Are fruitions seizures?

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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Judging by the MCTB description, it appears that fruitions are a type of seizure. A momentary seizure is described in Wikipedia as "a brief loss of awareness" caused by "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". In MCTB words, the mind tries to sync with itself, and everything strobes in and out. It seems that the awareness tries to be aware of everything at once, everything locks into this single wave of neuronal activity, finally the mind locks up on itself and all activity breaks down and you have a seizure.

I'm not disputing the insight value of fruitions regarding the Three Characteristics, and I'm not trying to say all seizures are fruitions - obviously a seizure can be caused by many unrelated kinds of "syncing", (for some people - simply looking at a strobing light). Still, one has to question the medical value of advice that not only teaches you to self-induce a seizure, but also says that if you achieve that, you will be having periodic seizures for the rest of your life?
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Some more food for thought. From http://neuro.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/full/21/3/355 :

"Postseizure increases in brain levels of dopamine and serotonin, as well as alterations in norepinephrine metabolism, have been consistently observed in animal models of epilepsy."

This could be the "bliss wave" observed after fruitions. The quote is from a paper where a woman with epilepsy would self-induce seizures to treat her depression. Was Buddha a seizure junkie?
End in Sight, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
Buddhists seem to be pretty healthy, so I'd say, whatever cessation is, it's certainly not something to worry about.

It's not like this practice was invented in the last 10 years and we don't know what the long term effects are. It goes back millennia...
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 154 Join Date: 3/15/11 Recent Posts
End in Sight:
Buddhists seem to be pretty healthy, so I'd say, whatever cessation is, it's certainly not something to worry about.

It's not like this practice was invented in the last 10 years and we don't know what the long term effects are. It goes back millennia...


... unlike some of the advice the industry gives. Remind me again: Is sunscreen causing cancer or preventing it this year? Should we take Vioxx® or is it now killing us? Is the food pyramid still mainly meat, dairy, and refined "grain products" with daily aspirin and Zetia® to balance it out?

This may seem a little off topic, but I think it's important to keep in mind that the industry has its own interests, and if they were making us healthy and happy, they wouldn't be able to sell billions of pills a day, so yes, listen to what your doctor has to say, but don't fall into the trap of blindly assuming that normalcy (even in medical terms) is necessarily optimal.

Be that as it may, If we want to start warning people, I'd say mostly by the time they post here, it's too late, because they have already had A&P. At that point, the only way one can stave off those "seizures" is by staying in the dark night, or does anyone know of a way to get someone stabilized in the 11th ñana?
C C C, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 953 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Just yesterday I was Googling keywords "seizure, fruition, EEG" and got nowhere. Quite a coincidence you'd post this, but I often find that what I'm thinking about appears on Dho soon after.

Here's what made me do that search. You know when you're asleep how your brain still sort feels like it's working? (well mine does anyway). Sometimes I get what feels like a total shutting down of brain activity, as if someone pulled the plug out. It makes me panic and the panic makes my brain start up again and I wake. I wanted to know what it was. To me it felt like the 're-booting' described on here. I reckon if an EEG was running it would momentarily 'flat line', however I don't feel better after wards, nor do I have any insights. Any ideas?
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tom moylan, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
Just yesterday I was Googling keywords "seizure, fruition, EEG" and got nowhere. Quite a coincidence you'd post this, but I often find that what I'm thinking about appears on Dho soon after.

Here's what made me do that search. You know when you're asleep how your brain still sort feels like it's working? (well mine does anyway). Sometimes I get what feels like a total shutting down of brain activity, as if someone pulled the plug out. It makes me panic and the panic makes my brain start up again and I wake. I wanted to know what it was. To me it felt like the 're-booting' described on here. I reckon if an EEG was running it would momentarily 'flat line', however I don't feel better after wards, nor do I have any insights. Any ideas?



