Results 1 to 14 of 14

Thread: Fear of Losing Self

  1. #1

    Fear of Losing Self

    More recently in my meditation practice the following three-stage phenomena has occurred -- I will sit for a 20 min. session, at first I am focusing on my breath, then my breath seems to "guide" or "carry" my awareness of my surroundings as well as my own body (e.g., sort of "matching" my breath to my awareness of everything around me...if that makes any sense), and finally I start to see everything (my own body and surroundings) from the perspective of an outside observer...very similar to the feeling of watching a movie except me and my surroundings become the movie.

    The last part is what elicits some fear. It really feels as though I am "letting go of myself" during these experiences, which seems to be the goal of zen, but at the same time I start fearing that prolonged stays in such a state will cause me to "forget who I am" which makes me worry about my interactions with other people and how I might come across to them (e.g., my wife).

    Does this make any sense? Has anyone had similar experiences?

  2. #2

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    and finally I start to see everything (my own body and surroundings) from the perspective of an outside observer...very similar to the feeling of watching a movie except me and my surroundings become the movie.
    The last part is what elicits some fear. It really feels as though I am "letting go of myself" during these experiences, which seems to be the goal of zen, but at the same time I start fearing that prolonged stays in such a state will cause me to "forget who I am" which makes me worry about my interactions with other people and how I might come across to them (e.g., my wife).

    Does this make any sense? Has anyone had similar experiences?
    Yeah, pretty much the same occasionally. I figure the fear (although apprehension or discomfort might be better terms in my case) is just something else to let go of . . . probably the ego defending itself.
    For what it's worth, I've experienced similar states periodically for years in meditation and it has never resulted in anything negative in my ability to be a "normal" person (whatever that is).

    Others may have better advice . . .

    Gassho,
    Bill

  3. #3

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Hi Guys,

    Well, we are encountering some interesting phenomena around here!

    Mushin, it sounds like you are describing some kind of "out of body" experience? You actually see yourself sitting and the room you are sitting in, all from somewhere outside you (for example, from the ceiling or from an indeterminate location)?

    Bill, is that what your experience too??

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    ... and finally I start to see everything (my own body and surroundings) from the perspective of an outside observer...very similar to the feeling of watching a movie except me and my surroundings become the movie.
    Hmmm. Hmmmmmmm. Well, I have experienced feelings of having lifted out of my body and floating around ... but I did not see myself or the room. Just a sensation of floating through walls.

    But, again, I will say Makyo ... Nothing to see here folks, move along. In our form of meditation, we are not to have such extreme mental states, for our way is grounded in a most extra-ordinary way of being the ordinary ... but the ordinary nonetheless.

    My looking at various research papers on the subject seems to show that "out of body" experiences are often associated with various "near sleep" or dreamlike states ... and Zazen is certainly that. Brain waves during Zazen are often in state otherwise found during sleep, or which are similar to brain waves in that peaceful place we encounter right before falling asleep while in bed ...

    http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3457896

    Scientists are "fooling" the brain into certain similar states:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6960612.stm

    It has been reported in folks undergoing hypnosis ...

    http://www.heartcenteredtherapies.org/g ... pnosis.pdf

    Wiki has an interesting list of folks who say they can induce Out of Body states through various practices resembling the sensory deprivation and/or hypnotic aspects of meditation:

    Some people have attempted to develop techniques to induce OBEs:

    * Attempting to fall asleep without losing wakefulness. This method is generally believed to be what causes involuntary OBEs. Inventor Thomas Edison was known to use the sleep state to tackle problems while working on his inventions. He would hold a rock above a metal bucket while sitting in a chair, and let himself fall asleep. This would cause the rock to fall into the bucket and wake him up.[citation needed] Salvador Dali was said to use a very similar method to gain odd visions which inspired his paintings. Deliberately teetering between awake and asleep states is known to cause spontaneous trance episodes at the onset of sleep which are ultimately helpful when attempting to induce an out-of-body experience, as reported by Robert Monroe and Robert Peterson.[citation needed] By moving deeper and deeper into relaxation, one eventually encounters a 'slipping' feeling if the mind is still alert. This slipping is the act of leaving the physical body.

