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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?

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Problem:
I am keen to find out if certain recent events are related to meditation practice and not just anxiety/depression. Any input I can get would be much appreciated! I never explicitly practiced insight meditation but I might have reached 'insight territory'.


Background:
Before I started meditation, I had been contemplating how my attachment and cravings lead to disappointment and suffering on a daily basis for about a 6 months(this is because I was dealing with an addiction). A month or so after beginning meditation, I started having an overwhelming desire to seek 'the meaning of my life'.


Practice:
My practice is mostly metta. I start out wishing metta for myself and then move onto do the same for others(I never verbalize out loud - only in my head). I do this until I reach the point where I feel tranquil at which point, I stop the metta. After this I start watching the breath and bodily sensations and thoughts with a wide focus. Based on jhana factors, I believe I might be hitting the 1st and maybe the 2nd (soft) samatha jhanas.

I usually practice for a total of 1-2 hours a day in 2 sittings.

My concentration is not very impressive. The 'monkey mind' never stops but after a while, the thoughts don't disturb my mindfulness.

I have been meditating for about 3 months now.

Phenomena:
After a month or so after beginning meditation, I started feeling vibrations near my nostrils (if I am watching my breath). I also feel the occasional 'popping' sensations inside my head (It's like space itself is warping inside my head - this happens one or two pops at a time). There was a time when the vibrations were present even off the cushion but nowadays they rarely appear off the cushion.

I still experience the occasional popping sensation in my head as I go about my daily activities.



Recent Events off the cushion: Cycling between sad-bliss and anxiety


(i)Loss of sense of self
A couple of weeks ago, a stressful and disappointing life event left me in a state of anxiety. While this itself is nothing new, a week or so afterwards, I went through a couple of days that can only be described as 'losing the sense of self'. At one point, I felt as if my physical body was breaking into a billion pieces. Afterwards, I felt I felt like I have been delusional - and all the my worldly pursuits have no meaning. Each waking moment was unbearable - I have never experienced this sort of feeling before. At this point, I chose to seek the help of a therapist.

(ii)Blissfull sadness+feeling like a break-through is about to happen
After a while, the agonizing pain above passed and was replaced with a sort of bliss. In this state, I still feel a sense of loss and emptiness. I also feel like I must continue meditating because I feel like I am on the verge of a breakthrough.

(iii)Cycling between bliss and anxiety
On some days, I would fall back into the former state of anxiety. They are less intense than the initial stage I described above. These mood swings are usually triggered by outside events.

Developments in meditation Practice(Itching):

I still meditate using the technique described above. There is a new development: After about 40minutes, I develop itches in my body. These itches are sometimes unbearable. At this point, I also find it hard to concentrate, and my mind wanders off and I also become sleepy(On one occasion, I became tearful - even though I could feel no emotion at that point in my meditation.). I usually become frustrated and stop meditating at this point.

I am perfectly willing to accept that all these things are just life events and have nothing to do with meditation. These experiences are different to how I usually react so my gut feeling is that there is some insight knowledge mixed in here.

What to do you guys think?

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/28/13 2:04 AM as a reply to Trilan Gulbe.
I would read up on the related documents and see for yourself.
eBooks and Resources
read the MCTB sections of insite stages link
as well as
Progress of insite
With more information about the stages you might be able to tell where you are at. I might also recommend a therapist that understands the steps of insite and the way thru them. Here are some testimonials from Ron Crouch's web site Ron Crouch
He is also recommended by Ken Folk
Good luck
~D

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/28/13 2:24 AM as a reply to Trilan Gulbe.
Hi there-
Just wanted to reach out, as you sound really sincere in your efforts to look into this stuff (by which I mean to say, the path of Insight). While I'm no authority or highly attained practitioner, I just thought I'd reiterate what Dream Walker said about getting in touch with a teacher. I've been working with Ron Crouch (incidentally!) for the last five months and have found that being able to talk about meditation experiences and techniques with a qualified teacher/guide is extremely beneficial. Before that, I spent a few years treading water, thinking that I could do it all alone. Didn't pan out. Anyway, a teacher will help shine a little bit of extra light on the path ahead and help you avoid pitfalls that could otherwise last months, or even years. And they know all these cunning little tricks to help you out of sticky situations if you find yourself there. Progress will happen!
Sounds like you're already in Insight Land anyway, so if you can manage it, get involved with a teacher who knows their Dharma, and you'll see the difference right away.
Just one man's opinion,
and I wish you all the best,
Gabriel

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/28/13 1:23 PM as a reply to R. Gabriel Hill.
I also experienced a period of breakdown in the sense of self, which was awful when it first happened. It can arise with meditative practice. I would echo others' recommendations that you consult an experienced teacher/therapist, and Ron is a good person. You don't want to fool around with this stuff on your own, especially if you've got other issues (which most of us have!). Metta to you.

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/29/13 1:09 AM as a reply to Jane Laurel Carrington.
Hello everyone!

Thanks very much for all your responses! I will take your advice to heart and seek out a teacher asap.

wishing you peace,

-T

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/29/13 10:34 PM as a reply to Trilan Gulbe.
Trilan Gulbe:
Problem:
Before I started meditation, I had been contemplating how my attachment and cravings lead to disappointment and suffering on a daily basis for about a 6 months(this is because I was dealing with an addiction).


Hi Trilan,

Some of what you describe could belong to the territory of post acute withdrawl syndrome. Of course, this is a very long distance guess, having no idea about your substance abuse history, but the symptoms you describe line up with that as a possibility. PAWS can last from 6 months to a year after the fact.

Sounds like you have a strong practice. Being disciplined enough to sit two hours a day is a great indicator of your chances to stabilize and balance out.

Good luck!

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
3/29/13 10:58 PM as a reply to Trilan Gulbe.
Trilan, it sounds like excellent progress. Try to observe the physical sensations which arise with the thoughts.

RE: Is this insight progress, or am I just depressed?
Answer
4/2/13 1:59 AM as a reply to Michael Cannon.
Michael:

Perhaps 'addiction' is too strong a word - I should have probably called it a compulsion. I do agree that there is some amount of short term withdrawal effects going on - but I don't expect them to be that severe.

Thanks very much for your input and encouragement!

Everyone: Zapped by a golden light

I was listening to music the other day (with eyes closed, while sitting in a chair - in a sort of meditative state), and I entered an absorption-like state. After a while, I felt the urge to tilt my head up, and felt a golden light coming at me from above, which hit my head. This ended with sort of waves going across my body from causing my body to spasm (sort of like having an intense orgasm but there was nothing sexual about this).

I got up, walked around for a few minutes in a sort of daze, and ended up crying (I'm not sure why).

Since then, my ability to concentrate while meditating seems to have improved. Not sure what to make of this. Hopefully it's a good sign.