RE: A rare problem

triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:14 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:14 AM

A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

Hello everyone, I have been reading your threads for some time now and given the high level of discussion I have been happy to simply read and learn.
I had no idea how to label this post/thread or where to put it, if someone does, feel free to fix it up.

I have a particular difficulty and if you are willing to treat it seriously I have a small measure of hope that something may come of presenting it here. I will preface that by explaining that I have been meditating largely along very classical Theravada lines for a long time and have been living a solitary and hermetic lifestyle in the sparse rural countryside of the pacific northwest for over a decade. I am pleased to see that there is little indulging anyone here in their neurosis and personal narratives and I hope you are willing to take my word for it that this problem is not of that sort. If somehow it is and I have failed to see that I will accept this as your best judgement on this and simply carry on with my satipatthana as there is little else I can do about this at this point anyways.

After many years of insight and tranquillity work I am quite familiar with the arising of mental verbalizations, mental objects and all manner of strange phenomena some common and some not. WIth all of this it is not difficult to cut off secondary or reactive mental patterns. I have explored all of that material and it is nothing we aren't all more or less familiar with. In addition to all of the phenomena typical of long hours in meditation there is another phenomena I have to contend with that I have found few means of dealing with skillfully. I have come to view these other phenomena as what in the Tipitaka is referred to as divine sights and sounds and so forth. I am by no means attracted to any of this or fascinated by it. It is an intermittent and at times persistent obstacle to continuing on with meditation which I would much rather be attending to fully.
triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:16 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:16 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Sights and sounds which are arising, as I see it, from my own kamma can be dealt with in the conventionally prescribed manner while these other phenomena must simply be endured. The reason for this is that upon settling into the internal silence of access I am also somehow more fully exposed to these other phenomena. While entering into deeper concentrations is an escape, upon exiting a deeper concentration I am even more acutely aware of these phenomena. Unlike the products of my own kamma no amount of equanimous attention has any effect. These sights and sounds have all the attributes of completely autonomous beings. I have made every effort to deal with them as simply more empty and impersonal phenomena, which most assuredly they ultimately are, but they do not appear to be subject to the same principles that we rely upon in our practice in general. I have little choice but to simply observe and even interact if necessary until they depart and I can resume my practice.

I have found some examples and insights which have been helpful in parts of the Tipitaka that most people would consider entirely mythical or fanciful but little practical assistance or contemporary insights. Does anyone have any thoughts on this that might be of help?

Thanks again for building a place for such high level discussion. If this post in any way lessens that please remove it. I do not want to leave anyone facing another 3 page squid thread to suffer through.
Hokai Sobol, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 3:34 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 3:34 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
I'd like to hear what Theravada/vipassana folks have to say about this sort of obstacle, but I would suggest employing the vajrayana approach for 100 days and see how it works. Specifically, I would propose taking inner forms/visions and voice/sounds as method, along with anchoring the process in posture, which together brings the body/speech/mind (or mudra/mantra/samadhi) in place all at once. In such method, instead of pacifying the three activities, one uses them as energetic support to establish both stillness and clarity. You could try this yoga for a period, and see how it works, and then move one based on what you find.

Also, simple subtle energetic exercises for bringing the "winds" into the central channel - and I mean precise procedures based on felt mindbody currents, such as found in various tibetan inner yogas, or some forms of advanced qigong - could do a lot to unblock this phase in your practice. Certain dietary shifts could help (heavier, ballast food), as well as grounding gross-body exercise.

On the other hand, you could insist on NOT paying attention, or paying CLOSE attention, to what arises moment to moment, but I guess you have tried that already, right?:-) Let's leave this open at this point, but if you feel there are more personal details you need to share later on, feel free to contact me with a message through my profile.
Nathan I S, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 4:51 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 4:51 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
Hokai, can you clarify a bit? Your suggestion is to take the persistent images as an object, use the persistent sounds as a mantra and use the persistent sensations as a mudra to the extent one can be identified?

In my exeprience whenever I had persistent "entities" i would either ignore them completely, or use Western banishing techniques regularly.
Florian, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 5:44 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 5:44 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Welcome Triplethink,
judging from your account, you are vastly more experienced than I am, and therefore I'm a bit reluctant to suggest this, because you probably did this already, but just in case you didn't:

Have you tried sending them loving kindness/metta?

Equanimity is just one of the divine abidings, after all.

triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 8:57 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 8:57 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thank you Hokai, Nathan28 and Monkeymind; I too would like to hear from other Theravadans if they have a useful suggestion. Hokai, I like Tibetan Buddhism but it actually intensifies these problems, early in life I had a number of intense experiences arise with a distinctly Vajrayana flavor and simply reading this sort of material appears to make it worse. That said are there specific text(s) for the practice you describe? I have had no luck finding a teacher or center in these schools that I could afford to associate with. I did have a highly skilled Tai Chi/Qi Gong Teacher, an old chinese gentleman who taught me a great deal but these practices although useful in innumerable ways also contribute to the difficulties. For these reasons and others I felt that I needed a grounding in a very prosaic and straightforward approach and have been focused on a very Theravada approach ever since, about 20 years. I should clarify, the difficulties are not persistent, there are bad days with a lot of this and good days with none of this. It is comparable to an interruption such as a phone ringing or a knock at the door and whatever might follow from that. Thanks everyone,
Hokai Sobol, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 9:17 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 9:17 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
@ Nathan - No. There are colors and forms used to harness mind's imaging activity, and also there are specific syllables and mudras used for sound and body. The method I propose is very active, not observational or detached in any way. It is my experience that ignoring and subduing only works temporarily and both give rise to a strong witness-bias, just as indulging gives rise to phenomenal bias. So, I'm talking of specific visualizations, vocalizations and gestures, not the given persistent stuff, which is merely symptoms.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 11:17 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 11:17 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 560 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
In interesting topic and I am curious to see how it develops. I have no personal experience of beings appearing in meditation other then what are clearly images or sometimes 'video clips' (unfortunately, no audio) – but this does not seem like what you are describing. I do recall that Sri Aurobindo wrote about energy/forces appearing to some as beings while to others as energies depending on the nature of the perceiver.

You mention a couple of things: 1) that your chi gong practice tended to contribute to the difficulties (what kind of chi gong practice?) and 2) you mentioned that “upon settling into the internal silence of access I am also somehow more fully exposed to these other phenomena”.

A few years ago a friend came to me asking for some help with their practice. Whenever they started getting into first jhana territory they would see a burning man (as in a man that is on fire) – very real – before them. This kind of put a damper on their concentration. We worked with tuning in to the burning part and ultimately where that was felt in the body. By owning that energetic quality and investigating it for subtler aspects and allowing this to be present and just do what it wanted to do – it eventually opened up into deeper concentration levels and the burning guy was history.

You don't mention any characteristics of these beings – so I am not sure if the above fits your situation. If they have any sort of emotional/sensate qualities about them then you might try using something like this approach. That is, if they have these qualities - then you must be experiencing them in order to be aware of them.
Nathan I S, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:57 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 12:57 PM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
@Hokai--thanks for the response--so you mean the traditional energetic yoga as you'd get from a teacher? the witness/phenomena bias is a helpful conceptual tool.
Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 1:36 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/5/09 1:36 PM

RE: A rare problem

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

hi triplethink,
i think that your approach to such subject matter as this, and the intelligent and delicate response, is a truly positive thing. glad to see it here, as it can be such an important aspect when these type of topics manifest in one's life and practice.

i hope this perspective helps, as i had similar (if i understand you rightly) experiences, and was helped through by my teacher.

when qigong and energetic work exacerbates conditions of "sensitivity", to external more than internal phenomena, i was taught to do the meditations in a standing posture, much like what is taught in taiji and other internal arts as zhanzhuang - "standing on stake". the potential pitfall with qigong is that, if done really well, it opens you up, but doesnt necessarily "protect" you. by no means is this a problem for all, but if it does arise, focusing on the breath in the standing position, with arms out in front, in a "suspended" position was of great benefit to me.

essentially, one continues with normal focus and insight, just in the differing position, it allows the method of the process to go to energizing the bodies, without ungrounding.

hope this helps, and you can pm me if this resonates with you, if further pursuit sounds helpful.
triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 12:19 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 12:19 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thank you everyone for your insights. It is comforting simply to have this taken seriously. I will contemplate all of your suggestions carefully. To clarify in brief: My Tai Chi/Qi Gong training was thorough and competent. I have never met another teacher with that same high level of awareness and understanding. He is in the Yang lineage - a 16th generation descendent of the founder, at that time fourth in line as supreme grand master and approx. 70 years old, profoundly skilled with astounding ability, particularly as a healer. I have the highest regard for him and attribute a health beyond any norm to this instruction.

The phenomena I am concerned with here appears entirely external, even if it is only mental, it is as though it is not a thought originating/arising internally. If there is more of an acoustic property or visual form and this is more typical it is external and not either an internal energy center or channel. A subtle material being(s) appears, speaks, acts, etc. I hope this is adequate detail. I am familiar with body/energy work. It is possible for me to continue to refine those qualities internally, as I say this exacerbates these conditions externally even if it is gratifying internally and so I maintain enough of this practice for health and competent satipatthana and no more. I keep active energy work to a minimum excepting a trauma. Similar to the attitude that is to be taken towards the requisites.

Monkeymind, thank you, yes compassion and equanimity, always, wisdom is taking longer as insight proceeds slowly under these conditions. SongMt, I will review postures, forms and movements in this light as thoroughly as possible. Ordinarily my Qi Gong is standing, ordinarily insight practice is in lotus or half lotus posture as this can be sustained in relative motionlessness the longest. I will make some extended efforts in standing postures. Hokai, can you expand or clarify slightly?
Hokai Sobol, modified 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 5:02 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 5:02 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
I've sent my PM, but I'll rephrase some of it here. I believe there are two dimensions to consider in developments like the one you describe. One is psychodynamic, and depending on the specifics this may have naive/prepersonal ("magical") and subtle/transpersonal ("visionary") components, but both represent forms of projection that needs to be internalized to a significant extent, i.e. recognizned and enacted as activity of one's own mindstream if in fact that's what that is. The traditional approach to psychic disturbances was to employ certain symbolic acts (basically to reassure the practitioners), then recognize the appearances' emptiness (the non-relative cure) and their dependent-arising nature (the relative cure). This, however, doesn't work if one is addressing a secondary phenomenon, a mere symptom of some shadow material. Therefore, it is much more effective to uncover, re-contact and finally re-own the primary repressed content. If stuff arising is mostly of "visionary" class, then the repressed impulse may be an unexpressed, disembodied, disowned psychic potential/capacity. If it's more naive, though it still may take deceptively subtle forms, based on the frequency of your meditative state, then it could easily be a suppressed emotion and/or volition from an earlier developmental phase. It could also be a combination, e.g. if one was a visionary child.

The other dimension is contemplative, and here the approach is finding the method that will BOTH engage/harness and pacify/harmonize the phenomenological activity in question. Fortunately, these days we can choose and combine our methods, as long as we follow proper internal procedures and do the work involved.
triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 3:52 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/6/09 3:52 PM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
As the psychodynamic dimension is positive I think it would be more beneficial to focus on clear comprehension and integration. Setting aside discussion of shadow work for threads concerned more specifically with that. This type of phenomena is not negative or afflictive and does not seem to arise from the insight work and isn't restricted to periods of meditation practice. I view any kind of 'visionary' phenomena as something else, the mundane world does not go away. This phenomena can appear like the very sophisticated 3D hologram of beings such as you might see in a sci fi movie.

I think a focus on more positive or possibly even transcendental psychodynamics and integration of the individual with the universal is right on target.
Guillermo Z, modified 15 Years ago at 1/11/09 8:41 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/11/09 8:41 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Dear triplethink,

I might not have enough experience for giving you the exact piece of advice, but I have heard several times from Tibetan masters, that for such cases the choice is to do "protector" practices. Those practices require a initiation and the one I know is a combination of visualization and mantra chanting.

From my perspective Tibetan Buddhism has more "tricks" in the "toolbox" for these kind of phenomena.

I hope you find the solution to your problems!
Daniel M Ingram, modified 15 Years ago at 1/11/09 1:14 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/11/09 1:14 PM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 3274 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I like the above discussion, and I think that what to do with visions and sounds depends on what you want to get out of them. I don't view them as a problem, per se.

What is missing here is a few things:

1) What do you do in your practice? You mention Satipatthana, but don't go much further. What specifically do you do when you sit down.

2) What are you trying to get out of your practice? You mention things about Theravada and insight work, so are you going for stream entry or some other goal?

3) How do the arising of stable concentration/samatha related experiences pose a problem in your specific case?

I think that the answers to those questions will lend a lot of focus to this.

From a very traditional Theravada insight/vipassana point of view, if one wants to progress on the path of insight, then one should simply notice every little instant of the Three Characteristics, particularly impermanence, of those phenomena, as well as the other phenomena in the field of attention, including the sensations of your body, mind and space, noticing each little fraction of a second arising of the little sensations that make them up, being just more sensations in the transient, empty field of experience, along the lines of Hokai's advice on seeing their emptiness and dependent-arising nature. If this doesn't happen easily, this is typically interpreted to mean that your notion that you are not fascinated by them is perhaps in error, though this is simply corrected by such blunt practices as rapid noting of "seeing" or "hearing" with each rapid occurrence of your noticing the phenomena.

As to all the other advice above, these may all have value depending on what you are actually trying to accomplish regarding these sensate manifestations and your meditation practice.

triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 12:30 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 12:30 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Daniel;

1. I begin with a combination of concentration (anapanna or kasina) and insight until any hindrances are suppressed and a stable mind is established and continue to refine insight practice only returning to concentration if hindrances arise again or attention is unstable. My insight practice is quite conventional.

2. Yes I would like to make further progress on the path of insight.

3. I don't consider concentration practices, periods of deep concentration or resulting mental qualities to pose any direct problems.

The phenomena in itself is not a problem. When this occurs it is usually pleasant and brief with few exceptions. There doesn't appear to be a direct link to my internal states and processes apart from aftereffects of concentration as a possible cause for an increased sensitivity. The emptiness, 3 characteristics and AD of the phenomena are consistent with every other cognizable input from my senses and consciousness. When appropriate I will examine possible causes in present qualities persisting in that and previous moments (from the A of this the A of that) and in these cases it is found that there are no clear relationship(s) to examine. This is the 'problem' part of these circumstances. I consider this phenomena to be something different from visions or visualizations arising from internal causes as I find none of the usual links to internal mental or physical qualities and processes beyond a general observation that deep concentration contributes to a greater sensitivity overall. Memories of these experiences don't persist as with a trauma, psychodynamic or narrative. Unless I intend to recall these events this phenomena does not concern me. I presented this here as I am interested in new insights or useful techniques appropriate for these kinds of conditions and that is all. I don't expect this will impede my progress on the path in any significant way.
tarin greco, modified 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 7:10 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 7:10 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
i dont understand what you mean when you say stuff like 'products of my own kamma'. and what is 'AD of the phenomena'?

have you considered maybe just stopping practice and talking to the beings when they come visit? ajahn mun (ajahn cha / lee / maha boowa / etc's teacher) sat around talking to them pretty much every day. then again, it did take him about 30 years of constant and often grueling practice to get to arahantship..
Daniel M Ingram, modified 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 8:00 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 8:00 AM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 3274 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
It sounds from your descriptions that you are pretty heavy on the concentration side. Starting with concentration tends to lead to more concentration. That these experiences are pleasant is a concentration practice marker. As you say quite conventional insight practice, from my examination of things that means likely pretty samatha heavy, as most people tend in that direction. When you say that you try to make you attention stable, that also smacks of concentration practice.

While this may sound paradoxical, most people fail to cultivate sufficient instability of attention, and yet also fall down on being able to be consistently mindful of this instability for each unstable moment. Instability is impermanence. Noticing this instant after volatile, fickle, unstable, rapidly changing instant is insight practice.
triple think, modified 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 5:22 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 1/19/09 5:22 PM

RE: A rare problem

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts

When I say "products of my kamma" or "results of this kamma" it is to intended to refer to this specific body/mind and the individuated volitional intents that bring it into being and becoming. AD is arising and disappearing. I have communicated with 'them' at times. Treating the phenomena as objectively real or as internal projections are two approaches that have so far not produced any insight into this. Fine tuning mental qualities has also had little effect. I am not trying to prevent or exacerbate these conditions just an approach that will lead to understanding what is occurring .


Perhaps, if five minutes or less before two or three hours of insight practice is 'heavy' into concentration. I have no difficulty noting instability or impermanence in either shifting or consistent objects. I'm able to discern ongoing when concentration is becoming too deep for insight work and can sufficiently moderate the quality of fixity. I will examine and review my practice carefully again in light of your suggestions. I think an in depth discussion of noting instability/impermanence may be helpfulfor many in another existing or a new thread.