    * Deep trance and visualization. The types of visualizations vary; some common imageries used include climbing a rope to "pull out" of one's body, floating out of one's body, getting shot out of a cannon, and other similar approaches. This technique is considered hard to use for people who cannot properly relax. Common sensations can arise such as deep vibrations, impressions of very high heart rate (when it actually is in a relaxed state) and these sensations are likely to cause anxieties. A good example of such a technique consists of the popular "Golden Dawn Body of Light Technique".[citation needed]

    * Sensory deprivation or sensory overload. Various techniques aim to cause intense disorientation of the subject by making him lose his space and time references.[citation needed] The first technique, attempting to fall asleep without losing consciousness, can be considered to be a passive form of sensory deprivation. The brain tends to fill in the gaps when there is nothing getting into the senses for some time. Sensory overload consists of the opposite, where the subject can for instance be rocked for a long time in a specially designed cradle, or submit to light forms of torture, to cause the brain to shut itself off from all sensory input. Both conditions tend to cause confusion and this disorientation often permits the subject to experience vivid, ethereal out-of-body experiences. This tends to happen when the subject believes he or she is in a particular position, whereas his or her actual body is either rocking in a cradle actively, or still lying down. Consciousness suddenly transfers to the mental body.
    In any event, Shikantaza is not about that. If you want to pursue that kind of meditation, it is not what we do in Soto Zen. So, I would suggest you need to make your sitting less intense, bring yourself back to the present and to your surroundings more. Even stop counting or following the breath so much, which may be putting you into some hypnotic state (we consider breath counting or following a practice for beginners, just to settle down the mind a bit. It should not be done for more than a few weeks or months, and then turns to balanced, open, aware, objectless sitting focused on everything and nothing).

    Just sit, aware of your surroundings, focused on everything and nothing in particular. Do not try to "trance out". Just sit, dropping judgments, ideas of "right" and "wrong".

    We drop the body and mind, and drop borders and divisions. But then we do not float around to look at our body!

    Gassho, Jundo

  4. #4

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Thanks for the comments guys. Jundo, I think you described it best in this quote.

    We drop the body and mind, and drop borders and divisions.
    I don't think I was being clear enough . In no way was this any sort of out-of-body experience. I would describe it as an intense awareness of myself and surroundings without any sense of "trying" to breathe or sit, and, thus no sense of "I" or "self." Just "letting" or "being" with no "I" that is "here" in a room. Just a total connection or blending with my surroundings.

    So, in that sense "I" as an initiating agent disappeared and simply became an observer from within my own body. I know this may sound a little contradictory, but I'm trying my best.

    Thanks again.

  5. #5

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    I think I understand what you are describing, and I too believe it is the ego defending itself. It is similar to the fear of death many have- it is not a fear of the dying but of being dead and the self ceasing to exist. When I experience this while sitting, I try to dismiss it as I do every other trivial thought that passes through my head. At times I have almost felt panicked, other times just uncomfortable. But still I sit, and eventually the feeling subsides. I have found the releasing of the ego the hardest part, harder than sore knee joints, boredom, and making time to sit. I have not even thought about it affecting me in my social life. I don't see that it would unless you let it. When you sit you are sitting, when you are talking with someone else you are talking with someone else. As long as you live in each moment and not in the moment where you felt yourself fall away during your last meditation it should be okay. I hope that made sense!

    Gassho,
    Jenny

  6. #6

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Thanks Jen,

    I suppose I had the mistaken assumption that one's state during zazen should eventually carry over into everyday life.

  7. #7

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Aloha all,

    In the spirit of participation I humbly offer my experience in this matter.
    I seem to have developed a sort of onboard warning mechanism.
    Every time I alight upon a state of thought that causes me to linger in pleaseant, unpleasant,
    good or bad, like or don't like, should or shouldn't etc. etc., a warning light seems to flash-
    Not this- move on. Not this-move on. Not this-push on.
    Kind of like the old "Lost in Space" TV series- and the robot warns " Danger Will Robinson, Danger! "
    It's uncanny but it has the effect of refocusing my attention and not getting carried along by the current
    of thought or physical sensations when they appear on stage.
    I must have read this somewhere in zen literature and it seems to have stuck with me.
    I'm sorry I can't give credit to the author of that insight but I know i saw it somewhere.
    Anyway, I am definetly from the Village Idiot population of practitioners and a bit of a simpleton.
    I read that a few of the great masters were not considered the "sharpest tacks in the box" so I
    think there might be hope for me.
    My appreciation to all of you for your insights and contributions to the forum.

