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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Possible A&P, then Dark Night, then i'm not sure!

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I'm not sure how to start, or what information is relevant to this so i will just jump right in.

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Background
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When i was 15 i was into reading about buddhism, although much of it was about karma and the more traditionally "religious" aspects of buddhism. Around this time i also starting getting interested in drugs, and began smoking marijuana. Through the internet i discovered that there was a powerful dissociative psychedelic called DXM that can be found in many over the counter cough syrup remedies. I tried this drug and had a fun time, so decided to try a higher dose.

The night that i did this higher dose changed my life. At the peak of the experience my sense of self became irrelevant as "i" exploded into a bright fireworks display, and then had the sensation of being on a "roller coaster made of light". As i came back to myself i had visions of my parents and life as it was, unfiltered, and had many realisations about how fragile and scared and small and lost we all are. It was a powerful experience that changed the way i saw myself and those around me. I came out of the experience with a strong desire to "help people". For the rest of the night i was dealing with the physical side effects of the drug and generally euphoric over what i had just experienced.

The next day started fine, and i was sober however had a kind of hangover from the drug. By the afternoon i was sobbing uncontrollably to my best friend as all the suffering i had experienced in life came welling up and utterly overwhelmed me. All i could say were things like "so many bad memories", all i could think was how awful everything/life was and how i couldn't possibly continue living my life as i had. Just for the sake of perspective - i had always been an awkward sort of kid and had been mildly bullied and excluded, however i still had friends and a stable home life.

Once i had control of myself, i confronted my mother (my father was away working) and told her that i had had a powerful experience on a drug the night before and had realised that the important thing in life was to help people. [I realise now how naive i was that i expected her to just accept this, lol] I wanted to leave school and go to TAFE (I am Australian, i am not sure what the U.S equivalent of TAFE is, something like community college i think) to study to become a social worker. My mother of course didn't know what to do and just started the whole anti drug spiel. I tried to forget about it all and went to bed.

The next day i still felt the same way, and got to school and could not make it to my first class, i just couldn't face the banal reality of it all, in the face of all the suffering that was still welling up. I just needed to get out and away. I left school and walked to my mothers work and explained my inability to cope. My parents didn't know what to do, and eventually after a week or so i went back to school. All this precipitated 10 years of existential angst and drug abuse, of neglected friendships and general self destructive behaviour. I had a couple of bouts of self harm. I felt like i was the only one around me that was "awake", ceased trying at school as i believed i was so above it all, that none of it mattered in any real way. After leaving school and moving out of home with another friend, the drug abuse escalated and i ended up having a break down or sorts and moving back home. After that i was on several different anti depressants and saw a number of psychologists, all of which did nothing to help my depression whatsoever. I stopped trying psychologists and medication about a year and a half ago, there was just no point.

I didn't know anything about stages of insight at the time all this was happening. A couple of years ago i stumbled upon MCTB and immediately identified with the description of the A&P event and subsequent Dark Night. For the last couple of years i have been considering writing this post in order to see if i was correct in my assumption. I always found an excuse not to, until now.

All of that is background to the reason i am writing this post today.

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The Main Event
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The depression and anxiety issues have been easier to deal with the last year or so as i have matured and learnt to deal with those sorts of things in healthy ways, as well as the fact i now have the support of a loving partner, who has helped a great deal. I am currently looking for a job and trying to get my life back on track, when this happened two days ago:

My partner and i took what we thought was a moderate dose of psilocybin containing mushrooms. As they started to take effect it became obvious that they were far stronger than we anticipated. I began to lose control and panicked that i had taken too much. I was terrified. I managed to make it to my partner who was in the bedroom, before my existence shattered and i felt like i was pulled down six different hallways at once. I regained conciousness on the floor, after i stood i vomited and my partner helped my into the bed. From then on i became overwhelmed with closed eye hallucinations and a feeling that i would "be ok, that we would all (everyone, existence itself) was and is perfectly ok". Time starts to break down here so i will do my best to describe what happened next.

