Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

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

Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Tue Jan 21, 2014 8:32 pm

Hiya, this is a bit of an odd question. It's not 100% meditation related, but it came up reading about metta meditation, and I suspect it may be slowing me down from really getting into meditation, so:

Just now I was reading through some of this: http://compik.fd.cvut.cz/~mrazek/books/ ... nglish.pdf
Starting at page 23, he spends while outlining the benefits of practicing metta for the practitioner:

Because of the practice of metta, we will fall asleep and wake up peacefully; we will have
pleasant dreams. On seeing our face or hearing our voice, others will love us and feel at one
with us. We will be loved by devas and brahmas and be protected by devas. There will be no
danger from weapons, fires, or poisons, which could cause death. Our minds will be calm and
steadfast, and our faces will be clear and cheerful. We will die with a clear, happy and
peaceful mind and will be reborn in the Brahma realm. Because of metta, we will be free from
desire and craving, and our anger and frustration will also disappear. We will be free from
jealousy and miserliness. Anxiety, longing, worry, grief and the desire to cry will cease to
arise. As a result of the practice of metta, we will be free from danger and will experience peace. Anyone who hates us will start to love or show us affection. People who speak ill of us
will start to praise us, and those who swear at us will speak kindly to us. Hostile persons or
enemies will become our friends. . . . [he continues to talk on this theme for a few more pages at least]


Up until reading that paragraph I had been quite enjoying what I was reading - it was informative, I like metta meditation, I was feeling pretty happy. But on reading that paragraph I began to feel scared. I mean properly, my stomach clenched up, that kind of fear. I also sometimes feel scared when I think about doing metta for myself (generally, if I am doing metta, I am either doing it for someone else or, if it includes me, it's just as part of a group e.g. if I do metta for everyone on the train I'm on)

I know some teachers say it can be tricky for westerners (particularly with a Christian background) to develop metta for themselves, which is why I've not worried too much that I find it hard to do that. But I almost seem to be scared of good things happening to me? It's not just 'I find it easier to develop metta for my friends than for myself', it's actual fear.

At the same time, I'm not great at caring about other people either - it's not like I'm self-sacrificing or anything. I get quite resentful if I feel demands are being made of me, or at feeling guilt-tripped into stuff (and I can feel guilt-tripped without anyone actually doing anything, the guilt is built in). So it's not like this is excessive generosity manifesting itself :tongue:

Any ideas or suggestions how to move past this?
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby manas » Tue Jan 21, 2014 9:25 pm

Hi Feathers,

Feathers wrote:Any ideas or suggestions how to move past this?


Very gradually, taking small steps often. 'Rome wasn't built in a day'. Practice makes progress.

But I also think that, sometimes we read passages like the one above, and then intellectualize metta too much, make it more complicated than it actually is. Don't we all know what it is already? That feeling of goodwill we feel when we interact with a loved one, or even just the feeling of a shared humanity with all the strangers one sees, while out attending to things. The knowledge that, even though there are some who have wronged us, nevertheless we don't wish harm on them (even if justice does have to be pursued). All of that is, to my mind, metta. It's that basic wish for the welfare of beings. The more of it one has, the happier life seems to be, ime.

As for yourself, well if you can't love yourself then no matter how many other people love you, no matter how many others you love, there is an aching dissatisfaction within. I think it is illogical to deny oneself love. There are enough folks around already who will make life difficult for us, we ourselves don't have to be one of them.

Those states and benefits mentioned in the passages you quoted, don't let them complicate something very simple - that love is one of those activities that feels good in the here-and-now, and has good results in the here-and-now also. Let that be enough, for now. That's my advice, anyway, but I'm no expert either, just a fellow learner.

kind regards,
manas
:anjali:
User avatar
manas
 
Posts: 2129
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:04 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby culaavuso » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:03 pm

Feathers wrote:I know some teachers say it can be tricky for westerners (particularly with a Christian background) to develop metta for themselves, which is why I've not worried too much that I find it hard to do that. But I almost seem to be scared of good things happening to me? It's not just 'I find it easier to develop metta for my friends than for myself', it's actual fear.


