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unusual experience
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10/27/14 1:03 AM
Greetings. This is my first post on this website and I have to say I'm very impressed with what I've seen so far, infact it is also very overwhelming. I wanted to ask more experienced meditators about an usual experience I had many years ago during meditation.

I had sat down and had tried to have a general awareness of my body and mind, dzogchen style and combined that with a phrase I remember reading from Joseph Goldstein about "the radar like nature of mindfulness."

So I sat with spacious awareness and whenever a physical sensation happened mindfulness went out to it and noticed it. There was no noting going on, just noticing the sensation. This went on for sometime with sensations. Then mindfulness started noticing thoughts as well. After awhile later mindfulness noticed mental consciousness arising and passing away. The analogy that I could use would be: as if someone were to be standing on a bridge and looking down at a river below and just watch the water flowing past the bridge. It was just physical sensations, thoughts and eventually consciousness arising and passing away. I had never had experienced anything remotely like this before and the idea of actually making some sort of progress in meditation became a fearful experience for me. I broke the meditation off and was amazed by what had just occured.

Can someone please tell me what naraka this was? Thank you in advance.

Bryan

RE: unusual experience
Answer
10/27/14 5:18 AM as a reply to Bryan.
Hi Bryan

Welcome to the Dharma Overground! Take your time, don't be overwhelmed emoticon

Dharma Diagnosis is really hard when all there is is a single post to work from.

Also, judging from my quick web search for the word "naraka", I am totally unfamiliar with the conceptual framework you allude to, so probably not "naraka" as in "hell realm", right?

Generally, memories like this which are still vivid after a few years seem to be about shifts into new "territory" or mind states. Possible candidates from the framework I know best, which is the Theravada "progress of insight" described in great detail in Daniel's Book, would be: "Mind and Body" (because of the way you "saw" mental phenomena "in front" of you) or the ever-memorable "Arising and Passing" (because of the effortlessness and the way you seem to have stopped practicing afterwards). But it is really hard to tell!

My suggestion: start your practice again, if you haven't already. Discuss things here as they occur, when they are still fresh.

Cheers,
Florian

RE: unusual experience
Answer
10/27/14 9:59 AM as a reply to Florian.
hello Florian, I thought it might have been mind and body after reading the description in MTCTB.  I just needed to get that out and get some feedback. I've asked a couple of monks in the past and couldn't really get a good answer.

 From what I've seen of other peoples post on this site experiencing nanas doesn't seem to be that unusual or difficult but it was unexpected for me. I am encourged by what I've read on this site and others on the links page that maybe nanas and Path and Fruition are not so rare or difficult as one might first assume. I will keep practicing and keep you all posted. I live in Columbus Ohio and I don't know of an Sangha of Theravadin Buddhist that I can talk to about this so an online forum is a really wonderful thing to encounter!

As far as "naraka" goes it does mean hell in Sanskrit. I was just being overly dramatic emoticon.

sincerely Bryan

RE: unusual experience
Answer
10/30/14 3:23 AM as a reply to Bryan.
Howdy Bryan and welcome.
The nanas are descriptions of the layers and states of mind that we move through as contemplatives.  They aren't nearly as rare as some traditions portray them, especially the early stages.  Most contemplative traditions don't even speak of them for various reasons, some good, some less so; but all traditions are aware of these consistent patterns. 

They are often cloaked in obscure language which often serves to bolster a priest class  mentality but that is not the approach followed here.

The states have names which can make them seem "strange" but in fact many of them are not as exotic or as difficult to achieve as we might at first think.  While some experiences can be shocking or ecstatic or sublime, they can also seem like simple mood shifts which we have heretofore not put a name to.

Pay attention to the increasingly subtle elements of your experience.  Make a vow ahead of a sit that 'even if something might be scary or unsettling' that you will continue to observe the harmless things that arise and pass. 

I say "harmless" in the sense of "in each sit".  If you haven't heard about "the dark night", it is a real phenomena which is openly talked about here and in Daniel's book.  This is another thing that lots of shallow traditions do not speak of for various reasons, good and not so good.  Don't let yourself be scared off by that though.  I look at it simply this way: the path to knowing your mind is not a blissful linear climb from ignorance to complete knowlege, but it does tend that way.

BTW, my only experience with Columbus was being arrested there as a "runaway" in the early 70's.  I was actually just exploring (from Massachusetts) with a pal.

Have fun.

tom