Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

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Aleks TK, modified 5 Years ago.

Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/9/15 Recent Posts
This is Aleks TK of PsychonautWiki. I recently posted in a different thread. I decided to create a different account so I wouldn't be using a pseudonym. This will remain my main account.

After positive feedback we recently started a new mailing list for more formal conversations between each other and the wider academic community. In the past 24 hours we have already received over a dozen subscriptions from people in the OpenCog and AGI communities. My intention is to continue reach out to other professionals in the areas of computational neuroscience and cognitive psychology as well as individuals in this community.

If you're interested in discussing altered states of consciousness from a rational and skeptical point of view, outlining protocols for entering these states, or theorizing about the mechanisms behind these states, I invite you to subscribe. I recently made a post sharing some of my thoughts on parallels I see between ego death and the end of Vipassanā cycles. I would be very interested in getting some critiques from the hardcore dharma crowd. (I would love to be told where I went wrong!)
First of all I want to thank everyone who subscribed to this list, as well as everyone who has contacted me in private. I'm thrilled with the response. I thought I'd start us off with a post describing my hopes for this list and a particular area of research I am actively pursing. I can think of half-a-dozen other topics to start off with, so I don't expect to run out of content for this list any time soon.

I would like this list to provide a more formal venue of communication between PsychonautWiki and the larger academic community. So far our community has been cataloging and detailing altered states of consciousness. I believe we have matured to a point where we can begin theorizing about the mechanisms of action behind these experiences.

To this end I would like this community to be as skeptical and scientifically thorough as possible. This is a place for critical analysis and empirical observation. Posts should be clear, concise, and unambiguous. I want to place a huge emphasis on repeating experiences, sharing perspectives, and collaboration with the AI and cognitive psychology community at large.

However this is also a place for open-mindedness and discussion of new ideas. The topic will remain pretty general as long as it has to do with psychonautics or the PsychonautWiki community. Aside from psychedelics, topics may include meditation, lucid dreaming, and other altered states of consciousness.

For a number of years I have been very interested in the concept of 'ego death'. A phenomenon I have experienced on a number of occasions. For anyone who hasn't directly experienced it, the phenomenon is incredibly difficult to describe. But it has to do with long-term memory suppression. In particular an inability to recall your 'sense of self'.

To quote our wiki: “At level 3 [memory suppression], the most profound aspect of all-encompassing long-term memory suppression is the way in which it obliterates one's ability to recall or even feel a general sense of their own name, identity, me-ness or selfhood. The experience of this is colloquially known as ego death and is well documented throughout the modern psychonautic subculture. It results in the profound experience that although one is not unconscious, there is no longer an “I” experiencing current sensory input; there is just the input as it is and by itself. This allows one to experience concepts from a perspective which is completely untainted by prior experience and memories due to the accompanying presence of simultaneous personal bias suppression.”

For quite a while now I have been looking into methods of entering ego death at will. A combination of LSD, meditation, and nitrous oxide has recently allowed me that opportunity. Ego death usually only lasts fractions of a second, but this combination has allowed me to enter it over and over again in an incredible level of detail. I'm going to talk about some parallels I believe I have found between the end-result of particular styles of Buddhist meditation and the phenomenon of ego death. However before I begin there are a few points I want to emphasize:

1) I am not by any means a particularly accomplished mediator. I have not actually completed a 'Vipassanā cycle' without the use of psychedelics. I am merely extrapolating what I see as an existing trend based on my own experiences and research. I suspect meditation gurus might flatly disagree with what I have to say here. If they do I hope they will contact me about it.

2) Some members of our community may disagree with some of the conclusions I draw. Two other members, KayTwo and PJ, have also been practicing Vipassanā on a regular basis. I am eager to see how they reply, this is after all a discussion form.

3) This is still a very active area of research for me. My theories regarding ego death are not even close to as developed as my theories on other subjects, like tulpas for example. I have not experienced ego death nearly as often as I would like and I may eventually disavow everything I say in this post. Be warned.

