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Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 1:11 PM
By way of intro - I've followed a Vajrayana path for about 30 years - have been fortunate to have a good teacher who is now gone. I've practiced steadily, but nowhere near as well as I could have. I recently came across Daniel Ingram's writing and am finding it extremely clear and helpful. I haven't finished MCTB yet - but thought I'd ask this question anyhow.

When I was in my late teens, about 50 years ago, before I had any spiritual path at all, I had an experience that I've never had a label for. I'd always been very 'religious' but since I grew up in a non-practicing family in New England, that didn't mean much in a practical way. I had no idea of meditation - and very little of prayer of any sort. In addition, I'd come to the conclusion a couple of years before this that God (as I understood God to be) could not possibly exist. So in effect I had no faith, though I missed it.

The experience was this. I was vacationing from college at my grandmother's house in Connecticut. I went out one morning to walk to the nearby grocery store and small shopping center. It was spring I think. I turned right at the end of our side walk to go down the street, and casually looked at the large maple that grew on our front lawn. In my mind I 'saw' that the tree was somehow granular - all fine points - and I knew or 'saw' that I was too. The words in my mind were, 'the tree and I are the same.' It was not a vision - I didn't really see things that way - but I knew them that way - and knowing was, at that moment, stronger than seeing. Though the words referred only to the tree and myself, I knew that it applied to everything. It was very pleasant - and the pleasurable feeling went on (though slowly fading) for a couple of weeks. I kept trying out this view - looking at different things of all sorts - inanimate, living, other people - and saying - 'that (whatever) and I are the same.' I didn't think a lot about it - just tried it out. I also had no context for it at all, and no way to follow up. I didn't mean that everything was one, or unified - but we were all the same and somehow, it was wonderful. After a couple of weeks it had faded. Even so, it felt important to me, and I never forgot it.

A few years later I became a Roman Catholic, but I didn't find anything that explained my experience. Years later I became a Buddhist (Vajrayana variety) - and still didn't find a practical explanation - tho in the writings of Longchenpa and a few others, I now see a view that perhaps comes close.

It doesn't really matter if I ever find a label - but it would be nice to understand a bit better.

Thanks,

Susan

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 2:13 PM as a reply to Susan Law.
I'm kind of surprised with your years of a Buddhist path you've never encountered any clues to what you experienced. Read any collection of "satori" or "kensho" experiences from zen literature and you'll come across stories almost exactly like yours. Is it really possible that there is nothing like it in Vajrayana? I mean you are describing a non-dual experience that seems so integral to Buddhism. Me and many other people who do the more Theravada type vipassana meditation (though in a lot of ways or in a lot of sanghas I don't think vipassana is so far from what zen pracitioners are doing at one time or another) pass through experiences just like that.
However, my knowledge I find can still be very narrow so maybe there is something I'm not getting here.

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 3:48 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Hi Susan,
Seems like there are two aspects to this experience, one is the experience of phenomena as 'fine points' and the other is a non-dual quality or experience. If I understand what you mean by 'fine points', this is an experience that some people have and some don't. Some other descriptions to see if this is what you are talking about: phenomena appear as 'compressed snow', 'tv static' (pre-digital), 'dancing dots' (my own term). I am a dot person (first noticing them when I was about 8 and they stayed with me) and (I am going to out him here) so is Daniel. Don't know if it actually means anything – except that you see dots of course. This is something you could probably cultivate.

The non-dual quality of the experience – I think that the veil is thin and sometimes we see through it – insight, an undeniable glimpse of our deeper truth.

I don't mean to say that the two qualities are not linked but that both qualities may be experienced independent of each other as well.

@Mike: Do the “satori or kensho experiences from zen literature” deal with the 'fine points'? I too have not found many references (maybe 3 or 4 over the years).

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 5:19 PM as a reply to Susan Law.
The question that comes to my mind, to clarify what we're talking about, could this experience be described as "direct perception of true nature" of the the tree, of you, and by inference, all things? That is what I seem to get out of this. What this experience is called in all the world traditions and paths would result in something of an essay. A good place to start might be Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosophy, how through out all world traditions this theme seems to be at the core of things. It is highly possible to use a specific path in a way that almost limits what and how you see, I'm not surprised by this.
p e a c e
h a n s e n

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 10:09 PM as a reply to Mike Monson.
Mike Monson:
I'm kind of surprised with your years of a Buddhist path you've never encountered any clues to what you experienced. Read any collection of "satori" or "kensho" experiences from zen literature and you'll come across stories almost exactly like yours. Is it really possible that there is nothing like it in Vajrayana? I mean you are describing a non-dual experience that seems so integral to Buddhism. Me and many other people who do the more Theravada type vipassana meditation (though in a lot of ways or in a lot of sanghas I don't think vipassana is so far from what zen pracitioners are doing at one time or another) pass through experiences just like that.
However, my knowledge I find can still be very narrow so maybe there is something I'm not getting here.


