Hole down from the top of my head

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Villum Wendelboe Lassen, modified 10 Years ago.

Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
I'm still very much in the dabbler stage. I haven't done any real coherent insight meditation. I have been trying to use Jhanas to clear my head and work with emotions, mostly to help studying. I'm pretty sure i reach third jhana, and i might have been to fourth.

Anyway, i read about focusing on the "witness" in jhana meditation, but couldn't really get it to work. So i tried to experiment, by making use of my fear of death. There is a certain specific quality which i imagine will be extinguished in death, and so i went looking for that.
I was in some light jhana-like state, and going through bodily sensations, mostly inside my head, and finding each of them to not be the thing i was looking for. Also went over some thoughts a bit, but those weren't the quality i was looking for either.
Anyway, after a while, the things i had investigated began disappearing from awareness, until it felt like there was a big hole in the top of my head. I couldn't feel the top of my head, and from there and down into the body there was a sort of empty hole with perhaps a very slight wind. I felt like sort of a shell with nothing inside.
This wasn't scary, was feeling quite peaceful, as i remember. I tried eliminating the rest of the body in the same way i made the hole in my head, but it didn't work.

Since i couldn't get anywhere, and i began focusing on my breath instead. Then there was a sort of disorienting mental snap, where my awareness widened out and the breath became much harder to find. A bit like my awareness had expanded into a circle with a blind spot in the center. I assumed this to be third jhana, which i still can't identify reliably.

Have anyone else experienced the hole-in-the-head thing, and if so, what is it?

Oh btw, this is my first post, been looking around for a couple of weeks, but wanted to see if anyone could recognize this emoticon

-Villum
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Villum Wendelboe Lassen, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
I was able to recreate something like the same sensation tonight. I discovered that the wind i talked about in the top of my head was my breath (strange).
Anyways, i decided to try using this breath-though-the-top-of-my-head for breathing meditation. I had to keep only a very light focus on the "breath" in order to avoid a headache, and i had a bit of a harder time finding the pleasant feeling in the breath.
Then i got going. It seems to work quite a bit better than the breath at the nose. I got to something i think was 4th jhana, and tried expanding the space around the feeling, like i read a little bit about. Anyways, i got something that seemed to fit descriptions of formless realms 1-3, possibly 4. It might be just imagination, since i just watched the first parts of the Guided Tour to 13 Jhanas on Youtube. But the transformations in the space of awareness seemed to fit the descriptions. However, i could still feel my body, and think, sort of in the background, and hear sounds.
It seems sorta unbeliavable to jump that quickly into the formless realms, though.

Edit: I decided to go back down one by one, to experience the states again, and was able to travel all the way, it seemed, from 8 down to 1 and out. Still suspect some sort of self-delusion, but coming out of the jhanas by going back down made for a much smoother exit to something like normal awareness. Still feeling very, very still inside, and have pressure on the top of my head, and a bit just above the eyes.

I will experiment more in the coming days, and see what happens.

Edit, 1 hour later. While trying to fall asleep, i decided to try the probably-not-formless realms out again.
For whatever reason, I focused on my left eye (my right eye was pressed against the pillow).
Amazingly quickly, I went through the the jhanas, into either nothingness or the cant-describe-it one. Then, I was able to raise my head and look around with my right eye, while my left eye was "turned off" in formless state.
Does this sound like I am imagining things, or can you really do that sort of thing?

Will try to sleep now, and edit tomorrow if it turns out.this post is unreadable
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
From what you're saying, it sounds more like vipassana rather than pure samatha you're doing. The description makes me think you're getting to the 2nd vipassana jhana and then moving into Dark Night, what you've said about the focus of attention is absolutely spot on for 3rd jhana. Bodily distortion is something I get while going through this jhana so the "hole in the head" may be similar. This is just speculation based on what you've said so don't take it as a final diagnosis or anything.

If you're concentration is high then there can be a formless aspect to 4th jhana which may be misleading if you don't know what you're looking for. Either way, if you're moving through these ñanas and jhanas then you're doing vipassana, not samatha. If you're examining sensations, you're doing vipassana.

