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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?

Hi everyone, I’m new here and this is my first post. I’ve only just started reading about Buddhism and it seems to have given me some answers to some rather “odd” experiences i’ve had throughout my life. I started seeing purple lights dancing around behind my eyelids when I was around 12 and my mum used to take me for Reiki sessions. From then on I became quite good at getting myself into a relaxed. I would basically just get myself into that just-before-sleep state and hold it; once there I found I could enjoy these blissful, floaty, pleasant sensations. At the time I didn’t realise I was meditating, in a way. I’ve had 2 profound experiences involving an intensely bright white light and I’m wondering if anyone has had the same or can tell me what it might be in relation to this path we’re on.

The first time was when I was 18 and my mum was practicing Reiki on me. We had both just completed our level 1. I was lay on the bed and the curtains were closed so the room was dim. When my mum got to my root chakra, I started to feel an heat rising up and vibrations building. I suddenly felt overcome with emotion and this bright white light seemed to fill my eyes. I was scared to open them thinking there was something out there! I felt myself start to literally rise off the bed and at that point I freaked out and told my mum what was happening, which seemed to stop it. My mum felt the same emotion and heat, which amazed me. After it had happened, I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders, sounds cliche but at 18 years old, that’s the only way I could describe it. It was like an emotional releaese had taken place and freed me of some burden.

The second time was when I was about 26. I was waking up in the morning and experienced sleep paralysis (as so often I do). Normally i would fight to wake up and open my eyes but this time I relaxed into it. I became aware of a light inside my belly and somehow I knew I had to make it bigger, and so I did. I felt this immense energy build up until I couldn’t contain it. Next I felt myself explode like an atomic bomb and I was this pure light energy spreading out and filling up everything on the planet. As I filled everything I was aware of this pure love or healing energy infusing everything. In the end I felt myself floating in space with this extreme feeling of love and peace. Again, after this experience I felt a lasting peace stay with me for a while and I was able to go through my daily routine without reaction or negativity. I just wish it could have lasted longer!

Any feedback would be very much appreciated, Thanks in advance emoticon 

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 5:57 AM as a reply to meljrg.
Dear Melissa, 

Welcome!  Nice to have you here.  The phenomena you describe are very well known on this blog, and plenty of people can tell you exactly what they mean, what the possibilities are, and what might happen next. 

For now I will just say they show definite progress in meditation and insight, but still a long way to go too.

But before you dive too deeply into the world of meditation, can I ask, what is is that you want and hope for?  You have some choices ahead of you, so your desires and intentions are very important. 

Malcolm 

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 7:48 AM as a reply to curious.
Thanks Malcolm, I will explore the forum in more depth. You raise a good point about setting intentions, a good reminder for me. What do I want and hope for? Mainly peace, freedom from attachment and the need for the good opinion of others, also the ability to live my life without reactivity. If I have a long way to go then I have time for that, although I should also add patience to the list! emoticon

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 7:24 AM as a reply to meljrg.
melissa guimaraes:

As I filled everything I was aware of this pure love or healing energy infusing everything. In the end I felt myself floating in space with this extreme feeling of love and peace. Again, after this experience I felt a lasting peace stay with me for a while and I was able to go through my daily routine without reaction or negativity. I just wish it could have lasted longer!

Any feedback would be very much appreciated, Thanks in advance emoticon 
This was my experience about four years ago. Some here will call it "The Arising and Passing Away". Have you read "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha" by this forum's founder, Daniel? Might point you in a fruitful direction. 

I love it when I see other people talking about the purple lights too! emoticon 

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 7:50 AM as a reply to Nick O.
Nice to hear others with the same experiences Nick O emoticon I’ve literally just started reading Daniel’s book yesterday, looking forward to the journey.

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 10:30 AM as a reply to meljrg.
guimarães cidade berço?

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/17/19 2:03 PM as a reply to meljrg.
Well, to keep my promise for feedback.

The lights behind your eyes are flickerings of the vision system.  Some people don't get them, or notice them, and others get them to a greater or lesser degree. They may be purple, blue, deep burgundy, or combinations (burgundy may sit next to blue, but not be noticed as it is darker). They may be vast collections of small dots, organised into loose circles, or contracting rings, or moving waves. You may get strings of colour snaking across vision like an aurora. However they present, the features of vividness and change seem to be key aspects. They are excellent meditation objects and it sounds as if you are working with them well.  You can go into greater depth with them using candle flames as described on firekasina.org. However, the fire kasina can lead to fairly weird visions, so this practice is not recommended for people who are not mentally well grounded and stable, and you should have someone to talk to, or a practice log on this site, to help you deal with anything unusual that arises.  As a lighter dose you can just examine these coloured lights with open curiousity in bed at night before sleep, including as a supplement to other practices.

