guidance, please!

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ealow1
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guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Fri Dec 27, 2013 11:29 pm

Hello! I would be very grateful for some guidance.

Some background:
I go by Erica and I am 22.

I met Elena at one of Shane's satsang gatherings a few weeks ago, and she mentioned this site yesterday. I have been reading through threads and part of the Gatecrashers book and feel like I am ready for some investigation.

I have issues with depression and anxiety. I know that investigation will not be an immediate cure, but that pain is what has led me here. If this results in a difficult situation, I have easy access to family and therapists at my university. I do not rely on any medication.

Thank you so much!

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Sat Dec 28, 2013 12:07 am

Hi Erica,

I just turned 25, and I can say that depression and anxiety at age 22 are very normal, particularly in people who are psychologically or spiritually inclined. I always like working with people with these issues because I find it very easy to connect and empathize with their processes.

The end of the year will be a bit busy for me, and I may only be able to check in once a day (I will try to do more than that) until the New Year, but after that I will have a lot more time to help out.

If you'd like to work together, let me know, and it would be my pleasure to begin pointing you in the right direction.

I'd like to know more about your spiritual path, anxiety, and depression. Have you, or do you currently meditate? What, if any, are your experiences that have resulted in a conviction in the possibility of enlightenment?

You seem like a pretty relaxed and grounded individual. I think you should embrace your calm and appreciate yourself, instead of skipping over these essential facets of your being. Your process here will be much smoother if you can really breathe into any sense of well-being and ease which is present in your body and mind and emotions. From a relaxed point of view, expectations become minimalized, contentment is found in the core of your experience, and it becomes easier to investigate. We just want to calm the static of the emotions and thinking that will make investigating more complicated. Try to be at ease in the coming weeks as we continue. That is your peripheral homework, and you can tell me how it's going any time you want. :)

I will get back to you after your next response with some inquiries. In the meantime, tell me more about yourself so I can understand where you are coming from better.

Thank you,

Kian

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ealow1
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 1:29 am

Hi Kian,

I think we are a great match then. I hope to help others through these issues someday too.

One post a day sounds like an ideal amount to digest. Thank you so much for using your free time to help me.

I grew up without any organized religion. I started exploring yoga about five years ago, and meditated for the first time four years ago. During those four years I practiced meditation on and off. Whenever I stopped, it was because I was pushing myself too hard. Now, I have a somewhat regular and much more gentle practice (about 5 times a week) where I focus on noticing when I judge myself. It works, and it works so well that I actually avoid some days. I have a tendency to avoid relief. I think this is because I so strongly want to get out of depression that covering up the problem is painful for me, and meditation seems like I am pushing it under the rug - even though it has definitely helped me expose and solve problems. Does that make sense? I feel like meditating is not taking me to the core issue.

I think of my depression as exhaustion from anxiety. The worst part is that it is like a Catch-22 - like I mentioned before, I avoid relief, especially when in a depressive episode. I want relief, but no relief is good enough when I’m in the depths of it. It all seems fake. During my most recent episode, I felt that life is meaningless - absolutely unbearably meaningless. I let my apartment go to hell as a result. I didn’t want to kill myself, but I wanted to die, if that makes sense. I got out of it, but it has been floating in the back of my mind - like there’s someone in every room I enter holding up a sign that says “none of this matters.” I feel fine now, but I can feel this despair beneath the surface and am anticipating that it will surface again. After reading the first story in Gateless Gatecrashers, I saw that the man awakening also felt that life was meaningless - but in a light and relieving way. I’m scared that I will have to face this again, and that it will initially present itself as darkness, but I also know that I will have to face it no matter what. I expect that with some work it will become a relief later.

I had one day-long experience that showed me the possibility of enlightenment. Two years ago, I was reading a book about a composer (Tom Johnson) who believed in the intersection of music, math, science, nature, everything. I had a “lightning bolt” that absolutely threw me, where it felt like every thing in the universe was one thing, connected. Sounds like enlightenment, but I was totally focused on “me me me” the whole time, so I still had some belief of separation. I felt very megalomaniacal, and after, ashamed of the whole thing. I wrote it off as a manic episode, thinking maybe I was bipolar or experiencing psychosis, until recently. Now I understand it was just a nudge in the right direction and it’s comforting.

Thank you for your advice on calmness - I will keep that in mind. I’ll try to keep meditating. It feels great.

Thank you Kian,
Erica

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:05 am

Thank you Erica,

I will be looking for an opportunity to slip away and write you a response tomorrow. I'm tired now.

Soon,
Kian

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ealow1
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:46 pm

No rush!

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Sat Dec 28, 2013 6:55 pm

Hello Erica,

Your response was lovely and thoughtful. I empathize with the existential dread you've experienced. Don't be afraid of it, because if it comes up we will deal with it together.

