Energetic event with possible reverberations

Catalin, modified 4 Months ago.

Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 10 Join Date: 9/25/20 Recent Posts
Hello,

A bit of background:

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I worked with mostly shamatha practices for about 2000 hours (maybe a bit under this). Tried noting practices and some kriya yoga on the side, but not to any considerable extent.

I'm currently doing an at-home course under the guidance of a Mahasi (Tong style) instructor. I've been doing about 1-2 hours a day of formal noting for almost 3 months.

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While meditating, I've been seeing a colored, slightly luminous disc (can go from purple to yellow to white). The instructor told me to note it until it goes away. Recently he pointed out that I might be shifting to the "rising-falling" too early, and not really staying with the visual phenomenon until it goes away on its own.

Last night I started noting the phenomenon with  "seeing, seeing" and it started to intensify, going from purple to white, becoming more luminous and filling the entire visual field. The sense of the body started becoming more fluid and spacey. At that point my narrative mind got excited and started to anticipate something. This made the effect regress.

I went back to rising-falling-sitting-touching, and very quickly, the colored disc appeared again. I started to note it, and I noticed the intention to see when the disc really changes. This caused the noting to get faster and faster and it felt like I was seeing successive snapshots of the disc appearing in front of the last closer and closer to my face or center of perception.

It felt like I was being pulled through a tunnel towards the visual images. When I got to feel it inside my head, my eyes rolled up sharply, and started twitching. I was noting "seeing, seeing, pulsing, pulsing, seeing, pulsing" with machine-gun speed. Felt electric energy going through my limbs, especially in my palms. It was pleasant for the first few seconds but got too intense very soon.

I had the perception of excitement and danger (of kind of frying something in me) and quickly I found myself squinching my eyes and tensing my forehead. This stopped the speed and intensity. The image got darker, and I was just noticing afterimages of the disc afterward. I started breathing very deeply all of a sudden. Don't really remember breathing turing the twitching phase, probably it was very subtle.

Afterward, I felt slightly euphoric and my energy level went quite up. I was a bit hyperactive.

When trying to go to sleep I heard a loud explosion-like internal sound. A bit later, I felt the transition between a hypnogogic state and deep sleep, got startled, and woke up a bit excited. I've experienced these phenomena during sleep at times in the past, after more mild energetic events. I've had milder versions of these when going to bed more excited / agitated.

My questions would be:

Do you think the phenomenon while meditating, or the sleeping symptoms can be problematic? Are they related? Am I causing them through some part of my approach? Any way to make the experiences milder?

Many thanks!
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Oatmilk, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 81 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Yes - meditation and sleep are related. I'd go much slower on the noting technique. With meditation you are messing around with your central nervous system, while yes this is the goal of meditation, you want to pursuit this goal slowly. Involuntary movements, energetic phenmena in the face, lights and sounds are a sign for me to slow down, or change the technique. This can go the other way around too, leading you into psychosis. 
Be careful. You shouldn't underestimate the Mahasi technique and maniac noting is not the way forward - I'd suggest you read Shargrol's posts on Mahasi Noting. 
Good luck. 
-O
Catalin, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 10 Join Date: 9/25/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for the suggestions, O! I wasn't really intending to note fast, I kind of fell into it at that time. Typically, I go with a medium steady speed and rarely push it.

I'll be honest and admit that there is part of me that wants to go through the process fast, so it might manifest at points as pushing the intensity. I'll keep an eye out for it and try to keep it in check.

I'll have a look through Shargrol's posts on noting. Really enjoyed his contributions on r/streamentry and a bit from what I saw on the compilation blog.
agnostic, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 1256 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Sounds like a nimitta. Ajahn Brahm talks about them a lot in his book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond. He also mentions the anxiety reaction that can arise due to a fear of getting swallowed by the nimitta. Sounds like you have strong concentration so all sorts of strange things can happen. Hypnagogic affects are common as well. If you want a smoother ride then you could ease off on the heavy concentration practice a little and try more gentle grounding practices as well. 
agnostic, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 1256 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Maybe I was being a little cautious. It sounds like you are basically ok with what's going on, even if it's a little
uncomfortable, and can see it on a continuum with the milder versions. If that's correct ok then a more direct approach is just to keep noting as you are doing with a little more focus on the sensations of excitement, anticipation and danger. Also the sensations around the meta-narrative of feeling anxious or threatened and wanting a milder experience. If you can see it as "just anxiety" which comes and goes like any other experience then that's a big step forward. Try to frame it as an opporunity rather than a threat. You could even ask yourself, who or what exactly is being threatened here? Something brought you to this place and now something wants to get away from it ...
agnostic, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 1256 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
May be worth (re)reading Mahasi's Progress of Insight - Chapter 5 of this book. It's pretty intensive, but it's the manual ...

