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Near misses?
Answer
11/30/16 6:13 PM
Okay, have had two really odd experiences (haven't experienced anything like this before) since coming back from a retreat. I came out of retreat in Low Equanimity, fell back to Reobservation the second day home, then moved forward back into Equanimity territory. Few days of wonderful, effortless meditations followed.

Then, a week ago, the first experience. Was about 45 minutes into a sit when I thought maybe dullness was settling in. I resolved to focus and tried to pierce through a single point in the darkness behind my eyelids. Suddenly felt like there was a depth (i.e. z-axis) to the darkness, and as I concentrated, layers of darkness appeared to slide out of the way like curtains being drawn open. My heart suddenly began to pound rapidly and a sense that something was being "revealed" came to me. My vision flickered from bright to nothing/black to bright, my mind freaked the fuck out, then I opened my eyes in a panic. Felt like I almost had a heart attack.

I could feel myself losing equanimity in the days that followed this experience. Last night, I was back in Reobservation again. One of the worst sits I think I've ever had. Terrible restlessness and could barely tolerate intense, edgy, fast, unnerving vibrations. Backside of body shaking from head to toe. First time I've ever used "dukkha" as a label/note while in meditation.

Now, today, another experience unlike any other I've had, just a few minutes before end of the sit. Had a moment of vision that went from bright to nothing/black to bright. Didn't think anything of it. Few minutes pass. Then, on an out-breath, had the sensation that the body was suddenly sinking into the ground or falling through the floor, like the chair had disappeared out from under me. But also like it was happening in slow-motion somehow, paced with the out-breath. The first impulse was to hold on for dear life. Second impulse was to “let go.” Chills ran throughout my body immediately. Everywhere all over my body, the skin erupted with a tingling sensation and I was covered in goosebumps. Felt exhilarating, kind of like dropping off a high point on a rollercoaster, then realizing you’re still alive and everything is fine.

The two things that stand out about these experiences are the fear that was involved. There was the moment of terror in the first that I couldn't make it through, and in the second, a moment of terror that I made it through just by the skin of my teeth. No overwhelming joy following it, but a very vibrant piti-like static buzzing all over my body that last a minute or two. 

Are these perhaps what I've heard of as "near misses?" What am I to make of these? Anything?

RE: Near misses?
Answer
11/30/16 11:15 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Not sure what to make of your experiences, but I will say that one becomes familiar with the near misses and how they feel. The best thing you can do when that feeling comes is to relax and surrender/relax/accept what is happening. Imagine that you are in the grip of a bear, for example, and that in all aspects you need to play dead. Go limp and let it do its thing, with your mind empty. Practice this if you think you might have trouble in the moment.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 8:15 AM as a reply to Chris O..
Have you ever experienced a cessation? In Theravada development terms are you pre-path? What does it mean to you when you say "my mind freaked the fuck out?" Are you referring to great fear?

I'm asking because the described experiences of yours are somewhat reminiscent of some of mine. Your answers may help me address your questions, if I can, as a result.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 12:03 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Have you ever experienced a cessation? In Theravada development terms are you pre-path? 

Haven't had a classic cessation moment that I'm aware of, and yes, I'm pre-path.

On both occasions of these two unusual experiences, I experienced a "dark/nothing" moment. What I mean by this is that when I'm in access concentration with eyes closed, the darkness behind my eyelids is a constant, all-pervading brightness, like I have my eyes closed on a sunny summer day. When I say there was a "dark/nothing" moment, I mean there was a blip in my visual experience where the light flickers off (goes black) for a single moment, then returns back to all-pervading constant brightness.

Why I haven't thought anything special of these "dark/nothing" moments: they've happened two or three times before these two recent experiences; there's only ever one "off" blip, not multiple in succession; and I don't feel there's been a gap or loss of time. I've had experiences where my vision and sensations were strobing in/out or flickering like a computer screen with a low refresh rate for a couple minutes straight, and these "dark/nothing" moments don't have that quality. These "dark/nothing" moments are a single "frame" that goes dark.

Chris Marti:
What does it mean to you when you say "my mind freaked the fuck out?" Are you referring to great fear?

Yes, referring to great fear and aversion. There was this very short intense build up that something big and scary was about to happen and instead of facing it, I reflexively did a 180° and said "nope!" 

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 12:27 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Chris O.:

Now, today, another experience unlike any other I've had, just a few minutes before end of the sit. Had a moment of vision that went from bright to nothing/black to bright. Didn't think anything of it. Few minutes pass. Then, on an out-breath, had the sensation that the body was suddenly sinking into the ground or falling through the floor, like the chair had disappeared out from under me. But also like it was happening in slow-motion somehow, paced with the out-breath. The first impulse was to hold on for dear life. Second impulse was to “let go.” Chills ran throughout my body immediately. Everywhere all over my body, the skin erupted with a tingling sensation and I was covered in goosebumps. Felt exhilarating, kind of like dropping off a high point on a rollercoaster, then realizing you’re still alive and everything is fine.

