View Full Version : Mindfulness and the “Brightly Shining Mind”.


Kunga Dorji
03-01-11, 09:31 PM
In recent years “Mindfulness” has become a popular and highly effective tool in management of those states our society chooses to call mental illness.


This movement is gathering pace and is accruing a rapidly expanding body of evidence to support its effectiveness. While this is of great value, and is undoubtedly bringing great benefit to many of us it is important to remember that the ultimate aims of mindfulness practice are far grander and infinitely more powerful than mere relief of symptoms of a rather ill conceived entity called mental illness.


The broader tradition to which I now very proudly belong makes the much more radical claim that we can fundamentally shift our relationship to pain and difficulty in a way that permanently puts us personally out of the reach of suffering and alters our behaviour in away that is beneficial to everyone we meet. That tradition has many names and many “shop fronts” such as traditional religions but can now be more broadly discussed under the umbrella term of “The Human Potential Movement”. To us members of that movement extinction of the “symptoms of mental illness” is not enough. Neither is even Martin Seligman's concept of “Flourishing”. What we are really after is full awakening.


One of the most important assertions of all the manifestations of this movement is the inherent perfection of our inner nature. This is an understanding that all of our dysfunctionality is an “added extra” the result of a misunderstanding of who we really are. The bottom line is that this approach asserts that this place of comfort , and of unshakeable happiness and functionality is reachable by any of us in this lifetime.


The key understanding is that our true nature is one of “pristine awareness” otherwise known in some circles as the “brightly shining mind” .In Tibetan it is known as rigpa. Furthermore this awareness is at the heart of every conscious being's true nature no matter how dysfunctional we seem.


This radical assertion may sound somewhat “out there” to the average ADD sufferer- but the truth is we have all experienced momentary glimpses of this state from time to time. Usually though, we think it was something that was brought on by causes and conditions external to us. This idea is half right- a particular set of circumstances combined for a moment the fog parted and our true self manifested. What is important is to be able to de- couple that experience from the circumstances in which we became aware of it and to realise that that experience has been the common thread behind every happy moment in our lives.


Early in my recovery I started becoming aware that many of my good moments had an uncanny resemblance to descriptions I had heard of transcendental states. I remember, a few weeks into treatment, a moment where all the chatter in my head was completely stilled and of simply being intensely aware of the sunlight shining through my office window and the detail of the soft green spring growth outside the window. At that point I understood that my “Doors of Perception” were about as wide open as they had ever been. From that time on I have conceived of my ADD as being something completely external to my inner self ( whatever that may be) and have understood that this clear vivid blissful in the moment experience is in fact our true native state and our true birthright.


Once I started to see my ADD as being external to myself I quickly became aware that my “ADD” was not a discrete solid entity but was more a confluence of habits and patterns of behaviour that arose in dependence on my circumstances and my relationships. I started to learn to dissect and dismantle it. Increasingly as I become more skilful at this task I become aware again and again of repeated moments of brilliant awareness. The most useful tool by far in this process has been cultivating the skill and habit of mindfulness which can also be known as ”noticing”.


My decision to adopt this idea of “original perfection” as a working hypothesis on which to base all my actions was originally one of pure pragmatism. The idea, of course runs deeply against the grain of Western cultural habits and one can find no evidence for it from any of our scientific institutions. However the idea is one that has the support of many thousands of documented reports of years of individual personalised experimentation by the many spiritual masters who have decided to make the space of their minds their own personal laboratory. That the results of these individual experiments has come up with consistent and compatible results has been clearly documented by the scholarship of Aldous Huxley in his book “The Perennial Philosophy”.


Having said this my approach to the issue was to act as though I believed it was true and to work to deepen my understanding of the idea, and to enhance my internal stillness and observation skills through mindfulness training so that I could see for myself. The bottom line for me is that this approach has transformed my life. As I became more observant I became aware of the devastating effect of the background neck pain issue that I have discussed elsewhere. I also was alert enough to observe the radical changes brought about by its effective treatment. My mindfulness practice led directly into becoming much more observant of those times when overwhelmed by an impulsive emotional response I would speak or act in haste and regret at leisure. The outcome of this is very straightforwards: I no longer need medication my marriage is better my kids are coping much better now their father is steadier and I am enjoying my work and getting good results. This is not a bad outcome- but it never would have been achievable if I had allowed my consciousness to be conditioned by the orthodoxy that ADD is an incurable neurobiological disorder. This outcome was only possible because I was courageous enough to ignore the chorus of people telling me that my actions were not in accordance with what they chose to describe as the evidence base.


One of the points that is often missed about serious mindfulness practice is that it is really deeply enjoyable ( SB has commented on this quite often). It is worthwhile returning here to the concept of “The Doors of Perception”. Our brains/ minds are very good at tuning into relevant information- information that signals change especially threatening change is given priority and constant background information is screened out.
The meditation teacher Stuart Mooney makes this comment on his personal website:


Scientists tell us that our sensory apparatus takes in about 400 million bits of information a second. But, out of this vast pool of information, our brains select out only 2000 bits of information to define as our moment to moment reality. There are Self-limiting Neural Networks in our brains that are responsible for this limitation. These Self-limiting Neural-nets are the physical expressions of our unconscious mind and they are responsible for the development of the "I" sense. The "I" sense is an expression of the lack of accurate sensory information available to our brains.


(http://stuartmooney.com (http://stuartmooney.com/))


These self limiting neural networks are effectively “The Doors of Perception”.


The mindfulness training I did is effectively a cut down version of Vipassana Buddhist mediation that has been separated from its religious context so that any person can use it without being unfaithful to his own traditions or beliefs. It focusses on body scanning and becoming mindful of physical sensation.
One of the effects of this technique when done well is that it effects a permanent re-activaiton of awareness of subtle body sensation. These sensations are the result of normal activation of sensory neurones picking up subtle signals about temperature and pressure over our skin. They are the sorts of sensations that our minds normally screen out because they are non threatening. What this means is that for the normal person the brain screens from conscious awareness a vast body of pleasant sensation. What nobody told me about doing this mindfulness technique was that it would leave me spending every moment of my day immersed in a sea of enjoyable physical sensation.


