Citation: fruition. "Insight Meditation as a Cure to Life: An Experience with Meditation (exp88620)". Erowid.org. Jan 25, 2012. erowid.org/exp/88620
This report is to convey my experiences with Insight Meditation. It's about how a beautiful experience with MDMA of mine led to me believing there is something more to life, turning to meditation shortly thereafter, leading up to a fundamental (and positive) shift of my perception of reality. It has had its ups and its severe downs, but I believe it's worth it. I am not trying to evangelize here, as I have nothing to gain, this being an anonymous report. Just read on and see if it gives you something to think about.
This whole process does not require any drugs to start or complete, and in fact is probably better without them. Personally, I have done MDMA a few times, smoked a bunch of weed, and gotten drunk occasionally along the way, and I can't say how much they helped/hurt. Regardless of whether you have done any substance or all that you can find, finding an answer in the way I will describe can be deeply satisfying and totally worth it.
However, I have heard that drugs can launch you into the process when you are still unprepared. Instead of building up momentum with meditation and knowing where to continue, you are launched into a new territory, unsure how you got there, and unsure of how to continue or get back.
In particular, if you have had an amazing, unitive, becoming one with the cosmos-type experience, or found a fundamental understanding of reality while taking a psychedelic, then you may have inadvertently started a process which will continue to cycle and be quite painful until resolved. If after this experience, you feel like you are searching for something, and the more you trip, the closer you are to finding that answer but you don't quite get there, and the rest of your daily life is deeply unsatisfying and it feels like it's falling apart - read on. The psychedelics did not themselves cause the seeking and the problems with life, and I won't say they are 'bad'. But they caused an experience which altered your perception of reality and made you realize there is something out there. Until you find the answer, you will most likely be stuck in a cycle of amazing experiences leading to deep dissatisfaction. I want to offer a potential solution, one that has worked for many, including me.
Note of full disclosure: I have not personally taken hallucinogens, but I am basing this on what I have heard from others, from what I know about the transformative process I went through, and from Erowid Experience Values, such as http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=4953:
'I was always left with the nagging feeling that I had come very close to grasping some ultimate truth, but I was never quite satisfied that I had really gotten there. Hence the need to go back to it over and over again.'
The other problem with finding insights via tripping is that the insights tend to stay within the altered state of mind. For example, from http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=79725:
'There were times - and I am sure that most of you can relate - when I felt that for a moment I *truly* understood the universe - as it *really* was - and it was *so* simple - and funny - fucking hilarious!! I would experience the moment and crack up laughing uncontrollably - because I understood the core of the essence of God - the universe - matter, gravity, light, energy, quanta.
But as we all know - the profundity of Nitrous is fleeting, and after the epiphony it fades so quickly that one can't quite remember what it was that one was thinking - and why it was so funny.'
His insights may have been valid, but they can only help you so much if they only apply to that state of mind. With meditation, the insights are attained while sober (although definitely altered state of mind), and are permanent.
You can read more experience vaults yourselves - these are recurring themes. The following is my journey, at the end of which I think I actually discovered some 'fundamental truth', a discovery which has changed my life for the better.
I first took MDMA around New Year's of this year. It was a capsule of pure Molly, and it was incredible. I won't go into details as it has already been written about, but generally: feeling on top of the world, feeling at one with everything, feeling that everything and everyone is incredible, loving everyone, realizing how much of my thoughts are completely useless and pointless, realizing how wonderful trance music is, etc.
Shortly before that I had started meditating. After taking E, I thought the goal of meditation was to get to states like those induced by Ecstasy, but without the drugs. I was partly right, as it can induce states like that, but the goal is something much bigger. I continued to meditate out of interest and fascination. A month or two in, I started noticing when walking around that everything was much clearer and crisper. I just enjoyed looking at stuff! It was kind of like when I was rolling, but a bit lighter.
I kept meditating, mostly focusing on my breath. Around this time I started reading lots of books on Meditation, Buddhism, etc. I learned about two kinds of meditation, Concentration (like focusing on the breath), and Insight, but I honestly couldn't tell the difference. Eventually, after a few months, I learned that Concentration led to very pleasant altered states of mind (without any substances), while Insight was all about understanding reality. The book that really made it all click is called 'Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha,' (MCTB) by Daniel Ingram. Ignore the Buddhist connotations in the title - it is not a religious book, and does not advocate becoming a Buddhist or a monk or any strange thing like that.
