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A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene

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Last week I came back form a Goenka retreat ( practiced very little before this ). All I did there was anapana and body scanning after a few days. As suggested by people on this forum I decided to continue with this practice until I pass A&P / Dissolution and then switch to the noting technique. In the meantime I am reading MCTB and the first public draft of MCTB2, part I.

The first experience I want to ask about happened two-three days after starting to do Vipassana/body scanning at the retreat, where I told the teacher about how it takes me at least an hour to fall asleep ( it's been like that for the past years ) and he suggested that I observe the body sensations when going to bed, so I fell asleep doing that ( in less than 20 minutes ). At some point in the night I woke up feeling very pleasant sensations throughout my body for minutes. Could meditation go on during sleep ? Could that be A&P ?

Last time I practiced concentration, at some point, all the sounds started to get dimmer and I lost sense of my breath. It felt like AC but as soon as I got there the experience started to really suck, as I started sweating, the pulse rised and I felt very unpleasant sensations. I tried to stay there but it got so intense, I felt like I had to get out. Was this a raputre , or did I just panic ? If I ever encounter something similar, should I try to stay there and observe / note the sensations ?

Cheers

RE: A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene
Answer
9/15/15 8:44 AM as a reply to Cristian.
Cristian:
At some point in the night I woke up feeling very pleasant sensations throughout my body for minutes. Could meditation go on during sleep ? Could that be A&P ?


Yes, meditation can go on during sleep.

Yes, pleasant sensations could be A&P.


Cristian:
Last time I practiced concentration, at some point, all the sounds started to get dimmer and I lost sense of my breath.


Could be 5. Dissolution. Either way, losing sense of the breath is part of the game (I get that around 4th jhana / Equanimity) so try not to freak out about it. You can't suffocate yourself emoticon


Cristian:
It felt like AC but as soon as I got there the experience started to really suck, as I started sweating, the pulse rised and I felt very unpleasant sensations.


Could be 6. Fear.


Cristian:
I tried to stay there but it got so intense, I felt like I had to get out.


Don't. Try to stay with it. Nothing bad will happen to you. (Probably...)


Cristian:
Was this a raputre , or did I just panic ? If I ever encounter something similar, should I try to stay there and observe / note the sensations ?


What do you mean by "rapture"?

We usually use it to translate the Pali word "piti". So it is a quality / aspect of certain jhanas and nanas, not a state or stage in itself. So, if you stick to dho language, there is no such thing as "a rapture". Also, rapture is invariably pleasant. It comes in several flavours (five, according to the Visuddhimagga) from tingling to flashes of light to waves of pleasure to uplifting joy.

But I don't want to make this into a battle of who gets to define words. So it could be a rapture by your own definition of it. (Again, what do you mean by it?)



Cristian:
should I try to stay there and observe / note the sensations ?


By all means. Just one word of caution: Goenka's advice on equanimity can be misleading. Some stages / states do not feel equanimous, particularly when you experience them the first few times. So try to cultivate equanimity while doing body scanning, but do not think that you are not making progress if you do not manage to be equanimous. Just keep at it.

Within reason.

RE: A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene
Answer
9/17/15 3:59 AM as a reply to neko.
Thanks for the answers neko,

But now I really feel like I have no idea where I'm at, as you replied with "could" to all the sensations I described. It seems like I could be anywhere from the 1st to the 4th Vipassana Jhana. I will try to give more details about what I experienced so far.

Regarding the experience
At some point in the night I woke up feeling very pleasant sensations throughout my body for
minutes. Could meditation go on during sleep ? Could that be A&P ?

Yes, meditation can go on during sleep.
Yes, pleasant sensations could be A&P.
All I can add to this is that it was the most pleasant experience I encountered so far, but I have only been meditating for less than a month.
Cristian:Last time I practiced concentration, at some point, all the sounds started to get dimmer and I lost sense of my breath.

