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Felt skinless then deeply terrified.

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Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/21/14 5:34 PM
Dear friends,

I had been feeling like I was getting somewhere with my practice recently. 
For some reason thoughts and sense of self seemed like very appealing subjects of meditation. For the first time since two days ago I could see thoughts not only arise but also vanish.
I have been feeling quite well on average recently. Everything has a peaceful and somewhat calm aspect to it and the usual cycling through states of depression/irritability/anxiety and feeling just weird about everything seemed to somewhat stop.
I also have been feeling subtle vibrations throughout my body. There was a period a couple of weeks ago when they were quite intense but now they are less intense. I often wake up in the middle of night feeling thr vibrations more intensely and feeling weird like reality is "thin" or that my skin is, if that makes any sense.

A couple of minutes ago I felt like doing some self enquiry meditation before going to bed. I sat down and I felt my skin was paper thin, like my boundaries could easily dissolve. I felt tempted to just give in and just "surrender" and the subtle and weak flickering in my eyelids that has been there for about 3 weeks now started to become really intense and again I felt like I was being dissolved and I was struck by  DEEP TERROR. My heart started pounding in my chest and I just decided to open my eyes. I was calm a couple of minutes afterwards.

I have no access to a good teacher currently and I'm afraid I might be debilitated by whatever darkness that may arise. 
What do you think is going on? Is there a way to stop the progression and wait until I have access to a good teacher or continue on retreat?

I appreciate any thoughts on this.
J.

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/21/14 7:00 PM as a reply to J S. S..
Hi J.
A couple of minutes ago I felt like doing some self enquiry meditation before going to bed. I sat down and I felt my skin was paper thin, like my boundaries could easily dissolve. I felt tempted to just give in and just "surrender" and the subtle and weak flickering in my eyelids that has been there for about 3 weeks now started to become really intense and again I felt like I was being dissolved and I was struck by  DEEP TERROR. My heart started pounding in my chest and I just decided to open my eyes. I was calm a couple of minutes afterwards.

I have no access to a good teacher currently and I'm afraid I might be debilitated by whatever darkness that may arise. 
What do you think is going on? Is there a way to stop the progression and wait until I have access to a good teacher or continue on retreat?

Maybe keep in mind that the build up to this experience was positive for you. You mention getting calm and peaceful in the weeks before hand. This sort of thing has happened to me only a handful of times to me 25 years. When the dissolving starts to happen, if there is also a lot of mental calm or you have the nature to be basically open-minded or not knowing/not assuming, then a variety of perceptions can occur, like out-of-body perceptions.

When these have happened to me during "practice" they are out of the blue, but they occur with that obvious preceding comfort in the body and the spreading of boundarylessness and the mind is willing to let that feeling become suffusive because it is very comfortable. At some point, yes, perception can get very unusual: one can perceive deep, fast sinking or even rising into space really quickly, soaring or just under stillness in an empty, limitedless field. At some point during these perceptions "I" do come back and naturally I have a jolt of kind of "What the whoha is going on?" There have been occasions of even feeling paralyzed, not breathing-- and now I just know the brainstem releases adrenoline and makes sure the party gets started. Usually there's a deep gulp of air that I don't trigger. 

So I wouldn't worry about it. The preception-event may happen, that event may change your conduct (it has always caused me to adjust some way I think strongly for the better) and when "you" return during that event it's very normal to be returning during the body's natural adrenoline, suddenly or in a slight panic. I think dying in meditation is very rare, but it's not a bad way to go if that's what happens. 


So these events can be fun, nutty, mind opening and also a distraction: they are just part of seeing things as they are. This sort of atypical-to-our-normal life perception event is just one of the ways mind can be aside from being a social mind, a bill paying mind, a family mind, a friend mind, a grumpy mind, a sad mind.

In my opinion, it's okay to surrender to these perception events happening. Your body and your ego will reel you back in until you feel very safe totally surrendering. You can just set your intention at the outset, like "May I be able to relax and experience whatever is coming and trust it will be okay and help me be less harmful/manipulative in the world," for example, or "May I not have these events happen and just watch the mind arise and pass without this sort of deep sinking and expansion"...

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/21/14 8:43 PM as a reply to J S. S..
Hey JSS,

Your descriptions of being "skinless" are interesting, I'm not sure I have the answer for you on that one but I'm sure one of the more experienced users will come along and offer their thoughts on the matter. As for the rest...

...and the subtle and weak flickering in my eyelids that has been there for about 3 weeks now started to become really intense and again I felt like I was being dissolved and I was struck by  DEEP TERROR. My heart started pounding in my chest and I just decided to open my eyes. I was calm a couple of minutes afterwards.

This seems to be a standard progression. Intense flickering in the eyelids-- 4th nana, The Arising and Passing Away. Feeling of being dissolved-- 5th nana, Dissolution. And deep terror-- 6th nana, Fear.

If you need to slow down your practice, try indulging in concentration states, eating heavy foods like meatloaf, and having a beer with dinner.

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/21/14 9:37 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Off topic,

But I had just started digging into meatloaf as soon as I read this post. These synchronicities are hilarious sometimes.

