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SE, or is it? Frightful experiences, loss of control. Is this safe?

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SE, or is it? Frightful experiences, loss of control. Is this safe?
attainments loss of self
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4/25/18 8:01 AM
I’m new to DhO, but have been meditating for 5 years, the first 4 years practice was very scattered, an average 2-3 hours per week. The last year, I have been doing 30 minutes yoga plus 1.5h to 2 hours meditation per day. Also have been doing noting practice every moment I remember for the past three months.
Before I started meditation, I believe I’ve been cycling through the dark night, although I can’t point to where an A&P event occurred. I had depression when I was 14, got treated and recovered, but later in my twenties, I had what I thought was relapses of the depression, but now looking back, they seem to be very much a description of the dark night. Had feelings of being deeply dissatisfied with life, miserable at times, and that even when I was doing something fun, I would think that fun would not last and could not satisfy a deep sense that something was wrong with me. I think this was insight into 2 of the 3 characteristics.

I lived many years alternating between these episodes, and with a generalised anxiety. I’ve worked a lot with content in addition to meditation, and for the past year I’ve noticed a profound change. My anxiety is gone, bouts of misery are gone, now I just feel calm, things that used to cause me stress, worry or anger still do, but very mildly and for a very short time and then I am back to this very peaceful state. I thought the calm would eventually pass, like most self help intervention I tried did, but it hasn’t gone from me. I think this may be Equanimity.

I've understood intellectually for a while the concept of no-self and agreed that it makes sense. Then, one day I was reading something Daniel said in the MCTB about the subject and this swooping  feeling came to me, it was like the coin just dropped. The floor fell, I felt completely empty, felt I didn't have control over anything, that things were just happening and that it had always been that way and that I was somewhat "embedded" in the fabric of reality. The lack of control felt like imminent death. All of this only lasted a few moments though. I felt in control again quickly, but on the back of my mind, I thought it was only an illusion. Remember looking in the mirror and feeling a sense of loneliness, thinking, there is no one there. After a while, I felt this sense of Okness and trust, that if things had been working with little or perhaps none of “my” intervention until now, then I could trust they would continue doing so.

I can't be sure that was SE though, it doesn’t fit the description of a fruition. And I don't feel like much has changed at all. I still feel things being done from a center, coming from my head. Most of the time I'm meditating, I'm trying to find my "self" again, and of course I can't, but then I couldn't before either, and although I believe it is not there, when I compare my current experience to before and after that incident, I feel it is the same, except that criticism and compliments from others stick even less, because I quickly remember "Well, there is no one there to receive that". I am not sure if I am rationalising all of this to myself though.

A couple weeks after that I had a very frightful experience:
I was focusing on the sensations of my right hand trying to not bounce back to the centre between the eyes. I did this successfully for about 30 seconds, but then would come back to the centre between the eyes again where the sense of the controller seems to be. I kept going back and forth for about 4 times, also asking who is this observing and trying to see the arising and passing of the self, then a sudden shiver swept across my head for a second and then the whole body shook. There was a static sound, and this white light was feeling everything. I was aware of the periphery, kind of like the description of the third jhana, but I did not go through the 1st and 2nd jannas and I was doing Vipassana, not Samadhi.

My heart started beating extremely fast. Every time I thought of bringing myself back to consciousness, I’d feel like something was pulling me back, like I was not in control. I didn’t know if I’d ever come back, if I’d fall into a vegetative state or if my heart was going to explode, it was terrifying. I had a good sense of where I was and could hear sounds.
After a few minutes, I tried hard to regain control, was too scared to go any further, and was able to come back to access concentration. Then, with the confidence I’d be able to pull myself back, I tried to go back to the state again, because I felt there was something important to be learned but I coudn't do it.
Has anyone here ever experienced that? Is it safe?

On that same sitting, instead, I went into this different state where I had control, the forehead shivered and everything went black, it felt like I was closing my eyes very hard and scrunching my face to do it - and I probably was -  and there were no thoughts, I had awareness of everything, but it was put in the background, I remember thinking this is what unconcious must feel like, except something is observing the unconsciousness. This state did not last more than maybe 5 seconds, I was back to access concentration. But then I could repeat the state again for several times, just by falling into it. The second last time, it was very intense, my whole body shook and it was like it lifted of the ground for a bit, felt very heavy.

Since then, meditation and noting has continued steady, but I am slightly scared of being pulled back into the former state of no control again, so I that has now become a bit of a block.

I read the MCTB, but I find it hard to map my experiences with it, because I haven’t gone into any retreats and I feel insights have happened across a span of many years and with methods other than meditation. I would appreciate help checking my suspicion of where I might be on the path.


Hey, bumped your fontsize up to 12 point so my aging eyes could read your post on my laptop.

As to exactly what those are, the vast majority of experiences like that are some variant of the A&P, but many others are possible, and sorting this out over the internet is not always easy. You don't provide much timing context to get a sense of what came before and what came after.

It is common for people to get to Equanimity, fall back, cross the A&P again, rise up, fall back, and do this multiple times.