The visuals either stopped or became irrelevant. Everything, and by that i mean my sense of self, and the external world, strobed in and out of being. I can't remember what then happened, but suddenly "i" was in a non dual state of complete and boundless freedom. This was nothing like the fireworks display when i was 15 and nothing "i" have ever experienced before. The sense arose that "I" (this is very difficult to talk about as there was literally no me at the time) had reached the goal, that from now on all of life was a formality, that nothing more needed to be done. That i had nothing to do, ever again, except for decide how to arrange my body through life. Complete freedom, unrestrained. There was input coming through my eyes, however there was no differentiation between "myself" (which had simply vanished, although there was still awareness of a kind) and the rest of reality. Everything was one. Subject/object duality ceased. No definition of this state was possible as even the smallest muster of perception was automatically incorrect. There was no way and nothing to define, there just WAS. The book I Am That came to mind. My partner came into the room at one point and when i spoke all i could say was "there is no me", and the sound of my voice was strange, just some bizarre occurance that arose. I remember "feeling" free. I remember thoughts of all i had read on the subject arising and "my" wonder that it was all true, and possible! The idea of a "trip" or "drug" seemed utterly meaningless. All abstraction was seen as meaningless in the face of this One. At one point the thought arose "this is stream entry" and i felt intense gratitude and solace. I knew life had been changed forever. I felt at home. I perceived i was in am "after" state, that everything before this no longer mattered. This went of for an unknown period of time.

Eventually the personality that is writing this now started to come back, and it was a disconcerting experience. "I" felt to big to "go back" to such a small, limited state with it's attendant concerns. I remember not wanting to live my life again. Eventually my "ego" returned to normal and i was left with the effects of the drug to experience as an individual entity again. I couldn't believe there are people walking around that don't know what we are at the most fundamental level, and there was sadness for that, but mostly gratitude and complete awe and disbelief that "it" had finally happened to me, that i now knew, that i had seen it for myself and knew it was possible.

I was sober a couple of hours later and ever since then, my subjective experience of reality has changed in a subtle way that i have trouble defining. There is almost a sensation of absence in my head, like everything is the same as before this experience, as in my personality and memories are all intact, but something is slightly changed. I have noticed i have been less neurotic and insecure. More grounded and "alive", with less chatter going on in my head. I feel clearer, although not at all times. I feel that this experience has created a "before" and "After" division in my life. I try to remember how i experienced things before and while it is mostly the same there is this subtle clarifying difference. I will look at things and while they appear the same, i feel like my relationship to it has changed in a way that i can't describe, except to say "i" am more here, while there is something less.

I should point out here that i have no formal, regular meditation routine. Occasionally over the years since i was 15 i have practiced some metta exercises, and had periods of time where i would cultivate mindfullness during my everyday activities. Mostly before falling asleep is when i would do the metta and mindfullness exercises. Now i feel like i am mindful almost automatically. I still have a personality obviously but it seems to "matter" less?

Basically the point of me writing this is so that i can get feedback on what may have happened to me, and what i should do now. Immediately prior to writing this post i went and laid down to be generally mindful of any sensations and thoughts that arose, and ended up doing it for 3 hours, when i thought it could have only been 1, 1.5 hours at the most. I have attempted noting practice in the past but get hung up on what to note and when, and how not to note that you are noting, or if you even should.

I apologise for any spelling or grammar issues, i've made this as tidy as i can. I am so grateful that this forum exists as I simply do not know where to go from here, and would love as much advice/direction as possible.

If you read all that, thank you for your time :-)

RE: Possible A&P, then Dark Night, then i'm not sure!
Answer
6/18/12 3:19 PM as a reply to Bryce York.
Hey Bryce,

Welcome to the DhO,

I'm familiar with DXM and psylocybin so I can understand where you're coming from, but I'd be wary of trying to correlate such experiences with the progress of insight model. Yes, the experiences described could be lined up quite nicely with certain aspects of those particular stages, however it's not going to be of very much value to you in terms of how best to proceed from here. By the sounds of things, you're still experiencing the afterglow of a decent trip which, in my experience, lasts around three or four days depending on how much you've taken; the same sort of thing can happen with LSD but it tends to be less gentle and more short-lived but it's common to most psychedelics. I recently did an experiment involving LSD and insight which may be of interest to you, if only to demonstrate that, no matter how amazing these experiences seem, they're just another experience and can be investigated for further insights.

Don't place too much importance on what's happened so far, you've had a glimpse of what's possible without the chemical enhancements and so it's a matter of whether you're interested in pursuing these insights further. If you have no formal meditation training prior to this experience, the door's wide open as to how you could proceed.

What is it that you'd like to achieve through the practices discussed on here?

