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Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?

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Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
concentration vipassana
Answer
11/15/13 1:05 PM
Hi There,

Hopefully someone can further my understanding of some mystical experiences I've had over the past few years. I'd really appreciate some diagnosis in the context of the Vipassana insight map.

So, like many others, I got into Buddhism due to psychedelic use. After a particularly intense trip (a lot happened, but most notably, it felt like my head was connected to the space around it), I became very depressed. I don't want to get too specific, but this was a very dark period in my life. It only lasted for about a week, but it was dreadful. It culminated in two mystical experiences.

The first occurred when I started questioning "who" was experiencing my thoughts. This led to an immensely heightened sense of self and my sensory perception feeling very vivid for a few moments...and, afterwards, my sense of self continued to feel heightened if i willed it. when I say "heightened sense of self", I don't mean "self" in the egotistical sense. my ego felt very fragmented during this time...but, it was easy for me to feel like this concrete "I" was controlling all of my actions. Does that make any sense? my identity went from rich, to sort of...condensed.

The second mystical experience occurred when I spent some time really focusing on the way the bass in some music made my ears feel, and, additionally, the thought "I am Parks Barnard" (My name is Parks...can't really remember why I did this, I guess I wanted to reclaim my identity or something). Everything became incredibly blissful for like 20 or 30 minutes...my vision was incredibly vivid, and I remember loving everything around me.

Anyways...fast forward. I went to a 10 day vipassana retreat, and was having a lot of trouble. It was hard for me to do the meditations without trying to have certain experiences, a mindset that Goenka was constantly stressing us to avoid (it was difficult not to when the intercom was constantly reminding us of the experiences we could be having).

Additionally, all of his talk about Sankaras (undesirable mental habits) was stressing me out...I didn't like the idea that the seemingly trivial things my out-of-control mind were thinking up could have very lasting, negative affects on myself. I started desperately searching for some kind of idea to deal with this fear. I settled on the Socratic idea that the wisest believe that they know nothing. This implies that nothing can be truly known - including the idea of Sankaras. Thus, my fear of Sankaras was "logically" neutralized...since their ultimate truth wasn't known to me.

After investing in this idea that I knew nothing, I had this sort of melodramatic experience (it happened over the course of about thirty minutes) where anytime a thought would enter my mind, I would silence it with the idea that I knew nothing. At one point I was lying in my bed, sort of paralyzed by this increasingly overwhelming feeling/thought of "I know nothing". This eventually turned into feeling of oneness...subjectively speaking, I "became" the room that I was lying down in. It was a largely visually oriented feeling of oneness with the room...like, I was focused on my oneness with the image of the room in my mind's eye. but this was also intertwined with a general feeling of oneness, if that makes any sense. it was quite peaceful.

After this experience, as I would go about my day to day at the retreat, I'd feel more and more connected with all of the objects that came into my vision. Whenever i saw anything, I felt like it was apart of me. Watching objects as I moved past them sort of "tickled", like running my hand lightly over my arm or something. At one point, I looked up at the sun, and thought "how stupid to try to get to you with a rocket...i'm already so close to you that I am you".

after I started to get those feelings of oneness, sometimes when meditating I started to feel detachment toward my senses. a number of sensory objects would just kind of pass through me. it made me feel more peaceful...

for some reason, I never asked my meditation teachers about these experiences...I guess I just thought they would think I was weird or something, I have a lot of social anxiety so that probably kept me quiet.

after the retreat, the "oneness" and "detachment" feelings continued for awhile longer, but eventually faded as university anxieties took over. lately, while meditating, I've been feeling like I have pretty direct access to a less intense version of that feeling of detachment I described in the paragraph above.

If anyone can diagnose these experiences in terms of the vipassana insight maps, it would be much appreciated!

Peace,
Parks

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/13/13 5:48 PM as a reply to a person.
The first occurred when I started questioning "who" was experiencing my thoughts. This led to an immensely heightened sense of self and my sensory perception feeling very vivid for a few moments...and, afterwards, my sense of self continued to feel heightened if i willed it. when I say "heightened sense of self", I don't mean "self" in the egotistical sense. my ego felt very fragmented during this time


Mind and Body

...but, it was easy for me to feel like this concrete "I" was controlling all of my actions. Does that make any sense? my identity went from rich, to sort of...condensed.


Cause and Effect. I suggest you read/re-read the descriptions of these in MCTB.

The second mystical experience occurred when I spent some time really focusing on the way the bass in some music made my ears feel, and, additionally, the thought "I am Parks Barnard" (My name is Parks...can't really remember why I did this, I guess I wanted to reclaim my identity or something).


Three Characteristics

Everything became incredibly blissful for like 20 or 30 minutes...my vision was incredibly vivid, and I remember loving everything around me.