Thanks for your reply. As for satori or kensho - it was another 10 years after this experience before I came across any description of zen or those terms. I'd never heard the term non-duality. Later when I did run into zen, what I read then didn't ring any bells - kensho and satori seemed like important experiences in a meditation context. As it happened, I got into Vajrayana practice quite quickly, never practiced zen, and read little about it after that, so I don't really think in those terms even now.

Vajrayana indeed has lots of descriptions of experiences - but in fact I haven't found one that strikes me as being like mine. That may be in part because most that make it into print are stories from advanced practitioners. My teacher talked about his own experiences from an earlier point on his path - but as it happens, they were different. I did find one story about Jigme Lingpa that I wonder about. It was about one of his long retreats - it says he had not been in retreat for long when "conventional reality collapsed for him." That's all it said - but it resonates a bit in that my experience had a sense of deconstruction to it. But the difference is also great. He was able to integrate it into his life -

Susan

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 10:23 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Hi Susan,
Seems like there are two aspects to this experience, one is the experience of phenomena as 'fine points' and the other is a non-dual quality or experience. Don't know if it actually means anything – except that you see dots of course. This is something you could probably cultivate.

The non-dual quality of the experience – I think that the veil is thin and sometimes we see through it – insight, an undeniable glimpse of our deeper truth.

I don't mean to say that the two qualities are not linked but that both qualities may be experienced independent of each other as well.



Thanks Chuck - yes I think you are right about the two aspects - and the 'fine points' part was the strongest for me at the time. But what made it feel wonderful (I suspect now, in reflecting on it) may have been seeing myself as 'the same as' other things - what felt good was a brief loss of feeling isolated. Not quite non-duality - but maybe a glimpse.

Susan

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/27/09 10:32 PM as a reply to Eric Alan Hansen.
Eric Alan Hansen:
The question that comes to my mind, to clarify what we're talking about, could this experience be described as "direct perception of true nature" of the the tree, of you, and by inference, all things? That is what I seem to get out of this. What this experience is called in all the world traditions and paths would result in something of an essay. A good place to start might be Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosophy, how through out all world traditions this theme seems to be at the core of things. It is highly possible to use a specific path in a way that almost limits what and how you see, I'm not surprised by this.
p e a c e
h a n s e n


Thank you hansen -
I would like to think that it was some kind of direct perception or hint at it..... a very fortunate brief glimpse.

Susan

RE: Years ago -
Answer
9/28/09 12:14 AM as a reply to Susan Law.
Beautiful, spontaneous A&P. Interestingly for me, that particular one that happened to you matches my wife's descriptions of her first one in many, many details. Classic. Now you know what it was, the rest is up to you. It happens to a lot of people, many spontaneously, as that one was, though descriptions vary, and reactions to it vary, the core thing it does is the same.

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/28/09 6:58 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Being new to the Overground, I have been reading through old posts and am thrilled... no make that THRILLED to read that someone else sees the world in dots. I think that this is my baseline because I don't remember ever seeing things another way. I called it "seeing molecules" when I was a kid... it's like everything is moving at all times. The one thing that it has been good for is making the molecular and sub atomic world very real to me. It is no stretch of my imagination to know that everything is vibrating particles... that's how I normally see things. I mentioned this to a doctor and ended up having a brain scan done... which was unremarkable. I feel that the vibration originates in the brain as I "see" this same effect when my eyes are shut. I have great visuals behind my eye lids when meditating. I was told to ignore these by someone who's opinion I respect... so I try, but miss the entertainment. My usual display is faces morphing into each other. It's like the eyes always stay the same but the being around them changes. The beings are not always human but never threatening.

