Pragmatic Dharma Movement Manifesto 

Under the moniker Pragmatic Dharma, a movement has emerged in the West since the early 2000s to evolve the Buddha-dharma in alignment with American Pragmatism. American Pragmatism, the quintessentially American philosophical movement dating back to the the late nineteenth century, holds that the truth and meaning of any idea is solely a function of its practical outcomes.

The historical Buddha of our Degenerate Age, Siddhārtha Gautama, in teaching not abstract ontology or epistemology, but human “suffering and the end of suffering,” was a model pragmatist. He was concerned foremost with experiential results that make a difference to our human lives. With the historical Buddha as our model, then, our movement proclaims the following emphases:

Laity empowerment. Contemporary western laypersons with busy lives can and do awaken in this lifetime.

Goal-based practice. Awakening depends on goals codified as a map of expected progressive attainments.

Diligence. Attainment requires daily meditation practice—not the following:

– specific socioreligious trappings

– aspirations to merit awakening in some future life

– other untested traditional dogma

Eclecticism. Efficient and effective practitioners mine an array of traditions for practice methods.

Innovation. Skillful practitioners reality-test maps and methods to assess worth and limitations, and then innovate improvements.

Scientific tooling. Western sciences and technology are important adjuncts to personal reality-testing.

Grassroots sanghas. Contemporary western practitioners benefit from open peer-to-peer discussion of attainments.

Table 1 contrasts the emphases of traditional Buddhism with those of Pragmatic Dharma.

Table 1. Comparison of Traditionalism with Pragmatic Dharma 

Note: Since the time I first drafted this table, my views have been modified in some respects by experiences in my own practice and by encounters with certain others. First, although reality-tested maps and methods are sufficient for traversing early path terrain, transmission is a very real phenomenon that one who has some opening can feel as it is taking place. It will speed and deepen results, especially at the high end of the path, and is therefore pragmatic. Secondly, I now understand the necessity for terma and other secret teachings. Currently, this planet is spiritually lost. There are false teachers everywhere, sociopaths and those with other serious personality disorders. These people prey on practitioners with realization in order to co-opt the teachings and turn a profit, if not commit outright abuse. They all commit abuse at least in that they are not trained and lack realization, and therefore move off ignorant greed and pervert the teachings. Aside from questions of these charlatans, certain esoteric practices, if broadcast, would confuse, sidetrack, and sometimes even destroy earnest practitioners who are not ready for them—meaning the vast majority of practitioners. For those who are ready for these practices, it is also best and actually part of the practice to keep silent, Secrecy protects such practitioners from their own residual central narcissism, as well as prying attention from others. These teachings are sacred and are to be respected as the deepest intelligence of reality, a grace grown into and not a commodity to bandy about the marketplace. 

The Importance of  Journaling to Practice and as Practice

Dear K—

Regarding your stated difficulty in keeping a practice journal because you feel it reifies practice—in the dharma book I’m writing, I urge practitioners to keep a practice journal even when they don’t feel like writing. Daniel Ingram told me to keep a journal as soon as I met him, that it would be important, and he was right.

I’ve been able to discern and therefore tweak the course of my practice skillfully because I could see larger insight “trends” emerging in and from practice sessions recorded in my journals across months and years.

In addition, often in specific formal practice sessions I will have direct insight—see—but until I am able to transmit that to the page or to others and say, I don’t sense that I have the fruit: wisdom. In fact, often it has been the saying that led in formal practice to the next seeing.  From the perspective of the causal model, I see insight leading to wisdom, and wisdom leading to next insight.

Yes, I agree that it is important to be spontaneously in the moment during formal practice, not conceptualize, let go, and so forth, but then it is important to contemplate what that seeing brings up and forth in your everyday life and in planning your next formal practice.

What do I mean by “planning” next practice? I am thinking mostly about my earlier Theravadin-stage practices, when I was doing vipassana applying the Three Characteristics across Six Sense Spheres, how one characteristic or sense sphere would entail insight suggesting the next sense sphere or characteristic to emphasize in a formal practice session.

But even now—if something is coming up over calendar time as a pattern I wasn’t seeing clearly into before, that can suggest a practice emphasis for me to pursue. Last night offers an example.