If you want to do samatha then you just stay with an object, e.g. the breath, and keep your attention fixed on it, nothing more complicated than that.
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Villum Wendelboe Lassen, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Wall of text. Sorry.

Tommy M:
From what you're saying, it sounds more like vipassana rather than pure samatha you're doing. The description makes me think you're getting to the 2nd vipassana jhana and then moving into Dark Night, what you've said about the focus of attention is absolutely spot on for 3rd jhana. Bodily distortion is something I get while going through this jhana so the "hole in the head" may be similar. This is just speculation based on what you've said so don't take it as a final diagnosis or anything.


Hole in the Head
I know, this probably was vipassana, and ended up something like a no-self thing. At the moment, i usually do what i would call mostly-shamatha, but i've been experiencing with different objects, and wanted to try focusing on the inner observer, as i read about some people here doing. However, i couldn't find it, so i tried using my using my fear of death to locate what i've sometimes thought of as the little man sitting in the cinema of the mind.

To describe what happened again: This inner observer seemed to be somewhere inside my head, connected to some physical sensations. I brought up my fear of death, and looked at each sensation in turn, sort of using my fear as a lens. Then i asked myself mentally, mostly without noticeable language, if this what i was examining was the-thing-i-fear-will-be-extinguished-by-death. Every time i did this, the inner observer (or inner-point-of-view) then seemed to be somewhere else, so then i went there, and the process repeated.

After a while, some of the physical areas i examined started to disappear from awareness - i was getting no sensations from them. This seemed to be a result of concluding that i did not worry about losing this sensation, this part of me. I concluded something like "This is not really me. I do not fear losing this. Let it pass away."

In recreating the "hole in my head", the making parts of my head disappear from awareness seemed at least partly dependent on calling up my fear of death and using it as a lens. Also, the "hole" involves, in addition to the sense of there being a hole, that i receive no touch-sensations from those areas. And then there's the part where i can feel the breath there, instead of at the nose, though sometimes it requires a bit of focusing to not get distracted by the breath-at-the-nose.

Tommy M:
If you're concentration is high then there can be a formless aspect to 4th jhana which may be misleading if you don't know what you're looking for. Either way, if you're moving through these ñanas and jhanas then you're doing vipassana, not samatha. If you're examining sensations, you're doing vipassana.

If you want to do samatha then you just stay with an object, e.g. the breath, and keep your attention fixed on it, nothing more complicated than that.


When i read about the dark night, i hoped not to get there quite yet. I have a thesis to write, and Dark Night doesn't sound good for studying. The peace and clarity of the shamatha? jhanas help a lot, on the other hand.

Pseudo-Formless states (should perhaps move this to the Concentration forum)
The formless elements i experienced was mostly alterations in the shape of the awareness-field. I had read something about how to induce the formless realms and was curious if i could make it work (i tried before). However, this time i got a headache if i used any but the "lightest" focus, only just "touching". And the shift, which seems pretty much instant, only seems to happen after i draw my attention back, and stop "touching" the field. If the touch is light enough, after a subjective second or so the awareness-field shifts.
And it was this very very light was of "pushing" the shape of my awareness that made the field expand into something with no outer limits i could find (i wasn't noticing more things). My body, sounds and light were outside the awareness-field, but still clearly present, and i could still think language-thoughts. It wasn't all that "deep" or "hard".
Next - Pseudo-6th: was a change of shape as well, thing time felt sensations of my head going out to into the awareness-field. It didn't seem like they reached that far, physically, i just couldn't find the spot where they ended.
Pseudo-7th: I push the awareness-field "out and away", or perhaps invert it. and the field becomes very small, with the sense of what i am focusing on (which by now has been reduced to a touch-sensation in my head) being drawn in to something like a point.
Pseudo-8th: Can't remember how i touch the field. The field has the same size as the physical area, with sort of blips or sparks at the edges, and sometimes a bit inside. When i try to "look" at what's in the field, i get nothing back. The difference from 7th is something like if you send out a sonar pulse, and the reflections look "very small area of Nothing At All. And Black Physical sensations at the center". This time i get "Sonar pulse not did not return. No data about this area. Captain, i would like to report that it is very peaceful here".

