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Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?

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Let me start this off by stating that I am new to meditation as well as this forum.  I have now begun within the last couple weeks fairly extensive research into different Buddhist and Hindu meditation techniques, history and online readings.  I have perused this site quite enjoyably, finding great material and external links on what I may have gone or still be going through. I will try to be as prudent as possible as I am not very accustomed to using internet forums.

I have been (although sometimes faintly) a very reflective, contemplative and open minded truth seeker for lets say 8 or 9 years now, and have held various beliefes through out my life.  Recently I have had a more spiritual inclination and started doing some various readings on world religions, concepts of reality and the cosmos as well as things like reincarnation, energies and meditation.  During these readings I get some noticeable tingles about my spine and body which I've experienced in some situations such as while listening to a certain music that hits me in the right way.  But this was much more defined and resonant and provoked interesting thoughts in my head.

So I came to the conclusion that I would like to try this meditation thing and to search myself for any insight.  I began this with only a little bit of research or knowledge of techniques (typical noob right?).  My goal at the time was just to relax myself and with subtlety, take a conscious look inward.  I held my first session for roughly 20 minutes just focusing on my breathing and trying to stay relaxed.  I obviously had quite a bit of difficulty maintaining focus and experienced discomfort in my posture, but persisted through for those 20 minutes trying different stretches and postures (I know, the wrong way).  I did not feel nor did I expect to feel amazing afterwards, but I did have an appreciation in accomplishing it and felt a bit more clean and mentally clear.

The following night as I am lying in bed unable to sleep, I experience the most incredible and smooth river of positive thoughts and feelings. That tingling sensation returns but it  resonates and shakes my core in a way I have never felt before.  This lasted, I think maybe 1-2 hours.  I felt it flow totally beyond my control and I was at a few times a little unsettled but though to just enjoy the experience.  It eventually faded off and I was left invigorated and confused. 

After some reasearch I began to think I may have experienced, on some plane or another, a small Kundilini awakening. After reading here, it may have been 4th ñana.  I still don't feel I should have anything like that happen as I have never practiced meditation in my life. I came across this site and found some people have had similair situations to mine and read people mentioning things that lead me to learn about Vipassana and Theravada Buddhism; and the Dark Night experience which brings me to what happened 2 nights after my "blissful" experience (almost 2 weeks ago).

I do not wish to explain this event in too much detail unless someone deems it important. 

I had been sleeping for almost exactly one hour and completely out of 100% nowhere, I comfortably awoke.  I tried to just go back to sleep but started to feel a very negative force either within myself or within the room.  Physical things happened to me out of my (conscious?) control, nothing foreign was visualized or seen and I came out of a "state" completely exhauasted, terrified and completely unwanting to go back to sleep.  For some days after and after some softly distributed research, I felt fearful of meditation and asked my girlfriend to sleep over for like 3 nights (a little wussy, but I was nervous).  I came to the conclusion that, though negative in such a pure form, this was a great learning experience for me and I was in the last few days able to overcome this particular channel of fear within me.  I can safely say this has helped me in grounding something within myself.

I don't know where to go from here.  Do I need to start pursuing a teacher?  My daily life is a bit interesting,  I work overnight shifts as a machinist which in themselves prove a challenging environment for me now that I am aware of this spirituality or conscious knowledge of the self.  I also have a 2 year old daughter and I don't want to pursue anything if it will lead me through a more vast Dark Night of the Soul or other sometimes psychotic-like levels of meditation I have been reading about.  I, although am completely drawn to these recent discoveries and feelings and really want to learn what I can do with them for myself and others.

Sorry for any crass writing or terminology here, and thank you for any insight.

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/15/14 8:39 PM as a reply to Daniel C.
You have been brought here.

You are experiencing birth pains.

You don't need a teacher.  
Also

You have found your teacher.

We love you!!!

