The experience of space and a dream

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Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

The experience of space and a dream

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

One evening three years ago on retreat I lay meditating. It was a strong meditation. I had the sense of being in a vast empty space, larger than anything really imaginable. Perhaps the volume of the solar system is about right, or gets the point across. It was vast and utterly dark and utterly empty. And almost totally silent. My thoughts were there, but tiny and dim, the sound of two grains of sand touching. I recall I recall having the odd feeling that, despite this feeling of vastness, that two small swaths of skin (one above the right eyebrow and one above the left knee, about the size of a finger tip) existed. The sand felt lost, or that I was losing myself. Whatever part of me was aware of the vastness had no emotion, but the tiny sands started to become afraid. It is difficult to fully describe this, since even mental verbalization was reduced. It was empty, nothingness. But I didn't associate anything bad with it. Or anything good. The sand, though, was frightened. So, by some instinct I didn't know I had, the sand became me again and I opened my eyes. I felt relief.

(Eventually I went to sleep, and had the most lucid, terrifying dream of my life. In the dream I slept, and then woke. I woke to find myself both blind and deaf. I truly believed that it was real. For a few minutes I tried to calm myself, telling myself that the correct response was, as always, to remain equanimous. And that lasted all of 5 seconds. Before long, in the dream, I was screaming, "Help me! I cannot see, I can't hear!" I stumbled out of bed, fumbled for the door (although at this point I was terrified and not making much sense of what I was touching), and went into the hall. I found a fleshy bit that I thought was someone's neck, and in my terror I began to squeeze. I woke with my own thigh squeezed between in my hands. To this day I feel that terror.)

Something significant happened that night, but I'm not sure what.
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Pookee,

I recognize some of your descriptions (not the fear, though). The way I understand such experiences: hard Jhana followed by "psychic power" effects. The space experience may have been "boundless space" Jhana, though the few samples I've had of that didn't include fear at all - so more likely a manifestation of "psychic powers". Likewise the dream that followed: I recognize the "not seeing" (though I experience it more like "dark light" difficult to see by), the stumbling movements, the "not hearing" (though again, my experience of that is more like a soft but deafening hiss), the sudden snapping back and "reconnection" with arms and legs: fairly typical indicators of an "out of body" experience, another manifestation of "psychic powers".

BTW, the many quotation marks are simply due to my reluctance to call these experiences "psychic powers" and "out of body" - but the descriptions fit, and I guess these terms are as good as any. I don't buy into a literal interpretation of the terms, though. Whenever I get confused about this, I remember Daniel's advice when dealing with psychic powers: more interesting than the question of what is real, is the question of what is *causal*. And experiences like this appear to be closely linked to the effort I put into concentration practice (for one aspect of causality).

I hope there's something useful in there, helping you to find a place for your experience.

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

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

Thanks for that perspective, Florian. I am not in for superstitious beliefs either. It is, of course, hard to describe such things, but the fear came on slowly, and started off as something quite small and remote. The stability of the experience was the source of the fear - it felt timeless, motionless, utterly peaceful and unchanging. There was neither impetus to be afraid (except at second order, apparently) or excited, or interested, or disinterested. That lack of motion, that lack of normal response, was very strange. I think the "small thoughts", the two or three pieces of sand at the center of the solar system, so to speak, were terrified of being left behind forever, that the experience would become permanent.

I say this only to clarify that the fear was not really part of the primary experience, but rather a reaction to the primary experience, which goes to the accuracy of what you are saying (I think).

In the end, I'm not sure if identifying the experience is nearly as important as sharing it. I try to take the meditation instructions to heart - be aware, be equanimous. The odd thing about this particular experience is that what I experienced felt like the ultimate expression of those instructions: and it felt strange, alien, inhuman, and dangerous. If it wasn't for the "sand", I never would have left the meditation, and would probably be in a hospital right now being fed through a tube, completely aware, completely equanimous, and functionally dead. If you ask me, that's a bad outcome.
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Pookee,
You wrote, "In the end, I'm not sure if identifying the experience is nearly as important as sharing it", which is a good point. If I came across as, "you had such-and-such experience", that wasn't my intention; rather: "Yeah, some strange stuff will happen in the context of concentration practices, and here's how I deal with my similar-sounding experiences".

A thing about hard jhana states: they end on their own, but end they do (no danger of turning into a vegetable), and that's something I place my trust in, because I've experienced it myself, and others have reported the same. Making strong "time" resolves in advance, i.e. "I resolve to enter such-and-such state for n minutes", before attempting to enter jhana states, and noticing how surprisingly well these resolves work, is another source of trust in the mechanism of Jhana, for me at least.

If you were able to think about maintaining equanimity in the face of the experience, chances are, you would be able to investigate the experience as well. After all, you noticed the tiny bits of fear. When stuck for something to do, investigation is an option I like to take. Utterly one-pointed states don't seem to offer the option, but I can't speak from personal experience there.

Fear is a strange beast in meditation. There's no physical danger there - the danger is the fear itself. I find it more useful to stop practicing and to think rationally and coolly about fear arising in meditation than to somehow resist it in meditation, because I can plan and rehearse a strategy, which is hard to do with a mind trying to scramble for safety and finding none. There are plenty of challenging objects for investigation, such as pain, which don't paralyze the mind like fear does.

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

Pookee,

I know this experience well. I think this is a very good experience to have. Personally, I found it to be a very profound and meaningful experience. At first, I was filled with confusion. Then terror. Then peace. I will not tell you the meaning I have found, but rather let you find it for yourself. It is a message, let there be no doubt about that.
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
I'm liking what Florian has to say in this thread. Nice words.

One thing to remember about jhanas, and shamatha in general, is this: If you have "stuff" to work on, shamatha will conjure it up. If there are issues in your unconscious that scare you, they're bound to arise when the mind is highly focused.

The description of your dream also has a "Dark Night of the Senses" feel to it. My first vipassana induced A&P experience had to do with my flesh and bones being torn away from me, and the dark night that followed carried a similar context. Sounds dramatic, and it was. I might guess that there is some dark night stuff stirring the pot. I could be wrong, though.

Jackson
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi there,

in esoteric Buddhist teachings, anything (embodiment, awareness, world etc.) can be interpreted (i.e. "experienced") in an impure, pure, and utterly pure mode. In common parlance, impure would correspond to rational and mechanistic (and at any rate quantitative), pure would correspond to intentional and symbolic (so-called "mythic", but not mythological), and the utterly pure would correspond to Suchness (the diaphanous play of pristine awareness). Examples: embodiment ("my body" in dreaming, or in waking) as impure is the five aggregates, as pure is the intentionality of being in a total situation, and as utterly pure is the five primary energies as play of pristine cognitions.

What you describe belongs mostly to the [partially-] pure realm, wherein one begins facing vivid symbols of how Being presences itself through experience-as-such. These symbols, whether peaceful or wrathful, go beyond linear psychic events (the impure), are images of an even more fundamental dynamics (the utterly pure), and these symbolic intensities populate the realm of esoteric meditation. This level of experience/interpretation is regularly mentioned in non-esoteric Mahayana sources, but seldom elaborated, and it's explication/application only to be found in esoteric lineages, with actual details in exclusively oral, private transmissions.

In short, what was disclosed in a "symbolic" mode should not be down-spelled into an "analytical" frameset if you don't have to, as it will regularly delimit such an event as an "obstacle", "affliction", or into a matter of an egological shadow inquiry, or else into a mere nightmare. Further on, referring to any of the insight phases will produce nothing insightful, since what you describe is taking place atemporally. See if you can evoke the space and the trepidation to find out if you can still access this vivid realm.
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

Posts: 4 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
An interesting experience pookee. In chaos magick, which is one of my approaches, we consider this type of experience to be one of approaching the boundaries of chaos, by which we mean the final boundaries of self-identity. Fear, in this approach, or terror, is the boundary of identity, since extinction of identity is what we fear will follow. There is even a name for the experience of being blind and deaf, feeling only skin, being adrift in a vastness. We call it the Blind God. There are various rituals to produce this state. I don't do them. I don't suggest you do. I just thought you might be interested that this state has been mapped. Perhaps more pertinent are Chod rituals, a system of rites from the Vajrayana, where you imagine yourself being consumed by demons. Again this is a ritual structure to destroy the sense of a permanent self. So your experience is not uncommon, is useful, and if you can map it onto the path you presently use perhaps it can be a means to further awakening.

Mark
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

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

@Florian I like your time-limit suggestion. It is interesting how easy it is to keep agreements, especially during a retreat, and especially when things are going well. I like the time-limit idea; however I wasn't trying to enter this state. Perhaps, though, I can have a default rule "I will not remain in any particular state for longer than, oh, three hours". I think this advice gets to the heart of what I didn't ask - how can I better handle this if it happens again? Thanks.

Hokai, Mark: thanks for your input. I'd never heard of either "esoteric Buddhism" or "chaos magick" before.
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RE: The experience of space and a dream

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

The only unique factor I recall was the unusually forceful suppression of verbalization. I will try that again.

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