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I've got back into meditating quite recently, and a lot of stuff is swirling around in my head at the moment. I had a very interesting and slightly disconcerting experience yesterday so I figured I'd type something up and see if any questions come bubbling up, or maybe this is just here for posterity and whomever finds it interesting to read.

These are observations made after doing a little insight meditation for about a month. By "a little" I mean 10 minutes of sitting with attention and awareness on the breath daily most days. I think I missed out on two or three. What I think makes this salient for me now is not necessarily the duration of the practice. Rather, I hurt someone badly last week (and thus have been dealing with all the guilt and remorse that comes with that), and on top of that my grandmother passed away last sunday.
What happened last week effected me a lot, but right from the get go I decided that what I needed was time to process it, figure out what hurting someone like that meant for me as a person, and then use the routine behaviours I've built the past couple years to allow myself to get back to "reality" so to speak. This is in itself is pretty notable because when I restarted my meditation practice (I believe the routine, habit-driven parts of my life are important to something like this as well) I was very stressed out by work and I don't think I had this level of insight in my mental state, or the control over it.
Now it is significant to note that I've had something of a practice before; various smatterings of seated and lying meditation, lot's of stretching (I think this is the primary driver), as well as just a focus on my internal processes that's been there since I was a teenager. I lost sight of that during my stressed out time, but the serene place created by sitting made it very easy to gain that back.
Then when I heard the news about my grandmother, I felt grief, but I knew I could not spend another day being depressed because I needed the routine to stabilize mentally and offer what I could to the person that I hurt. So I decided to just keep on going with work and feel what emotions came up as they came up. In particular, I decided not to spend much time thinking about it, trying to really feel what my grandmother's passing meant. I knew that here would be emotions at some point, and they came pretty much when you would expect them to come: writing a eulogy, seeing the body, the funeral itself, and watching the car carrying her drive away to the cremation. Watching that car drive away I decided was a good moment to move on, and so I moved on.

What struck me about this process is how in control it felt. I looked at my emotional state, decided what I needed, and then just did it. That included letting emotions just reign free, because I felt comfortable in the knowledge that emotions burn themselves out when experienced fully. There were some additional observations that I didn't decide to deal with later, like the general progressing of time and the knowledge that I'm going to have to deal with most of my older family members passing away at some point, and that, since I don't believe in an afterlife, what is a funeral even to me beyond (and this sounds very disrespectful but I do not mean to say there is no value in it) mummery to make those who are left behind feel better? Dealing with all of that feels fairly straightforward.

What's not straightforward, however, is the experience I had later that night. I felt a thorough sense of disconnectedness and felt like I didn't have much of a sense of self. Everything felt transient and empty, and usually when I feel negative emotions I still have a strong sense of self, but that wasn't there yesterday evening. The sense that I got was a bit like the ship of Theseus: what I call "me" is an ever changing collection of atoms that present some higher order symptoms in the form of consciousness, and the consciousness is never the same from one moment to the next, so can you really define what "me" is? I ended up getting some rest by recalling my fundamental view on the ship of Theseus, which is that a) at some point, there is a thing you call "the ship of Theseus", and that b) there exists a set of transformations by which you can agree that the ship with that transformation applied is still "the ship of Theseus". And these I am willing to accept as a definition. As a consequence, I am also willing to accept that sort of a definition in terms of "self".
The whole ship of Theseus metaphor pretty much materialized immediately in my mind but for some reason it felt like the antithesis of my sense of self. And recalling my willingness to accept this definition took some time before I was convinced enough to calm down a bit. Because while it was very interesting, it was also incredibly difficult to relax, and it didn't seem like something one could just "put on hold" or consciously experience as one can do with so many other things, even when they're emotionally intense like grief.

So here's a bunch of questions: is this something other people on this forum have experienced as well? Is this the sense of "anatta" I've seen @Kit_L write about? Does that last question even matter? Plan is to just keep going and see what happens, but how do I make sure I do that in a safe and controlled way? I think that last one is the most important one, because while I've been up and down the emotional rollercoaster in the past week, I always felt like just accepting the process is the right thing to do. But yesterday made me a bit worried.

This turned into quite a novella so I can't be arsed to read it back. Enjoy it for what it is.

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Hey Rik, I will let those with much more experience than I respond, but in addition to Kit, I figured I would try pinging @Patrick for you. I'm sure they can both offer you some good advice!

(Edit: I should also add that Kit is currently sailing his new boat home, so he probably won't be able to respond for some time.)

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Thank you for sharing your experience. To me it seems only helpful to speak about these things openly and normalise them.

Sorry to hear about your grandmother. I wish you to you all the best working through your loss.

I likewise feel beyond my depth to really answer your post as it seems there are a number of things at play that I can't pretend to understand.

I will just mention, regarding your last question, that for me it always feels helpful to gently commit to a life of non-harm (follow the five precepts if you are familiar). That said we all make mistakes, so if this happens I practice forgiveness for myself and then set the intention again.

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I will ask my learned elder brother  @Patrick to comment further, but what you describe immediately below

On 1/20/2019 at 1:47 AM, Rik said:

The sense that I got was a bit like the ship of Theseus: what I call "me" is an ever changing collection of atoms that present some higher order symptoms in the form of consciousness, and the consciousness is never the same from one moment to the next, so can you really define what "me" is?

is similar to my own experience, but a lighter, gentler form of it. Relax more, and keep practising.

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On 2/8/2019 at 7:04 AM, Kit_L said:

I will ask my learned elder brother  @Patrick to comment further, but what you describe immediately below

is similar to my own experience, but a lighter, gentler form of it. Relax more, and keep practising.

Hi Kit, thanks for responding, and will do. Practice is definitely evolving all on its own in some respects. :) 

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