Existential Crisis

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Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:12 pm

I've been doing a lot of introspection recently, and I believe that recent events in my life have precipitated what is commonly called an 'Existential Crisis'.

What I mean by this is that I have become acutely aware of my own mortality, question the meaning and purpose of my very existence, and experience what I can only describe as a 'lonely panic', as though I were insignificant, adrift in a vast and indifferent universe.

I am beginning to feel that perhaps I have been doing my meditation wrong - my awareness seems to be jumbled and out of control, and my dreams vivid and disturbing.

Could someone please advise me on how to get past this?
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:27 pm

Hi Tehuti,

It's not uncommon for things to get rough if practice is effective. After all, Buddhist practice is designed to undermine the ego, and the ego can object to that...

Do you have a teacher or a practice group? Such things are much easier to talk through in person.

However, if not, perhaps you could explain a little about your practice and someone might have some comments or suggestions that might make sense in that context.

:anjali:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:53 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Tehuti,

It's not uncommon for things to get rough if practice is effective. After all, Buddhist practice is designed to undermine the ego, and the ego can object to that...

:anjali:
Mike


Hi Mike,

Thank you for your response!

When questioning the very meaning, substance and apparent futility of existence, the ego is bound to object at some stage.

My ulterior motive was actually to start some discussion on the nature of being and emptiness, to explore how and why existential crises occur, and perhaps gain some insight into how to cross this (apparently) immense gulf.

From what research I have done, it appears that many thoughtful people have passed through this phase, but it is never quite clear what their solution was. The only conclusion I have come to, is that the only meaning and purpose of life is what you assign to it; but that still does not really satisfy!

As for my personal practices, I have been simply focusing on mindfulness meditation, (of the breath), enquiry into the nature of emptiness, and some Raja Yoga meditation techniques (practising concentration on an object or concept).

For the benefit of the readers, I think it would be a really good idea to have some discussion regarding the issue of how we can understand and overcome this kind of situation.

Thank you.

:namaste:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby m0rl0ck » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:13 pm

In my experience, the only way to cope with this kind of thing is to surrender and let go and continue to practice. If you stop practice i think you can get stuck in this kind of thing. Die to yourself, surrender, the only way out is the way in.
All along the path of my practice i have experienced this to some degree or other and the only way i have found to get through it is to surrender and come out the other side. It would be best if you could talk face to face with a teacher about this.
If its any consolation my experience with these kinds of bumps in the road is that you eventually learn to approach them more skillfully and with more equanimity.
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby marc108 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:21 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Do you have a teacher or a practice group? Such things are much easier to talk through in person.


i think this is good advice. i went through something similar and that really was the best thing for me.
"It's easy for us to connect with what's wrong with us... and not so easy to feel into, or to allow us, to connect with what's right and what's good in us."
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:34 am

It's always been like this, just your perception of it has changed.

"I am in the middle of an 'Existential Crisis'" is a story, a story with I with a capital I in the middle of it.

If you are practising mindfulness correctly you won't be paying much attention to the story rather you'll be interested in the myriad of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that are arising and passing away, whether or not they appear to be related to the story.

So place your foundation on that which can be directly experienced and the knowing of it. Not on a conceptual interpretation (story) which may or may not be an accurate description of what's really going on and can easily snowball.
"Whenever we feel that we are definitely right, so much so that we refuse to open up to anything or anybody else, right there we are wrong. It becomes wrong view. When suffering arises, where does it arise from? The cause is wrong view, the fruit of that being suffering. If it was right view it wouldn't cause suffering." - Ajahn Chah
"Remember you dont 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 wont find it." - Ajahn Chah
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby befriend » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:46 am

Goofaholix wrote:It's always been like this, just your perception of it has changed.

"I am in the middle of an 'Existential Crisis'" is a story, a story with I with a capital I in the middle of it.

If you are practising mindfulness correctly you won't be paying much attention to the story rather you'll be interested in the myriad of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations that are arising and passing away, whether or not they appear to be related to the story.

So place your foundation on that which can be directly experienced and the knowing of it. Not on a conceptual interpretation (story) which may or may not be an accurate description of what's really going on and can easily snowball.



great advice. could work for anything, even wrong views?
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby DAWN » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:26 am

Existential crisis of what make you suffer?

Crisis of form?
Crisis of feeling?
Crisis of perception?
Crisis of volitional formations?
Crisis of consciosness?
Sabbe dhamma anatta
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:51 am

Hi, everyone,
Coming at this from a different angle:
Tehuti wrote:From what research I have done, it appears that many thoughtful people have passed through this phase, but it is never quite clear what their solution was. The only conclusion I have come to, is that the only meaning and purpose of life is what you assign to it; but that still does not really satisfy!

