Help! What was THAT?

Stephen Robert Roylance, modified 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 9:37 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 9:37 AM

Help! What was THAT?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 8/24/12 Recent Posts
Help! What was THAT?

I have been an irregular meditator for years (read undisciplined - in other words, you couldn’t really call me one) but at least had a cursory understanding.

So, wanting to kick a solid practice into gear, I signed up for a 9-day silent retreat. I prepared myself by going to a couple one-day retreats in a center where I live. Barely got through first one ( was fighting sleep so hard I got angry at leader for talking and interrupting my “naps”).

Went to retreat. Incredible, inspiring, everything one would expect. There was one thing, though. Toward the end I kind of “dipped” into something unfamiliar for a few moments. Thought “that was interesting”, bought a book on samadhi, never read it except for looking for what I might have experienced but really unclear, so disregarded the experience. Signed up for another 9-day silent retreat in July. Good news - the first retreat did kickstart my practice and I got up and did 45 minutes every morning before work (missed maybe 5 days because of travel, etc.), but proud of myself. Saw a little progress. Then the next retreat.

On the evening of the 4th night, this happened. Was sitting in group meditation, evidently went deep because very suddenly and powerfully, as if being pulled off a precipice, my focus zoomed in (like a really fast movie zoom) and snapped into a point somewhere before me (if I could put a distance, maybe a foot or two). This point was intense and full of energy. My mind at the same time receded just as fast and as powerfully so that I sensed it behind me (farther than a couple of feet). I was frozen. I couldn’t have thought a thought if I had wanted to. I was unaware of my surroundings or my body. Actually, summoned enough investigative motivation to ask if I was still breathing - yes, barely. What happened to the pain in my knee - yup, something is there, but then back to the focus. Beyond the focus point was a whitish shimmering. In the middle was some guy in white robes beckoning to me to come to him. Took this guy to be Buddha. Another figure beside him fuzzed in and out. Now I know enough not to pay attention to visions and that they are only wish-fulfillment dream stuff, but still - weird. Don’t really know how long I was in this, time stopped. Don’t remember coming out. Simply kind of “came to” doing what everyone around me was doing. The gong must have rung. Got up, don’t remember if walking was next, or bed, or what.

Next day. Went through motions, energized, but not really here. In group interview with teacher (well-respected) my turn came. I turned to her and said I don’t really know the terminology but that I had to talk about something that happened to me in my meditation the night before. She, after looking at me, kind of jumped in her seat and started asking me questions. What was it like, what happened. I explained but not nearly as in detail as in the above paragraph. Something like there was a falling away and a rush forward. I was searching for words. She said I experienced a “concentration state”. She asked if I had felt rapture or bliss. I thought and said, no, - peace. I turned to her. I guess I entered into that state, and my face must have changed. I looked at her, everything else, the people, the room, disappeared. I heard her say, I guess for the others, that for me right then there were no hindrances, had “absolutely pure mind”, that these experiences can be “startling” (to say the least). What else I really don’t remember. Anyway, I kind of came to, said I wanted it to happen again but knew that wanting to is a hindrance. She said, yes - craving. She turned to the last two to share, then left because she was late. We stayed in the room because meditation had already started in the main hall.

Sorry this is so long. I scrambled for understanding the rest of the silent retreat. Couldn’t talk to anyone. Had slipped in a couple books (wan’t supposed to), the samadhi book and a translation with commentary on the Four Foundations (because that was what the retreat was on) but had read neither. Combed them for understanding. Didn’t sleep a whole lot. At the end, confirmed with one or two others who seemed to know something that I experienced a jhana. Say what?

Since then, have been meditating every day. Experience has not been repeated. Bought more books on meditation (Ghante B.’s in particular) that now make more sense to me because of my experience. But still. Was it a jhana? Which one? What do I do now? And very very happy to have found this blog. I thought one was not supposed to talk about such experiences. Gladly, I was wrong. Thanks for listening.
Bagpuss The Gnome, modified 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 10:47 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 10:46 AM

RE: Help! What was THAT?

Posts: 704 Join Date: 11/2/11 Recent Posts
Hi Stephen, welcome to the DhO

Couple of questions:

* What type of meditation were they teaching at your retreat?
* What type of meditation were you doing when this happened?

Even without the answers to those questions I'd say your teacher gave the best answer already. There are lots and lots of different types of states and events that can happen on retreat. As you do more retreats, more meditation you'll likely come across even more of them. This one sounds like maybe you were doing Anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing?) and reached a state of perfect one pointedness. This has happened to me a few times, but it's not something I can recreate at home, or even on retreat when trying.. it just happens sometimes. There are other similar one pointed experiences like where you literally "become" the breath, become the anapana spot. Weird stuff, but quite cool.

As to jhana, Im sure some would say it's 1st jhana. They'd probably be right, but this stuff is hard to nail down precisely as different people experience different states.

As to the visuals, just ignore them. That's just your mind doing it's thing.
Stephen Robert Roylance, modified 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 12:45 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 12:45 PM

RE: Help! What was THAT?

Posts: 2 Join Date: 8/24/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for you thoughtful reply. It was a vipassana retreat and yes focusing on breath awareness. Right on. Very glad to know that this is not something that is "repeatable" but just happens. Knowing this will free up my meditation. Again, thanks for your reply. Very very happy to have found this site. Thanks to all who participate.
M N, modified 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 11:00 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/24/12 10:59 AM

RE: Help! What was THAT?

Posts: 210 Join Date: 3/3/12 Recent Posts
Put this way, looks like A&P territory. I'm kind of reluctant to say because I'm not really familiar with that territory...

However I might have missed something because I'm not english, but I didn't understand if you were practicing tranquillity or insight...

Can you describe your practice now and in the retreat?

Other questions...
How is your concentration?
What happens if you try to put your attention in one little single spot?
While doing that, how is your perception of the objects in the background of awareness?

Did you noticed some difference between how you would answer to theese questions now and how you would have answered to them in retreat time?