This is pleasing enough in the ordinary course of events- but yesterday I had the chance to have a break when I just found a sunny spot in the main public square in our city and had a beer in the sun. The experience was simply overwhelmingly enjoyable. The same can be said for eating dinner, making love, even just holding hands- whatever you are doing. All the experiences that we miss when our heads are full of worries and random thoughts are handed back to us with almost psychedelic intensity.

This intense experience of being fully in the moment in a compassionate relationship with ourselves and with others is very much the goal of serious mindfulness practice.



So from my point of view the experiment I embarked on when I accepted the idea of my “original perfection” as a working hypothesis on which to base my actions is yielding some very pleasing results. I am more than happy to accept the hypothesis that I have a long way to go before becoming awakened myself, and so can expect even greater improvements in life.



When considering the quality (not the content) of our moment to moment experience we should always be open to the idea of surpassing second best.

anonymouslyadd
03-01-11, 10:40 PM
Barli, I'm glad that you have found so much benifit with mindfulness and I'm interested in this tool as a means to help me with social anxiety.

This may not be the most important point from your post, but it makes me wonder. So, here I go. Are you saying that ADD is not an incurable nuerological disorder?

Kunga Dorji
03-02-11, 12:03 AM
Barli, I'm glad that you have found so much benifit with mindfulness and I'm interested in this tool as a means to help me with social anxiety.

This may not be the most important point from your post, but it makes me wonder. So, here I go. Are you saying that ADD is not an incurable nuerological disorder?

You do realise that if I answer that on this thread, the intent of my observations will be utterly derailed? :)

So I will avoid hijacking my own thread- however- if you look at the thread I posted yesterday we do know that mindfulness practice induces detectable neuroplastic changes in as little as 8 weeks.
I will pm you about my observations about the nature of ADD.

The essence of the first post though is that if I did not act as though I believed the condition was curable- I would not have done as well as I have. I think that is a valuable observation- though it will drive those people who believe in an absolute categorical truth right up the wall.


In the case of beliefs that are more nebulous and harder to prove what we believe is probably more important than the truth of the matter.
( Obviously that does not apply to mundane things like assuming one is - for instance- able to walk on water)
Look at this series of videos for more of the theory behind that claim:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3jPEWeQ38k

Kunga Dorji
03-02-11, 02:16 AM
Barli, I'm glad that you have found so much benifit with mindfulness and I'm interested in this tool as a means to help me with social anxiety.

This may not be the most important point from your post, but it makes me wonder. So, here I go. Are you saying that ADD is not an incurable nuerological disorder?

Response: version 2!

see above

The broader tradition to which I now very proudly belong makes the much more radical claim that we can fundamentally shift our relationship to pain and difficulty in a way that permanently puts us personally out of the reach of suffering and alters our behaviour in away that is beneficial to everyone we meet.


One of the most important assertions of all the manifestations of this movement is the inherent perfection of our inner nature.
Your question is best answered by that comment. We do not even need to buy into the mentality that constructed the "disease model" of mental illness to answer it.

That model has its uses- but so does the mystical model. I know which one works for me, so I know which one has earned my allegiance.

So far as the neurological basis of ADHD goes- even if that model is accepted- the evidence around neuroplasticity is clear cut- if there is a problem we need to learn the skills that will re- wire our brain.

Think a little about the tasks involved about mindfulness.

When you have considered it you may come to the conclusion that I came to: that in the "Mindfulness model"- ADHD can be described as "Mindlessness".

Fortunately Mindfulness teachers recognise that they are teaching a skill, and find that teaching that skill can be a source of great pleasure.

However- stimulants are proven to improve learning- so what better adjunct to Mindfulness treatment could you possibly conceive of?

confusedforever
03-09-11, 12:19 AM
thank you for sharing this! what you said was very interesting and insightful. i've tried practicing mindfulness before-- it's hard stuff! i felt like i could literally hear the billions of thoughts swirling in my very adhd brain! it was almost unbearable. having read your great results with mindfulness practice though, i'm kind of inspired to try again! :]

would you mind telling me how long you practiced mindfulness before you noticed the cognitive benefits in your adhd symptoms? it would be awesome to not have to rely on medication (or to rely on it very little) to manage daily tasks...

i am a graduate student in the psych field, so we are constantly being taught the "disease model" and how neurological conditions like adhd are essentially not "curable" and kind of stuck with you in the long run. it is definitely very eye-opening to hear another side of this perhaps true but kind of depressing "fact"!

i'm okay and willing to accept that adhd may be with me in the long run but it's certainly nice to have the hope that this "deficit" can somehow be "cured" or at least managed very effectively, even w/out medication (which has been hugely helpful for me).

thank you for your posts again!

Kunga Dorji
03-09-11, 07:57 AM
thank you for sharing this! what you said was very interesting and insightful. i've tried practicing mindfulness before-- it's hard stuff! i felt like i could literally hear the billions of thoughts swirling in my very adhd brain! it was almost unbearable. having read your great results with mindfulness practice though, i'm kind of inspired to try again! :]

would you mind telling me how long you practiced mindfulness before you noticed the cognitive benefits in your adhd symptoms? it would be awesome to not have to rely on medication (or to rely on it very little) to manage daily tasks...

i am a graduate student in the psych field, so we are constantly being taught the "disease model" and how neurological conditions like adhd are essentially not "curable" and kind of stuck with you in the long run. it is definitely very eye-opening to hear another side of this perhaps true but kind of depressing "fact"!

i'm okay and willing to accept that adhd may be with me in the long run but it's certainly nice to have the hope that this "deficit" can somehow be "cured" or at least managed very effectively, even w/out medication (which has been hugely helpful for me).

thank you for your posts again!

Thanks for the kind comments.
The mindfulness was quite hard at first- but it didn't take too long to start getting results. I find it really a very enjoyable, relaxing, ( and sensuous!) experience now. Plus- I like the people I am mixing with- and the way we support each other's practice.