The strange thing is that the "field", which seems different, and more solid than ordinary awareness, remains there if i start focusing on other things.

Prior Experiences: I have some self-hypnosis experience, where i (among other things) move a similar "solid" awareness-field around on my body to make the areas of the body the field touches relax totally. My self-hypnosis experience may have let me reproduce something that seemed like the formless states i read about, without doing the real thing. Alternatively, it might have let me actually access the formless states in a very "light"/"soft" version (assuming the two options can be distinguished.

EDIT: Recent possible Arising-and-Passing-Away Experience
I should probably have said this in the beginning of my first post. But the "hole in my head" seemed much stranger. I had a recent experience that might have been A&P. I had been down to the harbor, and tried doing shamatha jhana by focusing on the sound of the waves. This was probably another case of me accidentally doing vipassana instead because i like to experiment ;-)
Anyways, was very hard to get proper focus and shift into jhana, because the sounds were so unpredictable (combination of just the waves, and the waves splashing between the rocks i were sitting on.
Anyways, afterwards, walking home, i felt very peaceful and happy, though a lot of this can probably be explained by post-jhanic peace/bliss on a park, on a beautiful spring day.
Then i started noticing that the 3-d effects of the world seemed very simply/amateurishly made, like an early first person shooter. This made me feel a very strong peaceful joy and happiness. The way the weeping willows seemed composed of not-that-many 2d surfaces made me especially happy, almost to tears. I walked around for something like an hour (i have no actual sense of how much time passed), making sure not to disrupt the post-jhana stillness, and being very happy that the world seemed to be made like an amateurish computer game.
Some of the sounds of animals i heard also seemed like they were just for show, it seemed to me that if i looked, there would be no animals making the sounds - that the sounds were just part of the "stage dressing" as it were.
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Jimi Patalano, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 49 Join Date: 12/3/10 Recent Posts
Villum Wendelboe Lassen:

So i tried to experiment, by making use of my fear of death. There is a certain specific quality which i imagine will be extinguished in death, and so i went looking for that.


This is just an aside, but that is a really, really ingenious idea for insight meditation. Personally, I often had an overwhelming fear of death when I was a child. There were periods in my life when I couldn't be in dark rooms alone or I would start to cry and hyperventilate. My main obsession was the idea that either a) when you die you no longer feel anything and/or b) when you die you can still use all your senses but you're complete immobile and you just sit in the coffin listening to your own funeral...

I haven't thought about these old fears, which I have gotten over now, for years. I'm sure they're still floating around in my unconscious and remembering the suffering I experienced makes me really understand why this insight experience can be so valuble in eliminating suffering.

All religions seem to derive energy from people's fear of death. Buddhism's promise of rebirth obviously fulfills this, but I think on a deeper level the idea of no essential self does an even better job, even when it's just an unfulfilled promise (ie pre-insight).

Fascinating, fascinating. Fear of death and the extinguishing of the soul, what a fascinating topic to bring to bear on insight. Nibbana means "extinnguishing" (the noun) doesn't it?
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Villum Wendelboe Lassen, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Jimi Patalano:
This is just an aside, but that is a really, really ingenious idea for insight meditation. Personally, I often had an overwhelming fear of death when I was a child. There were periods in my life when I couldn't be in dark rooms alone or I would start to cry and hyperventilate. My main obsession was the idea that either a) when you die you no longer feel anything and/or b) when you die you can still use all your senses but you're complete immobile and you just sit in the coffin listening to your own funeral...

I haven't thought about these old fears, which I have gotten over now, for years. I'm sure they're still floating around in my unconscious and remembering the suffering I experienced makes me really understand why this insight experience can be so valuble in eliminating suffering.


