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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating on

Hello Experts, Diagnose me.

I have been practicing vipassana for a couple years now and done three 10 day retreats. Before that, long and successful career as a psychedelic astronaut. I have just recently been introduced to the maps and to the "hardcore dharma" crowd. Of course, I am wondering where my cutting edge is and also I'm looking back at past experiences and attempting to place them in the context of the progression laid out in Ingram's book and others. My best guess at the moment is that my cutting edge is lower equanimity pushing toward higher equanimity, especially at retreat. However, I could not remember having gone through anything resembling the description of the dark night until recently when I remembered something that for some reason I had kinda blocked out.

I don't really think about it much anymore or talk about it except once in a while with people that have had the same experience. But for a long time after this happened it was a huge deal to me. It was the last time I did LSD (and the reason I quit) about eight years ago. It's a hard thing to explain, but basically the experience started being that I was dying, I distinctly remember fear, scratch that, SHEER F'ing TERROR of this immediate truth. I was dying right then and there, which led to me panicking, running down the street crying and freaking out. I was running toward my girlfriend's house, and metaphorically all of the people I loved, so that I could say good bye or something to maybe try to hold on to living, which led to me realizing that I couldn't reach them and I had to say goodbye to everything and everybody, I maybe went back and forth between trying to run/struggle and just going with it. It became apparent that there was no way out, I accepted I was dying, and just sort of gave into it. There was a song from the Beatles playing earlier that I heard that started it all, "Let it be." Somehow it was like this "let it be" became some sort of mantra, and I think it instigated the whole experience. This experience of accepting my own death/end lasted for about an hour, it's hard to say for sure. Eventually, because I was still around experiencing stuff, my mind thought it was reborn or something and then I just started to come out of it.

So, this brings me to an actual question. Is it possible this was this my dark night? On one hand it seems like this pretty closely matches people's descriptions of the dark night emotionally and just as an overall experience. On the other hand, it was so long ago and I didn't have to relive it after my vipassana A&P events. Although I do distinctly remember the qualities of it, and it's possible I remember these qualities and just cycle through them in a few breaths. I don't think I was aware of the three characteristics at this time, although the years after this event led me to discover no-self in a profound way through my own intellectual processes.

This is one of the issues I have with the maps, it feels like I'm trying to fit my random dynamic out of order crazy experiences (on the cushion and off) into something extremely simplistic and sequential. It starts to sound like astrology or some other BS false pattern association and people start to say, "oh, you had a negative experience, you must be in the Dark Night," or "you are at a concert listening to music, you are in the A&P."

That being said, there are some incredible parallels between psychedelic experiences and meditation experiences. Meditators who have not done psychedelics seriously may not get this, but I think it's possible that you can just be thrown all over the map at random depending on what is going on around you, because you are basically so open when you on LSD.

Anyone have experience with both LSD and Vipassana want to chat about it? Or maybe meditating on LSD? I imagine keeping the mind focused may be more difficult but it is certainly manageable with the right dose.

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
4/16/12 7:29 AM as a reply to Delicate Monster.
I've never taken LSD, but I've experienced the sudden terror you describe since I passed A&P. It didn't last an hour, but the time I had with it was more than enough. I had a lot of experiences cycling through Fear-Misery-Disgust-Desire for Deliverance on and off the cushion before Stream Entry, and then afterward in Review.

I have reason to believe that I have finished with Review and am now in the beginning stages of 2nd path, but then as recently as yesterday, I was standing in a public place and I saw someone who had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and I felt a sudden, strong sense of identification with it and had all I could do not to cry at the thought of having to leave my loved ones, especially my vulnerable 11-year-old son. For about half an hour it was vividly real. Then it subsided.

My experience is that DN events can occur in seeming random ways after passing the A&P prior to Equanimity; then when we get to Equanimity, we can cycle back; and when we get Stream Entry, we go through review and cycle back. Your experience sounds profoundly Dark Nightish. You may not have more of the same on your own insight path or paths, but just a very attenuated form of it. The DN varies greatly from one person to the next. Some people have a really bad time with it, while others barely notice it. Some have trouble on one path but not on the others.

As for insight into no-self, when you say you've discovered it through intellectual processes, I'm not sure what you mean. If you mean that you have come to believe in it deeply through thinking it through, that's one thing; if you mean you have systematically worked through an experience of questioning what you are that has led you to direct insight, that's something else.

I do agree that it's often hard to get clarity with the maps, because things don't always line up just as they're supposed to; in particular, it seems that people loop back and around a lot of the time. But even so, the maps can guide us ultimately to a better understanding of where we are. In any case, good luck.