    Aloha,(Hawaiian Gassho)
    Dan

  8. #8

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    Thanks Jen,

    I suppose I had the mistaken assumption that one's state during zazen should eventually carry over into everyday life.
    I am by no means an expert My take on it is that zazen does carry over. Like anything we do it, it changes us in small ways that often we may not even perceive. While sitting I may feel at peace with all beings but may still fume at the guy who cuts me off in traffic later that day. Prior to zazen I may have been more inclined to flip the guy the finger and tailgate him for the next few miles, but now though I still get peeved, I am able to let it go and enjoy the rest of my evening. yet at the same time, we are also told to just 'be' in every moment.

    of course, zen is full of contradictions. You let go of yourself yet become more fully yourself. Perhaps it changes the way we perceive things more than anything else. In this light, I believe losing the ego and it's attachments can be beneficial to everyday relationships. We can begin to see people as they really are and not the preconceptions our self has built around them.

    have you already been sensing a change in how you interact with others that is putting a strain on these relationships, or are you just afraid it could happen in the future? If it is just a fear then I would just sit through the fear. If it is happening, then I would examine it from all angles, not just those pertaining to zazen.

    Gassho,
    Jen

  9. #9

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    have you already been sensing a change in how you interact with others that is putting a strain on these relationships, or are you just afraid it could happen in the future? If it is just a fear then I would just sit through the fear.
    It was just a concern for the future. Of course, I have experienced small changes in my interactions with others as a result of zazen, as we all do (e.g., being fully present in a conversation, etc...), but these interactions have been very positive.

    I am finding that this group functions nicely to keep one on track and "work out the kinks" that inevitably arise during meditative practice.

    I will just sit.

    Thank you Jen for your comments!

  10. #10

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    No, Jundo. Nothing like seeing myself from another perspective in the room. More like he describes here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    So, in that sense "I" as an initiating agent disappeared and simply became an observer from within my own body. I know this may sound a little contradictory, but I'm trying my best.
    I have had these "unreal" experiences where I will feel like I am disconnected from my usual sense of being and am plunged into the experiences of the present moment and place. Funny, but I have had these my whole life--they started when I was a kid. Little glimpses of a different way of being, I suppose. Before I started meditating, they would often happen on gigs, especially dance gigs, where I would settle in to whatever tune was being played and look out and allow the experience of a room full of people moving in sync with what I am doing to sink in. But, I wouldn't do it on purpose, it would just happen (and, no, drugs were not involved). So, since I started sitting, those things sometimes happen on the zafu, that's all. I never thought too much about it, and I hope talking about it here doesn't make it a big deal now in my head.

    Maybe my Mom dropped me when I was a baby,

    Bill

  11. #11

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Quote Originally Posted by Mushin
    The last part is what elicits some fear. It really feels as though I am "letting go of myself" during these experiences, which seems to be the goal of zen, but at the same time I start fearing that prolonged stays in such a state will cause me to "forget who I am" which makes me worry about my interactions with other people and how I might come across to them (e.g., my wife).
    Hi Mushin,

    Especially when I first started sitting, I often came across feelings of fear. Although I am no expert, I have the general sense that, as Bill says, it is the ego defending itself. In the Tibetan tradition, they equate this with Mara throwing up illusion/delusion. Mostly, the teachers I have met from all traditions say "The mind sure is interesting. Keep on sitting." What I take from that is that we shouldn't be distracted by something that is just illusion/delusion. I think the whole point of zazen is to pierce all that and to take an understanding of reality from the cushion out into the world.

    Gassho,

    Linda

  12. #12

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Hi Mushin,

    I am sorry if I first misunderstood your description as an "out of body" experience. Okay, what you are saying is clearer now.

    I don't think I was being clear enough . ... I would describe it as an intense awareness of myself and surroundings without any sense of "trying" to breathe or sit, and, thus no sense of "I" or "self." Just "letting" or "being" with no "I" that is "here" in a room. Just a total connection or blending with my surroundings.

    So, in that sense "I" as an initiating agent disappeared and simply became an observer from within my own body. I know this may sound a little contradictory, but I'm trying my best.
    What you are describing seems to be a taste of Samadhi, I sense. I do not hear that there is anything harmful about it, no cause for fear. As Linda and Jen have said, your "fear" is probably your ego clinging by its fingernails ... afraid to jump off the 100 foot pole.

    But please remember that, in our Soto Zen Practice (and in sensible Rinzai Practice too), such states and experiences are but one perspective, one observation point, on a long hike on the mountain. In our philosophy, such experiences are not the "goal", just a precious and useful reference. Some folks reach it in deep experiences on the Zafu, some in small tastes and step by step realization, some in a bit of both, some (like Bill describes) in dancing, It is all dancing an unending dance! It is like a lifelong hike up a mountain where, every so often, we get to a vantage point where the trees and rocks clear away and we can see the wide valley. Perhaps we get to a peak where all is visible in all directions, and even the mountain drops away. You know the old saying: "In the beginning, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers; later on, mountains are not mountains and rivers are not rivers; and still later, mountains are mountains and rivers are rivers.”