One common cause of difficulty with the metta practice towards oneself is the belief that being happy is somehow "wrong" or that it isn't deserved. It can be useful to directly investigate those thoughts if they underlie the fear in order to see that they don't have a good basis and lead to distress. If investigating the thoughts and beliefs that lead to the fear isn't sufficient on its own, the practice of virtue can help foster a belief that happiness is deserved. For an essay on this, see The Healing Power of the Precepts by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote: In my own experience, I have found that Western meditators tend to be afflicted more with a certain grimness and lack of self-esteem than any Asians I have ever taught. Their psyches are so wounded by modern civilization that they lack the resilience and persistence needed before concentration and insight practices can be genuinely therapeutic.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:There is a tendency in the West to dismiss the five precepts as Sunday-school rules bound to old cultural norms that no longer apply to our modern society, but this misses the role that the Buddha intended for them: They are part of a course of therapy for wounded minds. In particular, they are aimed at curing two ailments that underlie low self-esteem: regret and denial.
culaavuso
 
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby manas » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:53 pm

Hi culaavuso

culaavuso wrote:One common cause of difficulty with the metta practice towards oneself is the belief that being happy is somehow "wrong" or that it isn't deserved.


I wonder if that notion of having to be 'deserving' of love, is a bit of Christian baggage, that notion of being 'stained by original sin' and inherently 'bad' unless one has been 'saved' by the blood of Christ (for some reason, their god seems to have a strange obsession with the shedding of blood). What a lot of trouble has been caused by this idea.

No one is either deserving, or undeserving, of love. It's not a matter of 'deserve', it's a matter of need. Love is simply a basic human need, we all need it, both good and bad alike. Including ourselves, whoever we may be.

kind regards,
manas
:anjali:
User avatar
manas
 
Posts: 2129
Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:04 am
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Wed Jan 22, 2014 12:23 am

Manas, thank you for the very good advice. And culaavuso, that was a really interesting little article, thank you!
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Mkoll » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:25 am

Hi Feathers,

I'm sorry you feel scared but I'm not sure exactly what you're afraid of so I'll just make a few points.

1) The advantages described are to be fully expected as the fruit of the deliverance of mind via loving-kindness, i.e. jhana.

2) The author you quoted added a bunch of stuff that isn't in the sutta he is obviously drawing from.

What I found rather ridiculous is: "People who speak ill of us will start to praise us, and those who swear at us will speak kindly to us. Hostile persons or enemies will become our friends..." Sure, some of this may happen but the language reeks of hyperbole and could be misconstrued.

There never was, there never will be, nor is there now, a person who is wholly blamed or wholly praised.
Dhp 228

:anjali:
Peace,
James
User avatar
Mkoll
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:55 pm
Location: California, USA

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:51 am

:group:
SarathW
 
Posts: 2206
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby kmath » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:12 am

To the OP,

I'm not quite understanding what the fear is about. Is it fear of "letting yourself go" or something? Can you explain?
User avatar
kmath
 
Posts: 257
Joined: Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:44 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby binocular » Wed Jan 22, 2014 5:57 am

kmath wrote:I'm not quite understanding what the fear is about. Is it fear of "letting yourself go" or something? Can you explain?

Seconded.

How far down the rabbit hole is one willing to go ...

While it seems common enough for Westerners to feel okay about having goodwill and desiring happiness for others, and not for themselves, I suspect there is something hideous in all this.
Namely, is what they call "having goodwill and desiring happiness for others" _truly_ having goodwill and desiring happiness for others? Or is it an attempt at self-defense, a subtle attempt to change others?
"If I will have goodwill for others and desire they would be happy, then they will not hurt me and I will be safe" - is that it?
"If I'm nice to others, then I will be safe" --?
IOW, other people are per default perceived as threats, as monsters that need to be appeased if one is to be safe. Moreover, with an outlook like that, _other people_ are perceived as the actual source of one's safety and of one's misery. That's a doctrinal issue!

