Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

What looks like a cessation, but isn't?

Toggle
What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/22/14 8:53 PM
I've tried to avoid posting this, bc I'm not sure thinking about maps is a part of my personality I should be encouraging, but I'm curious as to what this could be, so this might as well be my first real post.

I'm working over skype with a pragmatic dharma teacher that I like and respect very much, and he's not sure exactly what these experiences are (he says they could be fruitions, or not, and we will be able to tell by what happens next), so I thought getting some more data points might be interesting.

I typically note for about 5-10 minutes and get into what I think is equanimity (noticeable calmness, clarity and ease in noticing sensations, emotions and thoughts, arise, vibrate and disappear). There is sometimes a low key bliss at this stage. Usually my forehead and top of my head are extremely active at this point, lots of pleasant pulsing. My closed eye field of vision also pulses constantly at this stage. I usually drop the noting and let myself float and observe for a bit, sometimes staying awake, and sometime entering a dreamlike state where I can watch dream sequences start and dissolve.

Then, one of two things happen:
1. If I pay attention to the physical pulsing, the visual pulsing or the heard sound of silence, it starts becoming more and more choppy, and broken up, and eventually I will get a very strong feeling of "stopping". That's what I've been calling it, because it feels like everything in my awareness freezes for a second. It almost feels like what I'd imagine a seizure to be like, or like that squeezing you'd see on an old tv as it turned off. It can be very strong or very mild. This has actually been happening for years now, sometimes in altered states outside of meditation or while body scanning as I fall asleep. The first few times it happened I actually thought it was a seizure of some sort and was mildly concerned but I never seemed to have any bad effects around it. These can happen 6-12 times in an hour sit. Assuming this can't be a fruition bc:
- no bliss
- consciousness clearly isn't blipping out since I can estimate how long it lasts (vary between .5-1.5 second)
- sometimes it's felt localized, like the stopping began in my upper or lower body

2. Other times, after I've gone pretty far into that dreamy state, to the point that some clarity is lost and I'm mostly drifting/dreaming, something will change and I will suddenly be wide awake, staring at the back of my closed eyes with fully attention, heart pounding and a rush of intensity in my visual field & sensations in my body. It feels almost like I was slapped back to attention, but without a negative tone. This phenomena is new, has started happening only a few weeks ago, and will usually only happen once in an hour sit. Again, assuming this isn't a fruition bc:
- no bliss
- no dramatic changes in insight/mood off the cushion (I have a long history of mood stuff including depression and periods of bliss, so it's impossible to sort out what's what there, but things have been comfortable for a few months now)

Any thoughts on what these could be? Have any of you experienced "warm up cessations", or are these more likely just quirks of my own brain wiring? I know the answer doesn't matter much since the prescription is more sitting, but I'm wondering anyway.

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/22/14 9:37 PM as a reply to sloane.
Hi sloane,

I had something like this happen to me last summer. In June, I did a week retreat with Shinzen Young in LA. In the last session of the retreat, I did an online session with Shinzen in which I was getting a lot of flow, essentially pleasant flowing body sensations (I think the Pali word for that is piti). After the retreat was over, I drove down the hill from the retreat center to get gas. I pumped the gas, went into the station and paid the attendant, then returned to the car. I opened the door and as I was getting into the car, my sensory field (sight, sound, feel) disappeared. My vision broke up into black blotches then was gone. Some short time later, my vision came back in the same way and I was sitting in the driver's seat. As my sensory field came back online, I had a feeling of equinimity, thinking "I wonder if this was what Shinzen was talking about?" Most of his talks at the retreat were about a particular text by Lin Chi (Rinzai in Japanese), and one part of the text discusses fruition like experiences. When I returned to the retreat center, I went into my room and reached for my glasses case to put away my sunglasses and my vision began to break up again, but stopped before going completely black.

It happened again about a month later. I was in Ashland, Oregon with my wife and some friends and we had just finished viewing the 4th of July parade. We walked over to Lithia Park to see the reading of the Declaration of Independence (a custom there, an actor reads it). My wife and friends momentarily separated from me, and I walked over to where they were preparing to start the reading. Again, my sensory field went blank for a short moment before coming back. When it came back, I felt happiness and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the street fair in Lithia Park having a wonderful time with my wife and friends. I suspect this incident came from having done a couple hours of intensive basic mindfulness practice during a play the night before, which I didn't like too much but which our friends really wanted to see. I really didn't want to sit there and let my aversion take control of my mind and ruin our vacation, which had been great up until then.

I also sometimes get transformation of the visual field into a fabric like pattern, kind of like paisley. Shinzen says that's impermanence at work. It especially seems to happen when things are changing rapidly, though it can happen at any time. It started about a year ago when I was in Finland, or at least I started noticing it then.

I asked Shinzen about these experiences but he said he couldn't say whether they were fruitions. So far as I can remember, I've never had a magga and phala  during meditation, so I don't claim any path attainment. Do you get these cases of your sensory field going offline during daily life as well or only when in meditation and the hypnogogic state prior to sleep?

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/23/14 10:10 PM as a reply to svmonk.
Hey svmonk, 

Thanks for sharing your experiences - it sounds like it might be really startling to have those experiences in ordinary life. I've never had either of the experiences I described with eyes open... I've had the first kind several times while not in formal meditation but while body scanning (eyes closed) during a boring few minutes, and I've never had the second outside off the cushion.  Kind of unrelated, but years ago when I first started sitting, I would get overwhelming piti and then later sukha arise if I body scanned just one spot on my body (like my thumb) while driving - so much so that I pulled the car over many times. I'm still not sure I would have ever been able to learn to relax enough to hit the first two jhanas on the cushion if it wasn't for those months of many long drives on an empty highway each week, so I'm a big fan of this stuff showing up in daily life.

