Diagnosing the A&P

Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 2/8/11 2:25 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Che Guebuddha 8/21/11 2:12 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Benjamin A Smith 8/24/11 1:20 PM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Chris Coleman 1/9/13 1:18 PM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 1/11/13 1:29 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Chris Coleman 1/11/13 10:05 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Dannon F 1/11/13 3:32 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 1/11/13 5:44 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Lara D 1/29/13 10:09 PM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Christian Calamus 2/8/13 1:25 AM
Question: Diagnosing the A&P Dan From Virginia 3/26/13 4:04 PM
RE: Question: Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 3/29/13 11:25 PM
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RE: Diagnosing the A&P Anne Cripps 1/3/14 2:51 AM
RE: Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 1/3/14 7:06 AM
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RE: Diagnosing the A&P Daniel M. Ingram 12/11/18 4:21 AM
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 2/8/11 2:25 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 1/20/11 12:35 AM

Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I had two long conversations with some Ivy League Academic Dark Night Yogis who both research meditation and some of the things we discussed inspired me to write this.

I hope you will find it interesting and useful. It was written with a slant towards how to research this stuff in some formal way, such as an NIH grant, but should have some broad appeal and applicability.

A lot of people here routinely question if they crossed the A&P. If you are hunting around sites like this one trying to answer that question, you probably did, as that is the sort of thing people above the A&P do, however, here is a lot more on the topic. Further, people may read some of the wilder and more exotic descriptions and doubt that they had done it when in fact they had. Regardless: Enjoy!


The Arising and Passing Away

There are lots of places one could start, but I will start with what I consider to be the first major dividing line or point of no return, namely the Arising and Passing Away (A&P). The range of presentation of the A&P is so vast and complex that some will probably be amazed that the things I am about to describe could all by related to the A&P. I make no apologies for this, as I have traversed this territory literally thousands of times over the last 26 years or so and also had the opportunity to hear and read many people’s reports of the same territory.

I will begin listing the aspects of its presentation range in no particular order as they come to me, just to get them down on paper. Realize that any individual crossing of the A&P may only draw from a few of the more specific elements below, but the functional effect will be essentially the same.

The A&P can happen in a very wide variety of life experiences, while awake or in dreams, in people who meditate and people who don’t, early in childhood or late in life, during febrile illness, hallucinogenic drug experiences, yoga classes, breathing workshops, childbirth/labor, sex, exercise in general, long marches, prolonged solitude, traumatic experiences, and in many other circumstances. Most meditators I know actually crossed it before they got into meditation with no idea what it was (as happened to me) and was the reason (often without knowing it) that they got into meditation or whatever thing they are into, rather than the other way around.

The context of the A&P will often hold a special place in the heart of the meditator due to the association with it, e.g. a person who crossed it while doing mescaline may have a lifelong affinity for those sorts of traditions and substances, while someone who crossed it while in the presence of a Christian faith healer may forever hold a special place in their heart for Christianity or that particular faith healer.

The A&P duration as it unfolds for some may take months and for some may be less than a second, and this can vary widely as one re-crosses it.

The A&P for many will be a very memorable peak experience or set of experiences, but for others they may barely remember it or not remember it at all, depending on the way it presented and how old they were when it did it, as well as many other factors. For example, compare a person who has weeks of profound bliss pouring through their bodies while seeing visions of celestial lights on meditation retreat to a person sitting on a couch who had about a half-second zap of mild-moderate intensity energy through the back of their head and down their spine and nothing else at all. Both in timing and duration these would seem quite different, and yet functionally they may be the same from an overall map point of view.

Energetic phenomena
The A&P may, for many, involve energetic phenomena, but how this manifests can vary widely, including but not limited to:
*feelings of vibrations spreading out through one’s body
*feeling of vibrations in the spine or areas associated with “energy channels”
*actually seeing energy or “energy channels”
*the feeling that one can manipulate or control these energetic phenomena
*seeing interference patterns between experiences or what may be perceived as moving moiré patterns of energy and/or experiences in one’s body
*feeling these energies or vibrations change frequency with the phase of the breath, typically getting faster in the middle of the in and out breath and slower at the top and bottom of the breath
*vortexes of energy in one’s body, usually showing up going through one’s spine and/or through one’s ears or head into one’s spine, but can involve all sorts of other vortex-like phenomena. Vortexes are nearly perfectly diagnostic of the A&P.
*sometimes the A&P can involve full on explosions of consciousness and experience, such that the body may feel it has exploded into sparks or fragments or the space the person is occupying itself may seem to have experienced some rapid and violent distortion of its basic structure, which are usually very brief experiences

Time distortion
A variant of the A&P or part of the A&P’s presentation may involve dropping down with the out-breath into deeper and seemingly much slower ways of experiencing reality, such that reality appears to slow to a crawl in deep waves or pulses of drawn out moments that may then seem to completely or nearly completely stop, after which there may be an Unknowing Event. (Unknowing Events are what appear to be discontinuities in one’s awareness and are generally classified by context, entrance, exit, any residual subtle experiences or impressions of the pause or break, and the aftereffects.) This variant can involve deep levels of stillness, calm, and quiet, which is in marked contrast to some of the other ways that the A&P can present. This may sometimes alternate with more rapid, energetic aspects or precede or follow them.

2nd Jhana
As the A&P occurs in the basic territory known as the second vipassana jhana, a term I am not going to try to find an English equivalent for, it has the aspect of things happening on their own and showing up and happening naturally in many ways, as in “with the dropping of applied and sustained thought” (the traditional initial descriptor that separates it from the first jhana, which tends to involve effort and the feeling of having to do something). All the things that apply to the territory of the 2nd jhana in general enhance our understanding of the A&P.

The range of visual effects that may show up in the A&P are quite wide and may be dramatic, and include but are not limited to:
*bright white lights, which may be a quick flash or a steady white light, sometime preceded by jewel-tone sparkles or lights which are brighter and more vivid than typical phosphenes, and can either be just the light, or some bright image, such as a flash bulb, a match lighting, a car headlight, flashing police car lights, or other brightly flowing or flashing objects, etc.
*seeming to see through one’s closed eyelids, walls, roofs, or whatever else is around to see through
*spinning stars, dots, triangles, squares, and similar things, usually with the spinning frequency varying with the breath as noted above (faster in the middle, slower at top and bottom).
*many other dramatic visuals can happen during the A&P

Other Powers
By “powers”, I mean seemingly magical effects or psychic phenomena, which others may simply interpret as hallucinations or in some other light. Regardless of how one interprets them, the phenomenology with my own labels and terms that are more common are:
*vivid dreams, lucid dreams, and full-on traveling out of body, either in dreams or straight off the cushion/walking meditation session or even in other circumstances
*partial traveling: such that, for example, one might feel one has put one’s “astral” or “etheric” hand through a wall while the rest of them seemed to stay “in-body”, to use standard jargon
*past-life experiences: these can vary widely, but generally present as a string of impressions, sometimes actually presenting in sequence in a trail in space, of what can seem like past existences, often with a lot of information about each one seeming to present in a very short space of time
*seeing one’s or other people’s auras and other similar energetic and colorful aspects
*being able to seemingly know things one couldn’t know, such as undisclosed facts about people one has just met or what cards one’s opponents in cards are holding, for example
*emotional and energetic manipulation: the seeming ability to alter the emotions and energy-body aspects of people around them or or people they make physical contact with, and even induce Kundalini experiences in others

Sleep Effects
Typically, the need for sleep will be reduced the closer one is to the peak of the territory of the A&P, which contrasts it with stages such as Dissolution (which comes right after it), during which the need for sleep tends to go up.

Physical Effects
Whereas in previous stages some practitioners may experience asymmetrical back and neck and body pain, such as spasmodic torticollis, subscapular trigger points and the like, as well as difficulty sustaining strict sitting meditation postures when on meditation retreats as an example, posture difficulties and bodily tiredness and pain from sitting tend to be markedly reduced in the A&P, such that when someone on retreat goes from having a hard time sitting still for the whole 1-hour sitting period with their head twisting or body swaying (standard marks of 3C) to sitting 4 hours without difficulty with the posture of a Buddha statue, just as example, they are probably entering A&P territory. This also contrasts with what comes next, which tends to involve more pain but an increased restlessness and irritation when trying to meditate. These effects may not be as noticeable off-retreat, but one day people will know to look for the A&P shortly after coming to the doctor for wry neck or “having slept wrong”.

