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John's Journal

John's Journal
3/11/20 11:16 AM
Hey y'all, first time poster here. I've been meditating for about a year/year and a half now, just recently got into MCTB and must say it's one of my favorite books I've read so far.  From there I found this website and what a great community it is.  I've enjoyed reading others' experiences on here and thought maybe I would share some of my own experience, if nothing else just as a personal diary but maybe someone will indulge me and give some advice or tell me I'm doing it wrong or something ;)

I feel like I've made some progress over the past few days and gotten to a point now where I can, somewhat predictably get into some sort of mental state (maybe 1st Jhana?  2nd Jhana?  I'm really not sure).  I'll start by describing the physical sensation mentioned in the title: so probably for about a week now I've felt a light tingling on the left hand side of my nose, going up in and around my left eye socket.  Strangely enough - I happen to have a burst blood vessel on my nose right where the tingling occurs (which I've had for a long time, probably since I was at least in high school or much earlier).  I would not be surprised if there is some connection there.

So the basic stages I've been able to get through these past couple of days start with just breathing and concentration for maybe 5-10 minutes, once I achieve a calm state, I'll start to get more into very mild DN(?) territory.  Here I'll notice a lot more buzzing, vibrations, etc, and start to notice negative emotions, as well as loss of balance, dizziness and spinning, etc.  Also accompanying this can be some mild aches and pains and - the tingling in my face gets super intense! It would probably be pretty scary if I didn't remind myself that it's all a manifestation of emptiness.  So basically I just power through that part and continue with concentration on breath as well as insight meditation on these 'negative' symptoms.

After a few minutes of that, things will chill out and here's where it gets really cool (mini-Fruition?).  So first of all, there's usually a peaceful feeling accompying all of this.  I will usually recognize and tell myself "you can enjoy this, just enjoy this feeling for a minute".  So I try to soak in that peaceful feeling after the weirdness that I just got past.  Then I'll begin to try and do a little visualization.  2 nights ago was probably the most lucid visualizations I've had (still very basic, not super HD or anything like that, but visible).  
It starts with a light sort of in the shape of a diamond (I recognize this light as the supreme Being / Buddha / Christ / whatever you want to call it).  After focusing on that light, it sort of explodes into a more fractal or lightning like electic current sort of like one of those plasma ball lamps.  From there I can sort of zoom into each of the tendrils of the plasma ball and inspect these 'formations'(?)  
I remember at a certain point there was sort of a strobing effect, where the visualization would strobe in and out maybe 1-2 times a second.  And then at a certian point I noticed that and the strobing went away.  At this point I tried to do further insight meditation but lost my train of thought and got pulled back into normal reality.

So now back to the tingling sensation -- during this time it's now moved upwards away from the left side of my face and right smack dab in 3rd eye territory!  Feelings of balance and calm. Etc.

I've had other experiences kind of similar to this one but I won't go into that much more detail, the one above was probably the most vivid I've had so far though.

So my question, if anyone has any ideas, what's the deal with the tingling in the face?  My theory is there's some sort of energy blockage due to bad habits, bad practice, ignorance, or all of the above, (bad relationships?) which is resulting in this tingling sensation being off center, on the left side of my face rather than right where my 3rd eye is.  My meditations seem to validate this, as after the mini-DN the tingling becomes completely centered, and I can even feel the energy running more directly through my spine and feel more balanced.

Anyone had this sort of tingling before, any advice on how to progress?

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
2/19/20 4:44 PM as a reply to John W.
Since my last entry I had another sort of breakthrough event that was one of the more pleasurable experiences I've had while meditating. I guess it was around a week ago when I had the above experience, which was one of the more visually stimulating experiences I've had.  For several days after that experience, I noticed increasing pressure in and around my nasal bridge area.  So I think the above experience would probably be classified as an A&P event, the pressure around the nose area being a more symptomatic of a Dark Night.  I wouldn't say the pressure was overly uncomfortable, since I was aware at the time that it was most likely DN symptoms, I was able to focus and alleviate / purify that pressure if it began to bother me.