The bit in bold:
"Meaning" is something that words have. Nothing else has it, intrinsically, except perhaps non-verbal communication from other sentient creatures. "Life" is an abstraction - can you touch it? smell it? tell me what colour it is? IMO, trying to paste "meaning" onto "life" is therefore completely senseless and "the meaning of life" is a meaningless phrase (however many people use it!!!)
Similarly, "purpose" is something that only sentient beings have and life is not a sentient being, so "the purpose of life" joins its partner in the junk bin.

The bit in italics:
Your conclusion is fine (you can stick a meaning on life if you like, just as you can stick a Bugs Bunny decal on your golf club). Why doesn't it satisfy you? Perhaps you would like a meaning so compelling that you never have to think for yourself about what to do? I can understand that, actually - it can be very comforting - but it isn't the way things are. And once you have honestly asked certain questions, you can't put the genie back in the bottle by un-asking them.

:meditate:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby pegembara » Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:08 am

My advise is to make friends with your breath. Just sit and observe your breath going in and out until you achieve some degree of stillness. Thoughts are not your friends here.

Keep going to your breathing. When you are fully settled, you will realise that things are really OK. It is only wrong thoughts that make them not so.
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:39 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Hi, everyone,
Coming at this from a different angle:

The bit in bold:
"Meaning" is something that words have. Nothing else has it, intrinsically, except perhaps non-verbal communication from other sentient creatures.


That's a very interesting angle! In fact, I am surprised I didn't think of it myself during my meditations.

Not wishing to sound juvenile, but that kind of explains the feeling that sentient beings get when they come to realise that they are essentially insignificant in the vastness of the universe, and the ceaseless march of time.

The sheer fragility of life on this planet is frightening. Sentient life requires very specific and narrow conditions to thrive at all, and any slight deviation in these conditions would cause us to cease to be, as ephemeral as bubbles in a stream.

BTW I am going to start looking to find a teacher/class and try to consolidate my practice into something more regular. I must confess that I meditate when the mood takes me, or when I really need to unwind.

Thank you for the advice. As is always the case with Buddhism, the answer seems to be intuitively obvious, but for some reason we don't often see it.

:anjali:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby DAWN » Wed Nov 14, 2012 7:16 pm

Just to complete Kim's (wondefull) post about a meaning of life, in french russian and others langueges, meaning of life use the word "sens of life", and like Kim said it, life have no sens.
Why?
Because the word "sens" can be used only for somethink that have some utility, some aim, but the utility and aim of life - is just to be alive, just be born, and die, this aim will be done naturaly.
So by being alive, and do it fully, with fully consciosness, is actualy the best way of life. Why? Because you are alive every moment, right lifehood.


What is the sens of life the Sun ? Just to be.
Sabbe dhamma anatta
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:58 pm

Tehuti wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:Hi, everyone,
Coming at this from a different angle:

The bit in bold:
"Meaning" is something that words have. Nothing else has it, intrinsically, except perhaps non-verbal communication from other sentient creatures.


That's a very interesting angle! In fact, I am surprised I didn't think of it myself during my meditations.

Not wishing to sound juvenile, but that kind of explains the feeling that sentient beings get when they come to realise that they are essentially insignificant in the vastness of the universe, and the ceaseless march of time.
...

Well I'm glad you find it useful but you have immediately chased off after the shadow of something that isn't there :tongue:
I said, "the phrase 'the meaning of life' is meaningless" and there you go again, saying that 'the fact that life is meaningless explains ...'
It's not the same thing at all. Look at verbal patterns:

1. The colour of my dog
2. The colour of truth
3. The smell of roses
4. The smell of blackness
5. The number of stars
6. The number of brown

Theses groups of words all look and function pretty much the same way but the even-numbered ones have no meaning - they don't fit or describe anything which exists in the world, or even could exist in the world. Here's another pair:

7. The meaning of my statement
8. The meaning of life

Now do you see?

:meditate:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:03 pm

DAWN wrote:Just to complete Kim's (wondefull) post about a meaning of life, in french russian and others langueges, meaning of life use the word "sens of life", and like Kim said it, life have no sens.
Why?
Because the word "sens" can be used only for somethink that have some utility, some aim, but the utility and aim of life - is just to be alive, just be born, and die, this aim will be done naturaly.
So by being alive, and do it fully, with fully consciosness, is actualy the best way of life. Why? Because you are alive every moment, right lifehood.
What is the sens of life the Sun ? Just to be.