T

P.S.:
I apologise for any spelling or grammar issues, i've made this as tidy as i can.

Don't worry about things like that, some of us are just arseholes when it comes to writing... emoticon

RE: Possible A&P, then Dark Night, then i'm not sure!
Answer
6/18/12 7:28 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Tommy M:
Hey Bryce,

Welcome to the DhO,

I'm familiar with DXM and psylocybin so I can understand where you're coming from, but I'd be wary of trying to correlate such experiences with the progress of insight model. Yes, the experiences described could be lined up quite nicely with certain aspects of those particular stages, however it's not going to be of very much value to you in terms of how best to proceed from here. By the sounds of things, you're still experiencing the afterglow of a decent trip which, in my experience, lasts around three or four days depending on how much you've taken; the same sort of thing can happen with LSD but it tends to be less gentle and more short-lived but it's common to most psychedelics. I recently did an experiment involving LSD and insight which may be of interest to you, if only to demonstrate that, no matter how amazing these experiences seem, they're just another experience and can be investigated for further insights.

Don't place too much importance on what's happened so far, you've had a glimpse of what's possible without the chemical enhancements and so it's a matter of whether you're interested in pursuing these insights further. If you have no formal meditation training prior to this experience, the door's wide open as to how you could proceed.

What is it that you'd like to achieve through the practices discussed on here?

T

P.S.:
I apologise for any spelling or grammar issues, i've made this as tidy as i can.

Don't worry about things like that, some of us are just arseholes when it comes to writing... emoticon


Thank you for the reply and the welcome emoticon

I think you were very right about me still experiencing an afterglow from the trip. It was an amazing experience, and i still almost can't believe it happened. This morning i am much less... excited about it all, i guess you could say. I'm sorry this is the first time i have ever spoken about these experiences with anyone and i don't have a good grasp of all the language used the describe these things.

Basically the point of me posting those experiences was to get some sort of validation that yes, what i experienced was real and potentially valuable. I realise that as these states were drug induced they aren't the same as if i had induced them through regular practice. However from what i have read both here (the sticky by Kenneth Folk at the top of this forum) and some parts of MCTB and other places, i really feel like i accidentally stumbled across the A&P at least. Ever since the experience when i was 15, my life changed completely, and i am so certain that i have had many periods of being in the dark night over the last 10 years. However all that said i realise the only way to truly progress with this stuff is to pick a technique and practice. I don't intend to rely on drugs to do the heavy lifting, so to speak.

I believe you when you say i shouldn't put too much emphasis on the things i have experienced so far, however this is a little difficult because of the enormous impact it had on my life. Do you understand what i mean? I'm a rather pedantic person at times and just want to know "where i am".

What i want to get out of all this, is to stop suffering in the ways that i have read it is possible to do so. I want to experience the freedom written about in buddhist literature. I just honestly have no idea where to begin. I am at the heart of it confused and almost commitment phobic in some way.

I have tried noting practice a couple of times and have found it very confusing. I usually get caught up in the noting and being precise about it, and end up not paying close attention to the sensations i am supposed to be seeing clearer by noting. The act of noting seems to be another thing to note, then i get caught in an infinite regress. Obviously i am approaching this the wrong way, or need to keep at it more, i just don't know.

It has been good to get some feedback, and i will take your advice and try to approach things with fresh eyes and not place too much emphasis on what had already happened. May i ask what meditation technique you find helpful? Do you have any suggestions for someone that may not be good at noting practice?

Thank you for taking the time to reply, the link you suggested was helpful in some ways, but way over my head in others - i need to learn more of the language. Thanks again emoticon

RE: Possible A&P, then Dark Night, then i'm not sure!
Answer
6/20/12 4:06 PM as a reply to Bryce York.
I'm sorry this is the first time i have ever spoken about these experiences with anyone and i don't have a good grasp of all the language used the describe these things.

It's not a problem, just describe things in a way that makes sense to you and the chances are that someone's going to know what you're talking about. All the language stuff comes with time, don't get hung up on it or worry about using the wrong terms, we all need to start somewhere and you've found a good place that doesn't value terminology or dogma over real practice.

