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Sometimes, when I meditate very regularly, e.g. an hour a day for days in a row, it’s like the world starts to take on a strange, “stationary” quality. It’s like the world is hanging in infinite space, especially stretching out behind me, and all experience, especially in front of me, is one dimensional manifolds, colorful surfaces, colorful, empty shells.
Similarly, other times, it’s like all of experience starts to take on a uniform quality. Like, especially, the “fundamental reality moves” of conscious. Like, the “sense of looking back into the past,” all of that, all at once, just an empty, surface sensation. The sense of time’s passage, space itself, the reality of other times and places, everything in front of me, a sense of reality and depth–illusions, fabricated, empty, surface, sensations.
(And “no referents, anywhere”: referent, signifier, signified, foreground attentional “lock,” background “dimming,” object, nonsymbolic meaning, an optional or subsequent verbal tag. These all arise together to make it so there are “things out there,” or “things in here.” Or, “this is what’s going on, here.” Or, “this is what just happened, here.” Or, “this is what’s going to happen.” Or, “this is the way things are.”)
You might google “emptiness” or “one taste” or “one flavor.” These concepts have huge semantic fields, entire philosophies are built off of the former. But, my understanding is that these concepts are grounded in fairly technically precise, repeatable, verifiable experiences or at least gradients of experience.
I don’t know if what I’m experiencing are pale shadows, fake lookalikes, of some of the “end game” experiences described in some of the traditional Tibetan systems or prior. Or, maybe I really am getting flickers, hints, tastes of the “real thing.”
Thing is, on at least one hand, I don’t care. I think these experiences compose a “valid perspective,” in one sense. In another, I find them disconcerting.
I like the lush, sensuous, three-dimensionality of reality. I like seeing the machinations of consciousness laid bare, sort of, but sort of to the degree that I can have it all, to the degree that every perspective informs every other perspective. (Nirvana is samsara, emptiness is form, sutra versus tantra, etc., etc., or something.)
If things get too weird in meditation, I’ll take a break, either for five minutes or for months. There’s no rush, there’s nowhere to go, no escape, in a few senses. I’m not going to become a wizard if I get enlightened, and all my problems will be solved. Sure, there’s tremendous value in brain training: I hurt, I feel, I fear, I desire, I suffer, things go wrong, I’m so confused, so scared, so lonely, so fucked–how do I relate to all of that, more and more constructively? How do I fundamentally evolve my relationship to all of that, on a deep, neural level (not to mention skillful, pragmatic, ever-improving action-in-the-world), over weeks, months, years, decades?
(But, like, why gun for extreme experiences, and states, and stateless states, and gateless gates? If you desperately want something or desperately want something to stop. Ok, go for it. Maybe. Maybe. Be careful. But, paraphrasing, from Daniel Ingram or Bill Hamilton, or somebody, the gateway to more is precisely what you’re experiencing right now. I argue patience and stance shift and some cognitive clarification of the noncognitive act of meditation might go a long way versus thrashing, fumbling, stumbling, clutching, reaching. Those inner acts can obscure the process and the levers that move the process. Or something.)
Anyway, I was saying that, if things get too weird in meditation, I’ll take a break, either for five minutes or for months. Rather than drowning out or overwhelming some aspects of experience with other aspects of experience, or a new perspective, I want to bring it all along. I want to give other parts of me a chance to catch up. I want to give every part of me a chance to find new footing, to figure out how to play nice with everything else that’s happening. (I mean that sort of experientially and neurally, not anthropomorphically, but sort of that, too.) If weird stuff is going on, or my experience is being taken over by new weirdness, or attention or cognition is getting sort of confused, even just a little bit, I either back off globally or I flex the stuff that I want to bring along. I use my mind, attention, emotions, the sense of lush, three-dimensionality. I want all of it, choice-fully, symphonically.
I’m so grateful to the traditional lineages. I’m so grateful meditation is a thing. I’m so grateful that there are texts and teachers and innovators to this day. Let’s preserve those texts, support those teachers, do the (neuro)science, participate in that innovation.
But, in any case, I choose. I choose my valued experiences and ways of being, not dated, superstitious, dogmatic concepts and confusions laid down hundreds or thousands of years ago.
I choose; You choose; And we support each other, and everyone, in our choices and meditation projects, and in everything, etc.