Any safe meditation practices left for me?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Don 4 days ago.

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  • #3537

    Vasil
    Member

    So, my initial experience with meditation was very pleasant. I discovered that I’m not who I thought I was, I was very hopeful for the future, and it helped a lot with my depression and social anxiety. However, I didn’t have TMI back then and soon my meditation went nowhere, I wasn’t improving but getting lost in ‘trying not to think’ or analyzing thoughts for deep motivations instead of going back to the breath and letting them be.

    Several months later I also tried a Goenka meditation retreat, and that’s when things got seriously wrong. In one of the strong determination sits I had a moment of complete dissolution and/or dissociation, and I had a very bad intuition that something had happened and that there was no going back. Sure enough, after the retreat the world looked differently in a very bad way. There was no point in anything, sweet food no longer comforted me, there was a strong feeling of primal fear and anxiety without any apparent causes, and my concentration was horrible. I also think that I lost some mathematical/analytical ability from whatever happened. I stopped the vipassana practice of scanning body sensations, but the ‘dark night’ remained for about 4 months afterwards.

    Fast-forward to next year, during a meditation sit I had what I can only explain as an undesirable kundalini rising/movement. My belief system started restructuring itself and I started seeing myself as very attractive, there was a feeling of unbearable sexual energy, I felt very pleasant sensations but couldn’t pay attention to anything, there was shaking going on in my brain as if energy was rushing upwards. My appetite was decreased, and I didn’t sleep properly. Few weeks later I had what I thought was a near death experience, and desperately tried manipulating my energies up and down by doing weird things, like not speaking, eating or not eating certain foods, etc. When I saw a doctor, it was diagnosed as a psychotic episode, and I was put on antipsychotics and recommended to stop meditating.

    Soon I went off of them, with the doctor’s permission, but stayed on antidepressants and life was great because the circumstances had changed and I genuinely enjoyed a short period of maybe 6 months. However, when I went off the antidepressants and attempted meditating again, much much weireder stuff started happening. I was psychically communicating with people/entities/gods/devils (or as I’d like to believe now, just hallucinating) and started living in a completely magical world, mind-wise. This went on for a while and was very destructive for my life, so I was put back on antipsychotics and the halucinations disappeared.

    However now although I wish I’d never discovered meditation, it seems to be the only thing that makes me happy-ish and makes me accept that practically everything is wrong with my life. Unfortunately when I attempted meditating again, TMI style, 2×10 mins per day, I had surges of energy up the spine to my head and soon enough I started having thought-like hallucinations again of other people/entities addressing me or commenting on my thoughts occasionally, especially when under stress.

    My question is, does anyone know of any practices which might be useful instead of dangerous for me? I was thinking maybe I should give scanning body sensations another try, or just try to stay in the moment without meditating, or paying attention to my feet only, etc.

    Also, I’m already seeing a doctor so no need for that recommendation xD

    • This topic was modified 1 week, 2 days ago by  Vasil.
    #3539

    JavaJeff
    Member

    I believe the standard practice recommended if you are experiencing “dark night” symptoms is loving-kindness meditation, especially directed towards yourself. This is covered in Appendix C of the TMI book.

    If you are having a really rough time, you might also consider contacting someone who specifically deals with people going through difficult “dark night” or kundalini-type experiences. Bonnie Greenwell and Willoughby Britton come to mind, and our very own Tucker Peck may be of help as well.

    #3540

    Jerry
    Member

    You can find a lot of information on the AYPSite.org forum relating to what you are going through.

    #3541

    Hi Vasil,

    Just want you to know that what you’re experiencing, although not exactly common, does sometimes occur as a result of meditation practice. I’m saying this to try to help normalize your experience a bit =)

    I’ve had lots of intense piti/kundalini type experiences myself as a result of the different practices I’ve done over the years, so I get where you’re coming from.

    From what you’ve written in your post, it sounds like some work to “ground and rebalance” things in the energetic department might be helpful. I’d be happy to suggest some safe Qi Gong practices that I’ve found helpful and effective for this kind of thing.

    If that’s of interest, we can setup a quick Zoom meeting and I can show you some exercises to try (you can email me at nick (at) 30daysofmindfulness.com.

    #3542

    ST1000
    Member

    hi Vasil,

    I am sorry to know you are going through this. It sounds like it has been incredibly hard.

    I am not a teacher or an expert in any way, but I have had significant difficulties after TMI for almost year and a half now.

    https://dharmatreasurecommunity.org/forums/topic/time-to-switch-to-other-practices

    I wanted to share some things that have helped me.

    If at all possible, I would try to meet with a teacher who has experience with these types of problems if you don’t already. I see Tucker Peck online and he is super smart and has a lot of teaching experience – he has been a trusted resource and guide through some very difficult times and rough, unknown (to me) terrain.

    Upon the advice of a Tucker and a qigong master, I stopped sitting practice a few months ago. Any sitting at all was totally aggravating my energy system and as attached as I was to it, it was definitely best to stop. I expect to return to it some day.

    I totally agree with the qigong practices. I have found Dragon and Tiger Qigong exercise 1 to be very balancing. If interested information can be found on how to do it online. I would be interested to know which ones Nick Grabovac recommends as well.

    I think it is also important to seek out someone who is a master of qigong as well. I found Sifu Anthony Korahais at http://www.flowingzen.com. He is very knowledgeable, very smart, and accessible on his Facebook groups. He has affordable programs where he teaches a skill called Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow which balances energy and removes blockages. I am currently in a year long course called Qigong 101 that starts every November.

    I was also in contact with an energyarts qigong teacher, who has experience with this type of energy overload as well.

    I would encourage caution with qigong as well as it can also of course cause energy overload and exacerbate imbalances. I would think personal contact with an experienced qigong teacher is the safest way to proceed given the severity of your symptoms.

    Sifu Anthony recommended low level aerobic exercise as well. I try to work out on an elliptical commonly as it seems to balance the energy.

    Thinking too much, ruminating about what practice to do and how to do it, and thinking about what exactly happened (and how to get out of it) seemed to create more tension in the mind/body and probably contributes to being stuck in an energy imbalance.

    These things have definitely helped me – not completely – but I am much better and things are moving in the right direction.

    I hope you find relief from your symptoms in the near future.

    Steve

    • This reply was modified 1 week ago by  ST1000.
    #3544

    Raza
    Member

    I’ve experienced something very similar: practicing TMI at home, doing a vipassana retreat, going psychotic and started ‘hearing voices’ – that is to say, experiencing some of my own thoughts as if they were coming from ‘someone else’. Had a breakdown for a few months, did and then came off antipsychotics, the whole drama.

    What I eventually discovered, to my immense relief, is that the voice-hearing phenomenon is fueled by my own beliefs. All it really is, is a combination of some of my own thoughts being mislabeled as originating from ‘someone else’ (a misapplication of the self-other illusion, which I personally became vulnerable to after having some dissolution-of-self experiences), and the perfectly mundane mental patterns that normally generate imaginary conversations and internal dialogues – like when you’re continuing a discussion you had with a friend in your head. You think what you’d say to them, and then your mind tries to predict what they’d say in response to that… except now you experience it as if it’s really happening, rather than implicitly knowing that it’s just in your head.

    You’ve come some way to discovering this on your own, but it bears repeating. There is no real entities, no voice of god, no mushroom spirit, no dead relatives speaking from beyond the grave, no conscious sub-minds, no meditation masters with psychic powers that can hear and comment on your thoughts. It’s just that your mind has developed the ability to fool itself, so that imagined stories that involve imaginary conversations now feel convincingly like you’re in a conversation with someone else. There’s no substance to it, no deeper truth behind the verbal thoughts – it’s all made up on the spot, depending on your beliefs, emotions, and creativity.

    Knowing that, and seeing the evidence for it as it was going on, again and again over time – this solved the problem for me. My voices are 99% gone now, and whenever I have another ‘voice thought’ that seems to come from someone else, I just remind myself that I don’t need to be imagining that because the ‘speaker’ doesn’t really exist. When you think they’re real, your mind thinks that it’s very important to predict ‘what they’ll say next’, and then you experience that prediction as if it really happened, keeping the conversation/story going. When you realize they’re not real, however, your mind gradually realizes that imagining it only causes you needless stress, and gradually kicks the habit.

    I’m meditating again, and find that although concentration states can definitely still make imaginary things seem much more real than they are for a short while, constant vigilant skepticism is effective at keeping any such stories from escalating into a vicous cycle of psychotic beliefs again. This is a lesson you need to learn about emptiness, about how what you experience is merely your brain’s best guess, and about how much suffering it can cause you to slack on critical thinking. For me, a year later, I’m glad I learned that lesson.

    Anyway, I also recommend loving kindness; it seems to make the stories friendlier over time, which is nice, although it’s not a substitute for knowing that they’re not real. But I’m doing samatha-vipassana again as well, even though at first it made me more sensitive to relapse, just like it does for you. It’s possible to get over this, with constant vigilant skepticism and careful mindfulness. Look at how the thoughts arise, what pattern they come in, the causality of them, while ignoring the stories as best you can. Good luck – I know it can be hell, but you can get past this.

    ETA: And I may be the minority in this here, but I’d advice you not to mind the ‘kundalini’ stuff too much. Those ‘energies’ are just sensations, and any complex patterns in them are just constructs of your mind. They can get pretty wild, but I think it’s safest to ignore them, or observe them equanimously without ascribing any deeper meaning to them. The more you believe that something is happening, the more real it will seem, but in the end it’s just perfectly ordinary signals from your body, being remixed into seemingly important patterns by a volatile mind. As with the voices, the more meaning you ascribe to them, and the more you get attached to them being a certain way, the more important your mind will think it is to ‘recognize’ such patterns and the more energy it puts into effectively just making them up.

    • This reply was modified 5 days, 7 hours ago by  Raza.
    • This reply was modified 5 days, 6 hours ago by  Raza.
    • This reply was modified 5 days, 6 hours ago by  Raza.
    • This reply was modified 5 days, 6 hours ago by  Raza.
    #3549

    Don
    Member

    I just wanted to thank Raza for the time and patience it took to write the above. As a person who has gone through this twice, I can totally agree with the recommendations. “There’s no substance to it, no deeper truth behind the verbal thoughts – it’s all made up on the spot, depending on your beliefs, emotions, and creativity,” is something I just was telling myself this morning. The concepts of self/no-self, like Raza, sent me in directions that were unskillful. I am presently convinced that my understanding of emptiness is much more skillful and beneficial.

    I would also like to encourage Vasil. My meditation practice is better and stronger than ever, introspective awareness is much more natural allowing my mind to recognize the story it just loves to make up, confirm its own validity and then getting itself disorientated. Hopefully, after some time it will get better, cause it can.

    May you find Peace

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