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Need help
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11/26/18 1:45 PM
Dhamma. Org

I am male 30 years from India. In december 2017 last week,  i went to a 10 days retreat (S. N. Goenka vipassana).  This was my third retreat,  first one being in December 2013. I was a regular smoker (10 cigs a day) and also heavy drinker (at least 3 times a week) although drinking was reduced to almost nothing couple of months before the retreat.  Meditation practice off the retreat was not regular so i can not say that I am a serious meditator. But i am always excited and positive towards the retreats and put my heart into it when i am in one. Follows the record of the my experience since december 2017 to november 2018, any insights and suggestions would be of immense help. I have been following dho since one year and i think this is the right place to look for suggestions and help. 

Dec 2017 -  Before the retreat

                Very excited, confident and positive towards the retreat.  At this time I was not having any idea of the maps and progess of insight/concentration.  I was doing the retreat just for the feel of it. This was going to be my third retreat

27 Dec 2017 to 6 jan 2018 The retreat

First three days were just fine,  pain was the least and insignificant.  I could sit for an hour straight.  I do not have knowledge of the jnanas so cant comment on that but overall sessions were going great and mind wandered the least. 

Day 4 at night,  my heart suddenly started racing and i felt something like panic attack,  i had to go out of the room to catch my breath,  i felt i was going to die. I was extremly scared. I somehow related that to the withdrawls of smoking and went on.  

I am not a diabetic,  still i felt that the uneasiness might be due to low blood sugar. So everyday i took a  bottle of lamonade with me to my room. After that i had severe fatigue throught the retreat,  couldnt walk few steps without struggling to breathe air. 
The uneasiness,  extreme fear that i am going to die,  lack of sleep (slept only for few hours throught the retreat) continued till 8th or 9th day. Last day was remarkably better in terms of feeling stable. 


JANUARY 2018

I came back from retreat and two days after that i went to watch a movie and had severe uneasiness, anxiety problem,  i was scared,  couldnt breathe, left the hall and went straight to hospital.  My blood sugar was normal ECG SHOWED SLIGHT ABNORMALITY IN ANTERIOR VALVE or something. Then i went for 2D ECO and STERSS/TRAEDMILL TEST Which again came back normal.  DOCTOR SAID MY HEART IS FINE. 


FEB-April 18

Felt slight better but some kind of uneasiness still  lingered. Smoking ( even a single cigarrette made me anxious), was reduced from 10 to 1 or 2 per day. I had food poisoning on 15 th march and after that,  digestive issues remained.  I went to 3-4 doctors,  all of them said nothing was wrong with me.  

May 18

Fatigue is extreme severe pannic attacks (almost daily) in the evening.  Sleep is gone. Brain fog (experienced first time ), Physicall tasks are extremly difficult.  Although i was regular at the gym and have significant stamina i was extremmly scared of even a small walk. 

Lack of concentration was extreme,  girlfriend complained that i dont pay any attention. I have quite a good memory (above average)  but it was very difficult to remember a single thing during the day. Frustrated,  embarrassed.  Before the retreat i was able to study for 10 to 12 hours a day.  Now half an hour was an impossible task. Everyone was asking where am i (lack of attention) i thought memory loss was permannent. 

June.18 first week

Was literally crawlling with fatigue.feeling like my brain is pushing against my skull. Had exams but couldnt appear as i was scared i was going to die any moment now.  I gave up on everything and just waited for the moment to come. I gave up the job,  gave up the carrier, gave up on almost everything. went to my parrents.  

June-july 2018

Some sort of brain fog (different than earlier).  I am like a doll sitting at one place one posture all day.
Slept only for 3_4 hours a day. Weird feeling in the centre of the  chest made me suddenly awake at almost every night. During the sleep  Breath was stopping suddenly and i had to struggle to catch it This was the time i came accross dhammaoverground website and MCTB.  During this time i couldnt do anything so started reading

August. 

