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Thread: Angry Voice

  1. #1

    Angry Voice

    So I'm not sure if this has been posted about before but here it goes. Today I was sitting and counting my breaths to keep mindfulness and all was fine and good until at one point the numbers were yelling at me. I mean by this that the little voice in my head went from normal to a rather angry yelling voice, though still counting numbers. I continued to sit with it, and it lasted for about five minutes or so. I was wondering if this has ever happened to anyone else and how you sat with it.

    Hands together,
    Will

  2. #2

    Re: Angry Voice

    Hi Will,

    A couple of topics here. First, on the subject of counting the breaths ...

    In Shikantaza practice as encouraged around here, we teach counting the breaths, or observing the breath, merely as a way to settle the mind for beginners. (After a few weeks or months, the training wheels come off, and we begin open, spacious sitting centered on everything and nothing at all.) On the other hand, different teachers, even within the Soto school, will teach somewhat different perspectives on this, and observing the breath can even be a lifetime practice for some! (There was a post on another thread awhile back about this):

    viewtopic.php?p=34862#p34862

    However, generally, we do not do anything with the breath, except to allow it to find its own, natural , easy rhythm. Master Dogen (the founder of the Soto lineage in Japan) did not really say very much about breathing. In fact, I often think that he could have said more (breathing is so important in the martial arts, for example). But, Dogen did not really seem to say much more than "know that long breaths are long, short breaths are short ... and that they are neither long nor short'. And breathe from the tanden [the physical center of gravity located in the abdomen three finger widths below and two finger widths behind the navel], ... in other words, breathe deeply ... but know that they come and go no where.

    It is, after all, goalless "just sitting".

    We usually just let the breath settle into a natural rhythm. I find that 2 or 3 breaths per minute is a sign of a very balanced Zazen. Let it come and go so naturally that you forget you are breathing.

    I gave a "sit-a-long" talk on this as part of our "Zazen for Beginners" series, and I hope that you will have a look at that (and the whole series ... with Taigu too) when you have a chance ...:

    viewtopic.php?p=41798#p41798

    Second, the event you experienced strikes me as a not too serious form of Makyo.

    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.

    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. I think what you describe fits into this category.

    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.

    In our way of sitting,, a feeling of fear is not considered anything particularly positive ... nor anything to particularly be afraid of and run from for that matter.

    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.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Angry Voice

    Interesting. I will keep track if my "voice" gets angry again and how frequently it happens. Thank you Jundo.

    Hands together,
    Will

  4. #4

    Re: Angry Voice

    I think I've had a minor "makyo" moment semi-frequently... Has this ever happened to anyone... (??) I'll be sitting, and the spot on the rug or floor in front of me goes sort of "3-dimensional." It's kind of psychadellic, I don't really think I can describe it right. All of the sudden there's all this... depth? Like the nap of the rug or grain of the wood or pattern of the tile is a landscape with height and depth and all, and everything's really clear and bright.
    I'm not doing this justice, and it usually only lasts a moment or two. Anyone?

  5. #5

    Re: Angry Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    I think I've had a minor "makyo" moment semi-frequently... Has this ever happened to anyone... (??) I'll be sitting, and the spot on the rug or floor in front of me goes sort of "3-dimensional." It's kind of psychadellic, I don't really think I can describe it right. All of the sudden there's all this... depth? Like the nap of the rug or grain of the wood or pattern of the tile is a landscape with height and depth and all, and everything's really clear and bright.
    I'm not doing this justice, and it usually only lasts a moment or two. Anyone?
    Hi,

    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&source=w ... DyJTKBdEnA

    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/wavy ... usion.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://www.noetic.org/research/medbiblio/ch4.htm
    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.

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Angry Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    I think I've had a minor "makyo" moment semi-frequently... Has this ever happened to anyone... (??) I'll be sitting, and the spot on the rug or floor in front of me goes sort of "3-dimensional." It's kind of psychadellic, I don't really think I can describe it right. All of the sudden there's all this... depth? Like the nap of the rug or grain of the wood or pattern of the tile is a landscape with height and depth and all, and everything's really clear and bright.
    I'm not doing this justice, and it usually only lasts a moment or two. Anyone?
    I haven't quite had that, but lately during sitting I'll start to see "faces" in the carpet. Buddha faces. I suspect all that quiet and calm is letting my left brain calm down and making my more artistic right brain kick in. I don't know too much about left/right brain theory, but I've read a bit and sometimes when I read about the hallucinations and experiences people have after sitting a long time (hello Kapleau Roshi), I suspect that's exactly what's going on.

    Or maybe I'm just like the lady who sees Jesus in a tortilla. :shock:

  7. #7

    Re: Angry Voice

    Quote Originally Posted by Jennifer G P
    ... lately during sitting I'll start to see "faces" in the carpet. Buddha faces. ...

    Or maybe I'm just like the lady who sees Jesus in a tortilla. :shock:
    If you cut out a piece of that carpet, maybe we can sell it on E-Bay! 8)

  8. #8
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Angry Voice

    The experiences described by Kvon and Chugai such as altered depth perception and levitating sensations [including occasional migraines] I remember from years ago . Then once when I was 32 yrs old (1968), I lived through a very interesting but scary, 72 hour period, brought on by (self imposed) stress, which included some wild hallucinations ( without the aid of external drugs) and religious moments; leaving me with a complete new world view. I sought professional counseling which afforded some comfort in that I was certified sane :lol: . It was explained as being an abnormal swing ("caused by strick early life parental guidance !!!") that would "go away"
    Since then, through study and research, I have come to understand it as having been a balancing, be it chemical or spiritual, of my brain structure and function which has stood me in good stead by providing me with a much clearer view of reality; and free from the sensations described above.
    In retrospect I would have preferred if the psychiatry of the day had been able to shed better light on the experience. But, then again, it does take time for one to see the truth; seek and ye shall find!

    gassho, Richard

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