Mood Effects
The A&P tends to give people energy, up-beat moods, reduced depression if they were depressed, more energy for various grand projects and the like, more confidence, and an increased ability to concentrate. Paradoxically, it can involve more risk taking behavior (such as engaging in substance use or sex in a way beyond what one normally would), and also more interest in upstanding and strict moral codes and high moral standards and may actually spontaneously cure addictions and lives that may be considered immoral (as in “I have seen the Light!”, which they may literally have done, as this is the A&P). The parallels between the possible mood effects of the A&P and hypo-manic or manic episodes are so numerous that I would be amazed if one day a very similar physiologic basis wasn’t found to be common to both of them. Grandiosity, arrogance, and the like can accompany the mental power and energy that are commonly noted in this stage.

Sexual Effects
The A&P tends to increase libido and enhance sexual encounters in general and is the most sexual of the insight stages in general terms. When coupled with strong concentration (and sometimes even when not), it can lead to some interesting effects, such as male orgasms without ejaculations (a la tantric sex stuff), as well as all sorts of sexual overtones to the way one describes and experiences practice. Some will even describe effects as extreme as all sensations being like sex, or of sensations causing orgasmic-like ripples of pleasure through their body, or of making love to the universe, etc. People may tap into feelings of sexuality that seem generic or non-gender specific, which, for those who identify strongly as being mono-sexual rather than bi-sexual or generically sexual, can sometimes be some mix of revealing and disturbing. Sexual dreams are much more common in the territory of the A&P for some. More extreme things can occur, such as the sensations of having sex with seductive beings of a magical/astral/etheric/etc. nature. These sexual effects are in direct contrast to the sexual effects that tend to follow in subsequent stages, which are, in general, the exactly opposite of those in the A&P.

Unitive Experiences
The A&P can present with profound feelings of unity with all reality, like one is a part of all of reality and similar pleasant and profound feelings. Similar feelings of everything being empty of a self can arise, which is like the flip side of a unitive feeling. In a unitive feeling one feels that one is a part of everything or is everything, and the flip side is the feeling that as everything is connected and a part of a greater whole, then the sense of a self is actually just a part of the greater field of experience. These feelings in their full-on manifestation tend to be relatively brief during this stage, as contrasted with Equanimity later on when they may be more prolonged and profound and complete, and as contrasted with some of the stages of Enlightenment, when they may be some degree of permanent. However, some sense of this unity can seem to remain for some who have had this aspect present strongly on their crossing the A&P, influencing their way or viewing the world and philosophy. Further insights may be extrapolated from these unitive feelings, such as there being no one who dies as it is all just the universe, or similar extrapolations relating to the having a consciousness that is part of the eternal universe and thus immortal. Regardless of any ultimate validity to these feelings and intuitions, they can feel quite real to the person experiencing them. This particular set of A&P experiences are some of the more classic mimics for the later stage of Equanimity, and this can cause diagnostic confusion.

Feeling Enlightened
The A&P is a very common cause of people believing they are enlightened. Obviously, as the definition of enlightenment may be subjective and variable, if one defined it as crossing the A&P, then they would be. The model this from which this terminology designates enlightenment (at least the first stage of it) occurring at a later, more advanced stage, and for the sake of consistency and for other reasons will hold with that more strict definitions. However, the basic sense within the person that they have been irrevocably changed and given profound insights into the nature of things is common and compelling and also true. It is also not uncommon for people to believe they are very special and even unique for having crossed the A&P, particularly given the staggering lack of public descriptions of something that so many have actually gone through.

Perceptual Thresholds
My favorite of the criteria, particularly found in technical and skilled meditators but also found in many others: people during the A&P may have the ability to perceive sensations with a speed, precision, and consistency that may be radically beyond what they were capable of before, such that they may perceive sensations up to maybe 40 times/second arising and vanishing during certain peak perceptual moments, particularly during the middle phase of the breath and in the center of wherever they place their attention. The phase characteristics of the A&P borrows from the 2nd jhana in general and involves the ability to perceive the arising and passing clearly of phenomena in a way that can feel quite effortless, and any vibrations noticed tend to be harmonically simple and change in frequency sinusoidally. This is differentiated from the perceptual phase characteristics of the 1st jhana, where the beginnings of objects in the very center of wherever attention is placed are more clear and seeing them requires sustained effort and is generally much more slow and clunky, and the 3rd jhana, during which the endings of phenomena in the chaotic and complex periphery show themselves in a naturally irritating way that feels out of phase with attention somehow despite the sometimes intensely unpleasant clarity, and the 4th jhana, in which things are not nearly so fast or vibratory but instead tend to be experienced in a wide open, fluxing, panoramic and more spacious way.

Insights into Selflessness
Some may perceive that all phenomena are arising and passing away, and wherever they turn their attention may notice the transience of sensations. Extrapolating from this clear perception, they may realize: “Ah, this means that there is no permanent self.” Further, unitive experiences may have the same effect, and further, in some strange intuitive way the same basic notion of something having changed in the basic notion of self-hood may shift to something less solid. Also, the fact that the A&P experiences tend to happen in a way that is seemingly effortless or even unbidden, this experience of natural occurrences can also reinforce the notion that there is less control of things than one initially suspected, adding to the sense of there being somehow less of a self in things. These insights are sometimes called “Deep Insights” into Impermanence and Selflessness in the lingo of the time, a la Jack Kornfield and crew.

Cognitive Abilities
People who are in and have crossed the A&P tend to have an easier time with processes variously called things like “vision logic”, “metacognitive processing” and the like. For those who are prone to such things, they will tend to have philosophical talents beyond those who have not crossed the A&P, realizing that things like age, underlying intelligence however defined, exposure to philosophical and related branches of thinking, and education level can significantly effect how this presents. They will also tend to have an increased ability to understand and navigate in terminology that may reluctantly be termed “spiritual”, though this may show in other ways, such as an increased appreciation of things like the profundity and beauty of differential equations, the implications of modern physics for questions of Subject-Object non-duality, debates of free will vs super-determinism, and the like.

Feeling Called Out and Seeking
People who have crossed the A&P can feel called out, like they are somehow seeking something or on a quest, feeling special, like they are called to something higher, deeper, truer, cleaner, clearer, brighter, freer, etc. I assert that spiritual scenes, self-help groups, vegan restaurants, AA/NA groups, born-again Christian revivals, meditation communities, ashrams, monasteries, psychology and divinity graduate schools, yoga classes, health-food stores, militias, suicide bomb schools, Nepalese treks, eco-warriors, shamanic ceremonies in the jungle, New Age and Spiritualist groups, Wiccan covens, people who go around writing research grants to study meditation and enlightenment, and the like have a substantially increased presence of people who have crossed the A&P. I have no data to back up these claims at all but believe that I know it in some deep intuitive way, which is the sort of thinking you may find in people who have crossed the A&P and been doing this long enough at times.

The Dark Night
The Dark Night, aka the stages of knowledges of suffering, meaning Dissolution, Fear, Mistery, Disgust, Desire for Deliverance and Re-Obervation, follow the A&P like thunder follows lightening. Thus, if you can diagnose the A&P, I assert you can diagnose the Dark Night or at least its inevitability, even if it hasn’t happened yet. Thus, diagnosing the A&P is definitely the place to start. In terms of dynamic systems theory, only some people will manage to cross the A&P, but everyone who doesn’t have something catastrophic happen to their brain or die first who crosses the A&P will then progress inevitably to the stages of the Dark Night. Further, the Dark Night tends to last a lot longer than the A&P, very similar to the way episodes of depression following manic episodes tend to last a lot longer than the manic episode did. Thus, unless you catch people in the A&P, which can be quite brief, you are likely to encounter them dealing with the combined effects of having crossed the A&P but now being in some phase of the Dark Night or in its after effects. I cover the Dark Night extensively in MCTB, so please refer to that for more information.