The bright white inner light is sometimes called the nimitta (although there are debates about what qualifies as nimitta).  It arises with very strong concentration, although again this varies between people.  It is a good sign of meditative ability. This can be direct, or indirect, associated with an object in vision, or just general and diffuse. 

The other aspects you describe are textbook descriptions of the meditative stage of the Airising and Passing away, as Nick O notes. This is the key stage of no return. You will forever be a spiritual person in some way after you have had these amazing experiences. The A&P is often followed by emotional arisings - it tends to shake up your system, and then all sorts of things come up in various stages and cycles. That can be tough, because you have to deal with your stuff. But if you can make it through to equanimity, build the factors of liberation, and engage in dedicated practice, you can start to have liberating experiences that profoundly transform life and make it permanently better. If you follow this path you can get liberation, peace, freedom from attachment, freedom from the need for approval, and skillful reactivity (liberated people are not unresponsive, just not enslaved to their responses). So if that is what you are after, you have come to the right place.

What to do next? The path to liberation requires that you develop concentration (as you have been), morality and insight.  So morality is also a key point, and associated with this is the question of how much you are currently overwhelmed by passion, dislike, fear, and so on. If these attractive or aversive emotions are strong features of your life, you will have to sort that out in parallel with meditation to make serious progress. You will also need to learn to be mindful of your breathing, your body, your emotions, your mental states, and the dharma (the technical aspects of the meditative path).

So how strong are you, how well have your sorted out your emotional stuff, and how determined are you?

If you feel well prepared and mentally strong, the fastest path to initial liberation is probably Mahasi-style noting, well described by Daniel Ingram in MCTB and with the original instructions from Mahasi Sayadaw easily available on the internet. This is hardcore and effective, but with some risks as anything labelled 'hardcore' can be expected to entail.

If you are not feeling so strong, you might want to take up anapanasati (mindfulness of the breath) and with practice develop jhana (absoprtion in states of bliss and joy) while you build morality and learn to understand and handle your mind-body system.

Or, if you are feeling playful, you can go a long way and have great fun with the lights behind your eyes, using the fire kasina.

By the way, even if you don't do Mahasi-sytle noting, MCTB is a wealth of essential information on the dharma.  Highly recommended. And you can ask here for other guidance from the many brilliant practitioners on this site.

I hope this is helpful. Others may be able to offer more guidance too.  Feel free to ask more questions.

Malcolm 

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/18/19 6:11 AM as a reply to curious.
Well said!

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/18/19 8:50 AM as a reply to curious.
Thank you for the in depth response Malcolm! I’ve been scanning through Daniel’s book and it feels very much like I’ve been going through the dark night for quite some time. I definitely recognise a cycling through fear, misery, disgust and a desire for deliverance and also some persistent unexplained health issues (also, would seeing snakes and spiders crawling on the ceiling on waking be part the dark night?!) Since the beginning of this year something has changed though and I feel as though i’m coming out of it. Through this period I’ve found it difficult to meditate using the breath as a focus point so I leaned more towards using mantra and sounds. It has also been easier to lie down as the pain and tension is just too much. Saying that though, once I get into it my practice is pretty good. I also haven’t been able to meditate before going off to sleep at night due to restless leg syndrome which seems to spread to my whole body.

Along with the lights, I’ve also had psychic dreams, past life dreams, visions (or hallucinations) on waking and major shifts in my belief system which has changed my life. A major shift has been the realisation that I didn’t have to have children. I thought I would be a failure if I didn’t do this and could never have imagined feeling any different. The deep feeling of relief that came up freed me from a massive source of suffering. Working through issues, as you mention Malcolm, is definitely something I’m up for and have been mindful of lately. Thanks for the suggestion of trying out the Mahasi noting practice, which practices to follow would have been my next question! I also use hypnosis and EFT to work through stuff, which has been very powerful.

One more thing that happens quite often is that I don’t know who or where I am when I wake up, does this make sense? It’s almost like temporary amnesia! It can be quite unnerving but only lasts about a minute if that.

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/18/19 4:20 PM as a reply to meljrg.
Hey meljrg, none of this is unfamiliar territory, so you are not alone. MCTB is pure gold on understanding and dealing with the dark night, so you have the best resource for that. And yeah, the dark night sucks.

