Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 5:48 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 5:48 AM

Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: seth86
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

I'm very glad to have found this forum, as I've been looking online for a while for a community to provide me some meditation advice.

Occasionally when I meditate, I will begin to feel as if my body starts to disappear. It is as if emptiness is taking me over. That in itself is scary but I also feel incredibly uncomfortable energetically. It is as if my blood is boiling or if thorns are growing inside of me. All I want to do, all I can think about, all I desire is to move and remove that uncomfortable feeling.

I try to tell myself, "just sit, it's not as if I will die..." but the bodily sensations are too overwhelming. I feel powerless to keep sitting during those times.

Yet, from my reading and from my own experience, I feel as if I am starting to touch upon something sacred within. Does anyone have suggestions for how to deal with the overwhelming bodily discomfort that prevents me from being with that experience and going deeper into it? If anyone has had a similar experience and overcome, I would be particularly interested to hear how you did so. Since, I feel completely powerless since the sensations are so overwhelming.

Thanks, Seth
Nathan I S, modified 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 6:41 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 6:41 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
Does it feel like the body is disappearing, or more like pieces are falling apart?

when i've run into harsh stuff like that I've typically continued to practice formally and this is actually fairly easy. it's more difficult when upon ending formal practice the phenomena persist, because then my concentration is weaker. additionally, i don't do noting, i do anapanasati so typically it is a matter of just continuing to the object and ignoring the unpleasant. if concentration is strong, stable and self-sustaining i can open to the other things as objects but generally not for very long.

the other thing I've done has been to walk vigorously (none of that burmese style "lifitng-moving-placing" slow motion crap) outside when meditating formally, or just engaging in other gross physical tasks like exercise or heavy meals

in my own experience if concentration isn't strong it's very difficult to sit for more than a 10-15 minutes in a daily-practice environment when going through that sort of stuff

i do anapanasati rather than dry noting practice, so what others suggest may differ from this.
Greg G, modified 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 9:43 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 9:43 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Seth,

These things you are experiencing are normal conditions of the nanas. If you look at the maps Daniel has made you will see some relation to these. To me it sounds like some Patisanka/Re-Observation #10 conditions or maybe Bhayayana or Fear #6 on Daniel's chart. It may help to let you know that nothing out of the ordinary is happening, but I wouldn’t get caught up in looking for conditions while you are practicing.

The body disappearing can be seen as non self. You don’t have control of this happening.

While that can be uncomfortable, I think its important to keep noting whatever is happening on a base level before the chain reaction/free radical thought process takes over. If you can't find your body, note "searching", "empty", or whatever label you think fits. If fear arises "fear, fear, fear". It’s easy if we lose mindfulness to get into 5th, 6th, 10th level down chain of thoughts or analyses of what’s happening. For example, starting from a perception of emptiness/non-self, to the thought "what the hell is this?" -> leading to confusion, -> then the thought "I haven’t experienced this" -> fear, -> thinking "oh what does this mean?" -> thinking "am I going to die?" ->more fear,-> analyzing and so on. I think questioning and analyzing is better done after the meditation session is over if at all. If things get too weird then just stop practicing the conditions will stop.
Greg G, modified 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 9:43 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 9:43 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
In terms of the discomfort, that too is normal, especially in Patisanka or Re-Observation. Sharp needle sensations are part of that as well as the difficulty sitting still. My last retreat I had this so strong no matter what I did during sitting meditation I found myself moving and a couple times I found myself walking around my room without remembering that I had gotten up from sitting. See if you can find what it is that is so uncomfortable. If it’s a sensation, itching, or pain, sit with it note it. Maybe there is a reaction to it, like a strong aversion. See if you can note whatever is going on. Pain changes, it dissolves, sometimes it gets worse. If you have to move, note intending to move and move mindfully, knowing you are moving to try to resolve the pain or agitation. The best way to overcome this is to know its part of the practice and just acknowledge or note whatever is happening. It will change.