Dr. Ingram reported in his book that he had some forced experiences as a child and I did too... Dr. Ingram did imagery, I would take a small hand mirror and place it in front of a larger mirror and try to follow the images into infinity. I would hit a point of concentration or some state that felt normal or familiar to me. I've believed in reicarnation since I was a child and still do... I have no idea why I latched onto that idea so young. I grew up in the Methodist church in the midwest US. It's a lingering feeling that I continue to honor... I don't feel the need for proof and certainly respect those that don't believe. It's just part of this organized (somewhat) mind/body complex that is hanging out in this particular time and place.

Back about 12 or so years ago I had a massive kensho experience that went on for days. I had intellectually grasped the idea of oneness and perfection in the world but it was all mind and not experience or feelings. I got slammed with oneness to the point that I think that it must have changed my DNA.. it left me reeling for years. The interesting thing to me is that it was totally undeserved. I did nothing to bring it on, didn't ask for it... wasn't a serious meditator at the time. It was like a gift and yes, it has continued to keep on giving. I know now that this is a typical experience. At the time, I didn't... even went to a therapist thinking that I had lost it. It changed my life dramatically... it's like I was downloaded with attributes that I didn't previously have. It's not that I was a total screw up before the kensho... but it sure opened my heart to the world around me. I've had a much easier time understanding other people and really got the cause and effect thing. I can't blame anyone for anything anymore... ya know? I guess you could say that I was bonked over the head by the compassion fairy's wand. I still don't like everyone that I meet or anything like that... but I dislike them in a kinder, gentler way. emoticon Having the experience that everything is perfect as is makes for a calmer more peaceful life.

I would like to know if anyone else out there with Dot Sight or whatever you want to call it, has found it useful in a spiritual sense... or have found it to have any meaning whatsoever. I would also like to know if I should blow off the visuals when my eyes are shut. I know that they are a distraction... but read in Dr. Ingram's book that colors on the back of the lids are not necessarily a bad thing and can indicate progress.

I've really enjoyed reading everyone's questions and comments... this is an interesting site. I want to thank my friend Mark for turning me on to the doctor's book... he suggested that I run the visual thing and the kensho by Dr. Ingram... Normal docs are worth a damn when it comes to these things. I don't consider myself an advanced practitioner... since reading The Book, I realize that I have been spinning my wheels for many years... but that's okay. As Pema says, "start where you are." Like we have a choice? If I had my druthers, I would have run into Ingram long before this.

Lucinda

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/28/09 8:36 PM as a reply to Lucinda N Brown.
'Vot's dot you say?'-- what an amazing coincidence: I never expected to hear anyone else on a Buddhist discussion group describe what I privately called 'the Seurat-painting-Reality experience.' For me, it was part of the only one of my few '60's psychedelic experiences that seemed very interesting or useful. There was a radical shift in my field of vision in which everything became like the colored dots of Seurat's 'grande promenade' painting; 'objects' were manifested by the intention of my perception, and I played with that awhile, taking in the implications. In some way, just as everything in the visual field was fluid and being morphed by 'my' play, it was clear that 'I' was formulating by this same process.

With regard to Vajrayana teachers not saying much about 'meditation experiences' (which my teacher tells me are called 'nyams')-- I think there are two reasons: first, because if you become a 'seeker of nyams' it will both de-rail your practice and result in a lack of nyams; spontaneous, accidental nyams are shy of being approached directly. Second, 'the Tibetans' generally seem to be particularly careful not to 'pre-empt the students' experience'. That is, not to set a student up to want/look for something specific, so that the student misses actual experience in quest of prescribed experience.

[There is a class of nyams that are deliberately generated by yogic practices, called 'zap nyams'-- but that is a part of personal instruction that I've not had. I'm guessing that the oversight of a teacher is the 'insurance' that one's practice not get hijacked.]

Thanks for posting this thread!

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/29/09 4:10 PM as a reply to Kate Gowen.
Kate... you are a "dot-ling" for responding to my post...

And you are much more accomplished dot-smith than I am... I can manipulate nothing, I just have a fuzzy, vibrating visual field. I smoked a little pot when I was a kid but that was all that I had the guts to do. Now I kind of regret not trying acid but figure that I am much too old and need to hang on to all of the brain cells that I still have... so LSD is not on my to-do list. These dots are just part of my everyday visual experience and I can't remember a time that they weren't there. I have read some material that reports head injuries can bring about changes in perception. I asked the siblings if any of them dropped me on my head when I was a child and they all denied it... without snickering, so I imagine that they were telling me the truth. I'm really thankful to be able to share this little quirk and have someone know what I'm talking about... even if it doesn't seem to mean anything.

