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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

The Witness / Frozen In Time / Vibrations / What was that?

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So you can skip to "here is what happened" or "So where I am now" part if you don't want to read the long intro. But it doesn't help frame the story. 

Long story short: 13 day jhana retreat. Cultivated The Witness / sense of perceiver and got up to 7th jhana. Had a crazy experience a few times that I don’t know what to do with.

 
Intro
The last 13 days I have been on a Jhana retreat. The first 8 days were at home meditating around 6 hours a day with a few hours of walking meditation and the last 5 were at a retreat center by where I live in Vietnam. This was around 8+ hours a day of meditation and also a few hours a day of walking meditation. Before that I was doing around 3 to 4 one hour sits a day at home for the last month. Basically had a pretty intense A&P in July and really just want to meditate since. Have had less intense A&Ps since then. Don’t really have them when I do most concentration stuff and I am not doing noting. Hyper fast noting basically feel like every nerve on my body is on fire and I don’t like it and it results in a crazy kundalini afterwards. Not my jam.

I started learning the Jhanas in June and by end of July had gotten to the 4th one. I would just work to the 4th and then note from there. I was going to wait till the retreat to learn the formless realms. Then I stumbled upon the information on the Witness and and decided to cultivate that as something about it really seemed interesting. So I learned up to the 6th jhana to find the Witness and then a few weeks ago I decided to learn the 7th jhana of Nothingness even though the retreat hadn't started. Also at some point in the last 4 weeks the Witness moved from being around the third eye area to this little buzz around my teeth and gums and I frequently would just focus on it and note its impermanence. Also did my own version of kasina many times hyper focused on it and based on what I’d heard from the kasina retreats and how people got stream entry from that. Once again noting its impermanence.
 
At some point I stopped using the witness and got to nothingness through the old slower way of manually moving through the jhanas. At the first day of the retreat I had a problem. The witness caused so much pressure and force around my sinuses I could no longer get 1st jhana and even had a hard time focusing just on the breath. So I switched back to the witness for going through the jhanas and it was going really really well. So one of the teachers is a TWIM teacher (they teach you can get stream entry through the jhanas). When I told them that I could get to the nothingness jhana and I had developed The Witness (they called it the perceiver) they said great. They wanted me to sit in nothingness for an hour until it got really strong and then switch focus to the perceiver and just watch it and eventually The Witness would collapse into the nothingness and then into the 8th jhana and a fruition. Now they aren't saying just doing this once would do it. They made it clear it would be many times into the 8th jhana before stream entry would occur and this could takes days or months or more. So I decided no noting for me during retreat and I’d just do jhanas and focusing on the witness and nothingness jhana. I didn’t do any noting besides occasionally noting thoughts as thoughts if my mind went somewhere while watching witness.

Ok so a few other things.
First, The Witness had been vibrating a ton which the teacher said was good and that once it naturally found stillness it might collapse. It still is vibrating now as I type this. Sometimes it just presents itself as pressure but any detailed focus usually brings outs its vibrating. Much easier to notice its vibrations if I bring it close.
Second, the witness no longer wants to go past the 4th jhana. It makes it there and just sorta stops. It seems like it enjoys the stillness of 4th jhana. However if I then start focusing on it long enough eventually the nothingness jhana forms and then its just “me” perceiving the perceiver surrounded by nothingness.
Third, I don’t know or even think I’ve hit the 8th jhana. Based on the few decent readings of it I don’t think I got there but maybe I have as below you will see there has been a lot of weird stuff and since it often lasts only a few moments its possible I missed.
 
So here is what happened a few times that I don’t understand.
This took place on my last meditation of the night on the 3rd day at the retreat center. I had a private room so I had no problem with longer sits that this would turn into. Also no drugs where used as I should make this clear as this seemed like a something you would need drugs for.    
 
