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Please help me place this experience.

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Please help me place this experience.
Answer
7/16/20 3:53 PM
I've been practicing meditation for somewhere in the neighborhood of eight years. In some respects it seems as though I've come a long way, in others it's as if I've made no progress at all. It's along the axis of insights outlined below that no progress appears to have been made. So, I want to try and get a better perspective on an experience that occurred after taking psychedelics roughly twenty years ago.
 
The fact that it happened on psychedelics is a double edged sword. On one hand it undermines some confidence in the experience. On the other hand it occurred out of the blue, before I became interested in spiritual practice, and thus it was not a mind made confection of something I had heard about. When, years later, I came across Buddhism there was an “aha” moment as it seemed to make sense of this experience.
  
Those of you who know this terrain much better than I do: Where does this map? Was it just an odd experience that doesn’t have anything to do with Buddhist practice and realization? Shorn of the pyrotechnics brought on by a chemical, is this more or less the direction that these meditative efforts are heading? 
 
Hopefully I can finally pull this out of the drawer that I put it in, let it really inspire me, let it finally melt away, or maybe both. I’ve tried to keep this brief and broken down into phases as best as I can remember. I had trouble with the formating which is why it looks like a quote.
 
  1. Eat mushrooms. Not much happens. Eat more mushrooms. Not much happens. Eat more mushrooms…. Oops I ate too many mushrooms.
  2. I can feel every single cell in my body. This is incredibly uncomfortable as I am experiencing my internal organs with a vibrant crystal clarity. I don’t think humans were designed to feel their internal organs with vibrant crystal clarity. Everything feels very delicate. 
  3. Writhing in discomfort, I look at the clock and notice that time is passing. I realize that this will pass. I settle down into a peaceful place, still feeling everything in the same way as before, but it’s ok now.
  4. I see thoughts as streams of light passing through space. I see these light streams from different perspectives as they pass. I realize that all of my memories, observations, and beliefs are very limited slices of a beam of light (i.e. a complex event that in reality cannot fit into any limited perspective).
  5. A very large beam of light arrives, it takes up all of space from edge to edge. I realize that this large beam of light is the thought of “me”.
  6. As I pass through the “me” light I realize that I don’t exist. This realization seems to be the most clear, true, and significant thing that I have ever realized.
  7. I don’t remember quite exactly what happens directly after this.
  8. Eventually I come to and realize that time passing will not actually make me feel any better. The “me” that would be there in the future wouldn’t feel any better because there is no “me” in the future or anywhere for that matter. Yet the uncomfortable feeling persists so I decide to get up and go outside. 
  9. Extreme fear takes over. The strongest fear that I’ve ever felt. All of the fears that I’ve ever felt condensed into one moment, into one thing, into one act. I am afraid of opening the door.
  10. I open the door.
  11. I don’t remember exactly what happened upon opening the door.
  12. Yet something broke wide open. Not much to say about the next few hours except that everything seemed brand new and filled with awe, a substantial weight had been lifted.
  13. This occurred during a relatively turbulent period of my teen years. The month after this experience was an eye in the storm, and then inevitably the storm clouds rolled back in.

RE: Please help me place this experience.
Answer
7/16/20 5:33 PM as a reply to Francis Cloud.
Francis Cloud:
...
  
Those of you who know this terrain much better than I do: Where does this map? Was it just an odd experience that doesn’t have anything to do with Buddhist practice and realization? Shorn of the pyrotechnics brought on by a chemical, is this more or less the direction that these meditative efforts are heading? 
 
...
 

My opinion is that the explanation of your experience is that you had hallucinations caused by the mushrooms.

In my experience, realizing anatta (non-self) is a consequence of practicing meditation and mindfulnes. Other consequences of the practices are having a calm mind and weakening of cravings and and aversions and reduction in suffering. 

I would say that if you want that weight lifted again without using mushrooms, practice meditation and mindfuilness, try  to gently cultivate a relaxed and calm mind without suppressing thoughts and emotions. (My view is that a "calm mind" contains a glimmer of anatta and if you want to find anatta you will find it faster if you look for in it your calm mind. When you can see/feel your "calm mind" is a glimmer of anatta, you will know which direction to go to increase the effect.)

However my experiences might be somewhat unconventional.

I think most people would say that cause and effect realtionship is more like

meditation and mindfuilness -> calm mind -> realization of anatta -> reduction in cravings and aversions and suffering.

But what I experience is

meditation and mindfulness -> relaxed calm mind -> reduction in cravings aversions -> reduction in suffering and increase in feelings of anatta.

I see realization of anatta as an effect not a cause. And if your goal is "lifting the weight" my advice is to focus on reducing cravings and aversions, (relax, watch your mind, and observe the cause and cessation of suffering, 2nd & 3rd noble truths), not finding anatta because reducing cravings and aversions has the power to reduce suffering. Another unconventional view I have is that all this can happen gradually, I do not recommend looking for a sudden big change, in my view the expectation BIG CHANGE is a distraction and is not necessary.

