Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas

Toggle
I have been meditating on and off for about 20 years and have in the last 6 months developed a very serious meditation practice.  At home I meditate two 45 minute sessions/day.  I don't remember when but I'm sure a while back, I noticed that I would sort of "see" the breath circling around me when I meditated.  It was always in sync with my breathing.

On my last day of a recent 5-day retreat, I entered the first jhana.  While I was experiencing this amazing rapture, I could sense the breath coming up from my sides and sort of out away from me.  Once I got home, my experiences progressed and I started entering the jhanas almost every session, going up to J4 on several occasions.  As my experiences deepened, however, I started to feel worse physically all day after meditating in the morning.  I started feeling like I was bobbing up and down all the time, as if I had just walked off of a ship that had been on the water. I felt very light and like I was almost floating.  In a way nice but a bit hard to function that way.   When I would lie down, it was like being on waves.  The bed and my body would move up and down in waves and it would always get more pronounced the more deeply I breathed.  It got to the point where as soon as I would sit back down on the cushion, the waves would just take me right up as soon as I focused on my breathing and I would get almost pulled into J1 without much effort.  I had a few experiences where in J2 or 3, it felt like energy was being pulled up from inside and out of my head.  I thought that perhaps that would make the waves subside, like it was some sort of release of energy, but after a little while, the feelings of bobbing up and down would start up again.

Also, when my meditation sessions were done, I could barely come out. I felt so drugged, so deep in it that it was hard to drag myself back into normal thinking.  The other day, I was so drugged after my morning session, that I could barely function all day.  Mostly I just sat and stared at my toes.  I have read that your brain produces endorphins, dopamine and opioids in J1, 2 and 3 and I was wondering if all the opioids in my system were doing this to me.  I have a long health history (including lymphoma) and have weak immunity. frequent fatigue and exhaustion and have a hard time recovering from things.  I was wondering if I was having a hard time flushing the chemicals my brain was releasing out of my system.

I had to stop meditating after the other day.  I just couldn't function anymore and it started to get scary.  After 2 days of not meditating, I thought I was feelin better.  Then, I laid down yesterday and just did a body scan and noticed that when I started breathing deeply, the feeling of being on waves started up again and when I got out of bed that feeling persisted and now I still feel light and like I'm bobbing again.   The breathing seems to be what brings on this sensation.  If it's mild, it's pleasant enough when I'm lying down but I don't want to feel all day like I've just come off a boat.  My body can also feel very light.  If it's really bad, it can be scary in bed too.

I have been in contact with Leigh Brasington and gotten a lot of information but no concrete explanations of what's going on.  One teacher said it was a kundalini awakening but I don't know what to do with that.   I don't want to have to stop meditating but I'm wondering if my physiology is making me extra sensitive to what's happening in my body chemically.  I don't know if this is piti and if that's the same as saying it's from chemicals released from my brain.  I don't know if it's "energy" or what that even means.  I was also thinking maybe it was some synesthetic experience. MY meditation sessions have been great; I just want to feel well when I am not meditating!  Also, what I'm really interested in is emptiness and want to start doing some emptiness practice so I need to be able to concentrate on these practices when I'm meditating but I feel like I can't really do anything when I come out; I feel sort of brain dead.

Any ideas and suggestions would be helpful.  For now, I'm still not meditating.  it's been 3 days and I still feel the sensations.

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 10:11 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
I'm glad you're talking with experienced teachers.

EDIT: it sounds like you are still meditating? I would probably put that on hold or at least minimize it until you are more grounded.

Just in my own experience, the things that have helped me re-ground is 1) lots of gentle exercise like walking, enough to get me deeply tired but not feel strained or sick, 2) heavy meals, especially fatty starches and protien (meat ideally, but lots of mushrooms etc. if vegetarian), 3) and enough sleep. Another thing that oddly helps is seeing a movie in a movie theater -- just letting some other thing guide the mind for a while and turning off the internal thinking. Things that tend to make it worse is: too much thinking, too little food, too much sugar/simple starches, too much tea/coffee, too much or too little exercise, too little sleep, all sitting meditation and no walking meditation. 

It's funny how many of my friends have reported a hamburger and fries really helped.


Hope this helps in some way!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 10:19 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thanks for the response.  Yes, I've had several people tell me to eat heavy foods, walk, do yoga to "ground" me.  The night when things were the worst, I did have a hamburger.  Last night, beef stew.  I haven't had this much red meat in as long as I can remember!  I did some walking yesterday but had a busy day and noticed that today I am really tired and the floating feelings have intensified.  I definitely think I feel it more when I'm tired.

I've stopped meditating and am going to hold off at least until I speak to a teacher.  I'm starting to work with someone on emptiness practices this Thursday and she told me to stop meditating until then.  We'll see what she says and hope that things are somewhat better in a few days.

