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Mind Silence
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1/3/12 5:18 PM
My housemate and I have been experiencing a state we have called "mind silence". We are pretty sure we are experiencing the same thing so I will just describe my own state and how I got there:

Within 1 sit, my intention is to "rest in awareness" and I incline my attention towards silence or stillness, and just rest, letting everything settle. My visual field gets wider, the eyes become unfocused like they are relaxing into different directions, the sense of space gets pervasive the silence becomes "louder". The mind and body settle, but almost "overshoot" my expectations, as thoughts and the ability to conceptualize starts to attenuate. My mind seems to "only want one thing" as in, it doesn't want there to be more than one thing other than one great space of awareness. In that one space, there is no room for thought or reflection, and at some point, even deliberate reflection ("is this a good idea?") or internal meditation instruction, deliberate thought or reflection becomes extremely burdensome, approaching, but not quite reaching, impossible. The state is quite "pushy" self-increasing and pervasive, it feels like it wants to settle more and it stays long after the sit is over. It takes a lot of effort to get out of the state. There is a sense, well, frankly, of nothing. No thought or inclination to do anything. I could sit, or get up, it doesn't matter at all. I go to a group interview and feel "why are you all talking?" because there is so obviously nothing at all to say. In between other people's words, the silence wants to grow. Understanding language is an effort. (So is having facial expressions in response). It would almost have the feeling of a deep penetrating contentment, if there wasn't a bit of unease at its edges, which is related to my lack of control.

I have replicated this state on several retreats. In a past one, I became quite scared, as I felt like I was losing all cognitive reference points, including even the thought of a container (i.e. I am on a meditation retreat). I can see that some the fear comes from not having a good sense of what this state is. I can hear Alan Wallace warning about "cultivating dullness" and worry that I am becoming stupid and unable to think.

Luckily, this time Leigh Brasington was with us, and seemed pretty happy/unconcerned with the description and just sent me this link http://leighb.com/nishida.htm, so I have less fear and a bit more curiosity about exploring this state. So my questions are along the lines of what is this, and what aspects of it should I investigate? The second question is about functioning, and perhaps being able to transition in and out faster, as there are some lasting effects that are not always desirable from a work/social point of view (i.e I am writing this post because my housemate feels no inclination to talk or write).

Any feedback would be appreciated!

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/3/12 11:18 PM as a reply to Persephone Hades.
Some things about what you describe resonate with past experiences I had with a (similar? identical?) state. In particular, this:

Persephone Hades:
In a past one, I became quite scared, as I felt like I was losing all cognitive reference points, including even the thought of a container (i.e. I am on a meditation retreat).


What helped me was to keep in mind that all of the worrisome things that could occur in the state I experienced were just markers that showed in what ways the state hadn't "fully expanded"...in other words, in the fullest version of that state, those things would not be there, and fears of dysfunction and things like that were just the last vestiges of 'me' sitting outside on the state and commenting on it as it happens.

One thing that definitely seems like 'you' commenting from the outside:

I go to a group interview and feel "why are you all talking?" because there is so obviously nothing at all to say.


So, I would suggest investigating with that in mind...and, at minimum, treating whatever worries or scary thoughts about dysfunction that come up as being what happens when this state co-exists with the everyday 'you', not a feature of the state, just a feature of the interaction between the state and 'you'.

Even this might fit in that category:

I am writing this post because my housemate feels no inclination to talk or write.


i.e. the lack of normal (behavioral) impulses, or the "stoned silence", might be what happens when half-in and half-out of the state.

Apart from that, may I ask for how long you've been practicing? I found (when doing concentration practices very early on) that it was easy to reach a state that was very...lacking in qualities. I could sit around afterwards and do nothing and not have a problem with it, not because I was content, but because I felt a sort of all-pervading "nothing in particular". On the other hand, behaving normally and interacting normally (even listening to other people talk) was effortful and annoying. Eventually this effect went away when I took up meditation more seriously...it's possible that in part it was merely some kind of experience of my mind adjusting to meditating (or to certain meditation practices).

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/4/12 5:23 PM as a reply to Persephone Hades.
EiS
Persephone Hades
I go to a group interview and feel "why are you all talking?" because there is so obviously nothing at all to say.



So, I would suggest investigating with that in mind...and, at minimum, treating whatever worries or scary thoughts about dysfunction that come up as being what happens when this state co-exists with the everyday 'you', not a feature of the state, just a feature of the interaction between the state and 'you'.

