Kongming

Fearful Experiences

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What is the cause and cure for the simultaneous search for Truth/enlightenment and experiences of fear of the same?

 

To be more specific, I will describe what in my own case has happened multiple times over the years and just happened again yesterday: Essentially I will have a sudden insight when contemplating (even philosophically/thought based contemplation) the Absolute or timeless eternity or contingent nature of the body-personality. The experience is like that of my sense of normal self slipping away or disappearing or seeing it as illusion and feeling like I am standing at a precipice before an abyss, almost as though I were about to plunge into the infinite or at least have an experience of reality altogether unlike day to day experience.

 

Now theoretically and according to the words of the sages, to be able to see through illusion and either witness, experience, or ideally unify with the Dao is supposed to be the highest good, true bliss, power, peace, etc. Yet when I begin to have experiences like those mentioned, instead I get a sense of primal fear or anxiety rushing onto me, to the point where I feel the need to either start looking away from the experience, consciously ignore the insight, or even talk myself back into mundane reality and my mundane identity/self. What's even stranger is what started me on this path was a similar experience in the past that I experienced as the greatest good/happiness/bliss/truth possible, and yet now this primal fear/anxiety attacks me.

 

This fear is mostly spontaneous, which is why I use the word "primal", yet if I could rationalize it perhaps its that there is some fear that I will not be the same, that I won't be able to function in the world, or that I may learn something I'd rather not know about myself or reality, again despite the fact that I also theoretically know that the process is a positive one leading to the ultimate (the Dao, etc.)

 

Why is this? How can I simultaneously be searching for Truth and yet whenever something like the above occurs feel primal fear or anxiety? How can I overcome this barrier?

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Fear is a normal response when confronted with the unknown.

 

We can't know everything.  There will always be unknowns.

 

Likely when you have these experiences you are concentrating on these fleeting thoughts.  Better to just let them come and go as they please.

 

 

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This is actually not uncommon. My understanding is that the ego self is fighting to survive against what it sees as a mortal threat. 

 

I had a similar experience about ten years ago. While meditating I was gripped with terrible fear and felt cold wind running down my back. I told myself I was alright and tried to push through. The more I pushed the worse it got until I had to leap up, turn on every light I could find, turn on the TV... It was several years before I worked up the courage to return to daily meditation. :(

Edited by Lost in Translation
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6 minutes ago, Lost in Translation said:

This is actually not uncommon. My understanding is that the ego self is fighting to survive against what it sees as a mortal threat. 

 

 

For whatever the reason I didn't want to go there.  I'm glad you mentioned it.

 

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Here’s an excerpt from B.K. Frantzis that excellently describes fear while meditating. The emphasis is mine, not his.

 

“Then it happened: an all-consuming, paralyzing fear seemed all at once to invade every cell in my body. My tai chi movements slowed dramatically, to what felt like an inch an hour. Sweat began immediately to pour out of my groin, legs, hands, face, back, my entire body. The fear grew exponentially. My nerves and energy channels felt as if they would shatter - my very right to existence was being stripped away for no apparent reason. I knew that if I kept practicing there would be nothing left of me in a few seconds. The fear was absolutely irrational yet real beyond belief, alive, vibrant, terrifying. I stopped practicing the tai chi and ran down the hill, praying hard that this terror would leave me. And suddenly it did.”

 

B.K. Frantzis

Relaxing Into Your Being

Energy Arts, Inc. Publications 1998

P. 173. Chapter 8: The Deeper Challenges of Taoist Meditation

Edited by Lost in Translation
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1 hour ago, Kongming said:

 

 

Why is this? How can I simultaneously be searching for Truth and yet whenever something like the above occurs feel primal fear or anxiety? How can I overcome this barrier?

 

My experience tells me that all of that becomes banal with time... like everything else in life. What does one feel when entering the ocean for the first time?... Primal fear right? A few years later one becomes a prized surfer. Be patient, don't rush things, life will happen to you as well as all of us in its due time.