However, you are also reporing some other really interesting phenomena, and I thought it might help to put these context. 

So, for context, while we do exist as interconnected psycho-physical beings, the sense of a separate self is a delusion - it is really nothing more than the sum total of all of our yearnings. This bundle of yearnings constantly seeks to justify itself by attaching to objects that arise (possessions, emotions, relationships). But it constantly fails, as the objects are ever changing and the sense of self is not real in the first place. So we live in permanent unsatisfactoriness. The path of liberation is to see this clearly, and stop striving after what we can never have. Then, paradoxically, we finally get what we wanted - happiness, ease, liberation, humanity.

The yearnings are bit like an out-of-control feedback mechanism. They cause us to flail around, and sometimes when the yearning fails we double down, our mind gets contracted, and we push more and more conscious intent towards our yearning. Then unhappiness increases further! The path of liberation is about shaking up our understanding of 'self', our perceptual mechanisms, and our relationship to reality so that we can let go of all that unskillful yearning. It requires practice to strengthen different 'muscles' in our mind, to recalibrate our perceptual system, and to renounce clinging and attachment. Sometimes the delusional self will defend itself, through fear or shock, or through overlaying a familiar yet false understanding. This can be tough to understand and deal with.

So, snakes and spiders crawling on the ceiling ... the simplest explanation is that you live in Australia! emoticon  But otherwise I suspect what is happening is that on waking you are deep in the pre-processing of your visual system, the standard conceptual overlays are breaking down, and your mind is defending itself by layering familiar concepts over the  'weird' visual input.  It's not a problem, as you do want to encourage your senses to be more plastic. Visions are generally fine, as long as they don't affect your ability to be stable and function in society. But if you can, try to see beyond the snakes and spiders to the raw sense-percepts, recognise that they come and go, aren't you, and that they lead to suffering as you organise them into concepts that lead to yearning. If you can concentrate on this really clearly for a long time, very good things may happen.

On not knowing who or where you are as you wake ... confusional arousal is a relatively common syndrome. If you can, don't recoil or fear this experience, but just use it as a chance to perceive your 'self' as being in the whole field of perception, rather than a body in a particular place.

On the restless legs ... again this is sometimes seen as a medical syndrome, but uncontrolled physical movements are common in meditation and usually ascribed to particular stages where the energy system of the body frees itself up.

On the dream stuff ... yes this is all familiar territory again, and associated with very high concentration levels. I don't know technical details of when and how to best use it as this is a bit of a specialist area.  Tibetan dream yoga and the fire Kasina speak to this. Others may be able to point you in the right direction.

All of this can be very disorienting, especially if we think these are phenomena are somehow alternative realities or problems with our mind. Really, it is just your psycho-physical system throwing off the shackles of automatic yearning after conceptual objects. Your challenge is to maintain stability while this happens. Here are some thoughts on that.

1. If negative emotion arises, notice the emotion, label it (fear, shock, angst etc) realise that it is not you, realise that it is temporary, realise that attaching to the emotion leads to suffering.  Watch the emotion arise, watch it be present, and then watch it fade. If the emotion doesn't fade, just label it again two or three times, and watch it transform into something else.

2. If your mind gests too contracted and full of mental talk and yearning, move towards non-conceptual thinking (focussing on intuitive thinking, or pushing a non-conceptual presence up through the crown of your head). Or, rebalance your attention away from the mental talk to the body, or the ears, or the feet, etc. Or, use your mantra to occup the space being used by mental talk.

3. If you are generally feeling unstable, try to put 40% of your attention mindfully on something else through the day - the skin, the breath, the buddha, a religious symbol etc.  In the middle ages, devout Christians used to wear itchy hair shirts to achieve this!  Again, focusing on your mantra internally might do the trick. This division of attention takes the energy out of the yearnings.  

4. You can apply mindfulness and close observation to anything that arises throughout the day.  But for your formal meditative practice, try to settle on one method at a time, so you can get really good at it.

I hope this helps. I know it is a lot to take in, but given everything you have going on, getting a frame of reference in place may be helpful.

Feel free to ask more questions.

Malcolm

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/19/19 11:11 AM as a reply to curious.
All good points for me to explore Malcolm, thank you.

As you say, the sense of a separate self being a delusion is something I came to understand in my second experience with the bright light. Although it must have been a glimpse as I still have this underlying sense on unease and disconnection. The strongest feeling is that there’s something i’m supposed to be doing but no idea what it is and nothing satisfies it! That must be the yearning you’re talking about.