I think my fear began like this, but it has evolved since then. Now it is just the idea that my experience of the world will end, that at some point there will be no more. This seems (from the perspective of the dying person) indistinguishable from the end of the world (makes sense, since the world-as-i-experience-it comes to will be no more).

Jimi Patalano:
All religions seem to derive energy from people's fear of death. Buddhism's promise of rebirth obviously fulfills this, but I think on a deeper level the idea of no essential self does an even better job, even when it's just an unfulfilled promise (ie pre-insight).


If i understand correctly, buddhism does not "promise" rebirth. I remember reading that reincarnation was accepted at the time of the buddha, and that people had begun to see it as something bad rather than something good. I would say that buddhism then takes rebirth as a (horrible) fact, and proceeds from there to promise, instead, release.


Jimi Patalano:
Fascinating, fascinating. Fear of death and the extinguishing of the soul, what a fascinating topic to bring to bear on insight.


Thanks emoticon

Jimi Patalano:
Nibbana means "extinguishing" (the noun) doesn't it?


I seem to recall "extinguishing" having a different meaning in Pali. It's not "coming to an end", but "becoming free of the things it were dependent upon".
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Villum [redacted], modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
So, here are my preliminary conclusions for the questions i asked in this thread. Further comments and diagnoses are of course still welcome, but i thought i'd say where i got to in the meantime, instead of just letting the post float.

Hole in the head
[quote=Villum [redacted]]To describe what happened again: This inner observer seemed to be somewhere inside my head, connected to some physical sensations. I brought up my fear of death, and looked at each sensation in turn, sort of using my fear as a lens. Then i asked myself mentally, mostly without noticeable language, if this what i was examining was the-thing-i-fear-will-be-extinguished-by-death. Every time i did this, the inner observer (or inner-point-of-view) then seemed to be somewhere else, so then i went there, and the process repeated.

After a while, some of the physical areas i examined started to disappear from awareness - i was getting no sensations from them. This seemed to be a result of concluding that i did not worry about losing this sensation, this part of me. I concluded something like "This is not really me. I do not fear losing this. Let it pass away."

In recreating the "hole in my head", the making parts of my head disappear from awareness seemed at least partly dependent on calling up my fear of death and using it as a lens. Also, the "hole" involves, in addition to the sense of there being a hole, that i receive no touch-sensations from those areas. And then there's the part where i can feel the breath there, instead of at the nose, though sometimes it requires a bit of focusing to not get distracted by the breath-at-the-nose.

After having a few more body image/energetic experiences during meditation, this doesnt feel so special. There might be something going on with the crown chakra, but i have no real experience with chakras, what they are, and how they manifest, so i can't say. That i'¨m having these sorts of experiences (they're getting somewhat stronger, it seems) might say something about where i am in my meditation, but the specific phenomen i regard as idiosyncratic.
The technique of calling up my fear of death, though, does seem to have some benefit for sharpening my insight, it seems to give a bit more focus on the passing away of phenomena.
I've started doing some real vipassana, and am slowly working out a disciplined approach to when, how long and what to focus on. Unless someone asks me to clarify here, i'll probably take this up in another thread.

"Formless" Realms
[quote=Villum [redacted]]The formless elements i experienced was mostly alterations in the shape of the awareness-field. I had read something about how to induce the formless realms and was curious if i could make it work (i tried before). However, this time i got a headache if i used any but the "lightest" focus, only just "touching". And the shift, which seems pretty much instant, only seems to happen after i draw my attention back, and stop "touching" the field. If the touch is light enough, after a subjective second or so the awareness-field shifts.
And it was this very very light was of "pushing" the shape of my awareness that made the field expand into something with no outer limits i could find (i wasn't noticing more things). My body, sounds and light were outside the awareness-field, but still clearly present, and i could still think language-thoughts. It wasn't all that "deep" or "hard".
Next - Pseudo-6th: was a change of shape as well, thing time felt sensations of my head going out to into the awareness-field. It didn't seem like they reached that far, physically, i just couldn't find the spot where they ended.
Pseudo-7th: I push the awareness-field "out and away", or perhaps invert it. and the field becomes very small, with the sense of what i am focusing on (which by now has been reduced to a touch-sensation in my head) being drawn in to something like a point.
Pseudo-8th: Can't remember how i touch the field. The field has the same size as the physical area, with sort of blips or sparks at the edges, and sometimes a bit inside. When i try to "look" at what's in the field, i get nothing back. The difference from 7th is something like if you send out a sonar pulse, and the reflections look "very small area of Nothing At All. And Black Physical sensations at the center". This time i get "Sonar pulse not did not return. No data about this area. Captain, i would like to report that it is very peaceful here".