On 2/15 I had another very pleasurable experience.  Prior to this experience I had not really experienced any intense feelings of bliss in any of my meditations, I did have some of these cool insight experiences like the one from 2/11.  But I had been longing for a more pleasurable blissful feeling.  And finally I got it, after a week or so of dealing with this weird face tingling and pressure.

I started my meditation with some breathing exercises (I like the Wim Hof technique, which I hear has some similarities to Tibetan tummo, which I haven't tried), and for the first time I tried listening to some music in headphones, something more upbeat and kind of trancy.  I do these exercises regularly and have not experienced anything like this before.  About 5 minutes in I began to feel waves of bliss and my concentration became very narrow although the sense of self was still very present.  I continued this practice for maybe 15-20 minutes (longer than usual due to the pleasurable feelings).
Now I started to notice, the bliss was becoming less pleasant and I knew that it was time for this kundalini blockage to be solved..
I stopped the breathing exercise and began sitting meditation. Now honestly I can't remember super well what happened, I think I started doing something like a Tonglen practice, where I imagined breathing in suffering and using that to purify the energy blockage in my head.  Should have made a better note of what I actually did earlier on.  But whatever I did, it was enough to purify and, this time, it was like the dam that was holding back all this energy was released and flowed freely through my entire body.
I remember pleasurable tingling going down my arms into my hands, feet, everywhere, felt completely carefree and satisfied, etc, complete bliss.
This lasted for maybe 15 minutes or so (i wasn't timing it).  Afterwards I took a cold shower (part of the Wim Hof method I've been working into my practice) which was also very pleasurable.  

Since then I haven't felt any sort of tingling or pressure in the head area, actually I feel like my meditations have been less intense, been falling asleep often, though my dreams have been slightly more lucid.  It feels like I'm in sort of a down-time/recharge time.  I did notice today and yesterday I've been more irritable than normal, though trying very hard to keep it to myself.  I do notice that noting practice seems to significantly improve my state of mind, I think moreso than it used to even a week or two ago.
Possibly leading into another A&P event of some sort?  Or maybe I am in a re-observation stage now and need to do further reflection on past events?

Anyway, felt very proud of myself when this happened since I was kind of starting to get down about the lack of blissful experiences I had up to this point, actualy I had just written a post about it on this site:

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
2/19/20 5:22 PM as a reply to John W.
John W:

Anyone had this sort of tingling before, any advice on how to progress?

     Sounds like your making good progress. If the noting is working well I would keep doing that with a few minutes of concentration practice before it. You have all kinds of signs of being in a few different insight stages so whatever your doing seems to be working. The key is to just stay with whatever comes up. If i'm sleepy I know I'm sleepy, If i'm happy I know I'm happy and so on type deal. Present moment works well in comparison to trying to keep a stage or get out of a stage. More practice and more precise practice is the key. I find everything I told you hard to do most of the time but when I can stay with the moment I get really good breaks. 

How long are your sits?

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
2/27/20 2:13 PM as a reply to Dustin.
Hey Dustin, thanks for the encouragement.  w.r.t. noting - I just picked up Mahasi Sayadaw's Practical Insight Meditation guide, very helpful so far for me, reading it in conjunction with MCTB.
My sits really vary day to day, I would say average of 20 minutes per session, but a few times a day for a total of maybe an hour. Though sometimes I will sit for an hour or more at one time.

I am slowly working towards building more of a routine for my practice. I actually have a lot of flexibility to take advantage of I think, since I work remote...
I did just sign up for my first weekend retreat (silent retreat) in April, so looking forward to that.


Since the last post I've been trying to stay very aware of where I'm at during my sits and just throughout the day.

After my experience from 2/15 I felt pretty subdued for about a week and honestly in a pretty bad mood for some time. Part of that might have had to do with external factors (having to travel for work, bad weather, politics, etc)
This week, really starting around Tuesday, I've been starting to feel back on another upswing.  Meditations have been more clear, vibrant, dreams more lucid, etc.  Definitely getting into some lower level Jhanic states, dare I say more reliably?  The tingling in the face is back.  This leads me to believe I'm due for another A&P event. 
I know Daniel talks about how he cycled through the same Jhanic states again and again for years (just as an example) before breaking through.  So I am trying to view this all as part of a larger process and note these events as what they are rather than as the end goal themselves.  