A&P

Additionally, all of his talk about Sankaras (undesirable mental habits) was stressing me out...I didn't like the idea that the seemingly trivial things my out-of-control mind were thinking up could have very lasting, negative affects on myself. I started desperately searching for some kind of idea to deal with this fear. I settled on the Socratic idea that the wisest believe that they know nothing. This implies that nothing can be truly known - including the idea of Sankaras. Thus, my fear of Sankaras was "logically" neutralized...since their ultimate truth wasn't known to me.


Three Characteristics

After investing in this idea that I knew nothing, I had this sort of melodramatic experience (it happened over the course of about thirty minutes) where anytime a thought would enter my mind, I would silence it with the idea that I knew nothing. At one point I was lying in my bed, sort of paralyzed by this increasingly overwhelming feeling/thought of "I know nothing". This eventually turned into feeling of oneness...subjectively speaking, I "became" the room that I was lying down in. It was a largely visually oriented feeling of oneness with the room...like, I was focused on my oneness with the image of the room in my mind's eye. but this was also intertwined with a general feeling of oneness, if that makes any sense. it was quite peaceful.

After this experience, as I would go about my day to day at the retreat, I'd feel more and more connected with all of the objects that came into my vision. Whenever i saw anything, I felt like it was apart of me. Watching objects as I moved past them sort of "tickled", like running my hand lightly over my arm or something. At one point, I looked up at the sun, and thought "how stupid to try to get to you with a rocket...i'm already so close to you that I am you".


A&P

This is an "I AM" experience and an "I AM Everything." It is stage 1 and 2 here: http://awakeningtoreality.blogspot.com/2007/03/thusnesss-six-stages-of-experience.html

The "I am" experience occurs from doing a practice called "self inquiry." It can spontaneously occur from doing the insight practices talked about here and frequently occurs during the A&P.

after I started to get those feelings of oneness, sometimes when meditating I started to feel detachment toward my senses. a number of sensory objects would just kind of pass through me. it made me feel more peaceful..


Probably Dissolution though more description and knowing what happened after would help.

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/15/13 1:04 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
I'll take a look at MCTB again...I've only read half so far.

It's hard to remember what happened immediately after what may have been "dissolution" at that retreat. I actually think I had that experience a few times.

I remember feeling disappointed at the end of the retreat, because I'd lost touch with "dissolution". Post-retreat, I felt way more centered than usual (I remember that sometimes, I felt pretty damned cosmic...particularly during conversations with people. Just super open minded, like I just was watching my brain react to the things they said), but that faded within a month or so...then, it was back to my usual, weird (sometimes very fucked up, and often very unhappy around others) state of mind that I've been in since I had that experience with psychedelics a few years back.

To describe this weird, sometimes fucked up state of mind: reality feels fundamentally different. More "tangible", yet at the same time, overwhelming...I feel like a fish in the ocean. Wafts of vibes aren't uncommon...feels sort of like I've stepped into this more primordial state of being. So this is what one feels like after the first A&P?

My Buddhist friend thinks I'm stuck cycling through dissolution. He was telling me that I need to become as attached as possible to the root bodily sensations driving my present state of being. Only then will I let them "kill me" (spiritually), and exit what I believe is called the dark night of the soul. He also stressed that I need to let go of the loaded term "spiritual"...in reality, advancing along the path won't live up to the romantic, western standards that word brings to mind.

Thanks for the diagnosis! I talk pretty abstractly sometimes, so hopefully it isn't too difficult to find the meaning in my words.

Peace,
Parks

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/15/13 4:47 PM as a reply to a person.
To describe this weird, sometimes fucked up state of mind: reality feels fundamentally different. More "tangible", yet at the same time, overwhelming...I feel like a fish in the ocean. Wafts of vibes aren't uncommon...feels sort of like I've stepped into this more primordial state of being. So this is what one feels like after the first A&P?


"Off-cushion" it's not quite as simple as just being in one stage or another. If you've crossed the A&P at some point then you will be experiencing dark night effects. This is despite the fact that you will generally have to start over at mind and body and work your way up whenever you sit to meditate. This is especially true if long periods have gone by without practice or more especially "intensive" practice.

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/15/13 5:45 PM as a reply to a person.
The following is a passage from the physical book (and google books) version of MCTB and the chapter "How the Maps Help" which further explains what I'm talking about above. For some reason it is not in the downloadable pdf version as well as some of the other content surrounding it:


"How the Maps Help": Physical Book Version of MCTB

One last bit of advice for those coming off retreat who are Dark Nighting hard: stop practicing for a while and do things to ground down, such as sleep more, eat heavy foods, go to movies, do hard physical work or exercise, and the like if you need to function in the real world. It will help the Dark Night fade more quickly. There is not much useful to be gained for doing just enough practice to stay caught half way in and half way out, as that's a tough place to be. Sometimes letting go of letting go is okay.