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/16/14 5:33 AM as a reply to Daniel C.
Heya,

So, like you said, it's unlikely you'd be going through the A&P and dark night after just one meditation session - so maybe a good thing to ask yourself is if you've been doing any informal meditation just during the day.  For example, do you have a tendancy to observe your experience closely?  Have you developed "letting go" as a defense agaisnt negatve emotions?  Do you tend to focus on yourself, or more outward into the sensory world?

It'll probably be impossible to put a satisfying name to what you experienced.  Meditation states are very messy and blurry, in general.  It sounds positive, though, so why not see if you can repeat it?

The negative event you descibe sounds a lot like the state that happens as we wake up (the hypnagogic state).  There can be strange physical sensations or paralysis where you can't move, you can hear sounds or see visual hallucinations, and very often people describe a "presence" of some kind.  This isn't something to worry about - it may just be a simptom of heightened concentration if you've been researching meditation and trying out different things for the first time.

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/17/14 6:26 AM as a reply to Daniel C.
For what it's worth, pretty much every meditative opening is followed by a contraction/restabilizing. It doesn't have to be A&P and dark night, so don't worry yourself into a self-created dark night! emoticon

That said, I do think you are keying into the kind of energies that go along with AP and sleep/dream experiences are kind of classic AP stuff. That doesn't mean that you have fully hit that stage or that the fearfulness that followed was dark night, just that you are touching it a bit.

So what you are getting is a taste of the meditative path. A heartfelt curiousity, a relaxation, an opening, a reactive contraction, and a stabilization. The heartfelt curiousity and the openings and the stabilizations are all the great stuff of meditation. Over time, there is more baseline openness and clear perception and our baseline body feeling is one of more relaxation and ease.

But then there is the contraction, the fear. Unfortunately that kinda goes with it, like a sore body and need for recovery goes with weightlifting. The mind is being rewired and that takes time. And the rewiring happens by this opening and going beyond the comfort zone and then establishing a new baseline.

A teacher can help you moderate your practice so that you have a nice balance of progress and integration. And a teacher is great to talk to when things get wierd. (But the dirty secret is most of the time they say, "can you hang in there? good.", and let the natural process continue. Or they advice reducing meditation practice intensity and encouraging walks outside, etc. to give time for the rewiring process to continue. Still it's good to have someone to talk to.)

You can also go gently and do your own exploring and maintain whatever pacing feels appropriate.

I will say, you did two great things. You are adjusting your posture, trying to cultivate a good position -- rather than ignoring your body and forcing something. That's fine! don't be one of us that wrecks our body by trying to make it do something it isn't ready for. You also drew upon your support when things were hard/wierd -- rather that walling yourself off and thinking you're damaged goods or need to be isolated from others. That's great! Don't become one of us that wallows in being a spiritual disaster and wears it as a badge of honor. Just get some help during the rough spots and remember that being a good human with good relationships is a great thing.

So, it's really your call on how to proceed. Continue being curious with practice or put everything on hold while building a support system for your practice or do a little of both.

Seems like you've been thinking about this kind of stuff for a while. It's really a natural human interest and something that can be great for our lives... if we don't get sucked into being too heroic or idealistic about the whole thing. Best wishes!

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/17/14 9:00 AM as a reply to Jeremy May.
Thank you for the kind words.

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/17/14 9:19 AM as a reply to Not Tao.
It was exactly like sleep paralysis, until I realized I could move.  Needless to say I was creeped out.  All in all i view these past situations to have lead to something noteworthy and definitel positive.  I have had this way of thinking for a few years now and as I read through the eightfold path and threefold division I was realizing I had been practicing these things for a while just as a means to try to better myself and my reactions towards people.

Thank you for the reply

RE: Had a great/terrible experience. Where do I go from here?
Answer
10/17/14 9:23 AM as a reply to x x.
Thank you for the incredibly helpful mindset your portraying.  It helps to feel some solid encouragement that is both uplifting but leaving me aware of challenges ahead.

I guess I always knew/know its going to be my call through this, but I agree that it helps to have someone to talk to.  This forum does a great job at providing people with that benefit.