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Practice Update: The Veil

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Practice Update: The Veil
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5/14/12 5:28 AM
So, just a bit of practice update...

On January 18th just after working out and on the drive home, this sense of a grayish veil over perception that I didn't even know was there felt like it ripped through the back of my head and vanished, never to return, or at least not so far, and it left the visual and other perceptual fields very much like they are in a PCE, but with less WOW factor than the PCE, though still quite interesting and with more of a natural freshness than ordinary pre-veil dropping experience.

There are still occasional affective bodily twinges at times, though fewer and far between, so affect is not gone.

However, the visual and auditory clarity is markedly better, as well as bodily clarity. If feels like a permanent baseline shift of some sort, and I would be surprised if I got fMRI'd again if something wasn't different on it. It feels like some oscillation of interpretation and the physical senses shifted markedly towards the physical and away from the mental, though plenty of mental stuff still occurs, and visualization and the like can still occur.

This occurred after what I think of as my "peppermint phase", where this winter the sense of cold suddenly changed to the sense one gets when one puts peppermint oil on their skin and blows on it: much more defined and somehow clear and crisp. I don't remember hearing anyone describe this. It also followed a phase where it felt like I could perceive my stomach acid: may have just been GERD... ;)

It also occurred after a lot of hyper-relentless attention to the directness of visual experience in a wide yet inclusive and detailed way.

Dreams continue to get more elaborate, longer, and are more detailed and memorable, which is the reverse of what AF-ers tend to report.

The most interesting thing about this shift is the ability to sit still and feel like nothing is going on at all but in a very good way, like nothing going on done right, like things are just still, and this without any shift into anything jhanic or the like, not that jhanas aren't still available, and in fact seem more available and interesting than they have in a while, like they are right there just waiting for attention to shift to them, so close to the surface, which is also against the AF direction generally reported.

This has also altered the way I interact with others in a way that most shifts have not, and I find that I choose my words and gestures and facial expressions and where I put my eye attention and the like with much more automatic care and attention to each little bit of it, and this has actually made a real positive difference and I recommend it.

One more thing that is interesting relates to the way the mind imagines the inside of the head, neck, and trunk, what I will call the "inner space": there is simply much less imagined visual component to this than there was before, though it is not gone entirely, just substantially reduced.

Anyway, I don't think this is AF, as some affective things still occur sometimes, a few deep triggers clearly remain, nor does it match with any other clear map thing that I know of, just reporting it for the sake of putting it out there to see if it rings true with anyone else. One way or the other, it is better than what came before and has made things even more interesting.

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/14/12 9:42 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Sounds like fun, thanks for posting about this!

One thing I wanted to comment on, although I don't know that it adds anything to the subject at hand, was this line about the winter:

This occurred after what I think of as my "peppermint phase", where this winter the sense of cold suddenly changed to the sense one gets when one puts peppermint oil on their skin and blows on it: much more defined and somehow clear and crisp. I don't remember hearing anyone describe this.

The first full-on, real deal and clearly remembered PCE I had back in January last year happened after becoming really attentive to the coldness, sense of moisture and contact of the air and snowflakes; I described it as: "I became incredibly mindful of a huge field of sensation very quickly but kept bringing the attention back to the wonderful feeling of these fine snowflakes dancing across my skin like little sparks of beauty and light.". I didn't use the same descriptions as you, but it's definitely a quality I picked up on and which has been invaluable in my own practice; the clarity and directness of sensory sub-modalities never fails to bring about a sense of wonder and fascination.

Cheers dude, looking forward to hearing more.

[Edited for righteous justice]

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/14/12 2:25 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
the significant differences that are being reported among those who have either totally or for-the-most-part dropped 'the feeler' is satisfying to me in someway. It may be a prideful satisfaction that my path is totally my own or a prideless reassurance that as long as life is getting easier than progress towards AF isn't just imagined and any incongruence between my own journey and that of the AF claimants can be safely ignored.

i didn't know Alabama ever got cold. Perhaps you live near the TN border.

tx for the update

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/14/12 5:42 PM as a reply to Jon T.
@Tommy: Winter Wonderland! Sounds like a lot of fun. Amazing that everyone isn't into this stuff, isn't it?