Another concept that helps make the maps make sense is that of the "shifting baseline." This is easier to see on retreat, though can be noticed in daily life as well, albeit more gradually. While the standard maps say that a practitioner below Stream Entry must, on each sit or meditation session, begin by attaining access concentration, then work up to Mind and Body, Cause and Effect, etc. in a linear fashion, getting as high as they can go on that sit and then falling back, what actually happens is somewhat different

The initial stage of practice, those of finding the breath, feet, or other object, typically go on for a while until suddenly Mind and Body arises, which is usually pretty cool the first time it happens, but it quickly fades in intensity and profundity in subsequent practice periods. Then, while the practitioner may have to build up to it again and again, they may notice it less and less as their baseline shifts to the next stage, in this case Cause and Effect, which will then predominate in sits and situations, until they gradually move on from there. In this way, their baseline, meaning the dominant place where they are in the insight cycles, will move forward sometimes with rapid jumps, other times with long pauses in one area. The predominant emotional, energetic, and perceptual experiences will take on the quality of the meditators current baseline nana.

Thus, by the time one is in the A&P, one may barely notice the shifts through the earlier stages, and when one gets to the Dark Night, the bliss, focus and clarity fo the A&P may feel far away. In Equanimity, even though one in theory has to go through all the stages each time one sits, one may barely notice any of them, as Equanimity may become the dominant experience of things.

Others on retreat may find that they can power up through the A&P and into the Dark Night day after day, only to flounder when they hit the Dark Night, and the next day they start again. Even they will gradually notice a shifting baseline, as the earlier stages fade and the later ones show more and more of themselves. However, once one leaves retreat, things tend to rapidly regress, though the effects of whatever stage one ended on will tend to linger for a while, and those have crossed the A&P who did not manage to get Stream Entry on the next path will tend to have some Dark Night element in there somewhere until that fades and they cross the A&P again, which as I said can happen off retreat.

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/20/13 12:27 PM as a reply to Tom Tom.
ah, that passage is really valuable. definitely clarifies things for me...it has always confused me how people discuss getting stuck at certain stages of the vipassana maps, cycling through them extremely quickly yet still being stuck "overall", etc...

haha thanks for including that first part about exercise, and letting go of the dark night emoticon

yeah I think I'm definitely experiencing dark night effects, my truly debilitating, sort of psychotic (although that's such an extreme sounding word that I feel uncomfortable using it) social anxiety reflects that (it mostly happens whenever I'm in class at my university...). maybe "cosmic" anxiety is a better expression of the experience, haha. It feels like burning in hell.

I have had experiences lately where I have sort of "given in" to extreme anxiety, and felt a sort of physical release of tension, followed by feeling sort of out of it, but in a very relaxed way. I'm very bad at doing this, but it's definitely occurred a few times in recent days, and I think it actually occurred a few times a few years ago but I can't quite remember...it's certainly a familiar experience. How would you map that experience?

RE: Can someone diagnose my mystical experiences?
Answer
11/22/13 9:45 AM as a reply to a person.
Parks Barnard:
I have had experiences lately where I have sort of "given in" to extreme anxiety, and felt a sort of physical release of tension, followed by feeling sort of out of it, but in a very relaxed way. I'm very bad at doing this, but it's definitely occurred a few times in recent days, and I think it actually occurred a few times a few years ago but I can't quite remember...it's certainly a familiar experience. How would you map that experience?


I've had some profound releases of anxiety on Goenka retreats before. On my first course, around day 6 or 7, some intense bodily feelings of anxiety began to crop up. During an afternoon sit, I noticed that while part of me was experiencing anxiety, another part of my mind was attempting to suppress the anxious feelings. Based on what I had heard from the teacher, I decided to go ahead and intentionally feel those feelings of anxiety -- to try to experience them fully rather than suppress them. Over an intense period of a couple of hours, those feelings of anxiety moved around my body, mainly up through my chest into my right arm (but also elsewhere) where they were felt as pain. Then they proceeded to move down my arms and into my hands, then into my fingers, where they manifested as very strong, slightly painful tingling & vibrating. After that they seemed to exit the body through my hands. Piece by piece, as I continued the practice, more anxious feelings seemed to move from my chest, through my body, and out through the appendages, after which those "pieces" of anxiety were no longer felt in the body.

By the end of the retreat I concluded that about "70%" of the anxiety that I normally felt in my chest had exited the body. It was a useful experience, after which I felt much less anxiety in my chest in my day-to-day life. On my second course most of what was left cropped up and exited the body. Today the amount of anxiety I feel in my chest is maybe 1% of what it once was. I still get anxiety, but it manifests more subtly in my body, particularly in my arms and other places.

Based on Goenka's discourses, I consider this to be a release of a sankhara. As a meditator pays equanimous attention to bodily sensations, these underlying emotional tensions tend to rise to the surface, peak and pass away. As opposed to the progress of "insight", this is a process of "purification", at least as I interpret it.