I started focusing on Insight, having read some warnings about a tough path ahead but not really knowing what I was getting into. A few months afterwards my meditation started really picking up. I started seeing colors with my eyes closed. They would swirl around, form shapes, change hues, pulse in and out very quickly... I was fascinated. (Again, I was sober, and had not taken hallucinogens previously. I'm glad I didn't, as I might have attributed all this to after-effects.) I felt I was really 'getting into' meditation, figuring out what it was about. This correlated with what the MCTB book said would happen.
This stage is what I believe that psychedelics can take you to. They catapult you to this amazing place filled with energy, bliss, devotion, love, etc. I didn't feel it quite that intensely, but others do. There is one problem, though... it fades, and fades hard. Right after it faded for me, I had an intense desire right afterwards to get high, to eat something delicious, etc. This marked the beginning of the next few stages, collectively referred to as the Dark Night.
The next two months or so were a very painful period in my life. While meditating was mostly OK, everything in my daily life was annoying. Though I had a decent job, good friends, hobbies, etc., I felt like my life was shoddily constructed. Everything about my job pissed me off; every little delay or thing not going exactly right would cause me to twitch in anger. I listened to songs like 'Time' by Pink Floyd and almost cried at the thought of wasting one's life away. I would be depressed about spending so much time at my job, then at night I would get high with my friends and be depressed about that. I made plans to move to California and just tough it out for the time being. Exactly what MCTB said would happen. This is why it's called the Dark Night. Luckily I was not around too many drugs, as I would gladly have taken Ketamine to get into a K-Hole, cocaine for fun, LSD for a spiritual experience, etc. I ended up not doing any of these. I say luckily as they probably would have made it harder to continue progressing.
Confusingly enough, the Dark Night has nothing to do with what is happening in reality, and everything to do with the perception of it. As the book states, you could be in paradise and unable to enjoy it. The answer is not to change anything in your daily life, but to attempt to gain insight on this way of perceiving things - namely, that it is impermanent, as each angry twitch comes in and fades away, that it is causing suffering and tension, especially because you associate with it, and that you really don't have control over it, in that you get angry and it fades without you even trying. The best way to really comprehend this is to meditate. As far as I understand, psychedelics don't get you out of here. Even if they did, though, without building up the momentum and getting to this stage by meditation, they are likely to fall back. (Aside: I did read a fascinating new experience on Erowid about Ibogaine, see http://www.erowid.org/experiences/exp.php?ID=88298.
That root seems to actually have gotten him out of his Dark Night stage, but not all the way to the end - read on.) A metaphor I like to make is that instead of waiting for life to suck, and finding out about ultimate truth that way, you are forcing yourself to realize that everything 'sucks', on your own terms.
I kept at it, using MCTB as a guide, and one day, while meditating, while feeling intensely frustrated with everything, with job, life, with being unable to perceive the sensations I thought I should be when meditating... it all kind of unknotted, and I felt this intense relief. All the negativity from before evaporated. All the things that pissed me off no longer did, showing that it really was my reaction to them that was the problem, not the things themselves. By this point, the worst was over.
I was not done yet, though. This next stage is called Equanimity, as you feel very calm towards all things and satisfied with life again. So far, what I've said before seems very normal, in a sense. At this point it gets a bit weird. Here I started noticing sensations like 'sense of self', 'watching', 'awareness.' I could almost feel my attention going over my body and noticing things. And if I can feel my attention, and notice it... that must mean that 'I' am something beyond the attention, no? If I can feel my sense of self as something separate, I must not be that sense of self, right? I won't get more into the technical details, as the book has plenty, but after enough careful investigation into these sensations, I had a culmination of everything I had been doing called a Fruition, and I hit the end of the first part of the journey. Basically, for a few moments reality disappeared and reappeared. This is not perceivable, as if I perceived reality disappearing, I would still be there, right? But I can remember everything leading up to it, everything leading away, but in-between is something unfathomable. I can trigger these now at will, although there isn't much point except that it is kind of cool.
It sure 'did the damage,' though. The most immediately noticeable effect was that I immediately became 50 times more proficient at concentrating. I could now reach several altered states of consciousness (which I will describe in another report) when meditating which before I had no access to. I can apply intense concentration to anything in daily life, such as listening to music, playing the piano, etc. I now realize how much of doing something technical, like piano, depends on this concentrative state, and I now have a much better grasp of what that is.
That's not such a big deal, though. More importantly, my perception on life was dramatically altered. In a way, my sense of 'self' was greatly diminished. For the next things I'm about to describe, realize that I didn't spend hours in psycotherapy, or try to analyze my perspectives on life and come up with 'better' ones. These all just came about naturally, and actually almost unnoticed by me until I started paying attention to it, as a result of the Insight Meditation. This is what happens when your sense of self is weakened, by being seen for what it is.
