What was that?

james, modified 6 Months ago.

What was that?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
After a longer sit than I would usually do. 90 minutes or so I felt that it came to a point where there weren't any lingering sensations or noting, it just kind of stopped. There were subtle things still rising up and I felt them kind of break like glass and there was nothing. I couldn't tell you for how long or what nothing was as I don't really have a memory of it but in the moment, it was like a 'blip'. Time did pass but I wasn't aware of it. Nothing too intense at that moment until I opened my eyes and 'reality' didn't really come back as it normaly would. I usually wiggle my fingers and toes and feel like I come back into my body. It was like I couldn't get back to it. 

I was absolutely terrified. Fear just hit me like a brick wall and I went right into a panic attack. I tried to calm down for a hour or so and felt like I didn't want to meditate again to try to calm down. I went back and sat down to meditate anyways and went right back to where I was again. It usually takes me 30 or so minutes to really get to a place where the mind slows. It then became very very intense physically to the point where I don't think I've ever experienced anything like it other than what I think to be the A&P back in the fall. I couldn't handle it anymore and by the evening I had dug out some old anxiety meds from a drawer as I thought I needed to go to the hospital. 

Three days later I'm still feeling that fear. It's like I got a taste of what it means to actually let go of the 'self' and it freaked the hell out of me. I have the feeling of 'Do I want this??' 'How does this affect my marriage, life, everything?'. It feels a bit like I've opened pandora's box and want to close it desperately. I tried to meditate this morning and just couldn't get into it at all. I switched to a more loving kindness meditation and kept it light and felt like I didn't want to get anywhere near anything insight based. 

Is this something you've experienced?
Olivier, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 733 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Hi James (my grandfather's name !),

Not always easy to identify things but if you told us about your practice history, the frameworks you are familiar with, techniques used, previous experiences/events/changes you might have had, it might help us make more sense of this.

It could be several things - a formless realm, a weird one off freak out, something to do with your own psychological make up i guess (do you have a history with anxiety ?)...

However the first thing that comes to mind for me is dissolution, and then the classic freak out at things being all dissolved and weird. 

Let us know a bit more emoticon

Cheers
Tim Farrington, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Hi James, and welcome to DhO. You sure jumped right in at the deep end of the pool!

Amen to what Olivier said about wanting to know more about your history and context. This is something that on the surface of it as you've presented it here could be a genuine, very strong experience of "dissolution" in a meditative context, and could just be something to work with meditatively, at a pace you can stand. (My standard in meditation stuff is "as much as I can stand," but you really have to be honest with yourself.) Given the degree of the panic attack response and you getting as far as wondering whether to go to the hospital, your psychiatric history is a determining factor now. I speak as a life-long bipolar disorder guy, with hospitalizations at points toward both the depressive and the manic end of the spectrum; and, lol, yes, as one who has been meditating his entire adult life too. 

The thing is, the meditation path leads us, inevitably, to emptiness. You had a very disorienting and terrifying taste of emptiness. The reason the path is so long and takes so much work is largely because of how much work it takes for the human person to accept that emptiness and its implications, and for the brain and mind and heart to re-order and attune to that emptiness and its implications. The spiritual path in a lot of ways is the work of acclimatizing to emptiness. But job one for you here is to not let this taste of emptiness fuck you up, psychologically, psychiatrically, and functionally in general. Trust your anxiety here, given your history, and take every necessary step you can to address it. There 's plenty of time to get emptiness right, we're all working on it here. But getting it wrong can really mess up your life. So first, do not harm here, to yourself first of all. So far so good, yes?
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Chris Marti, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 3994 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Three days later I'm still feeling that fear. It's like I got a taste of what it means to actually let go of the 'self' and it freaked the hell out of me. I have the feeling of 'Do I want this??' 'How does this affect my marriage, life, everything?'


Hi, James.