My first real interest with meditation came from a two-part series of blog posts I found on the web community Less Wrong. I have included links to both of them and I highly recommend you read them in order to better understand the framework I am using. (They really aren't that long and the second article is particularly fascinating.)

http://bit.ly/1LiGKCe

http://bit.ly/1NZTsvK

I was impressed by the author's seemingly rational and methodical approach towards achieving 'enlightenment', as well as his analysis of what enlightenment was. As someone who prides themselves on being able to sniff out pseudoscience and woo, I was fascinated by whether any state of mind called 'enlightenment' really existed. I began to research the subject, leveraging hardcore meditation communities such as Dharma Overground, which have been indispensable tools. (Although some of their members could use more skepticism.)

For those of you with little background on the matter: There are many different styles of meditation. The style described in the Less Wrong posts is a form of meditation called Vipassanā, combined with the Mahasi noting technique. It basically consists of a set of cognitive and perceptual exercises that 'stretches' your perception over time. What does this mean? It has to do with what the posts refer to as 'vibrations'.

To quote the second post: “A major focus of this method is to develop an acquaintance with what are called 'vibrations.' A meditator practicing in this style will eventually find that their experience is not static, but 'vibrates' or fluxes in a peculiar way over extremely short periods of time (fractions of a second). […] The orthodox view is that these vibrations are related to 'impermanence,' according to Buddhism one of the three characteristics of everything that exists. A science-inspired view is that this style of meditation develops one's attention to the point that one can directly observe an artifact of the way that attention is implemented and interacts with sense data and cognitive content in the brain.”

These 'vibrations' appear to be the individual frames of conscious perception. When meditating one can tune into to a particular aspect of experience, such as touch or sight or hearing, and perceive vibrations in it. In fact all perception is made of vibrations, including thoughts, memories, and emotions. They are the fundamental building block of consciousness. As always I am skeptical of claims I have not experienced myself, however I have been perceiving vibrations during meditation for over two years now and I have no doubt of their existence.

The goal of Vipassanā is to achieve enlightenment in the classic Buddhist sense of the word. To do this one meditates on a regular basis, slowly improving their mindfulness and perception. In the later stages of this technique all of experience may appear as as a field of 'vibrations', frames of perception appearing and disappearing at a tremendous rate.

The end goal is a temporary cessation of consciousness called nirvana. This experience lasts only fractions of a second but is incredibly profound. The meditator then begins again, repeating these cycles, each time further discarding the deluded perspective that they are an independent part of the universe. After enough delusion is discarded, the meditator becomes 'enlightened'.

I suspect that what Buddhists call 'nirvana' is in fact a kind of ego death phenomenon. Practicing Vipassanā while under the influence of psychedelics allows me to steer my mind into ego death territory, apparently as a result of these substances capabilities for enhancing perception.

Experienced mediators will tell you the end goal of Vipassanā is to 'penetrate' an individual vibration, seeing a single perception for its true nature. I believe ego death involves perceiving vibrations in real time. As the mind begins to lock on to these vibrations in ordinary perception, it begins to see the space in between them, resulting in an incredibly profound experience. The reason you are unable to recall your sense of selfhood during ego death is that you are operating on the level of individual frames of perception. Since memory, emotions, and other thoughts are made of vibrations, it doesn't make sense for them to function during this phenomenon. You are literally seeing the space in between consciousness.

During my last trip I tried to be as observant as possible when entering ego death using the LSD/Nitrous Oxide combination. I believe my experiences support this theory. Although I will need to study the phenomenon in much more detail before reaching any real conclusions. I still have many questions, including understanding why the ego death is so profound and how your sense of identify changes after experiencing it.

I will be very interested in reading the reactions of other members of our community. Although I know I haven't drawn many specific conclusions from this post, I think it will be an interesting topic for discussion.

For anyone interested in the technique behind Vipassanā meditation, you might want to check out a book called “Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha”, which is legally available on the web. The author does a fairly good job of emphasizing theory and technique in lieu of mysticism.

Aleks [alekstk (at) riseup.net]
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Aleks TK, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/9/15 Recent Posts
On a related note, our community is very interested in investigating the phenomenon of Kundalini awakening. I am looking for books on the subject, something as close to a technical manual as possible. I have a list of potential purchases but specific recommendations from this thread would be useful.

I would also be interested in speaking to anyone who has engaged in kundalini practices over PM or email. Energy practices or 'chakras', which I suspect are psycho-somatic manifestations of emotion, is my next topic of research.