I remember reading something about a "downshift" during the out-breath in MCTB and did a Google search through the book. Came up with this gem from "Was that Emptiness?" chapter:

If there was a double-dip into unknowing events with a few profound moments of clarity and altered experience between them, as is characteristic of the A&P Event, with one shift happening half-way down the out-breath and a second shift at the end of that out-breath, write it off immediately as more likely having been that or maybe the early stages of Equanimity.

I believe this may be describing what I experienced. What I don't understand is why it was so damn scary when I realized what was happening and why I had this weird static electricity feeling dancing all over my skin. Maybe the latter was simply the physiological response to the fear. Who knows.

Since I'm under the working assumption that 1) I went through A&P back in August and 2) I've been struggling to keep a foothold in Low Equanimity these last couple weeks, this explanation I've cited seems most likely.

Or who knows, maybe I haven't been struggling with the Dark Night since the end of Summer and this second strange experience yesterday was really A&P event. Guess time will tell.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 1:43 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Here is how I described my first set of cessations, way back when. Does any of the following seem congruent with your recent experiences?

Reading through Kenneth’s new discussion thread I’m reminded to ask folks here about a recurring experience that I have with some frequency. While observing an object in meditation – let’s say the breath entering and leaving my nostrils – I perceive a slow building of energy and focus. The in-breath starts to bring a very fine set of vibrations in the top of the head and an almost giddy mental feeling, sort of like a tiny whiff of laughing gas, that grows as the breath is drawn and until it is at its peak. The peak of the breath brings a sharp distinct break and when the out-breath starts that same energetic and finely vibrating giddy feeling resumes (this not a hyperventilation-like giddiness). Each successive breath slowly increases the intensity of these fine vibrations until a kind of crescendo is reached, at which point all the energy that has built up quickly flows to the observed object, appears to merge with the object and then FLASH!, an image appears, a complex image, for just a tiny fraction of a second, after which everything – and I do mean EVERYTHING – winks out of existence. Pure pitch black, silent nothingness ensues (no sound, no light, no feeling, no self, no perception of any kind) and lasts for about a second or so. Then awareness reappears anew. The impression after the second or so of nothingness reminds me of the rebooting of a computer. Everything is turned completely off and then restarts.

FWIW – this is very clearly not the same as the experience of the simplest thing.


FWIW#2 – the fraction of a second image always reminds me afterward of a mandala that you see from the Vajrayana tradition or a series of tiny network nodes connected by tiny threads. Coincidence? Meaningful? Meaningless? I really just don’t know.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 6:47 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Here is how I described my first set of cessations, way back when. Does any of the following seem congruent with your recent experiences?

Your experience sounds much more "complete" than what I have experienced.

The first experience of having some "revealed" to me and nearly having a heart attack will have to remain a mystery. But regarding the second experience, I'm fairly certain what I've actually had happen is this "out-breath double-dip" phenomena that can happen with A&P or when moving from Re-observation to Equanimity.

As my original post says, the meditation before this second odd experience was excruciating and awful, and I self-diagnosed it as hitting the wall of Re-observation. I looked up the Equanimity stage in "Progress of Insight" chapter, page 235, and found further information that supports the idea that this second experience was likely a mark that Equanimity had been reached:

Unfortunately, just to make things confusing, there is often a single double-dip shift in the manner of A&P territory, with one being halfway down the breath and the other at the end of that breath, very soon after the shift from Re-observation to Equanimity.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/1/16 8:47 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Everyone's experience is not the same, but your second report sounded a lot like my stream entry. The tingles are like a bliss wave that follow the cessation, and fear can be a part of the whole experience. Let's face it, when you finally let go you have no idea what is going to come out on the other side.

People often diagnose these things by looking at what happens in the days following. The pattern of your sits alters a lot during Review. 

ETA: in my case I felt as if the top of my head just blew off.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/4/16 11:17 AM as a reply to Chris O..
As my original post says, the meditation before this second odd experience was excruciating and awful, and I self-diagnosed it as hitting the wall of Re-observation. I looked up the Equanimity stage in "Progress of Insight" chapter, page 235, and found further information that supports the idea that this second experience was likely a mark that Equanimity had been reached:

Allow me to suggest to you that trying to read things in books and online, and then self-diagnose, is not the best idea. Words don't always suit this kind of activity very well and as Laurel said, everyone is different, sometimes dramatically so. Please consider getting an experienced teacher, if for no other reason that to have someone around who knows you, knows your practice, has traversed the territory, knows the trail markers and can help you interpret what you are experiencing.

