Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?

Toggle
Hi all! I've read the "Idiot's Guide" and feel I've had all those experiences on some level, but don't feel I fit into any particular level or attainment. I feel pretty damn ordinary at the moment, even inadequate. I'd appreciate any insight on where I am right now, and what I can do to "progress" in my meditation. . Apologies for the wall of text!

Background: I've been meditating for about three years with plenty of "awakening" experiences, from the subtle to profound, from ordinary to ecstatic. I've come to a point, really, where I see everything in terms of what's still "remaining." I'm just a witness to my separation moment to moment, and it even feels like separation. Outwardly, though, my interactions with people are light and sometimes defined by spontaneous bouts of compassion -- an intense outpouring of love, almost at random. Otherwise I might feel indifferent, or perhaps even "less than" others. I also dip into periods of severe desolation (with dark night symptoms), and have seem to come to a new equilibrium which I describe below:

1. In the "waking state," it doesn't particularly matter what I'm feeling. My emotions are empty, but it's as though I'm joyful in the background of experience. If I'm anxious, I'm happy-anxious, if I'm depressed, I'm happy-depressed. But the happiness, if it even is that, isn't an emotion. Sometimes I fall into convulsions of ecstatic grief. Sometimes the heart feels so desolate it's a black hole. Meanwhile, this incredibly subtle sense of happiness or peace is there. It's like it's not even there. The experience itself seems void. I'm not even sure if it's there or not -- it's there when I'm not looking.

2. Whereas I used to think I could plunge "deep" in meditation, meditation is now arid. It's just a wall of vibrational sense and thought input, which I increasingly find indistinct from my normal waking state. I might as well not be meditating, in other words. Whereas I might have had a density/"blockage" or something to concentrate on before, now it all just seems like an indistinct field. While I'd say the field of awareness has become more profound, I can't sink into it like before. I mainly just see my own impatience that nothing tangible -- nothing sensory or emotional -- is happening, nor would I be impressed if something sensory were happening. How do I plunge deeper from here? It's almost as though I've regressed.

3. Sleep as meditation. Sometimes as I go to sleep, I remain conscious and witness my whole body-mind go into suspension as a kind of blissful, vibrational, dissolving energy field. It starts from the sacrum area and moves up from there. Once I "came to" in sleep to intense flashes of light in the head and popping/ringing sensations (and of course I have flashes of light frequently throughout the day and ringing during meditation, for about a year and a half now). Recently in sleep, I spontaneously became conscious of going into and "penetrating" a black "veil" of my experience and it was just white, colorful fractals -- maybe this was just a dream image? Another time I just saw a screen of white/colorful dots. The thing is, I almost have the sense that it's not me experiencing it. I'm lucky if I even remember it. They don't feel like dreams. 

4. After a few weeks of total darkness/desolation and fear a couple months ago, I came to a point of surrender and realized on some level I was prepared to die and that I wasn't in control. The most intense/blissful experience I've ever had unfolded after this. My entire lower body dissolved up to the heart -- totally dissolved, to the point where it was only the heart center energetically/blissfully unfolding. I've had similar experiences in deep meditation, but not spontaneously from an "insight" in the waking state and not with such a profound sense of oneness or dissolution. It didn't rise above the heart, or my mind didn't sink into it. It wasn't complete.

5. Sometimes I "come to" from a deep sleep state and, in a split second, I'll have the total image of my life in front of me and see it all as unreal. Every aspect of it -- all my relationships, all my "worldviews," all my "problems." Spontaneously, instantaneously -- as though time has stopped -- I apprehend the whole "self" and seem to be re-born in that split second out of emptiness. Scary as fuck, but increasingly it doesn't bother me and just I move on and think nothing of it. I go back to feeling ordinary.