Odd experiences
As concentration grows stronger, you may experience unbearable pain in your body. You may feel strong pressure, as if an airbag were being inflated inside your chest, a sharp pain, as if being stabbed with a dagger, a stinging pain, as if being pricked with many small needles, or an overall irritation, as if insects were crawling all over your body. You may feel fierce heat, severe itchiness, unbearable aching, extreme cold, or a variety of other unpleasant sensations.
     If a meditator becomes frightened and stops noting when any of these kinds of extreme sensations occur, he or she will find that they immediately disappear. But they will generally reappear when his or her noting becomes strong again. A meditator should not be afraid of encountering any of these kinds of experiences. These are not signs of some serious disease; they are ordinary sensations that we often have in our bodies. We rarely notice them, however, because our attention is usually occupied with more obvious sensations. It is actually the strength of our concentration that makes them obvious in this way. So you needn’t worry that something is wrong. Simply continue to note the sensation in order to overcome it. If a meditator stops noting, he or she may end up encountering the same kind of sensation every time concentration becomes strong. If you note it with patience and perseverance, though, at some point it will suddenly disappear for good.
If you feel like your body wants to sway, note it as “wanting to sway.” If your body starts to actually sway, note it as “swaying, swaying.” If a meditator finds him- or herself swaying unintentionally, he or she should not be afraid of it, nor should he or she encourage it. You simply continue noting it, steadily and gradually, as “swaying, swaying,” confident that it will disappear if noted. If the swaying becomes very strong, you can practice while sitting against a wall or other firm support, or while lying down; the swaying will soon entirely cease. Follow the same procedure if you experience trembling in the body. Sometimes you may get goose bumps or a chill may run up your back or through your whole body. You needn’t be afraid of this; it’s just rapture brought on by your meditation. Sometimes any sound you hear may cause fear to arise. You needn’t fear this either; it’s just that your sensitivity to mental contact has become very keen as a result of strong concentration.
...

Mental states
If a meditator has been practicing for a long time and is not making any progress, he or she may become lazy. Note that as “lazy, lazy.” When mindfulness, concentration, and special insight knowledges have yet to arise, you may assume that noting gets you nowhere, and so doubt will arise. Note this as “doubting, doubting.” At times, a meditator may hope for smoother practice or some special experience. Note that as “hoping, hoping.” If you reflect on previous practice, note it as “reflecting.” If you wonder whether the object is mental or physical, note that as “wondering.” Sometimes when practice doesn’t go smoothly, you may feel frustrated. Note that as “frustrated, frustrated.” Sometimes when you find that practice is going well, you may feel happy. Note that as “happy, happy.”
     A meditator should note all mental states in this way, whenever they arise, and then continue to note the primary object.
...

Effects of concentration
As concentration grows particularly strong, you may experience a variety of unpleasant feelings, such as itchiness, heat, aches and pains, a feeling of heaviness or tightness, and so on. These often disappear immediately if you stop noting and tend to reappear when noting is resumed. Such feelings are not a sign of any kind of disease. The practice itself is what causes them to appear. So a meditator shouldn’t fear them but should focus exclusively on these feelings, noting them persistently, and they will gradually weaken and fade away.
...