I went to sit and the vibrations of The Witness had gotten strong but at this point I don’t think we got to the whole body vibrations that I will soon talk about. After doing some breath focused meditation for only a few minutes as the witness pressure in my sinuses and upper gums wouldn’t allow more I switched to the witness and pretty soon into just watching it got to be like really clear images and stories in front of me. I was like “oh interesting this is like when Kasinas get really focused”. I don’t remember how much of my focus was on the images and how much was still on the witness. I don’t remember how long into the sit but probably 30 minutes. At the point an image was in front of me was from my point of view and my hands going through a bunch of party invitations and finding one with my name on it. Then when I found it I was zoomed into this intense vibrating energy just in front of my eyes. It was with a really small window of vision. This lasted for a think 3 minutes and then I was basically pinned down and unable to move for the next 2 or more hours as I was lead through all kinds of visions and crazy vibrations that were mentally and physically exhausting. Maybe about 15 minutes before I ended it I was able to move my hands and then body enough to go on a much needed bathroom break. Then when I came back it continued on and eventually I felt like the process had done what it wanted to do and I was left there with now these crazy whole body vibrations that were very fast and uncomfortable everytime I closed my eyes and where there sometimes when I had them open. At the start I thought ok great this is going to lead to path. By the end I was sure that wasn’t SE.
 
So going forward in my next sits the witness basically would at most take me to the forth jhana but mostly it was just me sitting there focused on the witness and being in these vibrations and me just bearing through it. It was terrible.When walking around I felt very out of phase with reality and often the world was fluxing/waving in and out in front of me.
 I was pretty flustered during this time and didn’t keep great notes and I think at one point of watching the witness during a sit I had another one of these experiences that was much shorter of say 30 minutes but had the same tunnel / high energy and visions / stories.
 
So after a whole day of this terrible vibrations and feeling separate from reality. I started searching DHO for whole body vibrations and found this answer from shargrol:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6930113
 
And that was the trick to ending the whole body vibrations. I needed to bring in the vibrations and just swim in them and not avoid them. However I didn’t have any fruition from it. The witness still wasn’t interested in doing the jhanas but does usually end up in nothingness if I focused on it long enough.
 
I also have rolled my eyes up into my head until they start flickering and that just sorta takes over and does that until a little ball of energy opens up over my eyes and also starts flickering. I’ve merged this a few times with the witness but nothing crazy has happened. It usually just closes and leaves a tensions there which is there now actually. Along with the witness vibrating in my teeth. I also brought it in really close and it sorted closed. I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing to do.   
 
 
So where I am now and what happened today:
 
So I am now back home and will probably still keep to 4 to 6 hours a day of meditation working on this as I have the time and desire.
 
This mornings sit had me sorta pushing the witness through the jhanas to nothingness as I wanted to work more on trying to “collapse things into nothingness”. I can sorta will it to do jhanas even though you are supposed to let it do its thing. Then I switch then to full focus on it and have been bringing any vibrations and the witness as close as I can to “me” so its basically right inside my head. The sense of nothingness is still in the background and I can refresh its strength of nothingness in a few seconds of focus as long as I’m super focused. From here I bring in the vibrations or the witness in and I can see there emptiness, transparency and ever changing ness. They eventually dissolve into the nothingness.
 
So eventually I kept bringing the witness and any other vibrations or waves into and watching them fade into the nothingness. It then reappears in some other part of my head and I start again. This makes me hyper focused and at times the ringing in my eyes that is light from jhanas 4 -7 gets pretty intense and I get tunnel vision.
And today after the witness got really small and dissolved again I was transmitted again to this crazy energy tunnel. I have no ability to move or even think really as I go through this for maybe 30 seconds. Then after I was taken to this other hyper focused tunnel vision area with the witness again very small and a sense to again bring it in. So I do that and again it disolves and I’d do this a few more times. This isnt’ like doing it normally. It’s in this surreal place where I have very little agency and just feel I am along for the ride. Eventually I am returned to nothingness in this really equinimous place with just me and the witness. With really no desire or feeling to desolve it. I’m just sorta there. I dissolve it a few times but then my GF came back from yoga and the dogs went crazy so I decided to stop there.
 
So my questions are:
Bringing the witness and sense of vibrations is very effortful. It sometimes gets easier with time and even sometimes its like I can’t stop it and can’t even loosen the grip I have around it bringing it closer. Not sure if that’s a sign I should keep going but this is far from the surrender talk you here about. Thoughts on that?
 
This energy tunnel vision seems like a good thing and I feel like doing all the effortful dissolving is what I should be doing. With what little agency I had during this last tunnel vision I tried to just let it take me / surrender. Is that what I should be doing?
 
I feel wherever I got spit out to this time was some phase of EQ because I’m just cool with whatever. It’s not the sense of dissolution that I have felt after an A&P, at least in my opinion. What should I be doing if I got here again?
 