Thanks,

Aleks
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Noah S, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
Feel free to pm me.  I got shaktipat from Amma (the hugging saint), which was my first A&P and lasted three days.  I also worked with Stuart Perrin who was a top student of Swami Rudrananda and teaches a form of open eyed kundalini meditation. 

Didn't get any solid grasp of kundalini with either teacher so all I can do is share some possibly interesting stories.
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Aleks TK, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/9/15 Recent Posts
Unfortunately PM doesn't seem to be working right now. Would you mind shooting me an email?
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Noah S, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Vipassanā Cycles and Ego Death

Posts: 1532 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
I sent you a pm.  Might be working now.
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Aleks TK, modified 5 Years ago.

Acceleration

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/9/15 Recent Posts
Here's my more recent mailing list post on the same subject. I'm not sure if anybody will read it, but I figured I'd post it here.

I always try to draw a strong distinction between what I experience and what conclusions I draw from that experience. Even the most plausible hypothesis doesn't count for much if empirical observation doesn't support it. Being mindful is only a first defense. No matter how hard I try I can never guarantee my assumptions aren't incomplete or tainted by bias. Repeating observations is critical, other people should be able to reproduce the outcome of an experiment.

I would like to talk about a form of meditation KayTwo and I have been practicing for the past several months. This is an update on a topic I posted about on our old mailing list, so some of the information might be familiar. This thread is started in light recent observations and KayTwo's experience with what appears to be 'stream entry'.

Since this post turned out longer than War and Peace I'm going to split it into two parts. Part 1 will be background information and an introduction to some of the terminology we use. Part 2 will describe some of my own theories about his form of meditation and how it ties into the phenomenon of 'ego death'.

KayTwo is also currently writing an account of her experiences with this form of meditation. Her most recent encounter with ego death was markedly different than her previous experiences with memory suppression. It was also induced entirely through meditation, while sober. Expect it to follow shortly after this post. (Probably tomorrow)

This mailing list is an open forum, so feel free to also respond with your own questions, comments, or concerns.

[Part 1]

Before my interest in meditation, before my obsession with PsychonautWiki, I was a college student who tried LSD and experienced 'ego death'. To quote our wiki article on memory suppression:

At level 3 [memory loss], the most profound aspect of all-encompassing long-term memory suppression is the way in which it obliterates one's ability to recall or even feel a general sense of their own name, identity, me-ness or selfhood. The experience of this is colloquially known as ego death and is well documented throughout the modern psychonautic subculture. It results in the profound experience that although one is not unconscious, there is no longer an “I” experiencing current sensory input; there is just the input as it is and by itself.

The phenomenon is rather difficult to describe to somebody who's never experienced an altered state of 'self', or who hasn't given much thought to their concept of 'selfhood', likely considering it to be synonymous with their physical body or brain. Those who have undergone ego death will know it as one of their most profound experiences. It was this phenomenon that initially drove me to PsychonautWiki and convinced me of the life-changing capabilities of psychedelics.

It should be noted that I have very little experience with disassociates such as ketamine. I recently spoke with someone who noted that disassociates can cause a different form of ego death than what I have encountered. For the purposes of this thread when I refer to 'ego death' I mean in the context of classical psychedelics.

My interest in meditation began with a blog post I found on Less Wrong. (http://bit.ly/1NZTsvK) The author, DavidM, only posted twice before vanishing from the face of the earth, but I was impressed with the detail and consistency in his articles. My bullshit detector wasn't going off, so I decided to research the technique further, something I would later learn was called 'vipassana' (mahasi noting style).

I encourage our readers to view both posts. DavidM describes 'enlightenment' in the traditional Buddhist sense as a certain kind of knowledge. The knowledge that selfhood is an delusion and that people exist only as aspects of a completely interconnected and natural universe. Enlightenment involves understanding this fact on a fundamental level, and that occurs through a set of concentration and perceptual exercises known as meditation. In this way becoming enlightened is simply learning to be more rational, recognizing and overcoming a certain form of delusion that most people don't recognize.

How does one do this? By honing their perception to an almost microscopic level, expanding their conscious experience to include subtle mental phenomenon that normally remain unseen. At this level of mindfulness it is no longer easy construct the illusion of the a 'watcher' behind intentions, actions, and awareness. Cartesian dualism falls apart.