Sometimes it is effective to just use the random thoughts as a focus for the meditation- sort of sit back as an observer and just notice the thoughts coming and going. It becomes very informative when you notice the away your face and body tense up and your breathing changes when you think about something stressful.Then you notice how the stressful thoughts become less compelling when you stop frowning and clenching your jaw. Then you start to carry that habit of muscular relaxation into your day to day life- and you get calmer and are less tired by the end of the day. Then- you become a mindfuness addict!

anonymouslyadd
03-09-11, 03:52 PM
I must derail your observations.:)

Kunga Dorji
03-09-11, 04:48 PM
I must derail your observations.:)

Oh Good, another opportunity to train in patience :)
That would be very kind of you ;)

anonymouslyadd
03-09-11, 05:27 PM
Barli, I tried the mindfulness thing, and it really helped. I had to keep on reminding myself with "mindfulness." I noticed a clearer mind and the ability to not follow those inattentive thoughts. Has this been your observation of the experience?

Plus, I was using a little xanax to help me. I understand now what you said when you realized your social anxiety was tied to the ADD (did I get this right). Please stay up on this thread. I value your opinion and appreciate your time.

Do you find that practicing mindfulness helps you be more productive throughout your day? By this I mean, are you able to accomplish more?

I'll try to throw you off another time.:p:D

anonymouslyadd
03-09-11, 05:33 PM
Also, when I notice those anxious feelings creeping up, I just say mindfulness. Can you relate to this Barli?

Kunga Dorji
03-10-11, 02:29 AM
Barli, I tried the mindfulness thing, and it really helped. I had to keep on reminding myself with "mindfulness." I noticed a clearer mind and the ability to not follow those inattentive thoughts. Has this been your observation of the experience?

Very much so.
Before the specific MiCBT therapy came up- I had already started coming to terms with this ADHD cycle that generates endless stuff ups and endless stress:
Ie One fails to attend attend to the current action ( ie one is not mindful of what one are doing).
The inevitable result: a stuff up- and consequences to attend to.

So- we move on to the next moment- and instead of dealing with what is now happening- we are fixing up the mess we just created- so we are not "in the moment" we are not attending to what we are doing- and we screw that up too- and we create more consequences. It is an endless, self sustaining cycle that just digs us into an ever deeper hole. That is life with ADD.

So - I had hit on this idea of "mindfulness of action" and started a routine of trying to be very formally mindful of the full consequences of every action- and to do a performance review after.

The end result of this process was that I was starting to see that under pressure I would lose the big picture and have my ability to attend destroyed by the emotional duress I felt in the situation.I really did not know what I could do about those sort of ingrained response patterns, but then landed on MiCBT- which focusses on moment to moment mindfulness of our emotional status- as it manifests in physical sensation.

Now the MiCBT talks about doing these intense half hour sessions, but then takes it into interpersonal interactions.

The bottom line is that as much as possible I attend first to the sensation coming from my body, and the information it tells me about how tired I am, whether my consciousness is being dominated by pain, and how much these 2 preexisting problems might mess with my ability to engage with the issue at hand.

Increasingly I take the attitude that if my moment is dominated by pain or fatigue I should just go and have a rest, and not try to interact with anybody until my consciousness can be loose enough to interact compassionately with others.

That is along answer- but, yes, to me the goal is to maintain continuous, unbroken metacognition- to always have a "little guy" on my shoulder asking- "Are you really engaging with what is happening now- or are you off in fairyland- or one of the other less pleasant fantasy states?"

Only 2 years ago- I would have thought this impossibly laborious and just a pain in the rear end- but that is not how it works out. I am having fun now- I just relate to anyone ( and I do mean anyone) else as equals. Lots of people are really nice to me, and I get lots of positive feedback and kindness from others in my day to day life. Despite all this supposed "effort and discipline"- life is more fun, and more rewarding.


You did. THis is well documented amongst the more insightful writers on ADHD ( the ones who actually have it themselves).
Mine went away really fast once I started medication and grasped that there were some situations in which my social skills were just fine - in the right situation. I found that very reassuring- and just stopping doubting myself fixed the problem.


[quote]
Do you find that practicing mindfulness helps you be more productive throughout your day? By this I mean, are you able to accomplish more?

I'll try to throw you off another time.:p:D

Yes- I pack a lot more in.
I am also way more able to disengage from stuff I see as unproductive.

The big thing is I don't stress as much.

I went to the dentist yesterday.
Normally _ I would have been a ball of tension, and gone away with a headache just from holding myself so tense while the hygeinist cleaned off all the plaque. The old outcome used to be that I would be wrecked for the rest of the day after a visit to the dentist. This time I just did relaxation exercises while being seen to - and got through the whole experience and actually enjoyed the fact that it had given me 1/2 an afternoon off!

Kunga Dorji
03-10-11, 02:35 AM
Also, when I notice those anxious feelings creeping up, I just say mindfulness. Can you relate to this Barli?

Very much so.

What you have done there is establish a tag in your mind that accesses all the positive feelings you experience while doing mindfulness.

This is actually how mantra based meditation works- we establish a brief mnemonic that triggers a whole library of memories- and the are all activated just by repeating the magic phrase.

I have several mantras of this sort. They act like mental bookends_ my thoughts nowadays can't get to stupid before one of these ideas emerges and challenges my thinking.

This is a very powerful technique. It is the sort of clever, lateral learning technique that us "attention difference hunter types" need to embrace more enthusiastically. It is something that Shamans have known about since pre-prehistory!

Kunga Dorji
03-10-11, 02:43 AM
Barli, I tried the mindfulness thing, and it really helped. I had to keep on reminding myself with "mindfulness." I noticed a clearer mind and the ability to not follow those inattentive thoughts.

A second response.
Normally when stressed we lock on to the negative thoughts and just have to wallow in them. We can't let them go, we just have to explore them. We are hooked.

In mindfulness we train in not elaborating on thoughts.

This does not mean that it is not appropriate to think things through. On the contrary- thinking and planning are important gifts that we humans have- but if we can't stop- we wear ourselves out. We need to train in stopping- so we can pull back in a crisis and just chill. We can then choose to explore the thought- or go off for abeer with our friends, and explore the issue tomorrow.

Thomas Brown talks about the executive function deficit in ADHD as being difficulty in focussing, sustaining and shifting attention. If we cannot shift our attention at will - we will always end up overloading our frontal lobes because we are always thinking about the last task while trying to deal with the current one. There is a limit to multitasking- and we ADDers lose sight of that.

anonymouslyadd
03-14-11, 05:21 PM
Barli, I did it again!!! I used mindfulness when I was walking through the town center near my place. I was able to bring my focus back on the present when I noticed anxiety creeping up. I'm so happy. Thanks man!!!!:D

anonymouslyadd
03-14-11, 10:52 PM
It's interesting watching the active users in this thread. It's me and two guests. I've found that the practice of mindfulness has helped me with social anxiety as I believe you spoke about before Barli.