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
4/16/12 10:35 AM as a reply to Delicate Monster.
So, this brings me to an actual question. Is it possible this was this my dark night?

It's possible, yes, but difficult to say based on the information you've provided and not necessarily helpful either way since it was eight years ago. What's going on in your practice right now?

The description you gave sounds like a typical "bad trip" to me, it won't be much use to try to map previously experiences to the progress of insight, particularly since you're not familiar with that model yet. Rather than trying to retroactively place yourself on the maps most commonly used on here, it would be much better if you could describe the ins and out of your current practice, the phenomenological details and the bare bones of what it is that you're doing. With more up-to-date information, it will be far easier to ascertain your current "location" and provide advice accordingly.

It's useful to be reasonably sceptical about the accuracy of any conceptual map; you're correct in saying that it can lead to false patterns being identified, this is, unfortunately, quite common and usually comes about through wishful thinking, or a lack of discernment and honesty with ones self. The progress of insight is a curiously accurate map of the thing though and it can be incredibly useful, but don't go trying to figure out where you're at right now based on what you've read so far, just continue your practice and it'll all become much, much, much clearer.

That being said, there are some incredible parallels between psychedelic experiences and meditation experiences. Meditators who have not done psychedelics seriously may not get this, but I think it's possible that you can just be thrown all over the map at random depending on what is going on around you, because you are basically so open when you on LSD.

I am inclined to agree with you to some extent here, my own experience of meditation and hallucinogens over the years seems to confirm this.

Anyone have experience with both LSD and Vipassana want to chat about it? Or maybe meditating on LSD? I imagine keeping the mind focused may be more difficult but it is certainly manageable with the right dose.

Yes, both. You don't need to keep the mind focused at all, if you can stop fabricating and just let things play out without "you" trying to control or focus anything you can come to some seriously deep realizations. Have you read Timothy Leary's "The Psychdelic Experience"? He maps a trip based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead model which may be of interest to you.

To sum it all up, don't waste your time trying to map previous experience to your current understanding of any conceptual models, it's not very useful and can lead to misunderstandings which can mess up your practice. Give us a breakdown of the sort of stuff you're noticing in your sits right now, what sort of landmark meditative experiences you can recall and how things generally are in your life.

All the best & welcome to the DhO.

P.S. Intellectual realization of "no-self" is very different from the experiential understand of it and the changes it brings.

Investigate your immediate sensate experience!

No-self is as false or true as a self... emoticon

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
4/18/12 12:47 PM as a reply to Delicate Monster.
Delicate Monster:

This is one of the issues I have with the maps, it feels like I'm trying to fit my random dynamic out of order crazy experiences (on the cushion and off) into something extremely simplistic and sequential.


Hello Mr Monster

It´s only simplistic and sequential if you don´t take the fractal nature of the pattern into account. If it helps, progress along the "maps" can be experienced to be a transtemporal fractal spiral. You can visualise it in varying layers of dimensional complexity, from the 2D waveform (see this article by Vince Horn) into the 3D temporal-spacial spiral, and on "zooming out" more, a meta-spiral which includes and transcends the temporal experience as an aspect enfolded within it, and so on.

Here is the 2D waveform (a 3D spiral in two dimensions) taken from Vince´s article above:



With this understanding (not shown in the image) you can infer that each part of the map contains an entire sub-map, and the sub map contains a sub-sub map and so on, and it becomes clear that any experience is available at any point. So, on the slower moving meta-spiral, "you" can be in, say, a dark night, but have experiences of equanimity, and even fruitions if you are post 1st path, but in terms of the meta fractal, "you" are still neck deep in a dark night.

Also, a language thing. In this model, there is no "the" dark night as an ultimate reference point, only longer and shorter ones (using a spacio-temporal metaphor that is functional if not entirely appropriate). However from a more practical perspective there is a reference spiral, especially in the ealier stages and paths.

This is why the final challenge is to dis-embed consciousness from any part of any spiral, as to some degree, if you are at all embedded, you are infinitely embedded...a slightly extreme perspective, but just one that relates to the fractal model, and a reason for not being satisfied with any type of identification on any part of any stage of any map. Eventually you have to leave it all behind, so take heed.

Delicate Monster:

That being said, there are some incredible parallels between psychedelic experiences and meditation experiences.


The closer you look, the more the differences fade, and eventually any separation between types of experience becomes less and less helpful. This is also a reference to the limited efficacy of overly map-oriented practice.