Could be 5. Dissolution. Either way, losing sense of the breath is part of
the game (I get that around 4th jhana / Equanimity) so try not to freak
out about it. You can't suffocate yourself emoticon
Also I could add that I lost the sense of my body as well. I could only feel the sensations that arised afterwards ( the really unpleasant ones ) and I did exactly what I shouldn't have, freaked out and tought I would suffocate myself emoticon

Last night I got to AC and as soon as I felt a pleasant sensation I went for it and started enjoying it. It started growing in size and intensity and soon i felt it in my whole body, but then I kind of tried to force it to expand out of my body , so it went away. Was that close to the 1st Jhana ?

About the body scanning :
I have never experienced the free flow,except maybe when I woke up during the night, but I'm not 100%
I used to be able to disolve any tension/pain point I would encounter, but now I felt very intense pain in my shoulder and observing it didn't help, it felt like I couldn't find it's center point.
Also, while scanning, intense sensations arise in other parts of the body ( most of the times pleasant vibrations and sometimes tickleing points on my face ) and I feel like going there to observe them, but I was advised not to at the Goenka retreat.
This method doens't seem so natural to me, I think I would prefer observing sensations randomly as they arise, and I feel like sometimes I'm a bit to focuesd on the areas I am scanning and how to split them, and try to hard not leave any unexplored areas.
Do you think I should try to switch to a different insight technique or stick to it a bit longer ?( I will read MCTB2 soon, I still have ~100 pages left of MCTB )

Random things that happened these days :
sometimes it feels like I lose sens of mouth and the area around it ( not only when meditatig, happend while I was reading as well )
last night while I was reading after a while the words seem to be smaller than before and even if I got the book closer to my eyes it seemed to keep their size, also I looked at my fingers and hands and they seemed slimmer than usual.

PS: about rapture, I missunderstood the term a bit, but now it's clear.

Cheers

RE: A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene
Answer
9/17/15 6:35 AM as a reply to Cristian.
Cristian:
Thanks for the answers neko,

But now I really feel like I have no idea where I'm at, as you replied with "could" to all the sensations I described. It seems like I could be anywhere from the 1st to the 4th Vipassana Jhana. I will try to give more details about what I experienced so far.


You are very welcome. I am sorry that I can't really say more than "could". Diagnosing by forum is never easy emoticon

Also, from my own personal perspective, progress is (self-)diagnosed more effectively and reliably by talking about the clarity of perception of the three characteristics, the speed of noting, and the levels on Dan Ingram's Hierarchy of Vipassana.

Stuff like having felt "fear" does not by itself necessarily translate into the corresponding nana. A better indicator is, in my opinion:
- How frequently and regularly that occurs during practice, with what patterns with respect to other stuff one experiences.
- Whether the fear was felt in a sticky way (physically, emotionally and also cognitively, as in "I am afraid I will suffocate") or not.
You should be able to recognise this with time and some more practice.


Cristian:

Also I could add that I lost the sense of my body as well.


Totally 100% no sensation of the body at all? I find that hard-ish to believe given the territory you are describing. Next time it happens, look closer. Usually there are subtle sensations that are still there (perception of the spatial location of the limbs, sensation of the attention "touching" the body part, tinglings, degree of fuzziness of the border between inside and outside of the body) and noticing this stuff is what you should be doing at that point IMHO.


Cristian:

Last night I got to AC and as soon as I felt a pleasant sensation I went for it and started enjoying it. It started growing in size and intensity and soon i felt it in my whole body, but then I kind of tried to force it to expand out of my body , so it went away. Was that close to the 1st Jhana ?


It could be emoticon Why did you try to move it out of the body? Next time, I would suggest you to try to just try to focus more on it and stabilise it.


Cristian:

while scanning, intense sensations arise in other parts of the body ( most of the times pleasant vibrations and sometimes tickleing points on my face ) and I feel like going there to observe them, but I was advised not to at the Goenka retreat.
This method doens't seem so natural to me, I think I would prefer observing sensations randomly as they arise, and I feel like sometimes I'm a bit to focuesd on the areas I am scanning and how to split them, and try to hard not leave any unexplored areas.


The thing with the unexplored areas is something I am not very convinced about Goenka's method either. The explanation he offers involving:
- formations ("sankharas") from bad things done during previous incarnations "hiding" in your body,
- eradicating them,
- de-sankharising yourself,
sounds wacky to me.

