strange encounter

Brian M, modified 11 Years ago.

strange encounter

Posts: 35 Join Date: 11/22/09 Recent Posts
Recently I had this strange experience while sitting. My practice had been going well, but in this particular instance, not so much. I felt unproductive, unmotivated and highly pre-occupied. Eventually I was able to boost my concentration, but usually I experience this as calming and/or blissful. This time I encountered bodily and kinesthetic distortions-- feelings of tilting, warped proportions, being upside-down, generally being confused about my sense of body in space. It was very curious, and somewhat unpleasant, but bearable. Not long after, I began to have an experience as of another presence in the room (objectively speaking I was alone), and it was not a friendly one-- it felt malicious. I tried to remain equanimous but it was altogether unpleasant, a little too much so, and so I ended early.

I guess I have two questions about that episode...
1) huh? any map for that? haven't had anything like it before or since.
2) what to do if something like this happens again? This experience occurred before I read MCTB, so it did not occur to me to try to simply observe the three characteristics in the presence I felt, rather than just trying to ignore it, which did not work so well. Yet, perhaps it is unwise to continue in that sort of situation, or perhaps there are alternative strategies? Any practical advice?
J Adam G, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: strange encounter

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Sounds to me like you're used to getting to Mind and Body when you meditate because you say it feels calm and blissful, but now you're hitting Cause and Effect with the weird bodily feelings and movements. Cause and Effect isn't so pleasant so it may feel like you've lost the "reward" of meditation. In terms of feeling, it starts with the pleasure of Mind and Body decreasing and continues through neutrality to mild suffering. Then when suffering becomes so strong that you want to stop meditating because everything sucks and you don't want to keep having to see how much things suck, that's Three Characteristics.

That said, it's possible to just get tired of meditating while you're in Cause and Effect and you get irritated and want to stop, and that's different from Three Characteristics. Personally, I feel that Three Characteristics involves a sense of dejection at feeling like it's impossible to ever be completely happy, and feeling like nothing can be relied upon. (I use the term "feeling" because it's like directly seeing dukkha and anicca instead of just understanding them intellectually.) Whereas if I just get tired of meditating, then it's just because insight meditation is boring and I can't really pay attention any longer because of mental fatigue. Your experiences with Three Characteristics may vary from mine, of course, but your description of Cause and Effect matches mine very closely.

What do you do the next time that you hit Three Characteristics? Well, I don't have great advice for you -- I haven't gotten past it as far as I can tell. So since I lack personal experience with making it through 3C, I'll parrot what everybody who has done it says about it: just keep sitting, sitting, sitting, but DO take care of yourself. Don't hurt yourself physically by trying to make it through some monster 4-hour sit that messes up your knees. You don't describe a lot of physical pain so you'll probably have more of an experience of The Icky-Sticky Creepy-Crawly It-Doesn't-Really-Hurt-But-I-Can't-Stand-It Feeling. I wouldn't think it a good idea to force yourself to stay with that feeling as it magnifies and becomes more and more miserable until you want to die, but then again, maybe that's why I haven't gotten through 3C.

At any rate, it's also very important to generate the curiosity required to really investigate this feeling. Somehow, you directly experienced/learned something about something and that brought you out of Mind and Body into Cause and Effect. The same happened as you started to move into Three Characteristics. The way to get out of Three Characteristics is to perceive the arising and passing away of phenomena. Noting works great for that!

If you can't seem to make any progress past 3C, then make sure that you have a direct perception/feeling of each of the Three. Like if you're just seeing unsatisfactoriness and lack-of-self, then pay attention to impermanence as you're noting or body scanning or whatever you do for insight meditation. If you just see unsatisfactoriness and impermanence, pay attention to lack-of-self as you meditate. Look at this with an accepting attitude. You might want to refer to the thread about the difference between learned helplessness and acceptance. Avoid learned helplessness and generate acceptance as much as possible during any unpleasant stage of meditation, because acceptance will help you learn whatever you need to learn at that stage and move on to the next.

More experienced people, I would welcome if you pointed out the problems with this post so that I don't mislead Brian here. You'd be helping me too in the process.
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Florian "Monkeymind" Weps, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: strange encounter

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Brian,
Brian M:
1) huh? any map for that? haven't had anything like it before or since.


Maybe you hit one of the "psychic powers" in your concentration. I treat the "psychic powers" like any map, i.e. as a description of what leads where, and not as a model of reality. This saves me from obsessing about the (in this context) fairly useless question of "what is real", and focuses on "what is causal", which is much more useful. Have you read the MCTB Chapter on the Powers? Useful to know. Of course, "psychic powers" is just one model or manner of speaking about these experiences.

2) what to do if something like this happens again? This experience occurred before I read MCTB, so it did not occur to me to try to simply observe the three characteristics in the presence I felt, rather than just trying to ignore it, which did not work so well. Yet, perhaps it is unwise to continue in that sort of situation, or perhaps there are alternative strategies? Any practical advice?


Some suggestions: If you wish to "work" with this kind of experience on the level of engaging with it like it was "real", I'd really recommend cultivating loving kindness, or Metta - send the presence some Metta, and chances are really good it'll "leave". Here's a bit of Thai Forest Tradition advice about dealing with some of the experieces associated with the powers: Visions & Signs.

Another suggestion on the same level of engagement: in an out-of-body experience, you suddenly have two "bodies" to keep track of - your physical one and your "ethereal" one. The old trick of identifying with the physical body doesn't work any more, so how do you interpret the second body? Say you "identify" with the physical one, then the "ethereal" one may well seem like a sinister presence, and may threateningly rush at you when the experience ends, and the two "bodies" again merge or occupy the same space. So if you wish to follow this track, you might want to read up on OOB stuff and see if it is at all relevant to your experience. (The kinesthetic stuff may be a good marker). Again, as with all powers, I don't worry about whether this stuff is "real", and focus on what is causal, in order to get a skillful view of my experience.

Finally, you yourself mentioned the three characteristics - like any experience, these things can be investigated for the truth. This won't engage the experience in terms of their "content" like the "send metta" and "oob" approaches above. You already know how to do this. Highly recommended emoticon

A final remark about the powers: they can be highly fascinating, like most forms of "content" actually. I've had to find a bit of a compromise for myself, indulging my urge to explore and giving it a counterbalance of strong investigation practice. Remember that "cracking the thing", stream entry and so on is also considered one of the "powers" in Buddhism.

I hope there was something useful in there for you.

Cheers,
Florian
Greg G, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: strange encounter

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Brian M:

2) what to do if something like this happens again? This experience occurred before I read MCTB, so it did not occur to me to try to simply observe the three characteristics in the presence I felt, rather than just trying to ignore it, which did not work so well. Yet, perhaps it is unwise to continue in that sort of situation, or perhaps there are alternative strategies? Any practical advice?


Brian,

Here is some information here on that phenomena.
http://www.shaktitechnology.com/sp.htm

There are also websites on sleep paralysis where this type of experience is common.The author of the website above, has recreated the sensed presence experience by stimulating a specific part of the brain.

With regards to practice, I am assuming you are practicing Mahasi Sayadaw type of meditation. Under this technique, you could note "sensing, sensing, sensing" "confusion, confusion, confusion" or "fear, fear, fear" and see what happens. Sometimes its difficult to do at the time, but if you can note it immediately, often these types of things disappear. After that, something else will arise.

Treating everything as not real, noting whatever arises, and not engaging or investigating things seem to work best for me. If things do get too intense in a session, you can always cut the session short. You may have to revisit it or may not.

Greg