Thanks, Dawn :smile:
"Sens", then, is used much like we would use "purpose". As you say, the sens of life of the sun is just to be. The natural sens (purpose) of life-as-a-whole is just to be or to continue.

:meditate:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:19 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Theses groups of words all look and function pretty much the same way but the even-numbered ones have no meaning - they don't fit or describe anything which exists in the world, or even could exist in the world. Here's another pair:

7. The meaning of my statement
8. The meaning of life

Now do you see?

:meditate:
Kim


Yes, I think I see.

Perhaps it is a case of asking the same questions over and over, but not taking the opportunity to know.

I recognise that I may have been chasing shadows, trying to prove something to myself when there is nothing to prove.

The desire is within me to reach out and grasp something that can't be grasped; the feeling that there is essentially something 'not-right' about my perception of existence, but not knowing what it is, or how to go about finding it out.

With the above I am simply trying to express how I feel, not make a thesis, so please excuse my confused state of mind. ;)

Thank you.

:anjali:
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:02 pm

DAWN wrote:Existential crisis of what make you suffer?

Crisis of form?
Crisis of feeling?
Crisis of perception?
Crisis of volitional formations?
Crisis of consciosness?


I think I have finally cracked the shell of the problem.

It's a crisis of loneliness.

Reading the chapter on intimacy in the book 'Art of Happiness' helped me understand.

A particularly touching link can also be found here:

http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/arc ... liness.htm

There are those individuals, however, who peer into the abyss and do not cower. We think of Gautama who gave up an opulent life and family in his late twenties to travel the world alone in search of meaning. Or Thoreau who retreated to the woods for a few years so that he might gain a decent perspective upon the world...
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby DAWN » Fri Nov 16, 2012 8:31 pm

Tehuti wrote:I think I have finally cracked the shell of the problem.

It's a crisis of loneliness.

Reading the chapter on intimacy in the book 'Art of Happiness' helped me understand.

A particularly touching link can also be found here:

http://www.philosophicalsociety.com/arc ... liness.htm

There are those individuals, however, who peer into the abyss and do not cower. We think of Gautama who gave up an opulent life and family in his late twenties to travel the world alone in search of meaning. Or Thoreau who retreated to the woods for a few years so that he might gain a decent perspective upon the world...



I see.
Actualy is a good kind suffering, this suffering tell you that your ego is destructing, in decompotition.
Why?
Because ego is conditioned fenomena, like a home thet need some support for this walls, and when there is no more support, ego is destructing, become instable, and if you have contact with it, if you tuch your ego, if you identify with what is heppens, you suffer.
Dont try to support the walls with your hands, let it fall and go forth. Dont be afffraid to go out of your home, there is shiny and warm, no need any home, freedom.

It's an very important moment, study the decomposition of your ego, watch how walls are destructed, and by doing it without triyng to reconstruct or find some support, you will see how the light enter, you will understand that sunshine was here for ever, so now you have just to wait when the home will be destructed and you will be able to go forth, to go out, to be free...

Actualy, there is many peoples who suffer of lonelyness, they dont understand what the tresure it is. Tesure that have no price.

Dwell alone my friend. Go forth. Ascetic among ascetics... :meditate:
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english
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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Fri Nov 16, 2012 10:25 pm

Here's our dilemma: That we've been damned by giants sound asleep, or by great scientific principles and abstractions that cannot realize themselves: that little harlots have visited their caprices upon us; that clowns, with buckets of water from which they pretend to cast thousands of good-sized fishes have anathematized us for laughing disrespectfully, because, as with all clowns, underlying buffoonery is the desire to be taken seriously; that pale ignorances, presiding over microscopes by which they cannot distinguish flesh from nostoc or fishes' spawn, have visited upon us their wan solemnities. We've been damned by corpses and skeletons and mummies, which twitch and totter with pseudo-life derived from conveniences.

It is our expression that the flux between that which isn't and that which won't be, or the state that is commonly and absurdly called "existence," is a rhythm of heavens and hells: that the damned won't stay damed; that salvation only precedes perdition.

A procession of the damned.
By the damned, I mean the excluded.
We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.

Amen.

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Re: Existential Crisis

Postby Tehuti » Sat Nov 17, 2012 4:28 pm

I found the following lyrics to be appropriate:

Lay down
Your sweet and weary head
Night is falling
You’ve come to journey's end
Sleep now
And dream of the ones who came before
They are calling
From across the distant shore

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away
Safe in my arms
You're only sleeping


:buddha2:
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