If you start observing whatever body sensation comes up spontaneously, then it would be a hybrid Goenka / Mahasi style of Vipassana. It has worked for me in the past.

That leaves the question open: What do you do if you have a very strong sensation that really attracts your attention? You have different options here:
- Avoid it until it is its turn to look at it again after a whole body scanning cycle (orthodox Goenka).
- Try not to fixate on it and see how your attention bounces back and forth from the pain to other sensations.
- Stay on it and break it down into its spacial and temporal sub-components.
You can play around with these options, keeping the 3C in mind.

Cristian:

Do you think I should try to switch to a different insight technique or stick to it a bit longer ?( I will read MCTB2 soon, I still have ~100 pages left of MCTB )


There is always a trade off between trying different things to see what works best and sticking to one technique to bring it to its potential. I think the choice is ultimately personal when you don't have a teacher who will make the calls for you. Maybe at this point you might try to stay with the current technique with no or minimal changes and see to what degree your experiences repeat themselves across sits.


Cristian:

Random things that happened these days :
sometimes it feels like I lose sens of mouth and the area around it ( not only when meditatig, happend while I was reading as well )
last night while I was reading after a while the words seem to be smaller than before and even if I got the book closer to my eyes it seemed to keep their size, also I looked at my fingers and hands and they seemed slimmer than usual.

Stuff like that happens and will keep on happening. emoticon

Keep up the good work! emoticon

RE: A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene
Answer
9/17/15 7:04 AM as a reply to neko.
Addendum on nanas, self-diagnosis and intensity.

Just like there are softer and harder jhanas, so also the nanas can be experienced with different levels of clarity. This depends on concentration, external conditions, and so on. So one possible scale for Fear might be:

1) "At some point I was afraid I would suffocate."

2) "At some point I was afraid and I did not know why."

3) "At some point I was afraid. In the beginning I saw the sensations of fear arise, then, an instant after, I noticed my mind looking for something to attribute the sensations of fear to. I started to worry that I might have a heart condition and be about to die from a heart attack, and this made my fear worse."

4) "At some point I felt all the physical symptoms of fear, but interestingly enough I did not have any emotional or cognitive involvement in those sensations. I was able to observe them for what they are, not wanting them to go away or stay."

5) "I was doing Mahasi noting as described in MCTB. My sense doors started to sync up and I started to experience formations as described in MCTB: Reality came to me in flashes which seemingly contained all the sense doors, including time, space, feeling of the centre and of an observer, and so on. Suddenly, I realised that just like each formation in the past has vanished, and the current one is vanishing before my awareness as I see it, so will each future sensate event also disappear. This terrified me, seeing how there is nothing in the perceptual field that can ever be grasped on to as stable, solid, separate, having a self, and capable of providing pleasure, comfort or protection."

Writing this to point at a possible direction of progress: stuff to look for next time you experience fear while sitting. Do be warned that (5) is a high standard. You do not need to reach level (5) of clarity to qualify for having reached that nana emoticon 

RE: A pleasant and an unpleasant expericene
Answer
9/17/15 11:13 AM as a reply to Cristian.
Hi Cristian,

Neko's advice, especially with respect to Goenka practice, seems sound to me. I've never done Goenka practice, though I have on occasion done body scans when I've felt I've needed them.

I do, however, have some amount of experience with negative emotional states, especially strong negative emotional states, during meditation, and mostly fear and anger. It's important when a negative emotional state arises to turn attention from whatever was the meditation object to the emotional state itself (technically this is called cittanupassana, mindfulness of mind objects). I know this isn't recommended by the Goenka practice, but negative emotional states can grow if they are ignored or turned away from, especially if they arise during retreat and most especially if they are strong. Try to become curious about them. Look for their arising. The closer to their arising you can catch them with mindfulness the less likely they are to expand and take over your mind. Where are they coming from? Where do they go? If you can maintain an objective manner about them, you may be able to discover a lot about the way your mind works.

Pleasent bodily sensations that arise during concentration practice may be the nimita, or counterpart sign, which would be an indication that you are in or approaching 1st jhana As I said, I have not done extensive concentration practice with the body as the meditation object, so I don't know what the counterpart sign is for the body as the object.