New meditator, extreme experiences.

Melvin C Finehout, modified 8 Months ago at 3/12/22 9:28 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/19/22 11:36 AM

New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 2 Join Date: 2/19/22 Recent Posts
First, if I'm breaking any conventions I apologize. 

Secondly, I want to acknowledge that my experiences probably are not "extreme" as far as how things can get. Just relatively extreme for a new-ish meditator. 

My reason for asking is only secondarily curiousity but primarily to know what I should do/change in response to them. 

I have about 100 total hours of meditation. A lot of it kinda garbage as I've not had any real life instructions. I did some guided meditations on the Sam Harris app, which is a "direct approach" style, taken primarily from Dzogchen. And recently I've been trying to do the path from "The Mind Illuminated" 

Shortly after beginning the Sam Harris app I did a solo 3g mushroom trip and I "got it". By that I mean the thing the meditation was trying to make you get. I find it ineffible but I would say the self-less, meaningless, all encompassing, obviousness of stark reality. It was plain as day. I wasn't seeing visuals or anything like that. I just saw what was there, for the first time. I could triple the size of this post and I don't think I could be closer to describing it because it was reality as a totality and words are just devices that chop-up, measure and compare reality. I assume some people here know what I mean. 

Since then, this state comes on a lot when I think about meditation, or philosophy and I generally try to induce it relatively frequently. 

Here's the rub, when I try to "focus on the breath at the tip of my nose" sometimes I can. But at some point in most meditations the following happens. 

I see a distraction arise. I see my mind forming a thought about that distraction. I see my mind forming a thought about that thought. And it all speeds up so that the thoughts themselves are not at all forming. It's like I am "short circuiting" the actual process of thought. As this continues I have enormous energy sensations that sometimes make my body writhe and twist.

Soon my visual field is all lit up and my body feels like it is glowing and I see the entire process quite impersonally. I mean, there is a mind there "eating it's own thoughts" (which are vaguely about what's happening) and there is a body there in some state of extreme "pleasure", though the intensity borders on painful. 

​​​​​​​ Sometimes I feel like even the witnessing is only "happening". Soon it fades away, the whole thing can last only seconds or, if I intentionally sustain it, minutes. 

I alternate between treating this like a distraction, so that I "let it come, let it be, and let it go" or I shift my practice to "doing" this, until the state fades and go back to breath at the nose. Sometimes this is very difficult because they are such a very tiny part of a much expanded reality. Sometimes though I can reach very intense levels of concentration afterwards. I'm not sure why? 

The thing is, I'm probably only at stage three as far as my ability to stay with the meditation object. But these things seem to be the type of thing he describes in the later chapters of the book, at higher stages. 

I realize, that this isn't a discussion about that book. I tried the reddit for that book but most of the advice seemed like pure speculation. 

From what I see so far this seems to be a more serious environment. So perhaps you guys can answer my three questions. 

1. What is this thing that's happening called? I'm sure it isn't unique to me. 

2. What should I do about it. 

3. What should I do to start getting a bit more serious about all this? Books, etc you recommend? 

Thanks for anyone who reads this and has advice for me. 

Edit: Wanted to follow up to make thisore valuable to anyone trading it later. 

So what I ended up doing is working with the phenomena as a distraction. (Remember TMI is my framework) So basically I would ignore the phenomena as long as I could then I would take it up as my object until it went away. It rapidly got much less intense and started lasting less time. However, my practice was seeming to deepen simultaneously. This was interupted when I went through a patch of life where I could only get about 4;hours a night of sleep and my meditation was just a practice of staying awake. Simultaneously I was dealing with much stress and negativity. So, this sorta set back the practice. 

The other thing I had been doing is remaiing as mindful as possible. I have a strong feeling that this was engendering the experience. It's hard to confirm this because it dropped out simultaneously with the above life changes. 

I would only say that it did seem like the right thing for me to do to handle it like I did. 

