Showing posts with label Chad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chad. Show all posts


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    Someone shared a nice personal bio in Angelo’s group, “Awakening, Realization and Liberation”
    “In my late teens I was chronically depressed and not functioning like other people my age. My parents brought me to a psychiatrist who soon informed me that I was in the prodromal phase of schizophrenia. The way it felt was like, “You’re not exactly schizophrenic but you’re such a piece of shit we’re going to load you with this awful brain poison, just to be safe. Also, if you don’t take the drugs, terrible things will definitely happen.” I was abruptly deprived of my ADHD medication and put on antipsychotics, anti-anxiety medication, and anti-side-effect medication. It was nothing but side-effects with no relief whatsoever. The cessation of ritalin killed the person I had taken myself to be. The effect of the antipsychotic was like a lobotomy. I had severe akathisia. It was torture. The doctor told me that my condition was likely to deteriorate and that people really don’t recover from this, so I saved anti-anxiety medication for a few months and then took it all at once with whatever other drugs I had on hand in an attempt to end my life.
    During my stay in the hospital I was formally diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Shortly after getting out I tried to kill myself again by asphyxiation with propane. When I woke up in the hospital, everything seemed different and unreal, and staff who had seen me there previously told me that I was different. I thought a part of me must not have survived. I tried a more credible overdose after that, but I was afraid so I called for an ambulance. When I stopped taking the medications and their effects subsided, the urgent need to die went with it, so I tried other things instead. When the hallucinations, bizarre delusions, and paranoia that I never had to begin with failed to return, I was referred for a neuropsychological evaluation following which the diagnosis was changed to Asperger's syndrome.
    I started going for long walks at night, paying attention to the sound of my footsteps, trying to make them silent. I became consumed with the question, "If to have lived and died is ultimately the same for me as never having been born, why should I go on living?" Over several months, the question seemed to take over my body, so that my vision was narrow and clouded and I was deaf to the people around me. The only thing that mattered was finding a reason to live. At some point, the question began to consume itself. I wondered what was the original function of that manner of inquiry, the real meaning of "Why?" I wondered how the first person who ever asked had used the question. An ultimate reason had to be something solid and real, not contingent, but for a reason to be a reason depends on a demand for justification. As I attempted to trace its origin, that solid monolithic block of ‘Why’ dissolved into a shifting web of contingencies. The thousand pound weight in my heart fell away suddenly, all at once. For three months the depression and anxiety were totally gone. I did not need a reason to live. I could sit on the porch steps and watch bees dance among the flowers. It was obvious that there were no questions that needed to be answered.
    Since I found relief through uprooting a single belief I had not known was there, I viewed inquiry into fundamental views as a way to freedom from anxiety and depression. I explored other ways of revealing and loosening hidden views, like watching foreign movies to see other ways of viewing the world, reading short stories and listening to unfamiliar forms of music, listening to psychology and sociology lectures and podcasts on skepticism and critical thinking. I heard on a podcast that Buddhist monks were supposedly the happiest people in the world, based on an interpretation of some brain scans or something, so I started to look into that.
    I read a number of books by Thich Nhat Hanh and followed his instructions closely. I practiced mindfulness with breathing from the moment I woke up in the morning until the moment I fell asleep at night for several months and started having glimpses of a quiet brightness in the senses that encouraged me to keep up the practice. I had no other aim than to just do it and see what happens. There was no thought of awakening. As I read more about Buddhism I became curious about what a self is, or whether there really is such a thing. I read an essay by Derek Parfit called Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons that helped to clarify what I took myself to be. I clarified the sense of self in the body, attending to it, particularly in the heart and in the head, for every waking moment, watching how it changed throughout the day while anchoring my attention in the breath.
    When I came across Dogen's Genjokoan, the following lines stood out, "To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening." While I was out for a walk, contemplating Derek Parfit's teleportation experiment and wondering about the self that carries forward and experiences the world or the self that is destroyed by teleportation, it occurred to me that there's no meaningful sense in which that kind of self can be said to exist if it’s not discernible. When I looked, it was clear that what appears and the seeing of it are not actually two different things. Dogen isn’t talking about a special state, it’s already like that! The sense of self that’s discernible is neither a self nor does it carry forward. Nothing discernible carries forward. Since a self that carries forward is not discernible, what does this ‘carrying forward’ consist of? The question of whether there really is such a thing as a self was resolved, so I saw no further need to inquire into the matter.