YMMV, of course.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/2/16 11:16 AM as a reply to Chris O..
Chris O.:
Okay, have had two really odd experiences
Only two? Seems like a bunch of wierd stuff... emoticon
Chris O.:
I resolved to focus and tried to pierce through a single point in the darkness behind my eyelids. Suddenly felt like there was a depth (i.e. z-axis) to the darkness
3D space -
RE: White dots starfield + waves travelling towards a horizon
Chris O.:
My vision flickered from bright to nothing/black to bright, my mind freaked the fuck out, then I opened my eyes in a panic. Felt like I almost had a heart attack.
Abrupt shifting from one jhana to the next can cause this. When you drop from EQ to 2nd or 3rd jhana this phenomena happens, a possible explanation.
Chris O.:
I could feel myself losing equanimity in the days that followed this experience. Last night, I was back in Reobservation again. One of the worst sits I think I've ever had. Terrible restlessness and could barely tolerate intense, edgy, fast, unnerving vibrations.
Shift from 4th jhana down to 1-2 and working back thru 3rd

Chris O.:
Now, today, another experience unlike any other I've had, just a few minutes before end of the sit. Had a moment of vision that went from bright to nothing/black to bright. Didn't think anything of it.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/506fcc5c84aefb9a79a610b3/1349504092518/Pathways.jpg

Chris O.:
Are these perhaps what I've heard of as "near misses?" What am I to make of these? Anything?

Could be near misses, could be fruitions, could be jhana shifts....I'm betting on the jhana shifts for now....
Fear came up a lot when I had interesting stuff happen....over time the fear goes away and then you have something worse - excitement. The fear is easy to get over, just repeat until your no longer fearful of the expereince. Excitement is however harder to deal with....that is what EQ is all about.
If your meditations are currently cycling thru the nanas - review like; I would change my estimation on where you are at. Keep repeating the expereince and look deeper into what is happening and update us. Cool stuff though
Good luck,
~D

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 3:45 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

Allow me to suggest to you that trying to read things in books and online, and then self-diagnose, is not the best idea. Words don't always suit this kind of activity very well and as Laurel said, everyone is different, sometimes dramatically so. Please consider getting an experience teacher, if for no other reason that to have someone around who knows you, knows your practice, has traversed the territory, knows the trail markers and can help you interpret what you are experiencing.

YMMV, of course.

This is great advice and I appreciate it. I just don't know how to go about doing that. This retreat I went on recently was with a two teachers at the local city insight meditation society, but I'm not sure I was overly impressed with either of them. Nothing bad to say at all, just didn't have a chance to really "connect" with either. The one interview I had was a group interview, and I kind of wasted my question because it was about concentration and the teacher wasn't into concentration practice.

Anyway, wanted to give an update on what's happened since this last experience where I felt I was breathing along like normal, then the next thing I know it feels like I've fallen off a cliff or am on an airplane that suddenly is in freefall. Was pretty shook up and obsessively thinking about the incident, unlike any other meditative experience I have. Despite that, had a couple good days of meditation (two one-hour+ sits/day). Then today...

This morning, I had what I'm guessing is a Fruition. And then another one in a second sit today. For the first sit, I sat down with the intent that I was going to remain meditating until something happened—whether that was me "giving up" after a couple hours or whether "something" happened.

After about 50 minutes, I'm deep into this standard all-pervasive light phenomena where everything is bright, like I'm sitting with eyes closed on a sunny summer day. Then a frame goes completely dark, there's nothing, then the brightness strobes back in with an intensity like someone has shined a giant lighthouse beacon directly at my face. The same exhilarating rush of tingles from the "falling" experience a couple days sweeps all over my body, and I feel a giddy delight. I let out a couple laughs, get up, walk around a little, use the bathroom, then see my face in the mirror and laugh some more. Had this afterglow feeling for about 10 or 15 minutes, kind of like after the first times I experience sutta-level (soft) jhana during A&P.

Go to the gym, run some errands. Decide that I need to meditate again to see if the experience repeats. It does, but less intense. About 45 minutes in, a quick flash of darkness, followed by flash of extra-bright brightness, then tingles erupt all over my skin for a few moments. This time the experience was less intense than earlier this morning, but still in a category of experiences I've never had before this week.

What I don't understand is, something I remember reading in MCTB was there would be (specifically) three moments of nothingness. And I went and looked at some Mahasi stuff where he said two or three. I have no idea how many moments were lost the first "falling" experience a couple days ago (kind of felt like I had just blinked and next thing I know I'm falling off a cliff), but these experiences today, these definitely did not have the quality of being more than a single moment.

