Experiencing an alterned state?

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Mon Dec 09, 2013 1:14 am

I've had some pretty interesting experiences last two days meditating. I'm getting into this state where I'm feeling a bit removed from the body or something. My arms and hands will feel heavy and numb like they can't move, but I feel fairly relaxed throughout. I still have thoughts arising, etc, but I'm not being too pulled in by them. For the most part I'm able to be with the in and out breath...although, I'm still following thoughts. They just don't have the same pull as before. Anyway, once the meditation is over I feel like I'm leaving some sort of state and coming back to my normal state of mind. I don't know what to make of this. It feels good and I'm left feeling calm and centered, but it's also a bit weird/trippy. What's that all about?
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:56 am

Hi Dignity,

Can you tell us what your general approach is? It's not easy to comment helpfully without knowing what you are trying to do.

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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:11 am

Nothing special about my technique. I'm just doing breath meditation but I've been falling into this state somewhat quickly. I wonder if it's access concentration. I feel very focused and sensations in my body like itching and pain are faint and don't bother me. It feels wholesome, but it's weird when the bell rang it's almost like I had to shake myself out the state I was in and back into my normal state. Afterwards I feel very calm, even in social situations, which in the past have caused me a lot of anxiety.

I'm not complaining, it's very nice and all. Previous to this I was on a huge dry spell where every time I sat it was a pain trying to bring myself back to the breath. This lasted weeks and weeks. Now I'm able to focus with more ease. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to fall back to my old ways.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:25 am

Hmm, but do you do breath meditation with an emphasis on achieving very deep and calm states (e.g. Ajahn Brahm, Pa Auk Sayadaw), where when something other than the awareness of the breath arises you dismiss it and return to the breath, or more of an insight emphasis, where you focus on those other things (feelings, thoughts, etc) that arise while watching the breath (more typical of the likes of Bhante Gunaratana, Thanissaro Bhikkhu, Mahasi Sayadaw, and numerous other teachers).

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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:36 am

Yes, I breath with the emphasis of developing deep calm and concentration. I do try to come back to the breath when other things arise. I don't follow any specific teacher's technique. I just follow the in and out breath like probably most people do.

This state comes up on its own. It's not like I'm trying to achieve it or anything. I just sit and follow the breath and let things unfold as they may. That's my general attitude when I sit.

The weird part was when the meditation ended and I felt like I had to shake myself out of my state and come back to my normal state. That slightly scared me...it was just different. I felt my conscious awareness sort of drop out of the concentration and into my usual mode. The sensation of that happening was a little trippy.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby fig tree » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:38 am

Digity wrote:The weird part was when the meditation ended and I felt like I had to shake myself out of my state and come back to my normal state. That slightly scared me...it was just different. I felt my conscious awareness sort of drop out of the concentration and into my usual mode. The sensation of that happening was a little trippy.

It sounds like there might be an element of torpor in this state.

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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Mkoll » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:49 am

Digity wrote:I feel very focused and sensations in my body like itching and pain are faint and don't bother me.

So you could sit still in this state for hours without being bothered by pain? Or is there a point where pain begins to intrude upon your concentration?

Digity wrote:I'm not complaining, it's very nice and all. Previous to this I was on a huge dry spell where every time I sat it was a pain trying to bring myself back to the breath. This lasted weeks and weeks. Now I'm able to focus with more ease. Although, I wouldn't be surprised to fall back to my old ways.

Maybe you should try to figure out specifically what you're doing now that's different from what you were doing before. That way you can learn about how to not fall back into your old ways.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:59 am

I get the sense that I could sit in that state for a while. Not sure about hours, since I've never sat that long, but it wouldn't surprise me if I went over an hour. When the bell rang I didn't 't want to stop, but did anyway. I don't want to get too attached to this experience and try to chase after it later. I just decided to let go and end the meditation.

I think the one thing I'm doing now that's different is that I'm breathing in a more relaxed way and it's quite soothing. My breathing before was very coarse. I'm not going to try and think too much about how I bring this state up, because I feel then like I'll get into "chase" mode...trying to repeat the experience. To me that's just bad news. My attitude is whatever happens next time, happens. If I go back to coarse breathing then I 'll just keep at it and calm the breath.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby kmath » Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:10 am

fig tree wrote:
Digity wrote:The weird part was when the meditation ended and I felt like I had to shake myself out of my state and come back to my normal state. That slightly scared me...it was just different. I felt my conscious awareness sort of drop out of the concentration and into my usual mode. The sensation of that happening was a little trippy.

It sounds like there might be an element of torpor in this state.

Fig Tree


I agree. Digity, it's great that you can calm yourself down -- a lot of people struggle with that -- but make sure you don't drift into the twilight zone, even if only slightly.

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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:37 am

I'll keep the torpor thing in mind for next time I sit. Although, I was aware of this a bit during my sit. I felt the desire to just zone out into that numbed, calm feeling I had, but then focused back on my meditation object.

Do you think I was going into a sleep state? I felt awake.

Also, the other interesting thing is I had zero desire to move. My body just become numb and it felt like it would have been more effort to move than to not move. It reminded me of sleep paralysis which I've experienced before. However, I wasn't sleepy when I was meditating.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:17 am

As has been pointed out, beware of sloth and torpor. In the context of the five faculties, this sort of zoned-out feeling can happen when you don't have enough mindfulness and/or you have an imbalance of concentration and energy (i.e. too much concentration, too little energy). A common way to raise the energy is by doing some standing or walking meditation.

See, for example:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... html#ch2.5
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=16414
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=14382

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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby kmath » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:28 am

Digity wrote:My body just become numb and it felt like it would have been more effort to move than to not move. It reminded me of sleep paralysis which I've experienced before.


Pretty sure that's exactly what torpor is. Ideally the body feels quite alive -- have you ever done any chi gong? You might know what I mean.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:33 am

I experienced a very similar state not to long ago. It was essentially what you described. Feelings of being almost distanced from the body, a dullness of physical sensation ect. The main thing I noticed about this state of concentration was that when I would exit meditation, it was like waking up. I wasn't exactly sure of exactly what was accomplished, the meditation was hazy like a dream. I decided this was what Ajahn Fuang called "moha-samadhi", or "delusion-concentration." Thanisarro Bhikkhu speaks of it in a few dhamma talks, but the only one I could find quickly didn't have a very long explanation.


"Jhana Not by the Numbers"

...The best state of concentration for the sake of developing all-around insight is one that encompasses a whole-body awareness. There were two exceptions to Ajaan Fuang's usual practice of not identifying the state you had attained in your practice, and both involved states of wrong concentration. The first was the state that comes when the breath gets so comfortable that your focus drifts from the breath to the sense of comfort itself, your mindfulness begins to blur, and your sense of the body and your surroundings gets lost in a pleasant haze. When you emerge, you find it hard to identify where exactly you were focused. Ajaan Fuang called this moha-samadhi, or delusion-concentration.

The second state was one I happened to hit one night when my concentration was extremely one-pointed, and so refined that it refused settle on or label even the most fleeting mental objects. I dropped into a state in which I lost all sense of the body, of any internal/external sounds, or of any thoughts or perceptions at all — although there was just enough tiny awareness to let me know, when I emerged, that I hadn't been asleep. I found that I could stay there for many hours, and yet time would pass very quickly. Two hours would seem like two minutes. I could also "program" myself to come out at a particular time.

After hitting this state several nights in a row, I told Ajaan Fuang about it, and his first question was, "Do you like it?" My answer was "No," because I felt a little groggy the first time I came out. "Good," he said. "As long as you don't like it, you're safe. Some people really like it and think it's nibbana or cessation. Actually, it's the state of non-perception (asaññi-bhava). It's not even right concentration, because there's no way you can investigate anything in there to gain any sort of discernment. But it does have other uses." He then told me of the time he had undergone kidney surgery and, not trusting the anesthesiologist, had put himself in that state for the duration of the operation.

In both these states of wrong concentration, the limited range of awareness was what made them wrong. If whole areas of your awareness are blocked off, how can you gain all-around insight? And as I've noticed in years since, people adept at blotting out large areas of awareness through powerful one-pointedness also tend to be psychologically adept at dissociation and denial. This is why Ajaan Fuang, following Ajaan Lee, taught a form of breath meditation that aimed at an all-around awareness of the breath energy throughout the body, playing with it to gain a sense of ease, and then calming it so that it wouldn't interfere with a clear vision of the subtle movements of the mind. This all-around awareness helped to eliminate the blind spots where ignorance likes to lurk...



http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... mbers.html


I hope this helps.


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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby Digity » Tue Dec 10, 2013 3:49 am

Yeah, I read the article too and I think what I experienced was a form of delusion concentration. At least there was some element of concentration to it....albeit wrong.

I have had moments of that full body awareness with the breath. I do love that experience and it feels quite wholesome. Although, it seems to happen very rarely for me and not for very long. I imagine as my concentration improves I'll experience it more. Anyway, I guess the take away is that there are good and bad forms of concentration and one should not get stuck on the wrong ones.
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Re: Experiencing an alterned state?

Postby fig tree » Tue Dec 10, 2013 4:37 am

kmath wrote:I agree. Digity, it's great that you can calm yourself down -- a lot of people struggle with that -- but make sure you don't drift into the twilight zone, even if only slightly.

:anjali:

I'm usually restless enough as I meditate that when I manage to calm down it seems pretty good to me.

This sutta describes a kind of balance to practice: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn46/sn46.053.than.html.

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