I've been there. So scared by meditative experiences that I swore off meditating, questioned my sanity (or lack thereof), and wondered why hell I ever got into the process in the first place. This fear is overwhelming and convincing. But really, it's our first brush with the power of our mind, and these experiences show us just how much of our moment to moment experience is mind-created. I got over my fear because my desire to fix my relationship to ongoing experience required me to traverse these occurrences. And boy oh boy, I'm so happy I stuck with meditation because it's been a huge benefit to my life for many years.

You are likely not in any danger of truly going insane but you are now closer to seeing how your experience is constructed. That was what first scared me, but it turns out that's one of the biggest, most important and powerful realizations you will ever have.

If you can't shake the fear, talk to us some more, tell us more about your practice and consider seeing someone professionally who can help you with the fear.

Good luck, and stay in touch!
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 1979 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
"However the first thing that comes to mind for me is dissolution, and then the classic freak out at things being all dissolved and weird. "

+1 on this. 

Dissolution was a freak out for me too. My otherwise pleasant and rapturous Shamatha was utterly ravaged and torn to bits and pieces was not pleasant at all. I had no idea what was going on. Back then I knew nothing about the Map of Insight. I continued meditating through this just to end in Equanimity Nana which felt so great I was clinging to it will all my being as it felt so "safe"! But this clinging resulted in me being catapulted back into the worst Reobservation ever so I gave up on meditation and gave up on this quest , as Chris said, what a terrible idea this meditation was. However once you cross A&P there is no way back. Point of no return. I had to face all this at some point. Many years later I did exactly that. Thankfully. 

So it's a normal development on this path. Nothing to worry about. But if you do have traumas maybe coupling meditation with talking therapy could be of benefit as freak outs can happen and they can feel nasty. 

You do seem to be getting attention of some fine folks here in your thread which I'm sure will be of benefit to you emoticon 

Good thing is that you are not alone in this emoticon 
Olivier, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 733 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Yea, and let me add, about things becoming inevitable, it's more like you are now not able to escape the snakes which scare you, and you're gonna have to look at them, but the thing is, they're not snakes, they're sticks, and so, this is good news, not bad !
Tim Farrington, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
Well, some of them are snakes, lol. Learning curves and discernment, and a good snake-bite kit to get you through the learning curve on discernment.
Olivier, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 733 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Right. But, 'the snakes are not snakes - that's why we call them snakes'. :p
James, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 11/30/20 Recent Posts
Thank you all so very very much. I really appreciate the time it takes to formulate a response and feel honored to have you all understand and help me with this. This has been a very lonely road for me as I really haven't found a place where I can candidly talk about this stuff. I am grateful to have found DhO and the people here that seem to not have a chip on their shoulder about this stuff. I couldn't care less to having an ego about this stuff or care what attainments people claim to have. It's seems you are all genuinely here to help each other down the path which I appreciate deeply. The responses are all valued and I've read over them multiple times and will continue to do so. Let me give you a bit more information to help fill out the bigger picture.

I started meditating 20ish years ago as a treatment for depression and didn’t have any training in traditional techniques. Since then, I've done a lot of work on myself through therapy but definitely still struggle but thankfully not nearly as bad as when I was younger. I was into self help books along the lines of Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, John Kabat-Zin, etc. Nothing in the traditional sense of meditation practice other than what I had experienced for myself. I only now realize what I was doing and that the experiences had names to them. I had seen a video pre-YouTube days of a monk talking about walking meditation and ‘labeling’ things that come up. Now learning these as ‘sensations’ and ‘noting’ I now look back quite fondly at the time where I didn’t know the names to things I and just sat and observed. Saying that I really appreciate the dharma as I’m starting down a path where I desperately need the guidance.