“The Standard Pattern”
What I call “The Standard Pattern” is that people cross the A&P under whatever circumstances, hit the Dark Night, get swamped by it, finally barely touch some weak version of Equanimity, fall back, feel somewhat normal but are living again with the after-effects of the A&P and the Dark Night, being now past the point of no return. They will then tend to cross it again with some degree of frequency from months to decades, re-enter a more full-on Dark Night, and cycle this way until they may finally get stream entry or just die before that part of the process completes itself. The A&P can vary so widely that catching that it is what has happened, even if one has some understanding of the criteria, can be tricky, illustrated by way of example, from an earlier essay of mine:

My first time crossing it was around age 15. I was and still am a big fan of flying dreams, and so quite without instruction or guidance, I decided that I would practice flying before going to sleep so as to maximize the chances of me having them. I began to try to visualize planets of various colors, which ended up being like 50 foot wide billiard balls in space, some black, some red, some ivory, and in trying to do this I began to notice all sorts of things. I began to notice that there was a delay between the intention to visualize and the image arising. I noticed that it was very difficult to sustain any image, as it would arise and vanish. I began to notice it was nearly impossible to give attention to a sphere without going toward it. I noticed that the delay, the constant effort, the arising and vanishing of the images, and some other strained aspect of the process were strangely irritating. In short, I realized the first three stages of insight practice, but had no idea that these were stock, standard, expected, predictable, and had been mapped by some traditions for over 2,500 years, nor did I know what to expect next.

I can't remember the exact timing, but I know that it was not that many nights of this sort of practice later that I had the following dream. I was standing on a long, straight, dusty, country road with tall wild rose bushes lining either side as far as the eye could see. I was about three feet tall, dressed in a silver space-suit, holding a ray-gun, and beside me were two similarly dressed people of similar height. We were all staring down the road, waiting for something to happen. The sunlight was so bright that it was difficult to see, and its brilliance washed out the color of everything to some pale shade of yellow, green or white. Suddenly a dust cloud appeared far down the road, and out of it emerged a huge witch dressed in black riding a charging black horse. We stood our ground. The witch pointed her wand at us, a brilliant flash of light shot from its tip and engulfed us, and suddenly my world exploded, so that my body seemed like fireworks, flying all over space in sizzling flashes, and I suddenly transitioned from dreaming to waking. However, it took several seconds for my consciousness and sensate reality to reassemble itself into something coherent, and then I was buzzing all over and extremely alert. It would be 10 years before I would have any idea of what that was or what it meant. It is hard from this distant vantage point to get a grasp of exactly how this first event changed my life, as my mid-teens were a complex time in general.

The next time I remember crossing it was the summer after my junior year in college. I had been philosophizing heavily, hanging out with my friend who had also crossed the A&P and didn't know what it was, and we had been discussing the question of the observer or Watcher and how this this related to the question of non-duality. So, one day I was just sitting on the couch, when I decided to take on the watcher directly. I began trying to catch it, second after second, really going after the visceral, perceptual experience of what was observing, and before I knew it, got into this rapid-fire back and forth, super-concentrated state of everything vibrating in my head, and the whole thing zapped back through my skull at very high speed into some black space, and it was done. I broke up with my girlfriend, moved into an apartment alone, and was pretty dark for a while.

The third time I remember occurred during the year after graduation from college. I was dancing in a club, and I began spinning around and got into some sort of very altered state, dancing wildly, with tremendous energy, feeling some kind of long-sought freedom, like something I had forgotten, and up through my being welled this amazing bliss and sense of power, taking over the dancing, moving me effortlessly but with this core of raw power in the center around which the world and my body were spinning and moving quite on their own, and then it peaked in joy and intensity and was done. After that I began to have to meditate to feel normal. I would go outside before work and lay down on the ground and breathe really slowly and somehow it would help a little. Shortly thereafter I quit the band I was running sound for and moved to California for a while.

The next time I don't remember, but I know the effect it had: I suddenly needed to go on retreats, so I did. I had done really no formal meditation practice, knew little of Buddhism, but on the advice of a friend I went on a 9-day intensive insight meditation retreat at the Insight Meditation Society. About 6 days into it, after all sorts of back, neck and jaw pain, I was just sitting there, and all of a sudden I noticed that my body was not solid, but instead made of zillions of little particles of energy, all moving around, zipping in and out of reality, and my body exploded, everything flashed black and white, and I felt as if I had been dropped back onto my cushion from space. After that I was hyper-energetic, hyper-philosophical and yet convinced that philosophy held no further answers, but I had no idea what to do next. No one told me what had happened or what it could do to you, and shortly thereafter I quit my electrical engineering program and went to India.

The next time was about 6 months after the previous one, on retreat in India during a 17-day course at the Thai Monastery in Bodh Gaya. I don't really remember much about it, except that it left me feeling very inspired about practice and very dark about the world. I lasted 5 months doing volunteer service in Calcutta before I had to go on retreat again, so I went to Malaysia and sat in the Malaysian Buddhist Meditation Centre, and that is when I really learned to practice. It was 10 years from the first time I had crossed the A&P, and I was about to learn what the Arising and Passing Away was, which seems a bit late, but that's the world we live in, isn't it?

I was practicing very strict noting technique, and very shortly my breath began to move with the noting. I would note "rising" or "falling" and the breath would rise or fall in nearly perfect synchrony with the duration of the note and then stop, so each stuttering breath took many notes, otherwise it would just stop. The rapidity of this got faster and more powerful, so that I shook, sniffed, sweated and noted for days, and in between bouts I would plunge down with the breath as it went down and down and down into a realm of extremely slowed perception and time, like reality was moving through thick, narcotic syrup, and then the energy would come back, the rapid noting, sniffing, and now powerful vibratory energy would return, and it would cycle like this again and again. I was sitting for 2-3 hours at a time with amazing posture, barely sleeping 2 hours per night, and finally the whole thing died down. I was hungry for sex and chocolate, felt exhausted and sluggish, within a day I could barely sit for 5 minutes, and my mind felt like a hive of angry bees.

That night the abbot played an old, scratchy tape of a Burmese monk describing the stages of insight, and suddenly all was clear. I knew what had happened, knew where I was, and knew what to do about it. You can read about the rest in my book if you wish, but the summary points are these: 1) the maps helped me practice in the face of the Dark Night so that I got to Equanimity, 2) the tape failed to mention the post-retreat/real-world implications of crossing the A&P and entering the Dark Night (they call them "Dukkha Ñanas"), and at that point, despite having crossed the thing many times already, I was unprepared for what would happen next. Shortly thereafter, I canceled all of my medical school interviews so that I could go on a 1-year retreat.

I tell the rest of the story in my book, but hopefully these added shorts will give some idea of the basic points I wanted to illustrate, those being that the context and content can vary widely, but there are relatively predictable and identifiable key elements to the way it happens and what is likely to follow.

A few more brief stories from other points on my path...

I was meditating in my living room and suddenly could see though my closed eyelids. The room looked largely the same, except the color and light were somewhat different. This didn't last long, and in a sit shortly thereafter my body exploded again, very much as it had done before. By this time I knew what it was, and so I was prepared for what came next. I didn't quit my job or end a relationship. Instead I practiced well and shortly thereafter attained to second path in the break room at work during a training lecture.

I was taking a yoga class and had been strangely stiff and tense during it. Every movement was much more difficult than usual, my awareness of the pain in my body more acute. This faded towards the end of the 2-hour class, and then suddenly while bending back into a camel pose, this massive and very startling bolt of energy shot up my spine, causing me to flip suddenly forwards out of the pose. Shortly thereafter I decided to go on retreat during the coming summer in England.

