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Arising and Passing (A&P)

Not sure where I am (if on the path at all)

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Hi everyone,
 
First, I apologize if my question has been answered a dozen times before. I have been looking for something that matches my experience, but that has only left me on websites describing catastrophic meditation side-effects, which I don’t think is helpful.
 
In April, I completed a 10-day Goenka retreat. It was a phenomenal experience and I was quickly able to pick-up on vibrations. Almost immediately I had a hard time sleeping – it took me hours to fall asleep, but it also felt like I only needed 3 or 4 hours per night. After a few days, I started hearing a persistent ringing that I assumed to be just some new kind of opening up. On the last serious day of meditation, during one sit, I came to see that all solid ‘things’ are just actions or manifestations of happenings. This was a wild experience and I was, for the hour and a half or so it continued, inspired and equally terrified of the obviousness that I was going to die (I really wanted to be home with my partner suddenly). I was euphoric the departure day and was in a generally great mood.
 
The day I got back I went from elation to overwhelming anxiety. My heart rate was elevated and filled my awareness at times. I could barely sleep that night and for the next few nights, as every time I got to the point of nodding off, I would get sudden jolts of anxiety/energy that kept me awake. My legs and arms still felt like they were vibrating. My sleep-onset hypnagogia and dream contents felt alien – like they were someone else’s. The ringing I heard in my ears gradually faded. I saw a doctor who prescribed an anti-anxiety/sleep aid that helped me get some serious sleep and I took a minimal dose for three nights to get rest. By day six I felt more or less completely normal.
 
My partner and I purchased our first home and moved in on June 1. That weekend my anxiety spiked again, though not as bad as before. By keeping busy, non-stop, I was able to manage it and avoid ruminating. After a few days, it passed.
 
I have been feeling scared of meditating and have only done a few minutes here and there since the retreat, worried that I will trigger an anxiety attack. On Sunday, feeling well grounded, I sat again and felt anxiety rising after 15 minutes. It has been with me again for the last two days and, while I expect it will pass, I am having a hard time understanding what is happening. Obviously, moving is a major event and can certainly cause anxiety, but I cannot discount the possibility that something happened on the retreat that has pushed me into a new zone.
 
Does any of this sound like A&P or a Dark Night experience? I have been meditating for the last 8 years – usually for 20-30 minutes a day and my April retreat was my first. I’m trying to understand what is happening, as it is very important to me that I take the appropriate steps to maintain my relationship and continue to provide support to those around me.
 
Thanks!
 
-Stan

RE: Not sure where I am (if on the path at all)
Answer
6/19/19 7:15 PM as a reply to Tristan D.
Hi Stan,

Others on this forum may be able to give you a better advice, but I thought to give my following two cents.

I am not at all qualified to diagnose but your experience does sound typical of A&P and DN.  The experience is by no means uncommon.  In fact, most of the people first start out lurking in this kind of forum for the very reason that they are in a similar boat as you are.  So rest assured that there is nothing wrong with you.  You will go through this experience cycle after cycle, but you will learn the ins and outs of them so that they would no longer impose to you as a threat but you'll come to handle them with understanding.

You wrote that you could not sit for more than 15 mins because of an anxiety attack.  Yes, it will probably pass, as it is a part of the cycle.  I would say it's good to continue your regimen of daily sitting like you've done for the past 8 years, perhaps just start with some small amount of time that you can manage, and increase the time gradually.  

You wish to do it in a relaxed mode without striving, but still with an objective of developing some skill: stability of attention and spaciousness of awareness, from which the more challenging sensations you describe can be examined.  Anapanasati is always a good meditation for that, but you could also try out more panoramic use of attention such as anchoring it on your whole body etc....and also learn to relax and be grounded....yoga, exercises, heavier food etc....there are tons of recommendation if you search around on this forum and elsewhere for handling energetic imbalances.

Once enough stability in attention is gained and there's enough space in your mind, you may wish to continue with your insight meditation. 

Your challenging experience seems to have been unleashed because you had an insight into impermanance of phenomena at a deeper level.  Now, what you want to do is to move to an insight into empty nature of self, e.g. to turn your light of investiation to your subjective sense of self and understand this thing at a deeper level.  You said you "are going to die", but what is it exactly that is going to die really?

 To do this, you will need some spaciousness of mind like I mentioned above, curiosity and some small amount of dedicatd time, just as a scientist would carry out his experiment.  There is a systematic way to do this, called a 2-Part Formula, as described in the book linked below.  You'll learn to deliberately invoke this sense of self, investigate it in open awareness, and come to an experiential understanding of the mechanism of selfing.

Awake! Handbook of Awakening

When this insight matures, what is revealed is that, in place of the solid sense of self that has existed before, a kind of space, a natural awakeness, opens up, which is especially evident behind your eyes or in around your head.  Further you practice, this natural awakeness will more and more permeate your experience, and your anxiety, fear, panick, anger desire etc. will be met from that place of awakeness rather than from the closed sense of "I" or "me", which was your default mode of reference when meeting anything in your life previously.

Hope this helps.