This time around seems like it's taken an even longer time.  Like I mentioned, I spent about a week/week and a half wallowing around in a depressive state, so this might just be unnecessarily slowing down my progress, or simply just downtime between cycles and not actually part of a cycle.  Though I was able to recognize it as a spiritual hangover during the time, therefore limiting how bad I actually felt about it, it still feels like I'm kind of going backwards during this time.  

On the positive side, I would like to think that I am getting better about recognizing delusion/duality as what it is, even if I am sucked into it, I can use these experiences as lessons and opportunity to purify myself rather than create more negativity.  My gut says it's just going to be a long road of cold hard practice to get this process down.  

Looking back over time I definitely feel much less aversion to many things.  But there's still a handful of things I feel strongly about for one reason or another, these are more difficult to not get sucked into.

I'm also aware that between the beginning of this month and now, I read MCTB, and therefore learned about the theories of Jhanic cycling, etc.  So, I want to also be aware of the possiblity that I might just be going through these cycles because I read about them and therefore am now interpreting my various moods as part of this framework.  
However, it's equally possible that these frameworks are perfectly valid and I've really been going through these cycles my whole life, just unaware of them.
I'm kind of leaning towards the latter just based on how my meditations can vary through the weeks, there may well be an internal mechanism which I can gain mastery of at some point which is controlling this but for the time being, it's outside my control, so the cycling framework is a good way to understand it.

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
3/2/20 10:29 AM as a reply to John W.
Since last week things have followed a more or less predictable pattern I've noticed increased concentration, more of a desire to meditate and easier to do it for longer periods of time.  Friday and Saturday in particular I've felt very positive despite being under the weather with a cold.  Saturday I spent the morning at a Dharma talk + meditation at the local center as well as a puja/sadhana ceremony in the evening.  I think I could be very happy if I were able to dedicate myself to that type of a schedule more regularly.

The question is now, how am I going to feel this week.  The past 2 cycles the week after the positive experiences I've had a spiritual hangover.  This time I am trying to be more mindful, firstly not to get too distracted by the positive feelings and by trying to 'bliss out' but rather notice the positive experiences but not get too drawn into them.  Part of me thinks that this is what's causing me to regress into the DN effects.  So going for more of a slow and steady approach.  
Secondly, to be more mindful of delusions if/when and as they occur this week.  Hope to use the dualistic thoughts occuring in the mind as the object of meditation rather than something I get upset by.

So far this morning I have felt good. Reading Practical Insight Meditation interspersed with short meditations. 

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
3/3/20 10:09 AM as a reply to John W.
Last night I had another experience similar to the one on 2/15 (intense waves of bliss, tingling throughout the body). This time it felt more controlled than the last time.  I also think I came out with some important realizations.  

Here's what happened:

Sat for 30 minutes with a timer. Spent most of this time observing the busyness/distractedness of my mind and watching my breath rise and fall.  Reset the timer to another 30 minutes (concentration has been increased this week).  

While my mind seems more distracted than usual and full of unpleasant thoughts and sensations, I sat with it, eventually starting to feel a tingling in my heart/chest area.  This has happened a couple of times before.  Accompanying that was some piti / happiness / however you want to describe it.  From there the feeling grew throughout my body into a very pleasant state.

It felt as if the Dark Night was a gateway which, with concentration, led into this more pleasurable state (is this 1st Jhana maybe?).
I also got the idea during this time that the fuel to handle the Dark Night is compassion.  I don't know exactly how they are related.  I need to read MCTB again.

I ended the session with 10 minutes of Wim Hof technique which was very relaxing, a bit different than the kundalini type effect but I definitely think the mental state I was in going into the breathing exercises had a synergistic effect and made them more powerful.

Weirdly, a couple of hours later I had a brief panic episode.  In full disclosure there was nicotine involved at the time, so I'm not sure if it was the substance or a reaction to the previous experience.  I will say I use nicotine frequently and never had that type of reaction from it before.

In any case, after laying down for a few minutes I was fine and went to bed peacefully.  

So far this week I have not noticed any overwhelming irritability like I have in the past.