​​​​​​​Also, thanks so much for the advice I got here. It really was the best I found and helped so much. 
Eudoxos , modified 9 Months ago at 2/19/22 2:24 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/19/22 2:24 PM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 110 Join Date: 4/6/14 Recent Posts
Hi Melvin,

welcome to the forum. Thank you for openness and clarity of description of what is happening. Let me go backwards —

3. you might want to read the Daniel's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha ( book, at least Part IV.: Insight / Progress of Insight / and then look especially at the Arising and Passing Away (it is the 4th stage of insight; read the first 3 as well; stage here is used in in quite a transient sense, not like TMI stages which are more acquired competencies). The pleasurable effects are called corruptions of insight (described in that very chapter), including unusually strong concentration, the feeling of having realized something profound, physical joy, energy, vibrations, clarity, and so on. Why corruptions? Because they are so seductive and corrupt the observation without grasphing (insight). Psychedelics aside, this is all rather traditional stuff but Daniel writes about it in a very accessible and lively way.

I just see Daniel has a podcast on psychedelics and awakening, it might be useful (I did not listen to it, yet): Daniel Ingram: Psychedelics, Meditation & Enlightenment .

2. Establishing a consistent practice would be beneficial, letting go of expectations and staying with whatever you chose for some time. Since you mentioned Sam Harris: IIRC he uses the simley of psychedelics being like a rocket launched upwards without much control and the practice being more patient step-bys-step ascent with much more awareness of what is actually happening. So, now, after the extasy, laundry ;))

Whether you stay with TMI (and go the concentration-first path, as I understand TMI) or descide to go the dry insight path with noting (that is what MCTB describes, mostly) or anything else, just stick to it. My own experience was that having a teacher I trust and can easily access can avoid lot of confusion and frustration, and I would personally perhaps decide based on that primarily, but that is just me. Whichever technique you do, the bliss and joy will inevitably fade and the technique will help you to stay on track.

1. The stage itself is called Arising & Passing Away (udayabbaya-ñana in Pali) and the effects are are the corruptions of insight.

One think you could help us here with would be to keep us posted about how it goes for you. There are often questions with answers without follow-up, so it is diffuclt to learn about which advice was actually helpful in that particular case and which perhaps not so much.

Good luck with your practice! emoticon
Adi Vader, modified 9 Months ago at 2/20/22 9:38 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/20/22 9:38 AM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 181 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
I see a distraction ariseYou are maintaining mindfulness (smriti). You know that the breath is your object and you know that something else is a 'distraction' and not your object. You have eliminated forgetting so minimum stage 3 TMI is done - move on to stage 4 practices of eliminating gross distractions completely.

I see my mind forming a thought about that distraction. I see my mind forming a thought about that thought.

You have some degree of samprajanya (clear comprehension of the mind's activities) AKA Metacognitive Introspective Awareness. This is honed to perfection in Stage 6 and 7 TMI. You should ideally stabilize attention further (stage 4) increase virya or energy or sensory sensitivity (stage 5) completely stabilize attention and start working on samprajanya (stage 6)

In the practice of shamatha the purpose of samprajanya is to assist increased stability of attention to the point that one is single pointed and the nimitta jhanas become accesible. In the practice of Vipashyana, samprajanya helps in developing an understanding of specific conditionality or Idappaccayata. I am writing down all of these sanskrit / magadhi prakrit words so that you can look them up later.

It's like I am "short circuiting" the actual process of thought

Idappaccayata has a specific presentation called Pratitya Samutpad (Dependent Origination). The chain of dependent origination is presented linearly but it is in fact mutliple different mental events each having a 'vedana' or emotional valence that kicks off a branched out chain. Depending on which chain is dominant one has the experience of being born in a particular world. You are cutting the dominant chain of DO at the point where one thought leads to a proliferation of multiple thoughts. 

As this continues I have enormous energy sensations that sometimes make my body writhe and twist.
Soon my visual field is all lit up and my body feels like it is glowing

Your TMI practice has granted you samadhi skills that are porting to doing vipashyana (inadvertantly). This is kshanik samadhi (momentary concentration), the level of khanikka samadhi you are generating is giving you access to the jhanas. samadhi and jhanas have nothing to do with time. time is a notional thing. The depth of samadhi ahs to do with exclusivity rather than duration of attentional stability. You are experiencing the effects of having a deeply concentrated mind that is not yet used to this level fo concentration and exclusivity of attention and is thus generating hallucinations.

there is a mind there "eating it's own thoughts" (which are vaguely about what's happening) and there is a body there in some state of extreme "pleasure"

The mind is taking anatma or not-self quality of experience as an object. Nice!