I stopped thinking about the past and the future so much. I can still plan stuff out and remember things, of course, but unless it's useful to do so at the moment, I won't. So for example I won't go through random annoying thoughts about work if I'm not going to do anything about them until the next day. I won't go through previous conversations in my head, wishing I had said something different. I do still have stray mental thoughts, but far, far diminished than before.
My cravings and addictions greatly went away. Before I believe I was addicted to uh.. pleasuring myself, as I did it quite often. More annoyingly, the desire to do so would come up randomly. Now it doesn't unless I think about it. I can have sex and it is enjoyable, of course, but the desire doesn't come up randomly. I also have no more desire to smoke weed whereas before it had quite the appeal. I can still do it, of course, and it is still enjoyable, but there is no pull to do so.
My interactions with people are different. I am less insecure. Listening to their problems, I am starting to realize how much of it is just caused by their patterns of thought (which I had only a few days before), and how much easier it would be if everybody were to perceive things in the way I (and many others) have. I also have come to understand 'addiction' as a much broader definition, as I can clearly see the hold it has on people. For example, one person who always talks and thinks about sex, it is clearly something that has a power on his mind. Same with weed. Sure it isn't 'addicting' in the way heroin or meth is, or the way cocaine is, but still, people will come home, find nothing to do, and smoke up. That's fine, and I don't have anything against it, but it is something that has a hold over them.
Sounds pretty similar to that Ibogaine report. But I know these changes are permanent, as they came not from any particular experience, not even from the experience of the Fruition, which more just marks that the deed has been done, but by a shift in perspective which is unforgettable unless perhaps I sustain severe brain damage.
My overall point is that you can do this. I believe it is worth it, and you can see for yourself. If I have piqued your interest, and you are willing to give it a try, then I recommend:
1. Start meditating by focusing on your breath. Start tiny, with even only 5 or 10 minutes a day, an amount of time that anybody should be able to squeeze into their day. It will be annoying, at first. You will get better at it.
2. Don't use this as a guide. Read 'Mastering the Core Teachings of Buddha'. This describes everything much better than I have, and goes into how to meditate to gain Insight. I read it through very spottily, and re-read it a bunch of times, looking at relevant parts at the time. I recommend giving it a read-through once, then re-reading parts that interest you.
3. If you have any questions, come hang out at The Dharma Overground, a place for people who have tried this stuff and found it to work.
4. A note of warning: the Dark Night was really tough! The reason I got through it relatively quickly (a few months, vs. a few years for some people) is that I thoughts I was there, and I kept meditating. If you don't believe you had an amazing experience and are now in the Dark Night, you will get there if you meditate properly, so be prepared. It is worth it, in my opinion.
If you've gotten this far, now I want to connect some points I made and relate them to MCTB.
The beautiful experience I describe that psychedelics can induce is called 'The Arising and Passing Away', which is Stage 4 of the 15-Stage process. Once you hit this point, you _will_ enter the Dark Night. If you think you have hit the stage, then you're already there. Good luck!
(Do these numbers sound random, by the way? In some sense, they are. But it is just what the Buddhists have figured out from thousands of years of meditating and passing down knowledge. I've heard it described as a way the mind's perception changes as it understands reality more and more fully. It is an entirely natural process, which is also why it seems rather arbitrary.)
The 'feeling like I was rolling' stage was Stage 1, Mind & Body. It comes about from clearing your head, a little, and really looking at your surroundings.
The intense frustration and hate of life while meditating was Stage 10, called Re-Observation. Equanimity is the next one, Stage 11. The 'reality strobing in and out' is the culmination of all the Stages - the moments before are 12-14, and the strobing is called a Fruition, Stage 15.
I've waited until here to say this word, but this is actually the process to 'Enlightenment' that the Buddhists talk about, in the literal sense of the word (reaching Nirvana, etc.). It is possible, people have done it, and I have done it. You can, too. Buddha knew what he was talking about, just based on his text and the fact that people follow his instructions (the 'Core Teachings of Buddha' part) and succeed in the way he said.
I am not 'Fully Enlightened', though. I won't go into details, as it doesn't matter at this point, but one theory is that there are multiple levels called Paths, where, at each Path, you accurately perceive another part of reality / the sense of self. At the final path you realize, completely and intuitively, that there is no, and never has been, a self. There is still argument whether this final path is 'Full Complete Enlightenment,' but you can there yourself and see from there. Just in the process of getting there you will already eliminate so much of your fundamental suffering that it will be worth it.
That's it! Hope this at least gave you something to think about.
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