Last night I stayed up practicing some esoteric stuff until 5 a.m. I’m now off Cymbalta and past the wicked withdrawal syndrome, and am lately confronting this twinge of anxiety I feel as times, especially before falling asleep. I have a history of phobias around traveling in cars and airplanes, and around everything Kerry in general. Kerry was planning to drive to Charlotte today, and I tend to be especially anxious when he is driving out of town. 

During my esoteric practices, I was tuning in to that “Kerry traveling” anxiety. I had sudden insight into my attachment to Kerry as keen suffering. I saw exactly why my protective love for him is suffering. It is a love that is particularized to him as special beyond everyone else on earth. I contemplated and felt in my heart center and solar plexus how I could not bear the feeling of any harm coming to him. I felt fear because family members of a couple of friends have recently suddenly died, including a son Kerry’s age who was killed in a car accident. This overprotection I feel for Kerry is extreme suffering.

Yesterday, too, one of my authors wrote me on Skype: “To be a mother is to know suffering.” I had stared at that sentence for a long while. This author narrowly escaped being a casualty last week in the Manchester attack that killed so many innocent children. He was telling me he is afraid for his son, who is Kerry’s age and traveling to Berlin.

So last night after contemplating and seeing all this, I saw this tiny booklet I have on daily purification from back when I was practicing in the Gelugpa tradition. Seeing that caused me to read it for the first time in a long time and to remember that phrase “mother sentient beings” and how in Tibetan Buddhism a mother’s love is the template and intensity standard for universal love. The book mentions, in particular, Vajrasattva’s “unbearable compassion.” That is what I feel for my child, particularly when he is confused or blind: unbearable compassion.

I suddenly began to see clearly how to end this surviving anxious preoccupation that is my pet locus of suffering. I saw that expanding that love I have for Kerry to all beings would be to dissolve a boundary that is currently still my identity-view based on super-special attachment and therefore suffering.

Furthermore, I understood the urgency of purification anew, because I understood that I have to extend that love to myself to release guilt, which is the backward-looking form of worry. My worry over Kerry comes from my believing Little Jenny deserves punishment and is unworthy of love. This insight led me to contemplate reviving some practices JC suggested to me for healing Little Jenny, who was abandoned by her parents and who therefore keenly feels hyper-vigilance against losing more family and being banished by peers.

Like Atiśa, who wrote it, I did that purification practice in that little book on the spot, to forgive myself for wrongs I’ve done others, for my shortcomings in being of service. Although I’m normally not one to take vows, I suddenly vowed to the depth of my being to stay. I vowed to stay here until everyone knows the joy of liberation. As I journal my practice over weeks and months, I’ll see what wisdom results from renewed practice emphasis on attachment-as-suffering and on purification as release. Then I’ll see what boundary remains and deal with that. This is all I mean by “planning” practice.

I believe that practice, like any project, should be guided by discernment. Setting intention is a formal part of meditation practice, after all.. That means that practice goals and documentation of which methods lead to which results is important, perhaps even critical. It may not be Zen or Dzogchen of me to say so, but I do say so even while currently being a Dzogchen practitioner. Structure is a tool. The causal model is a tool. As each rung is attained and integrated, you can throw off that bit of scaffolding as just artificial scaffolding, finally just abiding in the natural state (Trekchö). But my view is that abandoning the causal model from the beginning, or even in the middle of the path, is almost always disastrous, or at least unnecessarily inefficient.

People often mistakenly believe that one must first think in order to write. But practiced writers actually write in order to discover what they have seen and think. Thought is not an enemy to be permanently shut down, but to be integrated into the natural state. We are thinking, feeling creatures, after all. Back decades ago when my husband invited others to his Native American–style sweat lodges in North Florida, everyone would take off their clothes, sit in the pitch dark, sweat until there was no felt resistance, and then take turns speaking from the heart. Truth of experience is what matters, you see, however it unfolds, however “its” intention both reflects and informs “ours,” eventually merging.

So my advice is to just write, just as you speak truth from the heart during our retreats. Open your heart and be a hollow conduit for whatever speech-stream flows forth—without planning, organizing, or editing as it flows. Automaticity of writing without identity-investment in the result is in itself profound practice.

Love,

Jenny

Psychological Barriers to Enlightenment: Aligning Maps

Our earliest roots present barriers to enlightenment | photo courtesy of Mufaddal Abdul Hussain

Kurt and I have been down with a very bad flu for the past 6 days. At the same time I went from 15 mg of Cymbalta to zero because my milligram scale broke and I was fed up with the tapering business. So far, so good. This context may flavor this post and the experiences on which it is based. However, I’m strongly intuiting on the periphery of my consciousness how my own maps might be enhanced by incorporation of A. H. Almaas’s psychological barriers to enlightenment.