The paisley thing you described is really interesting to me. It wouldn't have occured to me to use the word paisley, but that's a pretty close approximation to what my visual field looks like when I suddenly snap back to attention in the #2 experience I described. A few times, it's been paisley-ish background with a blacked out shape in the center of my visual field.

I wonder if we're describing some related phenomena. Interesting that Shinzen doesn't know what yours was.

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/24/14 8:36 AM as a reply to sloane.
howdy sloan,
ii don't claim any path as my experience doesn't line up with the typical set.  given your description though i would guess that you are indeed in equanimity which is the launching pad for fruitions. 

my experience is similar to yours but i would describe the energetic events i experience as whirling energetic event horizons which, when approached to closely, suck me in.  for me it is not a fruition but rather a form of grasping as the sensations are either pleasant, or perceived as 'progress' and thus desired.  if i allow myself to be 'sucked in', i lose mindfulness and land in a wakeful state which is different than the dreamy equanimty but not the blissful post-fruition space often described.

these, or similar, energetic events, in my experience, line up well with the vipassana jhanas and so mark transitions for me in my sits.

i don't know whether this helps or hurts but hope for the former.

tom

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/24/14 2:02 PM as a reply to sloane.
Hi Sloane,
Event #2 as you describe it is  a word-by-word description of what happens in my meditations periodically (at the end of a cycle).
They come after 20-40 mins into the meditation.
The difference is that for me they give great relief. All negativities dissappear and that lasts all day and sometimes for days.

I started experience them when I got 2:nd path "according to Kenneth Folk" a few years ago.
They can sometimes be scary in their intensivity.
I have always interpreted them as fruitions.

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/24/14 10:34 PM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:


I wonder if we're describing some related phenomena. Interesting that Shinzen doesn't know what yours was.


Hi sloane,

I think they may be related. And I think Shinzen may have had some idea but didn't want to say, actually, "I can't say for sure" were his exact words. One of the things I respect about him is that he doesn't  tell you something unless he has a good idea what is going on. Usually, he goes through a question and answer period around the experience to get a better idea of the context. In this case, I gave him a pretty good description in email.

I think in this case that, since I'd never reported a magga and phala with him during a meditation session, he couldn't pin it down a post magga fruition.

                              jak

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/29/14 12:58 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
my experience is similar to yours but i would describe the energetic events i experience as whirling energetic event horizons which, when approached to closely, suck me in.  for me it is not a fruition but rather a form of grasping as the sensations are either pleasant, or perceived as 'progress' and thus desired.  if i allow myself to be 'sucked in', i lose mindfulness and land in a wakeful state which is different than the dreamy equanimty but not the blissful post-fruition space often described.


this is really interesting. I haven't noticed any grasping at all around the #2 type experience, but this is valuable in that it gives me something specific to look for. these experiences tend to show up for me after I've kind of abandoned all sense of 'progress' and 'effort' and am ok with following along with whatever arises in a more relaxed and floaty way. I frankly have no insight at all into what happens right before I land back in that wakeful state (as it only seems to arise when I'm not at all expecting it, unlike the #1 type experience), but will keep looking and see if there's any perception of grasping or being sucked in.

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/29/14 1:00 AM as a reply to Pejn ..
Pejn .:

The difference is that for me they give great relief. All negativities dissappear and that lasts all day and sometimes for days.


Thanks Pejn. I think this is a big difference. I'd probably assume #2 experiences (but not #1) were fruitions if I had relief or joy associated with them too, but neither has shown up, only an immediate and short term increase in 'volume' of experience..

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/29/14 1:12 PM as a reply to sloane.
sloane:
tom moylan:
my experience is similar to yours but i would describe the energetic events i experience as whirling energetic event horizons which, when approached to closely, suck me in.  for me it is not a fruition but rather a form of grasping as the sensations are either pleasant, or perceived as 'progress' and thus desired.  if i allow myself to be 'sucked in', i lose mindfulness and land in a wakeful state which is different than the dreamy equanimty but not the blissful post-fruition space often described.


this is really interesting. I haven't noticed any grasping at all around the #2 type experience, but this is valuable in that it gives me something specific to look for. these experiences tend to show up for me after I've kind of abandoned all sense of 'progress' and 'effort' and am ok with following along with whatever arises in a more relaxed and floaty way. I frankly have no insight at all into what happens right before I land back in that wakeful state (as it only seems to arise when I'm not at all expecting it, unlike the #1 type experience), but will keep looking and see if there's any perception of grasping or being sucked in.

How is this similar or different from being sucked into the pleasant feeling of jhana?

RE: What looks like a cessation, but isn't?
Answer
12/30/14 7:09 PM as a reply to J C.
J C:
How is this similar or different from being sucked into the pleasant feeling of jhana?

Not sure if you're asking me or Tom, but the jhanas I have hit (only soft, ever) tend to have a momentum build that takes a bit of time, before any sort of sucking in/drawing into the feeling happens. The pseudo-cessation things I'm experiencing have no build up at all, and with #2 kind I'm not able to observe it to even be sure something is happening at all - there's just such a rapid (feels instantaneous) change in phenomena and attention that it seems like "something happened".