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Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream

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Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 4:57 AM
Forum: Practical Dharma

hi everyone,

just want to share this experience i had more than 12 years ago and check with the more exprienced (or awakened) practitioners. i'm still not sure what to make of it.

i'm familiar with the stages of insight (e.g. samatha and vipassana jhanas) but i'm not comfortable labeling this experience myself since Theravada style has not been my main practice, until recently.

here it goes... more than 12 years ago i was initiated by a Buddhist nun into a meditation practice called "Quan Yin" (light and sound) meditation. i practiced a bit. but i suck at it. in fact, i sucked at meditating in general. i could barely sit for more than 30 minutes. however, one night i had this lucid dream...

i was in a dark room surrounded by a group of beings. i couldn't see anything or anyone, but i recognized these beings as a group of elders or teachers. i heard them whispering to each other, talking about me, as if they were evaluating me. in the middle of their discussion i lost my patience and shouted at them, "i want to get enlightened. i want to understand the nature of things". then a woman voice answered back at me saying, "are you ready? can you take it? so be it!" then i felt being sucked into a dark empty vortex. the sensation was like being pushed inside a dark empty well while blindfolded. i felt great fear. the speed at which i was moving felt like i was drowning while being squished into a singularity. i chickened out. i woke up in the middle of the night still feeling the sensation of dread. that dream impression stays with me to this day.

(continued)

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 4:57 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
for the next ten years, my meditation practiced waned. it was on and off, but mostly off. i was more interested reading about (integral) philosophy, scientific stuff, and spiritual teachings. i became wary of spiritual teachers. i didn't like surrendering to gurus. and i no longer have interest going to exotic places to learn the dharma (btw, i was born and grew up in Southeast Asia so Asian cultures is not that exotic to me emoticon).

now, my question is: to those who are experienced in Theravada tradition, how would you interpret/analyze the lucid dream i described? does it have some significance in the context of the stages of purification? is it a characteristic of some stage of insight, or is it just some lucid dream that i'm hung up with?

in any case, i've found a renewed interest in doing vipassana practice. i'm practicing more diligently now than i did before.

thanks for your time and attention.

~C

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 5:42 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Hey C,

Can you put it into a larger context? The lucid dream, in and of itself, is not conclusive. What is your practice like now? Can you describe some things that happen during your sittings? Report in very precise, experiential terms. Are there other unusual events that you think might be significant? Don't hesitate to repeat yourself here even if you've already posted the answers on various threads around the site. If we get all the info in one place maybe some of us can offer a diagnosis of where you currently fit into the map. Am I right in thinking that that's what you're asking for?

Kenneth

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 5:51 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Hey C,

As you're probably expecting to hear, this all sounds very A&P like. Though, it's hard to say if any important ground was covered during this particular experience.

Most of my own major A&P crossing events (there have only been a few) involved some sort of strange imagery, but ALL of them ended in some sort of grand explosion of consciousness… I'm talking major disorientation and an impressive light show. It's hard to miss. I've heard similar explanations from Daniel and Vince about their experiences. Moving through the A&P stage is different for me now since attaining stream entry, but if I'm paying attention, there is always a very noticeable shift that is reminiscent to the more epic crossings. Of course, this is just my own limited, biased opinion.

Now, the fact that you were disinterested in practice for a long time afterward does seem to align with Dark Night territory, at least in my experience. I think that the more acquainted you become with the insight territory in your own experience, the better you will be able to look back on prior experiences and events with clarity. There are some aspects of the path that unfold similarly for just about everyone, and other parts that seem to be completely unique.

Thanks for sharing :-D

I am also interested to hear about you feel this experience fits in to the Big Picture of your practice.

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 6:31 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Kenneth,

thanks for asking me to provide details. i take that as sign of a good diagnostician emoticon

below are my answers as best as i can describe them.

"Can you put it into a larger context? The lucid dream, in and of itself, is not conclusive."

one detail i didn't mention is that i also practiced lucid dreaming and OOBE techniques (Castaneda and LaBerge style) 12 years ago and up to now but on and off as well. in my experience, i discovered that i'm more likely to experience "subtle" stuff (or the sambhogakaya in Buddhist term) in the dream state than in sitting. i had a lot of experience in lucid dreams: flying, noticing the vibratory, misty and changing nature of phenomena, i also remember that in one of my dreams i just laughed out loud while "airborne". although i'm experienced with lucid dreaming, i still can't induce it at will. however, if i really put my mind into it, i can go into it after a number of tries. in fact, lucid dreaming is the reason why i became familiar with the "vibrations". if i find myself in the hypnagogic state and i feel the fine vibrations, that's my go signal that i'm about to enter the dream state. incidentally, i just had a lucid dream about a month ago wherein i was sitting on my bed doing vipassana meditation. but i got so distracted by the excitement of "hey, i'm meditating in my dream! this is so cool!" and then i lose lucidity.