I’ll give two more examples from some people whose practice I knew well at the time. One of them was lying on a bed taking a nap after lunch on a meditation retreat and suddenly could see through the roof out into the sky and felt that a big tornado suddenly blew into the room and that there were literally cats and dogs flying all of over the room, all of which lasted some seconds and then calmed down to reveal a normal room. The other one had a dream, and in the dream was touching bright jewels in a cabinet and each time the jewels were touched waves of buzzy pleasure swept up their hand into their arm and then shortly thereafter they were above the bed they were sleeping in spinning around in a faster and faster vortex of wind. Both people had substantial Dark Night manifestations after those occurrences for some months.

As you can see, the presentations of how things happened can look quite different, despite that fact that I will assert that each of those A&P’s was functionally the same in terms of its basic effect. This presents some difficulties in terms of study design, creating diagnostic criteria that someone not very personally familiar with the wide range of the A&P and the other stages’ presentations, as well as sorting out the common mimics (e.g. Mind and Body, Samatha Jhana experiences, Equanimity, Stream Entry, etc.). However, the effects are so extremely predictable in certain aspects that it must be possible to come up with a way to research on this topic. Having crossed the territory of the A&P a few thousand times at least by this point, it is easy to spot it as it happens and in people’s histories, but explaining exactly how this is done beyond listing these sorts of experiences and trying to externally reproduce a codified set criteria that represents the internal knowledge is obviously not easy to perfectly accomplish.

As I have put so much information in MCTB, please consult that source for more information on this and related topics.
Che Guebuddha, modified 12 Years ago at 8/21/11 2:12 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 8/21/11 2:12 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 65 Join Date: 8/19/11 Recent Posts
Thank you for writing this and the book (which im reading on and off between practicing and stages)

It made me remember the "event" i got struck by and which i'll never forget.

It was 13 years ago, it was a summer day, blue sky, on a mountain with friends, i was lying on the back staring at the sky, felt the soft grass under my back, my body positioned like the Davinci Vetruviam man. At that time i was not into any spiritual stuff or similar strange things. Art was my colling and i painted and did photography.

In a split moment I felt under my back the actual volume of this rotating (huming) planet. It was HUGE. Amazingly huge, so small i was in comparison. I could see many billions of tiny red lines going from the surface down into the center of the Earth. Everything on this planet was connected with one another with these red lines. It lasted for a split moment only. I was in a positive shock asking my friends if they felt the same. Imposible they did not feel this vivid experience. They looked at me like i was crazy.

Felt like sharing this.

Thanks again.
Be well
Benjamin A Smith, modified 12 Years ago at 8/24/11 1:20 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 8/24/11 1:20 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Post: 1 Join Date: 8/24/11 Recent Posts
So, about ten years ago I had an experience in which I was not in a normal state of mind, listening to music, and without warning I felt the need/demand to stand up and begin moving to the music. The sensation was extremely visceral and real. It was as if the space to one side of a limb would "open up" and the only reasonable thing to do was for me to move that limb into that space. The movements were all quite slow and each movement was very deliberate, but determined not by me but by these openings in the energy around me. This lasted for a period of a few minutes and then I was able to sit down again.

Is that possibly indicative of crossing the A&P? And if so, what bearing would that fact have on my meditation practice? I'm currently living with my wife and kids, observing the 8 precepts (except for not speaking), and doing concentration practice for about 1.5 hrs a day.
Chris Coleman, modified 11 Years ago at 1/9/13 1:18 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/9/13 1:18 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 12 Join Date: 12/28/12 Recent Posts
This is a terrific discussion, but it seems to leave out the most important part, which is an explanation of what new thing it is that you discover in the A&P. For example, is it possible to complete this sentence: "One way to recognize the A&P is that you will learn/discover/directly experience a new aspect of reality that you previously did not know or truly understand, which is X"?

Here's how this might look for Mind and Body: "One way to recognize Mind and Body is that you will learn/discover/directly experience a new aspect of reality that you previously did not know or truly understand, which is that 'you' are not the same thing as your thoughts or sensations. You will almost certainly continue to lose sight of this insight in daily life, but once gained you will never fully forget it, and it will always be available to you, for good or ill, as a source of strength and equanimity, but also of discomfort and sometimes pain. A certain sort of wisdom is gained, but a certain sort of innocence is lost."

Could an analogous statement be made about A&P? If so, what would it look like?
Daniel M Ingram, modified 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 1:29 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 1:29 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Ok, that is actually really, really complicated, as the range of how the A&P can present and what people may or may not get from it is vast.

For instance: on the very light end, one might be drifting off to sleep in ordinary life without meditative training and briefly notice a very rapid buzzing sensation down the middle of one's spine lasting maybe 3 seconds: that was all they noticed, felt a bit happy, had a few cool dreams, otherwise not much going on. That might have been it.

Contrast that with someone at the other far end of the spectrum who had weeks of profound orgasmic bliss blasting through their body with massive kundalini movements in the context of sitting at the feet of the guru in an ashram, felt like the universe was having sex with itself, saw bright lights and traveled out of body, saw through their closed eyelids, felt they could read the minds of those around them, felt and saw their glowing chakras align, and whose consciousness finally exploded with a profound knowing event in there somewhere and heavy unitive experiences on top of it all. They might have deep and easily-articulated insights into all sorts of things, think they are enlightened, and may be a very different animal afterwards than the person who had a very minor event or never even noticed it.

At its core, the insight you can depend on in the A&P is that they directly perceived something to fully arise and vanish rapidly (except the few who have the slow-goo variant, in which case it is slow) on its own: that is obviously not much to hang your had on.

Obviously, these are really, really different in many ways and the conclusions, lessons and results are all likely to be profoundly different also.

How about you? What is your interest in the topic?

Dannon F, modified 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 3:32 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 3:21 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 40 Join Date: 1/6/13 Recent Posts
Wow. I never realized that I was an A&P junky. I have had countless A&Ps. I had been a psychedelic seeker. And a lucid dreamer. Everything you describe rings true. I know the A&P intimately. And I have been a chronic dark night yogi. My friends also, all unknowing dark night yogis. In the dark night the temptation is to go back to the A&P. This is a vicious cycle. Thank you Daniel for the good work! You help many people directly and indirectly.

OK, so I have had many out of this world experiences through ingesting mushrooms, DMT, peyote, ayahuasca, and lucid dreaming. As a child I lay awake at night trying to figure it all out and came up with the basic dharma theory independently. I have never confused the A&P with enlightenment. But I thought I was pretty darn advanced for not being disciplined. But I had an experience last spring, totally sober, that was very intense, just sitting there, that lasted for a many days, that I can enter into any time I want (but not quite so blissful as the first time).

How are some ways we can tell the A&P apart from higher phases on the map, and visa versa? I apologize if this question is answered in an obvious place on this site, I am new here.
Daniel M Ingram, modified 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 5:44 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 5:44 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Yep, A&P junkies abound.

Check out MCTB in the section on the A&P and then Equanimity for contrast to help sort this out:


Also, "Was that Emptiness" section later on.
Chris Coleman, modified 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 10:05 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/11/13 10:05 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 12 Join Date: 12/28/12 Recent Posts
Wow, thanks for the reply! I love your writing and the ideas you're sharing on this site.

My interest? My entire life is built around the question, "What does it mean?" It seems to be my default set point, as virtually every experience I've ever had gets the "but what does this mean?" treatment. That's good and bad. Good, because it keeps me from getting caught up in a lot of stuff in life that doesn't matter. But bad, because its ultimately a question that can never be answered (at least I never have) and it will dissolve everything you have if you let it. I suffered deep depressions over it when I was younger, but I've managed to fight it to a draw in my middle age by trying not to think about it too much. A healthy sense of humor about things has also helped.

But the question never quite goes away, and sites like this one (found it thru the NY Times article) tend to stir things back up again. My parents were proto-hippies, and I was raised in a sort of mish-mash world of meditation, New Age gurus, crystals, pyramids - the whole thing. As a kid, like all kids, I bought into the world in which I was raised implicitly, but I eventually realized it was all basically crap. So part of me thinks everything I read here is also basically crap - but I also recognize that you and many others here are clearly intelligent, insightful, and sincere, that you've devoted a lot of time and attention to it, and you're reporting results that are broadly consistent with a history of similar efforts that stretch back 2500 years. I'm humble enough to have an open mind, and intensely curious about What It All Means.