The meditation practice is going okay... with or without the visuals. I'm still not sure if I should focus on what is going on my eye lids or not... which can't really be on my lids at all but originating in brain or mind. If I were an artist, I would make a painting of these beings... human and otherwise... different ages, sexes... individuals standing together as if in a family portrait... none the same but all have the same exact eyes. But, talent in the arts has escaped me in this lifetime... maybe in the next one. Maybe someone else could take that idea and run with it. I have wondered if this visual display has something to do with rebirths... if it happens, maybe your eyes are the same. Kind of a waste of mental energy to ponder such things I imagine... but since it's been my experience, I can't help wondering if it means anything. I had filed it under the "weird stuff" catagory in my brain... not knowing what else to do with it.

Again, thanks for your response. I'm new to sites like this and feel like I am learning a lot... and feel more secure in my practice knowing that if something comes up, there is a community out there to help. I will do a little research on nyams and see what I come up with.

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/29/09 4:59 PM as a reply to Lucinda N Brown.
Hey, Linda, (et al)--

Please don't mistake what I wrote as an endorsement of psychedelics as a practice: that wasn't my take on it, at the time, or since. My understanding was that the Clarity dimension of mind was tossing me a little clue/koan to 'ponder in my heart.' Which I have done for the ensuing 30+ years. And since I was with a few other people who were not having the same experience, but rather the experience of my exhilarated, inarticulate ravings about it... I think it had to do with having embarked on the Search and having read a lot of Alan Watts just before. The drug just disinhibited my extremely tightly-held visual/visionary capacity. A kind of inarguable 'memo to self: the quotidian, consensual reality ain't the Whole Story by a long shot.'

All sorts of things can set our perceptions ajar, but my experience has been that only the dharma can enable our being usefully changed by the experience.

BTW: nyams are described as being beatific, horrific, and bewildering/weird-- neatly correlating to the deluded emotional response styles of craving/clinging, aversion/aggression, and (wilfull) ignorance/obliviating.

I haven't been around this site long enough to be on any official welcoming committee, but I'm glad for your company!

Howdy!
Kate

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/29/09 10:48 PM as a reply to Lucinda N Brown.
Hi Lucinda,
Nice to have another dot person around! As a kid I always thought I was seeing atoms – guess I was more optimistic than you were with your molecules. This is a good site to find other people with weird experiences.

“My usual display is faces morphing into each other.”
I had something like this often when I was doing the Goenka body scanning technique during a retreat. As I scanned different parts of the body, different people would pop up. Mostly images but also one short video clip of some old guy with a beard laughing – every time I did the scan in this one area of my chest he would pop up. Lasted for several days. Seemed like a very friendly guy.

“I would also like to know if I should blow off the visuals when my eyes are shut.”
Well, they're there. I don't think it would be useful to start making anything more of them than visuals when your eyes are shut – no need to indulge nor try to get rid of them. I still get them occasionally but not like in the past – just another one of those weird things.

-Chuck

RE: Years ago -
Answer
11/30/09 9:40 AM as a reply to Kate Gowen.
As for my 'dot' experience - it was mental rather than visual in the my original experience. I've never actually seen things as dots in terms of visual perception. I do get a sort of rippling effect on the vertical edges of things that are some distance off, but that's it. However when I shut my eyes, my visual field is all dots - if I am 'seeing'. That is, when I shut my eyes, I feel as tho I have two choices - the usual is 'don't see' - that is, I'm going to sleep, so I don't attend at all to my visual field. The second choice is to 'see' or 'look' - which means, I think, that I pay attention to my visual field - the back of my eyelids I guess. And then I 'see' that the field is very fine dots. Then sometimes a 'window' opens in which images appear - one thing morphing into another - all sorts of things from meaningless shapes to very clearly defined faces and other objects. I watch as long as it goes on - usually not too long. Don't know what it is.

As for nyams - the Tibetan word (nyams pa) means temporary experience. It's not false necessarily - it's simply not stabilized - and that's the issue with it. That's why one is usually instructed to ignore it. The practice is what results in it becoming stable - i.e. realization - so do the practice, and don't worry about the experiences - that's the message I get anyhow. When I first heard about nyams, I thought I was being told that they were to be ignored because they were false, and misleading in that sense - and that was quite confusing. But as far as I can tell, they are usually not false - just misleading if one attaches importance to them. Personally I look at them as signposts, and encouragement (as long as not grasped at.)

Susan