What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Charles B, modified 9 Years ago.

What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 55 Join Date: 3/13/12 Recent Posts
I last year I was on a Vipassana retreat for 26 days. On Day 19 I had a very powerful experience. During my sitting I was attempting to maintain concentration and general awareness of myself with no specific object in mind, just an awareness of my own presence and any "contacts" that may arise, physical sensations, thoughts, emotions. While attempting to gain a correct mindset or attitude, I said to myself, "The past does not exist. The future does not exist. Only the present exists. I have no history, but exist loosely as a simple object in the present moment."

Suddenly, extreme sensations began to arise all over my body. It felt like I was traveling at light speed and being bombarded by "particles" all over. I noticed during my awareness a completely different feeling I've never felt before. It felt like I had suddenly become lighter, like weight or substance was suddenly diluted out of me. My sense of "self" suddenly disappeared or at least lessened considerable and my awareness suddenly increased and broadened. Like this I sat for two more hours attempting to just be aware of the sensations, of my mind, of this new feeling.

After I got out of meditation everything that I looked at seemed different, more pure. My mind felt less burdened. I tried to test my mind by thinking about things I normally liked, like foods I was craving, and even woman and that stuff. Just mentally testing myself, I felt no desire arise as it would normally.

That was a year ago. Since then I have felt a little different. I don't quite react the same way. My ego in general has permanently been cut in half by noticing the way I react to people. I don't take things quite so personally as stuff I might have before. However, I haven't been able to reproduce that meditative experience. Although, I can still get sensations to arise strongly, the feeling of loss of "self" does not occur anymore. I feel like, during that sitting, I was able to purify some defilements and wouldn't mind continuing that purification.

I don't know much about the different experiences of Vipassana. It felt like the most special and significant experience I have ever had since it has actually given me permanent effects for the better, not that I was seeking to begin with. Some help to explain the experience would be very much appreciated. What did I encounter? Why can I continue what I did but not get the same sense of loss of self? It felt like I hit a pocket of insight, but what actually happened?
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Yadid dee, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Hi Charles,
Welcome to the DhO.

That sounds to me like what we call the 'Arising and Passing Away' stage.
Here's a link to some descriptions of that stage on the community Wiki.

Common characteristics of A&P territory/events include, but are not limited to:

Bliss and rapture
Energetic phenomena, aka Kundalini phenomena
Spontaneous movements
Strange breathing patterns
Strong concentration
Great posture (in those who are meditating)
Strong/lucid dreaming, and in fact this event may be crossed in dreams, which is nearly diagnostic of this stage
Seeing bright lights, particularly early jewel tone sparkles leading to more steady white lights (though not everyone sees these)
Strong sexual feelings, which may have a certain generic quality
The ability in those practicing to perceive fine vibratory phenomena, rapidly and nearly effortlessly perceive the impermanence of phenomena and dissect objects into their rapidly arising and passing component parts (hence the name).
A strong sense of faith in the path (assuming one thought of one's self as on a path when they encountered this)

A reduced need for sleep
Increased energy and excitement about life, plans, projects, spiritual practice, philosophy, and potentially wild grandiosity
On that front, it is not uncommon for people who have simply crossed the A&P to believe themselves to now be enlightened, when in fact they are not yet there
This stage can look an awful lot like a manic episode in some people

If you are hunting around websites like this one looking around for advice on retreats, the maps of meditation, how to make progress, etc., the chances are good that somewhere along the way you crossed the A&P, even if you didn't know what it was and don't really remember a time/event that contained the above elements.


It is very common to want to repeat the experience after it had happened. In order to progress you must stick with a practice and go deeper.

What kind of practice do you do nowadays, and how?
Charles B, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 55 Join Date: 3/13/12 Recent Posts
Hi, thanks for the reply. I don't quite know if my experience fits with the Arising Passing away stage. I didn't quite notice all the symptoms like the perception of the impermanence of phenomena which seems important. I did perceive the nullification of the "self" which was the main feeling I had, thought this is not listed. Due to this, I do have a stronger faith in the path, but that is reasonable. I did have feeling of bliss and more energy, but no sexual feelings or strange breathing patterns.

As for my current practice...