First Reobservation Stage in a Year and a Half

However, I do think I’m still cycling, dammit, since Thanksgiving, for reasons I’ve not yet deciphered. A&P insight stages are particularly distinct and have occasionally emerged in mild form over the past year and a half. Last night I was in the first clear (and quite unpleasant) Reobservation (Dark Night) stage I’ve  encountered in more than a year and a half. I couldn’t even remember the protocol for dealing with it! I really wanted to go into a rage and express it. My son caught some of that ire, but I just existed through the rest, trying not to try to change it or escape it or act it out. As I say, unpleasant. I gazed a bit, but the visions bored me. Boredom is subtle aversion. . . . 

[Comment several days later: I’m now unsure I passed through Reobservation; I’ve been suffering from well-documented effects of Cymbalta withdrawal, including many nightmares, whereas I have at most one nightmare a year. For clarity of diagnosis, I need to be well from the flu and past all withdrawal syndrome before I draw conclusions.]

Insight-Stage Cycling after Awakening

It is disconcerting and confusing that (1) cycling has resumed and (2) the results of my main practice have slowed down their evolution to a crawl. I feel as though I’ve backslid in my realization somehow, but exactly what is going on, why, and what to do about it remain murky. Something in the back of my mind is screaming that, somehow, the four visions correspond to the four jhanas and therefore to the insight stages (vipassana jhanas) and the Theravadin/MCTB “paths.” The fourth vision culminates in a cessation and fruition, after all; that much is a clear correspondence, but I’ve not quite figured out what, what, what the connection is!

The question is driving me a bit mad, speaking of psychological barriers to enlightenment.

I want to note here that I ran an unscientific poll on Dharma Connection to ask those who claim to have MCTB 4th path whether they still cycle. The only two people I’ve long surmised actually do have that attainment both say that they knew the insight stages extremely well and that the cycling faded away around the time of the attainment, actually somewhat before the attainment. My cycles ended with the attainment and stayed imperceptible for a year and 4 months, with the exception of some A&P-like (or j2-like) surges, but then cycling restarted in earnest around Thanksgiving. Daniel has always maintained that he cycles post-awakening, even passing through some nasty Reobservation stages.

I’ve not before been able to see a definite relationship between A&P and especially intense visions and dreams, but I did see this connection during this week’s cycle. I’m not quite sure whether practice result intensity is producing the j2 bliss, or whether relatively hard jhanas are what cultivate the intense results. I will have to try to see; however, analysis is not something that can be done well during my current formal practice without pulling me out and defeating that purpose. 

Depth Psychology Correlates of A. H. Almaas

I’m about halfway through A. H. Almaas’s The Point of Existence: Transformations of Narcissism in Self-Realization. I’ve also poked around in his The Pearl beyond Price, which I think covers defensive structures in general, psychological barriers to enlightenment in general. Almaas intersects all this cycling business profoundly with his map of psychological barriers to realization, although he doesn’t line up his map with any Buddhist maps, including the Theravadin insight stages, so if that is to be done, then it seems I’ll have to do it. For now I’m just researching, observing my experience, and speculating.

Idealizing Transference and the Word Womb

Now, what is interesting to me is that my most characteristic defense and therefore psychological barrier to enlightenment is idealizing transference. In brief and all too simply for now, a child needs to idealize her parents and then integrate their strength, calm, and support into her developing psychic structures, particularly her identity. If the parents disappoint the child with imperfect reality gradually, then this integration goes relatively well, although Almaas’s (correct) position is that anything less than spiritual realization is suboptimal, to put it mildly; if the disappointment is sudden and dramatic, then the child’s development is arrested and she grows up and repeats the idealization, notably with those in a teacher’s role.

I’ve done this very thing from childhood on into and throughout my entire adult life, usually, at least in adulthood, with a man with whom I construct a written Word Womb. (Even in nursery school I idolized my teacher, who came to visit me in a big playground tube infested with spiders, which is where I hid from my peers who cruelly abused me for wearing a patch on my nonlazy eye to train the other eye.) The candidate must be a poet and must be an addict or have significant other psychopathology. Now, Almaas describes the idealizing transference as the one that triggers euphoric feelings of bliss and omnipotence. This feeling of intense bliss and power is actually a resurgence of primary realization, pure presence before the differentiation and psychic structures develop into identity and its defenses in childhood. But the problem is that the adult, since early childhood, has located this bliss and power in another, in the external selfobject. Inevitably, the projected-upon teacher-poet will disappoint her, and she will react with narcissistic rage against him for abandoning her or not supporting her or seeing her as sufficiently special. Thus, an intolerable wound is reopened.