6. I'm increasingly inclined toward this sort of devotional attitude, which is pretty new to me, but my whole heart isn't in it. I find myself God-oriented (as an "object" of devotion) and sincerely wanting to give away everything of myself but feel I lack the energy, virtue to do so. I don't feel I know God; I feel deeply separated, as though I know with greater clarity/profundity than ever before the degree of my separation. Anything I keep for myself in thought, deed, whatever just becomes a source of nausea for me. It becomes a source of inner humiliation. I feel I'm a total fool, the biggest idiot, the one who is most separated, but I don't ruminate on this long. Sometimes when this devotional attitude is authentic, my emotional center peaks and I'm brought to tears and spontaneously know the stillness of presence. At other times, my mind spontaneously turns to prayer just to spare itself from the vanities/inanities/aridity/idleness of other thought patterns. Before this point, "God" -- as a intentional object of devotion or concentration -- never really factored into the equation. 

Where on Earth am I? :-) Nothing in the world brings me satisfaction, yet I have little issue engaging with it. It seems like there's nothing for me to do but meditate -- I want nothing else but this -- but my meditations are arid. Am I being called to transfer my energy into action? In particular, what could I do to "deepen" my meditation?

Thanks for the help!

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
11/26/15 7:23 AM as a reply to Elijah Garrett.
hi elijah,
this is a really ineresting post. i can't tell you where you are or what you have attained.  one thing i get from your post is the very obvious strength of the subject - object dichotomy still being very present.

imo, three years is not that long a time.  you mention that you have had insights along the way but don't venture any theories as to what they are.  have you "pathed" or is that the jist of your question?  i am reading a certain dissatisfaction out of your experiences. we all go thought different phases where different qualities emerge and fade and are replaced by others.

some of your descriptions are fascinating and scary and simply extra ordinary.  that is all content.  your devotional practices / direction are interesting.  it sounds as though these are appearing somewhat spontaneously where they previously played no role. is this spontaneous or did something specific lead you in that direction?  in any case, if it is doing you good, it sounds like a way to at least direct your practice in a way which is beneficial right?  i would suggest you keep on keeping on if it is bringing you a little happiness and satisfaction.  better that than giving up or trying to force yourself to swim against the tide.

i can't say where you are but everything changes and having specific expectations is often counterproductive so keep going and best of luck.

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
11/26/15 7:06 PM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
hi elijah,
this is a really ineresting post. i can't tell you where you are or what you have attained.  one thing i get from your post is the very obvious strength of the subject - object dichotomy still being very present.

imo, three years is not that long a time.  you mention that you have had insights along the way but don't venture any theories as to what they are.  have you "pathed" or is that the jist of your question?  i am reading a certain dissatisfaction out of your experiences. we all go thought different phases where different qualities emerge and fade and are replaced by others.

some of your descriptions are fascinating and scary and simply extra ordinary.  that is all content.  your devotional practices / direction are interesting.  it sounds as though these are appearing somewhat spontaneously where they previously played no role. is this spontaneous or did something specific lead you in that direction?  in any case, if it is doing you good, it sounds like a way to at least direct your practice in a way which is beneficial right?  i would suggest you keep on keeping on if it is bringing you a little happiness and satisfaction.  better that than giving up or trying to force yourself to swim against the tide.

i can't say where you are but everything changes and having specific expectations is often counterproductive so keep going and best of luck.

Thanks for your response! I'm embarassed to say I have little knowledge of the Buddhist way of "mapping" experience, but after reading these descriptions of the nanas (http://www.buddhanet.net/knowledg.htm), I'm shocked at how linearly they correspond to my experience. My path has been much more "ad hoc" in terms of grabbing from many different traditions, but I mostly come from the Vedantist perspective and the modern non-dual teachers like Rupert Spira who teach the so-called "direct" approach (which, in my view, is no different from the path of self-inquiry taught by Sri Ramana Maharshi, just put in language that is more obvious to the Western mind).

It looks like, at least from this source, I'm probably experiencing the 10th nana (Knowledge of re-consideration - patisankhanupassana-nana) and beginning to learn equanimity.