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1 hour ago, Kongming said:

What is the cause and cure for the simultaneous search for Truth/enlightenment and experiences of fear of the same?

 

To be more specific, I will describe what in my own case has happened multiple times over the years and just happened again yesterday: Essentially I will have a sudden insight when contemplating (even philosophically/thought based contemplation) the Absolute or timeless eternity or contingent nature of the body-personality. The experience is like that of my sense of normal self slipping away or disappearing or seeing it as illusion and feeling like I am standing at a precipice before an abyss, almost as though I were about to plunge into the infinite or at least have an experience of reality altogether unlike day to day experience.

 

Now theoretically and according to the words of the sages, to be able to see through illusion and either witness, experience, or ideally unify with the Dao is supposed to be the highest good, true bliss, power, peace, etc. Yet when I begin to have experiences like those mentioned, instead I get a sense of primal fear or anxiety rushing onto me, to the point where I feel the need to either start looking away from the experience, consciously ignore the insight, or even talk myself back into mundane reality and my mundane identity/self. What's even stranger is what started me on this path was a similar experience in the past that I experienced as the greatest good/happiness/bliss/truth possible, and yet now this primal fear/anxiety attacks me.

 

This fear is mostly spontaneous, which is why I use the word "primal", yet if I could rationalize it perhaps its that there is some fear that I will not be the same, that I won't be able to function in the world, or that I may learn something I'd rather not know about myself or reality, again despite the fact that I also theoretically know that the process is a positive one leading to the ultimate (the Dao, etc.)

 

Why is this? How can I simultaneously be searching for Truth and yet whenever something like the above occurs feel primal fear or anxiety? How can I overcome this barrier?

 

The external reality of solidity is very familiar but not fundamental.

The essence is clear and unbounded.

A direct experience of unbounded spaciousness can cause profound fear, vertigo, disorientation.

Not only is it a matter of clinging ego but a feeling of the loss of integrity of the body and external reality.

If you can rest in that more fundamental essence, that space, there is a deeper realization of reality. 

 

Let go... 

Rest with confidence and trust 

This last part is often lacking and shows the importance of things like devotion, lineage, renunciation, and so forth. 

It can require a lot of courage, even faith, to let go fully

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Perhaps its quite common that there is the rampant imagination that unifying with the * that there will follow radical changes/conversions. Obviously it's not the case. Radical change occurs during the phase where mountains are not mountains. Hence the fear. Let's call this stage 2 for simple reasoning.

 

Stage 3, actual breakthrough or unification, is where mountains are seen as mountains again. There is a return to the recognition of a 'real' ordinariness, and orderliness, of how everything is just the way they are, unfolding ceaselessly. In this one has leapt over the divide and returned to the same spot, as if never having moved at all. 

 

In Dzogchen, for example, when the master introduces the nature of mind, those who are able to recognise it at once say it's the most familiar and utterly natural revelation that they have ever experienced. It's almost like an act of removing one's pair of eyes and turning it back to see oneself not as a reflection for the first time. Don't know if this makes sense, but it's not easy to describe with words. 

 

* the nameless 

 

 

Edited by C T
Clarification
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Thanks for the responses. 

 

On the one hand, I don't think of myself as being a highly advanced practitioner or initiate, and thus the idea that I could become enlightened at this point doesn't seem right.

 

Yet the fear that spontaneously grips me is a bit how Lost in Translation described it....the ego clinging onto its existence in the face of seeming annihilation. The old mystical saying of "Die before you die" also seems apt. Though the experience isn't seemingly just the disappearance of the ego-self, but even the world...or the "world-ness" of the world as it were, the world as normally understood. The fear that comes on and subsequent attempt to reground myself in the mundane world and self as I know it seems a protective measure but one that goes against my actual intention of striving on the path.

 

Perhaps as the user steve mentioned, part of the problem could stem from my current position of not being associated with any lineage, not having a guide, etc. essentially working on my own so far in other words.