If this is what the person is actually intending while they "practice metta for others" and it is this what they mean by "metta", then it's no wonder that they don't like to turn such intentions and such feelings against themselves.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby SarathW » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:01 am

Please be aware of the sixteen stages of insight:
No:6 Bhaya Nana:

The sixth stage of knowledge is bhaya nana or "knowledge of the appearance as terror." The following characteristics can be observed:

a.At first the meditator acknowledges objects, but the acknowledgements vanish together with consciousness.
b.A feeling of fear occurs but it is unlike that generated by seeing a ghost.
c.The disappearance of nama and rupa and the consequent becoming nothingness induce fear.
d.The meditator may feel neuralgic pain similar to that caused by a nervous disease when he is walking or standing.
e.Some practitioners cry when they think of their friends or relatives.
f.Some practitioners are very much afraid of what they see even if it is only a water jug or a bed post.
g.The meditator now realizes that nama and rupa, which were previously considered to be good, are completely insubstantial.
h.There is no feeling of happiness, pleasure or enjoyment.
i.Some practitioners are aware of this feeling of fear but are not controlled by it.
:meditate:

http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html#fourc
SarathW
 
Posts: 2206
Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2012 2:49 am

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby binocular » Wed Jan 22, 2014 6:08 am

Feathers wrote:Any ideas or suggestions how to move past this?

One suggestion is to read The Nice Girl Syndrome. While I don't endorse the solutions that the author suggests there, I think she describes the problem and the symptoms well enough to help one pinpoint some questionable beliefs one may be holding about the effects of niceness and goodness. -Even as some of those beliefs may be socially preferred.

"I was nice to him, therefore, he had no business to be mean to me." - once one sees there is a problem with this kind of thinking, one can possibly be more realistic about metta too.


If this strikes a nerve, you might be onto something:

"There are these ten ways of subduing hatred. Which ten?

[1] "Thinking, 'He has done me harm. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[2] "Thinking, 'He is doing me harm. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[3] "Thinking, 'He is going to do me harm. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[4] "Thinking, 'He has done harm to people who are dear & pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[5] "Thinking, 'He is doing harm to people who are dear & pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[6] "Thinking, 'He is going to do harm to people who are dear & pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[7] "Thinking, 'He has aided people who are not dear or pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[8] "Thinking, 'He is aiding people who are not dear or pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[9] "Thinking, 'He is going to aid people who are not dear or pleasing to me. But what should I expect?' one subdues hatred.

[10] "One does not get worked up over impossibilities.

"These are ten ways of subduing hatred."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


manas wrote:
culaavuso wrote:One common cause of difficulty with the metta practice towards oneself is the belief that being happy is somehow "wrong" or that it isn't deserved.

I wonder if that notion of having to be 'deserving' of love, is a bit of Christian baggage, that notion of being 'stained by original sin' and inherently 'bad' unless one has been 'saved' by the blood of Christ

I don't buy this.
There is something I call "politically correct self-deprecation", and one of its manifestations is to make a point of saying, with teary eyes, how one isn't deserving of this and that and blah blah blah. But this is just another form of self-aggrandizement, as if to say - "Look how humble and modest I am! I so deserve to be respected for my humility and modesty! You so owe me!"
Someone who genuinely feels indebted would take action to try to repay the debt, as opposed to wallowing in the feelings of indebtedness and trying to gain an interest on them (pun intended).

Then there is the widely-held belief "You teach others how to treat you." Implying that one is solely responsible for how one gets treated by other people. As if one not only should control others, but on principle, is and should be able to do so.
And if this kind out outlook is the basis of one's metta practice for others, then it's no surprise that the whole of one's metta "practice" goes sour sooner or later.


No one is either deserving, or undeserving, of love. It's not a matter of 'deserve', it's a matter of need. Love is simply a basic human need, we all need it, both good and bad alike. Including ourselves, whoever we may be.

Love and goodwill are not the same thing.
Metta Means Goodwill
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:23 pm

Thanks for all the responses guys, some interesting stuff here.

re.
binocular wrote: . . .
While it seems common enough for Westerners to feel okay about having goodwill and desiring happiness for others, and not for themselves, I suspect there is something hideous in all this.
Namely, is what they call "having goodwill and desiring happiness for others" _truly_ having goodwill and desiring happiness for others? Or is it an attempt at self-defense, a subtle attempt to change others?
"If I will have goodwill for others and desire they would be happy, then they will not hurt me and I will be safe" - is that it?
"If I'm nice to others, then I will be safe" --?
IOW, other people are per default perceived as threats, as monsters that need to be appeased if one is to be safe. Moreover, with an outlook like that, _other people_ are perceived as the actual source of one's safety and of one's misery. That's a doctrinal issue!