Wound Reopening and Codependent Attempts to Rehabilitate the Selfobject

The last person this happened with, of course, was Daniel. What is especially fucked up about my series of idealizing transferences is that, after the Chosen One has appeared on the scene and the transference has been established, I later find out he has his own issues, issues far more problematic than my own neuroses: grave Issues such as alcoholism, bipolar disorder, or personality disorder. Then when reality inevitably comes crashing down around me, it is a reenactment of the dramatic (not gradual) original disappointment I suffered in childhood in the household of a severe and volatile alcoholic. Once again the work of integration fails to happen. Worse: then my codependency rushes in to “save” the selfobject, to rehabilitate him back to the status of ideal so I can keep getting my hit of Word Womb merger, bliss, and power. This rehabilitation never works, of course, but by that time I’m enabling the person’s poor conduct and even covering up for him for the community, rationalizing, enabling. It is a mess!

Inklings of a Master Map

So here is where I’m going with all this about psychological barriers to enlightenment: Since the Mahamudra awakening of July 2015, it has been the A&P stage alone that has survived the floodlight of rigpa. I think that it survived, while the other formerly cyclic stages faded out of notice, because it brings the exact same feeling of bodily bliss and heady power I experienced when Word Wombing with Daniel (and his predecessors). My hypothesis is that, somehow, all the main cyclic Theravadin insight stages align with Almaas’s psychological barriers to enlightenment. As one resolves the psychological barrier, the corresponding insight stage stops emerging. I think I’ve partially resolved this one of idealizing transference, but partial is no cigar. Furthermore, until I resolve this main barrier completely, I will not be enlightened. Is gazing into light enough to resolve it? Maybe not. Maybe this is why my main practice seems to have stalled out at the foot of this barrier since Thanksgiving.

I’ve only poked around in the other Almaas book as yet, but in that one, too, I recognize something that has been going on since the Mahamudra awakening: schizoid defense. I’m not characteristically schizoid; in fact, quite definitely the opposite, as I’m emotive rather than shut down. But for many months, I’ve been experiencing this “drying up” of emotions and this retreat from others into solitude. Schizoid is the most primitive defense, the earliest one to develop and therefore the last of the psychological barriers to enlightenment to resolve. All human beings have all the defenses to some degree: normal, neurotic, or pathological. I’m normal on schizoid constellation and neurotic on the narcissistic constellation. What is strange to me is that I would be well into resolving the final barrier even through I have not resolved my main issue: idealizing others.

I’m also mentally sifting through the five hindrances, five poisons, and five wisdoms as overlays. Wow. If only a master map would come clear! It is to be hoped that reality isn’t some not-so-tidy and individual matchup, for I love maps – reliable ones especially.

 

The Risks of Masculine Practice Paradigms

Many “masculine” practitioners can advance quite far up the path by using meditation to widen and deepen a core split in the very personality structure they think they are thereby healing. This advancement up the path in fact advances pathological dissociation processes already at work in the organization of the personality.

The Dharma Overground and Prevalence of Schizoid Process

Not everyone has to suffer from diagnostically extant borderline or schizoid personality disorder for this pattern to be a ubiquitous one characterizing whole Western dharma communities, especially ones like the Dharma Overground, whose participating membership is overwhelmingly (95% or more) male and whose culture of participation is decidedly masculine and often enough aggressively masculinist – right down to the militancy set forth in its warlike name and initial logo design.

Although both women and men contain and express the feminine and masculine principles, it is also true, from a Buddhist doctrinal point of view, that embodiment as a woman or a man does affect the initial imbalance of these principles in terms both of general relational style and specific approach to meditation practice. The lack of participating women on the Dharma Overground is symptomatic of an unhealthy imbalance nonetheless institutionalized as a legitimate resource for enlightenment. The leader and other men there claim to scratch their heads in puzzlement over why women remain absent – or silenced. The trouble is that they have not looked within at the blind spot in their own practice and attainment.