The Progress of Insight and its stages have been developed for yogis doing practice within a particular kind of practice style and is reliably predictive and useful as a diagnostic tool within that particular paradigm. At around the time when yogis develop the kind of khannika samadhi that you are describing it is possible to track objects from inception to  death. This tracking leads to a particular stage on the PoI map called 'The knowledge of arising and passing away'. This is probably possible for you.
Any and all hallucinations you are experiencing have no diagnostic or insight value. 
You interrupted the dominant chain of DO by withdrawing the cognitive energy needed for the mind to proliferate and spool out other chains. Similarly apply that same Snoop Dog  nonchalance to this phenomena of 'energy sensations' 'writhing and twisting' 'glowing' .... ignore it. Starve it of the attention it needs to proliferate. Totally relax and let go of it. It has zero value.

​​​​​​​The pleasure you experience is valuable. If you can take this depth of samadhi back to doing stable attention practice you can do the jhanas.
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 9 Months ago at 2/22/22 6:35 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/22/22 6:34 AM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 79 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Hey Melvin, thanks for sharing your experiences! Just wanted to say that your experiences are nothing out of the ordinary for a meditator that is progressing. If anything, they are positive changes that can/are/would lead to hugely transformational shifts in how you relate to yourself, the world and others. Of course, some of that stuff can be weird and destabilising. Eventually, it get’s integrated so any confusion and instability should be most often temporary.

Adi has already provided some good advice in his post.

I personally was never a fan of TMI as a framework. My experiences and progress were also nothing like the “path” on TMI – so, if your progress, abilities and experiences also don’t fit with TMI, my advice would be to ignore the framework of how the “path” should progress, what a meditator should have access to at different stages, etc.

How I relate to it is that each person is their own Meditation Guide – the Guru within and all that. I am not a big fam of a one-size-fits-all approach to Awakening, Practice or Life in general. And TMI is a bit heavy on that one-size-fits all thing. What you are intuitively drawn to is most likely to be useful for you where you are. This is especially true as you progress on the path.

Good luck and let us know if we could be of help somehow!

Melvin C Finehout, modified 9 Months ago at 2/22/22 12:47 PM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/22/22 12:47 PM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 2 Join Date: 2/19/22 Recent Posts
Okay. Thanks both of you. So much. I feel MUCH better about what's happening. I can say that the transformation of consciousness is happening quite rapidly. I won't take a lot of time to detail it because while it is profound to me (and actually) it is also, I suspect, par for the course. 

I am going to google all the terms and reread the post. I feel that will help. 

For now, I am going to keep it on doing what I've been doing. Which is to treat the phenomena like a distraction, ignoring if I can and turning it into the meditation object when I cannot, and not being caught in th thoughts that arise after it. 

I've been doing this for a week or two and the state is producing far less writhing, twisting and energy. It is intense but is definitely beginning to "smooth out". 

"The Guru within" says that because of the quite rapid changes of consciousness that are seemingly indicative of progress, I should keep doing what I'm doing. 

I think that the reason I have been second guessing this is primarily because I've not even meditated as much as I could on a single retreat. I fear letting grandiosity affect my judgement because my mind keeps wanting to see myself as somehow "special" or at least lucky. 

I know this, there isn't any turning back now. I didn't come this far to come this far. emoticon 

Thanks again. It was a real help. 

​​​​​​​PS- I have a note in my phone to remind me to update this post in a few weeks or a month. Maybe it can help posterity. 
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 9 Months ago at 2/23/22 3:32 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/23/22 3:32 AM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 79 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
Hey Melvin, sounds lovely! Indeed, based on the description of your experiences, there is likely no going back for you emoticon But that is a good thing and you seem to relate to it in a healthy way.

I also haven't been to retreats much, and there are other members of this community that have progressed tremendously to very advanced stages of Awakening without much or any retreat time. Everyone is individual in that sense. Is that luck? The hell would I know emoticon 

Let  us know how things go for you soon! I wish you good luck! 
Adi Vader, modified 9 Months ago at 2/23/22 4:18 AM
Created 9 Months ago at 2/23/22 4:18 AM

RE: New meditator, extreme experiences.

Posts: 181 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
I have never been to a retreat.
I have only ever meditated at home. Just daily consistent practice, significantly bumped up on weekends. Sacrifice of socialising and Netflix to a certain degree emoticon