The mindfulness practice is the best cure for my anxiety. I'm excited about it.

Kunga Dorji
03-15-11, 01:46 AM
It's interesting watching the active users in this thread. It's me and two guests. I've found that the practice of mindfulness has helped me with social anxiety as I believe you spoke about before Barli.

The mindfulness practice is the best cure for my anxiety. I'm excited about it.

Plenty of views though.
This mindfulness is good stuff- but it takes time to master it. I still find a few situations where my practice breaks down- (mostly when handling my kids- we are still stuck with some of the aftershocks from my hopeless parenting skills before my ADD was identified. We still sometimes slip back into that unhappy place.)
However- nowadays- those are isolated events- and because they are isolated it is easier to put them under the spotlight and plan some strategies to work around them.

anonymouslyadd
03-15-11, 01:52 AM
Plenty of views though.
This mindfulness is good stuff- but it takes time to master it. I still find a few situations where my practice breaks down- (mostly when handling my kids- we are still stuck with some of the aftershocks from my hopeless parenting skills before my ADD was identified. We still sometimes slip back into that unhappy place.)
However- nowadays- those are isolated events- and because they are isolated it is easier to put them under the spotlight and plan some strategies to work around them.

I think it can help me, and that's why I'll continue to put it into practice. I'm glad you posted this thread Barli. I'm gonna keep on posting observations and thoughts concerning being mindful, if you don't mind.

I've noticed, even very recently that my conversations with people have changed. Instead being in constant need of impressing or not knowing what the h*** to say, I'm staying in the moment and am ultimately more satisfied and confident in the conversation. This is very awesome Barli. Can't tell you how long it's been since I've felt this way one on one with someone.:D

anonymouslyadd
03-16-11, 08:38 PM
I practiced it again Barliman. I went to the mall to get a massage and had an enjoyable time talking to the masseuse. I was even joking with her. I picked up how to say a curse word too.

After this, I toured the mall looking for beautiful women. I was saying mindfulness inside the entire time. I walked with such confidence and pride in myself. You would have thought I was a Lion king. I was so ecstatic that I could walk with my head up being proud of who I am. I did get a little sleepy after a while, but that's because of boredom.

I'm going to keep it up!

Kunga Dorji
03-17-11, 04:09 AM
I practiced it again Barliman. I went to the mall to get a massage and had an enjoyable time talking to the masseuse. I was even joking with her. I picked up how to say a curse word too.

After this, I toured the mall looking for beautiful women. I was saying mindfulness inside the entire time. I walked with such confidence and pride in myself. You would have thought I was a Lion king. I was so ecstatic that I could walk with my head up being proud of who I am. I did get a little sleepy after a while, but that's because of boredom.

I'm going to keep it up!

"Your masseuse ?" !! I like the possessive pronoun! ( Also the "keeping it up")
I feel the same way about 'My' masseuse too btw- except that I loaned her to my wife.

"Mindfulness" can also be described as "noticing"- and it is surely sacrilege not to notice all the beauty in this world.

The challenge with mindfulness is to be mindful of all the good things- our brains are set to pick up the scary and ignore the nice.

It is time we took a stand against this "law of nature".

Refuse to be governed.

anonymouslyadd
03-18-11, 12:34 AM
Barliman, you gave me something to pay attention to while I practice my mindfulness. I began to look for beautiful things around me. The green grass and the green clothe that would have been used for a jacket.

I stand so much more confident in myself when I'm in practice. I've even begun to experience awesome feelings inside! Do you know how awesome this is?!

For too long, I spent time in anxious states, which I felt like I was floundering in water doing the doggy paddle, trying to take gasps of air. I'm a little more in control in my mindful state.

And, no I do not have a personal masseuse Barli! I wish I did, and I wish I had more time right now. I need to wrap this up, because my 15 minute timer is going off right now!

anonymouslyadd
03-20-11, 03:03 AM
Tonight was good. I went to a bar with this girl I'm dating. I've become accustomed to dancing with women even thought I'm uncomfortable. Tonight, I got the same anxiety as I've always gotten. OMG, I even remember what it was like when I was a kid, and I would get uncomfortable by a situation such as this. Anyway, I used mindfulness as a means to keep the anxiety at bay. So, not a cure, but it gave me the confidence to stand firm. In the end, I enjoyed myself much more.

I'm serious when I say, I saw girls watching me on the dance floor. Here I was like one or two guys out there with me. They didn't compare to what I was able to do!!!!!!!;)

laurajeanne
04-07-11, 06:48 PM
I can't even read this because I cannot concentrate on it because the television in the other room is on. I have not been diagnosed with ADD but I really do believe I have it. I have been diagnosed with PTSD but I believe this may be a misdiagnosis and that ADD has been causing my symptoms all along. I am trying to apply to grad school right now but I cannot even get through the application process. This sucks and I cannot get my doctor to prescribe anything that helps. She wants to use Antidepressant but I have been on every single one at some point in my life and none have ever helped, rather they did more damage than good. I don't know what to do and I cannot switch doctors since I have no health insurance. I'm miserable.

roseblood
04-12-11, 05:42 AM
Barliman, thanks for all your posts on this subject, I have a lot I want to say as well but I'll have to break it up, as you have. I don't agree with everything you've said in relation to all this but no matter, I'm very grateful for your sharing and thoughts and our differences are only academic in the context of using this tool to make positive changes.

I too have had the experience of initially thinking this could help me somewhat reduce the practical manifestations of an AD/HD brain, and reduce my anxiety and mood problems, and then realising that first of all there is evidence that it might actually change features of the AD/HD brain thought to make it an AD/HD brain, and more importantly that there was actually MUCH more potential than merely the elimination of the 'clinically significant distress and impairment' that Western medicine is designed to treat. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't have something to gain from this practice if they were capable of it, and most people would be.