CCC! Please think about my fourth Path achievement!...but seriously:

Your description of your sleep experience mirrors an experience I had recently. as i was dropping off there was suddenly this complete "plug pull", i had the impression of a 1950's tv being shut off ..with the point of light, the "blip" of conciousness being shut off and the startled awakening immediately afterwards. i wondered then, as now, whether that was was a fruition or not. my experiences are so misaligned with the standard path / map model that i am afraid of even asking the question here :-)
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N A, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 157 Join Date: 7/10/11 Recent Posts
Some more observations:

If fruitions are a type of seizure, A&P events seem more like partial seizures. A full seizure is when your mind locks up and shuts down. A simple partial seizure is when part of your mind locks up but you remain conscious. The "locking up" in both cases is due to synchronicity in neural activity, in case of vipassana - while trying to pay attention to everything equanimously. The seizure being partial rather than full indicates that you weren't actually paying attention to "everything" - like Daniel describes in MCTB, not the entire universe strobes in synchronicity, some things ("the subtle background and the sense of the observer") remain stable.


Some of the features of simple partial seizures according to Wikipedia: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_partial_seizure)

* preserved consciousness (unlike a full seizure / fruition)
* experiencing of "unusual feelings or sensations" (whatever that means)
* altered sense of hearing, smelling, tasting, seeing, and tactile perception (sensory illusions and/or hallucinations), or feeling as though the environment is not real (derealization) or detachment from the environment (depersonalization)
* usually the event is remembered in detail

At least these seem to match descriptions (and my experience) of A&P events.

As with fruitions, I'm not trying to suggest that all simple partial seizures are A&P events; A&P is a very specific kind caused by a very specific mechanism so it has its own distinguishing characteristics.
Michael A., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/20/11 Recent Posts
As a pre-1st path who seems to have made it into equanimity, I can't say I've experienced fruitions personally. However, my experiences with jhana and with my more intensive insight experiences make me think "some kind of temporal lobe weirdness involved here." Could fruitions be a very specialized form of temporal lobe seizure?

http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/epilepsy_temporallobe

They quote a "suspected temporal lobe seizure" in Dostoevsky that has some resonance:

He remembered that during his epileptic fits, or rather immediately preceding them, he had always experienced a moment or two when his whole heart, and mind, and body seemed to wake up with vigor and light; when he became filled with joy and hope, and all his anxieties seemed to be swept away for ever; these moments were but presentiments, as it were, of the one final second…in which the fit came upon him. That second, of course, was inexpressible.

Next moment something appeared to burst open before him: a wonderful inner light illuminated his soul. This lasted perhaps half a second, yet he distinctly remembered hearing the beginning of a wail, the strange, dreadful wail, which burst from his lips of its own accord, and which no effort of will on his part could suppress. Next moment he was absolutely unconscious; black darkness blotted out everything. He had fallen in an epileptic fit.


What's interesting is that the way you folks discuss it, you don't have to deal with the second piece of it--just the first. That actually sounds like a rather fantastic trick, to get some very specialized form of temporal lobe seizure (very often associated with spiritual experiences) that gives you the upside (and possibly more upside) but not the really unfortunate downside.

Or, this could be just me spinning my wheels. Just thought I'd pass it on.
Raza, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

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N A
The "locking up" in both cases is due to synchronicity in neural activity, in case of vipassana - while trying to pay attention to everything equanimously.
I've a background in neuroscience, and I really don't think you're going to be able to induce a seizure by trying to pay attention to everything all at once. 'Everything' that is available at a moment in healthy brain activity across all sense doors isn't the same kind of 'everything' that is synchronously firing at once when people talk about this happening in (grand mal) seizures. The 'everything' that is available in awareness in a moment of healthy cognition is a real kind of everything, where everything that is present is given meaning by a vast space of things which the brain is capable of perceiving/computing in principle but which don't apply to the situation. That kind of momentary understanding of the world is coded into neural activity that uses only a tiny fraction of available neurons in a meaningful, selective configuration. In contrast, in seizures, this kind of functional selectivity is lost, and far more neurons fire at once than you would find in the representation of any meaningful experience, even a very inclusive one.