The strange thing is that the "field", which seems different, and more solid than ordinary awareness, remains there if i start focusing on other things.

I do think i'm accessing the formless realms in some soft version. Whether i'm actually getting to the eighth jhana is debatable. It is perhaps more important that this experience sort of short-circuited my "level-up" mentality towards the jhanas, and i've gotten better at identifying the factors. My jhanas are still mostly quite "soft", but i seem to rise naturally and quickly to third, with fourth following slowly and taking a long time to become stable ("stable" meaning i dont suddenly notice that i've slid back down to third).
The "formless" jhanas don't seem to arise on their own (fifth might have, once or twice). I have to really, really calm down and "soften" my awareness-presence on the object, and "push" very, very gently for the changes to happen. I usually take three or four attempts of pushing too hard, and sometimes falling down a step, before i push softly enough.
I tried getting a sense of the "witness" in sixth, as i it seems should possible (some people around here said). This hasn't succeeded yet, for the same reason i have a hard time getting a clear sense of these "formless" realms:
It seems that my touch sense door and my thought sense door are muddled and overlapping. I often end up focusing on touch -feelings in and on the head when i try to focus on a thought. Or the thought slips away and leaves a touch-impression.
It's probably because i get (sometimes strong) pressure between the eyes when i go into jhana, and i end up focusing on that. This might happen, for instance, when i try to feel out the factors, and end up awarenessing touch-impressions in and on my head.
Anyways, this means that the clearest impression i of what i call the formless realms are in transformations of a combined touch-impression-and-awareness-field on the top half of my head. (space opening up around it, field becoming limitless, field becoming very small with harder pressure, there being nothing apart from some strange "sparks")

EDIT: Recent possible Arising-and-Passing-Away Experience
[quote=Villum [redacted]]I should probably have said this in the beginning of my first post. But the "hole in my head" seemed much stranger. I had a recent experience that might have been A&P. I had been down to the harbor, and tried doing shamatha jhana by focusing on the sound of the waves. This was probably another case of me accidentally doing vipassana instead because i like to experiment ;-)
Anyways, was very hard to get proper focus and shift into jhana, because the sounds were so unpredictable (combination of just the waves, and the waves splashing between the rocks i were sitting on.
Anyways, afterwards, walking home, i felt very peaceful and happy, though a lot of this can probably be explained by post-jhanic peace/bliss on a park, on a beautiful spring day.
Then i started noticing that the 3-d effects of the world seemed very simply/amateurishly made, like an early first person shooter. This made me feel a very strong peaceful joy and happiness. The way the weeping willows seemed composed of not-that-many 2d surfaces made me especially happy, almost to tears. I walked around for something like an hour (i have no actual sense of how much time passed), making sure not to disrupt the post-jhana stillness, and being very happy that the world seemed to be made like an amateurish computer game.
Some of the sounds of animals i heard also seemed like they were just for show, it seemed to me that if i looked, there would be no animals making the sounds - that the sounds were just part of the "stage dressing" as it were.

Probably A&P. I've been having some dark-nightish experiences since then (if they are dark night, i don't recommend dark night, even though they're merciful compared to some of the things i've read on this forum). Further elaboration on this will have to wait, as i must sleep now. (ie: to be continued)

Like Fire Unbound?
[quote=Villum [redacted]]I seem to recall "extinguishing" having a different meaning in Pali. It's not "coming to an end", but "becoming free of the things it were dependent upon".

