I mostly lurk here but came across some reading material the other day that I'd like to share and ask your opinions about.
A little history... I'm 35 years old and I have been in the (outpatient) psychiatric system for most of my adulthood with schizoaffective disorder, basically not full blown but halfway to schizophrenia along with a mood component. I have made substantial recovery and am doing mostly well in community college and having a social life... I have a fair amount of experience with mindfulness, sila, and metta. I have grown a lot with it and practice the precepts in daily life, although I do not have a consistent meditation practice at this time. I used to, for a short period of time, however, before I backslid some, and I find benefits to it like guarding my morality (see below paste), helping quite much with mental health and ending addiction to substances (been clean years now), as modern research confirms it does, and so on.
As referenced below it helps with moral conduct and steadying the mind:
I aspire to be a consistent practitioner and have some level of realization, but I was reading the second edition of "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" by Daniel M. Ingram which is being released at about the present time. I am most interested in his (very explicit and descriptive) maps of the progress of insight as the core of the book. But morality too. And I came across the following that I'd like to share and ask your opinions on..This concentration through mindfulness of breathing, when developed and practiced much, is both peaceful and sublime, it is an unadulterated blissful abiding, and it banishes at once and stills evil unprofitable thoughts as soon as they arise."
I understand Ingram is very controversial as well as his teaching, all the more reason I'd like your feedback, especially whoever reading this has experience with retreats and long-term consistent practice.
I have read previously that insight practice directly enhances mental health (see Bhante G. and his book MIPA as well as modern scientific studies on the brain), presumably more and more as your practice deepens. But after reading this passage I think maybe I should take it easy a while and focus on sila, metta bhavana, trying to get more stable and healthy in more mundane ways, eg hobbies (in this case for me, computer programming is the field I'm majoring in at college), work, trying to be kind and helpful to people in different ways, drawing from Theravada and other Buddhist traditions about living a wise and kind life, other mind-training techniques. Then when I'm more together approach insight practice more seriously.
Here is the material, not all of it was together but in snippets:
I would like to have a four foundations of mindfulness practice (like described by U Silananda in his Four Foundations of Mindfulness book and others) as part of my well-rounded daily life of getting more "together" but do you think I should stay away from even that altogether as I work on getting healthy, or just don't do it intensively. Please address this point, specifically, I'd really like an insight (or some spiritual) practice even if it's not on deep levels approaching realization before I begin in earnest. Nourishment for the spirit and Buddhist practice.This should be seen as another warning: this book and the path presented in it are not for those who at this time find that they are unstable spiritual seekers. Meditation at the levels I am about to describe requires a baseline mental and material stability; and with respect to the latter, not necessarily wealth or even a 401(k), but ethically acquired requisites such as food and a safe, conducive shelter. You must have your psychological trip very together to be able to handle and integrate the intense techniques, side effects, and results I am about to discuss.
Stated much more explicitly: people who do strong and intensive practice can hurt themselves and freak out. Just as serious athletes can hurt their bodies when they take a misstep or push themselves beyond their limits, just so serious mental athletes can strain their minds, brains, and nervous systems, and strained brains can sometimes function in very strange ways. To rewrite the operating system rapidly while it is running doesn't always go so well in the short term or occasionally in the long term. Thus, while I will include nearly endless exhortations to find the depths of power and clarity that you are capable of, I will also add numerous warnings about how to keep from frying yourself.
By “frying yourself”, I mean explicitly severe mood instability and psychotic episodes, as well as other odd biological and energetic disturbances, with some practitioners occasionally ending up in inpatient psychiatric facilities for various periods of time. Exactly how much of this is nature (their own “inherent wiring” and potential for mental pathology), how much of it is nurture (practicing hardcore meditation techniques in high doses such as those presented here), and how much is related to other unidentified factors is a question that is still being worked out, just so that you are not in any way uninformed about the still-developing state of modern science as it applies to the art of intensive meditation.
I recognize it may be a trap to get hung up on waiting till an "ideal" future time but clearly if Ingram is right I'd be well to work on mundane life although my aspirations are/have been, for the heights and the goal.
Please share your thoughts, especially if you have relevant personal experience, and thank you as always, Dhamma friends.