If your question is "Is this stream entry", do you have the other abilities of a stream enterer? Are you suddenly cycling, starting from the A&P, dropping rapidly into Dissolution and the rest, rising up to Equanimity, possibly getting a Fruition, starting again, etc.? Is your brain functioning very differently in relation to the stages? Any other changes?

Feelings of not having control are definitely an acquired taste, for certain. What are you afraid you might do if you finally realized you had no control of anything? Do you realize that right now the sense of control is perfectly illusory and somehow you feel safe despite the control being an illusion? Are you doing anything bad now?

What dharma friends or resources do you have access to?

Daniel

Hi Daniel,
Hey, bumped your fontsize up to 12 point so my aging eyes could read your post on my laptop.
Thank you. Not sure how the font got that small, I certainly didn’t press any buttons to make it that way, must be because I pasted from Word. Or maybe it is just the lack of control. ;)

As to exactly what those are, the vast majority of experiences like that are some variant of the A&P, but many others are possible, and sorting this out over the internet is not always easy. You don't provide much timing context to get a sense of what came before and what came after.

So the depression happened when I was 14 to 15.Then came the dark night episodes, from about 18 to 33.I am now 34, so for the past year is when I started feeling very tranquil, and happy for no reason. Generalised anxiety is gone, and so are the steep descents into the dark night.
It is common for people to get to Equanimity, fall back, cross the A&P again, rise up, fall back, and do this multiple times.
Looking back, it certainly seems this has been happening for me, but I was not doing any form of meditation and was not aware of the dharma concepts, so I have to rely on vague memory.

 If your question is "Is this stream entry", do you have the other abilities of a stream enterer? Are you suddenly cycling, starting from the A&P, dropping rapidly into Dissolution and the rest, rising up to Equanimity, possibly getting a Fruition, starting again, etc.? Is your brain functioning very differently in relation to the stages? Any other changes?

When you say cycling, do you mean in the formal meditation? If so, no I am not.
If you mean during the day, then yes, but very mildly. I had to really start noticing the patterns. In a day, I can go from feeling life is just a burden, that there is no point in any of it, then I realise that thoughts like this bring me back to misery, so I go back to noticing, finding that everything has something good in it, finding the connection between the thoughts that bring stress and and remembering that wishing for anything other than reality brings me suffering. This brings me back to a state of profound peace and sometimes even bliss.
As for my brain functioning differently, it is hard to tell because it has been a very gradual process to get where I am. If I compare it to say, 2 years ago, I can say vastly different. But two years ago, I had no idea about Vipassana or the noting method. I was good at concentration, but was not hitting any Jhanas I don’t think. Only hit maybe 1st Jhana about 3 times when I first started meditating then after that, I could only get to access concentration and a nice pleasant feeling on my tongue and throat.

Other changes I notice is that I take a deep comfort in the fact that reality, right now, is much kinder to stay with, no matter how difficult, it is much better than letting my thoughts go wild anticipating and worrying. It has been like an untorquing in perception, rather than seeking comfort in pleasant thoughts or distractions or planning, reality feels like a refuge.  I am not identified with thoughts and not with emotions, but I think proprioceptive selfing is there and I can see a clear feel of when it arises and passes when I am meditating, concentrating on distant sounds.

Feelings of not having control are definitely an acquired taste, for certain. What are you afraid you might do if you finally realized you had no control of anything?


-- I feel like I won’t be able to function, that I will be possessed by this force that I don’t know. That I will just keep falling and falling. When I am noting, I realise that most of the time, things are just happening, like I am moving my arm to lift the kettle and make tea, I remember having the intention to make tea, but if I really notice, I see that the arm just lifted, then it went on mixing the tea and that was just being observed. Even right now, as I type and scratch my ear, I feel, I did not intend to scratch my ear. Was I distracted? Possibly. But if feels like the volition comes after the act, like it was put there to firm the illusion. I still believe I have certain control, like I can intentionally say I will move my arm and then move it. But other times, I can see clearly, it is just doing it.
I read on the 
9th stage described by Kenneth Folk that when people get highly enlightened they experience a complete loss of agency, so I'm guessing it becomes confortable and it is possible to function normally in that way?

Do you realize that right now the sense of control is perfectly illusory and somehow you feel safe despite the control being an illusion?

-- Yes, that is an accurate description.

Are you doing anything bad now?


Not doing anything bad to be worried about. I found that whatever my realisations where, they have really helped increase my understanding that we are all on the same boat, I see clearly the patterns, that out of ignorance that I saw so many times in myself, people do bad things, but that deep inside, everyone is striving for happiness and for that I feel a lot more compassion.

What dharma friends or resources do you have access to?

I am very influenced by “The Work” of Byron Katie. Found that to question every belief and stressful thought is very powerful to instigate disidentification with the stories. I noticed profound changes after I used her method, especially around the stories that make up the ego. Other than that, I have no one I talk to about this stuff.

Thanks again, peace and metta!