From what I've read here, I could map my history as having crossed the A&P somewhere in my forgotten history of childhood meditation, with the ensuing "what does it all mean" obsession and depression being some version of Dark Night. Who knows? But if so, it happened so early and has lasted so long that it feels like a completely normal and natural state to me - just life.

Hence my interest in diagnosing A&P. How does a fish diagnose that he's spent his entire life in water? I had thought that if the various stages of "insight" were truly insights in the sense of realizing some truth that was not previously known, then perhaps I could just read that insight and see if it seems like something that I already know. Some of the early "insights" seem to work that way, but I've noticed that most of the higher stages are described only in terms of secondary effects - symptoms, if you will - rather than in terms of any actual conceptual realizations.

I suppose that's inevitable. You can point to the chicken, and you can point to your mouth, but you can't explain "the taste of chicken." You only find out what chicken tastes like by direct experience. But still it's frustrating. Lots of people standing around telling you "Trust me, chicken tastes really, really good. That taste of chicken has completely transformed my life." But you'll have to invest a lot of time and effort on blind faith to find out if the taste of chicken is the answer to the questions you've been asking.
Lara D, modified 11 Years ago at 1/29/13 10:09 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 1/29/13 10:09 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 54 Join Date: 1/29/13 Recent Posts
Of this list, I've only really experienced lucid dreams to my knowledge. Some of the dreams have been terrifying (for example, an intense feeling that something is watching me, just outside my range of vision) and others have been exhilarating (like taking control of a flying dream). Sometimes I will want to wake up, but not be able to. Either way, it's almost always accompanied by intense emotions such as joy or sadness. I've always had a fondness/affinity for dreams, so I wouldn't be surprised if these are A&P phenomena.

In terms of the 'dark night', though, I really haven't experienced severe depression in the way it's discussed here. What I have gotten instead are feelings of being disconnected from the world around me, either emotionally or physically (like I'm dreaming or watching a movie of life), and what I'd call low-grade "background level" anxiety/depression/unease. As in, it's there, but I am usually able to tune it out. And, for the most part, it hasn't altered my sense of humor or optimism or my ability to function.

That said, I would like to investigate it more. Maybe that's partly why I'm interested in meditation.
Christian Calamus, modified 11 Years ago at 2/8/13 1:25 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 2/8/13 1:25 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 88 Join Date: 10/23/10 Recent Posts
Maybe a little differentiation in terminology could help to reduce the complexity of the A&P phenomenon. Although it seems that the A&P manifests in an awesome variety of ways and that this variety is one of its main features, it may still be useful to look for typical combinations of symptoms that tend to come up together. With enough experience and material, one could come up with A&P sub-types that tend to manifest in relatively distinct and recognizable ways.

Some examples:

The “Apotheosis A&P”:
- no or little previous meditative experience
- intense spontaneous energy/kundalini phenomena
- intensified, maybe unprecedented spiritual seeking
- evangelizing, thinking one is special / enlightened

The “Sneaky Dark Night A&P”:
- no or little previous meditative experience
- “half-second energy zap on the couch”
- weird dreams
- intensified libido
- depression (DN)

There is of course a large number of variables that play into this, but trying to disentangle it by describing sub-types IMO is better than the situation we have now, where there is one overly broad category under which a massive amount of different phenomena are subsumed.

I’m convinced that some of the more senior DhOers (with teaching experience etc.) could easily come up with more realistic and accurate types. My point is: It might definitely be worth a try.
Dan From Virginia, modified 11 Years ago at 3/26/13 4:04 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 3/26/13 4:03 PM

Question: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 25 Join Date: 3/21/13 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
I had two long conversations with some Ivy League Academic Dark Night Yogis who both research meditation and some of the things we discussed inspired me to write this.

I hope you will find it interesting and useful. It was written with a slant towards how to research this stuff in some formal way, such as an NIH grant, but should have some broad appeal and applicability...and related topics.

Is this a draft pondering a proto-taxonomy, along the lines of a biological classification/taxonomy?

Daniel M Ingram, modified 11 Years ago at 3/29/13 11:25 PM
Created 11 Years ago at 3/29/13 11:25 PM

RE: Question: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Sure. Obviously there are many A&P variants, all probably worth describing, just so we know the range. Would be interesting to see if they predicted anything about what followed, resulted from specific techniques, etc.
watching out, modified 11 Years ago at 4/11/13 3:46 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 4/11/13 3:46 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/11/13 Recent Posts
Dear Community,
i want to give you some of my experienced symptoms over the last 12 years. I was happy, if anyone can give me an appreciation of where i could possibly be.

Because now, reading the MTCB and the steps of insight, i have the feeling of knowing content of the steps one to 9/10.

Since i am able to think and reflect my life, which i sort out at the age of thirteen, i had a huge amount of spiritual happenings. Things like suddenly flowing with the moment, being totally in it, being fully conentrate, feeling the vibes of this earth. For example i can remember quiet clear a week in my life, in which every kind of fear, anxiety or any other kind of destructive emotions was blown away and i had the feeling of "it might come what will come, i stay". With writing, listening to music or painting, i went into the "flow of life" - there was then noting more than writing and painting, being totally into it.

Another happening: i was at the sea, listening to music and seeing a very bright sunlight coming through the clouds, hitting the sea´s surface and reflecting in an amazing light. That moment something switched in my mind, and a big wave of warm and cosy golden love came over me and i was in a deep peace, wanting to do good things fort he people surrounding me. This lasted over some days.

These incidents still happen, it never stopped. Because of this i began to meditate in the age of 15, but unfortunatly only for half a year. After this i tried several other types of concentration techniques.

Hardly one year ago i was on a retreat (noting technique) in eat asia. From that moment, meditation came back in my life and gains a very strong ground. During this retreat i had one moment of feeling a strong pressure between my eyes, most propably the opening moment of the third eye. For three days i had so much energy, that i could not sleep well. This pressure never left me, i feel it strongly during meditations but also in everyday life. This retreat pushed me into a feeling that i never had before.
For about 4 months, i was highly concentrated, about the things that happended in my mind. I felt knowing to do what is right in every situation. I was happy tob e apart from bad feelings, but unfortunatly they came back. It was like a batterie of awareness that i charged to the fullest and with the time the energy passed away. I started reading a lot about buddhism. And with every book, with every buddhist sentence i nodded, it felt all so right. So many philosphic content that i had regocnized in my life was written down in the books.

One year before that retreat, i had another happening that lasted over 3 months. Within concentrating on work with terra cotta, eyes closed, my whole life started to roll by in my inner eye. Fragments of my conscius life and of my dreams come up with an enormous speed. I then started to imagine as i wish just the best for all the people that i know, above all, the people that i still have trouble with. Again a huge love, peace and harmony was evoked that lasted long. I became a deep unterstanding of the necessarity to be good to me and people surrounding me to be lucky and happy.

What i saw in MTCB is the aspect of suffering in the dark night. Starting again from the age of thirteen i had hard depressions for a couple of years in my youth time. I am also very sensivite and i suffered and still sometimes suffer with many types of desires and aversion. Desires with strong feelings, with strong ideas, with strong pictures. I think my mind created these as rooms to rest from the pain, rooms of illusion or desire. With having so many dismantling happenings giving a very deep good feeling of being here, in the moment, in the flow, in love, in peace in harmony etc. over small seconds to long time periods and on the other hand knowing what deep sufferings is like, i am living in this split, in this ambivalence. This leads for me to a continous strong wish of getting released. Knowing how it feels to be free of the balast of pain, of destructive emotions and thoughts but still feeling very bad from times to times. The pain aspect and so many upcoming positive spiritual experiences lead me to the diagnose of stucking in the dark night over the last 12 years.

Other descriptions within the MTCB support this. For example to talk and thing about philosophy and psychology in a way that never stopped. I have also always been fascinated of abstinence. Blowing up things, that never had a big importance is one of my „hobbies“. The biggest permament thougt over the years, when i just think back, is just the wish of release.

