Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Jamie M, modified 10 Years ago.

Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/31/11 Recent Posts
Hi everyone - I am a relatively new meditator (started getting back into it June 2nd after several attempts in the past years) and I had an experience that has been nagging at me.

I was sitting in the morning on my sofa, my legs crossed and my feet on the floor, focusing on the breath at the edge of the nostrils, as described by Bhante Gunaratana. I found it very easy to follow the breath, not getting lost in thoughts. About 10 minutes into my sit, I got a cramp in my left foot, so I focused on that cramp, attempting to see the 3 Characteristics of the pain I was experiencing. The pain started to morph and change, moving around within and on the surface of the sole of my foot, and it seemed to dissolve into thousands of particles that writhed and flowed around that part of my foot. The particles eventually dissolved into nothing and the pain was gone, leaving me sitting there going "Wow! So it IS true!". It was as if something had clicked for me. I started getting tingles starting in my hands and flowing all over my body, it was quite blissful and very staggering and I came out of the sit with the biggest smile I have had on my face in a long time. I felt like I just wanted to run over to everyone I saw and just start talking to them - I felt very connected and like I could almost 'project connectedness' at people. This lasted all day and into the evening, when I bought flowers for my wife on my way home from work. Soon after arriving home the bliss ended but I still felt 'different' in some way. (My wife was angry with me about something, but I was completely imperturbable at that time and handled it really well - I just lost the bliss aspect afterwards.)

All of this has faded now and I am finding it difficult to motivate to sit. there is always some excuse, some valid and others not so valid. I am much more tired all the time and tend to snooze my alarm MUCH more in the morning.

Just to provide some background, I am in my mid thirties, a father of 2 and I have very little to no free time for meditation or other personal activities. I was trying to find time at the office to sit but that is much more difficult now. My wife knows I sit and certainly supported it when I was showing progress but I seem to have reverted now. It just seems like there is not enough time or energy in the day. I have had a lot more issues (than after I started meditating) with being reactive in the past weeks (arguments, lying to protect myself, being defensive, etc.), after this experience, and I have a vague desire to sit or do something but when I DO get my ass on the cushion I tend to just fall asleep or can't concentrate enough to really make any progress at all. It is rather frustrating.

Now, I am going to relate another experience as well, I had it a long time ago, in 1988 on a christian retreat (I went to a christian school at that time). We were doing lying meditation as a group, guided meditation. It was my first experience with meditation, but I have always been fairly apt at relaxation exercises so settled into a very deeply relaxed state quickly. I had a vision of a gigantic star of david, spinning in the horizontal plane - with me both observing the star and being present on one of the points spinning along with it. It was a very memorable experience, although I don't believe that there were any other sensations I can remember.

Some more background:

I have read MCTB recently, earlier in my life I dabbled in GD, Thelema and A.'.A.'. stuff where I had some different experiences that were significantly less profound than the ones I have listed here. I have been a seeker from about high school onwards, sometimes wondering why I was doing what I was doing when there was so much else out there to do!

So I appreciate any help in identifying these experiences that I can get from the great community here (I have been lurking for a while). I have my own theories as to what they were but I don't want to share those yet to avoid coloring any responses.

Thanks!

Jamie
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience. (Answer)

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Hiya Jamie,

As you've probably already guessed, this sounds like 3rd ñana, Knowledge of the Three Characteristics, moving into a strong 4th ñana, A&P Event. Your earlier experience sounds like a 'hard' jhana but I would avoid holding onto the memory of it too much, acknowledge it and use those memories as signposts, not the experience itself.

All of this has faded now and I am finding it difficult to motivate to sit. there is always some excuse, some valid and others not so valid. I am much more tired all the time and tend to snooze my alarm MUCH more in the morning.

This is Dissolution, 5th ñana.

Just to provide some background, I am in my mid thirties, a father of 2 and I have very little to no free time for meditation or other personal activities. I was trying to find time at the office to sit but that is much more difficult now. My wife knows I sit and certainly supported it when I was showing progress but I seem to have reverted now. It just seems like there is not enough time or energy in the day. I have had a lot more issues (than after I started meditating) with being reactive in the past weeks (arguments, lying to protect myself, being defensive, etc.), after this experience, and I have a vague desire to sit or do something but when I DO get my ass on the cushion I tend to just fall asleep or can't concentrate enough to really make any progress at all. It is rather frustrating.