@Jon: Yep, about 6 miles as the crow flies from the Tennessee Border, and in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains as well, so we get snow a few times a year typically, though this winter was much warmer than most, with only a few hard frosts that I remember and just occasional light snow flurries a few times if I recall correctly.

One more interesting thing: for about a week now, when eating foods, particularly rich foods, the foods fail to do something they did before in my brain, like they no longer stimulate some reward pathway or create some small neuro-chemical buzz like they did before. I noticed this most strongly about 5 days ago when eating a large vanilla-caramel ice-cream sunday.

I was struck by the fact that nothing happened, and it was a strong sense of nothing happening, as something was definitely expected and it just totally didn't happen. What is interesting is that previously I wouldn't have noticed so much what the ice-cream did particularly except that it was nice, but, take away that somewhat subtle effect, and the lack was quite palpable, sort of like giving someone a few alcohol free beers and them expecting a buzz off of them and nothing happening at all.

I continue to notice the effect as it continue to occur, or not occur to put it more properly, but it is waning relatively rapidly in terms of how different it feels, not because the effect or lack thereof is diminishing so far as I can tell, but I think because the contrast is less stark as I get used to it.

What is also interesting is that it has revealed that there is at least one more somewhat subtle and seemingly buzz-free reward pathway, and how that one operates is not entirely clear, as something is satisfied when I eat, and I think that pathway is the same as it was before, just that the first pathway I described feels like it has been locked out or cut off or perhaps diverted.

I realize that I am using somewhat scientific neuro-chemical theories to describe what is purely subjective experience, but that is my current best interpretation at this moment.

Much research potential in all this.

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/15/12 8:31 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I realize that I am using somewhat scientific neuro-chemical theories to describe what is purely subjective experience, but that is my current best interpretation at this moment.

I think a neuro-chemical approach describes what appears to be happening quite well, not that I actually know all that much about it at that level, and I'm fascinated by the idea that the whole 'thing' comes back down to the basic neuro-chemical and/or neuro-genetic processes inherited by this body right here; the interesting thing is that this is all completely 'actual', nothing affective or "spiritual" about it!

Interesting update, definitely some food for thought there. No pun intended.

Edited to add:

Daniel:
One more interesting thing: for about a week now, when eating foods, particularly rich foods, the foods fail to do something they did before in my brain, like they no longer stimulate some reward pathway or create some small neuro-chemical buzz like they did before

I notice this during a PCE, it's not that it's not enjoyable but it seems like food becomes more functional than rewarding. That said, regardless of what you're eating there's still that exquisite purity of taste itself.

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/15/12 9:40 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
dissatisfaction and no-self insights, ftw?

less "daniel" = less perception that ice cream sensations can satisfy "daniel" (as no sensation can satisfy another sensation)

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/16/12 7:25 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:

I think a neuro-chemical approach describes what appears to be happening quite well, not that I actually know all that much about it at that level, and I'm fascinated by the idea that the whole 'thing' comes back down to the basic neuro-chemical and/or neuro-genetic processes inherited by this body right here; the interesting thing is that this is all completely 'actual', nothing affective or "spiritual" about it!


I wholeheartedly agree - the language we use to describe these things has interesting consequences of various sorts - and personally I am finding the down-to-earth, neuro-chemical/brain approach much more appealing than the religious one, as it allows one to dodge the hats, chants, bows, and more.

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/16/12 7:49 AM as a reply to Yadid dee.
Maybe we're getting off topic, but since the question of the neurological basis of mind came up... . Daniel, I saw on another post you mentioned Allan Wallace's book Hidden Dimensions. I downloaded it, and have listened to about a third.

