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Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost

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Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
10/6/11 3:45 AM
Hi everyone.

I'm new to this forum and many of the technical aspects of meditation. But I'm here to learn. Like many people out there, I had an experience and am… stuck…


BACKGROUND:

I wouldn't really consider myself a hardcore meditator, but I began my insight meditation practice by taking 4 or 5 Goenka 10 day courses back in the 2002-2003. At the time, I thought they were pretty tough. I had trouble sitting for longer than 30-40 minutes, plenty of body aches and pains (gross sensations), lots of aversion, agitation, ups and downs. I didn't experience the "flow" until my 3rd course. I often thought I was doing the practice wrong and after 10 days, I was usually done. Despite that, I walked out of these courses feeling amazing. I had many periods of pure joy… smiling all the time for no reason, laughing to myself (so much so that I had to hide it so people didn't think I was crazy). My mind was focused, I was relaxed and non reactive. Road rage…. gone. Any trouble that came my way I could deal with in ways that I couldn't before. I could sit for an hour without moving and be completely equanimous with my sensations. This is really all I knew about the path. "This is pretty good", I thought.

After this time period, my practice became very spotty… off and on. I hadn't gone on retreat for a number of years. So a couple of years back, I decided to go on another 10 day course to re-charge my practice. I figured I go in, do my thing and I'd come out with some momentum to keep that dharma engine running. Little did I know, I was in for the surprise of my life.

THE INCIDENT:

Day 2 - After a day or two of anapana, I noticed that a massive black hole/vortex was starting to form in my chest/solar plexus area. I'd liken this to a black hole from outer space. The gravitational pull of this hole was so intense, that I'd have to fight to keep my attention from getting sucked into it all the time. My breathing started changing as well. Hard to breathe in (expand the chest) easy to exhale. I told the assistant teachers about this and they advised me to avoid that area. So I took their advice and continued on.

Day 5/6 - The hole became bigger and much more intense. A similar black crater started opening in my abdomen. After a couple of very strong sessions (equanimity-wise), I felt like I was coming down with a flu. That night and over the next couple of days I experienced the following (most of which were layered on top of one another):

- All of the layers of the flu (fever, chills, achiness, headaches, etc…) were extremely magnified
- lost feeling of my body when I lied down
- As I got tired and was transitioning to sleep I received a body jolt and became hyper aware. In my
minds eye, a portal opened up and it was pulling me mentally inwards. The closer I got to going in,
the more I had the physical feeling that I was going unconscious. I was afraid of losing my mind and
ending up in a psych ward if I proceeded, so I chose to stay awake all night.
- feelings of complete disconnection with the world around me… people, the environment, thoughts of loved ones
- feelings of helplessness
- terrifying fears of being alone and abandoned that would come in waves
- intense high frequency vibrations running through the body
- feeling that I was losing my mind
- any time I entered the meditation hall, everything magnified further

It was way too much to handle at one time, so I threw in the towel. I spent so much energy trying to be equanimous with all of this that I became mentally exhausted… and it wasn't letting up. The assistant teachers pulled me out of the course and moved me in the kitchen with the servers to help bring me down from this experience. The assistant teachers were wonderful people who tried their best to help me through this. I was extremely appreciative of their support, but after a while it became obvious that they didn't have the skills or training to deal with this.

AFTERWARDS:

So, I left the centre with a mess on my hands and not really knowing what to do about it. I had no idea what the hell just happened and it started disrupting my life. I had trouble sleeping a nights with feelings of fear, high vibrations, and regular body jolts the moment before nodding off. I became sensitive to heat. Concentration dipped. I started having a "whatever" attitude towards life with little sustained motivation to do much. I have constant thoughts about the end of life cycles (not mine, but of the people and things around me). Also, major doubts about my practice, whether I'm doing it right, etc...