To heavily quote the article again:

A major focus of this method of meditation is to develop an acquaintance with what are called 'vibrations.' A meditator practicing in this style will eventually find that their experience is not static, but 'vibrates' or fluxes in a peculiar way over extremely short periods of time (fractions of a second). For an explanation by analogy, imagine a set of speakers playing music without dynamic variation; if a person rapidly turns the volume knob in the pattern off-low-high-low-off, the amplitude of the music will flux over time. Similarly, a meditator practicing in this style finds that the components of experience are not static, but fluctuate rapidly from nonexistent to existent and back again.

The orthodox view is that these vibrations are related to 'impermanence,' according to Buddhism one of the three characteristics of everything that exists. A science-inspired view is that this style of meditation develops one's attention to the point that one can directly observe an artifact of the way that attention is implemented and interacts with sense data and cognitive content in the brain.

Despite the unfortunate terminology these 'vibrations' are very real and are merely a result of conscious perception shifting between different aspects of experience (the physical senses, thought, intention, emotion, memory, etc). They are observable with minimal practice and are a fundamental aspect of this style of meditation. Your ability to perceive more and more of your field of experience as vibrations is one indicator of progress.

After my interest was piqued by the Less Wrong post, I started meditating on a semi-regular basis. I discovered Daniel Ingram's excellent MCTB (http://bit.ly/1NSwbg0) which confirms and expands DavidM's description of these stages of progress. Both authors describe the same variation of a simple technique that has been practiced by Buddhists for thousands of years. (mahasi noting vipassana)

Basic method: Sit down in a place where there are few distractions, and pick an object to focus one's attention on. The most popular object is the motion of the abdomen as one breathes in and out. Begin by trying to clearly perceive the feeling of the abdomen; when it expands and you perceive it clearly, attach the label 'in' to that perception, and when it contracts and you perceive that clearly, attach the label 'out' to that perception.

As your attention becomes more stable and precise, you can divide the experience up into as many parts as you can discern: for example, 'in'->'holding'->'out'->'holding', or further, 'in-beginning'->'in-slowing'->'holding'->'out-beginning'->'out-slowing'->'holding'. The label you use is not important so long as it's simple and makes sense to you. What is important is attending to the perception, and the best way to do this is by attaching a label to the perception every time you notice it clearly.

Focus on perceiving every aspect of the movement of your abdomen as precisely as is possible for you, given your current level of attentional and perceptual development, and on keeping your attention as set on the movements of your abdomen as possible given the same. When you get good at this, try to incline your mind towards the attentional / perceptual flux called 'vibrations' in the experience of your abdomen moving. Try to see how, in the experience of attention being fixed on an object, it is continually being set and re-set there. After enough practice, they will make themselves apparent. Whenever your attention goes to anything other than your abdomen, attach a label to the accidental object of attention and then go back to your abdomen.

DavidM describes four modes of perception a meditator slowly progress through until they reach 'partial enlightenment'. Note that both KayTwo and I have experienced first-hand each mode of perception these authors describe. Our experiences matched these descriptions completely. I present here a (highly abridged) summary of these modes:

Stage one.

Typical qualities of mode one perception: Very narrow attentional width (if you "tune into" one sense you "tune out" the others"; if you "tune into" part of the content of one sense [e.g. a visual object in front of you] you "tune out" all the other content of that sense [e.g. your peripheral vision]), vibrations are subtle, various cognitive and emotional content but nothing very extreme aside from physical unpleasantness.
Stage two.

Typical qualities of mode two perception: slightly wider attentional width, vibrations are obvious and often perceived effortlessly, potential for extreme shifts in mood and energy towards the positive end of the spectrum; potential for surprising or detailed spontaneous visualizations or mental imagery, potential for highly physical / sexual / pleasurable sensations,manic behavior (such as high sex drive, low need for sleep, etc.).

Goal: Observe vibrations without any special regard to the content of the experience that they comprise; spend enough time observing them that it becomes effortless; try to observe them so precisely that you will be able to see an extremely high number of them per second.