Tantric Iconography as a Clue to the Antidote

Accordingly, in the Indo-Tibetan tantric yidam, sexual union of the female and the male represents union, respectively, of openness (wisdom) with skillful means (compassion). Although this union of difference may be mistaken as merely convenient sex-identity symbolism, tantra is nothing if not emphatically pragmatic, concerned as it is with our everyday human drives as the means of transformation and expression of an otherwise dangerously transcendent – removed – “enlightenment.”

Appropriately, in what may seem to most Westerners a nonintuitive archetypal reversal, it is the woman in this pairing who represents wisdom attainment and the man who represents the relational heart. The metaphor, not symbol, of their union is a mind-boggling – instructively so – ever-reopening site of deconstruction: aporia. It is nondual.

Perhaps this is why it is said traditionally (by Padmasambhava) that actual, nonsymbolic women are at a slight advantage over actual men in reaching full enlightenment. There is something about the purely relational, and even devotional, that constitutes the heart of wisdom. Perhaps more forthrightly engaging this feminine aspect of ourselves in service of our own wisdom attainment would be most pragmatic, taking pragmatic dharma practice past the current stopping point where so many on the Dharma Overground find themselves still suffering and inflicting suffering. 

It is with this hope that I write this practice manual as a nuancing of, companion to, and in some respects corrective to Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha: An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book.

The Necessity for Western Psychology in Western Buddhism

It is crucial that we understand Western practitioners as suffering from trauma incurred in the “holding environment” of early childhood and infancy. All of us, to some extent, are suffering from early childhood attachment issues, if not downright attachment disorder. The Buddhist literature of Asia offers no explicit compensation for this impoverished foundation from which we Westerners practice meditation.

Widespread parental attachment deficits create a lack of Basic Trust, a lack that permeates our entire culture at every level. At its worst, for the individual level this is not a mere matter of neurotic repression and defense mechanisms that can be recognized as such and gradually deconditioned through diligent meditation practice and a contemplative life; rather, it organizes the very personality in terms of at least two fundamental “splits” of the psyche.

This “splitting” defines schizoid process and at worst causes personality disorders such as borderline and schizoid, which impede or completely prevent progress to full enlightenment. One cannot dismantle what one cannot first see; one cannot see what is such an early trauma that one’s entire psychical organization stands forth from it, hiding the site of intolerable and continually reopening initial woundedness.

The Schizoid Process as Two Levels of Personality “Splitting”

In the schizoid process, all “bad” must be dissociated from the vulnerable core. One level of splitting involves a turning away from threatening outer relational objects and substituting fantasized infantile replacements that are safe. So, for example, if a man’s mother abandoned him in early childhood, invaded his autonomy, or did both in alternation, then all “motherly” women thereafter will be an intolerable threat to him. The trouble stems from the man’s own internalized early object relations, but he will engage in transference with any current real woman, projecting onto her his internalized early threats to wholeness. He will see the woman in black-and-white terms, alternately either as all good (fantasy) or all bad (projection): “This schizoid pattern creates external relations that are not marked by warm, live, pulsing feelings. Instead, when interpersonal nurturance is available, schizoid individuals fear a loss of self from being smothered, trapped, ordevoured. When strong desire or need is aroused, they tend to break off the relationship. Hatred is often used to defend against love with its dangers and disappointments, a pattern that starts in early childhood (Yontef 2001),”

This alternation between need and hatred will manifest in a push-me/pull-me relationship dynamic, called in the literature the “in-and-out program,” whereby out of intimacy hunger the man invites her in, and out of the resulting drive to split off all his vulnerability, he demonizes her. It is a vicious circle. He will repeatedly shut out the world of real human companionship in favor of a rich inner fantasy world that he alone populates and controls. Then having internalized the whole drama on his own terms, he will continue to suffer intense loneliness and therefore begin the cycle again. 

He may engage in the schizoid compromise, crafting a public persona to display at onstage distances safe from true emotional intimacy. He may be a dynamic public speaker, for example, but agitated and avoidant during the subsequent Q&A sessions out on the floor, where he is not in control of all actors on the scene.

This first layer of splitting, whereby the internalized parent is projected onto the outer world as a threat to be defended against, is compounded by a second layer whereby the core that is to be protected from outer threats itself remains split into a punishing half and a “weak,” shame-based half that believes it does not deserve love. This abiding inner threat (the “weak” self), like the invasive/abandoning inner parent, puts the schizoid in an untenable predicament.