I completely stopped practicing meditation for several months. Not knowing what to do, I went to see an amazing elderly man who practices a form of energy healing to help me with this. It helped considerably, but I still have some of these experiences 2.5 years later and I know deep down that it's still my responsibility to confront whatever it was I experienced.

I began lightly meditating again off and on. For the body sensing vipassana part, everything is ok. However, my breath is all over the place when I observe it as it is… small breath, tiny breath, massive inhale, hold, hold, hold, fast exhale, cough, cough, dry heave. I've also noticed that having involuntary body movements every time I sit on the cushion… shifting, shaking, gyrating, facial distortions, etc… A few times, just to experiment, I lied down on the ground with space around and let my body do what it wanted to do. I involuntarily started moving into yoga postures on the ground. (?)

QUESTIONS:

I recently came across Daniel Ingram's book and am thankful to now have some point of reference (thanks Daniel!!). The thing is, I'm still not sure where exactly I am on the map. I mean, I'm assuming this is the dark night, but I guess I don't really know how to proceed from here.

- Because I "gave up" on this experience at the course, I was told that I'm going to have to re-experience all of this again in some more intense form. Is this true?
- I can't go back to the whole Goenka vipassana thing again. No support and no one to talk to. Based on your experiences, do you have any recommendations on a meditative route I could take going forward? Maybe a centre or tradition with some level of decent support?

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
10/6/11 4:58 AM as a reply to Myron S.
Both your experiences and your complaints about lack of support during them are both common ones. The Goenka tradition has many good points, but handling strong experiences beyond the early stages is not one of them.

As to what they were: spontaneous movements, energetic stuff and the like are nearly always A&P related or 3C at times.

If you have fear, etc, then you almost certainly crossed the A&P at some point.

As to mapping all this stuff when off retreat post A&P, that is complex. Far better to just apply standard advice as specific sensations arise. Still, that is a complex topic and really benefits from someone who knows this stuff and you well.

That brings me to your next question: finding good meditation support when on retreat is really, really hard. You could try a retreat with Jack and Judy at Spirit Rock, try a retreat with Steve Armstrong or Steve Smith, or try a Mahasi-style retreat, such as Tathagatha Med Ctr or another location, if they have a good teacher in house, which will vary, obviously.

More importantly, find friends who know this stuff well. There are many here, at KFD, at DFRC, and other places. Talking about it will help. Practicing steady, clear, investigative mindfulness with less expectation of how things are supposed to be and what they map to and instead focus on clearly seeing what is actually going on with a fresh perspective on each moment if you can muster it will help. No two vibrations, movements or thoughts are alike. Keep it direct and straightforward when possible. There is a good section in A Path with Heart on raptures and interesting experiences and relating to them: recommended reading. Its basic point is that there is some component either of secret enjoyment and attachment to those experiences or that you are fighting them and thus preventing them from moving through: try just seeing them and all those reactions as just sensations.

Helpful?

Daniel

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
10/7/11 4:47 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks Daniel. I will definitely be visiting this site as well as the others you mentioned on a regular basis. I'm also going to check out A Path with Heart. Unfortunately, I'm currently living in Europe so I might have to wait until I head back to North America before I can consider the centers you mention. I will definitely keep them in mind, though.

Daniel M. Ingram:
As to what they were: spontaneous movements, energetic stuff and the like are nearly always A&P related or 3C at times.

If you have fear, etc, then you almost certainly crossed the A&P at some point.

As to mapping all this stuff when off retreat post A&P, that is complex. Far better to just apply standard advice as specific sensations arise. Still, that is a complex topic and really benefits from someone who knows this stuff and you well.


Is it possible to experience multiple stages at the same time? Some of the experiences I have that might fall under A&P (energetic vibrations or not being able to feel my body) are almost always accompanied by fear.