Alright, turns out this was not exactly right. Opinions are apparantly divided, as i discovered after reading "Nibbana and the Fire Simile" by Bhikkhu Nanananda, linked on his wikipedia page.
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
Quick note. It seems like the thing that made the hole in my head might be the 4th jhana-to-stillness thing that can make bodyparts disappear in noting practice. I read about it in Bruno Lott's stream entry thread. If that is the case, the fear-of-death lens made it happen somewhat differently. I will investigate further.
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Villum (redacted), modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Hole down from the top of my head

Posts: 60 Join Date: 3/24/11 Recent Posts
I keep meaning to continue my report here, but stuff keeps happening. This thread is probably pretty confusing by now, but it seems to be the only way i can keep at least some notes (including the ones i never finished enough to post).

As i said, stuff keeps happening. I meant to write about where i thought i was in the insight process (from reading only)

Last week i had some things that might very well be dark night stuff. Unexplained sudden depressive tendencies, irritability, bad sleep. Also playing around with insight techniques.
I might have gotten to equanimity then, and fallen back, using a variant of kenneth folk's "see how it breathes" (used "this one" instead of "see how it", but it seemed to have a lot of resonance, and i got to a point where the very core of my awareness seemed to turn "liquid" and "flow".

Then, yesterday, i got some very nice jhana, and experienced the "witness" in the 6th for the first time. the "consciousness" sort of had a figure-8 shape, except the center was missing, there didnt seem to be anything definable there, but "something" still seemed to be there. If i tried following the consciousness-shape out around the circle, it would accelerate and get very fast out at the far end of the circuit, and then slow down as it turned back towards the core.
Then, i got what seemed to be my clearest experience of the 8th jhana yet. not any sparks this time, but that might be because i'm learning to "see" with the witness-awareness instead of experiencing the formless jhanas mostly through my sense of touch.
Remembering some stuff i heard (probably on the Hamilton Project mp3's), i tried letting go of consciousness too, and going into Nirodha Samapatti. It did seem that i was going somewhere. "I" seemed to flow away, but never really did. And "letting go" of mind and center strangely seemed to be the same as pressing upwards on something above the witness. Didn't get into anything like nirodha tho. Afterwards, i was pretty shaken up, as it seemed like i was going to a place that was very much like death, and from which it felt like i might not return.
Tried again, anyways (i couldn't let it go), and discovered that i was now able to take the "witness" as my meditation object. I got to what seemed to be 8th again, but still couldn't make the process go all the way. It seemed like i needed to let go (of) a lot more than i had.

Today, listening to a bit more Hamilton project, i tried to go into slowly into vipassana jhana and really experience how it developed. I did seem to get a lot of unpleasantness, fear and pain in what would normally be third jhana, and it took a really long time for 4th to develop fully. The i played around, and should have kept better notes.
Anyways, i was sensing vibrations in the crown and the witness, and not really getting anywhere. So i tried focusing on the back of my neck (where i been having pains today, and where i believe a chakra is conventionally located). I got quite focused there, to the point where the witness seemed to move there, and then slowly travel through the third eye to the crown.
Then i focused on the vibrations in the crown and the witness again, and might have had a cessation of some sort. there was two bodily jerks, and seeming "blips" of consciousness, but the blips were very subtly, and i might be imagining them.

Afterwards, i might have learned how to experience fruitions by rolling up my eyes and focusing on the passing away of the flutters and vibrations above the eyes. This makes the witness/consciousness vibrate too, it seems, and got me into what seemed like a very fast series of blips, which might have been cessations, but i'm not really sure. The entire process is unusually fast to start up from when i decide to do it in (somewhat) normal consciousness, and very absorbing when i get to the point where the mind/witness starts to vibrate along (in a way that should be nauseating, but isn't)

Anyways. I think i might have gotten to path sometime in the last two weeks, perhaps tonight. But i have been reading a lot about how all of it is experienced, and there is also a chance i might have somehow hypnotized myself into having similar experiences. Am very tired now, and should sleep, so i will try to write more tomorrow.