A couple of weeks ago, i had a "crash", in which i suddenly felt very very sorry for all the pain, that i pointed at myself and at people surrounding me. Feeling so sorry about letting bad emotions controll my mind, even if i do not want it. And then, after the feelings that made me sad, being to weak to let them go, i was also to weak to stopp these feelings hurting other beings. The hardest thing is to see the bad storm coming, controlling, destroying and passing away without being able to stop it.

Another meditation experience i just came across with a short time ago: I felt sensations all over my body, i observed thoughts in my mind. Everything rising and passing away. They become stronger and stronger. Then i felt a strong undertow pulling my body down to earth. At the same time, it felt like my soul/mind, whatever, went kind of out my body. I still felt the vibrations, the thoughts, the undertow, as if gravity would hold my material body down to earth, but at the same time i felt far away. It became quiet dull, the whole situations, the vibes.

A couple of weeks ago, i had a meditation, in which i observed my thoughts so consequently, that i got into a obeservers position, that clearly saw the arising and passing away of every single thought. It gave me an unbelievable peace and strength. As if this observers position was strongly nailed into the ground. The gap between me and the stream of feelings and thoughts in my mind was so big, that i began to be amused and delighted what is going on there.

Yesterday for a small moment, i had the feeling of my body being totally alien to me. A miserable feeling come up in me. The feeling of cloth or a hand touching my body evoked a nasty feeling of this.

So as you see, there are so many symptoms, so many stages from 4 to 10 (concerning MTCemoticon, that i do not know what is going on. Where i am right now and where i was over the last 12 years. For me it feels being in stages 4 to 10 at the same time all the time.

Right now i feel a little bit fed up with hunting after getting released, with burning for a good meditation or spiritual happening after the other, with wanting this and wanting that. It is a kind of equanimity but also indifference. But feelings are so incoherent so variable, that i cannot say what comes tommorow.

Has or has had anyone made similar experience? Is anyone having a diagnose for these symptoms?

Just the best to all of you!

Best greets
watching out, modified 11 Years ago at 4/11/13 9:03 AM
Created 11 Years ago at 4/11/13 9:03 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/11/13 Recent Posts

it is me again. An Addition:
Thinking about my last post an reading the MTCB again brings me again to the conclusion, that i might have stucked and still stuck in the dark night. But all the experiences i made, above all, that ones that lasted longer than hours or days where actings of craving from side. i think i tend to want flashy moments and when i have them, i try to enlarge them, which is definitly possible. It is a way of blowing somethins strongly up. But that does not let me improve on the way of insight meditation. Because the only progress with inside meditation is the process of equanimity and analysing the "sensual sensations". How often will i have to learn this lesson yet? I think i got lost for a thousands and thousand times within pumping up good and bad feelings such as depression. Per definition, depression is exactly the grap of a bad mood, the being in a cylce of bad feelings, where one would naturally coming out after sometimes. But with suffering under depression, as i did, you just cannot let go.
I think the positive spiritual moments, happenings, described in my previous post might have also been outputs from a samatha jana, maybe the second step. The feeling of concentration and delight can make me so dangerously happy that the craving process is doing its bad work.

Looking forward to your appreciations.

The best to you
Darrin Rice, modified 10 Years ago at 6/25/13 8:12 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/25/13 8:12 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 30 Join Date: 8/26/12 Recent Posts
Hi watching out,
Wow, that is a lot of "stuff" going on. You seem to have a very good memory of all the things that happen. I'm probably not the best one to reply but sense no one has I will make some suggestions.

First, all that "stuff" is awesome when you are experiencing it but...

Just let it happen and don't cling to it. If you are doing noting, and I think you should continue to do that, just keep noting what is going on as it is going on and then go back to your object like the breath. I would also get in the habit of noting post-meditation, during the regular part or your day as you are doing your normal tasks. Let go of the dialogue in your mind and simply note what is passing through. Look for the sense of spaciousness and stay with that. This is actually much harder to do than sitting in my opinion but it brings great rewards.

Read up on the the three characteristics in MCTB and look for them in all of your experiences. Understanding impermanence, suffering and no-self is what leads to emptiness. All things are empty of inherent existence. You must gain an intellectual understanding of emptiness and then you will find it in experience.

A solid understanding of the 5 aggregates made a big difference for me. These are the things we are, and they do not have inherent existence.
1. Form
2. Feeling
3. Perception
4. Mental Formations
5. Consciousness

Look for the "I" in them and you will find that you cannot find the "I". This will give you an experiential understanding of no-self.

Best Wishes,
Jenny, modified 10 Years ago at 9/13/13 10:38 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 9/13/13 10:18 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 566 Join Date: 7/28/13 Recent Posts
Exactly one week before I hit this very crappy persistent migraine state that manifests as visual "snow" and undulating, more "macro" distortions that the physicians call metamorsopia (August 2), I crossed the A&P Event. It was really the culmination of several months' worth of experiences that happened in frequent lucid dreams. I had been meditating only about 30 minutes a day (samatha-vipassana breath meditation in the Thai Forest tradition), before bedtime. While awake, I never willed myself to experience lucidity. The dreams were spontaneous. In them, as soon as I realized I was dreaming, I felt empowered to do anything, and what I always chose to do was to sit cross-legged and meditate in the dream. These were always blissful and magical feeling experiences.

In the penultimate one I experienced, I was at a party in a home in the center of some woods in the south. There was dark paneling everywhere in the house. Neil Finn showed up and started singing (why not), and I was strangely sad that no one was paying much attention to old Neil. I started talking to this Christian mystic/gnostic friend of mine. She was helping me rearrange furniture into different formations. Suddenly we sat facing each other on the floor, in sitting meditation, and started meditating. Suddenly, the walls of the home blew open, like the petals of a flower, and everyone disappeared except for us two. The floor became a barge or raft and we were zooming rapidly across an ocean. The water flowed over the floor we sat on, but we stayed still and kept meditating, though with eyes open, and if driving the scene. Then the bliss became unbearable and everything burst into a glowing negative-image state--blue-white luminous glow. The flowing, swirling water surges were all aglow.

The dream after this one happened almost before I was totally asleep, and it was like I could see through my eyelids. And then the room began to swirl in paisley types of designs, Persian rug designs, and sudden I just "knew" something. I knew the arising and the passing. And I can't really explain this knowing in words. The next day I woke up and walked in downtown Apex, after a rain. All the twinkling lights from the little shops and the greens of the trees and grass--everything was ultra clear, ultra real. I was euphoric all day. I felt something had happened. I felt now "on a mission" and very faithful to it. Suddenly, I was able to meditate all night, with no pain and no desire to stop.

That following week, my vision became really screwed up: edgy vibratory, with difficulty concentrating. I experienced negative emotions, but no outbursts or conflicts with others. Finally, my vision suddenly became radically distorted. It became a medical emergency. I was having one of my several persistent migraine auras. The fact that all this edgy negative stuff started right after that couple of months of lucid dreaming tells me that my persistent migraine auras are at least in part one manifestation for me of the Dark Night. I'm certain now. This much of the pattern is crystal clear: I had an A&P stage followed immediately by dissolution. I guess I'm still there, in the dark now.

I think I've done these cycles before--before I started any practice. My first aura happened in church, after a blissful state, when I was 12. Another A&P that I remember from around age 18 involved my spontaneously leaving my body and zooming backward very fast into space. "I" was looking back at myself and my friend by a pond, but we sort of weren't there. I had the bliss and the feeling that I could keep going, but I decided to return because of my loved ones. And--BAM--I was back solidly in my body, looking at the pond and the sky. I asked my friend, "Did you feel that????" He never answered, just smiled.
Anne Cripps, modified 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 2:51 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 2:51 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/12/13 Recent Posts
:-) Hi Heather!

Bravo for your practice!