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
3/3/20 10:16 AM as a reply to Dustin.
John W:

Anyone had this sort of tingling before, any advice on how to progress?

     Sounds like your making good progress. If the noting is working well I would keep doing that with a few minutes of concentration practice before it. You have all kinds of signs of being in a few different insight stages so whatever your doing seems to be working. The key is to just stay with whatever comes up. If i'm sleepy I know I'm sleepy, If i'm happy I know I'm happy and so on type deal. Present moment works well in comparison to trying to keep a stage or get out of a stage. More practice and more precise practice is the key. I find everything I told you hard to do most of the time but when I can stay with the moment I get really good breaks. 

How long are your sits?

I think this advice was spot on.  If I am feeling effects of the Dark Night like irritability, distracted mind, panic, etc, I may also find that I have more of a reason to sit for longer periods of time, more sensations to analyze, more reasons to practice!  (That's what I tell myself at least emoticon )

RE: (Face Tingling) John's Journal
3/7/20 6:23 PM as a reply to John W.
It's been a few days, and been a bit of a rollercoaster but I think a worthwhile one. Nothing too crazy, I have noticed increased concentration and easier access into lower concentration states. Also accompanying this are physical phenomena, some on the unpleasant side but also some pleasant.
A few of these aren't unexpected - bodily pressure, tingling, bliss and/or dizziness. I have noticed some new symptoms as well, which I can only interpret as a sign that I am making some sort of progress although they can be a bit uncomfortable. I have felt dizziness before but this is more of a
gyroscopic type feeling, as if there is a magnet along my central channel which is trying to align itself. It feels as if I am in uncharted territory, becoming a little bit scary when I get into some deeper states but mostly just like physical symptoms like I mentioned.
For me I am finding that going for refuge to Buddha/Dharma/Sangha (or whoever else) in the times that it does get overwhelming can be helpful along with showing compassion to yourself and others. Analyzing the negative states also helps but takes effort.
Keeping a loose goal to practice at least 30 minutes-1 hr a day (more if I feel up to it), not push myself too hard and let the realignment/rebalance naturally over time I think is all I can do for now. I also want to work more on insight meditation into these physical feelings because that does seem to help.

John's Journal
3/11/20 2:12 PM as a reply to John W.
Looking back on the past week or so I feel like I've been relatively stable off the cushion, there have been a couple of days where I've felt depressed or overwhelmed or whatever, but I do think I'm getting better at recognizing duality as illusion and so when these spells come up I am able to limit the damage a little bit better.

I've been averaging around 1.5 hours a day of sitting, have not had any overtly impactful A&P type events, though I continue to notice increased stability in low level concentration states.  I try not to think too hard about mapping out my current state though it is interesting to think about, it can be pretty confusing.  

When I am following the stages of insight I feel like my meditations lately have been ending somewhere in the Fear/Misery phase. I distinctly remember visualizing the though of 'fear' and investigating it.  This theoretically would correllate with the 3rd Jhana.  However, comparing my normal meditation to the A&P and 2nd Jhana that I'm pretty sure to have experienced before on a couple of occasions, I am pretty sure that when looking at things from the concentration states, I am hovering somewhere between the 1st and 2nd jhanas, and usually towards the lower end of that spectrum.

When you throw on top of this the concept of macro and micro cycles, i.e. that the overall arch where someone is may not correspond to each of the stages of insight and concentration that they experience or do not experience on a daily basis, it gets really confusing.  I'm pretty sure my overall status would be something like (recovering) Dark Night Yogi, having had several A&P events going back to maybe 10-15 years ago (several of them quite scary but also some cool stuff).  
But as mentioned before, my meditation experience being somewhat limited, I don't think my 'micro' ability has advanced as far as my 'macro' status has.  

All of this of course is kind of theoretical and speculative, so take it all with a few grains of salt. Anyway, it's an interesting thought, maybe part of attainment / fruition / alignment / is when your 'micro' levels are totally in sync with your 'macro' levels, and that's really what paves the way for realization of no-self/true self.  Food for thought at least.

So for now I think patience is my best bet and re-reading MCTB has been exponentially more helpful now that I've had a little bit of actual experience putting it into practice.  Also I think i'm finally starting to 'get' insight meditation.