(continued)

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 6:32 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
"What is your practice like now? Can you describe some things that happen during your sittings? Report in very precise, experiential terms. Are there other unusual events that you think might be significant?"

like i mentioned before i just recently (about a couple of months ago) got into vipassana. thanks to Daniel Ingrams'MCTB. serendipitously, i also discovered Shinzen Young's style of vipassana (e.g. non-dogmatic, uber-scientific, but has all the umph of classic Theravada). i listened intently to Shinzen's discourse on impermanence wherein he described the vibratory/wave-like nature of impermanence at a microscopic scale. something just clicked in me, like an aha moment. "vibrations! duh!" i put two and two together: my lucid dream experience with vibrations and the vibrations that Shinzen described. and then i practiced Shinzen's "5 Ways of Basic Mindfulness" with "focus on change" (aka impermanence as vibrations). i found that using Shinzen's technique improved my sitting meditation three-folds! i can now sit for 1.5 hours straight and increased my daily sitting practice from zero to 2.5 hours a day, without much effort! i even learned to meditate lying down as i go to sleep.

(continued)

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 6:34 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
what's my practice? here's the basic algorithmic approach:

1) "focus on the body" - noting meditation on the breathing (e.g. rising, falling) until i reach access concentration.

2) "focus on rest" - noting on the relaxation sensations (e.g. blank, relax) until i sense waves and vibrations. if i lose concentration i go back to step 1.

3) "focus on change" - noting on impermanence/vibrations (e.g. expansion, contraction, flow, gone). and then i just hang out here as long as i can while observing the fluctuations, the arising and passing of vibrations all over the body. if i lose concentration i either go back to step 1 or step 2 depending on the sensations.

so i just move from step 1 to step 3, loop and branch for 1 hour or so. i do this while doing sitting practice and prior to falling asleep.

how do i know that this works for me? aside from improving my sitting time, i'm now sensitive to the vibratory sensations even when not meditating. if i'm relaxed enough i could sense the expansion/contraction/vibrations on my forehead, head, face and the back of my neck. however, the vibrations are not fine/high. it's more like a slow massage from a vibrating chair.

"If we get all the info in one place maybe some of us can offer a diagnosis of where you currently fit into the map. Am I right in thinking that that's what you're asking for?"

you are right! that said, this is just out of curiosity on my part. since i practice Shinzen style of vipassana i don't really want to get caught up with rigid stages and cycles that much. Shinzen doesn't focus on the traditional stages or jhanas, although they are implied in his teachings. for now, i'm just happy that my interest in practice was rekindled by both Daniel and Shinzen, and that i'm doing my best to practice with diligence.

thanks!

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 2:14 PM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Thanks, C, for posting this excellent and detailed report. The practice you are doing will take you far. Keep doing it. I would hazard a guess that you are post A&P, pre- First Path. It's not important whether the dream you spoke of was the A&P event. The fact that you experience subtle vibrations is more relevant.

If I may make a suggestion, I recommend that you supplement your vipassana with samatha. In order to make progress "upward" on a vertical access through the ñanas, you must do two things:

1. Access ever deeper strata of mind.
2. Apply the vipassana technique at each level of mind, to penetrate the object.

Both are required. If you do one, but not the other, you will not progress. As your vipassana technique appears good, you apparently have not accessed all of the strata of mind necessary to attain First Path. If you have not accessed the relevant strata of mind, it is because you have not concentrated enough.

The cure? Concentrate. Search this site for my instructions on how to meditate with a kasina object. Follow the instructions. Attain First Path.

Congratulations on your good work to date, and good luck!

Kenneth

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 4:35 PM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Hey Kenneth,

Just to clarify, I think what C was describing in parts 1 & 2 of his practice (focus on on the body and focus on rest) are concentration practices.

Word,

-V

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/18/09 5:07 PM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Hi Vince,

It looks as though numbers 1 & 2, although concentration practices, are just being used to set up the vipassana. I'm thinking of a pure samatha practice that would lead to hard jhana, possibly opening up strata of mind that haven't yet been plumbed. If he were to do samatha for half of his sittings and vipassana for the other half, I think it might be very productive.

Word, :-)

Kenneth

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/19/09 4:21 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Kenneth,

thanks for your suggestions. based on my understanding of samatha and vipassana, i think you're advice is very sound and right on the money.

i think you are right that, as far as samatha is concerned, my practice of "focus on rest", is more on setting up vipassana. there are times in my meditation where i "see" a series of archetypal images (e.g. aliens staring at me and other scary shit) but i just pass by them so fast like a movie in fast-forward. so your description makes sense emoticon

in fact, i've designed my algorithmic approach to give more weight and attention to vipassana. my reasoning is this: i intend to "reach" the *formless* jhanas as fast as i could without getting distracted by any phenomena that may arise in "harder" jhanas. as for the "harder" samatha jhanas, i prefer to practice those in lucid dreams because i feel more safe doing it there. in short, i'm trying to do a short cut emoticon this may not be the right or optimal way of doing it so i'd like you to comment on this more based on your experience and your understanding of classic insight practice.

in any case, what you said was very helpful and encouraging. this inspires me to practice with more skill and diligence.

thanks!