I am continuing to do Vipassana and just be aware of objects arising. When an object arises, a pain, a thought, usually a sensation, I try maintain awareness of that object without attachment while maintaining my "scope" on the present moment. Usually if I do it right, sensations will arise spontaneously. I then turn my attention to the strongest sensation and remain objectively aware of that. Here is where things get a little interesting.

Sometimes the sensations are light. If so, they "pass on" or disappear easily when I hold my awareness on them, being replaced by another "layer" of sensations. If the sensations are heavy or very "solid", like a wall of strong energy, they are don't pass on so easily. Usually I tune my attitude or mindset here. I have three objectives I try to reach with my attitude 1) maintain a tight, sharp, and focused awareness of the present moment, the moment of exact "contact" or arising of each sensation, 2) maintain a detached attitude minimizing as much grasping or aversion as possible, and 3) minimize conceptualization of the cognition of sensations, that is, keeping my mind for imagining what the sensations or objects are or are doing, focusing just on the feeling they cause.

If successful, the layer of sensations will again pass on and another layer will arise. Like this, I seem to go layer after layer, sometimes very fast when the sensations are light, sometimes very slowly when the sensations are hard and strong. I don't do a body scan like Goenka's method. Maybe I should, I dont know. Intuitively, the best result seems to be when my whole body feels like it's engulfed in sensations and they are passing on layer after layer very quickly. This gives me a feeling of "moving" very fast because these particles are coming at me everywhere, similar to my experience a year ago.

This is my current practice and short term objective during sitting sessions, to go deeper and deeper through the layers of sensation until I hit who knows what. It feels like I will hit insight or truth at the end, but that is just what intuition tells me. None of this brings the insight and feeling I got as described from a year ago, but seems like the correct, "conventional" method. I'd still love to know exactly what experience I had a year. It may just be A/P.

Thanks again for your response.
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Yadid dee, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Charles B:
[...], similar to my experience a year ago.
[...]
None of this brings the insight and feeling I got as described from a year ago,


Hi Charles,

The A&P symptoms described are many that could happen, but its different for each person. I would say that the main factor of the A&P is that it is seen as a very profound event.

In anycase, in the quotes above I highlighted the parts I think are important - that you wish to recreate this experience, this seems to me, another clear marker of the A&P (which is normal).

It will probably re-occur (in a different variation no doubt), after a few times you may even become disenchanted with it, seeing that it is not the goal.
You could read a little bit about the 'Corruptions of Insight', as they are very relevant for that stage.

Do you include the following things in your meditation - the thinking about the experience, the analyzation of the meditation itself, the expectation, the dissatisfaction, the anticipation, desire, doubt, and so on?

Have you read Daniel Ingram's book, MCTB?
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Jane Laurel Carrington, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 196 Join Date: 12/29/10 Recent Posts
In light of your experience of daily life subsequent to the opening on retreat, I'm wondering whether it might be stream entry. I'd have to know more about what your practice and experience were like prior to this to be able to say for sure. And even so, I wouldn't be the right person for the diagnosis--someone with much more experience of these things would have to step in.
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Yadid dee, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Just to add:
What I wrote above is simply my own interpretation after reading what you wrote, reflecting upon my own experience with the A&P - and its quite possible that I'm wrong. Just thought I'd highlight that fact.
Charles B, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 55 Join Date: 3/13/12 Recent Posts
Wouldn't it be nice if I got stream-entry. I am sure I haven't reached such attainments, there is no kidding myself. The strange thing about the experience that makes it stand out is that the loss of "ego has lasted even up to now. I don't feel as important, as significant, in a sort of refreshing way. But I still have ego, just significantly less. Defilements by traditional definition was certainly released or purified. Just can't reproduce it!

Since finding this site I am reading through MCTB by Daniel Ingram, at least what is posted on this site. It is very interesting. I am reading through the stages but I haven't found what really seems to fit my experience. Many A&P characteristics do fit, but according to what I read, this is the 2nd vipassana Jhana stage. I don't think I went through the first. Can you just pop in and out of the stages spontaneously?

For now it feels like a fluke, maybe just at that time, though improbable, all the right conditions came together, gave me a bit of insight and have moved on. Now, because of my lack of experience and skill, I can't create those conditions at will.