This stage manifests in a variety of ways that typically mimic hypomania, and in extreme cases can mimic mania with psychotic features. It is highly typical for the end of this stage to involve extremely strong physical rushing sensations ("energy") throughout the body. They can be extremely sexual (like the biggest orgasm you've ever had), possibly paradoxically pleasant and unpleasant at the same time, and can somehow distort your sense of self or constitute a very short-lived bona fide altered state of consciousness.
Stage three.

In stage three, the characteristic mode of perception tends to be unpleasant, so it is possible to get "stuck" because you may be inclined not to observe your experience. Typical qualities of mode three perception: attentional width is very diffuse (as if you can see a lot of your experience at once, but none of it especially clearly), some vibrations are fast while others aren't, vibrations tend to change frequency less often, 'discord' between vibrations in the experiential field, potential for moodiness, low energy, depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, and all kinds of other unpleasantness.

Goal: Observe vibrations. Attend to a wider swath of your experience than before, even if it feels like your ability to perceive it is clouded or muddled. Whatever terrible experiences arise, see them as objects of experience, or better yet, as vibrating objects of experience.

Mode three perception often involves new kinds of feelings that warrant labels such as 'dissociated' or 'off-balance' or 'out-of-sync.' Look very closely. You may find that doing so gives you a new understanding of what experiential objects a variety of words concerning negative emotions actually refer to.
Stage four.

The contrast between stage three and stage four should be rather big. One typical manifestation of the very beginning of stage four is boredom or a feeling of blandness. Recognize stage four by the fact that your attention is both wider and clearer than before.

Typical qualities of mode four perception: attentional width is such that you can see very large amounts of your experience and it seems rather clear (rather than muddled), vibrations are regular and slowly become synchronized, feelings of boredom and indifference that eventually turn into peace and equanimity, ability to perceive subtle aspects of experience that were previously indiscernible.

As you get deeper into this stage, it may occur to you that there have always been experiences that you have never properly recognized as mental objects. For example, 'intending,' 'making effort,' or 'willing' may suddenly seem as if they're truly on the same footing as 'seeing' insofar as they are just experiences and not 'yours' or 'generated by you' or 'descriptions of your agency'.

As you get deeper into this stage, many subtle objects may present themselves for which the appropriate label is not obvious. Often these will ultimately be given labels such as 'spaciousness' or 'nothingness'. Don't worry about what to call them, just make it a point to call them something and see them clearly.

Deep into this stage, you are likely to have the sense that what you call 'self' is just a mental object which appears to be the observer of experience, but which you are paradoxically observing. You won't resolve the paradox by thinking about it, so just observe that object precisely and label it 'observer.'

Near the end of Stage 4 DavidM notes that the senses can become mingled:

At the very end you may temporarily lose the ability to distinguish between your various senses. (This is not synaesthesia, but simply a change that involves objects being seen as 'experience' rather than being categorized by the particular sense they manifest in.) The distinction between the senses may seem arbitrary or artificial.

Daniel Ingram elaborates on this point, describing what he calls “formations”:

Phenomena may even begin to lose the sense that they are of a particular sense door, and mental and physical phenomena may appear nearly indistinguishably as just vibrations of suchness, formations have the following qualities when clearly experienced:

They contain all the six sense doors in them, including thought, in a way that does not split them up sequentially in time or positionally in space. If you could take a 3D moving photograph that also captured smell, taste, touch, sound, and thought, all woven into each other seamlessly and containing a sense of flux, this would approximate the experience of one formation. They contain not only a complete set of aspects of all six sense doors within them, but include the perception of space (volume) and even of time/movement.

Formations are so inclusive that they viscerally demonstrate what is pointed to by the concept of “no-self” in a way that no other mode of experiencing reality can. As formations become predominant, we are faced first with the question of which side of the dualistic split we are on and then with the question of what is watching what earlier appeared to be both sides.

When experienced at very high levels of concentration, formations lose the sense that they were even formed of experiences from distinguishable sense doors. This is hard to describe, but one might try such nebulous phrases as “waves of suchness,” or “primal, undifferentiated experience.”

Note that KayTwo has first-hand experience of formations and describes them as directly proceeding her recent meditation-induced ego death (Stream Entry). As for myself I am fairly certain I am near the beginning of Stage 4, as my experiences correspond to descriptions of it almost perfectly. I have not yet experienced 'formations'.