My devotional attitude came from what I've come to call my experience of "void" (by which I mean, knowing experience as void of anything but consciousness itself). I think it emerged starting with the 6th nana (knowledge of fear) and accompanied me through where I am now. I'm not sure how anyone makes it through these stages without desperate "clinging." Since clinging to objects is known, for certain, to provide no fulfillment, God spontaneously and intuitvely became a non-objective focus of surrender. I would add that the descriptions of the nanas I've read don't describe a phenomenon which I consider very prominent in my experience, which is how this existential fear puts the 'self/ego' in such stark relief, that the residue/evidence of 'self'/clinging/aversion in all experience becomes agony or nausea. I don't know how anyone endures this agony without giving the self an "object" of devotional surrender. 

As I begin to learn equanimity, the devotional attitude has become more profound, not less. In the arising and knowing of all experience as such (that is, as void "content"), it does not cease to be experienced from the relative point of view even as it's simultaneously known as void. The relativity almost becomes *more* real, not less -- not only more real, but more delicate, more precious. In this juxtaposition of the absolute and relative, devotion has filled the gap. When you say the subject-object dichotomy is still present, I would say that I'm recognizing this dichotomy for what it is -- again, relativity has become even more profound -- and I'm no longer in denial of my relative frame of reference. I don't know how someone experiencing this can fail to see the astonishing profundity of relativity, and the total entanglement with self/world, when it is put in such stark relief of emptiness. I think many conceive themselves having progressed into absolute/nondual "understanding" before even knowing the degree of their own separation. It isn't known until it's known. I would associate this realization with the 9th nana, knowledge of the desire for liberation. To my mind this doesn't occur until the reality of separation (from a relative frame of reference) is *really* known for itself. From then on, you haven't a hope in the world. For those of us who've lived our life (or lives) living inside our heads, I don't think devotion/bhakti even becomes possible until this point. It's when the mind begins to sink into the heart. 

What do you think the Buddhist perspective might be on this? 

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/29/15 2:26 PM as a reply to Elijah Garrett.
Sorry I'm fairly new to the Theravada maps, but not necessarily Buddhism (Zen). I'm a general mystic I'd say, and not a fully complete one at that (if there is such a thing), but I have lots of experience and resonate with most of what you say and thought I'd throw in.

1. I was this way maybe 10 years ago. At some point I plateaued in development and it cornered me into seeing I needed to allow negative emotions like anger, sadness, grief etc....It was like seeing, connecting with, being around the "ultimate" meant I must only be positive, and because I had awakened, it solidified and vivified this circumstance. I was always existentially at peace, alive etc... no matter what other surface experience I had. It was invulnerable. This also allowed me to maintain a sense of presence, since the divinely crisp contentment was never on the line so to say. It stayed in the background while everything else was going on, but looking back, it was thin and somewhat hollowed out presence. Once I realized I needed to break the beauty, crush it and actually focus on not supressing any anger, rage whatever (at this point I integrated psychology into everything) all in a responsible manner of course, that presence disappeared from the background and absorbed into everything. It lost its hollow feel, but also the beauty of its perfect contentment. Presence now prevades in whatever state and I feel embodied. Yet it's neither positive nor negative and contentment can actually come and go now, but everything feels more real. It's a give and take thing I think. I know I bring more absolute into my relative truth practice and vice versa now.

2. I'd say, be with that aridness forever. Give in to it's reality as if it were there to stay and except that without making justifications about it or plans for it to be something more. This seems like hitting a wall too big to fit into any currently held frames of reference, that may have only ever been non-verbal in nature. Not regression to me. The frame of reference is resisting something real that would otherwise have more character or features. Commiting to inclusion of the aridness no matter what, signals the need for the frame to change expand, whatever. Then the aridness will likley start to show differentiation in it's taste and might include some numbness too. Then it will return to the familiar density/block thing again which it seems you know how to work with plus a very hefty paradigm expansion on your part I imagine. Everytime I experience this it's essentially and no feely thing (aridness), or an overwhelming feeling thing (saturation of some form). In both cases for me, unstrap my conditioning straight jacket and expand into the ridiculous beyond.

3. I've experienced at least the going from lucid dream to physically waking up state consciously myself. The rest sounds pretty awesome. For me this is just a byproduct of developing consciousness. Some Advaita vedanta people feel this is a marker that consciousness is present everywhere and at all times and proves it to the experiencer.  I just think it's staying conscious at very abnormal times. Awesome, interesting. For me, not very useful.