What do you think of his argument for consciousness as a non-material reality? He seems to make a solid case that consciousness as an emergent property of the brain is a gross assumption. But that doesn't mean it isn't so. Personally, I have no idea. How does it look from your perspective?

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/16/12 9:56 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Sounds nice. Congrats!

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/16/12 12:39 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram (later post, same thread)
I realize that I am using somewhat scientific neuro-chemical theories to describe what is purely subjective experience, but that is my current best interpretation at this moment.


from original post:
this sense of a grayish veil over perception that I didn't even know was there felt like it ripped through the back of my head and vanished


I think the neuro-chemical theory is useful and think these reports that strongly note "back of the head..." are pointing to the vagus nerve branches (left and right) being de/stimulated - resulting in changes (temporary or permanent) in afferent and efferent nerve responses and their chemical triggers (e.g., norepinephrine releases into the amygdala, acetylcholine releasing slowing heart rate,etc).

Interestingly, there are similar reports of painful back of the head ripping sensations and keen/specific gut awareness in adverse vagal nerve stimulation (vasovagal syncopes like pressure or intense multi-day headaches creeping up the back of the neck upon bowel movements - these folks often report extreme pain in the LEFT side of the back neck). The nerve originating in the brain stem runs through many places (aortic arch, celiac branches, etc, the nerve is said to have the "widest distribution in the body") to the digestion system and persons experiencing adverse vagal response also sometimes report sharp sensitivity to intestine sensations, acids (gastric nerves are branched from the vagus nerves.

Stephen Porges Polyvagal Theory (and here ) addresses primitive vagal portions (such as heart rate and emotion) and newer vagal portions and includes therapeutic vagal nerve stimulation. Elsewhere pain is reportedly reduced (aka: nociceptive inhibition) with some forms of vagal stimulation... Adept meditators are often reported to have shifted in their experience of pain and beginning meditators often report the pain in the legs and back just vanishing or separating from emotion after a few days of concentration. Related to inhibition of reward pathway and eating vanilla-caramel ice-cream?

There is a lot of information to assimilate about the vagal nerves and related (it effects and is effected by hearing, emotion, tactility), chemical releases and adverse and beneficial stimulations. Personally, I see how a malady such as Parkinson's Disease and GERD can result from one aspect of de/stimulation, and how reports like yours (I'll call it a beneficial, welcome effects) are related to smoothing, beneficial, holistic stimulations (your practice indicates to me many physical and psychological efforts over many years).

So, there's a lot to digest for someone interested in the positive downstream results of de/stimulation of the vagus branches and their related where a person also is interested in the neuro-chemical changes occurring with meditation, mindfulness and their many various expressions (HAIETHMOBA, god-in-all-things, wonder, friendliness, anapanasati, anicca, non-separate, etc).

Thankfully, this nerve and meditative practices are being studied by medical scientists and practitioners, as in this example. of healing art.neurology.

As it's often said here on the DhO, a person tends to get what they optimize for. Why a person would not want to optimize for a calm, wonderful, useful mind, I do not know (what the heck was I doing for 37 years?). Perhaps the broad awareness of certain misery-stress causing ferocious behaviours worldwide today are driving people to understanding causality and the causality in one's own mind and body. This amazing internet is allowing us to see not just theses ferocious exploitations, but but also astounding personal and wholesome efforts of all sorts, including evidence of the human mind effecting its astounding altruistic/empathic/solutions/actual friendliness/curiosity of life-universe-here potential.


However, in a practice forum, if spare "time" is limited one can just do their practices (ethical discipline, joyous perseverance, anapanasati/kasina, sensate mindfulness, metta, friendliness/receptivity, mindful attention to sense-cravings with action-restraint and sense-redirection, concentration, respect/friendliness for all, etc) and not spend time on "why the back of the head?" thing. Note to selfemoticon

Thanks for sharing your experience, Daniel.