The one concern I have about the increasing experimentation with mindfulness as therapy is that the doctors doing and promoting it are keen for obvious reasons to stress only its therapeutic value and remove it from its philosophical background, and so I think they themselves may not be aware of where more intensive mindfulness training can lead someone, or they might think it unlikely that anyone using it for therapy would take it that far anyway, and we just don't know that yet. As beneficial as it is, there are some very psychologically vulnerable people who ought to be fully informed about what the meditative path can entail, in case they enthusiastically throw themselves into it once they see more mundane changes.

I'm talking about the realisation of 'no-self', which in Buddhism comes under the 'stream entry' category of Enlightenment, and other drastic changes in perception that in the Western world have been described only within the context of Depersonalisation Disorder and Derealisation Disorder. While I've long believed intellectually (i.e. without actually feeling it on a day-to-day basis to be self-evident, as a stream entrant does) that the way most people conceive of a 'self' is illusory, a trick of the brain, and so actually aspire to eventually deconstruct my sense of self anyway, it's never crossed the minds of most people, and many don't like the idea. Stumbling upon it suddenly can be initially traumatic even for Buddhist monastics who knew that it was one of the things they were aiming for.

It's not unheard of for people to experience psychotic or manic episodes while on an intensive retreat involving forms of mindfulness meditation, including people who'd never had one before and don't have one again. I'm certainly not trying to scare anyone away from trying it, or be pessimistic, I just think everyone should be fully informed of the risks of any treatment they undertake, and one risk that I personally am happy to take is that at times, SERIOUS meditation training (I'm not talking about sparing twenty minutes each day for formal mindfulness exercises and increasingly incorporating those skills into your daily life - just those people who throw themselves into it whole-heartedly with regular, intensive retreats, and even then it usually takes many years) CAN be deeply unpleasant and even terrifying. The Dark Night of the Soul is one of the things Buddhist masters and other senior meditation teachers have to be able to guide their advanced students through.

Me personally? I'm prepared to try to break through that pain barrier, if it ever presents itself. Despite the strong improvement I've had so far, I'm a great distance from that point anyway, as as someone with AD/HD my base level of mindful concentration started at significantly below average. I've got to work my way up to average first. :D

Kunga Dorji
04-14-11, 08:17 PM
Barliman, thanks for all your posts on this subject, I have a lot I want to say as well but I'll have to break it up, as you have. I don't agree with everything you've said in relation to all this but no matter, I'm very grateful for your sharing and thoughts and our differences are only academic in the context of using this tool to make positive changes.

I too have had the experience of initially thinking this could help me somewhat reduce the practical manifestations of an AD/HD brain, and reduce my anxiety and mood problems, and then realising that first of all there is evidence that it might actually change features of the AD/HD brain thought to make it an AD/HD brain, and more importantly that there was actually MUCH more potential than merely the elimination of the 'clinically significant distress and impairment' that Western medicine is designed to treat. I can't think of anyone who wouldn't have something to gain from this practice if they were capable of it, and most people would be.

The one concern I have about the increasing experimentation with mindfulness as therapy is that the doctors doing and promoting it are keen for obvious reasons to stress only its therapeutic value and remove it from its philosophical background, and so I think they themselves may not be aware of where more intensive mindfulness training can lead someone, or they might think it unlikely that anyone using it for therapy would take it that far anyway, and we just don't know that yet. As beneficial as it is, there are some very psychologically vulnerable people who ought to be fully informed about what the meditative path can entail, in case they enthusiastically throw themselves into it once they see more mundane changes.

I'm talking about the realisation of 'no-self', which in Buddhism comes under the 'stream entry' category of Enlightenment, and other drastic changes in perception that in the Western world have been described only within the context of Depersonalisation Disorder and Derealisation Disorder. While I've long believed intellectually (i.e. without actually feeling it on a day-to-day basis to be self-evident, as a stream entrant does) that the way most people conceive of a 'self' is illusory, a trick of the brain, and so actually aspire to eventually deconstruct my sense of self anyway, it's never crossed the minds of most people, and many don't like the idea. Stumbling upon it suddenly can be initially traumatic even for Buddhist monastics who knew that it was one of the things they were aiming for.

It's not unheard of for people to experience psychotic or manic episodes while on an intensive retreat involving forms of mindfulness meditation, including people who'd never had one before and don't have one again. I'm certainly not trying to scare anyone away from trying it, or be pessimistic, I just think everyone should be fully informed of the risks of any treatment they undertake, and one risk that I personally am happy to take is that at times, SERIOUS meditation training (I'm not talking about sparing twenty minutes each day for formal mindfulness exercises and increasingly incorporating those skills into your daily life - just those people who throw themselves into it whole-heartedly with regular, intensive retreats, and even then it usually takes many years) CAN be deeply unpleasant and even terrifying. The Dark Night of the Soul is one of the things Buddhist masters and other senior meditation teachers have to be able to guide their advanced students through.

Me personally? I'm prepared to try to break through that pain barrier, if it ever presents itself. Despite the strong improvement I've had so far, I'm a great distance from that point anyway, as as someone with AD/HD my base level of mindful concentration started at significantly below average. I've got to work my way up to average first. :D

That is a very good response.
Do you mind if I pass it on to our Mindfulness Practitioner's support group?
I actually think it illuminates a question one practitioner raised about a severe "anxiety reaction" that occurred in the context of unsupervised practice by a patient who jumped ahead of the program.

The important thing in Mindfulness Integrated CBT- which I practice, is that the patient remains supported until they have reached a high level of stability and self efficacy- tested by questionnaires. We also always leave the door open for follow up.

My experience of the process so far is that most people like to continue at least a basic mindfulness practice and only one man so far has become deeply involved in the greater issue of deeper spirituality. He has gone so far in his personal progress that I am sure he will confidently handle

I know very well what you mean about the dangers of realisation of "No Self".
From my own experience- I sort of had discovered this myself some years ago, and initially was VERY disturbed by it, and clung to my identity as a husband, father, doctor (or whatever) and actually annoyed the crap out of everybody by insisting that they needed fathering, husbanding etc. I was effectively just trying to reify myself in the face of what seemed like an enormous existentialist chasm.

I have been thinking very hard about this and from what I see many people on the face of this Earth seem to be subjecteing themselves to mental practices that are the equivalent of high level Vajrayana Buddhist practice. The trouble is that most of us do not know that we are doing it, and do not know that these practices are regarded in Tibetan Buddhism as difficult, potentially risky, only to be offered to aspirants who have demonstrated they are ready for them, and then only in the context of a supportive, one to one relationship with a suitably qualified and committed teacher. No wonder a few of us implode on the way.

