ardacigin

How To Manage Sadness, Depression and Neutrality On The Spiritual Path

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Posted (edited)

Some spiritual practitioners often look at celebrities and famous people on social media. See them socializing. Traveling to different places. Doing variety of activities. Laughing and enjoying life.

And then they look at their own lives. Trying to meditate every day. Not feeling joy and happiness. Struggling. Feeling boredom and sadness. Not concentrating. Not feeling enough equanimity. And they hear monks and awakened people say: 'Meditation can induce unconditional happiness'

And you think

'Well, I can't even cultivate happiness and joy. This whole process is really dry, involves a lot of suffering and simply not that fun. Maybe unconditional happiness is possible for spiritual experts. But from where I'm standing, meditation results in states of no-mind and neutrality. I do experience some tranquil states but there is no happiness and joy. This is one of the reasons I've started this path and I can't even make myself happy. I feel sleepy, dull and neutral most of the day. In fact, I get more depressed after I've started meditation than before. I'm going to quit. What is wrong with me?'

If this is what you are thinking, I'm here to help you and show you one of the ways that helped me manage these sorts of negative ruminations and overall negative mind states.

Ever since I've understood how joyful states work and how to cultivate in the nervous system, I've found the answer to managing sadness, depression and neutrality one encounters on the spiritual path. If you've started to path to reduce suffering, then this is going to be a significant and powerful development towards that goal. Not only we will be reducing suffering but also increasing satisfaction one experiences from pleasurable sensations.

If you have extreme problems like 'The Dark Night', then cultivating joyful states may not help without prior training. I've never experienced such intensities so I don't have much advice about that. But if you have the common spiritual depression I've mentioned above, then the jhana practice has the potential to transform your emotional states and be that 'solution' you are looking for.

You don't need awakening per se to feel happier in your life. You don't even need awakening to feel RADICALLY happier in your life. Happiness is just an emotion. It can be cultivated skillfully with the right concentration, mindfulness and jhanic practices. You can take this conditioned positive state to an anti-depressant level (and also beyond) and let it pervade your not entire life (not just when you meditate).

Here is my latest post explaining how to do this: 

 

Also here is Culadasa's lectures on jhanas. Jhanas are actually culminations of the samatha practice. 

 

Just know that this depression is a negative mental state you've cultivated for decades. Or maybe it is neutrality for you (not equanimity). But joy is a distinct and highly positive emotional state. Its cultivation will result in an overall increase in one's happiness.

How can one glean more satisfaction from pleasures? Well, this is one way. 

Hope this inspires some of you who are feeling depressed and feel like spirituality is not helping you.

 

Edited by ardacigin

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The word jhana actually comes from the verb jhapeti meaning "to burn up", the reason being: It burns up the defilements, the causes of unhappiness.

Jhana is amazing and I don't even know if I've fully entered it yet. I'm definitely getting some sweet piti & sukha from my concentration practice and I still feel it linger hours after I finish my sitting.

@ardacigin How has accessing jhana been for you lately? May I ask how long it takes you to get into it?

 

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5 hours ago, Maya_0 said:

The word jhana actually comes from the verb jhapeti meaning "to burn up", the reason being: It burns up the defilements, the causes of unhappiness.

Jhana is amazing and I don't even know if I've fully entered it yet. I'm definitely getting some sweet piti & sukha from my concentration practice and I still feel it linger hours after I finish my sitting.

@ardacigin How has accessing jhana been for you lately? May I ask how long it takes you to get into it?

 

Hi. Piti and sukkha is the hallmark of the 1st and 2nd jhana. Piti is the mental state of joy. Sukkha is the happiness or pleasant sensations that arise due to piti. 2nd jhana requires less effort and more awareness. It can be cultivated effortlessly after stage around stage 8 in TMI.

About 5 days ago, I've experienced a relatively intense version (SSRI intensity) of the 2nd jhana for about 6-7 hours straight. The next day, I also had a comparable intensity. After 2 days of hardcore dopamine rush, I've managed to maintain a more low-moderate level of sukkha and joy.

It doesn't take any time for me to get to 1st or 2nd jhana. Maybe a 2-3 mins at most. I wake up in the morning with a jhana and go to bed cultivating the jhana. There is always some level of sukkha and piti all day. This is why I call this the SSRI effect.