Also, the reason I ask about re-experiencing this A&P/Dark Night combination more intensely again after "chickening out" the first time is so that I have some idea what to expect and how to deal with it in the future. When all of this happened the first time, it was far too intense and overwhelming for me to work with. If it in fact gets magnified further during another attempt to navigate through it, I'm not sure I'll be able to manage. Does this happen to people? Should I prepare for the intensity to get cranked up a notch?

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
10/9/11 11:47 PM as a reply to Myron S.
While he doesn't use these models, I found Christopher Titmuss's very direct and immediate approach to nicely balance my early map fixation, and I actually got stream entry sitting on retreat with him using a mix of Mahasi methods and finally some very direct inquiry in his inquiring style.

Since you know the maps and thus perhaps have more of them than you need, if you can just remember to practice and keep asking "What aspect of this am I not completely comprehending the truth of?" regardless of what happens and what stage you think it is, and realize in a general way that wide swings are normal and get over it, then sitting with him and paying really careful attention to every single thing at each moment might be a good thing.

If you are in England, you could check out Alan Chapman or Duncan Barford. I am sure there are a number of others here at the DhO who are from that cozy little island... ;)

and hopefully they will chime in.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/5/12 2:01 AM as a reply to Myron S.
Hi Myron,

Hope you are doing well ... and dhamma practice picking up emoticon

I'd love to suggest to you the following (probably you've already thought about them) - in no particular order ...
(BTW, I've done two 10-day retreats in vipassana as taught by S.N. Goenka. I'm not a regular practitioner.)

1. Try to contact S.N.Goenka and ask him directly about what you felt (or ask one or many of his senior teachers)
2. Do a 10/20 day course directly under S.N. Goenka, if he still conducts them. Else, try to do a course under most senior teachers. I'm sure they'll help you the best they can if you explain in detail about your experience, the same way you've explained it in this forum.
3. Listen to the Satipattana discourses by S.N. Goenka.

Just my two cents ... What you went through was probably your anusaya kilesas (latent mental defilements) coming up on the surface. You might remember from one of the 10-day retreat discourses, the story about a scientist who meditated in weird postures as a result of his bad karma.

Anyway, all the best to you! Would love to hear from you ...

GM

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/12/12 8:59 PM as a reply to Myron S.
Whoa.
I actually know exactly what you're talking about. I believe it actually is a black hole and that your soul may be sucked into the infinite darkness. I'm not sure you really have a choice in the matter. The only choice you have is your awareness of your condition, but it might be better to remain ignorant of what that blackness is like for as long as you possibly can.
Sorry, but you might be one of us.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/12/12 11:21 PM as a reply to black siddhi.
black siddhi:
Whoa.
I actually know exactly what you're talking about. I believe it actually is a black hole and that your soul may be sucked into the infinite darkness. I'm not sure you really have a choice in the matter. The only choice you have is your awareness of your condition, but it might be better to remain ignorant of what that blackness is like for as long as you possibly can.
Sorry, but you might be one of us.


One of us? Black hole? Infinite darkness? Soul? What is his condition, bs? What sort of advice is this? What sort of context is this advice associated with?

Myron, take all of this with a big grain of salt please. A huge boulder of salt.