In my opinion it will take about 3 to 4 weeks to arrive at the fruit of our inquiry. I want to make sure you are comfortable with this commitment. Unlike many guides on this forum i do not take a straightforward approach to questioning. I prefer getting to know a person's style of learning and developing exercises that lead gradually to the core questions. This is because, in my experience, narrowing ourselves into a one dimensional inquiry forces the mind to produce premature solutions that don't hold up under the multifaceted challenges of being. As you said in your first post, correctly, this isn't a magic bullet. Awakening is more like an atomic bomb in your being, but its influence will always stop at the structures of your character that are not ready to awaken.

I'll write to you tomorrow with an experiment.

Kian

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:50 pm

Hello Erica,

An experiment !

Stop looking at objects and focus only on space. Walk around for about 5 to 10 minutes and focus only on the space around you. Let you hands move around in the space as if they were disembodied from you, from your story, from your identity, from your family, from your past. Just hands dancing in and exploring the space. Explore the idea that your hands are just little sensitive objects in space, that they aren't inherently bound to or associated with a small self. Just expressions of nature's brilliance and beauty. How does it feel to be pure expression pre-identity ?

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Sat Dec 28, 2013 9:52 pm

I should say, how do THEY feel to be dancing in the air ? Any stress ? Anxiety ? Thoughts ? :)speak for them, how do they like the experience ?

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ealow1
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Sun Dec 29, 2013 2:14 am

Hi Kian,

3-4 weeks sounds reasonable - I am not concerned with speed, so I appreciate thoroughness.

When I started moving my hands around, I was quite self-conscious. I’m a musician, and I felt like I sometimes do when I am trying to improvise. It was like I was pressuring myself to do something “original” or “fun” but the movements that were coming out were not good enough (for me), which led to anxiety. I knew this feeling would go away if I just kept doing it, and it did. After that varied movements would just happen freely, for the most part.

I wondered where the impulse to do a certain move or to change directions came from - did my brain say, “move both hands left,” and the hands responded? Or did my hands just move, and I noticed it with my eyes/brain? I have a suspicion that neither are totally correct - I sometimes felt that the ideas for movement weren’t even there, just the movement. I liken this to coming up with musical ideas. Sometimes they seem like they’re mine, and I made them, but sometimes not.

I could imagine that my hands were disembodied and owner-less for about half the time. When they were, they felt anxiety-free, and mostly with sensations of coolness from the air moving - they definitely liked it, but more calmly than enthusiastically. I think it was similar to how I feel when I play music after the self-consciousness goes away.

Thank you!
Erica

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Mon Dec 30, 2013 6:15 pm

Response coming tomorrow ! Thanks for patience

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ealow1
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Mon Dec 30, 2013 8:02 pm

Hi Kian,

No problem - enjoy your holiday!

Just an update to what I have been thinking today.
I poked around Ilona’s blog, and now I am thinking about the idea that I and everyone/everything else is just life expressing itself. Life expressing itself is probably meaningless (at least I have not found the meaning). This doesn’t bring up the panic and stress that I was feeling a little while ago, and it is really comforting that I can think about this without revisiting that pain. I think this is because I was thinking “what is the meaning of MY life” and the “I” was freaking out. I still have an “I” at the center of this though.

Also, I remembered another answer to your question, “What, if any, are your experiences that have resulted in a conviction in the possibility of enlightenment?” When I was a little kid, I would play video games and read books very often. I would think, ok, I am the control center (like the Wizard of Oz) in this video game character, and I can make him do things and run around. Who controls me? It would scare the crap out of me. So, being a little kid, I would revisit this thought whenever I could, because it was fun. I’m going to try to do that today.

Erica

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:43 am

Erica, hi!

I'm happy to say that all festivities and travel plans are over for the time being. I can see that you're online, and I'm writing up a response for you now.

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Thu Jan 02, 2014 1:18 am

The video game analogy is actually wonderful to work with! But how to work with it?

So you're a child (or an adult woman! No difference here), sitting on the sofa, staring at a screen (Mario? Sonic? Crash Bandicoot?) Whoever it is that you're controlling is over there, on the screen, in a world that exists only so long as the electricity is running, everything is plugged in, operating properly, and turned on.

The "I" particularly likes to identify with anything that it can exercise some control over. So there you are, sitting on the sofa, or the floor, or whatever, and you turn the Nintendo on and start playing a game. What happens in this process, the way I see it, is that in order to care about and play the game, you have to temporarily *extend* the sense of self beyond its ordinary boundaries, toward something that exists on the screen. Of course, Sonic is not "me," Mario is not "me," but when they die, I say "shit! I died."