The only issue for me is dullness. In the case of getting sleepy (which doesn't occur that often), sukkha subsides significantly due to less energy in the mind. In fact, sukkha (that feeling of happiness) arises really intensely not in meditation but while I'm talking to people or thinking about stuff. In the 2nd jhana, the more I diffuse my tight concentration from the breath and widen my awareness, the more effortless and intense this sukkha arises in the mind. 

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5 hours ago, Maya_0 said:

Jhana is amazing and I don't even know if I've fully entered it yet. I'm definitely getting some sweet piti & sukha from my concentration practice and I still feel it linger hours after I finish my sitting.

Well, this is awesome. If this piti and sukkha somewhat stable once you meditate, that is the first jhana. Try to cultivate it more. To experience this consistently in daily life, you need the effortlessness of the 2nd jhana. To do that relax the effort from time to time and see if the mental state of piti maintains its strength.

Before I've had this experince I did a 4 hour mindfulness session. Everything changed after that. Something shifted in my nervous system and this whole jhana practice of cultivating pleasure and joy became effortless and relatively easy. I just woke up an hour ago with some level of sukkha. Now I've effortlessly increased it to a moderate level while writing this.

 

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Posted (edited)

10 hours ago, ardacigin said:

About 5 days ago, I've experienced a relatively intense version (SSRI intensity) of the 2nd jhana for about 6-7 hours straight. The next day, I also had a comparable intensity. After 2 days of hardcore dopamine rush, I've managed to maintain a more low-moderate level of sukkha and joy.

Woah how did you have an intense jhana for that long? Did you sit down for 6 hours?

I'm really happy to say that I just got into jhana! I was just sitting for over an hour playing with it. I never sit for that long.

I got my concentration really strong focusing on my breath, piti and sukha appeared after 20 minutes, mostly in my head region. I couldn't find any gross pleasant sensations but dropped the breath and tried scanning my hands for a pleasant sensation. Kept my attention on my palm but nothing. Went back to my breath to pump up my concentration again. I put on a big smile. Found a tingly sensation between my palm and fingers, held my attention on it. Then in seconds the pleasure wrapped up my whole body, it felt like I was in a bubble haha. There was no effort needed to maintain too. It was the strangest thing and felt amazing!😁

Edited by Maya_0

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Maya_0 said:

Woah how did you have an intense jhana for that long? Did you sit down for 6 hours?

The mind blowing thing was it was effortlessly maintained in daily life. I wasn't even sitting :D

I still effortlessly maintain sukha and piti but those first 2 days was ORGASMIC levels of sukha and piti. Like hardcore dose of anti-depressant constantly hitting your head. You constantly feel this giggly happiness. 

Nowadays, it is moderate-low levels of joy effortlessly cultivated. This is still great. My only problem is dullness and I still don't know how to deal with the loss of meditative joy with dullness. Neutral tranquility sets in and joy disappears. Thankfully I rarely get dull in daily life. I'll just continue to cultivate joy and hopefully I'll figure out what to do with dullness in the meantime.

I also primarily experience the happiness and pleasure in my head area. Once I supplement that with a smile, I can get a low-moderate levels of pleasant sensations. If I don't strive, energize the mind and put my attention with stability, it goes intense and I can cultivate it effortlessly. 

1 hour ago, Maya_0 said:

I got my concentration really strong focusing on my breath, piti and sukha appeared after 20 minutes, mostly in my head region. I couldn't find any gross pleasant sensations but dropped the breath and tried scanning my hands for a pleasant sensation. Kept my attention on my palm but nothing. Went back to my breath to pump up my concentration again. I put on a big smile. Found a tingly sensation between my palm and fingers, held my attention on it. Then in seconds the pleasure wrapped up my whole body, it felt like I was in a bubble haha. There was no effort needed to maintain too. It was the strangest thing and felt amazing!😁

That is FANTASTIC. Quite similar to what I experience. Keep it up and you can maintain that intensity in daily life too. That is when this whole spiritual path starts to get sweet. And this is only the start for us. Even if we've mastered these jhanas and let them infuse our daily life, there is still awakenings to be had and more to be conscious of.

I'm really starting to appreciate these joyful states and I'll be focusing on skillful cultivation for a few more months until I feel confident that I start to literally 'live' in meditative joy.

I'll also try to learn the 3rd and 4rth jhana after I go deep and integrate the sukha and piti of jhana 1 and 2. I don't feel rushed at all because jhana 1 and 2 is already pretty sweet and satisfying for me. 