    It is something to learn from, but then we must get to the hard work of making this part of our lives. I came across a nice quote on this by a teacher in Kennett Roshi's order ...

    “In the beginning, all is different; later on, all is one; and then again, all is one and all is different.” These sayings refer to the course of our Buddhist training over long periods of time. In other words, things change; they change profoundly over the course of a life of training. These changes take time, and they only occur to the extent that we actually do the practice. Though they take time, and time is necessary, time alone is not sufficient. It takes great time and great practice.
    Mushin wrote ...

    It really feels as though I am "letting go of myself" during these experiences, which seems to be the goal of zen,
    I would say it is not the "goal" for we have no goals (not in our Soto-ish perspective). It is just one perspective ... although a very special one ... among countless perspective.

    but at the same time I start fearing that prolonged stays in such a state will cause me to "forget who I am" which makes me worry about my interactions with other people and how I might come across to them (e.g., my wife).
    ...
    I suppose I had the mistaken assumption that one's state during zazen should eventually carry over into everyday life.
    When we have a taste of some "dropping away", we do not stay there. (Some Zen books are so misleading on this point). We cannot of course, not if we are to function in this world. To function in the world, we need many of the things that are dropped away in such states, our sense of "I" first among them. Could you imagine even trying to drive a car with no "I"? Our Zen Practice is not about staying with "no I".

    Yes, our Zazen is about taking off the Zafu the lessons learned on the Zafu, but it is not some crude process of just staying in a place where there is no "sense of I". It is a much more delicate polishing and honing of who we are, incorporating 10,000 Zen perspectives in our life.

    I think that Dan said this in a very nice way ...

    Every time I alight upon a state of thought that causes me to linger in pleaseant, unpleasant,
    good or bad, like or don't like, should or shouldn't etc. etc., a warning light seems to flash-
    Not this- move on. Not this-move on. Not this-push on.
    Kind of like the old "Lost in Space" TV series- and the robot warns " Danger Will Robinson, Danger! "
    Yes, I really like the "Lost in Space" analogy because (if anyone remembers the show) they never actually got anywhere by the time the show was cancelled back in the 1960's. They just went from planet to planet, learning and experiencing each, and then it was suddenly over. (Okay, that's about as far as I can stretch the analogy ... so I will leave it there. The Robinsons on that show were certainly not "goalless", always trying to get back to earth ... apparently never making it.)

    In conclusion, attaining a state of "Oneness" or "No I" or the like is not Shikantaza or, better said, it is just one moment and flavor of Shikantaza among countless moments and flavors. Mushin, please do not think that you have reached a goal. You a reached a nice place, have a look. Now, push along, move on.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    Very interesting and informative Jundo! Thank you for the guidance. Your comments definately give me perspective.

    What an excellent resource Treeleaf is...giving people who have historically practiced on their own access to those with formal training.

  14. #14

    Re: Fear of Losing Self

    personally the first time i felt this way, when all was dropped. i think i was so afraid, it was like standing on the edge of an endless ravine and looking down, my mind kept trying to grab on to something just not to let go.
    when i actually managed to let go of the mind itself.... ( he can grab whatever he wants, i am going! ) i was sitting realizing i just let go of everything. it felt weird and great and everything at the same time... it was just that.
    but with time i noticed i didnt really let go of my understanding and preconceptions on what it was.
    so i just let it go and stopped caring what was happening and than dropped the non caring too.
    each and every time i sit i learn to do it all over again. i sit i think, i drop, i notice it, i think, i drop, thoughts rise, i dont care, i drop not caring, i let go, i let go of letting go... its an endless process, it will always be like this
    i just sit with everything that comes and goes now days. be it release and letting go or thoughts that wont leave and anxiety.

    let it all come, and let it all go.

Similar Threads

  1. On losing motivation..
    By Shawn in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 45
    Last Post: 01-22-2012, 09:30 PM
  2. Fear
    By kirkmc in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 25
    Last Post: 06-15-2011, 06:50 PM
  3. Fear of Death
    By Kaishin in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 40
    Last Post: 06-06-2011, 04:13 PM
  4. Fear
    By zeta in forum TREELEAF COMMUNITY: Topics about Zazen, Zen, Buddhism & MORE ZAZEN!
    Replies: 35
    Last Post: 06-25-2009, 05:51 PM

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •