George wrote this article as a comment last night. I think it’s so helpful that I asked his permission to reprint it as a post. –Freddie
The glimpses I mentioned were like powerful flashes of non-duality/not-self, having the feeling that reality was watching itself with no person involved, or suddenly seeing the world as if for the first time in a fresh light. My mind would go like ‘WTF was that?’ and then go off searching to recreate the experience, which of course would prevent it from happening again. Then I started waking up in the night feeling completely depersonalized, like I couldn’t remember who or what I was, as if my whole personality had been deleted from memory, and these episodes would last up to several minutes and were frankly pretty terrifying. My hypothesis is that they were due to emotional repression/psychological defense mechanisms which had made me pretty disconnected from my body and living in my thoughts a lot. But over time I got used to them and my baseline converged more to that (so there was just less “selfing” going on in my thoughts).
The final realization involved realizing that no one experience is better than any other. Up until that point I was still holding onto the idea that the “endpoint” was going to be some special kind of new experience where everything was different/better. However I had done enough meditation and self-enquiry to accept that the “good” experiences always pass and you can’t stop the “bad” ones from arising, so it’s the attraction/aversion that is the problem rather than the experience itself. That made me realize that experience isn’t ultimately going anywhere in particular. Even though my experience of life had improved a lot through practice, I had to drop the assumption that this needed to keep happening, i.e. it was already good enough as it was.
The final nail in the coffin was realizing that the past & future are just thoughts & images (memories & expectations) arising in a kind of eternal present moment. Even though I had mostly seen through the sense of being an individual by that point, I was still clinging to time as if it was an external reality (i.e. the future and past are “real” in some sense apart from thoughts & images arising in the present). Combined with the attraction/aversion insight, this essentially made me realize that my whole life up to that point, all that trying to get away from the bad and searching for the good, all of that experience was already perfectly “ok” as it already was. And the “future” was always going to be like that as well – perfectly fine whatever happened. It was a kind of ‘OMG this is already it’ kind of realization. Like the flashes before, but it just totally synchronized and stuck, reality experiencing itself, totally fine as it is, absolutely no way for it to be any different from the way it already is. That’s where the seeking & suffering collapsed, because things can’t be any different from the way they already are. Obviously physical pain, discomfort and illness still arise and the body dies, but the mental suffering of wanting/expecting things to be different from the way they are basically vanished, which makes life a whole lot easier and more enjoyable.
Actually the realization opened up my psyche and a lot of childhood emotional stuff came out over the next few months, mostly repressed shame. I feel my emotions much more powerfully and immediately than before, there’s no escaping them (which basically means I don’t act out trying to avoid them like I did before). There’s no question any more of needing to make more effort to have a better basic experience of life, everything is just exactly what it is and perfectly determined by prior causes & conditions (even whatever intentions still arise, which are not the same kind of big future oriented plans I used to have). Experience tends to have much more of an unknown and unpredictable quality.
There’s still a lot of powerful energetic stuff going on in my body, related to old emotional stuff which is still working its way through the system. I’ve recently started getting some help with this, and it’s pretty interesting how that stuff is connected up in a karmic way with the wider web of interpersonal relations. I came from a very analytic background and was very insight focused. I started meditating about 3 years ago due to serious depression and the “final insight” occurred 1 year ago. I meditated 1-5 hours a day most days and never went on retreat, so my energetic/emotional development was probably less than a long-term meditator/seeker and I was starting from a place of pretty poor mental health (which meant that I was very motivated and felt like I had less to lose!) But there’s no point making comparisons, everything is already happening exactly the way it was meant to happen and it just appears to take the mind some time to adjust to that realization.