Let me explain how nice it is with an example: If someone was given the option to experience this level of meditative joy everyday for long hours (like I do these past 6 days) but be forced to give up 5 years of their lives, they would choose the meditative joy. EASILY. It increases one's fulfillment out of life in terms of momentary quality so much that it is worth giving up 5 years of ordinary consciousness with suffering.

Hope this motivates you :) 

Edited by ardacigin

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33 minutes ago, ardacigin said:

The mind blowing thing was it was effortlessly maintained in daily life. I wasn't even sitting :D

I still effortlessly maintain sukha and piti but those first 2 days was ORGASMIC levels of sukha and piti. Like hardcore dose of anti-depressant constantly hitting your head. You constantly feel this giggly happiness. 

That's so amazing! I can report the same here but to a lesser degree. Hours after, I still feel some of the jhanic happiness linger. I just went for a walk outside and was feeling like I was walking on a cloud and was laughing and smiling for no reason. There was something nostalgic about it too, like it reminded me of my childhood and being a child in some strange way. I often find concentration practice brings up those forgotten fond memories from the past and jhana really reified those memories. I find it so interesting. 

I definitely want to make this my new baseline emotional state if I can so I too will be playing with these states for the next while. I agree with you that it's worth it to give up 5 years of your life to live with this sort of happiness & joy. I see it's so beneficial. Everyone should be practicing jhanas!

Also, something I found funny:  In the in the suttas, jhana is described as "the end of the world", because it's the end of believing happiness comes from sense pleasures. It's so true. Oh what the world would be if people would stop believing happiness is found in the objects of the world! 

 

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If one wants to experience more joy, why not just do the things you enjoy doing?

Jhana seems unnecessary

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, ivory said:

If one wants to experience more joy, why not just do the things you enjoy doing?

Jhana seems unnecessary

The mediative joy's fundamental insight is that the joy is unconditionally cultivated with regards to external circumstances. It is still a conditioned state (like all samatha states are) but once you generate the joy, it can be maintained effortlessly regardless of external circumstances. This is the foundation of unconditional happiness.

I've realized these past 7 days that I've been cultivating dry, neutral, dull and negative mind states 80% of my day and I wasn't aware how much suffering I was experiencing due to that. Now I wake up in the morning, not groggy and tired but with joy and equanimity. My craving for sensory pleasures like coffee, video games, music etc. have been reduced to a healthy degree. I still can do them and enjoy them but I'm already in a happy place. This relationship with craving can be a foundational insight towards awakening. So this is not a separate practice from meditation, insight practice or self enquiry.

Also, you are developing awareness and concentration with joy. The other advantage is you are meditating on mind states. Introspective awareness which is THE most important form of awareness for awakening is being developed as you constantly keep in touch with joy in the mind.

Jhana practice is not only intrinsically pleasurable and rewarding, can induce unconditional happiness if stabilized and also has the potential for awakening and insight if practiced in a skillful way. This is the culmination of samatha practice due to mind unification. Cultivation of meditative joy must be one of every samatha practitioner's goals as they progress on the path of insight. The likelihood of awakenning is increased in a state of joy. 

This is a very specific kind of joy. Different from what you experience when you do things you enjoy. Hope this clarified the  your confusion :) 

Edited by ardacigin

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Posted (edited)

22 minutes ago, SriBhagwanYogi said:

@ardacigin What do you think about being aware of the breath even when talking with someone or working daily jobs 

If it is effortless, then that is great. It is basically TMI practice. But I've observed that both jhanic meditative joy and breath can be simultaneously experienced with attention and awareness. It is better and more wholesome to experience the meditation object with at least some amount of perceptible joy. 

The spontaneous arising of Joy is an important event in the progress of meditation practice, the final stages in particular. The 8th stage involves being able to consistently experience the full development of Meditative Joy. Meditative Joy, sometimes referred to as rapture, is one of the Seven Factors of Awakening taught by the Buddha:

1. Energy (viriya); 2. Investigation of phenomena (dhamma vicaya); 3.Concentration (samadhi); 4. Mindful Awareness (sati);

5.Joy  (piti); 6. Tranquility (passaddhi); and 7. Equanimity (upekkha).

It can be said that, “Awakening is the result of

an energetic (1) investigation of phenomena (2) by a mind that is skilled in concentration (3) and mindful awareness (4), and imbued with the qualities of joy (5), tranquility (6), and equanimity

Edited by ardacigin

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