Seeing the three characteristics
...
After you inferentially realize the arising and passing away of all phenomena, you will simply be aware of whatever arises without any further analysis. The five mental faculties—faith, energy, mindfulness, concentration, and wisdom—will then fall into harmony, and the noting mind manual of insight will become quicker than ever before. Your object—that is, mental and physical phenomena—will also appear extremely quickly.
...
Mental and physical phenomena arise and pass away much faster than the twinkling of an eye or a flash of lightning. But when your insight knowledge matures, you will be able to clearly perceive each fleeting phenomena without missing a single one by simply being aware of them from moment to moment. Your mindfulness will become so strong it will seem as if it rushes into the object that arises; it will seem as if objects fall into the noting mind. The knowing mind, too, will clearly and distinctly know each
and every single object that arises. You might even think: “Phenomena are arising and passing away instantaneously; their appearance and disappearance are very fast, like a machine running at full speed. Yet I am able to perceive them all from moment to moment. I don’t think I am missing anything or that there’s anything else that I should be aware of.”
     This is the personally experienced insight knowledge that we cannot even dream of.

Distractions from the path

Due to the momentum of this insight knowledge you are likely to see a bright light or experience rapture as a result of being greatly delighted with both the noting mind and the noted objects.
...
A meditator may like any of the pleasant experiences that occur—the bright light, good mindfulness, insight, rapture, and so on. This liking will cause him or her to think: “This practice is exceedingly enjoyable!” He or she may really enjoy the practice. But do not waste time enjoying the bright light and other pleasant experiences. Instead, whenever they arise, note them as “brightness, comfort, knowing, reflecting, venerating, happiness, liking, delight,” and so on, according to whatever you experience.
      If you notice brightness, note it as “bright, bright.” If you think that you see it, note it as “seeing, seeing” until it disappears. You may often forget to note bright light and other pleasant experiences because you are so happy to experience them. Although you are noting, the light may not disappear very quickly because you are delighting in it. Only after experiencing it many times will you be able to note it skillfully enough that it disappears quickly. For some meditators, light is so powerful that even if they note it for a long time, it doesn’t disappear; it remains. In this case, ignore the light completely and divert your attention to some other mental or physical object. Do not think about whether the light is still bright. If you do, you will find that it is. Any thoughts about the light should be noted so precisely that your awareness of them is very clear and firm. Since your concentration will have become very powerful, other unusual objects besides bright light can arise if you incline your mind toward them. Do not let the mind incline in this way. If you do, quickly note it until it disappears. Some meditators see various kinds of faint shapes and forms arise one after another, like the linked carriages of a train. If this happens, note it as “seeing, seeing.” With each noting, an object will disappear. If your insight weakens, the shapes and forms will tend to become more pronounced. But if you note them closely, each object will disappear on the spot as it is noted. Eventually they will stop coming.
     To delight in bright light and other pleasant experiences is to be on the wrong path. The correct path of insight is to just continue noting. If you keep this in mind and carry on noting mental and physical phenomena that actually arise, your awareness will grow clearer and clearer. You will clearly see the sudden appearance and disappearance of phenomena. Every time you note, you will see each object arising and passing away on the spot. A meditator clearly sees that successive occurrences are distinct from one another, break up bit by bit, and cease. Thus every object you note helps you to realize impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and not-self.
     After practicing for quite a while, a meditator may feel satisfied with his or her practice and take a break every now and again, thinking: “It can’t get any better than this. There can’t be anything else special to experience.” But you should not just relax whenever you want. Instead, you should practice for longer and longer periods without taking a break.

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Siavash, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 1092 Join Date: 5/5/19 Recent Posts
Thank you George for this quote. It was very comforting.

As concentration grows stronger, you may experience unbearable pain in your body. You may feel strong pressure, as if an airbag were being inflated inside your chest, a sharp pain, as if being stabbed with a dagger, a stinging pain, as if being pricked with many small needles, or an overall irritation, as if insects were crawling all over your body. You may feel fierce heat, severe itchiness, unbearable aching, extreme cold, or a variety of other unpleasant sensations.


Interestingly enough, I have the whole package everyday, plus some other odd sensations. It's interesting how we forget things we know, and we need reminding over and over again.
Catalin, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 10 Join Date: 9/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for the detailed and attentive replies! Also for the highlights in the manual! I actually have it printed out - it's the same in Manual of Insight and Practical Insight Meditation. Thanks for the pointer! I'll be more diligent and go through it again, especially the points that are salient for my practice now.