For few days,  just before falling asleep,  a stage was there where i am not completely asleep nor awake but aware of it in a very weird way.  This happened for couple of nights for very short periods of times (about 2-3 minutes) 

For two days Very different type of experience like i am not me type.  Althogh experience didnt match any of the description of cool things in the books or websites, i felt calm for the first time in months. it was not extremly pleasant nor painful (very neutral). 


September-November

One day i was extremly scared thinking that if i sleep i am never going to wake up,  that was the moment i surrendered myself (i did not have choice situation). Surrender was natural and there had nothing left to hold on to. 

There has been shift in perception as well as understanding after this event. Cant say its sudden,  it was more like gradual but i was seeing things differently now.  Sometimes the fear arised but i was not that scared.  Memory also has been working fine now. But it feels like i am different now in so many ways.  I am less frustrated,  less sad,  more statble now. 

The thing is I left practicing soon after i started having problems. And i am afrraid if i start practicing the bad phase would return.  

I request everyone for the advice.  And I am sorry for the long post. Please forgive my English. 



RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 4:14 AM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
Hi Nikhil,

Fellow Indian here, who too started with Goenka.
"This was the time i came accross dhammaoverground website and MCTB. During this time i couldnt do anything so started reading”
So, now you must be familiar with MCTB and the nyanas and stuff? Looks like yours is a classic Dukkha nyana (Dark night) experience, which is common and normal.

"i felt calm for the first time in months. it was not extremly pleasant nor painful (very neutral). "
Likely you got up to equanimity here. Can't be very sure, though.
So, looks like you're cycling A&P -DN - EQ.

"One day i was extremly scared thinking that if i sleep i am never going to wake up, that was the moment i surrendered myself (i did not have choice situation). Surrender was natural and there had nothing left to hold on to.

There has been shift in perception as well as understanding after this event. Cant say its sudden, it was more like gradual but i was seeing things differently now. Sometimes the fear arised but i was not that scared."
Though you talk about perception shift here, I can't say you did reach stream entry, because neither I'm experienced to say that nor your descriptions are sufficient enough to say that. Most likely it's not Stream entry. In any case, you've got some good insights and looks like that has reduced some suffering in you. Good for you. The insights and experiences that you had could be temporary or sometimes have a permanent impact, no one can say that for sure and only time will tell. As with most people's experience, a permanent significant shift only comes with Stream entry.

"The thing is I left practicing soon after i started having problems. And i am afrraid if i start practicing the bad phase would return. "
The best advice for this is to contemplate for some time on what is your actual motivation for meditation practice? Do you really want to practice now, why? What are you looking for? Is it okay if you don't practice?

"Sometimes the fear arised but i was not that scared. Memory also has been working fine now. But it feels like i am different now in so many ways. I am less frustrated, less sad, more statble now. “
Do you mean to say you are content with your current life after that experience?
If so, why do you think you're worrying whether you should continue the practice? Or do you feel there’s much more to be done? Your motivation to meditate has decreased only because you're scared of the Dark side or because there's a huge reduction in suffering?
If you neither have enough motivation nor have much suffering, there wouldn't be any confusion whether or not to continue the practice.
Give it some time, give a few weeks and months and see if things start changing and if you're back to your old self. That should be a pretty good indicator regarding what you're supposed to do in the future.

But, in case you decide to practice further, you should be brave enough to face the challenges. Give a few more reads of MCTB2 ( https://www.mctb.org/mctb2/table-of-contents/ ), understand the stages in and out, take the advices given there to your heart. Understand that all the things that you're experiencing are normal and have been experienced by countless yogis in the past. Prepare yourself and continue your practice according to the stages. Don’t freak out. Spend more time here on DhO (can't stress this enough) and see how people have managed a similar territory in the past and see what pieces of advice they got from others. Remember the MCTB Mantra: “Perceive the 3 characteristics of all the sensations that make up your reality precisely and consistently”.
Few other common general advice that people usually give during DN: Socialise more with family and friends, exercise well, have good sleep, don't let DN affect your personal and professional life, and continue the daily practice.