The funny thing is about the "no self" thing is it is not what it seems.
I think a good way to think about it is like this:
Under the conventional view of human behaviour, If I behave badly I think of myself as a bad person-thus blanking out from conscious awareness all the times I have done good things. The more skilful way to handle this is to recognise that all my attributes ( except maybe my core consciousness) are transitory and arise in response to the "causes and conditions" operative at the time.

In Jungian psychology this can be regarded as the equivalent of embracing ones shadow as well as one's persona, rather than fleeing from the shadow and reifying the persona.

Although the diagnosis of "ADHD" has been very good for me personally I have deep reservations about the whole "mental illness" model- which makes us all patients and clients of a superior caste of doctors and therapists. In reducing us to this status it disempowers us and leaves us weak and dependent- and this is not consistent with a deeper view of human dignity.

Personally I feel that the spiritual crisis model is much closer to the truth, and that we can borrow from the mental illness model if we need. It is of note that Shamanistic spirituality has a long tradition of use of psychoactive compounds including stimulants in its ceremonies, so there is an interesting crossover between the models at this level.

I am very much of the view that the whole DSM process can truly be regarded as a gambit in the battle for "naming rights over human suffering" as has been commented by people whose command of the English language leaves me awestruck.

Actually I think that ADHD is one manifestation of "The Dark Night of The Soul" and would reference William Johnston's book "The Mirror Mind" to support that assertion.
The chapter on "The Path of Affect" (emotion) as a path to "enlightenment' contains some descriptions that mirror my experience with my own ADHD perfectly.

Calochilus
04-15-11, 07:55 AM
Too soon to throw in the towel. You need to approach this from a position of power rathan a position of weakness. You have more knowledge than your doc regarding your situation, you just need to reassess that knowledge in terms of what is do-able.
You have indicated that sensitivity to sound is important. The fix can be easy. By hook or by crook, obtain a set of industrial noise reducing ear muffs. These will block out the greatest part of background noise but not interfere with you listening to words directly spoken to you. If you are more flash, you can get noise cancelling ear muffs which use electronic wizardry to eliminate some unpleasant sounds.
Ear muffs may not be chic but if the give you an advantage, take it.
If you have hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound) you may also be sensitive to light (photophobic) . It is worth playing around with different types of anti-glare glasses. For straight photophobia, what photographers refer to as neutral grey may be best but they might also cost arms and legs unless you are a dedicated thrift shopper. The Irlen concept of Scotopic Sensitivity may play a role here, experiment with different coloured overlays across your reading material (or play with the colour settings on your computer to give variously coloured text on contrasting coloured backgounds. If this helps then it may be worth the effort to chase an Irlen practitioner for professional advice (I couldn't afford it and have made do with pot luck, my colours are in the blue-green range, common in sunglasses and in Windows computer operating systems).
You may also be sensitive to touch, choice of clothes can make a significant difference, I wear either short sleeves or tightly buttoned sleeves as I cannot stand the flapping sensations of loose clothing around my wrists (this is not so much an ADHD trait as an Aspie one).
All of these sensitivities are related to the ADHD issue of salience and loss of inhibition. The neural system has not developed discrimination between important and unimportant inputs (salience) and has not learned to discard or nullify the unimportant (inhibition). Thus all your sensory systems are in "go" mode all of the time. All this is affected by downregulated GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) inhibitory neural circuits.
There are a number of food substances which can be excitatory (or even excitotoxic), these include casein (giving casomorphin) compounds from milk, gluten and gliadin from grains, monosodium glutamate and aspartame amongst many others. A good test is to go cold turky on a profoundly restricted diet for at least a week and reintroduce the least problematic foods first
see http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/failsafe.htm (it is Australian)
If you feel that your system is overstimulated (anxiety, exagerated startle reflex, hyperacusis, photophobia etc ) then rather than antidepressants, you need to be looking at increasing the levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. this can be done using OTC GABA or medications that are GABA agonists or synergists. It can also be helped by relaxation therapies, guided meditation, Mindfulness and just plain convivial conversation. As you are miseable (quote :-) ) the sanest place to start is good conversation, good friends, good coffee/tea/beverage of choice and last but not least, good chocolate cake.
R



I can't even read this because I cannot concentrate on it because the television in the other room is on. I have not been diagnosed with ADD but I really do believe I have it. I have been diagnosed with PTSD but I believe this may be a misdiagnosis and that ADD has been causing my symptoms all along. I am trying to apply to grad school right now but I cannot even get through the application process. This sucks and I cannot get my doctor to prescribe anything that helps. She wants to use Antidepressant but I have been on every single one at some point in my life and none have ever helped, rather they did more damage than good. I don't know what to do and I cannot switch doctors since I have no health insurance. I'm miserable.

Kunga Dorji
04-15-11, 10:41 AM
Too soon to throw in the towel. You need to approach this from a position of power rathan a position of weakness. You have more knowledge than your doc regarding your situation, you just need to reassess that knowledge in terms of what is do-able.
You have indicated that sensitivity to sound is important. The fix can be easy. By hook or by crook, obtain a set of industrial noise reducing ear muffs. These will block out the greatest part of background noise but not interfere with you listening to words directly spoken to you. If you are more flash, you can get noise cancelling ear muffs which use electronic wizardry to eliminate some unpleasant sounds.
Ear muffs may not be chic but if the give you an advantage, take it.
If you have hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound) you may also be sensitive to light (photophobic) . It is worth playing around with different types of anti-glare glasses. For straight photophobia, what photographers refer to as neutral grey may be best but they might also cost arms and legs unless you are a dedicated thrift shopper. The Irlen concept of Scotopic Sensitivity may play a role here, experiment with different coloured overlays across your reading material (or play with the colour settings on your computer to give variously coloured text on contrasting coloured backgounds. If this helps then it may be worth the effort to chase an Irlen practitioner for professional advice (I couldn't afford it and have made do with pot luck, my colours are in the blue-green range, common in sunglasses and in Windows computer operating systems).
You may also be sensitive to touch, choice of clothes can make a significant difference, I wear either short sleeves or tightly buttoned sleeves as I cannot stand the flapping sensations of loose clothing around my wrists (this is not so much an ADHD trait as an Aspie one).
All of these sensitivities are related to the ADHD issue of salience and loss of inhibition. The neural system has not developed discrimination between important and unimportant inputs (salience) and has not learned to discard or nullify the unimportant (inhibition). Thus all your sensory systems are in "go" mode all of the time. All this is affected by downregulated GABA (gamma amino butyric acid) inhibitory neural circuits.
There are a number of food substances which can be excitatory (or even excitotoxic), these include casein (giving casomorphin) compounds from milk, gluten and gliadin from grains, monosodium glutamate and aspartame amongst many others. A good test is to go cold turky on a profoundly restricted diet for at least a week and reintroduce the least problematic foods first
see http://www.fedupwithfoodadditives.info/failsafe.htm (it is Australian)
If you feel that your system is overstimulated (anxiety, exagerated startle reflex, hyperacusis, photophobia etc ) then rather than antidepressants, you need to be looking at increasing the levels of the inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA. this can be done using OTC GABA or medications that are GABA agonists or synergists. It can also be helped by relaxation therapies, guided meditation, Mindfulness and just plain convivial conversation. As you are miseable (quote :-) ) the sanest place to start is good conversation, good friends, good coffee/tea/beverage of choice and last but not least, good chocolate cake.
R


Interestingly the "mental spaciousness" developed in mindfulness practice is an excellent way to settle this oversensitivity too.

I used to have to wear an IPod in busy indoor shopping centres to screen out the sensory assault, but now find the cacophony almost trivial. I still sometimes use the IPod- but now only if I feel like a little music.

The funny thing about the sensory activation induced by body scanning practice is that one can tune into the pleasant sensations being generated all over one's body surface and out of less attractive inputs. It is sort of nice being able to put one's attention where one wants, when one chooses to do so.

zannie
04-15-11, 11:09 AM
[quote=Barliman;1065165]


The important thing in Mindfulness Integrated CBT- which I practice, is that the patient remains supported until they have reached a high level of stability and self efficacy- tested by questionnaires. We also always leave the door open for follow up.


Barilman, that seems to be a wonderful approach to therapy. It is great that some much support and evaluation is built into the approch.

As I mentioned to you I recently came across a book on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The Mindfulness and Acceptance workbook for anxiety by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert.

Although I have only been able to read the first chapter I would recommend it as worth trying to anyone with anxiety problems. Because with all disorders focusing solely on the disorder can create an amplification or the problem. Even physical pain is somewhat relieved when we focus our attention elsewhere.

Kunga Dorji
04-15-11, 05:32 PM
[quote=Barliman;1065165]


The important thing in Mindfulness Integrated CBT- which I practice, is that the patient remains supported until they have reached a high level of stability and self efficacy- tested by questionnaires. We also always leave the door open for follow up.


Barilman, that seems to be a wonderful approach to therapy. It is great that some much support and evaluation is built into the approch.

As I mentioned to you I recently came across a book on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. The Mindfulness and Acceptance workbook for anxiety by John P. Forsyth and Georg H. Eifert.

Although I have only been able to read the first chapter I would recommend it as worth trying to anyone with anxiety problems. Because with all disorders focusing solely on the disorder can create an amplification or the problem. Even physical pain is somewhat relieved when we focus our attention elsewhere.

Hi Zannie- I had been meaning to reply to that. I have heard a good deal of second hand stuff about ACT, but not enough detail to know what the disinguishing features between that and other mindfulness therapies is.
i have certainly heard good reports about it. The MiCBT can certainly be used with great effect in pain.

At the end of my training in MiCBT I acquired a compound fracture of my left middle finger. I found my ability to control my attention was so good that I only needed to take 2 doses of painkillers- one at bedtime the first night after surgery, and one at bedtime the second night. Also- I have residual back arthritis and find I can control the pain from that very well through mindfulness based practices that I can do while I go about my business- even as I type this.

roseblood
04-17-11, 08:15 AM
That is a very good response.
Do you mind if I pass it on to our Mindfulness Practitioner's support group?
I actually think it illuminates a question one practitioner raised about a severe "anxiety reaction" that occurred in the context of unsupervised practice by a patient who jumped ahead of the program.
Please go ahead. :)

The important thing in Mindfulness Integrated CBT- which I practice, is that the patient remains supported until they have reached a high level of stability and self efficacy- tested by questionnaires. We also always leave the door open for follow up.
That's good.

I have been thinking very hard about this and from what I see many people on the face of this Earth seem to be subjecteing themselves to mental practices that are the equivalent of high level Vajrayana Buddhist practice. The trouble is that most of us do not know that we are doing it, and do not know that these practices are regarded in Tibetan Buddhism as difficult, potentially risky, only to be offered to aspirants who have demonstrated they are ready for them, and then only in the context of a supportive, one to one relationship with a suitably qualified and committed teacher. No wonder a few of us implode on the way.
I don't know much about practices unique to Tibetan Buddhism, all I know is the taking on of a archetypal god or goddess persona for a period of time in order to expose the nature of self. Is that what you're referring to, and what do you mean about non-Buddhists subjecting themselves to it?

The funny thing is about the "no self" thing is it is not what it seems.
I think a good way to think about it is like this:
Under the conventional view of human behaviour, If I behave badly I think of myself as a bad person-thus blanking out from conscious awareness all the times I have done good things. The more skilful way to handle this is to recognise that all my attributes ( except maybe my core consciousness) are transitory and arise in response to the "causes and conditions" operative at the time.
Intellectually, I don't even believe in core consciousness. It seems most likely to me that fresh consciousness is generated by the brain with each conscious moment, just as the sun generates fresh photons every moment and these are perceived by us as a continuous stream or beam of light. In these moments, the content of consciousness often includes identification with previous and imagined future moments of consciousness generated by the same brain. This is the trick of the brain I was referring to. I like to imagine that in the Radiohead video 'Just', in which everyone crumples to the ground and lies still in response to a mystery message, the message is just that: YOU don't actually benefit from any action you take nor suffer from any action you don't take. Each moment of consciousness arises and dies instantly, like a cartoon made of many frames - the relationship between each one is an illusion caused by their speed and similar content, they're actually quite distinct. If you're thirsty and go to have a drink, the person who was thirsty doesn't benefit, they're dead. The person (or people, as this will be occurring for many conscious moments i.e. 'people') who is conscious of not being thirsty anymore likewise look back and falsely identify with the 'people' who got the drink. It's an extremely nihilistic belief, but I imagine that if I begin to 'realise' it within the broader context of mindfulness meditation and altruism, I won't crumple to the floor until I rot. Hopefully. I think intellectually that I have only a causal, not an essential connection to the 'me' (a clone of present me) who will benefit from the meditation, but here I am, still doing it. Afterall most of the moments generated by this brain don't include these thoughts.