That's just my preference. Realizing anatta correlates with reduced suffering so it is not necessarily wrong to look for anatta. Many people do experience a BIG Change and I don't deny what they say about their expeiences.

RE: Please help me place this experience.
Answer
7/16/20 11:34 PM as a reply to Francis Cloud.
A lot of people seem to come to meditation by way of psychedelics. I think this is OK. I like weird experiences.

When I had my first serious acid trips, I wanted so, so much to tell my friends what had happened to me. But I couldn't. It was as if language was just inadequate to really convey what had happened. This reminded me of something... Wasn't there something I had read where somebody was supposedly telling me the most important thing in the world, but it seemed really unsatisfying? Oh yeah, Buddhism and meditation and enlightenment. If the Buddha wants me to get enlightened, why doesn't he just tell me the secret?? After I had my trips, I really understood how it could be possible to experience something extremely important but be unable to tell people what it was.

This seems like an underappreciated fact about human life, that we can learn important things that we cannot convey, no matter how much we would like to, no matter how eloquent we are. Certain pieces of knowledge are converted into language and flow from one mind into another with hardly any effort at all, but some other kinds of knowledge just don't. Maybe your dad tells you some stuff about life, and then 20 years later you realize that, despite being told repeatedly, you just plowed into the exact mistake your dad had explained, and now you understand what he meant, and you can't figure out any better way to say it than he did, and you're in the same situation with your own son. Buddhism is even beyond that kind of knowledge, like more abstract/fundamental wisdom, so it is very hard to talk about.

I think the ultimate role of psychedelics might not be to help us really see the truth, but to help us see that there are are some important truths beyond what we might have expected. You soar over new terrain like in a hang glider for a while. But then you come down and all you have is a clue that something over that way is good. So now you have to start walking.

There's no way to teleport to understanding. You might have to patiently lay a lot of groundwork, focusing on process rather than result. There's a legendary mathematician who has an analogy about two strategies for opening a walnut: https://webusers.imj-prg.fr/~leila.schneps/grothendieckcircle/Mathbiographies/mclarty1.pdf

H
ere's the book about a gentle and joyful style of development I like:
https://library.dhammasukha.org/uploads/1/2/8/6/12865490/the_path_to_nibbana__d_johnson_f18.pdf

RE: Please help me place this experience.
Answer
7/17/20 7:53 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:

I think most people would say that cause and effect realtionship is more like

meditation and mindfuilness -> calm mind -> realization of anatta -> reduction in cravings and aversions and suffering.

But what I experience is

meditation and mindfulness -> relaxed calm mind -> reduction in cravings aversions -> reduction in suffering and increase in feelings of anatta.
Thank you both for responding.

It's a bit embarrassing to bring up so I appreciate the thoughtfulness of both of your responses.

I probably should have prefaced that I have no interest in psychedelics and haven't for a long time. I say that to underline that I am not really looking for an explosion into big change.

Gradual is just fine. Gradual seems more thorough. Gradual seems more stable. Gradual seems more sane. I have quite a few responsibilities in life now so sanity and stability are highly valued.

Jim, your explanation quoted above is along the lines of how this path has felt to me (your experience, the second one). 

Over time I have become more at ease, more aware of things, kinder, more connected to my self and those around me, more embodied in expereince, more effective at the things that I do. I would also say that there is a subtle awareness that there is "no center" gradually manifesting, or it may be better put that the lack of a center is gradually becoming clear.

I think I waisted the first few years of practice sitting around waiting for magic to happen. Eventually I went back and tried to begin at the beging. Hence the results above.

However, that clairty of having realized something vital that I did not see before, or of having shifted something in a meaningful way that was out of wack before, has yet to occur.

Although life is good, things still seem a bit unclear, a bit out of wack. So I guess I wonder if the "hallucination" was in fact the same anatta that can be seen through practice, or if it was in fact just a hallucination.

In a sense no one can tell but me, but I was hopeing there might be something characteristic in the series of events that could bring clarity to what it was. That way it could go into its proper place within some sort of framework of insight. I suppose the suggestion is, appreciate a wierd experience, then just leave this one out of the framework and carry on.

RE: Please help me place this experience.
Answer
7/17/20 10:37 AM as a reply to Francis Cloud.
Francis Cloud:



In a sense no one can tell but me, but I was hopeing there might be something characteristic in the series of events that could bring clarity to what it was. That way it could go into its proper place within some sort of framework of insight. I suppose the suggestion is, appreciate a wierd experience, then just leave this one out of the framework and carry on.



I know that MCTB focuses on maps, and so there are a lot of map fans here, and I also would be happy if I could fit more of my experiences to a map or framework, but looking at posts here for several months, and going back though various older threads, it seems that there are more experiences reported that fall outside of maps than those that fall within them.