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/22/14 12:11 AM as a reply to J S. S..
Eric's advice is is good... (re)read MCTB - So if you were focusing on the sensations of your skin and seeing the arising and passing then more and more of the passing it would indeed "get thin" and then dissapear.
You are making good progress, congratulations....you are now in the dark night...congratulations. You may wish to read up on the rest of the stages after fear. Everyone who has made it this far has expereinced this fear. It is novel the first time it happens but by the 10th time it is kinda ho hum....oh look fear again...should I let my mind race and create a bunch of my favorite fear stories?....nah...not anymore...done that and it just makes it suckier. Don't let it stop your progress as you were able to calm yourself a couple minutes later. Of course you may have less choice in the matter anyway and resistance just multiplies the problems so don't worry about it too much until it becomes truely worrisome.
Many of us here have no teachers but we share with each other. There are many many people who have gotten to where you are at and are willing to share the details..
Retreats can sometimes help, and sometimes not. I'd not rely on that as a solution. 
You don't need reasons to not practice ....come to terms with it honestly and stop until you are ready to start again.
I do hope you continue though
Good luck,
~D

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/23/14 12:07 PM as a reply to katy steger,thru11.6.15 with thanks.
Dear Katy,

Thank you for your response. Your words brought calmness to my being and acceptance to the possibilites of experiences that might occur during practice.

You mentioned a change in conduct and that definitely resonates with my current experience. The next day after the event the "afterglow" of the experience left me feeling fearless and invincible, having conquered such deep terror, and feeling a sense of ease and acceptance to the possibilites both life and practice may hide for me.

Thank you.

J.

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/23/14 12:12 PM as a reply to Eric M W.
Eric M W:
Hey JSS,

Your descriptions of being "skinless" are interesting, I'm not sure I have the answer for you on that one but I'm sure one of the more experienced users will come along and offer their thoughts on the matter. As for the rest...

...and the subtle and weak flickering in my eyelids that has been there for about 3 weeks now started to become really intense and again I felt like I was being dissolved and I was struck by  DEEP TERROR. My heart started pounding in my chest and I just decided to open my eyes. I was calm a couple of minutes afterwards.

This seems to be a standard progression. Intense flickering in the eyelids-- 4th nana, The Arising and Passing Away. Feeling of being dissolved-- 5th nana, Dissolution. And deep terror-- 6th nana, Fear.

If you need to slow down your practice, try indulging in concentration states, eating heavy foods like meatloaf, and having a beer with dinner.
Meat loaf and beer sound about right! I usually think of treating myself with a good meal after feeling that I had a number of insights and good sits in a row and it looks like I will start doing that when it gets rough too.
I didn't expect weight gain to be one of the side-effects of practice, but it looks like it's heading that way :p

Thank you for passing by emoticon

J.

RE: Felt skinless then deeply terrified.
Answer
9/23/14 12:53 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dear Dream Walker,

Thank you for the response. I did read up on the post-A&P stages recently and honestly it kind of confused me.
First of all, I have been able to see vanishings before the event I wrote this post about. Also, the vibrations have been present for a while yet I haven't been feeling particularly great. A sense of cycling through moods has been predominant.

A couple of weeks following the appearance of the vibrations I started noticing some sort of cycling taking place  during my longer sits where I start by trying to concentrate, an understanding/vision of cause-and-effect properties of sensations pops up followed by discomfort, irritation in the throat area and an over-all icky-sticky feeling and a peculiar sense of being off center/unbalanced and in need to adjust my posture over and over again. Subtle vibrations in either my feet or hands appear and then subtle flickering in my visual field if I had my eyes open or behind my eyelids if they happen to be closed. Things then get confusing and some other cycle that is kind of harder to discribe in definitive terms starts occuring but I found it in general easier to see sensations more clearly. I sometimes seem to fall back at some point, due to my addmittedly weak concentration, and then have to go through some stage again, especially the part where vibrations appear, as it tends to happen 3-5 times in a sit. Finally I tend to wrap up longer sits (1.5 hours+) feeling deeply relaxed and for lack of an alternative, equanimous . Right now I experience a great decline in my motivation to practice and also a steep drop in my minfulness, I get lost in thoughts and almost black out completely several times during the day!

Also one thing that particularly caught my attention while reading on the later stages in MCTB is the concept of formations. Reading on the idea of having a bundle of sensations (image, internal talk, emotional sensation and maybe a body sensation as well) was a big "Whoa, I have seen a couple of these!" moment. I have seen them several times and I was certian about their nature (Being a package of sensations) but when I am not so deep in concentration or in the beginning of a sit, sensations seem to either come alone ( e.g. just body sensation or just internal talk) or in packages containing only a couple or 3 of the "sense doors" at most.

I understand the dangers of dwelling in attempts to self-diagnose and obsessing about where I am in practice and honestly prefer to spend the limited time I have, not being a monastic, in practice instead of self-diagnosis, but I could really use a clear road-map on how to go from here when it comes to practice. Should I focus solely on concentration pracitce or continue to do Insight?

I admit to orienting each sit in the easiest direciton I find myself inclined to. Most of the time Samatha is just too challenging so I go for Vipassana. Sometimes I find myself calmer than usual and Samatha feels just right to do. 
Recently, however, I strangely started to find both practices to kind of converge in some way. For example, I would focus on thoughts and trry to distinctly see their arising and passing away while focusing, somehow,  on the background during the brief pauses in between thoughts and aftwer a while I drop into a concentrated and "spacious" state, thoughts sound muffled and I can almost hear their echo, as if I am in a spacious dark room.

I apologize for the lengthy reply but this is the only place where I talk about my practice and after about 10 months of practice, I feel like I am in greater need for guidance than ever.
I would love to hear your thoughts on how to proceed from here.

Much metta,

J.