Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

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Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Forum: The Dharma Playground

I'm generally content to try to leave the content of my psychology and neuroses be for the span of time I spend meditating, but one content-related question has been nagging me for a while. Because it is not really a practical concern, but rather a speculative one, I've posted this discussion in the Dharma Playground.

Reading 'Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha', I was particularly intrigued by Ingram's experience of having a spontaneous A&P event while sleeping at a young age.

I guess what most struck me was a sense that the absolutely baffling sleep experiences I once had as a child and a young man might be explained in terms of the stages/events of insight. Only through vipassana have I been able to begin to 1) repeat in a controlled manner and 2) come to some kind of terms with those disturbing experiences, which still largely evade my understanding (except insofar as I now refer to them as "Night Terrors", and have a community of co-terrorized dreamers to sympathize with).

I'm curious if anyone else has noticed or wondered about or drawn parallels between commonly experienced aberrant sleep phenomena (out of body stuff, sleep paralysis, night terrors, etc.) and the different phenomena of the stages of insight…

Thanks,

Nathan
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Here's some more background, for the hell of it:

At my best (at the end of my second Vipassana retreat), I consider myself of a mature A&P level. Yet in reading MCTB, I couldn't help drawing a parallel between the night terrors I used to have and Ingram's description of the 3 Doors, particularly where Suffering predominates combined with Emptiness.

The night terrors mostly defy description in language. What I do remember is a somehow-conical image of the entire universe, combined with a sense that miniscule grains of dust near me also were the universe, or at least the weight of the universe. I would awake screaming in terror that I had disturbed one of these grains of universe irrevocably, shattering everything. In general, it would take me 15-30 minutes of hysterical pacing to realize that I had committed no universal crime and that it had all been a dream.

For years, I had a persisting anxiety about my own sanity, and about the idea of the infinite in the miniscule. Reading Borges would give me panic attacks. And yet, when I started meditating, these dreams all but disappeared, and when they did show up, I maintained enough equanimity to not freak out, to observe what was happening from moment to enormous moment.

Moreover, while maintaining a strong vipassana practice, I began to occasionally experience some of the same sensations WHILE meditating (of enormous size and weight, increased heart-rate), that I had never experienced in an waking state. It was very different from the free-flowing pleasant vibrations I had been accustomed to... much scarier and yet somehow more substantial.

Anyone have any similar experiences or theories on this?

Ok, back to practice. ;)
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
The only commonality I share is that often dreams sometimes serve as occasions for insight. Ever since I can remember I have been able to recall my dreams after waking. I even remember my first nightmare as a child.

Recently I had a dream where I got into an argument with two well known Christian televangelists over whether or not I was ever really "saved". At the time the dream seemed real and vivid, even while dreaming I knew it was just a dream. When I woke I couldn't help but feel a strong sense that wakefulness into this "reality" is still yet just a dream. And then I couldn't get the childhood nursery rime of "Row, row, row, your boat..." out of my head. The whole day it played like a mantra in the background of my thoughts. The Three Characteristics kept showing itself as if I was some silent observer watching my world unfold like a dream before me, as if I knew, though awake, I was just dreaming.

Anyways, I find dreams very interesting and helpful, especially that state between dreaming and being awake (usually before falling asleep or right after waking up). I've even composed a symphony or two, invented something wonderful, and wrote a novel in my head while in that in-between state, though I usually forgot the whole thing after fully waking up.

- JG
"...life is but a dream."
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Nathan,

I've been having similar-sounding experiences ever since childhood, but I never experienced the degree of terror you did. And I was struck by Daniel's descriptions, too.

My current understanding is to apply the blanket term "powers" or "siddhi" to such experiences - effects due to improved concentration abilities. I consider their occurrence as one of the landmarks of later A&P territory.

Funnily enough, I used to think oob/sleep paralysis experiences came from eating too much pizza or salted snacks before sleeping. Nowadays I attribute the cause to concentration practice, and I think the connection to salty food is that it makes me thirsty during the night, and the strong desire to get up and have a drink can be a factor for inducing an oob dream.

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

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Interesting stuff, jamieguinn and monkeymind.

Jamiguinn, I used to be disturbed by that hypnogogic state between wakeness and sleep; these days I seem to drop off too quickly to either enjoy it or fear it.

Monkeymind, my sleep stuff frequently happened while feverish or right after, or after not sleeping or not eating or drinking enough water… As when fasting or sleep deprived during meditation courses, when the mind's frameworks/barriers/filters are weakened, lots of wacky stuff seems to happen.

Aldous Huxley has some theories on this in "The Doors of Perception", that things like fasting, sleep deprivation, self-flagellation, hallucinogens, etc. tend to be subtractive rather than additive; that is, they subtract some of the mind's filtering ability, with a result that we perceive MORE of what is in these affected states than we do in normal activity.

Your theory of salt reminds me of a superstition I held for many years regarding the ingestion of blue/green algae (e.g. spirulina, chlorella). On more than a few occasions when I ate something containing algae, I'd end up having night terror (usually about an hour after I fell asleep.) I avoided algae for years because of this… Now I rather enjoy them / find that they don't cause any weird phenomena.

Weird. Cool.
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: KunstderFuge

I had night terrors as a kid and agree with nrosquist they they defy description (more even than dreams usually do). This morning I had a serious episode of totally contentless, unmotivated, highly concentrated fear (with associated nausea and cold sweat) while meditating -- and it felt a bit like the nameless horrors of the "night terrors" I had as a kid. I haven't experienced anything like that in a fully-conscious state before, and only once when I was hallucinating with a high fever. It was weird to come over to the DhO and see someone post on something so similar. I've been having more odd experiences since getting a sudden jump in my concentration in the last couple of weeks.

After meditating this morning I read some of the chapter on "makyo" in _Zen and the Brain_ (James Austin), which argues that these sorts of things are what happens when the boundaries between waking and sleeping states begin to become more porous in meditation.

Phil
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

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Wow! That is pretty eerie, KunstderFuge, and sounds a lot like what I have experienced.

I'll be sure to check out Zen and the Brain...

I have to wonder if that objectless, unmotivated fear is some vestigial lizard brain phenomenon… But what I remember about my night terrors was the conflation of the infinitely small and the infinitely large, which certainly seems to confound rational explanation.
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: KunstderFuge

Hey Nathan,

So I'm curious -- in your first post you write that you can repeat night-terror experiences in a controlled manner. How do you control them? I bailed out of meditation as fast as I could when I hit the fear. I was sitting at the zendo so I couldn't just leave, so I readjusted my position and decompressed my mind as best I could, and the fear went away. Luckily it was near the end of the session anyway.

I can't remember a thing about the content of my night terrors, but impossible conflations of incommensurable qualities do seem somehow to have been involved . . .

best, Phil
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

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Hi Phil,

I guess "repeat in a controlled manner" is inaccurate. The 2 or 3 times it has happened while meditating, I was better able to go through something that started randomly and that I was very much not in control of (except insofar as I could stand up and walk it off, if I chose to). I was able to control my reaction. I was better equipped to "ride" something overwhelming and disturbing, and not have to get off the inflating and infinitely dense horse. I was better equipped to not tell myself a story that what was happening was a) awful or universe-shattering and, more importantly, b) my fault.

My body increased in density and solidified, my heart began to pound and I began to sweat. Recognizing the feeling from my dreams, and somehow holding onto a shred of equanimity, I proceeded with cautious interest (in a similar way that one might undergo a scary drug trip with cautious acceptance and interest).

If it happens again, I can't say for sure I'll be able to "go with it" as I have so far, but I'd like to learn what I can…

Nathan
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RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
very interesting stuff here.question:did anybody have constant dreams about being killed and actually filling dying in the dream?or seing youself as a corpse?in my childhood i was many times shuted from the gun and still remember the feeling that followed the shut-weekness spreading in the body and dying
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Sleep states/disorders & insight events?

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
i ment shooting probably-misspelling

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