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Case Study of Anaesthetic Unconsciousness

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Today I had a general anaesthetic for minor elective surgery (hernia repair - all good). Discussions sometimes crop up on the DhO about about unconsciousness versus cessation and path moments.  So I thought I would add my experience as a datum. Sorry it’s a bit personal, but I don’t have any other source of mental phenomenology!

The last thing I remember was on the table, noticing that the anaesthetic was not cold despite the warning. (The anaesthesiologist used a vein in my hand, as he couldn’t find the vein in the elbow.) Then I had a sense of formless dreaming and time passing, and then being dragged up from unconsciousness by the nurses waking me up. I had the sense that the dreaming occurred after the surgery, and it was formless in the sense that it had very little conceptual overlay. There seemed to be a gap in time and memory immediately after the anaesthetic and before the dreaming, but there was no sense of missing time or discontinuity. I knew intellectually there was a gap in time, but my body/mind didn’t perceive the gap as having occurred, and didn’t react to it.

The experience was unlike any discontinuities or path moments I have experienced in mediation. There were no missing frames. There was no obvious mental shutdown and reboot. There was no twisting or re-viewing of the world. No flash that illuminated the truth. However, the formless dreaming seemed to be deep in the in the pre-processing of the mind sense, albeit very fuzzy and neither dual nor non-dual in perception.

So for me, the general anaesthetic unconsciousness was not remotely like a meditative cessation or path moment. The sole similarity was the lingering shutdown of conceptual processing in the pre-wakening dreams. This was a bit like a very mild purification or A&P in one of the sense bases (the mind sense). Otherwise, the mind did not show any changes, and did not notice or react to the fact that it had stopped for a while (if indeed it had).

No doubt this is a very incomplete description - and I don’t want to overgeneralise. Still, I hope it is useful to illustrate differences between cessation and path moments, and mere anaesthetic unconsciousness.  

An obvious point, I guess, but maybe helpful for those who wonder about this issue.

Malcolm

P.S. There was some good sukkah after the surgery, but I think explanation is something other than the unconsciousness. emoticon And there were definitely no bliss waves.

RE: Case Study of Anaesthetic Unconsciousness
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1/16/20 4:37 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
Well said. Given the questions that often come up, I think it needed to be said. 

I definitely did not have any bliss waves or transforming insights from my one time of fainting either, and there was no sense of frames missing either. Rather a general haze and a "what the heck am I doing on the floor, how did I get under this chair, and why does my head hurt?"

RE: Case Study of Anaesthetic Unconsciousness
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1/16/20 6:57 AM as a reply to Not two, not one.
The experience was unlike any discontinuities or path moments I have experienced in mediation.

YMMV, curious, but the effects you get from being put under by anesthesia depend on the amount and type of medication used. I've had both very deep (major surgery) and very light (minor surgery) versions. The effects were very different. You are correct, in my experience, in that the after-effects of both are unlike a cessation/fruition.