a second cycle. but whatever the case, if you've been practicing, anything new and unfamiliar is usually good news, no matter how bad it might feel--you're breaking new ground, making progress. a few things about the dark night:

you absolutely cannot trust your thoughts and feelings in the dark night ñanas, no matter how logical, sane, and true they may seem. the more you hold on to your ways of reasoning, interpreting, analyzing, judging, making conclusions, thinking, making sense of anything, the tougher the resistance you'll face. the mind is simply out of tune at the moment. i don't know what it technically involves (frequencies/energy/or what) but the mind is like a musical instrument with strings getting tuned but not yet in harmony, and sometimes you might think, well it's gotta be either this thought (a bit flat) or that thought (a bit sharp), and believing either one will get you nowhere because neither one is it. only when you let go of this complicated mind, let go of the need to know anything, and let the effects work themselves out (as josh mentioned) will things start tuning up.

think about it--what's the only thing you have that's totally fail-proof? the only way to stay perfectly clear from any kind of wrong view? how can you orient your mind so that there's not a chance you're gonna screw it up and generate new tensions, complications, or hindrances? the only thing you can really really trust is how things appear to your perception at the sense doors--feel that sensation, see that, hear that, taste that, smell that, notice that thought arise. those are your only faculties for direct knowledge and your express ticket for moving in the right direction, so keep your watch at the sense doors like a top guard dog, and every thought and feeling that arises concerning practice (that's not about paying attention to the senses) is potential bullshit and not to be trusted, and a waste of precious moments of practice opportunities.

possibly the worst way that the mind messes with you in the dark night is to make you think your practice is crappy and your efforts aren't going anywhere. towards the later dark night stages, what often happens is that the worse it feels and the harder it gets, the farther along you are, closer and closer to the tipping point before equanimity ñana.

make use of every second you have in your sits and daily life to pay attention to bare sensing without adding a single interpretation or analysis about what's going on. dump all your energy into paying attention to the present sensations more and more constantly, subtly, intensely, objectively (non-judging), and equanimously as possible. you can't waste one second of possible practice, things are already bad enough. stay vigilant, stay innocent/unknowing, stay determined, and everything will fall into place.

jill


This is actually pretty good advice....especially the no judging part...see if you can sense the sensing inside your senses...and remove all judgement, and as much as possible, all definitions....when you look at a tree...do no say or think it is a tree....just look at it with no definition and no judgement of good or bad.
Joshua L., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 49 Join Date: 2/11/11 Recent Posts
Wow, really great comments. I appreciate it very much and I will reread and reread them when times get rough.

May I update my progress, as it seems to be a bit different since yesterday?

Suddenly my negative mood dissipated yesterday, I also, after reading nearly every noting technique thread, revamped my meditation, rebolstered by actually nonverbally muttering things (probably too much hubris to do so before). I might say in or out for the inbreath and outbreath once each second in my mind like the rapping quarter note of a snare drum to simply demand my full attention, the thing which hasn't cooperated lately, while doing this I'll notice every sensation of the breath, in, as it weakens, stops, begins weakly, strong outwardly, slows down weakly, stops, etc, at the rate of sixteenth or thirty-second notes, inbetween those uttered quarters, if that makes sense.

I read and reread the twenty fourth chapter of MCTD, on the progress of insight. I'm beginning to wonder if I'm getting stuck at the third nyana? Which I don't understand because I've very certainly had many, many A&P's and things which, if nothing else, were A&P events. The characteristics of A&P won't easily leave my mind, the gentleness and calm, the precision of concentration, the comfort and longevity. The plight I'm facing now is one that is motivating me to start a unique thread on it, but I'll cross my fingers and hope y'all can help. Please shepard me!! emoticon

The plight is that in addition to these Three Characteristic sort of feelings, there is tenseness invading myself at nearly all angles, a high intensity in my body, the background, my mind, things get shakey. The big deal is this: 95% of the time I try to meditate now all that junk climaxes into my eyelids shutting with a furrow, so tightly that it nearly hurts, strains my eyes and promotes anxiety for the safety of this involuntary force. Vibrations (I believe, as I've read nothing on vibrations and can't with authority identify them) and intensity seem to embrace most of my entire field of perception, kundalini energy seems to be trying to burst up my spine and out the top of my head like a goddamn smokestack, but there's never a coming sense of resolution, no light at the end of the tunnel, the intensity grows until I'm exhausted and raw, openning my eyes before the universe combusts or I damage my eyes.

This used to happen, a month ago or so, I'll call this the first phase. Then from then until this last week I experienced dissolution feelings after the lovely A&P (progressively more, it didn't get strong until last week with book dissolution), characterized by not being able to follow the arising and middle of the breath, or really being able to contemplate it for that matter, with anxious feelings following it, then an annoyance and finally a strong sense of wanting to be finished (all very clearly in formless jhanas). I thought that was the dukkha nyanas, it led into something very similar to all the above plight but without the intensity or pain, it was pleasant and easy, and when it climaxed it included all of reality, even the subtle bits, this is what led me to thinking that I was close to SE. I'll call that phase two, whereas I'm now repeating phase one as a third phase. Daniel said something about how the difference between an A&P event and formations would become apparent later. And once I did experience an epic moment the first time of those questionableformations, there was a moment of great insight and a honeymoon period afterward (I seen two of the three doors, looked back at myself, there was a steep drop and then seen the third and there was some epicness which along with not knowing the terrain makes me wonder if it was SE), it motivated my first post. I don't know enough about these things, maybe it was just my first A&P event and it took a few weeks for the dark night to set in?

Um, so then, is it normal to get stuck at the Three Characterics with a great day being able to hit an odd A&P that seems unfamiliar and questionable at best while in the Dark Night?

So lost emoticon
TJ Broccoli, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: My practice is faltering

Posts: 93 Join Date: 3/1/10 Recent Posts
Joshua L.:

Um, so then, is it normal to get stuck at the Three Characterics with a great day being able to hit an odd A&P that seems unfamiliar and questionable at best while in the Dark Night?

So lost emoticon

it looks like we have different definitions of the word "lost." i think of "lost" as much more exciting and dramatic than what you're reporting, like going off to meet angels, fighting demons, communicating with zorbitrons, riding giant nagas, visiting dead relatives, or starting a new cult to teach all ignorant earthlings how to enter the purple portal of the divine hamburger which you've been the first ever to find. instead you report boring vibes, breath sensations, tenseness, pain, strain, rawness, annoyance, feelings of being lost, confusion, and other phenomena.

keep up the good work; keep observing those sensations. the practice isn't complicated, but it's getting oneself to do it simply, persistently, diligently, innocently, and peacefully that's hardest. both bliss and pain come and go and will get milder the more they are seen as having the same nature. it's normal to misinterpret your experience, normal to fall back, normal to zip through stages sometimes, and normal to get stuck all over the place, otherwise we'd all be buddhas.

cheers,
jill

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