What would you say has stayed with you, in terms of insight or freedom (release) from former misperceptions, since the events described below?…
I was listening intently to the voice of the officiating priest to see if I could discern when she stood up to offer incense by the change in her voice. And then that's when I zapped out of being. I remember hearing-feeling the chanting so intensely and then nothing. There was no-arising phenomena: not me, no chanting, no zendo, no nothing. Of course, I didn't know that no phenomena arose until after I zapped back. It was like I slipped into a gap of nothingness, just like the Heart Sutra says: no skandhas, no sense objects, no sense consciousnesses, no nothing. When I zapped back, I struck the bell just as the priest stepped back to walk toward the altar. I was all I could do to stay on the cushion because the body was flooded with (I know it is nothing but energy!) energy. I had enough to run several marathons. I had to bite my lip, grip the striker, and hold onto the cushion so I wouldn't jet off the ground. It was incredible!
I just did a five-day retreat where there was an experience of "no owner" of thoughts/perceptions. They -- thoughts/perceptions -- just seemed to be floating somewhere in the head but not really part of me.

After either of these, did you have a particular sense of how you should develop your training next, or what you thought you should do in inner development?

Bright Blessings! (-:
Daniel M Ingram, modified 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 7:06 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 7:06 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Those are some really well-done phenomenological descriptions.

The real question that I have is if that second event, the one where you say you vanished and reappeared, was another A&P, which can involve an A&P event in which it really does seem like we vanish and re-appear, or was that stream entry, which is clearly your guess to some degree and perhaps it is right, or was that something else.

Figuring out which it was is complex and usually best done by talking to someone about it, and even then is not always easy.

The implications of the A&P vs stream entry are many and vary by the person to some degree, but are probably worth sorting out, as they have practical and practice implications for your everyday life, and traditional instructions as well as real-world useful tips will vary depending on which it was, assuming those two as most likely candidates.

How is your life different after that second event?

How is your mind and how it does if function after that second event? Any differences from before that second event?

How is sitting after that second event?

How do the stages of insight present after that second event?

Could you sit down and have the stages of insight shift through you if you inclined that way?

What state of mind do you sit down in when you decide to turn the mind to insight at the beginning of the sit?

Have you been on a retreat since?

Do you have any stream-enterer friends you can talk with?
Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 2:08 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/3/14 2:08 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
My 2c, the zapping in and out thing sounds to me more like what Dan calls "Nirodha-lite", which is not a fruition but I personally consider to be more awesome/important than what Dan calls "Nirodha Samapatti". I experienced it once and it was far more profound than the latter because there was an experience of the non-experience, whereas with Dan's NS there is no experience of the non-experience, just a gap of missing time (like once I was listening to a song while it happened and it was as if the music simply skipped forward a few seconds). Although then again maybe what Dan means by Nirodha-lite is not the same. This would require a lot of conversing probably.

As to the relation between what I'll continue to call "Nirodha-lite" and the paths as described in MCTB, it doesn't seem to me you have to be 3rd path to attain to it, indeed it sort of seems like something else, but clearly you have to have good concentration to get to it.

As to it being an A&P, it also seems unrelated, it's again more post-8th-jhana than 2nd jhana. As to it being stream-entry, no I don't think so *per se*, again it seems like something separate from the paths, although maybe if one attains to it without having been a stream-enterer before it's enough to do the damage, just some wild speculation there though. In a sense the set-ups are pretty similar I guess, with stream entry you get into murky not-well-experienced formless realms territory and then you blip out and that's it, whereas with this you get into that same formless realms territory and then you get that experience of non-experience.
Anne Cripps, modified 10 Years ago at 1/4/14 9:36 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/4/14 3:26 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 28 Join Date: 11/12/13 Recent Posts
:-) Hi Heather, and Happy New Year!

Just for some clarification about "objectless awareness", is what you're referring to a (usually)-eyes-open seated meditation-practice that's a combination of calming and clear-seeing, roughly like this description of mochao/mozhao (anglo-Japanese is mokusho)?

In your daily life, would you say that you have a good 'handle' on the four close placements of mindfulness (body, sensations, mental states, mental objects)? Perhaps it's been described differently to you, but have you received (or found) well-rounded basic instructions for off-the-cushion daily-life practice?

Also (having a Soto Zen background myself), I imagine there has been good emphasis by your teachers on ‘holistic compassion’ (i.e includes you as well as others) and owning ones actions (a.k.a ‘taking responsibility for ones actions’), with mention of appropriate sange/contrition and willingness to change? (Dogen certainly writes about contrition…I’m not getting heavy here but just checking some basics are in your backpack:-)

You may already be familiar with this... Dharma-vicaya (examination/investigation of truth) functions with mindfulness like a knife with a fork...some foods one can pick up with just a fork, but some one will need to use a knife on:-) Face, penetrate, clarify, resolve... Some stuff one really must turn to face: though a person may long to escape from it into the light, they will be unable to...it has grabbed them by the ankles! One needs to own responsibility for this 'stuff' as, like it or not, there it is and no one else is going to take care of it. This often-disturbing activity of stuff-facing-and-the-rest can seem counter-intuitive when one just wants peaceful bright spaciousness, but dualistically clinging to stillness and fearing activity, one cannot feel free in both rest and function. Health & Safety Regs advise always conducting deep-work dharma-vicaya, or penetrating ones personal kōans (existential or spiritual dilemmas/questions), under the watchful and benign supervision of holistic-compassion/non-judgemental-awareness:-D

I've talked a fine load of shop (or similar), and hope Dan will come along with something more sensible.

Wishing you every blessing for your ongoing practice

Peace (-:
Stick Man, modified 7 Years ago at 10/6/16 12:23 PM
Created 7 Years ago at 10/6/16 12:23 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 396 Join Date: 9/23/14 Recent Posts
I had a unitive experience soon after I started formal meditation. I haven't really thought much that this may not have been the first time I experienced A&P (because it is such a mentally attractive event), but after reading this I am wondering how far back my A&P goes, maybe to childhood.
Rubs chin.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Years ago at 12/10/18 7:28 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 12/10/18 7:28 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Wow. There is actually a name to what I have experienced. All of it is real: the waves and oscillations, the dissolving of body parts into vibrating and flowing energy, the buzzing and the zaps, the shivering and the orgasmic all-body... eruptions...? and the upwardmoving shock waves, the explosions inside my head, the feelings of connectedness with everything and of being waves and love, the light phenomena, the cessations, the heat in the spine, even the inducing of Kundalini experiences in others. It wasn’t my imagination and not a psychiatric disorder. I knew it. Finally something to work with! Since much of it happened spontanenously and in contexts ranging from nature and art experiences to yoga and intimate encounters, and from ordinary daily life in harmony to times of crisis and traumas such as death, I haven't been sure what to think. I knew that it had to be some kind of altered state of consciousness, but I lacked the more specific framework. The duration has varied for me, from seconds to weeks (months maybe, I don’t remember).

My latest experience was this evening during a session of ”restorative yoga” which allowed me to meditate while resting in different positions. I tuned into my body and immediately felt vibrations in my hands like I often do. This time they felt exceptionally warm. As I explored the feeling, I noticed similar vibrations around my lips as well, so I turned my focus to them. The sensation spread all over my face, which dissolved into waves that were in turn dissolved into oscillations. I could shift my focus between the larger waves and the oscillations that made up the waves. It felt pleasant and relaxing.

The first time I experienced something like this was probably when I tried some visualization pratices as a teenager. I’m not that visual, so although I did have some occasional mental image, my main experience was that parts of my body started to vibrate and dissolved from my experience. This happened every time, and since I had no idea what it was, I thought I must have done something wrong. Because of that, I stopped meditating and avoided it for decades. I thought it was kind of creepy. But since I started having these weird experiences anyway, I thought that I might as well try some meditation and yoga. I googled my experiences, and the closest I got was a page warning about side effects of Kundalini awakening. I already experienced practically all those symptoms, so I thought that it probably wouldn’t hurt to try some Kundalini yoga and meditation to maybe have some of the good experiences as well.
Daniel M Ingram, modified 5 Years ago at 12/11/18 4:21 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 12/11/18 4:21 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 3275 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Very glad to hear that the standard maps have been helpful. I hope that helps you integrate the experiences and do something useful with them. Best wishes! -Daniel
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Years ago at 12/11/18 7:46 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 12/11/18 7:46 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
I’m really looking forward to that section of your MCTB2 book. I’m on chapter 24 now, so soon! And then there are so many other resources to delve deep into. No reason to get bored for another decade or so (or a life time, I guess, as it will probably keep ramifying into even more fascinating areas). Yay!