[edit: and more hereon possibly why people report orgasmic sensations outside of of the reproductive zones during meditation or extensive mindfulness. Anywho...back to work]

felt like it ripped through the back of my head
(...)
This occurred after what I think of as my "peppermint phase", where this winter the sense of cold suddenly changed to the sense one gets when one puts peppermint oil on their skin and blows on it: much more defined and somehow clear and crisp.
(...)
It also followed a phase where it felt like I could perceive my stomach acid: may have just been GERD... ;)

It also occurred after a lot of hyper-relentless attention to the directness of visual experience in a wide yet inclusive and detailed way.
(...)
This has also altered the way I interact with others in a way that most shifts have not, and I find that I choose my words and gestures and facial expressions and where I put my eye attention and the like with much more automatic care and attention to each little bit of it, and this has actually made a real positive difference and I recommend it.

One more thing that is interesting relates to the way the mind imagines the inside of the head, neck, and trunk, what I will call the "inner space": there is simply much less imagined visual component to this than there was before, though it is not gone entirely, just substantially reduced.

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/16/12 12:02 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
One more interesting thing: for about a week now, when eating foods, particularly rich foods, the foods fail to do something they did before in my brain, like they no longer stimulate some reward pathway or create some small neuro-chemical buzz like they did before. I noticed this most strongly about 5 days ago when eating a large vanilla-caramel ice-cream sunday.
Daniel, I am curious about the front-side of this event: the specific want for a vanilla-caramel ice-cream before eating it and lacking a reward sensation. If the reward pathway is gone, then it would be useful follow-up to read your description of the specific interest in/want for this food (or a similar) when it comes up again (or to learn if the specific interest/want does not aries again).

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/17/12 6:26 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Does it seem to line up with the Sakadagami fetter model where the the fetters of ill-will and sensuous craving are diminished? What are other signs of being a sakadagami listed in the scriptures (so we can compare)?

I would be most interested.

Oliver

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/17/12 8:51 PM as a reply to Oliver Myth.
Hi Oliver - In the event your questions were directed to me (maybe you meant to reply to Daniel): I really don't know. It's plenty for me to just try to manage my own ignorance and collect my mind fully in practice, no leaks to expectation/anticipation, or concern for orienting someone's practice notes on a fetter model unless they ask. Perhaps Daniel still has teachers/peers in this experience and talks to them about this sort of event to get their perspective/experience. I understand your point and how you are seeking to relate another person's experience to the fetter model though; that is not something that I am thinking about here.

I am hoping Daniel will be able to relate more of this experience he's had. In that people report this sort of sensation resulting from meditation (sensation of ripping off/shearing/ of the back of the head/brainstem area) and in vasovagal syncope, I am curious to know how this event can also effect research. I am pretty sure most people want to have the meditative version of this event versus the syncope event (if indeed the same nerve is being stimulated).

I saw your new thread, btw. It's good to read about your sense of well-being.

[edit: clarifications]

RE: Practice Update: The Veil
Answer
5/27/12 4:05 AM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Just a few things on this early morning:

I do not agree with all of B A Wallace's interpretations of reality, consciousness, jhana, and the like, and, in fact, there are numerous very important places where we diverge. I believe that you can't find consciousness particularly, but can only extrapolate it from sensations, themselves of which are transient, and don't believe you can have some ground of being experience without some subtle sensations that imply this, however abstract or vague or whatever.

I do, hoever, find his critique of modern science and their problems with subjectivity and the history of it all hilarious and scathing, and laughed out loud again and again while driving down the road back and forth to work listening to that guy's perfect voice just letting the irony fly.

As to behavior, as I said, there is clearly the other reward pathway in place, and so it hasn't changed behavior as much as one might think.

If interesting thing change or shift, I will let you all know. We are short staffed at work so I am working a ton and have little time for much else when sleeping, bathing and eating is factored in, as well as basic household maintenance.

As to how this related to Sakadagami stuff, those models are currently far from my mind and way of thinking about these things at the moment. See this post for more on that:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2760714#_19_message_2760714

Daniel