    A week or so later, after a long walk, I laid down on my bedroom floor and became spontaneously absorbed in the pulse in my neck. Soon I felt it from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. Then there was just this pulsing and nothing else. Then, the pulse became a smooth, high-pitched energy, no pulsing; I could no longer feel my heart beating and there was no sense of a physical body. “Is this death?” A single thought arose, “You’ve suffered enough.” I accept, let go, complete release. The structure of reality dropped away: no mind, no body, no size, no distance, no center, no borders, no time, no space. The sense of 'here' was shown to be redundant by its failure to occur. A real ‘here’ would have to be fundamental to the structure of perception; a ‘here’ that can disappear is empty. I had no further doubts that what Dogen and Buddha talked about is a direct expression of this, because I could see with their eyes, because there is no one who sees.
    Everything eventually returned to mostly normal except the wall between the world and the top of my head was gone. I thought it might be some form of psychosis. Feelings no longer seemed threatening. Desire was no longer compelling. I was no longer morbidly self-conscious. I let my family take photos for the holidays, something I had refused for years. It became clear how much our lives revolve around building and maintaining a self-image, and that even the best possible self-image is not better than nothing. Affirming any status for ourselves sets up a corresponding doubt, in that any notion of being is only meaningful in relation to the possibility of its absence. Without this doubt, it would never occur to me that anything could be added or taken away that would make me any more or less whole and complete. And since I am always already, spontaneously and without reflection, just-as-I-am, what need could there be to cultivate or preserve a self-image? It’s hard to say what changed, since it was always like this, except that I could see my own confusion more clearly and not take it so seriously. Though I tried living the same as before, playing video games and watching movies, it gradually became clear that I had no other interest than to fully actualize and embody liberation in this life.
    About a year and a half after that, I moved into my own apartment and began to meditate more intensively. I started meditating 2 hours a day, 3, 4, 5 hours a day, 8 hours, 10 hours a day. The practice was observing the three characteristics through bodily sensations. It was an effortful practice. I kept going in this way for nine months, determined to resolve whatever needed to be resolved, until I felt exhausted and I drifted into a more intuitive investigation of the senses. I began to explore the relationship between contractions in the body and the clarity of the senses. I would lie on the ground face down, staring at moss and dirt, or gaze at dead leaves while clarifying the visual field. There seemed to be a kind of blur or distortion, like a veil whenever there was any contraction in the body. I would touch the contraction lightly in the body while clarifying the leaf by spreading attention through it, in the details, the veins, small shadows on ridges, or let the light shine through like a stained glass window. At first my vision would wobble and flicker and slowly it would become vivid and luminous, then I would allow the whole field of sounds, smells, and sensations to be included. The energy in the body would become lighter and lighter until that contraction disappeared into pure sensory immersion. I spent some time every day lying on the couch gazing at clouds unfolding in the window. I stood still outside for hours letting the sound of distant traffic hear itself while the contractions in the body dissipated.
    The distinction between non-dual experience and some other kind of experience gradually dissolved and became meaningless, with the seamless continuum between 'non-dual' experience and... and what? A sense of separation can no more separate anything from anything than drawing a line around your neck can separate your head from your body. The sense of separation is itself seamless with the whole world. The “clarification” was fashioning a “clarified” experience. It's not that a perception of a blur or dullness, or distortion of the senses is a broken form of clarity; even when dull, it is vividly so. When I noticed the dull, unfocused 'periphery' is not less present or immediate than a perception of clarity, I stopped trying to make the senses clear, the contractions fell away, and everything was naturally how I had previously tried to make it by ‘ironing out the wrinkles’ of perception. This is clarification through release; everything just naturally appears however it does, the appearance and its clarity being one and the same, it never varies in degree. That is, an appearance cannot come into clarity because its clarity is not other than just this appearance, as it is. It’s like Sengcan says, “Just let things be in their own way and there will be neither coming nor going.”
    There were clear pointers coming from multiple channels at this time (2012), particularly the Awakening to Reality blog and Soh Wei Yu’s facebook group. Reading Tilopa’s Mahamudra Instructions to Naropa and Hsin Hsin Ming something clicked and meditation became natural and effortless. By “natural and effortless” I don’t mean comfortable. “Letting go” was no longer a strategy for making feelings called "holding'' go away. Since holding has no way of holding and nothing to hold, "holding" is not actually holding to begin with, thus "letting go" is letting phenomena liberate themselves, as they always already do. The sense of trying to manage or regulate experience in any way faded.
    I started koan training with some Zen teachers in 2015, then stopped for a few years before resuming in 2020. I met Angelo in early 2020 and later started doing emotion work with Violet. My heart is not blown wide open like Angelo and Violet so it seems there is more to investigate. There remains a stale wind of self that is far from a compelling illusion but it's a bit like walking around with dog shit in my treads.”


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