If this is what the person is actually intending while they "practice metta for others" and it is this what they mean by "metta", then it's no wonder that they don't like to turn such intentions and such feelings against themselves.


I hadn't thought about it like this. I can see how that could happen but I honestly don't think that's what I'm doing when I do metta - I am very skeptical of any idea that I can affect others with it (I would avoid saying 'sending metta' or anything like that). For me, the positive benefits I have seen about metta have been about getting my head right - I did metta for 'us' when I was going to be working with a team of people very intensely for a week I knew would be stressful. I don't think it had any effect on them (seen as two of them weren't on speaking terms by the end, and one spent much of the week in tears!) but it did help me be calmer and more patient, so I wasn't caught up in the animosity. So I don't think I am using metta as a defense.

kmath wrote:To the OP,

I'm not quite understanding what the fear is about. Is it fear of "letting yourself go" or something? Can you explain?


I'm not quite sure either! That's the crux of the matter, and why I made the post. If it was just the 'easier to do metta for others' thing then I'd say 'oh yeah Christian guilt complex nice to see ya again' and probably address it by just gently trying to do a bit more metta for myself, or more 'group' metta as that seems quite good. But the fear reaction is a bit . . . odd.
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby binocular » Wed Jan 22, 2014 1:39 pm

Feathers wrote:I'm not quite sure either! That's the crux of the matter, and why I made the post. If it was just the 'easier to do metta for others' thing then I'd say 'oh yeah Christian guilt complex nice to see ya again' and probably address it by just gently trying to do a bit more metta for myself, or more 'group' metta as that seems quite good. But the fear reaction is a bit . . . odd.

This is why it's so important to develop concentration, as improved concentration helps one to better pay attention to what is actually going on in one's mind. Having a clearer idea of what is actually going on makes it easier to do something wholesome about it.


As for the fear about having goodwill for oneself: This fear could be a manifestation of doubts about the Buddhist path.
binocular
 
Posts: 1351
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby khlawng » Wed Jan 22, 2014 2:43 pm

when you have properly established yourself in your meditation practice and have some basic training in Jhanas,
each time you send metta, you can feel energy emitting in the direction you are sending them out.
you will feel compose and happy. and your mind will feel bright and blissful.
that is the only consolation i can give you.
so keep working on overcoming that fear because the reward is worth it.
User avatar
khlawng
 
Posts: 117
Joined: Thu Dec 09, 2010 2:28 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby daverupa » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:45 pm

Feathers wrote:I know some teachers say it can be tricky for westerners (particularly with a Christian background) to develop metta for themselves, which is why I've not worried too much that I find it hard to do that. But I almost seem to be scared of good things happening to me? It's not just 'I find it easier to develop metta for my friends than for myself', it's actual fear.

At the same time, I'm not great at caring about other people either - it's not like I'm self-sacrificing or anything. I get quite resentful if I feel demands are being made of me, or at feeling guilt-tripped into stuff (and I can feel guilt-tripped without anyone actually doing anything, the guilt is built in). So it's not like this is excessive generosity manifesting itself :tongue:

Any ideas or suggestions how to move past this?


Have a look at the Sedaka Sutta; it describes how satipatthana practice protects oneself, while four other orientations are for protecting others: metta, of course, but instead of the usual brahmaviharas (metta, karuna, mudita, upekkha) we have patience (khanti), harmlessness (ahimsa), goodwill (mettacitta), and sympathy (anudaya).

Notice how metta for oneself isn't actually framed up as a practice. Taking joy in the pursuit of the Path, and so forth, should occur, but metta for oneself or for specific non-present others are practices that I've never had much success with, nor do I see much early textual support for them.