Usually we do not think about whether or not Sonic or Mario are actually us. We just latch onto the character and identify with it. This can result in fun and adventure, stress, rage, self-improvement, etc. depending on what kind of gamer you are. But let's say you're playing a game, totally invested in it, feeling emotional about the consequences - let's say a multiplayer game like Super Smash Brothers, and you're playing against your friend, and it hits you: "That's not me! And that's not my friend! We're pretending! There's no reason to hurt each other or try to win, because it's completely made up." This actually happened to me once as I was going through some of the early stages of awakening, and it was a wonderful insight that I could refer to in many situations.

Because! The same principle actually applies to our identification with the external, waking world. Think of the external world (this is ONLY a metaphor) as a video game screen. In order for it to be "on," you need: 1. A working body, 2. Oxygen, 3. Some food to keep the body running, 4. The laws of physics and whatnot, and 5. You have to be awake. --Otherwise it's effectively in "standby" mode.

Now, the same way that we project ourselves outward onto a screen, we also project outward onto the world. You might get a paper graded... an A: You feel happy. You get an F: you feel sad. But really, why identify? It's a piece of paper with a letter on it. So fucking arbitrary! Even the name on the paper isn't really you. You could change your name to something else, even erase your prior identity, but are you a new person? Nah. There is something deeper inside that is not inherently identified with or bound to the events, the symbols, the signs, the entities, the bodies of the world. It is, however unconsciously, a choice we make to *become* the things on the screen or in the world. Because we think it's in our best interest to identify. We think that without identification, things will go to ruin.

I have an example to contradict this thinking, from just last night.

So, I live in Ohio, and it was a pretty cold evening, and I was freezing. I was walking with a friend who was also freezing. My instinct was to tense up my muscles, walk rigidly, do all the normal stuff we do when we're cold. I don't know what exactly happened, but something in me decided to stop interfering with the cold. I pulled out of identification with the coldness and let the animal that is the human being manage its own condition. As I did this, a flood of insights and a sense of freedom poured into my experience. I was, by not identifying with my body, suddenly able to allow it to handle the cold in the way that it best knows how. We don't trust the animal self, but it actually does things VERY, VERY well... INCLUDING, making music. If you already have musical inclinations, it's probably in your genetics or DNA to feel rhythms and melodies, and if you were to cease identification with the animal, and see what it's capable of, you might be amazed at what it can do. How complexly, organically, spontaneously, it can develop melodies, rhythms, and other auditory beauty.

I'm still amazed by that experience from last night, and I'm not the best story teller, so I'm not sure I made my point as well as I wanted to, but the fact is, that the presence of the "I" - that which attempts to control, was inhibiting the body's organic ability to handle cold quite well. I was just observing it at this point, instead of interfering. And unlike Mario, the body keeps doing things even when nobody's controlling it.

Tell me how well you understand what I've written, about identification.

Wishing you well and I'm so sorry if I missed you. I will be in touch daily this week.

Kian

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ealow1
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby ealow1 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:08 am

I think I understand what you’re saying. I live in Arizona and once had to endure 60 degree weather in California (TORTURE) and had a similar experience. I was miserable until I relaxed and chose to just experience the sensations as sensations. I don’t remember what happened after that, probably because I stopped worrying about it and just hung out.

I have one hang-up - how do you tell if a choice being made is made by you, the animal, or the mind? (if they’re even different?) It seems like if I received a paper with an F on it, the animal might think, “Getting an F means it will be harder to get a job, and I need a job to get food and shelter,” which are needs that the animal is concerned with. Does that make sense? Or would the animal just accept the situation and work with it automatically like being in a cold environment?

Hope your holiday went well - no worries!
Erica

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Space
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Re: guidance, please!

Postby Space » Thu Jan 02, 2014 4:43 am

Hi Erica,

As long as the little self is the constant focus of attention, there will inevitably be concern for money, food, and shelter. When the illusory self no longer dominates perception, the mind stops thinking like a little self, and incredibly creative and diverse solutions to problems can arise spontaneously. As is, the little self is entirely dependent on society's methods for survival and well-being, which are unfortunately extremely limiting. Your questions about decision-making are very closely related to what we are going to get into this week, so let's see if you can find your own answers about making choices.

Let's return to the video game analogy, because I want you to experiment with this. Let's say you are playing a video game when the character that you are controlling is suddenly threatened by something. Why does this fake entity excite a reaction in us? Because there is identification. Temporarily, the character has become an extension of the I-principle. The "I" exerts control (makes decisions) based on some very narrow parameters (pleasure-pain principle). But many of the pleasures and pains it seeks and avoids are actually arbitrary, they're not natural, or inherent to living, so we end up with a slew of uniquely unnecessary desires (and disappointments) and unnecessary fears (and avoidance strategies) which clog up our experience of life as a flowing, trustworthy, and beautiful thing.

In this experience of identifying with the video game character, where is the "I" coming from? You must agree, of course, that the character is not you. But it is becoming an extension of you. How does this happen, and where does it come from? Look with your eyes, not your mind, and try to answer how we project the self onto things that are not-self, and what the self is.

Kian


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