I know the above will probably be seen as unhealthy or even insane thinking by some, but it doesn't make me feel or function any worse, so by definition it's not. For people with different personality traits, of course, it might be horrifying. Some degree of nihilistic philosophy happens to suit me. There are many people I wouldn't ever explain it to out of fear that they'd 'get it' and freak out... unfortunately many of the same types of people who are most likely to be attracted to Buddhism, despite the significant streak of nihiliism within it that that they're less aware of.

Kunga Dorji
04-17-11, 05:11 PM
Please go ahead. :)

I don't know much about practices unique to Tibetan Buddhism, all I know is the taking on of a archetypal god or goddess persona for a period of time in order to expose the nature of self. Is that what you're referring to, and what do you mean about non-Buddhists subjecting themselves to it?

No - much more the sort of radical questioning of the nature of reality that you do in your comments below.

[/quote]
Intellectually, I don't even believe in core consciousness. It seems most likely to me that fresh consciousness is generated by the brain with each conscious moment, just as the sun generates fresh photons every moment and these are perceived by us as a continuous stream or beam of light. In these moments, the content of consciousness often includes identification with previous and imagined future moments of consciousness generated by the same brain. This is the trick of the brain I was referring to. I like to imagine that in the Radiohead video 'Just', in which everyone crumples to the ground and lies still in response to a mystery message, the message is just that: YOU don't actually benefit from any action you take nor suffer from any action you don't take. Each moment of consciousness arises and dies instantly, like a cartoon made of many frames - the relationship between each one is an illusion caused by their speed and similar content, they're actually quite distinct. If you're thirsty and go to have a drink, the person who was thirsty doesn't benefit, they're dead. The person (or people, as this will be occurring for many conscious moments i.e. 'people') who is conscious of not being thirsty anymore likewise look back and falsely identify with the 'people' who got the drink. It's an extremely nihilistic belief, but I imagine that if I begin to 'realise' it within the broader context of mindfulness meditation and altruism, I won't crumple to the floor until I rot. Hopefully. I think intellectually that I have only a causal, not an essential connection to the 'me' (a clone of present me) who will benefit from the meditation, but here I am, still doing it. Afterall most of the moments generated by this brain don't include these thoughts.
[/quote]

That is one way of looking at it- however this is one of those concepts that always suffer from being translated into words. In conventional terms though the world certainly behaves as though there is a moment to moment continuity. The broader implication of the particular way you express the view though, still comes back to the issue of suffering. If we look at the world in such a way and we are still motivated to act on the truth of the potential of ending suffering, then my reading of this view would be that being more even handed about seeking to end all suffering rather than just "our suffering" is a natural extension of the understanding of "selflessness" and transcending ego.

One of the hardest things about thinking about this subject is that the subject object division and the references to the "I" are so deeply ingrained in the way European languages are structured that it is very difficult to make any meaningful statement about "one's self" without getting entangled in the verbal traps that refer to the conventional ego.
In fact I think that this linguistic kink saturates and conditions our thinking in ways that we are not even aware of.

The same structuring does not exist in some Eastern languages- say Japanese- and I have heard a very thoughtful talk on the practical outcomes of this from a Californian Vipassana Buddhist who spent some time in a Zen monastery.



I know the above will probably be seen as unhealthy or even insane thinking by some, but it doesn't make me feel or function any worse, so by definition it's not. For people with different personality traits, of course, it might be horrifying. Some degree of nihilistic philosophy happens to suit me. There are many people I wouldn't ever explain it to out of fear that they'd 'get it' and freak out... unfortunately many of the same types of people who are most likely to be attracted to Buddhism, despite the significant streak of nihiliism within it that that they're less aware of.

I think that the understanding you expressed is very healthy- but it is a subtle point, and easily misunderstood.

The idea that Buddhism is nihilistic though is a very dualistic one, and nihilism cannot be adopted in a path that embraces the middle way. It is also a danger that arises when the problem is viewed from an intellectual point of view.

There are plenty of Buddhists who have fallen into the error of nihilism, and many of them present their views publicly.

I have heard many practitioners discuss the idea that the whole point of the path is to participate better in the world, and certainly that ideal is well and truly embodied by, for instance, His Holiness The Dalai Lama. There are many other examples I could cite.

To me selflessness is maybe better exemplified when, on the spur of the moment, "I" step beyond my usual habits of thought and spontaneously do some act that is useful and kindly motivated and is the sort of thing that "I" would not usually do because the force of "my" self concepts would normally have led "me" to tell "myself" that I am not the sort of person who does that sort of thing.(The quotation marks are just a way of drawing attention to the conditioning and distorting effects of our language.)

Nihilism is a whole different state. I think that the fear you mention when people encounter the illusory nature of their egos arises because of confusion between selflessness and nihilism. The former is profoundly liberating. The latter is usually just another way to feel depressed.

amrobinson
04-19-11, 04:53 PM
I would like some more information on how to apply "mindfulness". Where do I begin? What does it entail?

iovuiix
04-23-11, 10:44 AM
Hello. I've come across Mindfulness probably a year ago, but still haven't been able to stick to the regular practice. I have some troubles with doing it.

roseblood
05-06-11, 04:33 PM
I would like some more information on how to apply "mindfulness". Where do I begin? What does it entail?

This is my favourite article for practical advice, personally, although I don't use all the exercises in it yet:
http://www.vipassanadhura.com/howto.htm

And some well-articulated theory:
Mindfulness overview (http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/What%20is%20Mindfulness.pdf)
Equanimity (http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/artEquanimity.pdf)
More on Equanimity (http://www.shinzen.org/Articles/artExpressEmo.pdf)