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I don't think any of this is unnatural or uncommon, it does seem to be part and parcel of a process. I have even heard that — paradoxically — as the separation becomes weaker; the fear intensifies. Bruce Frantzis' account is a very good one.

 

When you say to experience or unify with the Dao "is supposed to be the highest good, true bliss, power, peace, etc.", this is interpreted by the mind and the personality as wonderful and inspiring, but the subtle bodies contain aeons of trauma and forgetfulness (made up of samskaras/thoughtforms/volitions). In fact they are built from them. The dissolution of these is the dissolution of everything that is familiar and known. Without these bodies there is no existence. (At least not in any recognisable way.) So it is not surprising to experience fear of that disappearing.

 

You could say that the highest good and power is rather uncompromising, and that it allows no possibility of negotiating yourself out of a tight spot. This is perhaps an under-reported aspect in the glossy brochures. So when you stray into territory where the mind becomes eclipsed by greater powers, the awareness starts to dawn that there's no longer any real chance of escape. None of the known tricks and scheming work whatsoever. All of which can be threatening.

 

Spiritual goodies sound good... but even peace and beauty may be too much to handle for a sentient being e.g. the Seraphic angels are so divine in light, it has been said even the other choirs of angels cannot bear to gaze directly upon them.

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The question of having a lineage and a teacher is an interesting one to me... a good teacher may actually make things 'worse', as they won't be interested in providing a safe place for you to retreat to. You might well find — at the critical juncture — that they encourage you to step off that precipice into the abyss, rather than come down from the cliff edge.

 

Which obviously runs somewhat contrary to the idea of practicing a nice, orderly spiritual path at your own leisure.

Edited by Cueball
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'What it actually looks like' fits the heaves and hyper-fluctuations that affects a practitioner in phase 2. Most don't get completely past that period, till they die even (unfortunate but true). At most they get gradually stabler glimpses of phase 3.

 

All the practices of Dzogchen and Mahamudra have as a core intention the wish to get practitioners to gain gradually prolonged glimpses of the ineffable, nameless perfected state, until those glimpses seep into habit. One can tell of the onset of stable vision by a palpable sensation of knots becoming loose, and expansive and non-dual knowing of things... the Isness, for want of an apt description. One will still experience all the same traumas, fears, anxieties etc but beneath all of it there is a constant emergence of okayness bubbling away, or a sense, a conviction that all experiences are fleeting, and that whatever happens can not be self but merely imprints that the self has attached to and making real so as to create meaning. 

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47 minutes ago, C T said:

'What it actually looks like' fits the heaves and hyper-fluctuations that affects a practitioner in phase 2. Most don't get completely past that period, till they die even (unfortunate but true). At most they get gradually stabler glimpses of phase 3.

 

All the practices of Dzogchen and Mahamudra have as a core intention the wish to get practitioners to gain gradually prolonged glimpses of the ineffable, nameless perfected state, until those glimpses seep into habit. One can tell of the onset of stable vision by a palpable sensation of knots becoming loose, and expansive and non-dual knowing of things... the Isness, for want of an apt description. One will still experience all the same traumas, fears, anxieties etc but beneath all of it there is a constant emergence of okayness bubbling away, or a sense, a conviction that all experiences are fleeting, and that whatever happens can not be self but merely imprints that the self has attached to and making real so as to create meaning. 

 

thanks, for making words of it

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So as to create meaning,

yup Alfie that's what its all about

its just for the moment we live so as to create meaning...

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But then, one does not really need bother with finding meaning in anything.  Creation and destruction.  The same thing from different perspectives.

 

 

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On September 3, 2017 at 6:25 PM, Kongming said:

What is the cause and cure for the simultaneous search for Truth/enlightenment and experiences of fear of the same?