It sounds like you are practicing correctly.
beta wave, modified 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 11:35 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/25/09 11:35 PM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Seth,

Let us know what your current practice and history. What technique, how much practicing, etc. Has anything like this happened before? Any other strong experiences?

Generally speaking, keeping a sense of gentle exploration is the way to go. Just as if you were climbing a somewhat steep mountain slope. Go slowly, pay attention, think about the handholds in front of you. You can look at the space around the negative sensations or look directly at those negative sensations -- you're doing both already, otherwise you wouldn't be able to describe the situation. Someone who is used to looking at these sensations wouldn't be phased by them and would run up the mountain.

You have to be true and responsible for where your practice is right now. More info would help us with recommendations.
Helder C Pereira, modified 13 Years ago at 3/26/09 1:33 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/26/09 1:33 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Hi Seth,

This is very interesting as I have felt the same things as you describe and it still happens sometimes. It is very frightening indeed. I think people here already gave you good advice. I can just tell you how I have delt with it.

I. like you, searched advice from experienced meditators and found it conforting to find that this is normal. The fact that the body is disappearing is actually a sign of progress, of deepening of meditation. Like others said above you want to go slow and gentle with yourself. Do less time if needed. Also, it would be very important to know what kind of practices you do. I started with mantra but that was too strong for me so I do breath awarenss now and that's when I started having those sensations more strongly.

One thing I can tell you and don't know if you have the same: each sitting is different. Those sensations can be very strong in one sitting but disappear in the next. So, keep open to whatever arises and be gentle to yourself. You are getting to know your inner depths!

About the body disappearing still - this could be due to the deepening and stilling of the body and then you lose sense (from your mind sensors) where your body actually is. That is frightening at first but once you know this, you find it normal. It is because you are getting deep and still. It can happen that you feel like your hands are floating in mid air as you only have sense of your hands, etc. If it really frigthens you, you can try and more a hand or just your head a little bit to reset your sensors and regain awareness of the position of the body.

Hope this helps! All the best!
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/26/09 11:45 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/26/09 11:45 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
actually im surprised no one's mentioned the 3rd nana, comprehension of the three characteristics, yet. it can be difficult to tell it and re-observation apart, but i'm willing to guess that it's more likely you are going through 3rd nana. i gather this from the comments about blood boiling, which i'm thinking might be the activation of noticing rapid sensations/vibrations (as you get closer to arising & passing), and the comment about feeling like you're 'starting to touch upon something sacred within' also sounds like you're coming upon the a&p.

here's some unorthodox advice that i think might work: learn to space out. just let your mind slack off and keep kind of just half-noticing the sensations in a laid-back, lazy way, allowing your mind to drift to whatever you can find that is pleasant. because you're at the point of strong energy sensations, it's unlikely you will fall into bhavanga (this tuned out state where the mind is basically asleep). then, even paying attention to vibrations in an absent-minded way can help tune you in to jhana. once you learn to rest in jhana, either 1- you will feel more comfortable feeling these uncomfortable sensations, 2- they will subside somewhat, or 3- they will speed up further and smoothen out, or disappear and reveal a heightened clarity and awareness.

good luck with continued practice, regardless of whatever you try.
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Wet Paint, modified 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 1:49 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 1:49 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: seth86

I really appreciate all the suggestions. It's nice to know there's a community of people who have been through similar experiences.

In regards to my practice and history: This fall I went on a silent retreat. When I came home, I started doing toning meditation - essentially chanting and feeling the vibrations in the body. The meditation includes taking big breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth and resting in the silence at the end of the exhale. After I practiced this for a few times, I had these experiences.