The end result of Stage 4 is a temporary cessation of consciousness known as 'nirvana'. At this point some of the meditator's delusions are extinguished and they have become partially enlightened. This first taste of nirvana is known as 'stream entry' and marks the end of a 'cycle of insight'.

The meditator then begins at stage two and slowly meditates until they reach nirvana again, and the cycle is repeated. When enoughs cycles are completed the meditator becomes fully enlightened. Note: the proceeding description is incredibly simplified and ignores many details, apparently higher stages of enlightenment can get rather complicated.

[End of Part 1]

[Part 2]

While I have been had been meditating on and off for several months, my interests were rekindled after discovering PsychonautWiki. I wanted to know if any state called 'enlightenment' really existed and report what I found to the community. Another member, KayTwo, was also intrigued and decided to apply the technique with me. My practice became at least 90 minutes of sitting meditation a day, and I began keeping a log of my experiences.

By this point I had noticed that 'vibrations' would become obvious whenever I used psychedelics. Each time before encountering ego death I would feel like as if all of reality was dissolving into vibrations. My field of experience becoming sharper and wider before suddenly leading to ego death.

A spent one weekend experimenting with LSD and nitrous oxide, combining it with vipassana. This allowed me to induce ego death again and again. Experienced mediators will tell you the end goal of a vipassana cycle is to 'penetrate' an individual vibration, seeing a single perception for its true nature. I began to think of the ego death in terms of seeing the space in between vibrations, which matched my observations. [Note that nitrous is a dissociative. However I have consistently observed the same changes to my perception of vibrations whenever I experience ego death style memory suppression with only LSD.]

One of the problems with the term 'ego death' is that it is somewhat vague and may refer to distinct mechanisms of action. In an effort to avoid ambiguity (and the baggage associated with traditional Buddhist terminology) KayTwo and I have begun referring to the changes in perception leading to this form of memory loss as 'acceleration'. We will be using this term whenever referring to ego death induced through the enhanced perception of vibrations.

To reiterate on my previous thread, I suspect the reason memory loss occurs during acceleration is due to an individual experiencing reality on a level which allows them to observe individual frames of perception. Because all of experience including thoughts and emotion are made of vibrations, it doesn't make sense to be able to recall other aspects of your memory or selfhood, as you are only perceiving one vibration at a time.

KayTwo's recent experience with stream entry differs from other forms of ego death in a number of ways. First, it was induced entirely without drugs. Second, it wasn't as random or instantaneous as other forms of ego death but was more of a 'process' which involved seeing subtler and subtler aspects of her consciousness. Third, rather than simply losing her ability to recall her sense of self-hood, she suffered a complete and utter annihilation of her being, including a complete loss of consciousness.

She describes the experience as simply blinking out of existence for what was a split second but felt like it could have been a thousand years. The event was incredibly profound. The description she gave directly conforms to my understanding of what should occur at the end of a vipassana cycle. I suspect this is the ultimate end result of acceleration, and that the ego death members of this community have experienced on psychedelics are a more spontaneous and less controlled form of the same phenomenon.

I believe this form of meditation and its effects are worth investigating further. Specifically I am interested in observing and cataloging the subtle 'mental objects' that manifest themselves in the late stages of acceleration (as well as 'formations'). As practicing this form of meditation involves mindfulness of perception on an elementary level, I suspect it could be a useful tool observing the nuanced details of altered states of consciousness. With concentration I can see how the vibrations of seeing and hearing interweave with vibrations of “imagining” or “intending” on an almost frame-by-frame basis. The experience is rather profound.

I am also interested in the way psychoactive drugs affect acceleration. Although I normally do not meditate under the influence of psychedelics, I have discovered that microdoses of LSD (< 100ug) substantially improves my ability to perceive vibrations, often pushing me into brand new territory. I have also experimented with Adderall, nitrous, and marijuana, each of which have had their own unique effects that should be explored further.

It is worth noting that although KayTwo did not use psychedelics while meditating (she didn't have access to them until very recently) her rate of progress is rather impressive. In a few months she passed through territory that usually requires several years (and a few all-day retreats) to skillfully navigate. I have to wonder if experiencing ego death through psychedelics allows someone to more easily induce the phenomenon through meditation. Although at the moment this is nothing more than conjecture.

To move forward I propose we create a page on StonerTalk and encourage other members of the community to practice the technique. Once enough members have confirmed the experience for themselves, we should expand the articles on meditation and memory loss. Ultimately I would like the community to map out in detail what altered states of consciousness vipassana is capable of inducing.

I look forward to hearing your responses.

[End of Part 2]
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Aleks TK, modified 5 Years ago.

Vipassana and DMT

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/9/15 Recent Posts
I had the pleasure of experimenting with NN-DMT last night. It should be noted that I had taken some LSD the previous night (there is a cross-tolerance) and I am currently on an SSRI (known to significantly reduce the effects of DMT). Therefore I hardly tripped in comparison to other people who took the same dosages, minor visuals. I was somewhat disappointed with my micro-dose experience, and on a whim I decided to try meditating. I was shocked by the results.

I was instantly able to meditate with more breadth and clarity than I have before. As if I could 'see' my thought process in a whole new way. Vibrations (discrete packets of experience in different senses, read the other posts to learn more) were obvious and flooded through my mind, and it was much easier to integrate and perceive several senses at the same time. I also began picking up on subtle experiences I often overlook.  Packets of experience manifesting as my sense of 3D volume, subtle emotions fluctuations, and different aspects of thoughts (visualization and conceptual thinking) were more easily integrated into the rest of my field of experience.

Directly after taking DMT and beginning meditation I was under the impression that I was 'thrown-forward' in my meditation skill. I began experiencing what Daniel Ingram refers to as 'formations' (http://bit.ly/1HVFPfE) which involved perceiving my different senses (including thoughts and volume) as an integrated whole rather than the traditional flood of vibrations. Unlike when using LSD, my perception did having the side-effects of feeling 'unstable' or 'jumpy' and I was more easily able to enter deeper states of concentration.

During the apex of this experience it felt like I was clearly and consistently seeing the low-level implementation of several of the brain's algorithms dealing with attention, memory, and the way thoughts link together. However after the first ten minutes this experience faded (as did my ability to perceive formations) and I was back to quickly switching between vibrations in different experiences. [NOTE: 10 MINUTES IS THE AVERAGE TIME OF A TYPICAL DMT TRIP]

However for the next hour (as I continued meditating) I was still operating above my normal capacity. My field of experience seemed 'wider' (I am able to see more of it at once, especially touch / sight / hearing) and clearer, one could say the vibrations in my line of sight (with closed eyes) were 'brighter' and more discrete rather than muddled. I didn't skip as many vibrations when switching between the senses.

As I write this (a day later) I have just finished a meditation session (sober this time) and my perception still seems altered. My ability to meditate seems noticeably higher than normal, my field of experience is wider and clearer. I continue to more easily pick up on subtle mental objects such as thoughts, volume, sense of self—although not nearly as easily as perceiving sense-data.

Vibrations are perceived effortlessly in touch, sight, and hearing. There is a constant ringing in my ear as sound is broken into different tiny parts and interlaced with packets from the other senses. Although I still 'drop' packets as my brain struggles to integrate these different aspects of experience.Who knows whether the changes I am experiencing are actually a result of the DMT, or how long they will last. I do not have nearly enough experience meditating on DMT to know whether or not it actually allowed me to 'see' my thoughts in the way I have described—experiences I have only ever had inconsistently on high dosages LSD, with far more side effects.

One of the difficulties of combining vipassana and psychedelics is the lack of a baseline for comparison. Everyone in the community who is currently practicing vipassana is also taking psychoactive substances for other research purposes. We still don't know if these substances ultimately enhance or decrease our ability to practice insight meditation.I think it would be useful to find individuals (probably outside the community) who would be willing to start practicing vipassana while sober and record daily logs. This would help us get a better idea of the altered states of consciousness vipassana induces, and the amount of practice needed to reach these stages.

At the same time members of the community (PJ and KayTwo, or anyone preferably not on an SSRI) might want to begin experimenting with micro-dosages of LSD and DMT for multi-week periods and observe the changes in their perception while meditating. Of course one should first practice for several weeks while sober in order to have a basis for comparison.