That said, I came to this thread out of interest in the potential overlap between childhood absences and fruitions. Children seem sometimes to have a natural affinity for having dhamma experiences that adults would have to practice a lot to have, and absences are mostly a childhood thing. I'm not completely convinced by Daniel's counterpoints (however helpful), because:
  • EEG researchers not specialized in epilepsy would not reliably recognize subtler varieties of epileptic activity, especially if they weren't looking for it. (OTOH, I just looked at absence seizure EEGs, and those are pretty difficult to miss, if very unlike 'ordinary' clonic tonic seizure activity)
  • I wouldn't necessarily expect someone encountering fruitions outside a context of dhamma practice to feel like they got benefit from them, especially if the rest of their world pathologized the experiences. My earlier cessations from practice tended to be either isolated and locked away in a bubble of ignorance as the rest of the mind tried to deny what went on and continue business as usual, or destabilizing and scary (alongside whatever benefits survived that) when that isolating started to fail. It took work on integration for them to become a pleasant and liberating experience more often than not, and that might not have happened if I'd somehow not had the dhamma to frame them in.
That said, google didn't really turn up the kind of things I would expect if absences were like fruitions, such as changes toward a more relaxed personality in at least a subset of cases, or at least some connection to derealization and depersonalization symptoms beyond what is found in other seizures.
Hector, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 5/9/20 Recent Posts
Does anyone familiar with sleep, Tibetan dream yoga and Therevada know if these states are similar to different
sleep states? e.g. do sleep spindles show up in meditation EEGs?
Or if the cessation event is similar to a deep sleep state. I notice in MTCB2 a mention of taking naps to obtain Fruitions.
matthew sexton, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 313 Join Date: 1/14/14 Recent Posts
tom moylan:
C C C:
...
Here's what made me do that search. You know when you're asleep how your brain still sort feels like it's working? (well mine does anyway). Sometimes I get what feels like a total shutting down of brain activity, as if someone pulled the plug out. It makes me panic and the panic makes my brain start up again and I wake. I wanted to know what it was. To me it felt like the 're-booting' described on here. I reckon if an EEG was running it would momentarily 'flat line', however I don't feel better after wards, nor do I have any insights. Any ideas?
...
Your description of your sleep experience mirrors an experience I had recently. as i was dropping off there was suddenly this complete "plug pull", i had the impression of a 1950's tv being shut off ..with the point of light, the "blip" of conciousness being shut off and the startled awakening immediately afterwards. i wondered then, as now, whether that was was a fruition or not. my experiences are so misaligned with the standard path / map model that i am afraid of even asking the question here :-)
I'll jump on that bandwagon.  6-7 months ago I started having an experience in meditation I call 'jouncing', it reminds me of what happens after you drift off to sleep while trying to stay awake: awareness of something odd springs forth, attention snaps into present moment experience, a vague lightness, brightness and calm crystallizes.  I'm only vaguely aware of what happened just before.

It seemed like this might be 'reboot' after cessation, but I really thought it was just a kind of falling-to-sleep phenomenon.  After all, it happened after I settled into deep meditation, '3 or 4'th jhana', I put that in quotes because I don't really claim to have deep experience in that area.  But I was optimistic, started cultivating this experience in my meditation.  Eventually I found myself:
  • walking around in constant 3'rd janna'esq bliss all the time
  • instant access to 3'rd and 4'th janna when sitting and
  • 'cycling', wherein I feel an ever increasing tendency to bliss and jounce, at least once every day or so, it's my preferred go to sleep routine.

I figure I'm post SE.  CCC, is that your status? Anyone like to challange my self assesment?  If I'm wrong, I'd love to know that. emoticon
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Florian Weps, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
My wife has epilepsy, her seizures are generalized. Usually, they are tonic-clonic, though in rare cases she has short absences.

The short absences would be closest to what you are alluding to. She's not able to induce these, and she doesn't like them at all. While she's able to remember events up to the beginning of the seizure, there's never a clear memory of the exit, and she reports a "memory hole" from the end of a seizure up to about 15 minutes later - usually, she takes a nap after a seizure, and the time between seizure and nap leaves no memories. She also reports headaches after a seizure.

Compared to my own experience of fruition, there are no parallels to the form of seizure my wife has. I have clear memories of the last moment before and the first moment after fruition. There are no headaches (no bliss wave either). I feel refreshed, not tired after a fruition, focussed instead of confused.