With the two layers of splitting, the personality thus organizes itself into a repeatedly opening wound over which it cannot gain new ground on which to heal, on which to build a healthy ego that can risk all the emotional pain that comes along with vital love. If this person then goes into practice and attains to no-self, he nonetheless has not fully realized nonduality, which in its full form is enlightenment. The double polarities of self/other and self/self constitute a holdout, in Buddhist terms, of duality. The continually opening wound is ignorance. It is the blind spot on which those with significant schizoid/borderline processes stand, the shadow side of any partial awakening they may have achieved.

The Split-Off Objectification of Emotions via Vipassana Practice

This blindness is a true risk attending vipassana meditation methods, like Burmese noting practice, which consist of labeling and therefore demote threatening emotions to the level of mere discharged sensate particles, each particle a little nonthreatening third-person “it.” The practitioner avoids relating to his emotions in the second person: as emotions.

Although I’m a fan of vipassana as essential to awakening, other meditation modalities must be brought onboard – the earlier, the better – to avoid strengthening the blind spot, to prevent the use of meditation and attainment to further pathologize the otherwise healthy human ego function. If the practitioner exhibits difficulty in or resistance to these other modalities, then at least that difficulty may serve as a clue that referral to a psychotherapist is in order.

The Schizoid as the Partially Awakened Teacher

When the subject is liberated, it is often spoken of and celebrated as having “dropped out.” Restless seeking for a perceptual vantage point vis-à-vis  objects has stopped. Often that cessation and correction of sensory misperception will seem to be all there is to be gained in terms of awakening. Anything beyond that, namely integration and embodiment of the perceptual realization in order to discover and empower a true self, will be declared optional side projects (”separate axes of development”).

Schizoid practitioners will compartmentalize not only their objects of meditation this way, but the gains therefrom: Whether consciously or not, they will define enlightenment as getting rid of that pesky weak self and its threatening emotions, which is really to retroject a far more insidious and recalcitrant “splitting” process into the personality than was even there to begin with. 

The schizoid process demands of the practitioner ever more in the way of a false self construction with which to engage the outer world.

Such practitioners may even become dharma teachers. They may claim that true enlightenment offers “no package deals” for ending all suffering and that anything beyond their own partial pathology-burdened attainment amounts to naive idealizations.

Understand that this problem isn’t just a matter of stopping short of the final phase of enlightenment, buddhahood; it is to actually end up with more personality pathology than if insight practice had never been engaged.

So compromised, if such a practitioner then fakes compassion and social engagement by marshaling forth a moral code of conduct when “on display,” say when teaching, then he or she is counterfeiting a compensatory hollow image rather than truly connecting, truly relating, truly allowing vulnerability, basic trust, compassion, and their fruits to arise. This kind of living for image and substituting reputation for intimacy is the worst kind of confusion (avidyā), the deepest form of suffering imaginable. To die without having ever known oneself is the epitome of human tragedy.

In this way, awakening is made to subtend pathology intensification in the West.

My New Pragmatic Dharma Book

My new pragmatic dharma meditation manual will surface these risks and design maps and practices that address rather than continue to bypass them. In so doing, I will bring online the very necessary and equally pragmatic feminine principle of openness, relation, and surrender that so many masculine “hardcore” practitioners have cut themselves off from to their own detriment, as well as to the detriment of those who seek with them a true communion.

Unbounded Wholeness Analyzed

I had a phone conversation with DreamWalker last night, and I want to make a few notes, clarifications of my experience.

What It Means to Lose the Centralized Subject

First, about the central processor’s dropping out last July for good – I mentioned to DreamWalker that, when I told John that my roaming my body fields endlessly had stopped, John had said that was because seeking had ended. DreamWalker said tonight, “I think there is more to it than that.” DW said that he thinks the dropping-out is a shutdown of the fight-or-flight system. 

I think there is something to DreamWalker’s observation. I think that the roaming is seeking, yes, but it is not so much desire per se as a kind of hyper-vigilance, which is fear. Right before stream entry, I had profound insight into the way that my body creates objects and objects create the embodied subject. The constant roaming of attention is in order to keep all this going, to keep matching a particularized section of the body with a particularized section of the field. One Subject : One Object. This compulsion begins in very early childhood as a survival mechanism. It is root delusion, ignorance of our true nature and identification of limited constructs as “self.”