You'd be surprised by how many people on here have "done it" in very similar conditions to your own; I'm 31, a father of one and can guarantee you that there are many, many ways to make progress without your ass touching the cushion. Formal sittings are essential to progress, no doubt about it, but bringing practice into daily life is surprisingly easy, wonderfully satisfying and very effective in my experience. We can talk more about that another time but, for the moment, let's stick with the difficulties you're having right now.

Dark Night is a fucking nightmare sometimes, but we've all been through it numerous times and you'll find a lot of help on here from people keen to assist others through these stage. This chapter of MCTB contains some profound and seriously helpful advice which should be read, and re-read until it sinks in as Daniel has written this beautifully moving, sincere, heartfelt piece which provides some incredible insights and potentially life-changing advice. Pay particular attention to the resolution he writes, I don't want to sound like an ass-kisser here but it is the most amazingly powerful part of the entire book and allowed me to skillfully negotiate the darkest of dark nights. If your wife is cool with you meditating and doesn't have a problem with it then it may be useful to let her read this too so that she can see that your possibly asshole-like behaviour is just a side-effect of this process which will pass soon with solid, precise and committed practice. It may even afford you a little more time to go and sit, hopefully she'll understand that this will allow these periods of negativity to pass more quickly which will be beneficial for everyone.

I have read MCTB recently, earlier in my life I dabbled in GD, Thelema and A.'.A.'. stuff where I had some different experiences that were significantly less profound than the ones I have listed here. I have been a seeker from about high school onwards, sometimes wondering why I was doing what I was doing when there was so much else out there to do!

Me too! I was a magick guy for a long time until I found that vipassana is considerably more effective and efficient for making progress along the Path. It's great to be able to practice with having to remember which page in "777" you can find the gematric interpretation of some Greek god-name! emoticon

So I appreciate any help in identifying these experiences that I can get from the great community here (I have been lurking for a while). I have my own theories as to what they were but I don't want to share those yet to avoid coloring any responses.

Feel free to state your case if you have an idea of where you are, either way you can get a lot of good advice from a lot of different folks on here. If you're wrong then it's an opportunity to learn so there's nothing be to lost.

Good luck with your practice, and I hope this was of use to you.

T
Jamie M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/31/11 Recent Posts
Hi Tommy, and thanks for the reply!

I agree with your assessment, 3rd ñana into A&P and Dark Night - I just wan't really sure if it was A&P or something else. To be completely honest, as I was writing the post it became more obvious to me. Since I am pretty new to this I appreciate the help.

You'd be surprised by how many people on here have "done it" in very similar conditions to your own; I'm 31, a father of one and can guarantee you that there are many, many ways to make progress without your ass touching the cushion. Formal sittings are essential to progress, no doubt about it, but bringing practice into daily life is surprisingly easy, wonderfully satisfying and very effective in my experience. We can talk more about that another time but, for the moment, let's stick with the difficulties you're having right now.


Tommy I am very much interested in talking about this, would be better to do so in another thread, or do you have any threads that you can point me to? I sat last night before bed (was up until almost 1:30 AM) and it went better than it has recently. Now, as i am sitting here writing this post I am feeling some unpleasant vibrations (I am not sure if that is the right word!) in my body, legs, lower back and all around - I am going to try and go sit outside for a bit, see if I can work it out (I am not sure if it is related.) I am actually feeling a bit excited about it? Perhaps posting my message and getting a response was the kick in the behind that I needed.

Thank you for posting the link to that chapter in MCTB - I have just finished my first reading of the book and am reread that chapter now and I agree that it is helpful for cultivating some perspective.

Good luck with your practice, and I hope this was of use to you.


It was, very much.

Thank you again.