I realize that there are many, many forms of seizure, and I'm not a neurologist, just husband to someone who has had seizures since childhood. I have, at various times, entertained thoughts similar to yours about the relationship between neurological disorders and meditation experiences - for example, I experience a high-pitched "sound", similar to descriptions of tinnitus, but not distressing at all. Some meditators report visual experiences similar to descriptions of migraine auras.

It's certainly an interesting subject. There are people who study the effects of meditation at the neurological level - I think the person posting as anonpathein here on the DhO has contact with a few of those researchers. Maybe he has something interesting to add.

Cheers,
Florian
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Bruno Loff, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
N A:
Still, one has to question the medical value of advice that not only teaches you to self-induce a seizure, but also says that if you achieve that, you will be having periodic seizures for the rest of your life?


OK. Upon questioning the medical value of such advice and practices, you will discover many reports on the benefits of fruition (and stream entry), benefits that are not only numerous, but also quite unique.
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I actually just had a conversation with a meditator who thought that perhaps they had both, meaning fruitions and seizures (partial complex perhaps) but felt that they were quite different, and is going for formal EEG and MRI testing soon: it will be interesting to see what that shows.

Regardless: my experience in the ED with seizures generally breaks down into 3 general groups, though there are some strange seizure-like things that don't fall into these broad categories:

1) Full clonic-tonic seizures: in which the body shakes uncontrollably for some minutes usually while the person has no recollection of what happened, they tend to pee on themselves, bite their tongues often, and wake up quite confused and altered, with cognitive deficits that persist for minutes to hours, often headaches, and generally feel quite poorly for some period of time.

2) Partial complex seizures: in which there are various movements and perceptual alterations, depending on where the seizure takes place (motor cortex vs temporal lobe vs others), but the person is somewhat awake for them and remembers them most of the time. No one likes these and they seem to produce no short or long-term benefits.

3) Absence seizures, in which the person simply seems to go blank for some number of seconds, usually less than a minute, and then returns, like there was a gap and they just shut off and then start back up, usually without memory of what happened, and no obvious bliss wave or much of a problem afterward except as was caused by not being there for some short period of time.

With basically no exceptions, none of these patients find anything good, rewarding, or insightful, and at best find them annoying, at worst life-threatening.

I have had more clear Fruitions than I can count, easily in the thousands, and in all sorts of activities, such as driving, swimming etc., (contexts in which one definitely wouldn't want to have what I have come to know of seizures) and have experienced no downsides (beyond occasionally noticeable eye blinking for a second or so that people have occasionally commented upon) and many benefits from them, so, regardless of what they are, and even if they one day are shown to show EEG changes similar to seizures, they clearly should be regarded in some completely different light, as they are not obviously pathological in any way that I have ever noticed.

Anyone out there have good evidence or personal tales to the contrary?

Daniel
Derek Cameron, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 326 Join Date: 7/21/10 Recent Posts
There is some literature on meditation and seizures, e.g.:

Med Hypotheses. 2005; 64(3): 464-7.
Meditation may predispose to epilepsy: an insight into the alteration in brain environment induced by meditation.
Jaseja H.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15617849

Med Hypotheses. 2014 Oct; 83(4): 465-72.
Can hyper-synchrony in meditation lead to seizures? Similarities in meditative and epileptic brain states.
Lindsay S.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25149320
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Richard Zen, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

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matthew sexton, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

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Richard Zen:
I'm definitely familiar with hypnic jerks, though I'd never heard it named before.  I had them quite a lot when I was younger, decades ago, always on the tail end of falling asleep, were accompanied by a kind of almost electric shock feeling and marked physical spasm.

My jounce thing might be that, but minus the physical jerk and the dramatic shock feeling.  Like maybe my sitting practice actually was about putting myself to sleep instead of hitting deep concentration and equanimity.  I guess this should be a different thread now?
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I did about 9.5 hours meditating in various ways on a research-grade 128-lead (plus muscle leads) EEG last Fall and, when I asked the EEG experts reading my output during the various sessions if I demonstrated anything that looked anything like seizure activity, they said, "No."

Plent of wild stuff happened during those two long day of meditation: Fruitions, visions, lots of jhanic things, a few spontaneous movements: none of it looked like a seizure. That pretty much answers it for me.
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G Mojo, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 15 Join Date: 3/31/14 Recent Posts
Assuming awareness of experience is inferred and not a distinct state in itself (it is just more experience/phenomena), I have always understood fruitions to be the moment between the passing and arising of that phenomena.

