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Going Blank
Answer
6/16/19 2:05 PM

I am not an advanced
meditator.  I have noticed during
meditation that I sometimes go ‘blank’. 
It seems to last a very short time and when I ‘come back’ I am in a
relaxed and calm state, for a little while. 
I have heard of different terms that might cover this state eg pure
conscious event, cessation event, bhavanga. 
Can anyone tell me what this ‘losing awareness’ is, what it means and
what are the implications for practice?


RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/16/19 3:52 PM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
Hi Paul and welcome!

There are many possibilities, and diagnosing other’s practice is risky. Could you tell us what usually leads up to this experience?

I think it is helpful in such a situation to rule out the possibility of dullness, which can actually arise very suddenly. It is possible to go blank in one’s practice if there is an insight that the mind is not ready to accept. That happened to me earlier in my practice. There are formless jhanas that one can have glimpses of. Daniel Ingram also mentions some kind of double dip that can occur in the stage of Arising and Passing Away that is often mistaken for a cessation.

Best wishes for your practice!

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/17/19 12:36 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
Paul Atherton:

I am not an advanced
meditator.  I have noticed during
meditation that I sometimes go ‘blank’. 
It seems to last a very short time and when I ‘come back’ I am in a
relaxed and calm state, for a little while. 
I have heard of different terms that might cover this state eg pure
conscious event, cessation event, bhavanga. 
Can anyone tell me what this ‘losing awareness’ is, what it means and
what are the implications for practice?


aloha paul,

   Could be you are just nodding off. That used to happen to me all the time when I was a beginning meditator. The first six months I had to keep my eyes open or I'd find myself dozing.

   Trying to stay awake is the name of the game.

terry

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/17/19 5:17 AM as a reply to terry.

Thanks for the replies.

Perhaps I should explain a bit more.  I am not a new meditator, just not an advanced meditator ie not a brilliant practitioner. 
I am definitely inclined to the more tranquil practices and I know what it is like to fall asleep or doze off. 
I have been practising on and off, mainly on, for about fifteen years at a gentle pace.  When I do go blank I question it
carefully. I am predisposed to doubt it. However, I am convinced that there are brief occasions when I am
unconscious and I don’t think it is dullness because entry and exit are quite sharp.  I am not suggesting that it is
some advanced state like nirodha.
My main concern is to respond correctly to it as well as to define it.  For instance, bhavanga seems to be defined as a foundational level of unconsciousness underpinning all moments of consciousness.  That is an interesting idea but what do you do with it?  Should it be avoided or explored?

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/17/19 7:00 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
I’m not familiar with the term bhavanga, but I would be very interested in a more precise description of the entry and exit, because that could be significant.

If there are sharp entries and exits, the phenomenon should definitely be explored.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/17/19 7:11 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
Lots of odd things happen to us all during meditation but only very rarely are those things important or significant. This is very likely not one of those truly significant things. Let it go for a while. See what happens over the next several months.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/17/19 9:37 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
The bhavanga is the last thought in your previous life which becomes the first thought in your next life, according to the Theravadan tradition. It is also the default or resting state into which your mind falls when it is not doing anything else, according to the Theravadan Abhidhamma.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 3:01 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
This is a really interesting question. I have also, at times, had these blanks. I have mostly noticed them during asana practice, when I am deeply concentrated (my practice is ashtanga vinyasa, which links movement to breath). They tend to occur more during seated postures, towards the end of practice, if I close my eyes, and when I am very deeply concentrated on the breath. I have wondered if they could be cessations. I had one period of time a couple of years ago where they happened quite frequently and this coincided with baseline shifts in my practice and an improvement in physical health. 

It's very easy to notice them in yoga because you "come back" from them having lost sense of time and what breath/asana you are up to. It definitely feels completely different to dozing off or falling asleep. 

Sorry, that is probably not very helpful, but I thought I would add my experience into the mix in case it helps anyone out! 

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 3:54 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
The bhavanga is the last thought in your previous life which becomes the first thought in your next life, according to the Theravadan tradition. It is also the default or resting state into which your mind falls when it is not doing anything else, according to the Theravadan Abhidhamma.



Thankyou!

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 4:22 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I think I can identify two ways in which going blank has happened to me.  The first is when I am concentrated strongly and suddenly there is a blank, like a glitsch in a film.  Becoming aware again makes me 'look back' and ask, 'What just happenened?'

The other way, is to be aware that the blank is approaching.  This does sound more gradual and therefore not a sharp entry but I would compare it with being in a tunnel and seeing the light at the end, seeing it approaching and approaching but the actual entry into full daylight is sudden.  Obviously, the imagery is reversed ie I see the 'darkness' approaching and it arrives suddenly.

I suppose a third position is when I see the blank approaching, like doors closing in a lift, and I become fearful and pull myself out of it.

