Anatta experience becoming a hindrance?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Anatta experience becoming a hindrance?

Post by Kabouterke » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:13 pm

What do you do to keep your goals in meditation from becoming a hindrance to progress?

As I have said in a number of my other posts on this forum, I was involved in Soto Zen for a number of years. I went to an excellent center with an excellent teacher who was really supportive of my practice. Anyway, one day I had what I perceived to be a first glimpse of anatta... in my car. It was a very dark night on a very straight road and I found it incredibly easy to really focus on the movements of driving (which is unusual because I never find mindfulness particularly easy :P ). Anyway, after being mindful of driving for about 20 minutes I had a brief moment where I experienced anatta... I'm not going to describe it here because everytime I do I fail to express what it felt like and everybody just looks at me weird. But the truly weird thing is that you don't notice when you your ego drops away because in essence "you" aren't experiencing it... it's just pure awareness. It feels soooo natural, and you only realize it *after* if happens. Or, I should say, the first millisecond that you realize that something's different, you're back out of it again. After it happened I was rather shocked and had to pull over for a few seconds to figure out what had just happened. Anyway, the next day, I went to my teacher and she also said that it sounded like a first glimpse of anatta but she begged me never to concentrate so so much in a car ever again. :jumping:

It has been a huge motivation booster: "Okay, I see now that these things are actually possible... keep going!" Which I think can be really helpful when you just don't feel like meditating at the end of a long work day. When my teacher confirmed it, I thought, "Okay, people say that you should just accept it, forget it and continue practicing... So, that's what I'll do." The only thing is, it's not the kind of thing you just easily forget. In the back of my mind, I sometimes ask "Why did it happen off the cushion? Why can't my meditation be as strong as my mindfulness that one night?" "Why has it not happened again?" "Try to do what you did in the car that night... " etc etc etc. It's always subtly there in the back of my mind. It has almost become a "milestone".
Now that I am practicing vipassana, I feel like I am expecting myself to have another (or longer) experience of anatta. And I feel like it is almost creating a hindrance to any progress in meditation.

Has anyone else had this? How do you strike the balance between letting it motivate you and spur you on and letting slowing you down? How do you stop it from becoming a mental roadblock?

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Re: Anatta experience becoming a hindrance?

Post by acinteyyo » Fri Jun 21, 2013 6:49 pm

Hi Kabouterke,

you should just accept it, and continue practicing... :tongue:
A quote of Ven. Ajahn Chah comes to my mind:
Remember you don't meditate to "get" anything, but to get "rid" of things. We do it, not with desire, but with letting go. If you "want" anything, you won't find it.
best wishes, acinteyyo
Thag 1.20. Ajita - I do not fear death; nor do I long for life. I’ll lay down this body, aware and mindful.

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Re: Anatta experience becoming a hindrance?

Post by fivebells » Fri Jun 21, 2013 8:45 pm

These all sound like excellent questions. Figuring out the causes and conditions of good outcomes is the path to skill in meditation. What kind of hindrance do you feel it is creating for you?

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Re: Anatta experience becoming a hindrance?

Post by reflection » Fri Jun 21, 2013 9:43 pm

I think the actual experiences we have are not that important. It is more important how we relate to them. If you think too much of a certain experience, you'll be tempted to put it on a pedestal, crave it and want to recreate it. Instead, I think it's better to reflect upon our experiences wisely and then let them go. If insights somehow work against you, you may want to reflect upon them again, and upon your reaction to them. It was what it was, whatever it was. To have some sense of progress can be a good motivator, but it can be a great obstacle also. Especially when you overestimate yourself or think you have experienced things you haven't. This is also prevented by letting the experiences be for what they are, letting them go and not adding layers of speculations and expectations on top of them. In this sense, labeling your experience as "anatta experience" is already a first layer covering over the actual experience.

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