 

To be more specific, I will describe what in my own case has happened multiple times over the years and just happened again yesterday: Essentially I will have a sudden insight when contemplating (even philosophically/thought based contemplation) the Absolute or timeless eternity or contingent nature of the body-personality. The experience is like that of my sense of normal self slipping away or disappearing or seeing it as illusion and feeling like I am standing at a precipice before an abyss, almost as though I were about to plunge into the infinite or at least have an experience of reality altogether unlike day to day experience.

 

Now theoretically and according to the words of the sages, to be able to see through illusion and either witness, experience, or ideally unify with the Dao is supposed to be the highest good, true bliss, power, peace, etc. Yet when I begin to have experiences like those mentioned, instead I get a sense of primal fear or anxiety rushing onto me, to the point where I feel the need to either start looking away from the experience, consciously ignore the insight, or even talk myself back into mundane reality and my mundane identity/self. What's even stranger is what started me on this path was a similar experience in the past that I experienced as the greatest good/happiness/bliss/truth possible, and yet now this primal fear/anxiety attacks me.

 

This fear is mostly spontaneous, which is why I use the word "primal", yet if I could rationalize it perhaps its that there is some fear that I will not be the same, that I won't be able to function in the world, or that I may learn something I'd rather not know about myself or reality, again despite the fact that I also theoretically know that the process is a positive one leading to the ultimate (the Dao, etc.)

 

Why is this? How can I simultaneously be searching for Truth and yet whenever something like the above occurs feel primal fear or anxiety? How can I overcome this barrier?

 

I agree that the fear could be the fear of loss of ego.....I have the exact same thing.

 

One thing that's helped me is to simply know that it's completely okay and normal.

 

See it as part of the journey. You've recognized your fear, now USE that fear and deal with it wisely.

 

By using it and dealing wisely with it, I mean to respond to it self-lovingly. That includes accepting it non-judgmentally, rather than judging it as bad and being hard on yourself about it.

 

The best way to heal your fear, or any negative emotion for that matter, is probably to honor it, non-judgmentally accept it, and to let it be.

 

It can help, whenever you're experiencing a negative emotion, to just allow yourself to experience it without trying to overcome it. Just know that what you're feeling is okay. You don't have to DO anything. Healing happens naturally that way.

Edited by roger

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I have been reading this book by a Psychologist/Buddhist named Bruce Tift who explains this phenomena quite clearly.

 

On one level it is just outdated defences from childhood trying to protect you, during their formation they are completely appropriate and formed out of love so you receive the love you need from your caregivers, but as we get older moving out of them creates fear as they are formed for survival and they don't know yet that they are no longer needed so they fight to stay alive. 

 

So we end up fearing many strong emotions and we also fear open awareness itself as that is the destroyer of all our defences and survival concepts.

 

The solution to this is essentially giving up trying to find a solution, you hold both your desire to be free and your desire for safety together at the same time in the same space without trying to find a resolution between the competing drives. There is something which has no resistance to either position and has no problem with contradictory energies, it is free in either polarity no problem.

 

Edited by Jetsun
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16 hours ago, Marblehead said:

But then, one does not really need bother with finding meaning in anything.  Creation and destruction.  The same thing from different perspectives.

 

 

 

 "Tiger got hunt, bird got to fly; Man got to sit and wonder Why, why, why?

Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land; Man got to tell himself he understand."

Kurt Vonnegut

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1 minute ago, Marblehead said:

Yeah, and most of the time man is only fooling himself.  The tigers and birds just do without understanding.

 

 

Is it not the nature of man to wonder?

 

The critters whom raid my gardens do so with the understanding that in almost all humans are their mortal enemy.

 

Is / can instinct be construed as understanding?

 

The instinct to procreate is inborn in successful species is it not?

Just as it is to eat, drink, and sleep.

 

Is the instinct to wander any different than the need to wonder?

Both can serve to promote survival of the individual and the species.

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On 9/3/2017 at 4:28 PM, Lost in Translation said:

Here’s an excerpt from B.K. Frantzis that excellently describes fear while meditating. The emphasis is mine, not his.