My thoughts on next steps:
I want to keep doing what I’ve been doing as it sorta feels right. But its very effortful so I’m kinda interested in thoughts on that. However what I’m doing is alot like kasina (imho) and that I always felt was very effortful. I just sorta am looking for direction as I’ve needed some advice and the teacher hasn’t really given me much direction besides keep at it. Which really might be fine advice.
 
I also want to try and do some sits in a strong nothingness and not focus on The Witness to see if I can get something that is the 8th jhana or that I at least feel lines up to what I have heard so I at least know what 8th jhana is. In theory I should just get there from the witness cycling me up and down the jhanic arc however the witness doesn’t seem also that interested in that any more and I’m supposed to let it do its thing. I can however get to nothingness on my own without using the witness to access to jhanas so I might try that. Let me know if you think that's a waste of time as those are some pretty long sits closer to 2 hours to do that.
 
At no point do I think any of this was stream entry. I don’t feel like there was any missing moments or felt like a cycle or path was completed. Plus I’ve assumed my jhana access powers would increase and they are pretty much the same. So no none of this was SE.
 
So if you have read this far thank you for getting through my run on sentences. Let me know what you think is best to do. 

RE: The Witness / Frozen In Time / Vibrations / What was that?
Answer
9/10/20 8:03 AM as a reply to James.
Jhanas are not my expertise, but just a few questions...

"...the witness no longer wants to go past the 4th jhana. It makes it there and just sorta stops. It seems like it enjoys the stillness of 4th jhana. However if I then start focusing on it long enough eventually the nothingness jhana forms and then its just “me” perceiving the perceiver surrounded by nothingness."

Is it possible that this is the infinite space jhana? How are you distinquishing 5, 6, and 7 in your actual experiences?

"At the point an image was in front of me was from my point of view and my hands going through a bunch of party invitations and finding one with my name on it. Then when I found it I was zoomed into this intense vibrating energy just in front of my eyes. It was with a really small window of vision. This lasted for a think 3 minutes and then I was basically pinned down and unable to move for the next 2 or more hours as I was lead through all kinds of visions and crazy vibrations that were mentally and physically exhausting. "

I've had this happen to me during nights on retreat. It's sort of like a blend of lucid dreaming and A&P type vibrations. Does that sound similar?

"This mornings sit had me sorta pushing the witness through the jhanas to nothingness as I wanted to work more on trying to “collapse things into nothingness”. I can sorta will it to do jhanas even though you are supposed to let it do its thing. Then I switch then to full focus on it and have been bringing any vibrations and the witness as close as I can to “me” so its basically right inside my head."

This sounds too much like trying to make things happen. My guess is that there is something you don't like in the background, some feeling of ill will or aversion, that you need to see and feel more clearly.

"Bringing the witness and sense of vibrations is very effortful. It sometimes gets easier with time and even sometimes its like I can’t stop it and can’t even loosen the grip I have around it bringing it closer. Not sure if that’s a sign I should keep going but this is far from the surrender talk you here about. Thoughts on that?"

Aha, yes I think this confirms it: too much manipulation and effort.
 
"This energy tunnel vision seems like a good thing and I feel like doing all the effortful dissolving is what I should be doing. With what little agency I had during this last tunnel vision I tried to just let it take me / surrender. Is that what I should be doing?"

My experience is that when there is too much effort, the mind goes out of EQ and back to A&P. Wierd stuff happens and it's interesting but exhausting. It's NOT the right path for me. In my experience, it is one of the main indications that I'm striving, ambitious, pushing, manipulating, fighting, resisting, etc in EQ. Almost always there is a subtle feeling of inadequacy or depression or failure that is there, but I'm sorta actively trying to pretend it isn't there.

My best recommendation is to quit trying to get new jhanas and instead soak in the jhanas you have. Only 4th jhana/EQ is needed for Stream Entry. But this is your practice, so also listen to your own thoughts/feelings.

Hope this helps in some way!



RE: The Witness / Frozen In Time / Vibrations / What was that?
Answer
9/11/20 2:01 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Yes this helps alot.

I did alot more forum digging and read that frozen experiences, crazy experience and vibrations are basically A&P from over efforting. 

So I won't be doing such a forceful practice. 

I'll just continue the jhana work in a less forceful way and see where it takes me. 

Thank you for all the responses and the other posts of yours. They are always super helpful.