Truthfully, over the last eight years, I have only meditated for 26 days last year and an additional 10 this year, maybe a few 30 minute sittings here and there. This is not enough to reach any real stages I don't think.

Also, in your experience, and I don't know how far you've gone or for how long, do you notice any changes in yourself? Does vipassana actually make you a more wholesome person. Does your mind actually feel like it gets purified as you advance the stages, or does that only happen at strong moments of insight towards the stages of enlightenment? Has your craving and aversion decreased with your practice?
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Yadid dee, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Charles B:
]
Also, in your experience, and I don't know how far you've gone or for how long, do you notice any changes in yourself? Does vipassana actually make you a more wholesome person. Does your mind actually feel like it gets purified as you advance the stages, or does that only happen at strong moments of insight towards the stages of enlightenment? Has your craving and aversion decreased with your practice?


Hi Charles,

I have been meditating for about 6 years now, daily practice (for the good part of these 6 years, there were some breaks in the middle of months) and have done a bunch of retreats. I have crossed the A&P personally several times on these retreats but I am yet to reach stream-entry, in my opinion. Not that I didn't think I did a few times, but i ended up concluding it was something else.

So here's my experience of that:
In these 6 years I've had several opening experiences which I would describe as "loss of self" or "seeing through self", starting with my first A&P, and I would describe each one as that, but in different tastes.
My life has improved for the better since I have started to meditate 6 years ago, and continues to improve for the better.
Yes, there are momentary insights, and there are lasting effects. But again take into consideration that I have not yet reached S-E.

You should perhaps direct your questions to people here who have attained higher stages than myself - Daniel Ingram, Tarin Greco, Trent, Nikolai, and many others.

I'm sure they will chime in if you ask them something :-)
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Nikolai ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 1650 Join Date: 1/23/10 Recent Posts
Also, in your experience, and I don't know how far you've gone or for how long, do you notice any changes in yourself?

Yes.

Does vipassana actually make you a more wholesome person?

My wife thinks so, as does my family (of me).

Does your mind actually feel like it gets purified as you advance the stages?

Yes, very much so.

, or does that only happen at strong moments of insight towards the stages of enlightenment?


Both

Has your craving and aversion decreased with your practice?

Yes it has.

Nick
Charles B, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 55 Join Date: 3/13/12 Recent Posts
Excellent, that gives me some hope about the future. My goal is to purify my defilements so that I can live with more wisdom, more potential, with minimal craving, aversion, or self-serving ego. Though my morality is clean, my mind needs to follow. I am glad to hear that these effects do come with practice. Thanks for sharing your very personal experiences.
wylo ., modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 166 Join Date: 11/18/11 Recent Posts
Hi Charles, could you go into more detail about life afterwards?
Did the experience ever grow stronger or deepen? In terms of clear pure mind?
Have you noticed ego progressively dropping or does it fluctuate?
Have you some more work on figuring out your sense of self?
Is there a strong sense of before and after in terms of the significance of that event in your life?
Do you feel like a different person, for want of a better term.
Not sure if I'd be in a position to diagnose what happened you but I'm just curious to see if it is similar to my experience.
Charles B, modified 9 Years ago.

RE: What was this loss of sens of "self" during meditation?

Posts: 55 Join Date: 3/13/12 Recent Posts
This experience a year ago happened when I was on retreat for 26 days at Shwe Oo Min Meditation Center in Yangon, Burma. Since then I haven't really been practicing. That trip was actually suppose to be my last "dose" of Buddhist practice for a long time to come, so I had no plans to practice afterwards, just rush in and grab whatever I can get during the trip.

Due to the lack of practice, the experience was a one time drop in sense of self, and a permanent drop in "ego" that lasts to this day. It doesn't fluctuate or change or anything like that. My experience hasn't deepened at least due to lack of practice, but I can't stop thinking about it.

Hmm, before and after, I guess it feels like I give much less weight or importance to myself after the experience, which is definitely positive. I guess some people notice it, but it is very subtle especially if you don't know me. But the feeling is definitely different. So in this sense, I feel different, not like a different person, just the same person who gives much less importance to himself in day to day happenings.

I hope this helps. It was extraordinary and had a permanent effect which is more than I can say for most meditation sittings. I came away from the retreat with much greater confidence in the Buddha's teachings, like a slow and verified "Ah hah!"

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