Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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manas
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Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby manas » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:16 pm

Hi all, sometimes when the mind becomes quite calmed, beautiful images arise, conducive to serenity, and easily let go of, bringing the mind back to the breath.

Sometimes, however, my worst fears arise, scary as hell (literally), and quite distracting, making me wonder if I should be calming my mind to this degree. I am getting fed up with my practice, I missed meditation for the first time in a month yesterday, because of this disturbing image that my devilish intellect has devised to 'spoil' my peace of mind and happiness. I am scared that if I let go too much, let go of all thinking and just merge into the breath, that the image will likewise become even more vivid and real-looking and scare the hell out of me or even drive me insane. Maybe too much concentration is not right for me at this time.

But without daily meditation, I tend to slide back into a less skilful life in general, into depression, and into seeking relief from addictive patterns.

I'm in a bad way.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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Ben
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Ben » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:33 pm

Hi manasikara
I'm not sure whether you are practicing samatha or vipassana when these disturbing images arise. Don't be put off by them. Know them for what they are - just mental images. Keep your focus on your meditation object and don't give them any importance. It may just be the hindrance of restlessness and worry manifesting. Keep going!
metta

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Modus.Ponens
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:49 pm

Hi manasikara

As a person with experience with dealing with scary thoughts and deep fears in meaditation, and with some experience with insanity, my advice is: practice mindfulness meditation when not in the cushion in order to learn how to deal with these fears. The best strategy is to say to yourself "let the thoughts come at will" and when they come deal with them with mindful equanimity. When you let your thoughts come at will, they usualy weaken or don't come at all. Once you have learned how to deal with these thoughts with a certain degree of ability you can practice samatha (or vipassana), aplying what you've learned in order to not get disturbed by those fears.

I hope this helps.

Metta
He turns his mind away from those phenomena, and having done so, inclines his mind to the property of deathlessness: 'This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications; the relinquishment of all acquisitions; the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding.'
(Jhana Sutta - Thanissaro Bhikkhu translation)

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Kim OHara
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Sep 02, 2010 10:54 pm

Hi, manasikara,
Ben's advice is good. (It usually is. :smile: )
Can I just add something? Often, it seems to me, meditation lifts the lid on thoughts and experiences we have repressed - sometimes years ago.
If we are ready and able to look at them calmly, we can deal with them appropriately (e.g. saying, "Gee, that was a silly thing to get upset about - now I have seen it properly I can let go of it."). If not, we can can tell them to stop butting in on our meditation and come back some other time.
Knowing that they are just thoughts, and that in meditation you are learning to direct your thoughts, allows you to manage the process and avoid being overwhelmed by what can (especially for newer meditators) be a flood.
:namaste:
Kim

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IanAnd
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby IanAnd » Thu Sep 02, 2010 11:01 pm

"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV

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Goedert
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Goedert » Fri Sep 03, 2010 1:29 am


chownah
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby chownah » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:10 pm

Most everything is dukkha if you cling or are averse to it......welcome to the dhamma.....I guess......
chownah

Sanghamitta
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Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:35 pm

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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manas
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thanks everyone!

Postby manas » Fri Sep 03, 2010 10:36 pm

I never expected so many replies, so much good sane advice, and helpfulness. Now I can really perceive that the 'virtual sangha' is for me, living so isolated as I do! Thanks to all of you who have replied. :anjali:

I must admit that 'all round mindfulness' is a weakness for me (ie 'mindfulness in daily activities), so I am going to make an effort to be more aware, in a relaxed kind of way, of the mind's workings while doing the mundane, often uninspiring activities of life where the mind feels aversion (such as cleaning, dishes etc).

As for doing a sitting, I will resume today. I will not progress beyond dukkha by being fearful. They are just images, and if I maintain strong mindfulness I will not identify with them, should they arise. I need to remember, whether lovely or terrifying, none of them are self. In short, I need to not identify with the contents of my own mind...

I have to remember how Buddha practiced before enlightenment. He had fear in the mind, but he did not run away from it, but rather would not move from his current posture until he had fully dealt with that fear! I feel that 'dealing with (previously subconscious) fears is what I currently need to do in my practice. I'm going to try to be more brave. Let em come (the mind's disturbing images), I'm ready! :jedi:
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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manas
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby manas » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:08 am

On the scary thoughts, I'm back in the saddle and sitting every morning again. I feel like I have 'grown up' a bit more as a meditator through this whole affair, because I now make myself sit as an act of caring for myself; not because I know it can lead to peaceful, blissful states of mind (they are not happening as they were a month ago, and I am just getting over it), but as a matter of duty to myself and to the beings in my care, who benefit from having a clearer-minded dad. :)

I still see things that can be unpleasant, but I'm taking the Buddha's advice to heart about developing mindfulness of the body. I find that if I am truly in the body (awareness merged in the body), then the disturbing images lose any power to upset me, because they don't seem very real or substantial, just fleeting phantoms.
Then the Blessed One, picking up a tiny bit of dust with the tip of his fingernail, said to the monk, "There isn't even this much form...feeling...
perception...fabrications...consciousness that is constant, lasting, eternal, not subject to change, that will stay just as it is as long as eternity."

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Kim OHara
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Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Scary or horrific images or thoughts in meditation

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Sep 10, 2010 3:46 am

:thumbsup:
Stay with it!
Kim


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