Further to the point of investigating this state, perhaps consider that your experience of " losing all cognitive reference points, including even the thought of a container" can serve a purpose (usefulness such as is found in accounts of losing pain through loss of recognizable cognitive reference points and in mental relaxation), but that it is also may be containing an aversion, as in the statement:

I go to a group interview and feel "why are you all talking?" because there is so obviously nothing at all to say. In between other people's words, the silence wants to grow.
This silent mind of your description seems to hold a desire for more silence, extending it beyond its own agency and this can be a desire to control (others).

Talking sometimes is not much different than leaves rustling due to wind, yet what is the thought, "why are you all rustling?"

What of the impulse(s) causing "why are you all talking?" How does the silence want to grow?


It would almost have the feeling of a deep penetrating contentment, if there wasn't a bit of unease at its edges, which is related to my lack of control.
Or it may be that there is a (self-isolating) control being added.

Good luck with it. You seem to enjoy it. How do afferent sensations register to you when you act in this state (e.g., tasting, touching, hearing, smelling, seeing)?

edit: clarity

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/4/12 5:36 PM as a reply to Persephone Hades.
To add to what others have said: sloth/torpor is one of the hindrances. There is no benefit to cultivating a state of listlessness, of not-feeling-like-doing-anything, etc. It is far more restful and relaxing to not be in a state of torpor, but rather for the mind to be bright and vivid. That is not to say whether the state you are getting into is good or bad, just that you might want to investigate what causes the torpor, and whether you can access the state or a deeper/'better' version of it if you put more energy into it in a skillful way.

From your link: "Consciousness that is signless, limitless and all illuminating", not "it doesn't want there to be more than one thing other than one great space of awareness," or "The state is quite "pushy" self-increasing and pervasive, it feels like it wants to settle more and it stays long after the sit is over," or "Understanding language is an effort," etc.

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/5/12 1:00 AM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
I also had something like this for a while. It turned out that I had a moment of increased awareness and clarity and I saw that the actual inner "silence" was just a massive blob of boredom/"meh"/ignorance veneda that had covered my whole field of awareness. In that experiece I saw the edges of the veneda and then... I haven't thought about it since then. It's not a problem anymore emoticon

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/5/12 4:04 PM as a reply to End in Sight.
Thanks everyone for your feedback. I clearly need to investigate this more deeply.
To answer you question about length of practice, I have been practicing (varieties of western vipassana with a couple retreats in Asia) since 1995, and while this state resembles others I have come across before, it also also qualitatively different. The silence is more striking and also more pervasive. I used to experience silence through the ears (as a sound), and also as having a space-like quality, but now there is a visceral silence added to that. Its not that I can't feel my body, but almost as though I can feel silence with it, the way you can feel the stillness of a very cold crisp winter day, if that makes any sense. The first time it happened, I remember thinking " this is what they mean by "the silence of God". That may sound overly dramatic, but it was a depth of silence I had not felt before. I am reluctant to mention this, but I recently spent a number of days with a bunch of AF-types, and I also felt this new kind of visceral silence very palpably around them, and it seems like those encounters started to expand and deepen a silence that had been more tentative and intermittent. (I guess that opens the topic of whether mind states are contagious...)

I have a lot of thoughts about the residual vestiges of self theme. I have received feedback and am inclined to agree that the consequence of "expanding completely" or "letting go completely" would not leave room for fearful thoughts from a residual self. I could play with the edges of that, and have, and have also experienced some pretty extreme states of terror. I could explore that more, and probably should, but also have experienced a loss of self in a completely joyful way by becoming completely fascinated and immersed in sensate experience. The resulting hyper-clarity is very obviously related to the absence of the self-referential attention oscillations that leave a subtle dirty film all over everything. So I these two states seem like diametrically opposed paths to the same end (loss of self), except one is scary and hard and the other effortless and joyful. My mind seems to be producing both of them fairly spontaneously, which is interesting, since they seem so different. I am not sure there is a question in there except is there any point in taking the scary route?

RE: Mind Silence
Answer
1/5/12 4:13 PM as a reply to Persephone Hades.
Its not that I can't feel my body, but almost as though I can feel silence with it, the way you can feel the stillness of a very cold crisp winter day, if that makes any sense.
I know what you mean. It reminds me of heavy snowfall.

I am not sure there is a question in there except is there any point in taking the scary route?
I am interested to hear how you work with this.

Best wishes.