Sharing what has happened to me, any thoughts?

Leigh Smith, modified 10 Years ago.

Sharing what has happened to me, any thoughts?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 6/10/11 Recent Posts

I have been practising for about 5 and a half years now and this is a very condensed spiritual biography. My life before I encountered the Dharma was a complete mess, I'd tried to meditate a few times from a book but nothing much happened. I then took up meditation formally and for the first month I was sitting for 3 hours a day and everytime I sat I was in (samatha) dhyana, having experiences such as losing any sense of my body and being just the sensations of the breath entering my nostrils and a consciousness (whilst doing the mindfulness of breathing).
The dhyana died away, but a couple of years into my practice I met a friend who was having some big experiences. He taught me formless meditation and I had some profitable experiences doing that; I felt really vast and as if 'something' was calling me. I was reflecting on the Yogacara mind only position and decided to label everything as mind. This took me to quite a vast space. I then reflected that the 'unconditioned' was 'merely' the world seen without us imposing our deluded mental conditioning onto it and it was as if a pane of glass shattered in front of me and I found myself in a non dual awareness. I was travelling on the train to London and the experience I was having was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes, the was no real sense of distance between me and Big Ben, everything was the same (shunya) yet completely unique. Cars moved but there wasn't any concept of movement or stationary. Things seemed to hang as if in suspended animation. This lasted about 1 and a half hours.

I kept having strong meditation experiences and 'flashes' of the same sort of experience until, not long afterwards, I had a bigger experience. It was at a celebration of Parinirvana day, and a friend of mine was crying because he was reading a poem that reminded him of his partner dying. As I left the festival I found myself again in a vast space, it felt different though, looking back I think something had snapped (?). It was deeply pleasurable and everything became incredibly still (even though I was walking through a high street) and the suspended animation feeling came back again, my experience of time was strange. I stayed in this state for about an hour, then whilst listening to some music it suddenly broke and huge amounts of bliss, compassion, ecstasy and fearlessness was released. Again it was non dual, there was no sense of 'me' being different from the shirt that was hanging up in my room. Time just flew and what was hours seemed like no time at all. This experience continued through sleep and I awoke feeling like a completely different person. The afterglow of fearlessness remained. I haven't been the same since, it changed me radically the person I was before died and I was reborn. After this experience I vowed to become a Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings ( a vow I have made many times since). Instinctively I knew it was the arising of the Bodhicitta, that's the framework I placed it in as there is a strong emphasis on the Bodhisattva Ideal in the tradition I practise in and from reading works by people like Shantideva my experience seems to fit what he describes. Since then I have had numerous insights and experiences that happen on a regular basis; things like having the experience of walking and there being no 'walker.' I developed a real grasp of metaphysics and the perfection of wisdom sutras, I knew what they were talking about from direct experience. I know that concepts such as permanence and impermanence are merely concepts that can never really describe Reality. I found myself writing articles such as 'The conditioned nature of Linear time' as well as numerous essays on topics such as Interdependence and pratitya samutpada.

My main practice now is consistently seeing the impermanent, unsatisfactory and non self nature of the five skandhas.

I am finding it quite difficult to integrate what has happened to me, I am astoundingly fortunate to have friends who have had experiences like me and who are further along the path than I am,and I seek out those who I've read about who have had similar experiences. But through just being myself I have started to encounter disbelief and skepticism from others, which I find quite painful. I also think I may have become attached to the experiences I've had and I'm thinking about how I am going to move forward. I have numerous notes from my years of practise and I might start reviewing them, as well as continued meditation practise, to help me progress and integrate what's happened. I read 'Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha' and that's what led me to this site.

I would be intrigued to hear any thoughts people have, and thank you for letting me share some of my life story.

Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Sharing what has happened to me, any thoughts?

Posts: 3199 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Your experiences are interesting and insight-filled. Your questions about what to do with them and how to integrate them are natural ones.

It sounds like you are practicing mostly in a Tibetan-Mahayana-based tradition: what sort of teachers do you have access to in that tradition, and will they talk with you in straightforward terms about what you are going through and asking?

As to your experiences of oneness, no-self, and the like, at many stages of the path we can be presented with profound periods where things like that are very clear and profound, and then they generally fade, as you have noticed.

The question then is how to live there, how to lock those understandings in.

Many and various answers can be given, but from a vipassana point of view the practice you say you are doing, noticing the Three Characteristics of everything that arises, is a good way to proceed.

Do you have any time and/or the resources for retreats?

Do you cycle: meaning, can you sit down, see something vibrating, get up to dissolution, cross the Dark Night, and get to Equanimity, +/- attain to a Fruition? I wonder if you got stream entry somewhere in there, but your descriptions don't give me enough specifics of context to be sure. Those could also have been the A&P or Equanimity or even eyes open versions of the 6th jhana.

One way or other other, I think that contact with people who know this territory well, a structured practice, and retreats would help.

Who have you been talking with about this stuff and are they helpful?


Leigh Smith, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Sharing what has happened to me, any thoughts?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 6/10/11 Recent Posts
Hello Daniel,

Thanks very much for replying.

I'm from England and I practise within the Triratna Buddhist community. We do have a strong emphasis on the Bodhisattva ideal. I've spoken briefly to the founder of the movement (Sangharakshita) about the experiences I've had, I asked him how the arising of the Bodhicitta fits in with the Theravada model of stream entry etc, but if I remember rightly he said he didn't find a way to correlate them. I have a couple of friends within the movement who I can talk to and they are very helpful, but at the moment I don't have a specific teacher who I can talk to on a regular basis and I don't think the stages of insight are discussed widely in our movement. There is one friend of mine though who I can see fairly frequently.

I re read the chapter in your book about the stages of insight and I thought about my time practising again in terms of the map. From my first few sits I had I may have started on the path of insight without knowing it, then I had the two big experiences I mentioned. I wonder if the main experience was a big A&P event. The 'suspended animation' effect of it sounds a bit like what you talk about in your book on page 207 about individual frames of reality arising and passing with breathtaking clarity as though in slow motion. There was a sense of stillness and fluidity at the same time. The whole experience lasted about 5 hours and to a certain extent through sleep, and when I awoke I was different, I wasn't the same person. I can remember some of what happened during it, but time seemed to fly so quickly. It felt like I was possessed.

After the afterglow of the experience had gone I felt pretty much suicidal, which I now think was entering the dark night.
I have a feeling I may have experienced the stages up to and including Equanimity, but a lot of interesting experiences have happened during my time practising that I simply forget about. I do relate very strongly to some of the descriptions you use to describe fruition, such as a profound sense of coming home (which I had strongly with my first experience) and the deep joy and gratitude, but I have a feeling I haven't attained stream entry ( I don't think I cycle). I think I have succumbed to the 10 corruptions of insight and I am now trying to find a way to progress. My concentration is pretty poor, I struggle with sitting meditation posture so, for the last few days, I been doing the noting practice that Mahasi Sayadaw talks about. It gets me pretty concentrated. During one session yesterday I became very still and for a brief second something flashed in front of my eyes, it was like a blink but my eyes were open. I'm not sure if it was anything of note though. I have been noticing flickering sensations more recently (maybe reading your book has made me notice them), it's a kind of visual flickering, I don't know if that's the same as vibrating, maybe it is.

I'm going on a study/meditation retreat for a year starting in January.