Thanks again!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 11:36 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
Suzanne, I had similar experiences when I first obtained easy access to the jhanas. It felt like I was floating all day, was light headed and almost dizzy at times. I, too, was often unable to break out of that dull jhana-like concentration after a meditation session. I recall at one point walking into my local cleaners and encountering two of my neighbors who I proceeded to completely ignore for several minutes before I "woke up" and realized they were there and said,"Hello." I'm pretty sure they thought I was drunk, or high. You're not alone in having these experiences.

For me they lasted for some several months but slowly my mind seemed to get used to them and adapted. You don't say in your comments how long this has been going on - is it days, weeks or months?

Hang in there!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 11:42 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
Breathing moving, heart beat, intensines exitement stage.

You could get yourself scared by something, insults, fighting etc will get a feel what exitement is, that what also takes away dullness, and sleep, tiredness.

Use your eyes for a while before you use breath, then use throat/swallow/mouth in order to get/help the harder and darker substance down and lighter let it rise up, it rises up by itself just need to find a way how to let it and that what needs to go down goes down.

Then the heart starts beat faster and louder for a while and here you will make the substance harder/together and try to ride with it. That completed it will cause exitement and you might want to visit toilet, something similar feeling like you will buy yourself something good what you have waited long time or similar to fear, anxiety.

If you go to loud places you will feel energies more better after you have moved into a still place.
If you do something long time then it will echo in your mind afterwards, notice it and bring your mind back to real ground
You could get stuck with thinking about something and can't let go, notice it and move your mind up to lighter area
..
You will breath food, and drink dew what gathers through nose by breathing from the eyes.

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 11:46 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
omg, thank you so very much, Chris, for writing back and letting me know that I am not alone in this experience!  You are the only person who has validated my experiences by saying you've experienced something similar.  What a relief!

So, did you keep meditating through the whole thing or did you stop at all?  It's been 3 days since I meditated and I still feel like I'm floating on waves but my mind is clearer than it was the last day I meditated.  That day was pretty scary.  I miss meditating and want to but also don't want this to intensify; however, if it's not going to make a difference or just start up again when I start meditating, why not keep going, espeically if it will clear up after some time as it did for you.  

So many people have said to do "grounding" things like eating meat and walking.  I've done both and notice no difference.  I don't know if I believe in that stuff but it certainly can't hurt to try.  Is there anything you did that helped you to feel better?

Thank you so very much for your response.

Best,

Suzanne

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 11:57 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
oh, btw, Chris, I forgot to say: this whole thing was going on for about 2 weeks between the time it started and the time I stopped meditating 3 days ago.  

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/10/16 2:43 PM as a reply to Suzanne.
Suzanne, I was working with an experienced teacher when the easy, involuntary access to the jhanas started happening to me. I described the experience to that person and he explained it as a normal part of the meditation process I was pursuing - as a good sign, in other words. I was thus not worried or upset but happy, even exhilarated. I didn't do anything different. I kept meditating and learned to use the new jhanic inclinations of my mind to do things like relax quickly, fall asleep fast, lose anxiety, bliss out when I wanted to and explore the jhana territories more deeply.

All the things you're worried about are normal and can actually be quite useful if you practice with them. Mind adjusts. To be honest, the inclination of my mind to get buzzy and light headed and jump quickly into jhana persists to this day. I use it to get to sleep quickly when I need to, to relax and I occasionally practice jhanas intentionally because, well, it's a blast.

Helpful?

PS: the thing that scared me out of meditating for months, and this pre-dated the jhanas, was my first path cessation.

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/11/16 8:39 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks so much for your response, Chris.  I'm sorry but can you clarify something?  What symtpoms went away after a couple of months and what are you left with?  I'm guessing that feeling of being really drugged went away but you still have the floating feeling, is that right?  Are you able to meditate easily and not experience the jhanas?  I don't want to feel so pulled into them if I don't want to do that.  I have noticed that my sleep seems better which is strange since most people say they need to sleep less.  I have had bad insomnia though and I have been sleeping much better the past few weeks.

With whom were you studying?  I'm going to be starting to work with someone who's going to help me with emptiness practices but I don't think she's really experienced with or into the jhanas at all.  She just told me not to get attached to these mind states because they're empty anyway.  That may be, but it doesn't mean that I'm not experiening problems with them or that I might not want to use them to my benefit, especially when it comes to focusing my mind for emptiness practices.

I'm going to be Skyping with Leigh Brasington but I don't know if I'll be able to work with him on an ongoing basis.  I live in the NYC area and can't seem to find a teacher who knows a lot about jhanas and emptiness.  There's so much focus on mindfulness, which is great, but I've had my fill of mindfulness.  I've moved on.

When you say your "first path cessation" do you mean you had an experience of cessation?  What do you mean by "first path"?  I don't suppose there's any way to describe something like that.  Under what conditions did that happen.  I can certainly imagine that being scary when you're not expecting it!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/11/16 11:24 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
Suzanne, I can answer some of your questions quickly, other answers are more onerous because we do not have a shared practice or vocabulary. The easy ones:

What symtpoms went away after a couple of months and what are you left with?  I'm guessing that feeling of being really drugged went away but you still have the floating feeling, is that right?  Are you able to meditate easily and not experience the jhanas?