Enter March 2020, I get Covid-19. 3 months later end up in the hospital cause I can't breathe. Eventually sent home with 'Long Covid'. So now I’m locked in my house, have chronic fatigue, and a head full of uncertainty about my future. I turn to back to meditation after it waning over the years. I come across Frank Yang which led me to Daniel Ingram and found an audiobook of MCTB and Pandora’s box opened up in the following months. All the meditation I had been doing for the last 20 years made sense. It had structure. It had a path. Please forgive my lack of understanding of a lot of the terminology as I feel like I'm filling in the blanks for things I've experience over the years.

I find that I have energy in the mornings and that I really like being awake before the world wakes up. My wife is asleep. Traffic is quiet. No where to go. Perfect. In around October I would guess I crossed the A&P after a crazy high energy meditation where I felt like I turned into a phoenix and exploded into fire and light. Since I'm not now a super enlightened being I would guess A&P or someone snuck some good drugs into my tea.

I went into a time of not wanting to do anything anymore. My career seemed pointless; my life seemed like it was pointless to keep filling it with 'stuff'. I wanted to run off in the mountains and sit under a tree. I found Steve James (Guru Viking) and joined his meditation club once a week. He got me onto Shinzen Young, things like the 10 bulls/ox idea of a Bodhisattva, the idea of the journey, a return to society, and to not throw it all away. It seems common for people to want to change everything when you get into this territory. I've only recently found Daniel's mind maps and kind of went, "oohhhhhhhh i seeee".

Questions:

1. How did going down this path affect your marriage/relationships? My wife is ... concerned. It's really hard to talk to anyone that isn't into this as saying things like, 'It feels like dying before dying' and 'James is slowly disappearing' really freaks them out. She's a bit like, 'Where does that leave me in all of this?'. I don't have a clear answer which is enough for me to want to put on the brakes and never sit again.

2. What can you do to 'stay on the rails' and not give it all up?

3. Why should I keep doing this? I am getting the feeling of losing the purpose of it all. Right now it seems more detrimental than anything. I do understand that is part of the path but disidentifying with the self on paper isn't all too appealing to the ego that has to die to get there.

More details into my average sit: 

Stretching and exercise
Breathing (Wim Hof)
Long out breath vocalizing “ahhhh”
Rapid noting
Body attention / scanning
First Jhana, “Feeling good”
Somewhat spontaneous rapid breathing
Jhanas 2-4
Slow noting
Insight / 3 characteristics
Rapid noting (sometimes shaking, twitching, high energy, thousands of tiny pin pricks of sensations)
Optional Jhanas 5/6, 7/8 - unsure
Alternating between subtle breath awareness and nothingness
NEW! Sustained nothingness (No perceived attention or activity)
Fear! Jesus H-Christ why fuck am I doing this?

Currently reading:

MCTB2 by Daniel Ingram
When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön
Seeing That Frees by Rob Burbea
The Science of Enlightenment: Shinzen Young
The Mind Illuminated: Culadasa John Yates
Practical Insight Meditation by Mahasi Sayadaw
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Chris Marti, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 3994 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
James - my replies to your questions:

How did going down this path affect your marriage/relationships? My wife is ... concerned. It's really hard to talk to anyone that isn't into this as saying things like, 'It feels like dying before dying' and 'James is slowly disappearing' really freaks them out. She's a bit like, 'Where does that leave me in all of this?'. I don't have a clear answer which is enough for me to want to put on the brakes and never sit again?


My wife was not thrilled that I took to meditation. She saw it as time away from family. It took some number of months to do, but I slowly introduced her to the notion that I was meditating to improve my family relationships. I gave her some of my books to read. We talked about the purpose and the process of meditation, and I chose times to sit that were unobtrusive to our family setting and our usual time together. And thus the hurdle was overcome. 

I did not share and I'm still careful about what I do share, in regard to the deeper realizations that practice brings. You can't ask someone who loves you to grok what you're doing by telling them you're trying to dissolve your ego, kill your "self," and the like. Don't do that! You'll be freaking her out.

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What can you do to 'stay on the rails' and not give it all up?