Vipassana is ultimately mindfulness meditation taken to the extreme, the point of which is to break up perception into microscopic detail. As the community is well aware, psychedelics also enhance mindfulness. If we can reliably repeat the experiences I had last night by combining skilled mediators with small dosages of DMT, it might have a lot to teach us about cognition.

Maybe or maybe not...I remain skeptical as always. But I think the combination is definitely worth investigating. What do you guys think? Let me know if you have any questions.
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Droll Dedekind, modified 5 Years ago.

RE: Vipassana and DMT

Posts: 634 Join Date: 11/15/13 Recent Posts
Hi,

As it happens PsychonautWiki has been useful for me while researching obscure RC's. Looks like ya'll are doing a good job over there.

I appreciate trying to have a fully rational meditation practice. I personally doubt its plausibility and desirability but I'm interested in your progress nonetheless.

Here's the constructive criticism. This part seems questionable to me:
For a number of years I have been very interested in the concept of 'ego death'. A phenomenon I have experienced on a number of occasions. For anyone who hasn't directly experienced it, the phenomenon is incredibly difficult to describe. But it has to do with long-term memory suppression. In particular an inability to recall your 'sense of self'.

To quote our wiki: “At level 3 [memory suppression], the most profound aspect of all-encompassing long-term memory suppression is the way in which it obliterates one's ability to recall or even feel a general sense of their own name, identity, me-ness or selfhood. The experience of this is colloquially known as ego death and is well documented throughout the modern psychonautic subculture. It results in the profound experience that although one is not unconscious, there is no longer an “I” experiencing current sensory input; there is just the input as it is and by itself. This allows one to experience concepts from a perspective which is completely untainted by prior experience and memories due to the accompanying presence of simultaneous personal bias suppression.”

...

Experienced mediators will tell you the end goal of Vipassanā is to 'penetrate' an individual vibration, seeing a single perception for its true nature. I believe ego death involves perceiving vibrations in real time. As the mind begins to lock on to these vibrations in ordinary perception, it begins to see the space in between them, resulting in an incredibly profound experience. The reason you are unable to recall your sense of selfhood during ego death is that you are operating on the level of individual frames of perception. Since memory, emotions, and other thoughts are made of vibrations, it doesn't make sense for them to function during this phenomenon. You are literally seeing the space in between consciousness.

...

KayTwo is also currently writing an account of her experiences with this form of meditation. Her most recent encounter with ego death was markedly different than her previous experiences with memory suppression. It was also induced entirely through meditation, while sober. Expect it to follow shortly after this post. (Probably tomorrow)

It seems to me that a loss or supression of memory may be relevant during 'ego death' in a psychedelic trip, but that a loss of memory is irrelevant to a sober non-self experience during meditation. Memories arise and pass causally on their own always. If we assume 'ego death' is related to experiences of non-self then the memory suppression should be considered non-essential.

Also, you seem particularly focused on the impermanence characteristic and to a lesser extent the non-self characteristic. Why no mention of suffering?

As much as I'd like psychedelics to be highly relevant to meditation in a direct way I'm afraid it's not the case. It seems to me there's no meditation free-lunch. Though, perhaps psychedelics can expedite the processing of psychological issues under the right conditions. There's an overlooked paragraph from MCTB that might be relevant here:
All that said, there is some debate about what factors or progress allows some people to just notice the Three Characteristics of the sensations that make up their world in the fact of their stuff as opposed to those who just flounder in their stuff. Some would argue that you have to have done enough psychological work and deal with enough of your issues to get to the place were you can move on to the next stage. I must reluctantly admit that there is probably some truth to this. However, I didn’t consider myself particularly psychologically advanced when I started insight practices, as I had all kinds of stuff to deal with and still do, and yet somehow, perhaps through good instruction, perhaps through some other factors I have yet to identify, I was able to practice well despite it all and make the shift from being lost in content to noticing how things actually are.
I personally believe Daniel downplays the importance of ^.

I should say I especially appreciate your willingness to describe phenomenology and the stages of meditation with minimal reference to anything Buddhist. It seems that's one iconoclastic step Daniel is unwilling to take. Might widen the appeal.

Laughed at "vibrations" being unfortunate. What would you prefer?

Also, if you haven't come across Shinzen yet I suggest you look him up. For a really geeky impermanence model see pg 40.