Regarding the nimitta, I've had moments when I was absorbed by it in previous sessions (kind of like getting sucked into a vortex), but it was more mellow and pleasant, without the aspect of danger. I was trying to move my attention away from it, but it just returned to it in a moment or two. The mind was really enjoying it for some reason. Started getting these quite recently. Usually, when I had jhana access, it was the whole-body or pleasure variety, lacking a very distinct nimitta, or the nimitta not being a central focus.
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Zachary, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 196 Join Date: 3/16/18 Recent Posts
Catalin:

While meditating, I've been seeing a colored, slightly luminous disc (can go from purple to yellow to white). The instructor told me to note it until it goes away. Recently he pointed out that I might be shifting to the "rising-falling" too early, and not really staying with the visual phenomenon until it goes away on its own.

Last night I started noting the phenomenon with  "seeing, seeing" and it started to intensify, going from purple to white, becoming more luminous and filling the entire visual field. The sense of the body started becoming more fluid and spacey. At that point my narrative mind got excited and started to anticipate something. This made the effect regress.

I went back to rising-falling-sitting-touching, and very quickly, the colored disc appeared again. I started to note it, and I noticed the intention to see when the disc really changes. This caused the noting to get faster and faster and it felt like I was seeing successive snapshots of the disc appearing in front of the last closer and closer to my face or center of perception.

It felt like I was being pulled through a tunnel towards the visual images. When I got to feel it inside my head, my eyes rolled up sharply, and started twitching. I was noting "seeing, seeing, pulsing, pulsing, seeing, pulsing" with machine-gun speed. Felt electric energy going through my limbs, especially in my palms. It was pleasant for the first few seconds but got too intense very soon.

I had the perception of excitement and danger (of kind of frying something in me) and quickly I found myself squinching my eyes and tensing my forehead. This stopped the speed and intensity. The image got darker, and I was just noticing afterimages of the disc afterward. I started breathing very deeply all of a sudden. Don't really remember breathing turing the twitching phase, probably it was very subtle.

Afterward, I felt slightly euphoric and my energy level went quite up. I was a bit hyperactive.

When trying to go to sleep I heard a loud explosion-like internal sound. A bit later, I felt the transition between a hypnogogic state and deep sleep, got startled, and woke up a bit excited. I've experienced these phenomena during sleep at times in the past, after more mild energetic events. I've had milder versions of these when going to bed more excited / agitated.

My questions would be:

Do you think the phenomenon while meditating, or the sleeping symptoms can be problematic? Are they related? Am I causing them through some part of my approach? Any way to make the experiences milder?



Hi Catalin, 

The phenomena you mention is common at different stages of practice, what you write is diagnostic of A&P territory. It can be pretty wild, anxiety-inducing and mind-blowing if you've never encountered such things before, but it's just more phenomena to be noted. It sounds like you've got your wits about you right now, so I don't think there's anything to be too worried about as long as you keep checking in with your teacher. You might benefit from starting a journal here too, if you want. 

The usual rule applies that if you want less unusual meditation stuff to happen or feel it's overwhelming your system, you can always just back off practice (especially insight/noting practice) for a while and go do regular everyday stuff. You can also try more grounding and embodied practices that soothe and regulate your body and nervous system.

In the past when it felt like I was beginning to fry myself (on or off retreat) I usually reduced my practice time and did other things like exercise, hang out with friends/family, hike in the woods, yoga, etc. Eventually, by putting in the time and experimenting with lots of different approaches to practice, you start to get a taste for when to push a bit or back off and chill out.  

Also, as far as the explosion sounds, I'd say it's probably some mild form of "Exploding Head Syndrome", which is also diagnostic of A&P territory. It's pretty common and it's happened to me a few times in the past (sometimes comically accompanied by vivid images of mushroom clouds, etc.) 
Catalin, modified 4 Months ago.

RE: Energetic event with possible reverberations

Posts: 10 Join Date: 9/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks for sharing about your experience, really helps to normalize. As you suggested, I'll have a look at how I dial in the intensity. There such a thing as pushing too hard.

Logging here sounds like a good idea. I'll go for it.

Interesting to see the Exploding Head Syndrome link. It's not really troubling (had the experiences less than ten times, I think), though it can be annoying.

I've been neglecting my sleep schedule a bit also, I'll see if I can course correct.

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