Nick

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/13/12 6:19 AM as a reply to Myron S.
Is Myron still posting here? I can imagine what you are going through, having experienced something very similar myself many years ago, a few days after receiving an initiation from a Tibetan Buddhist. I really can't offer any advice aside from saying that you seem to have gone through a bona-fide initiation experience. Look online for Padmasambhava's Initiation, where you will read about a Dakini who, before granting initiation to Guru Rinpoche, cuts her breast and belly to reveal wrathful and peaceful lineages from within the void. These give rise to all the fermentations and recollections of 'past lives' talked about in the Maha Saccaka Sutta, the new emotional and sensational states you are feeling. By the way, I don't see 'past lives' as prior reincarnation events, as I know nothing about those, but I have become more keenly aware of familiar emotional/sensational feeling states, akin to deja vu recollections, and it is as if I am slowly working through all manner of these, some of which are pleasant and some of which are not. If it is any consolation to you, this sutta is the Buddha's enlightenment sutta. So, whoopee! It is also worth looking at the Book of Genesis, which is a Biblical take on this same process. Now you understand what is meant by Paradise lost, as Adam and Eve are taken out of the ignorance of their lives prior to Communion with the Lord. Padmasambhava, Jesus Christ, and Buddha all went through trials before reaching Enlightenment/Resurrection. Your world is now full of new life. Incidentally, it is my opinion that these sorts of things don't happen independently of another, and this is why the Buddha sits beneath a Bodhi Tree, the same tree from which leaves are taken to clothe Adam and Eve when they suddenly become aware of their nakedness before the Lord.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/27/12 11:43 AM as a reply to GM GM.
GM.... thanks for the suggestions. I have thought about some of your suggestions before and I'm not sure I want to continue in the Goenka tradition. I'm still waffling on that, though. I haven't tried contacting Goenka as I've always been under the impression he's one of those impossible to get in contact with kind of people, like writing to the president and expecting a response. haha I'm probably wrong, it's worth a shot. As for the nuclear bomb scientist meditating on his head... that thought does come to mind often. Not like it necessarily matters, but I've always curious to know are the details of that story... whether he had lots of fear, anxiety, etc... or was just involuntarily contorting.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/27/12 11:44 AM as a reply to black siddhi.
black siddhi... I'm sorry, but I'm not sure I can relate to what you're saying. I do hope that you find your way through your experience.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/27/12 11:45 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nick... yes, I'm holding it right now. It's pretty heavy. ;)

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
4/27/12 11:46 AM as a reply to Luna Swift Arrow.
Luna Swift Arrow... Life can be pretty good at putting up road blocks and diverting a persons attention, so I haven't been here often lately. Thanks for your thoughts. It's a very interesting perspective that I was not aware of. I'm not very scholarly in matters of Buddhist philosophy, but I will take a look at Padmasambhava's Initiation. How would you describe your initiation?

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
5/5/12 12:24 AM as a reply to Myron S.
Myron S:
Luna Swift Arrow... Life can be pretty good at putting up road blocks and diverting a persons attention, so I haven't been here often lately. Thanks for your thoughts. It's a very interesting perspective that I was not aware of. I'm not very scholarly in matters of Buddhist philosophy, but I will take a look at Padmasambhava's Initiation. How would you describe your initiation?


I'd always wanted to understand the meaning behind religious texts, so I sought out meditators who might help me to learn about what it meant to be a human being, in its fullest sense. Eventually, I asked for initiation from a Lama, and he gave me an empowerment. That day, he fixed the Sun in its place, filling me with a fine ale, with a fine head - a poetic way of describing a very real deluge/baptism of fire and water ( The Sun). A little later - life does get in the way sometimes - I sought a further empowerment from another monk, who was very kind to me. Some days after his initiation, I started to feel a cut in the heart, a cut within which dwelt a void, and that I can only define as being profoundly empty, as if I had hit a perceptual wall beyond which I couldn't penetrate. I continued to practice my meditation, which was very easy at this time - Trungpa makes a comment in one of his books that the Guru will share some of his subtle body with you, and that's exactly how it seems. This is important, because initiation is a direct experience of non-duality between you and another, as the Buddha experienced in the Maha Saccaka Sutta. I felt a pronounced forward pulling in the belly. It would feel as if droplets were drizzling onto my skin from thin air, and my nose, ears, and eyes brimmed with pressure - this card is interesting: The Tower
My body became enlivened with sensation, particularly in the crown of the head, with its rustling sensations, and a sense of cutting into the very top; and also, a little later, in the belly, where it felt as if tiny, burning beads were moving slowly about. A bead-pair, cooler, moved ever so slowly from the base of the back, upward, and up over the head, to between the eyebrows. From the nose emanated not-so-subtle rods of sensation. Cool feelings streamed out from the heart. My forehead felt very soft. At some point, a nimitta appeared, a single pearl among several, expanding slowly to a portal within an organic-looking tunnel. I presume that this is the circle you see in the ox-herding pictures, and the meanig of the clouds behind Tibetan deities. My throat would fill with descending balls of sensation. At one point, a jolt descended into my torso, from the left eyebrow, right into the belly like an electric spark.