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/19/19 8:02 AM as a reply to meljrg.
I wrote this and before i posted it i read another thread about one of the reasons that motivated me to write this. So i answered that first. 

Hi meljrg. I don't disagree with anything Malcom has said. The light would be a case where many would not classify it as nimitta. They would say a nimitta as a bright light appears in the mind. With the right practice it can eventually be used as an object. Ajahn Brahm is someone who teaches nimitta. His method involves letting go of the body otherwise you can get Kundalini and it can be hard to handle. Does that mean there is no A&P in Ajahn Brahms method?
 
I will never know because i was in the body. So were you and that light was A&P, also what is called Kundalini. It was in the subtle body. Its neither good nor bad, simply the way its happening for you and the majority of us. I don't know what you practice. I would read Daniels book as it explains the importants of staying within the Sattipathana guidelines. It gives clear guidelines about what is the material to work with for Insight and continues to point out what is not. Everthing is explained to the point where is impossible to get lost. A bit like a maze, where any wrong turn comes to a stop, and sends you back. When i read the book, the descriptions were spot on regards Insight and stages. Ive only read Bodysurfing from the second book. That understanding is as good as it gets for me.

I would use the information from the book, but don't do noting. Go into the subtle body if possible with a more stable attention. If you note and start breaking everything into moments you may struggle. The hullucinations, persistent unexplained health issues, maybe the sounds, pain and tension, dreams, belief changes, the way you wake up. The mind is very active and the restless leg spreading to the whole body is all linked. When you note, one effect it has is to break everthing up. Its like Dat Dat Dat Dat. Its great for Insight because that experience is like things are, plus the minds kept busy noting. So its really effective. It also can make a mess of some people. Use a  more stable stream of attention that can start with felt sensing or tones in or on the body. The restless leg spreading to the whole body is another way to take the attention in. That way you can carefully monitor all the mental activity and learn how not to get taken in by it. Take the whole body of breath experience as the primary object instead of sound.
 
While its often productive to work on your stuff. When the subtle body is struggling it can agitate and influence mental activity. Although its personal content its also a symptom. Its secondary and may not be the ideal material. So this is why its a good idea to take the breath as the primary object then the body by gently grounding awareness into it while also observing the mental activity. The body doesn't lie. It can show one in real time that the mental activity may not be as personal as we though it was. Then although we can't get rid of it, we can choose to no longer feed it anymore. Just be kind and allow it to playout its music. 

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/19/19 11:28 AM as a reply to Bigbird.
Thanks Bigbird, gives me a lot to ponder. 

It’s interesting that you say the light can be used as an object as that always felt right to me. The purple lights seemed to let me know I was in a good state of concentration and relaxation at the same time. I came across some people saying not to focus on the phenomena though, which disturbed me. I can understand the concern over becoming attached to it or striving for it but ignoring it just feels wrong somehow.

As for the bright light, the first time I experienced it I was convinced it was outside of me, in the room. It was like someone had shined a torch in my eyes. The second time the light was inside me, and then it was me, if that makes sense. I was part of that light and I had no body or physical self.

Lately instead of light I seem to get a vibration inside my chest area, a spinning sensation that stops and starts. It’s the sense of nothing when it stops that feels the most pleasant. 

I’m reading Daniel’s book now and it really is straight forward. I’m sure I will have more questions soon enough!

RE: Bright Light! Can anyone give me feedback please?
Answer
5/19/19 2:12 PM as a reply to meljrg.
What a great thread! Hi and welcome! You have already gotten excellent advice. I’ll just add that vibrations tend to occur in the dukkha nanas after the Arising and Passing away. Being able to sense them can be helpful for self diagnosis with regard to the dharma maps. I recognize a lot of what you describe. You have a fascinating journey to look forward to. Oh, and as for the purple swirls, yes, they are a sign of relaxation and concentration, I would say. For me they don’t point to single-pointed concentration, though, but rather to an open and explorative mind. I think you should trust your own intuition and do what works for you. If focusing on the lights works for you, then it is totally fine to do so. You could for instance investigate the impermanence (change) of them. They are great for that, especially if they are moving or flickering. That’s vipassana. If they are more stable, they are great for concentration practice (shamatha). I think you will notice what is helpful for you and what is not. From what you describe, you seem to have a well developed intuition. The process itself knows the way, and it will show you.