What to make of this experience?

Robot Foo, modified 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 11:34 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 11:34 AM

What to make of this experience?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/4/12 Recent Posts

I am new to this site, as I am fairly new to meditation. I have meditated on several occasions but never sticked with the practice.

Some months ago, something intriguing happened to me. I was at home, quietly meditating, not particularly focused, and a word came to my mind. I immediately got a strong sensation that the word was not coming from me, at least not from my conscious self.

I will not tell which word it was for the moment, since I do not feel confortable to do so. But anyway, the word was unfamiliar to me. I knew the word existed, but was not sure of its meaning, so I had to look it up on a dictionary. The word is one of mystical nature.

Days went by and as I thought about it, I lost my initial sensation that the word didn't came from me, and turned in favor of the explanation that I probably had unconsciously heard it before, and that it just happened to arise in a moment where I was very relaxed and more in touch with my subconscious.

Then a few days later, I was on a shopping mall eating a lunch, and happened to browse the wifi networks with my phone, to check if I could get some free internet. To my astonishing one of the networks was named with that exact word. And again I got a strong sensation that the word didn't came from me, and that the wifi network name proved it, since I obviously have no control of what people name their networks.

A few facts that keep me thinking about this: the word is fairly uncommon; it has a mystical meaning; I never browsed the wifi networks at that place before, so it is completely impossible for my unconscious to have picked it up there; the strong sensation I got twice that the word was not coming from me.

I am completely unable to make anything out of this experience, thus any feedback on this or the sharing of similar experiences will be welcomed.

m m a, modified 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 12:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 12:09 PM

RE: What to make of this experience?

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
I think there's nothing to make of it, you are a victim of observation bias/frequency illusion/baader-meinhoff phenomenon.

short version: It was always there, you just began to notice it.

slightly longer version:

As something new enters your consciousness, your brain attributes a pattern to it. When you see/hear/feel that same thing again, your brain interprets that pattern as of the same ilk as the original imprint.

Haven't you ever gone your whole life without hearing a particular phrase, then you hear it twice in a single day?
It is really just a trick of perception. It may seem 'important' because this word is mystical, but I'd wager my life's savings that it is a coincidence. Additionally, you won't share the word, but I strongly suspect this word is not as 'uncommon' as you suspect it to be. I'd be much more impressed if the phrase that drifted into your head was something banal like 'Mike's wireless network' and 2 days later - BAM you find out Mike just moved in and set up his wifi. Maybe then I'd believe you had some wifi-sensor in your brain.

You probably read it somewhere, and your brain served it up to you during a moment of unfocused meditation as if new... and then once the pattern was established you began to see it everywhere. Meditation, pragmatic dharma, and buddhism are NOT about attributing meaning to coincidences, I'll leave that up to the evangelical christians,astrologists and the like.

one interesting place I think you could take this experience is to really investigate how this word felt like it was coming from elsewhere, and how other words feel like your own. what is the difference between the two? Where do words come from? What is the line between words from without and words from within? Is there really a difference?*

more reading:


Cool story, this phenomenon happened to me with this phenomenon! Very meta.

*.... (who am I?)
Robot Foo, modified 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 12:37 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 12:37 PM

RE: What to make of this experience?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/4/12 Recent Posts
@mma, great answer, thanks. You basically underlined my own logical explanation, but then you went meta, and that was brilliant :-)

I do not consider myself a mystical person, I was never particularly religious and my path through life has been more on the scientific skepticism side. So maybe exactly because I am not a mystical person, I got so disturbed by the strong feeling I got twice of just knowing the word was not from me. Probably you are right, maybe this is just a trick of the mind, but the feeling still disturbs me.

The best way I can compare it to is to some sort of strong déjà vu experience. Given your great answer before, I am curious on your thoughts on déjà vu experiences in general.
m m a, modified 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 1:01 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 1:01 PM

RE: What to make of this experience?

Posts: 153 Join Date: 6/9/11 Recent Posts
I too am more of a scientist/skeptic than a mystic, and I think thats why pragmatic dharma works for me as a hobby/lifestyle. It really is a series of first-person claims with experiments you can do to verify them for yourself.

Disturbing feelings, at least for me, usually indicate I've hit a new, unexplored, and interesting territory in my own brain. In other words, progress. As you move along the path of insight, expect lots of unsettling/hard to explain occurrences.... entire religions or worldviews have been founded on the disturbances therein.

I've personally never had a strong deja vu experience like that one scene in the Matrix...
and I'll decline to respond in more detail because I'm never going to beat out these parapgraphs from wikipedia:

Scientific research

The psychologist Edward B. Titchener in his book A Textbook of Psychology (1928), wrote that déjà vu is caused by a person getting a brief glimpse of an object or situation prior to full conscious perception, resulting in a false sense of familiarity.[2] The explanation that has mostly been accepted of déjà vu is not that it is an act of "precognition" or "prophecy", but rather that it is an anomaly of memory, giving the false impression that an experience is "being recalled".[3][4] This explanation is supported by the fact that the sense of "recollection" at the time is strong in most cases, but that the circumstances of the "previous" experience (when, where, and how the earlier experience occurred) are quite uncertain or believed to be impossible. Likewise, as time passes, subjects can exhibit a strong recollection of having the "unsettling" experience of déjà vu itself, but little or no recollection of the specifics of the event(s) or circumstance(s) they were "remembering" when they had the déjà vu experience. In particular, this may result from an overlap between the neurological systems responsible for short-term memory and those responsible for long-term memory (events which are perceived as being in the past). One theory is the events would be stored into memory before the conscious part of the brain even receives the information and processes it.[5] But this has been downplayed as the brain would not be able to store information without a sensory input first. Another theory suggests the brain may process the sensory input as a memory, and therefore during the event one believes it to be a past memory, yet it is only a memory-in-progress; which is how the brain perceives life. In a survey Brown (2004) had concluded that approximately two-thirds of the population have had déjà vu experiences.[6]

Memory-based explanations

The similarity between a déjà-vu-eliciting stimulus and an existing, but different, memory trace may lead to the sensation.[7][12] Thus, encountering something which evokes the implicit associations of an experience or sensation that cannot be remembered may lead to déjà vu. In an effort to experimentally reproduce the sensation, Banister and Zangwill (1941)[13][14] used hypnosis to give participants posthypnotic amnesia for material they had already seen. When this was later re-encountered, the restricted activation caused thereafter by the posthypnotic amnesia resulted in three of the 10 participants reporting what the authors termed "paramnesias". Memory-based explanations may lead to the development of a number of non-invasive experimental methods by which a long sought-after analogue of déjà vu can be reliably produced that would allow it to be tested under well-controlled experimental conditions. Cleary[12] suggests that déjà vu may be a form of familiarity-based recognition (recognition that is based on a feeling of familiarity with a situation) and that laboratory methods of probing familiarity-based recognition hold promise for probing déjà vu in laboratory settings. A recent study that used virtual reality technology to study reported deja vu experiences supported this idea. This virtual reality investigation suggested that similarity between a new scene's spatial layout and the layout of a previously experienced scene in memory (but which fails to be recalled) may contribute to the deja vu experience [15][15]. When the previously experienced scene fails to come to mind in response to viewing the new scene, that previously experienced scene in memory can still exert an effect--that effect may be a feeling of familiarity with the new scene that is subjectively experienced as a feeling of deja vu, or of having been there before despite knowing otherwise. Another possible explanation for the phenomenon of déjà vu is the occurrence of "cryptomnesia", which is where information learned is forgotten but nevertheless stored in the brain, and similar occurrences invoke the contained knowledge, leading to a feeling of familiarity because of the situation, event or emotional/vocal content, known as "déjà vu".

Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 1:38 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 6/4/12 1:38 PM

RE: What to make of this experience?

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Excellent answer. : )