 

“Then it happened: an all-consuming, paralyzing fear seemed all at once to invade every cell in my body. My tai chi movements slowed dramatically, to what felt like an inch an hour. Sweat began immediately to pour out of my groin, legs, hands, face, back, my entire body. The fear grew exponentially. My nerves and energy channels felt as if they would shatter - my very right to existence was being stripped away for no apparent reason. I knew that if I kept practicing there would be nothing left of me in a few seconds. The fear was absolutely irrational yet real beyond belief, alive, vibrant, terrifying. I stopped practicing the tai chi and ran down the hill, praying hard that this terror would leave me. And suddenly it did.”

 

B.K. Frantzis

Relaxing Into Your Being

Energy Arts, Inc. Publications 1998

P. 173. Chapter 8: The Deeper Challenges of Taoist Meditation

This is a good example of a opportunity for someone to choose to initiate into the lower forms. It sounds bad but it is actually necessary for the person to be given a Chance to initiate into the higher forms, because with out this going below there can be no Balance. In other words you have to dig a whole plant the seed of your tree of life (a small death), before you can expect to Truly and Permanently experience the tree that rises above the level of what is Normal life on this plane of existence.

Edited by mrpasserby
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6 hours ago, cold said:

 

Is it not the nature of man to wonder?

 

The critters whom raid my gardens do so with the understanding that in almost all humans are their mortal enemy.

 

Is / can instinct be construed as understanding?

 

The instinct to procreate is inborn in successful species is it not?

Just as it is to eat, drink, and sleep.

 

Is the instinct to wander any different than the need to wonder?

Both can serve to promote survival of the individual and the species.

Sure.  Wonder.  Ask your questions.  Find your answers.  But know that most will be illusion and/or delusion.

 

No, the critters don't know that we are their mortal enemy.  It is only after we have tried to kill them and some escaped do they begin to experience fear.

 

I doubt that it requires understanding in order for a human to act in an instinctual manner.  It doesn't require understanding in order to live according to your true nature.  (Our emotions will guide us.)

 

Sure, survival of the species.  It's instinctual in all life.  Procreate and over-whelm the planet.

 

Yes, I speak often of understanding the processes of Nature.  I don't recall ever stating that we need to understand "Why" though.

 

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About 20 years ago I had a profound experience of primal reality.  It was scary. I was on an extended solo retreat in the remote ancient and arid hills of Central Australia.  One sunny day, whilst sitting in meditation in a small cave, my regular reality totally fell away and in its place was something utterly other; a primeval world without a trace of humanity. Words fail me in conveying how terrifying it felt. It was like I was the only human alive, bereft of everything, even my internal sense of self was gone. There was nothing familiar; nothing had names anymore. Although I still sat in the same place, it wasn’t a cave anymore. I was in an utterly alien place. All the narratives that make sense of the world were gone along with the whole web of psychic interconnections that continually and subconsciously embrace all us humans in a familiar inner landscape of belonging.  

 

I quickly packed up, hiked back to my vehicle and drove away. It was such a relief to regain human made sights. I still remember how I marvelled at the first barbed wire rural fence I saw by the roadside; a sight that I’d previously found a blight on the landscape.  I who had always found so much to criticise with our human domination of the natural environment suddenly saw it all in a different light. Instead of alienation and repugnance, I marvelled at our achievements. 

 

We speak calmly of human conditioning as if it’s something to be done away with to reach the ‘true reality’ of Dao but I can tell you most all of our conditioning is essential. It is a great human achievement, built over countless centuries, with layer upon layer of culturally constructed meaning. Our culture is like houses, like cities, we’ve built to live in because we need their shelter; and so too are our great spiritual traditions. We’ve made a human friendly world out of the vast primordial otherness. “Embrace the Dao” they glibly say from the sanctuary of their spiritual lineage. Ha! 

 

Edit: To give this account context see my PPD, Daoist ‘Silence’: Journeying away from intensity

Edited by Yueya
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