Sensations

S: Hi, Jay. I’m 23 years old and I’ve been meditating for about 3-4 years now. A common thing that happens 15 minutes into it is vibrations. These are very pleasant and always catch me off guard. They range from light to, at one point, very vigorous. Only one time was it uncomfortable. However, I still don’t understand what this is. Tones usually accompany these vibrations and so do the colors red and blue in blob-like shapes in the blackness of my eyelids. Can you help me out with understanding this? I have yet to meet someone who could help. Thank you.

Jay: The body and mind are full of mysterious and unusual sensations, most of which probably simply do not have any “meaning” in the sense that we usually think of it.

I think when we experience something that is outside of our usual experiences, the first thought is whether it means something. Looking more closely at this, the thought is really “Does this mean anything FOR ME”, with the emphasis on me. This is the memory speaking, scanning what it knows about keeping the body safe and healthy.

The thoughts might also be along the lines, “Wow, I am developing some cool abilities. If I keep doing the same thing, will it get cooler?” There is also the thought, “Probably no one else has experienced this. This makes me special.” When other people say they don’t know what it means, that thought can be reinforced. The loneliness of being unique, which can feel very superior to others, but the fact is that that feeling almost immediately wants someone else to share it with, even if it is just one other unique person. As much as we like being unique, we don’t really want to be alone.

The fact is that we are continually fascinated by our internal processes to the extent that we don’t hear and experience the real world around us. If you feel these sensations have some meaning, then examine them carefully and open mindedly. Sit with them and just listen. Question for yourself what the relationship is of these sensations to direct sensory experience of the world all around.

I wonder what your motivation is in sitting still in meditation. If you would like to talk about that, please feel free to write back. It may have some relationship to what you are experiencing. Also, I’d be interested to hear what it is you are doing during the meditation time.

S: That was definitly a great answer. I go into meditation with wanting to experience, wanting to learn from the experiences, wanting to explore, spiritually grow and to escape the stress in this reality we call life. I just wish I could understand why certain things happen when I meditate. I’ve had out-of-body experiences during meditation. I really enjoy those.

Jay: It would be interesting to watch carefully what this stress is that you talk about. There are endless cycles of getting stressed and relieving stress. The only way for there to be some change toward more equanimity is to come in touch with what moves us during our daily activities.

Is it possible to watch what dynamics are going on in the situations that cause stress? This watching needs to include not just what it seems like others are doing to stress me but also what I am bringing to the situation. What have I done or what attitude have I conveyed that brought out their reaction? How do I react to what others are doing?

What happens in sitting still is mostly a reflection of how we have lived during the day. Not totally, but mostly. It can give clues as to where tension has been and what has happened in me to add to that tension.

You mentioned wanting to experience but in fact most of the time we do not experience what is going on, especially what is happening internally, in the thoughts and feelings. It is possible that for you the word experience means feeling something in a specific way in your body. Anything that is not that feeling may not have much interest to you. I’m not pointing a finger at you. I only say this because it’s true for me as well. It’s ok to observe honestly that a lot of experiences are of little interest to me. It’s also ok to notice the consequences of that – boredom, desire for intense experience, addiction to the things or people that give me intense experience.

What I’ve described may not be how things are for you. Hard to know since we don’t know each other. But these are some things that can be observed carefully if they are of interest.

You can also look at this frustration, which you express in your comments, of wanting to know what certain experiences mean. What is the nature of this frustration? What is its source? Are there alternatives to it? How does it manifest in your interactions with friends, family? At work? How does it affect other people? How does it affect you? Are there times when the frustration is enjoyable and other times when it is unpleasant?

A certain part of the brain wants to understand “what does this mean for me? How does this fit into my image of myself and the world.” That is only one part of the mind. Does it understand its own limitations? If not, if it doesn’t really seem like it has limitations, then observe carefully.

I will be interested to keep in touch as you explore. Please write back with further questions/comments.

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