How would I discuss this in a book? Well, I will discuss it within a larger discourse on the Four Noble Truths. Enough said about that for now.

What Loss of Subject-Object Perception Means for Emotional Reactivity

But this is not just about perception gone over to apperception. It is also about feeling, emotion, reactivity. I explained to DW that now if I’m “worried” about my son’s driving back from Ohio at 4 a.m., then the worried thought-articulation goes through me and my speech may convey my habitual words of caution and protest; however, no emotion accompanies these habitual acts. It is as if the habitual script is waxed floss pulled through my brain and disposed of immediately: there is nothing for it to grab onto. 

This whole erosion of emotional reactivity has been just that: a slow erosion. It wasn’t sudden in the way the deconstruction of perception was July 30, 2015. It was a deepening, until one day I noticed that one experience was valued essentially like any other. This isn’t just a philosophical conclusion; it is an actual change in emotional processing. Actually, the emotions aren’t processed, because they don’t even arise, for there is nothing for them to hook onto sufficient even to arise. Empty thoughts, empty words born of habit. That is all.

This is so odd, now that I think about it analytically, but true. I can think worry, I can speak worry, but I’m not feeling it. It is sunk into and drowned by the vast depth of field before it can even arise. 

I suspect that, after some more time, even the worry-thought and the worry-words will just stop. After all, I pay a lot of energy into them with no return on that kind of investment. More and more, I’ve simply withdrawn.

I’d like to find a cave, one with a reading light and a nearby mango tree.

The Vast Expanse beyond the Visual Sense Sphere

Secondly, my main descriptor of the July awakening is “vast.” John links space with the visual sense door; however, DW is correct again when he says that it seems to him that the vast expanse I’m always on about is less about anything visual and more proprioceptive mechanosensation. In other words, the vastness I mean, when I try hard to analyze it, which is hard to do, vastness being vast and all, concerns my sense of body fields, bodily interior, and movement through space. Because some delusional boundary has dissolved that was between my interior and surface, between the body fields themselves, and between space and any of this – the result is this extremely expansive unboundedness. 

Why is this so clear to DW, who says the center has not dropped out for him, while it has been so difficult for me to figure out and articulate? Well, again, because vastness tends to drown analysis, because to analyze means to break things down to explain how they contribute to a whole. But the experience isn’t the analysis: The experience is vast. The experience is whole. The experience is all. 

DreamWalker, when he is frustrated with my lack of articulation says, “Yes, Jenny, everything is everything . . . so helpful.”

If one wants to teach or write, one must try to work up words from the perspective of one who does not yet have the realization. One must describe all the colors of the rainbow to one born blind.

Rigpa as (Visual Field) Luminosity

One other reason it has been so hard is that I do have the visual unbinding too: This is actually the sense of vivid directness that we call luminosity (rig pa). My mind is fused to yon juniper bush on which I gaze. Conversely, yon juniper bush is as aware as it is manifest over there, and that there awareness is this here awareness simultaneously. The time it takes to perceive has dropped out. This can seem like spatial bridging, or vastness, but it is not really about space so much as it really is about immediacy. A time-consuming centralized perceptual process has stopped with regard to any “object.”

Even though here we are talking about rigpa, Infant Consciousness, rather than Mother Consciousness, and this realization is one separate from Mother-Space vastness, I think if you are following my words faithfully, you easily can discern why this opening of awareness while seeing would also effect a kind of relative vastness: Delusional locational  polarization of awareness has deconstructed. So even though the focus may be on one object, such as the juniper bush outside my office, and even though there is still a subject on some metalevel who is having a wondrous nondual experience, the locational polarization of subject and object has dissolved – while one is engaged in vision – into “two oceans mingling.”

So, DreamWalker, I have a new theory: Mother is chiefly the unbinding of proprioceptive mechanosensation, and Infant (rig pa) is the directness, intimacy, of the visual field.

Difficulty in Analyzing Unbounded Wholeness

Yikes. This is actually a really good analysis, a breaking-things-down for the sake of discussion.

But here is the thing: When you put these two together – visual awareness and spatial awareness – then you have the infant lying in the arms of the mother. And that inseparable union is so very vast yet direct and intimate that one might be forgiven, especially if these shifts come in quick succession, for being unable and even unwilling to analyze this unbounded wholeness.

Thank you, DreamWalker. 

I’m too sleepy to write about hearing. Maybe tomorrow.