I was so deeply into figuring out how my mind works and solving my life-long "being out of sync with experience" issue that I never actually had this problem. Curiosity was my biggest motivator.

Why should I keep doing this? I am getting the feeling of losing the purpose of it all. Right now it seems more detrimental than anything. I do understand that is part of the path but disidentifying with the self on paper isn't all too appealing to the ego that has to die to get there.


See my previous answer. Also, it turns out that while the process can be painful at times the fruit of meditation is wonderful, liberating, and extremely useful in all parts of my life.
agnostic, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 1879 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I learned to put my family first and meditate in whatever time was left. Actually I made more progress doing that than chiseling time away from my family to meditate more. Currently I go to bed early and meditate in the middle of the night. I definitely freaked my wife out a couple of times, but now she sees the positive effect on me it's less of an issue.

I had crippling CFS after COVID as well. My sympathies there, it is terrible and it definitely made me a bit crazy. I felt like I was under attack all the time, which is basically what my immune system was telling me. But once I was prescribed anti-viral drugs (Famvir) it started to lift immediately. I also found Buteyko breathing really helped calm my system down, sleep better and go deeper in meditation.
Tim Farrington, modified 6 Months ago.

RE: What was that?

Posts: 2470 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
emoticon
Hi James. Thank you for your background story, which I love. It helps a lot to have your practice in context.

You had three explicit questions, and Chris and agnostic are great people to listen to on the first one, about your marriage and home life, and on sustaining domestic stability in general. I find it very heartening that you are so determined to not let meditation mess up your relationship with your wife, and I hope you will keep that determination front and center, however you continue on the path. If this meditation shit fucks up marriages, we should all shut the fuck up. It certainly doesn't have to, and you'll find plenty of lovely testimonies to that on DhO.

James

2. What can you do to 'stay on the rails' and not give it all up?


3. Why should I keep doing this? I am getting the feeling of losing the purpose of it all. Right now it seems more detrimental than anything. I do understand that is part of the path but disidentifying with the self on paper isn't all too appealing to the ego that has to die to get there.
These are the same question from different angles, I think. Chris said "Curiosity," and that is close to the heart of it, I think, and in a deep existential way. The quest for self-knowledge and the deepest truth of the world is something a certain kind of person finds irresistible. From your history, you are one of those people, and God help you (God help us all). I think you're fucked, basically. You swam halfway across the ocean and any way you look at it, you've got the maximum ocean swim ahead of you.
I find that I have energy in the mornings and that I really like being awake before the world wakes up. My wife is asleep. Traffic is quiet. No where to go. Perfect. 
See, this is what I meant. You're already doing it. Fucked, totally and completely fucked. That "nowhere to go" just keeps getting deeper. Perfect.
Alternating between subtle breath awareness and nothingness
NEW! Sustained nothingness (No perceived attention or activity)
Fear! Jesus H-Christ why fuck am I doing this?
Nothingness, yes. You're reading Daniel Ingram's MCTB, and you seem to me a classic example of "Welcome to the dukkha nanas," coming upon the dissolution (hello, nothingness), and the fear (Jesus H Christ!). You're certainly reading some of the perfect books for where you're at. You're in the right place at the right time with the right resources at your disposal. Your practice seems right on to me. Your attitude seems right on to me (scared shitless means you understand what's going on; if you weren't terrified intitially, and intermittently for a very long time, then I'd have to wonder if you were just crazy). Eons of blind turtles have surfaced in countless oceans, trying to get through a single ring for the privilege and blessing you enjoy here, this embodiment in touch with the dharma and committed to this practice and path. Learn to live with the fear and the nothingness, now, at a pace you can handle, sip by sip, in those sweet quiet morning hours. Lean on the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha here. You're in a very refined place. It's rare for someone to be this totally fucked. And remember the ox-herding sequence: this nothingness, the dissolution of self and bull, is the ground of the eventual return to the city bearing fruits.