Jamie
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bill of the wandering mind, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience. (Answer)

Posts: 131 Join Date: 4/14/11 Recent Posts
Tommy has some solid advice. I'm in about the same boat as you are so I can't add much but I would say having a good solid daily on and off-the-cushion practice at this point is needed, and having access to a good teacher is helpful. It can be useful to create a practice thread if you can avoid analysis and just stick with what occurs, and it has been helpful to me to see other people's threads (ahh yes other people have been here and lived so I might too) here and over at KFD.
Jamie M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/31/11 Recent Posts
Ok - I just had another experience that I want to get some input on. I am not very skilled at identifying stages yet, and so I appreciate the help.

I was feeling some definite feelings of disgust, like a low grade nausea, so I decided to sit with it and see what came of it.

I started sitting with this nausea feeling in my lower back, upper legs, etc., tried to get comfortable sitting outside in the sunshine on a chair. I concentrated on the breath at the rim of the nostril at first and that transitioned smoothly into whole-body breathing on it's own. After some time I started feeling concentrated, my posture actually improved quite a bit but I still had this nauseated feeling going on, not in the forefront but just very much in the background.
At this point I started noting (this is new for me - I usually just try to be wordlessly aware of what is going on, trying to just be present for the sensations.) but it was very difficult to stay consistent. Before long it felt like everything was moving very quickly around and through me and I had the sensation of moving through a thick liquid - Like I was slowing down while all of these things were just flying around and I had to drop the noting and just try to be aware.
I started getting tingling sensations in hands and arms, radiating down to my hands from my elbows until I lost touch with my arms and my fingertips felt like they were floating in space. The sensations on my fingertips were strong. I focused on this sensation - it was fairly pleasant. The strange tensions in my back and legs was still there.
This pleasant sensation moved up through my body in a very real way as in the hands and arms were now feeling normal again as it flowed up my neck into my head and became a strong pressure in my sinuses, at the roots of my teeth. My heart started pounding, lots of edginess, anxiety almost - I really felt quite bad and on the edge of tears! Very strong pressure behind the eyes, my eyes wanted to roll back and I found myself resisting this. Once I noticed the resistance I told myself to let it go and as i did so my body relaxed but the pressure remained, although not as intense.

My alarm went off and jolted me out of the 35 min sit - I could have easily sat longer and I felt like I was just getting into something, I needed to get back to work so I sat for a couple minutes until I felt normal enough to go inside.

As far as thoughts go - There were some, some though-movies I was playing. Got lost maybe 3 times (that I eventually became aware of). NO sleepiness, which is very odd for me.

Afterwards I have lots of tension in my upper back, my neck, my face and behind my eyes, and it comes and goes. The ringing in my ears slightly more pronounced.

The emotions I was experiencing, when the pressure was behind the eyes, it was very overwhelming, I almost wanted to cry? I don't know, it was very strong. It felt like my eyes were going to literally turn around in their sockets. Not pleasant, all very edgy, like my head was pulling off of my body.

If I were to self-diagnose this (with my very limited experience and knowledge!) I would say I started with Disgust and moved back to another AP event back into Dissolution.

This all seems very strange to me as I expected it to be much more difficult (as in EFFORT) to pass through these stages. I know it may require a lot of effort to get out of the DN and onward, but still I am really doubting the validity of these experiences here. Has anyone else had these things happen so quickly and with so little real formal cushion time? I feel like it is happening almost all by itself!

Thank you in advance for any input!

Jamie
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Eran G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience. (Answer)

Posts: 182 Join Date: 1/5/10 Recent Posts
Hi Jamie,

That last description definitely sounds like a dark night sit.

Jamie M:
Ok - I just had another experience that I want to get some input on. I am not very skilled at identifying stages yet, and so I appreciate the help.


No need to get too hung up on identifying the stages. You can let the stages resolve themselves. Your job is to be present for whatever arises and to see the three characteristics in whatever arises.


Jamie M:

At this point I started noting (this is new for me - I usually just try to be wordlessly aware of what is going on, trying to just be present for the sensations.) but it was very difficult to stay consistent. Before long it felt like everything was moving very quickly around and through me and I had the sensation of moving through a thick liquid - Like I was slowing down while all of these things were just flying around and I had to drop the noting and just try to be aware.


The thick soupy feeling is typical of dark night.