Instead, I approach all other beings as above while internally I strive to maintain satipatthana. When someone comes to mind, say, I can attend mindfully to ensuring they are held in the mind with goodwill, patience, and so forth ("loving-kindness" is a bit strong, which is why I'm saying "goodwill" instead). Or, if I see them or hear hurtful words, say, I can still attend mindfully to this context, practicing goodwill as well as right speech, and so on.

This allows for right effort, etc, which is much more useful than trying to 'send metta' to myself, for example, at least in my experience. Joy can be had when ones calm reflection notes a lack of unwholesome states...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4176
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Thu Jan 23, 2014 10:09 am

Thanks daverupa. That's a really interesting sutta, the 'each look after yourself' thing is counter-intuitive but actually really practical advice I think.

And thanks everyone for the replies, lots of kindness and encouragement here :smile: I'm still a bit baffled by the fear, but I guess press on and try and ignore it for now :shrug:
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby daverupa » Thu Jan 23, 2014 3:41 pm

Feathers wrote:I'm still a bit baffled by the fear, but I guess press on and try and ignore it for now :shrug:


Perhaps you're anxious about aggrandizing the ego somehow. In any event, recall that the practice in that sutta is protective. My hope is that this will help to assuage any fear that arises.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4176
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Fri Feb 07, 2014 12:31 pm

I'm revisiting this because I had a thought (it's a rare occurrence :-P ) :

One of the things about Buddhism that I didn't need any convincing about was impermanence. In particular, my life the past 8yrs in particular has taught me not to trust the good times and feelings. The other night on the way home from work I realised I was feeling really happy about my new job, and that was immediately followed by a very similar fear to what I've been describing in this thread. So maybe I'm scared of a meditation that leads to feeling good because I expect it to fall away and be replaced not just by something neutral but by very bad feelings.

Any general advice based on this theory of the cause of the fear?
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby culaavuso » Fri Feb 07, 2014 6:41 pm

Feathers wrote:The other night on the way home from work I realised I was feeling really happy about my new job, and that was immediately followed by a very similar fear to what I've been describing in this thread. So maybe I'm scared of a meditation that leads to feeling good because I expect it to fall away and be replaced not just by something neutral but by very bad feelings.

Any general advice based on this theory of the cause of the fear?


This sounds like the dangers of greed and passion for the pleasant feelings have become understood, and this has led to aversion for the pleasant feelings instead which may be giving rise to fear. Pleasant feelings and unpleasant feelings are both just experiences that happen and it's useful to practice meeting them both with equanimity. Trading greed for aversion doesn't seem so helpful. There's nothing helpful to be offered by the fear just like there's nothing helpful to be offered by passion for the good times. The good times will definitely end, but whatever bad times there are to fear will end in just the same way.

From Pure and Simple by Upasika Kee Nanayon:

Upasika Kee Nanayon wrote:You have to know that fabrication is inconstant, stressful, and has no self to itself. Keep looking at this point over and over again until it becomes clear to the heart. Only then will you develop a sense of disenchantment and dispassion. You won't fasten onto good fabrications or push bad ones away, for you've seen that they have the same price, they're both equally changeable.


It seems reasonable that this suggests not only that it isn't worth fastening onto good fabrications and pushing bad ones away, but that similarly it isn't worth pushing good fabrications away or fastening on to bad ones.
culaavuso
 
Posts: 1030
Joined: Sat Jan 11, 2014 8:27 pm

Re: Feeling scared when I read about the good things . . .

Postby Feathers » Sat Feb 08, 2014 10:25 am

culaavuso wrote:... Trading greed for aversion doesn't seem so helpful ...
[big cut]
... It seems reasonable that this suggests not only that it isn't worth fastening onto good fabrications and pushing bad ones away, but that similarly it isn't worth pushing good fabrications away or fastening on to bad ones.


Absolutely. I guess my questions is how, especially as for the past few years my bad times have lasted months and been at points pretty grim, and my good times have been hours. I realise the fear isn't helpful at all, but I think I can now understand where it comes from, and it's not as irrational as it seemed at first.
Feathers
 
Posts: 208
Joined: Mon Jan 07, 2013 6:14 pm


Return to Theravada Meditation

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests