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Thread: When doing Zazen ..

  1. #1

    When doing Zazen ..

    When doing your Zazen, is it typical to feel "out of body?"

    When I do my meditation, over the last few times I find I feel like I'm above my head, tall and very light like paper. I know it is practice not to dwell on your meditation, I'm just curious as to why I may feel this way?

    I also find I get very warm. The room will be cool; and I meditate in linen pants and a light cotton shirt so clothing shouldn't be an issue (could be, I'm not sure) and once into my meditation; and before feeling my "out of body" feeling, the room will get warm like the sun is in it (I meditate before bed) and I get warm and then feel out of my body.

    I do hope I'm not doing my Zazen to harm my body in this way, I don't ever feel out of breath or strained afterwards .. I actually feel quite calm, sleepy and at peace afterwards.

    I apologize for my curiosity, I'm just eager to learn.

    Gassho,

    Chelsea

  2. #2
    Hi Chelsea,

    I have had many similar experiences scattered over the years, my body feeling very large or spaceless, a sense of floating. Once, a tiny Buddha popped out of the wall and we had a little conversation. In the Zen world, it is typical not to pay any special attention to such times.

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including unusual visual and auditory sensations, brief periods of paranoia or panic, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. Once, during a Sesshin, I became irate inside because I felt the monk at Sojiji sitting next to me was "encroaching on my space". I once had a little Buddha pop out of the wall and chat with me for several minutes (I pinched myself ... he stayed!), and felt like I was floating in the air. It is common during Sesshin, because of the strains involved, the "sensory deprivation", to experience such things as emotional swings, hearing becoming so sharp you can be disturbed by an ant walking across the room, strange bodily sensations such as feelings of floating or being giant sized, and paranoia.
    Do not drive them away or forcefully push them out ... neither grab them, cling to them or stir them up. If finding oneself doing any of that, simply open the hand of thought and let them go.

    If it happens once in awhile, it is not a particular concern ... just an interesting moment. If it happens very often, we may need to see what you are doing that may be causing such experiences.

    -------------------------------

    All manner of sensory "tricks" can occur during Zazen. Some are quite interesting, as seems this one. We may note them, but do not particlarly encourage them in our little corner of Buddhist meditation. ...

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including unusual visual and auditory sensations, brief periods of paranoia or panic, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. We are not used to the stillness and quiet of Zazen, and it lets certain memories, emotions, fears and like psychological states rise to the surface ... or allows some things (spots in our eyes that are always there even though not usually noticed, background sounds) to be noticed that are usually blocked out by all the noise and busyness in our heads, senses and around us.

    If it is just once in awhile ... and if you are aware of this, and it was not too overwhelming ... then I do not think it cause for worry. If it becomes too overwhelming, break off that sitting and take a little time off until you cool down. If it becomes a regular event, or too profound, that may be a sign of something else that needs to be approached. But, once in awhile ... I would not be concerned.

    We tend to call such things "Makyo", defined as follows (by Daido Loori Roshi). He speaks of hallucinatory like experiences ...

    In Zen, hallucinations are called makyo. It is not unusual for practitioners sitting in meditation for long periods of time to experience makyo. Some people feel like they are levitating, others see visions of the Buddha bathed in light, some hear sounds or voices. This in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when we confuse these experiences with enlightenment. When students come to me in dokusan to give me elaborate description of their makyo, a common response from me could be something like, “Oh, don’t worry about it—it will go away. Maybe you’re not sitting straight.” In other words, don’t attach to it. But if a dream is real, why isn’t makyo real? Are dreams, makyo, enlightenment and delusion the same, or are they different?
    We learn from all these experience ... we learn how the mind is like a theatre, and creates our experience of the life-world.

    I also posted this once ...

    Sensory deprivation, and really paying attention to objects of sight that we usually do not pay attention to (the patterns on the carpet, for example) can have such an effect. These things usually are connected to the mechanics of the visual sense, and often beyond our control. It is just an optical illusion.

    A dry as toast, but good book on the topic is Dr. Austin's Zen and the Brain ... he has a discussion of all manner of hallucinations here (from about page 373).

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&sourc...EJTUDyJTKBdEnA

    Seeing patterns on the carpet or wall you are looking at, and floor undulation, is kind of like this effect produced by a bad carpet:

    http://www.moillusions.com/2007/11/w...-illusion.html

    Another common effect is to see "spots in the eyes". Most are there all along (floating impurities, early cataracts and such of the eyeball itself), but we just do not notice them until we sit still. Many are just the "cones and rods" of the eye that were there all along. The cones and rods of color, for example, are always present in our eyes, but we do not give them notice so often in day to day life. In Zazen, what is always there just stands out sometimes, and the brain plays some tricks by seeing "connect the dot" patterns.

    The eyes contain cones and rods for color that we usually do not notice (but, if you look at any object closely, you will see little dots of color, much like the picture tube of a color tv):

    http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/retina.html

    The sensory deprivation effect at staring at the white surface just brings the little dots to our attention, and they play pattern tricks in the brain.

    Like a new pair of glasses, the brain will adjust and soon not notice the dots as much. Maybe we are subconsciously looking for the patterns, and thus noticing the patterns. If we just forget about them, they usually go away.

    However, visual hallucinations are common in Zazen. Not a worry, nor of any particular importance other than as an amusement, possibly with a small lesson about how we create the world through the senses:


    Hallucinations and Illusions

    Kornfield (1979, 1983) noted that there was a strong correlation between student reports of higher levels of concentration during insight meditation, when the mind was focused and steady, and reports of altered states and perceptions. He reported that unusual experiences, such as visual or auditory aberrations and hallucinations, and unusual somatic experiences, are the norm among practiced meditation students. Walsh (1978) reported that he experienced hypnagogic hallucinations, and Goleman (1978-79) reported visionary experiences during deep meditation. Shimano and Douglas (1975) reported hallucinations similar to toxic delirium during zazen.

    ... Earlier, Deikman (1966a) reported that during meditation on a blue vase, his subjects' perception of color became more intense or luminous, and that for some of them the vase changed shape, appeared to dissolve, or lost its boundaries. Maupin (1965) reported that meditators sometimes experience "hallucinoid feelings, muscle tension, sexual excitement, and intense sadness."

    The contemplative literature contains numerous descriptions of the perceptual distortion produced by meditation. It is called makyo in Zen Buddhist sources, and is characterized in some schools as "going to the movies," a sign of spiritual intensity but a phenomenon that is regarded to be distinctly inferior to the clear insight of settled practice. In some Hindu schools it is regarded as a product of the sukshma sharira, or "experience body," in its unstable state, and in that respect is seen to be another form of maya, which is the illusory nature of the world as apprehended by ordinary consciousness.

    In a similar manner, St. John of the Cross described the false enchantments that may lure the aspirant in prayer, warning that "devils may come in the guise of angels." [51] In his allegory of the spiritual journey, The Pilgrim's Progress, John Bunyan described Christian's losing his way by following a man who says he is going to the Celestial City but instead leads him into a net. In all the great contemplative manuals, one is taught that detachment, equanimity, and discrimination are required for spiritual balance once the mind has been opened and made more flexible by prayer and meditation. Illusions and hallucinations, whether they are troubling or beatific, are distractions—or signposts at best—on the way to enlightenment or union with God.

    http://noetic.org/meditation-bibliog...iography-info/
    Move along folks ... nothing to look at here! :-)

    Actually, it is all a fine lesson in how the body-mind-self-world are all interconnected.
    What you are seeing is a fine lesson on how the mind can create a sense of reality. Learn that lesson, and return to just sitting.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 01-23-2014 at 12:23 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    Thank you.

    Gassho,
    Edward
    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praj˝a from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  4. #4
    Thank you for the insight Jundo,

    Letting go, is a hard lesson to learn but everyday I practice it; I find it easier to do.
    It is never over whelming, just has the "little monkey" poking around at it.

    Thank you for the links, I will take a look here in a few moments.

    Gassho,

    Chelsea

  5. #5
    I wanted to add this old description of some other Makyo that are common, some of which I have experienced over the years. Again, these experiences are not daily, and just happen now and then. Not a problem if so ...