Over time all the light headedess, dullness and floating feelings faded away, though I can still recall them at will if I want to. They have gone from being involuntary to voluntary. My guess is this took a number of months but it was quite some time ago so my memory has faded a bit. I am able to meditate in any way I choose. The jhanas do not impinge on that at all.


With whom were you studying?

I was studying with Kenneth Folk. Kenneth is in the NYC vicinity:  http://kennethfolkdharma.com/

When you say your "first path cessation" do you mean you had an experience of cessation?  What do you mean by "first path"?  I don't suppose there's any way to describe something like that.  Under what conditions did that happen.  I can certainly imagine that being scary when you're not expecting it!

These are the more time consuming questions to answer and there are others here who can answer them, too. But quickly - yes, I had many experiences of cessation over many years but the first one was a very significant event that scared me. That was what caused me to start working with Kenneth Folk in the first place.

You can find a fairly short primer on the Theravada Paths here, written by my friend and fellow Kenneth Folk student Ron Crouch:

https://alohadharma.com/the-map/











RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/11/16 1:07 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thank you so much, Chris for taking the time to respond to my questions so thoroughly and generously.  You have been so helpful to me and have given me some hope that I won't have to stop meditating and that I will feel better.  I have looked into Kenneth Folk and also started reading a piece by your friend Ron.  It's all extremely helpful.   

With much gratitude and metta,

Suzanne

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/11/16 3:10 PM as a reply to Suzanne.
Best of luck, Suzanne!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/14/16 7:32 PM as a reply to Suzanne.
Somethign to think about, it's OK to feel weird and new things, lots of things come and go in stages.  The only problem is if something really prevents normal functioning, but all the rest of it mostly only 'hurts' you if you get upset by it.  So if you feel really tired and can't function, that could be a problem obviously, but if you just feel some weird waves and whatnot, that does not have to be a problem if you don't get upset by it.  If you really get tired but it's only once in a while or for a short time, again, that is not really that big of a deal either, similar down time to a flu or cold only.  Not saying it's find to feel bad, but more like try not to get more worried than the exact circumstances viewed objectively would warrant.  It may be unrealistic to try to go back to where you were before though.  The path is forward, not backward.  The path is to integrate what you have now, not try to unlearn it.  If something is really draining you, yes, I would say look for ways to ameliorate that, but wanting to have it back like the past with none of the new symptoms may not be realistic and if it is, then it might well be like trying to reverse course on the path.  As for answers to what exactly is going on, I don't think anyone has that.  I have looked for someone with all the magic answers but I don't think anyone knows.  We are just observing trends and writing them down and naming them.  With those trends, there are many competing theories about what is causing them and what lies behind them but no one has evidence and I have not seen anyone who can reliably fix tons of problems with their theories.  But most things seem to work themselves out with time anyway.  IMO, you just have to ride the roller coaster as best you can and grab advice and apply it experimentally on yourself and kind of follow your intuition as to what might be best for you.  Those that claim to know it all, IME seem to just have very large egos only.  ;-P
-Eva

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/14/16 7:45 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Thanks so much for your sweet answer, Eva.  I have stopped meditating just for the short term.  I spoke with Leigh Brasington who thought I should l lay off for a couple of weeks.  I'm sure he's not sure about what's going on but is concerned that it's a build up of piti.  I also am working with someone on emptiness practices and she also thought that it best to not get upset about it and just think of the symptoms as empty unless it's just too hard to function (which it has been at times).  Anyway, I think you are correct and I thank you so much for taking the time to respond.  I wish I could go back to meditating right away but Leigh is the man and if he says to lay off for 2 weeks then that's what I must do.  I'm so looking forward to getting back on the cushion!

It's just good to hear that others feel weird things sometimes too!

Best,

Suzanne

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/16/16 10:04 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
I had the same experience on a jhana retreat with Leigh, although it wasn't as intense or long-lasting. Leigh is a very experienced teacher, and I felt confident when he advised me to lay off the long meditation sessions, do grounding activities, and eat more. I didn't have any meat available, but I did try to eat more of the heavier starchy whole-grain food. I had up until then tried to get the most out of meditation retreats by meditating all day, but not this time. 

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/16/16 11:17 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Thanks so much for your response, Laurel.  I Skyped with Leigh this week and he gave me the same advice.  For how long did yours last?  I still have the bobbing feeling and am eager to get back to meditating!  It's been about 9 days now!

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/16/16 11:30 AM as a reply to Suzanne.
It went on for the rest of the retreat, although slowing down the meditation schedule helped. I'd say in my case it was only a couple of days. Good luck--this will pass. 

RE: Strange/unpleasant effects after jhanas
Answer
4/16/16 11:47 AM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Thanks so much, Laurel!