Basically the point of me posting those experiences was to get some sort of validation that yes, what i experienced was real and potentially valuable. I realise that as these states were drug induced they aren't the same as if i had induced them through regular practice. However from what i have read both here (the sticky by Kenneth Folk at the top of this forum) and some parts of MCTB and other places, i really feel like i accidentally stumbled across the A&P at least. Ever since the experience when i was 15, my life changed completely, and i am so certain that i have had many periods of being in the dark night over the last 10 years. However all that said i realise the only way to truly progress with this stuff is to pick a technique and practice. I don't intend to rely on drugs to do the heavy lifting, so to speak

It's possible that you've come across the A&P at some point, I know I did and it was a long, long time before ever starting to meditate. Kenneth Folk says that his first big A&P Event happened while on LSD, and he's now a skilled teacher in his own right who's done the work required to get there; basically, just because this happened while you were tripping balls doesn't completely invalidate your experience as being something important. You've come to this point here and now, whatever it was that happened during that experience has been enough to cause you to question reality in a serious way, otherwise you'd never have posted here. That being the case, as you rightly said, it's a matter of picking a technique or practice that works for you which may take a bit of trial and error at first, but the point is that you've made the first step.

I believe you when you say i shouldn't put too much emphasis on the things i have experienced so far, however this is a little difficult because of the enormous impact it had on my life. Do you understand what i mean? I'm a rather pedantic person at times and just want to know "where i am".

I completely understand, we've all been there at one time or another and this is where it's useful to be able to talk to other who may know a bit more about the territory than you do at present. There can be some truly incredible experiences along the way, but recognizing how any and all experience is impermanent, doesn't contain a Self and is inherently unsatisfying is what leads to insight and progress. If you hang onto experiences, you're just cultivating more stress for yourself by trying to "get back to" that way of being when, really, it's always happening already.

What i want to get out of all this, is to stop suffering in the ways that i have read it is possible to do so. I want to experience the freedom written about in buddhist literature. I just honestly have no idea where to begin. I am at the heart of it confused and almost commitment phobic in some way.

In the end, you need to decide for yourself whether you want to seriously commit to becoming "enlightened" or whatever you want to call it. All I can say is that the techniques discussed on this site are effective in, if not entirely eliminating, reducing suffering in all aspects of life. Simple as that.

I have tried noting practice a couple of times and have found it very confusing. I usually get caught up in the noting and being precise about it, and end up not paying close attention to the sensations i am supposed to be seeing clearer by noting. The act of noting seems to be another thing to note, then i get caught in an infinite regress. Obviously i am approaching this the wrong way, or need to keep at it more, i just don't know.

Noting is one way to go about it, but it's not the only way; it's an effective and efficient practice for objectifying and disembedding from phenomena so that you can investigate their true nature, but it's simplicity is what makes it complicated to grasp at first. All you're really doing is noticing whatever appears in awareness, you don't need to "note" verbally or mentally, you're just continually bringing attention back to what's happening right now in your immediate sensate experience; if you're noting verbally or mentally, keep it simple and don't get caught up in identifying specific sensations at first, it all comes with practice.

It has been good to get some feedback, and i will take your advice and try to approach things with fresh eyes and not place too much emphasis on what had already happened. May i ask what meditation technique you find helpful? Do you have any suggestions for someone that may not be good at noting practice?

Anytime, that's why there's a community of supportive and encouraging practitioners here who can usually give you the advice you're looking for. As far as my own practice goes, I did noting and concentration practices intensively for about 18 months or so before switching to just bare sensate attention, although I've been practicing within other traditions over the last 14 years or so. If you don't find noting to be effective for you right now, you may find more use in concentration practice so that you can build a firm foundation to note from.

There's loads of other practices you could work with, I highly recommend The Hamilton Project, the "Yogi Toolbox" section in particular, as it's packed with good descriptions and techniques.

RE: Possible A&P, then Dark Night, then i'm not sure!
Answer
6/21/12 2:21 AM as a reply to Tommy M.
Thank you so much for that incredibly helpful and thoughtful reply. You have addressed all my concerns, and I will go and check out that Yogi Toolbox you mentioned. I feel like i should respond with something more after such a long reply, but honestly it was just what i needed to hear.

I am looking forward to beginning practising and am so grateful this place is here to help.

You have really put my mind at ease and helped orient my mind towards what i need to do. I can finally stop obsessing over the experiences i discussed in the OP, because looking back i realise i have been quite a bit.

I will be back with more questions i am sure, but they will go in the appropriate forums.

One more time - Thank You for your kind words and thoughtful advice, it is truly appreciated.