If I were to generalise, then the effect of psychedelics (or any other extreme mind state) is that the amplitude of the experiencial waveform is greater (more intense quality to experience, greater dynamic emotional range etc) the standard perceptual filters (ways of processing information) are made more pliable (sometimes to the point of dissolving) and the "categories" of experience vary more, two examples of which could be the arising of previously buried (or repressed) subconscious material and "deeper" level archetypal experiences...which can either highly destabilising or lead to faster realisation (or both) depending on a whole bunch of factors.*

If pushed, those factors could be brought together and be described as the "flexibility" of consciousness in that moment. Or...equivocally, the ability to accept experience, let go of experience, hold experience, embrace experience, become experience, transcend experience...or...simply love what arises. Working backwards with this perspective then, the ability to love is what brings greater realisation. Nice. Always good to end simply.

Cheers

Thom

* For more information see the work of Stan Grof (LSD psychotherapy etc), Robert Anton Wilson (The Cosmic Mirror etc), and others.

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
4/16/12 2:25 PM as a reply to Thom W.
This sounds incredibly interesting. Can you tell me the general equation/construction procedure for the spiral in any dimension, and how to map its components to the MCTB labels?

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
6/15/12 8:09 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
Give us a breakdown of the sort of stuff you're noticing in your sits right now, what sort of landmark meditative experiences you can recall and how things generally are in your life.

All the best & welcome to the DhO.



Thanks for your thoughts and the welcome.

I just posted a more detailed log here

Actually I'll just re-post here incase you guys have any thoughts on it.

Hi, I’d like to introduce myself and get some feedback from some of my fellow yogis. I’m using this moniker temporarily because I can’t afford to have admissions of drug use out on the internet. I’ll think about this some more later and decide what to do. Maybe I’ll make a different account with my real name or just let people know individual who I am that I’d like to be friends with. I am interested in making real life friends and becoming part of this community as I feel I have a lot to offer. Here’s some of my history for those interested or willing to give feedback or advice.

Before Meditation:
Pre-meditation activities from the age of 15-27 constituting “hard-core” experimentations into the nature of consciousness/reality:
extensive lucid dreaming;
psychedelics; and
thought experimenting utilizing an unusually high degree of skill in both creativity and critical thinking individually, as well as in combination with each other.

Insights (A note about these insights: These insights were gained entirely outside the realm of vipassana meditation with absolutely no knowledge of buddhist thought or eastern philosophies. It is commonly said in these circles that “intellectual understandings” are not the same as “insights” gained through meditation, and for the most part I agree. However, I would like to suppose that both are actually labels and it is somehow possible to gain “insights” without meditation. I say this only because the following insights are known to me, they have been revealed to me, and hold identical characteristics as insights I have gained through traditional vipassana meditation.):

Knowledge of the true nature of pre-determinism/free-will.
Knowledge of the true nature of separation/connectivity. This leads to the “There is Only One Thing” experience.
Knowledge of true nature of self/no self. This leads to the “Universe is Experiencing Itself” experience.
Knowledge of the true nature of objectivity/subjectivity. This leads to the “Truth is Where it is Found” experience - I also call this one “The Grand Resolution to All Seeming Paradoxes” or “knowledge of the true nature of paradox.”

Meditation Practice Log (no knowledge of maps or anything outside of Goenka retreat)
1st Goenka 10 day Retreat Nov. 2010
Really intense ups and downs
lots of pains the first few days which after a while got normalized and didn't matter that much
Lots of thoughts regarding future plans and sexual desires desires that would change radically day to day, seemed realistic at the time, but after retreat revealed themselves as neurotic over zealous wasted creative energies.
Lazy near the end just waiting for it to be over
legitimate “mind/body” insight that after retreat had the effect of increasing masterbation while simultaneously decreasing motivation. I think this happened because the mind was now aware that what it was craving was a body sensation, sexual in nature, and that it didn’t need to look to fulfilling any prerequisite, like being successful in life to get lots of hot chicks, it could just skip that step and go straight to what it really wanted, i.e., the body sensation.
Although I didn’t get what Goenka called the Bhanga, I did have several experiences that would be regarded as A&P. The most prominent being the impression that I was on about 3 hits of LSD after the 4th day sit (the first vipassana sit after 3 days of anapana concentration meditation). In other word, a high degree of flow through all sense doors, and more awareness than I could remain equanimous with.
The most significant insight of this course was a knowledge of the habit pattern of the mind. How by, not reacting to thoughts or impulses when they come up, they evaporate from the habit pattern of the mind and are less likely to come up later, and will be less powerful.

After 1st Retreat
after retreat i was really happy... for a while.
After a few weeks I got super lazy, complacent, played lots of video games and watch TV a lot which led to sort of depression, though I wouldn’t call it clinical depression or anything, just a slump.
This slump made me want to go back to meditate again, this time with my wife who had gone to a Goenka 10 day after the one I went to.