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including unusual visual and auditory sensations, brief periods of paranoia or panic, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. Once, during a Sesshin, I became irate inside because I felt the monk at Sojiji sitting next to me was "encroaching on my space". I once had a little Buddha pop out of the wall and chat with me for several minutes (I pinched myself ... he stayed!), and felt like I was floating in the air. It is common during Sesshin, because of the strains involved, the "sensory deprivation", to experience such things as emotional swings, hearing becoming so sharp you can be disturbed by an ant walking across the room, strange bodily sensations such as feelings of floating or being giant sized, and paranoia.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  6. #6
    Member Liang's Avatar
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    Thanks for the excellent question and replies, very interesting and helpful. In our clinical neurology class we learned how the brain "fills in" sensory info for us all the time, take your blind spots you never see them thanks to this. Even more interesting people who have vision field cuts in their sight or who are deaf, sensory pathways switch their routs and they can perceive sounds or images created by their mind. They think they are crazy but it is just sensory tricks. I didn't explain it very well but yet again cutting edge neurology and Buddhism agree!
    -Fred

  7. #7
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Chelsea,
    I've had this and similar sensations. Once, there was a duplicate of myself, mirrored beneath my cushion...sitting down/up in the opposite direction (through the floor?)...it seemed real. At one point, I didn't even know which side I was sitting on. Bizarre for sure. When I saw what was going on, I said goodbye to both, and sat.

    Remember (or forget) that letting go is less about what we do with the thoughts, but more about what we don't do. It's the reminder I sometimes give myself before I sit.

    Gassho,
    Entai / Bill

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  8. #8
    Senior Member Heion's Avatar
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    I have had moments like this before, on the cushion and off. I treat them just like any other experience or feeling I have since that's what they are.
    They can be rather interesting, I must admit.

    Gassho,
    Alex

  9. #9
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Remembering that everything is impermanent has brought these experiences back into the awareness of now and has worked for this old man...even the nice ones! Gassho.
    Heisoku
    平 息

  10. #10
    Senior Member Oheso's Avatar
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    Spalding Gray recounts a very amusing and vivid experience of makkyo in his novel Impossible Vacation.

    http://www.tricycle.com/essay/impossible-vacation

    bows to you all,

    Robt
    "- and neither are they otherwise."

  11. #11
    Senior Member Myosha's Avatar
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    ". . . small-mind waves that will pass."

    A terrific lesson, on and off the zafu.

    Thank you.


    Gassho,
    Myosha






    Practice with humility, respect all beings, avoid attachments, give rise to praj˝a from your own awareness, put an end to delusions - Hui-neng

  12. #12
    Treeleaf Unsui rculver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oheso View Post
    Spalding Gray recounts a very amusing and vivid experience of makkyo in his novel Impossible Vacation.

    http://www.tricycle.com/essay/impossible-vacation

    bows to you all,

    Robt
    Thank you.

    Gassho,



    Shugen
    As a priest in training, please take everything I say with a pinch of salt

    Meido Shugen
    明道 修眼

  13. #13
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Unhappy

    While we are on the topic of experiences during zazen,

    does anyone else get super hyperfocused on somethings and totally neglect other things? I have ADD and I sometimes go into hyperfocus mode... and forget things. Bad thing to happen sometimes. It sometimes happens when I start seeing my usual day to day routine as meditation. I was sitting zazen, then I went to do my homework in the library for hours. I ended up misplacing a very expensive thing today. I hope I can still find it tomorrow, otherwise I will feel very very sad and ashamed since my parents bought it for me.


    Sad and anxious Ben

    Edit:

    I found it! Thank God the nice guards in the library got it immediately. I am so relieved. All that worrying was a nice reminder for how I should conduct myself better... maybe finally go back and ask help from professionals about this ADD thing.
    Last edited by Tiwala; 01-24-2014 at 11:38 PM.
    Gassho
    Ben

  14. #14
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    I can empathize with how being focused on some things can cause a lapse in memory of things that are usually remembered! I lose things more easily than I used to if they are out of place. Most of the time, though, misplacing things or forgetting things is not always the result of mental illness, instability, or problems of focus, and thus we should not feel bad about ourselves when we are not as sharp as we want to be. People have accidents and forget things all the time.
    迎 Geika

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