If you're still worried about the practice, you can slowly start with Brahmaviharas, which is almost never a problem if done properly. Then slowly shift to other concentration based meditations, to stabilize yourself more and see if you're ready.
You could also check out "The Mind Illuminated" by Culadasa which is followed by many, here.

All the best. You can keep updating on your practice here.

RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 3:34 PM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
It sounds like you experienced fairly serious and long-lasting energetic symptoms after doing relatively small amounts of a technique that is typically well-tolerated. Although it's possible you're going through the progress of insight, much of what you described does not resemble the dark night.

People on an internet forum will not be able to diagnose what caused these symptoms, much less whether it's safe for you to start practicing again. When someone has an experience like yours, it's very important not to start meditating again without expert advice.

Be aware that this forum has a tendency to diagnose all negative meditation experiences as manifestations of the dark night, when there are many other potential causes for what you experienced. Of the weird things that can happen in meditation, long-lasting negative energetic symptoms are probably the least understood, both in terms of what causes them in some people and not others, as well as how they can be treated. 

I would be very, very careful before you try meditating again, because the symptoms could recur and be worse than before. Be grateful that you're functional again and hold off on practicing until you know what's going on. 

I recommend that you contact Tara Springett (http://www.taraspringett.com/), Hokai Sobol (https://www.hokai.info/contact/), and Willoughby Britton (https://vivo.brown.edu/display/wbritton) for advice. Tara Springett is an expert on treating negative energetic phenomena in meditation practitioners. Hokai is an experienced Buddhist meditation teacher. Willoughby is an academic expert in negative meditation experiences and she'll be familiar with experiences like yours. 

I will seek contact info for more teachers whose advice could be useful to you and post in this thread. I think it makes sense for you to consult multiple experts before you decide to practice again. It would also be helpful if you could provide me with your email address. You can send me a message and post in this thread when you've done so, so I can make sure that the message was received (sometimes the message functionality here doesn't work). 

tamaha's advice is well-intentioned but potentially dangerous. It's impossible to diagnose over the internet whether further practice would be safe for you or not at this juncture.

RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 8:13 PM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
You could also check out the book "Trauma sensitive mindfulness" by David Treleaven, a much talked about book these days on this subject.

RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 10:08 PM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
Please review the resources available on this page: https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/wiki/health-and-balance

RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 10:39 PM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
That sounds like quite an experience!  In posting about it here, you are on the right track - the negative, destabalizing effects that meditation can have are well recognised in this community.  Resources such as the link Noah posted could be helpful, you could also try reaching out to teachers such as Daniel Ingram, author of MCTB and founder of this forum, for more personal guidance.  Best of luck!

RE: Need help
Answer
11/27/18 11:07 PM as a reply to T DC.
Thanks a lot everyone, listening from someone means a lotlin such situations.  I am stopping maditation for a while,  till my exams are over. And will post other missed details of the experience 

RE: Need help
Answer
12/6/18 10:42 AM as a reply to tamaha.
Thank you. Where are you from in india    ? 

RE: Need help
Answer
2/7/19 1:43 AM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
Noticing involuntary body movement while going to sleep.  is it normal

RE: Need help
Answer
2/7/19 8:57 AM as a reply to Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram.
Nikhil Gowardhan Meshram:
Noticing involuntary body movement while going to sleep.  is it normal

Could be normal and nothing to worry about. How is everything else in your life? Are you mostly okay?

RE: Need help
Answer
3/8/19 4:53 AM as a reply to shargrol.
I can say I am better now. but there are certain issues i would like to point out here.  
1. I remain dull throught the day. 
2. I also observed some characteristics of double mindedness with me.  earlier i was a confident guy,  but now i am inconsistent and indecissive. also I can not study like i used to,  efficiency came down to 30 % or so.  thanks for asking though.