Jamie M:

I started getting tingling sensations in hands and arms, radiating down to my hands from my elbows until I lost touch with my arms and my fingertips felt like they were floating in space. The sensations on my fingertips were strong. I focused on this sensation - it was fairly pleasant. The strange tensions in my back and legs was still there.
This pleasant sensation moved up through my body in a very real way as in the hands and arms were now feeling normal again as it flowed up my neck into my head and became a strong pressure in my sinuses, at the roots of my teeth. My heart started pounding, lots of edginess, anxiety almost - I really felt quite bad and on the edge of tears! Very strong pressure behind the eyes, my eyes wanted to roll back and I found myself resisting this. Once I noticed the resistance I told myself to let it go and as i did so my body relaxed but the pressure remained, although not as intense.


This sounds like a combination of samadhi related experiences (pleasant tingling) and dark night stuff (everything else). I've experienced some periods of strong concentration while in the dark night, it tends to make the overall experience easier to digest. IMO a key moment here is when you recognize the body/mind's natural resistance and relaxed. This kind of experience can show you exactly how suffering works, how it is perpetuated and how it is liberated.

Jamie M:

The emotions I was experiencing, when the pressure was behind the eyes, it was very overwhelming, I almost wanted to cry? I don't know, it was very strong. It felt like my eyes were going to literally turn around in their sockets. Not pleasant, all very edgy, like my head was pulling off of my body.


This period of practice can be very unpleasant, even jarring at times. stay with the sensations, see them arising and passing, see the unsatisfactoriness in everything. keep going!

Jamie M:

This all seems very strange to me as I expected it to be much more difficult (as in EFFORT) to pass through these stages. I know it may require a lot of effort to get out of the DN and onward, but still I am really doubting the validity of these experiences here. Has anyone else had these things happen so quickly and with so little real formal cushion time? I feel like it is happening almost all by itself!


What if it's easier than you think it is? What if this process is just as much a part of you as anything else?

HTH,
Eran.
Jamie M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/31/11 Recent Posts
Thanks Eran for the reply, it was very helpful!

I think that what I really need to do now is just sit as much as I can, take care of myself and work my way through it. Perhaps I will even start a practice thread once I get things started again.

I appreciate all of the help with identifying what was going on, I am much clearer on where I am and what is the way out and up emoticon

Take care, all of you.

Jamie
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: Relatively new meditator: Strange pain related experience.

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Tommy I am very much interested in talking about this, would be better to do so in another thread, or do you have any threads that you can point me to?

Apologies for the delay in replying, I completely forgot about that! I'll post a few links to my own practice threads, the ones on KFD have more day-to-day content stuff as I experimented quite a bit with posting reports:

First practice thread.
KFD Thread 1
KFD Thread 2

There's some more stuff but I think those kinda document how I went about things. As for specific suggestions or things you can do in daily life, here's a few things which I've found incredibly useful:

1. Try the technique Daniel talks about in MCTB where you try to note when the attention is on the front and back of the head. You can do this while you're on the bus, waiting for the kettle to boil, taking a dump, or anywhere you can get a few minutes of relative quietness. Doing this while you're somewhere noisier, like on public transport or whatever, is a good practice to really test your ability to lock into the sensate level and it will help your concentration too but start out somewhere quiet at first.

2. Bring noting into your daily life, enlightenment is found in what's already here and it's only when we paste these crude perceptual filters over it that the water gets muddied. Every sensation is fair game, I found a lot of sensations coming up during my day that wouldn't show up in practice, but when it comes down to it you're looking at how each and every one is temporary, empty and creates more suffering. That's it. 3C's.

3. Concentration practice is also great fun to bring into your day, as is working with the "I Am"/the Witness via asking "Who am I?". When you're familiar with the jhanas you start to see how many jhana-like states we go into every day without giving it a second though. Anapanasati is always a winner, even just five minutes while you're sitting in traffic goes towards building the momentum required for stream entry.

There's loads of ways you can do this, and hopefully some others will be able to chime in with their suggestions. Nick Halay did a good blog on the subject of "The Lifestyle Approach" which might be worth a read [1]. I'd say that Kenneth Folk's site probably has more vipassana practitioners who bring the practice into their day than you'll find here although there's sometimes less emphasis on the technical points.

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