~C

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/20/09 2:13 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Author: Travis80

Hey guys,

I had a similar experience about 3 years ago. Someone called out of work and I stayed all day and night. I was exhausted but was still very alert as I lay down to sleep. I became very much aware of my body shutting down very quickly and at a certain point I began to have a subtle dream. All I remember is a lot of metal crunching and the feeling of being sucked into a very bright intense white light. It scared the hell out of me and I woke my self up. I bring this up because it's one of the most intense experiences I've ever had and as I've started Vipassana lately I wonder if trying to cultivate mindfulness as I go to sleep is good way to practice.

What I have been doing I guess is bare attention (don't know if I'm using the correct terms) and body scanning for 30-40 minutes with a early goal of working up to an hour. I tend to notice two phases much like what C4chaos mentioned. At first everything is noisy and chaotic and after a certain point things tend to get calm and relaxed.

I've been reading Bhante G's "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness" and trying to apply mindfulness through out the day and as I work at a call center I have a lot of down time between calls especially on slow days. What I've noticed is that I feel like I have a great deal of nervous energy all the time. I also tend to "knot" myself up all day long as I begin to try to be mindful of my body at the beginning of the day at work I can feel all this nervous energy and tenseness and after and hour or so I get really relaxed and calm. I've noticed I'm looser now in general. Walking has a "lightness" that is overt enough to notice and I'm less self conscious about myself. CONT...

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/20/09 2:14 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Author: Travis80

....This is helping to cultivate happier states of mind which stand out a great deal as the last 3-5 years have been dominated by depressive states, self consciousness, and death fears. I'm really interested in trying to integrate my formal practice with my time outside of that. To bring this back around to the experience I described at the beginning it left me with the impression that sleep is a major event in consciousness and would be a good way to practice. Last night I tried to watch myself as I fell asleep I noticed my body getting quiet and slowing down and sense of going "deeper". A little later it felt like my eyeballs were twitching and a strange buzz throughout my body. I became preoccupied with my breathing feeling like I would stop and woke myself up. I had a lot of intense dreams throughout the night waking up with a shout in the middle of it because I thought a large green snake was in the bed with me. Should I continue with this as I fall asleep? Are the fears of my breath stopping valid or is this normal and feels creepy because I not used to noticing it?

Any feedback would be appreciated. I assume it's too early to really gauge anything off of what I've said but I'm interested in any advice.

Travis

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/20/09 4:27 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
yes, and breathing coming to a temporary rest is normal and feels creepy because you're not used to noticing it.. and because you're in the hypnagogic territory that is extremely conducive to noticing the 'strange buzz' throughout your body. next time you find yourself in that buzzing state as you fall asleep, slowly and mindfully try moving your arm or perhaps turning your head. are you able to? if not, don't worry about it, just full steam ahead on attentiveness and investigation. trust that nothing bad will actually come of it, just let it happen on its own. you'll be in for quite a ride! dont forget to stay engaged with the sensations, and engaged with whatever fears or resistance may arise. good luck and practise well.

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/20/09 5:13 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
your drifting to sleep experience is very much similar to mine. the eye twitching is really annoying. however, it think it's part of the process. i'm just guessing here but the eye twitching could be the REM (rapid eye movement) phase that signals the dreaming state. normally we're not aware of it, but if we practice mindfulness as we fall asleep we become aware of the bodily process that takes place as we enter the dream state.

for example, we may become aware of sleep paralysis, teeth chattering, and even snoring. i really get annoyed whenever i become aware of those as i fall asleep. then again, the right way of doing mindfulness is to just be aware of these sensations (including the sensation of being annoyed).

my suggestion is to just observe whatever you can observe as much as you can. fear naturally arises because we're not used to noticing these sensations. but remember that whatever you experience as you fall asleep are just normal processes. nothing to really fear. just watch it and infuse it with mindfulness as much as you can. it takes time and repetition to get intimate with these sensations.

one of my goals is to carry mindfulness as i go to sleep so that, if i get skilled enough, i can do vipassana practice in a lucid dream state. the challenge of course is to remember to do all this while dreaming emoticon

~C

RE: Falling into a Void in a Lucid Dream
Answer
2/20/09 7:59 AM as a reply to C4 Chaos.
Author: Travis80

@theprisonergreco

I wasn't familiar with the term "hypnagogic " so I googled it and found quite a bit of material on what I guess is called Wake Induced Lucid Dreaming. Thanks for the advice. Gonna go to bed early tonight and see how far I can go.

@C4Chaos

REM is what I assumed for the eye twitching as well. The thing that causes me to pause is sleep paralysis which I had once a couple of years ago and found terrifying. I assume this is what theprisonergreco meant when he said: "try moving your arm or perhaps turning your head. are you able to? if not, don't worry about it, just full steam ahead on attentiveness and investigation. trust that nothing bad will actually come of it, just let it happen on its own". As long as I know it's natural and not going to turn me into a quadraplegic I'll try to stay with it.

Thanks