2nd Retreat Aug 2011
So we went together, and because I had such an INTENSE time on my first course, my wife suggested I just try to keep it grounded this time
This conscious effort led to an experience of not reacting to the thoughts that caused me to have so many ups and downs the first retreat. In a very real way I became disembedded from the habit pattern of my mind, and just watched and remained equanimous.
there still was some amount of craving for or planning drug-fueled sexual experiences for after retreat, but mostly these were recognized for what they were, experiences in the moment that should be let go of.
This did get boring and I spaced out and slacked off a lot.
At the time I didn’t consider this equanimity to be an insight or a stage as I didn’t know anything about the maps. I just came to the conclusion that meditation was boring and not really for me.

After 2nd retreat
after a short honeymoon of clarity I pretty much fell right back into the slump I was in before.
I might do a little anapana here and there, but whenever I did I would just get horny and stop after 20 mins so I could take care of that

3rd retreat Feb 2012
by this point it was clear to me that mediation had a positive effect on my enjoyment of life, if even just concentration meditation, and I wanted to try to incorporate it in my life.
I didn’t really want to go to another retreat, but I didn’t really care that much and my wife wanted to go so we went.
Still not aware of the maps, but I did go straight back up to this equanimity pretty quickly and just sort of hung out for the 10 days.
I could sit no problem, very little discomfort.
no real insights
I was pretty much equanimous except once in awhile I would want to get to the bhanga but it never happened and I didn’t really care much anyway

After 3rd retreat
left thinking, ya meditation is not for me
shortly after found meditation stuff on the maps via Ron Crouch’s website and read Ingram’s book
switched to noting style

After switching to noting style - March 2012

I’ve been sitting progressively more and more over the last 3 months and am up to about 2 hours a day for over a month and there have been some dramatic improvements in my behavior and in my experience
lately there is a flickering effect present in all senses. like in the movie theater when you can notice the film flickering on the screen, or like sound is all little wavelets, lmy body feels like a metal pole that has been struck on one side and it is ringing, vibrating back and forth, in and out.

Currently I'm doing 20mins anapana followed by 40mins noting twice a day (so 2 hours a day). Recently, I sprinkle a few "stop on a dime" observations throughout the day that Shinzen Young recommends.

I should mention that the 2 hours a day is formal sitting, I find that most of the day I am meditating as I do my activities, which might explain why it seems I stay in equanimity, even high equanimity throughout the day, for long periods of time.

Seems like I am back and forth between lower and higher equanimity. I've had more than a few moments in higher equanimity that were pretty intense, just everything breaking up and waving all out of sync.
I was noting specific sensations, like itch, pain, bird chirp, circles, etc, but recently I've reduced my noting to 5 different options:
feel
ear
eye
mind
taste
By the time I have an attention moment that combines two or more sense doors, I generally just drop noting and try to observe attention. If focus starts to wane I go back to anapana for a bit, then back to noting

Lately, very subtle sensations are revealing themselves, like “body map,” “eye map,” “ear map,” and then these maps or projections start to themselves break up into flow, and I am disembedded from the subtle memory of being in a location specific in time and space.



Questions, Concerns, Wrap-up

So in my estimation it appears as though stream-entry is pretty close, although I’m not entirely confident that my experience lines up exactly with that of someone on first path as I have already “seen the no-self” Shinzen Young says. And I have seen it in the most profound way I can imagine is possible, albeit outside the vipassana tradition.

The last three months, since I started meditating every day has been the most fulfilling and enjoyable I can remember in my life. So honestly, whether or not I am on first path going for stream-entry, second path, completely enlightened or just on no path at all because the maps are a bunch of BS, all-together doesn’t really matter to me. The benefits are speaking for themselves at this point.

However, I am working on the assumption that this “blip” or “wink of nothingness” is actually something that I will notice, and have an impact on me and not just something that could pass by without having some sort of gravity to it. Because there are often times little blips all over the place if I look for them in between attention moments or at the end of an attention moment. I don’t consider them a big deal, and I don’t think they are the blip people are talking about as nibbana, unless all of you are all under some sort of group placebo effect by imagining this as a big deal.

RE: LSD and the Dark Night -- Anyone with experience meditating
Answer
6/15/12 8:05 PM as a reply to Thom W.
Thom W:
The closer you look, the more the differences fade, and eventually any separation between types of experience becomes less and less helpful.


I tend to agree at this point. Although that might just be because I'm in EQ. lol.