So my questions are: What is going blank? Why does it make me fearful? Should I avoid it or should I actively seek it and explore?  By explore I mean can I become skilled in generating it and can I look back into it?  What could possibly be there?  If it is like a bhavanga then it seems to be rock bottom.  There is nothing that it rests on.  Whereas, I understand that bhavanga is the foundation of consciousness ie consciousness emerges from the unconsciousness of bhavanga. If it is rock bottom it sounds like a good thing ie if it is a given parameter of the human mind it could be a way of orienting the mind, like finding the corner piece of a jigsaw puzzle. Could it act like an abolute foundation on which to build and set out in exploration?  The possible grand questions behind going blank are legitimate but my main question is about how to relate to it in practice.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 4:28 AM as a reply to Anna L.
My usual practice is simply to count or follow the breath.  The tranquillity approach seems more useful and less
cerebral and stressful than continual mental noting.  I have heard that 'losing consciousness’ in meditation is a form of dullness with ultimate dullness being the unconsciousness of dreamless sleep.  This does not  make sense to me.  Surely, sleep is essential to human life therefore to call it dullness does it a disservice.  If the unconsciousness of sleep is beneficial to human growth how to we assess the unconsciousness of ‘going blank’ during meditation?  What is its status?

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 5:19 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
Hi Paul,
you might want to check if residing in subtrate conciousness (alaya or all-ground) matches your experience. I sometimes experience this blankiong out that mostly resembles dullness or boredom. But it can happen very suddenly and out of nowhere. I've read that some people confuse it with resting in the natural state or rigpa, but the difference here is that the alaya is "dead" wherea as rigpa is most definately alive and very juicy, for lack of a better term. You can break away from this subtrate conciousness, dullness, by applying dynamic concentration meaning using a sharp focused shout of a mantra, for example. More info in this video.

Some more context: "According to Dzogchen, one must identify the ground of liberation, the natural state of rigpa, which is not the same as the ordinary state of mind known as the all-ground. No matter how many thousands of years one trains in the state of the all-ground, there will be absolutely no progress— one will simply arise again in the state of samsara—whereas training in the natural state of rigpa is nothing other than the ground of liberation. Therefore it is important to distinguish the normal, ordinary mind of the all-ground from the natural, ordinary mind that is the ground of liberation, and train accordingly." You can read more about this in the article that execpt is from by Adeu Rinpoche.

Here's a short video by my teacher about substrate conciousness.

Also Dudjom Rinpoche talks about this in this video, starting from 11:16. He talks about absence of though, dullness, no inherent clarity of mind, entering the all-ground.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 6:44 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
First of all, before listening to my advice, please know that I am not nearly as skilled as a meditator as for instance Chris Marti (and that’s a gross understatement), and I haven’t been meditating for 15 years like you. I do get what Jehanne says about awareness being alive, though. The difference there is huge.

My very unqualified guess would be that if you are still having fears and doubts about these gaps, you haven’t yet had fruitions. There is nothing to fear in the void. Sometimes fear arises due to misinterpretations of small glimpses of insights into emptiness, because it is not something that the mind can really comprehend, and as long as we have misperceptions about self, that seems very threatening.

The question as to what is going blank is a really good one. Finding that out from your own experience is gold. The answer to that may be not be wat you expect it to be.

Your description of suddenly coming back into full light reminds me very much of experiences that I used to have long before I started any daily formal practice, when I had periods of getting myself extremely calm by way of breathing very slowly (one and a half breaths per second). It was calming but didn’t have any lasting effects. That wasn’t something that I feared, though. Are you sure that you aren’t mixing up different phenomena? One blankness that you have been to and that was calming but not in any way revolutionary to how you perceive of yourself and the world, and one that you fear but haven’t yet dared to surrender yourself to? The latter one is definitively worth exploration.

There is nothing wrong with sleep per se. It just isn’t awakening. Dullness can be a reactive pattern to protect one’s own ignorance, as the insights can be unsettling until they are fully integrated.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 7:17 AM as a reply to Jehanne S Peacock.
Thankyou, Jehanne, for the link to that article by Adeu Rinpoche! I think I do something like that intuitively.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/18/19 7:35 AM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
So my questions are: What is going blank? Why does it make me fearful? Should I avoid it or should I actively seek it and explore?  By explore I mean can I become skilled in generating it and can I look back into it?  What could possibly be there? 

So go for it - try to become skilled at recreating these "blanks" and see what happens. What do you have to lose? I can recall ending up in places in my practice that I assumed where dangerous and filled me with fear. In every case the fear was unfounded and the result of further exploration into those phenomena was rewarded. You won't die, and if that's your fear (it usually is), maybe inclining toward these "blanks" will help you learn something about your self.

emoticon

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/20/19 5:28 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks for the replies.  I will follow up links and advice and see what happens.

RE: Going Blank
Answer
6/20/19 7:30 PM as a reply to Paul Atherton.
Hi, this used to happen with me alot in my early years.
Also when it happend the wood panel in the room where I sat would make a sharp noise, energy outburst stuff. 
I just thought it was some sort of blockage being opened.
For me it was a good thing, (but scary at first). It made my meditation deeper, if I could still consentrate,  which I couldn`t the first few times for sure.
 
Nothing else happend. It might not be the same thing, but if it is it`s nothing to worry about. 
If it gets overwhelming you should take a break from sitting. Walking meditation or just mindfullness is good when sitting becomes too intense.