Some here are familiar with Shinzen Young's practice of noting GONE e.g. observing the breath and noting the moment between it passing and arising again.  I have always used the same understanding with the experience of awareness.  In that moment of GONE there will be no subjective involvement with experience (clumsy phrase but not sure how else to say it).

No to derail from the OP's theory but to add some thoughts of my own. 

What do you think?
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Andy R, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 42 Join Date: 10/24/10 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
I did about 9.5 hours meditating in various ways on a research-grade 128-lead (plus muscle leads) EEG last Fall and, when I asked the EEG experts reading my output during the various sessions if I demonstrated anything that looked anything like seizure activity, they said, "No."

Plent of wild stuff happened during those two long day of meditation: Fruitions, visions, lots of jhanic things, a few spontaneous movements: none of it looked like a seizure. That pretty much answers it for me.

Daniel, will there be a paper or other research results coming out of this?
Raza, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 4/4/20 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
I did about 9.5 hours meditating in various ways on a research-grade 128-lead (plus muscle leads) EEG last Fall and, when I asked the EEG experts reading my output during the various sessions if I demonstrated anything that looked anything like seizure activity, they said, "No."

Plent of wild stuff happened during those two long day of meditation: Fruitions, visions, lots of jhanic things, a few spontaneous movements: none of it looked like a seizure. That pretty much answers it for me.
Did you add time data for what happened when (e.g., push a button after each fruition, or speak to a timed sound recorder to say that you just left the fifth jhana)? If that kind of data existed, I'd love to see the EEG graphs of a fruition or nirodha samapatti, both to compare them to absence seizures and generally.

Hector
Does anyone familiar with sleep, Tibetan dream yoga and Therevada know if these states are similar to different

sleep states? e.g. do sleep spindles show up in meditation EEGs?
Or if the cessation event is similar to a deep sleep state. I notice in MTCB2 a mention of taking naps to obtain Fruitions.
No definitive answers, but some on-topic thoughts:
  • Sleep spindles happen when external sensory events are blocked at the thalamus to preserve sleep in N2 sleep. I'd be very surprised if they arose in sitting meditation, except if you were dozing off and had one of those 'startle awake' moments. You might hypothesize them in the kind of high jhana practice where external sensory events are shut out.
  • Shinzen talks about noticing 'big gones' while meditating in non-REM sleep. I'd personally bet on the causality of fruitions being very different from the causality of losing consciousness to sleep, but that if you're mindful enough during half-sleep to really notice consciousness fading and re-arising, you should be able to learn from that some of the same deep lessons that you can get from the kinds of cessations caused by dhamma practice. I've personally had review fruitions happen to me in half-sleep, and they've tended to re-energize my mind and wake me up somewhat; it is also common wisdom that losing consciousness to sleep in meditation doesn't have the benefits of a fruition and will tend to leave you with dullness, so there's evidence for a double dissociation there.
  • I've only read descriptions of vajrayana dream yoga, but it seems to have clear partial overlap with lucid dreaming, and there's EEG data for that in the literature if you're interested.
  • I've heard it said that neither-perception-nor-non-perception has experiential similarities to what remains of consciousness in N2 sleep, although the 'absence of hindrances' criterion for jhana, applied to dullness/lethargy, would seem to suggest they cannot overlap.
Hector, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 54 Join Date: 5/9/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for the responses! I only have slight experience with localized sz near the surface from working with the data so I wouldn't
know anything about sleep EEGs. However I did use a garmin watch during a night of lucid dreaming and 
I noticed that the REM and deep sleep gaps did line up with the felt experience but I am not sure how the watches measure
REM vs deep sleep, maybe it's just estimated from movement and pulse rate.
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Chris Marti, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Are fruitions seizures?

Posts: 3767 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Having had the experience many times, I can say with simple, complete certainty that fruitions (cessations) are not seizures. You can read Daniel Ingram's post on this topic for the details from the perspective of a practicing physician and experienced meditator. I can only claim the latter.