And so on, and so forth, an endless display of sensation which continues to this day, though never in the same manner from one week to the next, marked by a ceaseless movement of spirit, like invisible Cain wandering eternally, or the Damaru turned endlessly by the bone-lineage nun. Marvellous stuff. I really don't do it justice with my descriptions. A universe within a fathom-long body, a creation of a world within a body, with Sun and Moon, full of rivers and life.

One thing worth mentioning, since new feelings can arouse uncertainty and anxiety - spirit is depicted in texts as water; fire, down in the belly, is linked to sexual or aggressive or unpleasurable feeling states. From what the texts are depicting, one leads to the other, so Padmasambhava is placed on a pyre, to be burnt, and yet water rises as the flames are stoked. In this sense, unpleasant emotions, even day to day ones, are rebuilding you in spirit, exactly as they did for Milarepa and Virupa. Christ is scourged before Resurrection and Buddha is assailed before his Enlightenment. To Christian saints, the influx of Grace brought about the birth of troublesome sons. But these sons would assist the work of Grace, and in return Grace softened the effect of the sons. A maiden binds the maw of the beast, and yet the two are connected: Grace. In this tarot card, the crown of the head is enlivened, and so is the belly, which we see as a fiery mane.

So, Paradise is the state of a man prior to the event depicted in the Tower card. Adam and Eve suffer after the spirit arrives to rework Man in God's image. Buddha started out as a Prince, living in a palace, away from the world of suffering. In leaving Paradise/Palace, death is encountered, as is knowledge of suffering. But death to one world is rebirth into a new one, which is why the Sun card linked above depicts a child.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
5/6/12 7:45 PM as a reply to Myron S.
Myron, to me your symptoms look like a blown 3rd chakra. A very similar thing happens to me whenever I meditate for longer than say 20 minutes.

If you were to read the chapter on the 3rd chakra in "Eastern Body, Western Mind" by A Judith, you'd see it all diagnosed there.

My personal take on meditation and the 3rd chakra is that meditation will dampen down and quell any "fire in your belly". If there's not much fire to begin with (ie. poor ego strength, low will power), then you'll suffer quite badly.

My solution was to follow her advice about strengthening the 3rd chakra. If you haven't read it already, the post on the Dho homepage "warning on dark night" has a brilliant article that details this nicely. It's not actually an article about dark night, but depression caused by damaged 3rd chakra, secondary to meditation.

RE: Bad Experience / I'm Kinda Lost
Answer
5/6/12 11:04 PM as a reply to This Good Self.
Pythagorus summed it up: "Concern [anxiety, fear] should drive us into action and not into a depression. No man is free who cannot control himself". What you experienced was an episode of depression, Myron. And you're right, it would have landed you in a psyche ward had you continued at the retreat. Ingram thinks it's a good idea for you to keep meditating, just with a different teacher, so you can call him from the ward when you get to hospital and he will give you the next set of instructions.

Outwards action is the antidote to depression. The passivity and introspection required by meditation will be harmful if the 3rd chakra is not yet stable and healthy. It seems some still don't understand this. Did anyone read the WARNING sticky on the home page???? This is why I have always said that if you haven't got money, a job, a house, a wife and family, forget about meditation.... you're trying to skip ahead about 10 steps and you will end up on the Dho talking to other people who simply cannot help you. The reason they cannot help you is either because they are in the same boat as you, or they are on a different planet altogether.

In other words, if you have been found wanting, start getting. Outward action, power, accomplishment...and the self-acceptance to allow you to do this.