Were my experiences of clarity and joy real?

May 22, 2023

QUESTION

Hi Robina,

 

I’m sitting and reflecting and running up against some questions. I’m dealing with grief about my current mental status. As we discussed earlier, I thought I had achieved enlightenment, but then the psychosis happened, and now I’m left with residual symptoms and unanswered questions as to what about my experiences were real and based in reality, and what wasn’t. 

 

My mind was so sharp and so clear, expansive, loving, discerning and wise, and I’m very much grasping for its return. Mainly I miss having deep self-assurance/confidence, because I felt like I could handle anything. No more fear or dread. Rather than reacting with attachment and disappointment, I’m trying to accept that this is where I am on the path, but it’s such a loss, especially when I was able to achieve it so rapidly before.

 

Lastly, I remember you saying when we met that what I call my “psychosis” could actually be the source of my potential. I was curious to hear more of what you meant by that.

 

Thank you for bearing with my questions.

 

With love,

R

 

ANSWER

Dearest R,

 

Whatever experiences arise in this life are from things we’ve done in the past: it’s the natural law of karma; it’s just the way it is. So if we take the view that we’ve had countless lives then clearly we’ve had countless experiences – all the good and all the bad. This is the Buddhist view.

 

This means you’ve practiced spiritual paths in the past, including of course Buddhism. It’s just how it is.

 

So those experiences of your mind being “so sharp and so clear, expansive, loving, discerning and wise” are from that. Of course they were real! But their disappearing simply shows that you have more work to do to stabilize them.

 

This is the crucial thing to understand. We’ve all probably achieved even single-pointed concentration, shamata, many times before; we might even have achieved bodhichitta. But we hadn’t gone far enough – that is, realized emptiness – so we lost them.

 

Don’t agonize over it, no need to feel grief or loss. Learn from it! Be delighted that you have this marvelous potential and determine to keep practicing, keep studying.

 

Until we’re quite advanced our mind is unstable. Your mind went flying up and tasted your wonderful potential, but then you crashed down. This is exactly how attachment and aversion function.

 

When you had those experiences you had also very strong attachment to them, and it’s the attachment that’s the problem. Of course, until we know our minds really intimately — which comes from studying the very specific Buddhist model of the mind — we don’t even notice the attachment.

 

And it’s because of attachment that you’re experiencing the grief that you describe; depression, aversion, etc. are the response when attachment is thwarted.

 

So, R, keep moving, one step at a time.

 

Much love,

Robina

 

QUESTION

Hi Robina,

 

Thank you so much. Yes, more work to stabilize and strengthen— I do look forward to this. I imagine it will be even more rewarding when I’ve put in even more time and training.

 

Thanks for your encouraging and kind words.

Love,

R

 

ANSWER

Just keep moving, with confidence and humility, R! 

 

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