4. I've had this I feel. Freud is quoted as saying "the unconscious mind doesn't know it's going to die". This hit home for me. Processing instinctual resistance to death can bring up a lot of stopped up love and emotions that were contorting to try and control every thing to prevent dying. We become more nit picky on deep but superficial levels with everyone around us and this separates us from them. It's like we're trying to eliminate anything suboptimal that would leave us vulnerable to death, this permeate social status, bonding, even connecting to non-human life somehow. At least this is how I explain it. When we push through death avoidance contraction, life engaging expansion seems to well up. The dissolution experience I can't explain of course, but it makes sense to me. Seems a good physical response to the readjustment. As I became deeper, broader and clearer internally I started noticing emotional, physical, mental responses to all sorts of insights in real time. I think as we develop changes reach deeper, faster, where as before it was all somewhat mental in nature. So later on insight can trigger lots of things.

5. This one seems to be seeing evaluations about life and self becoming unreal, not your actual life and self. It's just seeing the truth. Since the constructions about yourself are just constructions, but conditioning has said they are literally real. When they are seen as mental and not actual the body freaks the fuck out until it aclimitizes to it. So the sense of self and life can rebirth, and should, the true self won't ever. I think you got this.

6. This one has been new for me too in the past years. For me this is a call to society and love (as I'm atheist). My devotion is to the true nature of all people and seeks their true nature in return. I work with it as just that part of my deep humanity doing what it does.

I've just finished reading MCTB, so it's new to me, but a lot of this seems like content for insight practice. ex. the aridness, seeing the three characteristics in it (although I gave a psychological frame to it for a paradigm shift to inclusion) in the Theravada sense, whether it's aridness or emotional saturation it's all about insight practice to see the true reality of anything.  #5. Feels like deep loosenings of the false mores between thought about reality and actual reality, which could be evidence of being somewhere at A & P or just beyond it.

Seems to me like your working through a lot, Buddhism tends to be all about awakening, radical awakening. A lot of what I see in your post is the middle ground  moving towards that, but stuff that I feel needs to be done no matter what anyway. On the way toward, or on the flip side coming back which happened to me. Cheers.

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/30/15 10:40 AM as a reply to Paul Philip Goddard.
Thanks a bunch for your thoughtful response. It was useful for me to re-read this thread and re-observe how things have evolved over the last month, and a lot of what you said really resonated with me as a more sober explanation of some whacked out experiences. I feel, in particular, I've been giving into this aridness as you recommended. I'm still at a point now where nothing in particular brings me any satisfaction, but as I settle into the center of my experience, I realize just how radically my impulse to avoid, distract, and otherwise delude myself through external objects/states/cravings has been gutted. That I consider a great blessing, since the very obvious emptiness of such an impulse is always an invitation to ground myself here, now, which makes all experience a contented whole. Peace.

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/30/15 8:09 PM as a reply to Elijah Garrett.
What is your daily practice!????

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/30/15 8:24 PM as a reply to Stuie Charles Law.
Sincere bewilderment, prayerful confession, and meditation.

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/31/15 1:11 AM as a reply to Elijah Garrett.
How many hours are you sitting in meditation, what times, what method, lenght of time per sit....whats your practice look like over the last 12 months?

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/31/15 10:19 AM as a reply to Stuie Charles Law.
I don't think that's a right or helpful way of looking at it. It's not a function of the time you spend meditating; it's a function of your honesty and sincerity in wanting the truth. How honest can you be with yourself? That matters infinitely more than the time you spend sitting meditating.

My meditation has varied considerably over the last few years. Some days I don't meditate; other days I might meditate for hours; some weekends I did nothing but meditate. Many of those meditations were just a form of escapism, a form of medication. It's not about meditation. It's about your willingness to see the reality of the present.

RE: Joyful Nausea, Empty Aridity, Humble Submission - Where am I?
Answer
12/31/15 6:15 PM as a reply to Elijah Garrett.
my apologies.......i humbly withdraw.