Just sitting with the fear wouldn't be so bad, but the energy is so intense. It feels as if my internal body temperature has gone up dramatically - that it's "too hot to handle." It's like I'm roasting in an oven and the only thing I can think about is to dissipate the energy. Is there any way to prepare oneself for that energetic build-up? Is there a way to deal with it other than moving?
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 4:54 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/29/09 4:54 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
the way across third nana, which i am almost certain is where you are right now, is by keeping up attention but letting it take on a life of its own. you may come to some serious blockages or brick wall-kind of feelings, but thats totally fine, in fact, it can be fun to play with. let the intensity build up and break down, just keep getting closer and closer to it, again and again, before 'flinching' and avoiding it. at some point, you'll either break through, or it will stop coming on so intensely, and either way (it doesn't matter which one) you will get through to the stage of arising & passing away.

if it's too hot to handle, just dont handle it. let go, let go, let go.. and let the sensations do their own thing. can you feel vibrations throughout the body? let your body just sit there and hum.. tune in to the resonances. they're pleasant, and should be of some aid through this difficult territory. 50% attention to the vibrations, 50% attention to relaxing into them even more. what is your current technique or mode of practice like? i would advocate less controlled breathing, and more attention to how breathing just presents itself naturally, however it is, smooth or ragged, deep or shallow.. and also attention to the attitude of the mind (is there craving or aversion?), with the aim of noticing that your attitude itself is also made of sensations - that is, fleeting sensate impressions. and be patient.. learning to get through this one can take a while, but once you do - and if you keep going you certainly will - then it'll be time for some real fun.
Helder C Pereira, modified 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 4:50 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 4:50 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
Hi Seth,

It seems to me you were doing energy practices with your breathing exercises without even noticing! You seemed to have pumped up energies inside (hence the 'hot' feeling). Especially when you say taking 'big' breaths and 'staying with the silence at the end of exhale' (a form of breath suspention, very very powerful to awaken internal energies). I won't say it is kundalini yet but it could be the start of it (you can search for this word yourself). You can look at yoga techniques and theory as they talk a lot about using the bretah to awaken these internal energies.

If it is build up of energy (kundalini) then the best way to deal with it is grounding. Lots of walking helps. Physical work of any kind like gardening, etc. help grounding. Stuff like that. And, needless to say, reduce those exercises you do or avoid them altogether. Some simple breahting awareness meditation may also help but don't overdo!
Greg G, modified 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 6:05 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 6:05 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Seth,
I thought you were doing mindfulness meditation when i answered before about your conditions. I would second the caution with the practice you have described, the toning meditation. Maybe take a break from it at least and find someone who is an expert in that if you decide to continue it.
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tarin greco, modified 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 6:30 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 6:30 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
oh that reminds me, i wanted to mention that vipassana, for instance noting practice (mahasi) style, can also bring out what seem like wildly imbalanced kundalini experiences. as far as i know, however, no one seems to have been harmed by it. i know people who get really heavy energy stuff during a&p, like naturally occurring, quick shallow 'breath of fire' style breathing, or tremendous surges or jolts of energy through their body. my feeling is that vipassana may be a safer way through these experiences that more focused, concentration-based techniques also take you through.
Nathan I S, modified 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 7:22 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 3/30/09 7:22 AM

RE: Encountering Fear and Intense Energy in Meditation

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
About a year or two ago I had strong 3rd & 4th nana-related kundalini. It didn't matter what technique I used, it was the same crap: heat, energy, shaking, breath of fire. I could do noting practice, or bare attention, or anapanasati, or taking the tones in the ear or outside sound as an object, and regardless I'd get the same effects.

I'd mention that prior to this I had many, many A&P like symptoms like visions & lucid dreams, etc., but no physical phenomena, and it had been several months before the onset of the kundalini stuff as my practice had faded.

If I used a more structured practice like the Four Elements or Parts of the Body it didn't come up, but canonically those end at access concentration so that's not surprising.

since then every time I've had to pass the A&P these phenomena have been much less noticeable. Additionally, I can "force" myself into a high-energy state in a matter of moments but it feels very dangerous to do so (sensation of high blood pressure, rapid heart beat, etc.), but when the phenomena manifest via sitting practice (at least) I don't have those more dangerous side-effects. So this can be dangerous, but I think sitting practices are generally safer than energetic ones.

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