Parts of me regret that I didn’t start this journey earlier (I’m 43). Other parts remind me that I actually did. It seems that I have prepared for this all my life.
J C, modified 5 Years ago at 12/17/18 12:38 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 12/17/18 12:38 AM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 644 Join Date: 4/24/13 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I’m really looking forward to that section of your MCTB2 book. I’m on chapter 24 now, so soon! And then there are so many other resources to delve deep into. No reason to get bored for another decade or so (or a life time, I guess, as it will probably keep ramifying into even more fascinating areas). Yay!

Parts of me regret that I didn’t start this journey earlier (I’m 43). Other parts remind me that I actually did. It seems that I have prepared for this all my life.

Yeah, looking back on it, I feel the same way. All my questions and journeys involving identities of various types, my searches through mathematical logic and philosophy, my interest in philosophical puzzles about personal identity and duplicating machines, were all searching for this. I was blown away when I found Daniel's book - I knew I had found what I had been looking for the whole time.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 5 Years ago at 12/18/18 1:07 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 12/18/18 1:07 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Posts: 7134 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing, JC! Reading it made me happy.
Jan Lukas Peters, modified 5 Years ago at 4/6/19 3:48 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/6/19 3:48 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Post: 1 Join Date: 4/4/19 Recent Posts
So my first post is going to be here as I've long searched for a map of my experience.

In 2015 I began researching what Tom Campbell, a physicist, described a Virtual reality. Read his book and did a lot of research.
So coming from that background I was fascinated by the logic it applied and how it all made sense to me now. 
Then after a couple months I took LSD with my friend for the first time. I didn't know what to expect as I didn't read any reports.

The Trip began and after an hour I was finding myself bursting happy tears and laughter that was the most intense thing in my life.
After that I can just remember some stuff:

- My perception of reality changed and I started to communicate on a different level with my friend.
- All of the philosophical questions made sense. Questions arose and immediatly after that the answer came in. It was like:
     -But how does.. oh yeah thats why, but why.. ohhh sure.. and on and on... And everything just made sense.
It was just this blast of understanding which was Intuitve. Now I don't have a clue what happend and what Insights I got.
- Next step was where my friend, seemingly understanding what was going on, wanted to explain to me how this works and how to just accept that state and to be calm.
- I tried to intellectualized it, asked many questions and was able to sometimes relax.
- But then at some point I suddenly came back into body sensation out of that "tube not-body" awareness as I understood it and had fear about my breath being there at all because I didn't feel anything.
- More anxiety arose and eventually I found myself in a Vortex leading to a door where my friend stood and said "ye you are dead".
- I wanted to let go of that and the urge of wanting to fall was huge.
- Then at one point when my friend couldn't hold me back of standing up and letting myself drop I was saying goodbye to my friends I saw and cried, even kissed my friend and said I loved him so much and everybody and decided to let go of this experience.
- So I gave up and fell down on the ground hitting the table and hurt my rips and head.
- Everything was black, I heard the music and then opened my eyes wondering what happened.

Since then 3 years I struggled with the belief being dead and running away from death and that this reality I am in is just a transition state or something to reduce anxiety and I couldn't let go of solipsism. 

Since that time I have the urge to go back to that state where It was kind of flowy, where it felt more authentic and where I wasn't in the "scene" so to say, as I felt this reality with personhood not being so authentic as the other one I felt.

Another time taking LSD on a normal festival there was a brief moment where the appearance of my friend changed from normal conversation to something like "oh there you are, just stay there" but then some fear of death kicked in again and his appearance changed again. It always felt like he wanted to grab me out of some dissolution into the real world emoticon.

Ye, since then having depression and lots of thoughts I started occasional meditation and figuring out what that all is about and how my reality works. Then I realized my interpretation of that LSD trip through fear of death made it appear like I really would die at that moment. So now I know my beliefs are creating my reality and if I am really believing something really deeply especially in some psychedelic state it really brings in that reality. It makes it more probable. 

Know my perception of life is not solipsistic anymore and enjoyable again. Don't fear death too much I think, but I am not sure. I challenged death to come at me and I stayed. So I guess to take the path of the dark knight now? emoticon
A lot of things came up since then, confusion, inner conflicts and inauthenticity and fear in many situations.
Motivation dropped alot, concentration was low, a conversation was and still sometimes is hard as a lot of thoughts come in and I truly just want to listen fully to the other person.

Now after listening to Danial Ingrams Podcast interviews the feeling around my chest was intense and I felt so much joy as I saw him being so focused and something about him just fascinated me. So joyful and authentic that I can just laugh and be happy when I see him emoticon.
And that what has brought me here. Starting regular meditation again and trying Fire Kasina half an hour every day writing it down in a journal to get my practice and regularity in life back. His book is going to be my next view as it may explain a lot of things I went through the last 4 years as they were very confusing and frightening. I WANT TO FEEL AND BE AUTHENTIC.

I have one question though:
What about all those thoughts that arise? Can I just Ignore them and come from the center of my chest region to act out naturally?
In some other forum they said the fear of death is the fear of losing control. It makes sense as I have the intuitive feeling of not letting go and just be. I can't tell when I am letting go or just acting. Is there any way to train that and to distinguish those states?

I am so glad to have found this community, will definitly check out other stories as they may give me more hints helping me map my own journey. And every information comes as I need it. Now I am here starting Insight meditation, getting to know the Dark knight more.
MettaRuby K, modified 5 Years ago at 5/29/19 2:54 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/29/19 2:54 PM

RE: Diagnosing the A&P

Post: 1 Join Date: 5/29/19 Recent Posts
This is helpful, thank you. I feel like I have had some A&P experiences based on what I have read on this site, but no real recollection of Dark Night. Any feedback here is appreciated.  

For context, I have been meditation 5+ years, sitting 2-3 retreats per year for the last 3 years. Daily sitting practice is anywhere from 4 min (have young kids!) to 1.5 hours. 

1) on my first week long retreat, during a guided metta practice, I felt an increasing heat, and pressure at my chest. Felt like my heart was getting bigger and bigger until I had no more body, was just heart, or heart 'energy' that was filling the whole room. It knocked my socks off. I could feel eevry heart beat with precision and 'see' the energetic waves. The feeling of heaviness (physical, not emotional) stayed with me for a few weeks. 

2) same retreat, next day, lots of piti during a sit and had a moment of knowing something (that turned about to be true) about someone 3000 miles away

3) day 2 of a weeklong retreat last spring, meditation on sound, felt my awareness become super super precise - could hear everything as if in slow motion - body was full of ease, and then suddenly it was as though I felt like my body became a giant cement block, and then it exploded and "i" was in a formless endless ocean like space. Immediately felt some fear and it 'popped' and I was back in my body.  Same retreat a few days later, experienced super increased visual sense perception for a few seconds a time (saw msyelf drinking water in slow motion)

4) This month. Guided metta practice on day 3 of retreat, felt a tidal wave of energy course through my body, felt as though my body was expanding and contracting, and then got stuck but energy was building up inside and I felt like I was going to explode. I felt some fear, and then it subsided and I was 'back in my body'. Rest of retreat spent in 1st and 2nd jhana more or less. A few days of full body 'champagne bubbles', and then so much heat that I wanted to take my clothes off. Followed by ton of energy and frustration that none of this 'cool stuff' was accompanied by insight .

No dark night that I am aware of following any of these experiences. I mean, I'm human, and have had days in the last few months where I felt grumpy and depressed for no real reason (hormones?), but nothing beyond that.  On my last retreat I had a momentary blip of sadness, but that can't be it?
Can the Dark Night really be so subtle that I might miss it? If there was no dark night, are these not A&P experiences? 

Thanks in advance.