Anyone: feel free to let me know whatever you think. It's been a really strange week.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 5:36 PM as a reply to Chris O..
After about 50 minutes, I'm deep into this standard all-pervasive light phenomena where everything is bright, like I'm sitting with eyes closed on a sunny summer day. Then a frame goes completely dark, there's nothing, then the brightness strobes back in with an intensity like someone has shined a giant lighthouse beacon directly at my face. The same exhilarating rush of tingles from the "falling" experience a couple days sweeps all over my body, and I feel a giddy delight. I let out a couple laughs, get up, walk around a little, use the bathroom, then see my face in the mirror and laugh some more. Had this afterglow feeling for about 10 or 15 minutes, kind of like after the first times I experience sutta-level (soft) jhana during A&P.


That's what would seem to be a pretty good description of cessation followed by fruition, Chris.



RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 5:44 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Yup.

Congratulations Chris O!

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 6:08 PM as a reply to Chris O..
What I don't understand is, something I remember reading in MCTB was there would be (specifically) threemoments of nothingness. And I went and looked at some Mahasi stuff where he said two or three. I have no idea how many moments were lost the first "falling" experience a couple days ago (kind of felt like I had just blinked and next thing I know I'm falling off a cliff), but these experiences today, these definitely did not have the quality of being more than a single moment.


So... let's get real here: I've been doing this stuff for a long time and and so have a bunch of my meditation oriented online pals, like shargrol. I have yet to experience anything that's exactly like what I read in MCTB. Anything.

Look for general similarities. Very general. Think big picture, from 30,000 feet. And check in with others like you've been doing here. And, not to annoy you with repetition but this is once again why having a teacher is a good idea. If you want PM me I'll be happy to make a recommendation/introduction for you, assuming you want to practice in the Mahasi/vipassana/Theravada tradition.

EDIT for clarity: My teacher recommendation for you would be a personal introduction to someone who I know well, who is very experienced at teaching and is expert at this tradition.

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 5:53 PM as a reply to Chris O..
Chris O - For getting a teacher, 2 options (since you said you don't know how, it is legitimately hard to get a teacher to open up)

1) in person: show up to the group a lot, make practice-based convo, in circle shares make smart phenomenological comments, and go up to the teacher to make small talk every week, also go to retreats to get noticed 

2) online: this is much easier, especially if you get a pragmatic teacher - I made a list   of them here under the teacher section http://noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com/p/links.html?m=1

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/3/16 7:58 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
Could be near misses, could be fruitions, could be jhana shifts....I'm betting on the jhana shifts for now....

If your meditations are currently cycling thru the nanas - review like; I would change my estimation on where you are at.
~D
Your descriptions are very cessation like now.
Congrats,
Enjoy them
~D

RE: Near misses?
Answer
12/4/16 2:35 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Chris Marti:
That's what would seem to be a pretty good description of cessation followed by fruition, Chris.

shargrol
:
Yup.

Congratulations Chris O!

Dream Walker:
Your descriptions are very cessation like now.
Congrats,
Enjoy them

Thanks Chris, shargrol, and D! Appreciate it. emoticon

Chris Marti:
So... let's get real here: I've been doing this stuff for a long time and and so have a bunch of my meditation oriented online pals, like shargrol. I have yet to experience anything that's exactly like what I read in MCTB. Anything.

Look for general similarities. Very general. Think big picture, from 30,000 feet. And check in with others like you've been doing here. 

Haha, thanks for the reality check. After getting some solid practice under my belt and discovering there were books like The Mind Illuminated and MCTB, I thought: "Yes, finally some pragmatic talk about meditation that I can relate to!" But as you say, mileage may vary. "Relate" doesn't necessarily mean "equate."

Chris Marti:
And, not to annoy you with repetition but this is once again why having a teacher is a good idea. If you want PM me I'll be happy to make a recommendation/introduction for you, assuming you want to practice in the Mahasi/vipassana/Theravada tradition.

EDIT for clarity: My teacher recommendation for you would be a personal introduction to someone who I know well, who is very experienced at teaching and is expert at this tradition.

No no, I appreciate the advice! Thank you. Indeed, I seem to have gravitated toward a Mahasi-style practice, insofar as I understand it. I shall be in touch. emoticon

Noah D:
For getting a teacher, 2 options (since you said you don't know how, it is legitimately hard to get a teacher to open up)

1) in person: show up to the group a lot, make practice-based convo, in circle shares make smart phenomenological comments, and go up to the teacher to make small talk every week, also go to retreats to get noticed 

2) online: this is much easier, especially if you get a pragmatic teacher - I made a list   of them here under the teacher section http://noahsmonthlyupdate.blogspot.com/p/links.html?m=1

Thanks, Noah! Sound advice. Seems like there's a sea of meditators out that use cushion time for psychological introspection or self-therapy, and your comment is a good reminder that no one's going to know that I'm not doing the same if I just keep to myself. Also, thanks for the link to your blog! Looks like some great resources, will check them out.

Take care all,
Chris O.