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In issue #3189, responses were invited to the following blog entry located at http://lifeislikethat999.blogspot.com/2008/06/misty-perception-question.html. A few responses were sent directly to the Highlights editors, and a few were posted to the blog as comments. The reader contributions are very much appreciated. Thank you. Here's the blog entry, followed by the responses.
I've been studying the philosophy of Advaita, Buddhism and Taoism as well as trying to find a cognitive shift in my perception so that I can experience the world as non-dual. One night I read something regarding the question of truth. What is true and what isn't? Should we proceed from the standpoint of everything being false? An illusion? Something clicked in my mind and the next day I was experiencing extreme panic attacks and have been ever since (that was a week ago).
Now when I look at my fiancee I doubt her existence and feel a flooding of panic that is overwhelming. I also feel this with everyone else as well as objects, time and existence itself. I know that this is an odd question, however, I was wondering if you have any insight into how I should proceed. Thank you for your time and expertise.
Response to anonymous contributor:
The panic attacks you are experiencing coincide with the meditative realization of emptiness. Prior to meditative awareness we accept at face value the doings of mind. Once meditative absorption is attained it becomes apparent that consciousness configures the world of appearances; just as consciousness, when dreaming, creates the world of dreams. Although the rules of both states of consciousness are different, from the vantage of the witness of consciousness (meditative absorption) it can be seen that both worlds arise in consciousness, and are non-dual, and without inherent truth. There is no secondary vantage from which the arising in consciousness can be validated. The world of dreaming and the world of waking are non-dual in that for both states there is a singularity that does not correspond precisely to whatever there is out there beyond consciousness. What is beyond consciousness is an ineffable and eternal mystery.
Considered from another perspective if all that you view has no inherent existence on its own side, indeed having no side of its own, then you as the perceiver also do not have any essence of validity or truth on your side. Although you as the perceiver may not have been directly aware of the impending death of the egoic self, with its ongoing story in consciousness, certainly subconsciously you are very aware. Hence, the flooding of panic when doubting the existence of your fiancé, and by inference your very own being.
With further meditative exploration, and enlightened guidance, you will resolve the death of the illusory self in consciousness with a permanent turning about in the seat of consciousness, and simultaneous emergence of the greater Self, or God realization.
The Four Yogas Of Enlightenment:
Guide to don Juans Nagualism & Esoteric Buddhism
It looks from here like experience already *is* non-dual. There's never stuff "out there" without awareness "in here", and there's never awareness "in here" without stuff "out there". Have you noticed? It's like two ends of a stick -- I can't pick up one without also getting the other. I can divide the stick into two ends conceptually, but not in reality. If I try, by breaking the stick in two, I just get two sticks, each with two ends. :)
However much you doubt the existence of your fiancee, or objects, or time, or existence itself, do they disappear? The experience here is that reality is stable. For the most part, it continues doing what I have come to expect of it. Apparent people continue responding in the ways they always have. Apparent objects continue behaving according to the "laws" of physics. Life goes on. Whether I doubt or believe, the show continues.
Sometimes panic arises in awareness, sometimes it doesn't. Whatever happens, awareness is there watching. One way of looking at it is that "You" and "I" are just more thoughts appearing in awareness. Another way of looking at it is that you and I are the awareness itself in which the thoughts, the objects, the ideas of time and existence all appear.
Which is more comfortable? Which makes more sense? In the final analysis, what else is there except to find the point of view (the story) that helps you survive, and find a little comfort and pleasure along the way?
--- end comment ---
Also consider, was this person screwing around with his psychological state by "trying to find a cognitive shift in my perception"?
Maybe, but so what? isn't that the sort of thing people do? Will passing a law get them to stop? Organisms seek to alleviate their own suffering. They're always looking for a better deal. Some win the lottery, some don't. It's just how nature works.
Is "trying to experience the world as nondual" the new LSD or the new TM or the latest Carlos Castaneda spar with reality?
Perhaps, but again, so what? Fads come and go. Do you expect that pattern to stop or change?
Thank you for the opportunity to participate.
Inquirer: I've been studying the philosophy of Advaita, Buddhism and Taoism as well as trying to find a cognitive shift in my perception so that I can experience the world as non-dual. One night I read something regarding the question of truth. What is true and what isn't? Should we proceed from the standpoint of everything being false? An illusion? Something clicked in my mind and the next day I was experiencing extreme panic attacks and have been ever since (that was a week ago).
David: If you proceed from the standpoint that everything is false, then you too are a fake. I would not start there, for obvious reasons.
Besides, you cannot know yourself or what the world is through thinking.
Only real sincerity - or a very silent mind - has the power to descend into deeper levels of consciousness toward non-duality.
That descent takes place in the same knowing that gives rise to the perception of this world - so you can neither attain knowledge about this world, nor can you be released from it.
The world arises in and as your Self. From what vantage point could you possibly "know" it? From what vantage point could it be said to be an illusion?
Until you realize your Self, the world will remain an untrustworthy bunch of inanimate and animate objects. So forget about the world. Look at your life, at what's happening there, not what's going on in your intellect.
Besides, like water rolling off the back of a duck, your real existence, which is not in time, will spurn every conclusion you make about the world - or yourself - so why bother with all that silly mind-stuff?
Learn to become transfixed by the beauty of this world. That's real sadhana, real spiritual practice, not plotting how to go beyond it. If you passionately want the experience of going beyond everything, then you must learn how to meditate. There you will obtain a one-way-ticket to the Absolute. It's quite a trip and I highly recommend it. You will most likely need help and guidance from an Awakened Being to learn meditation, unless it comes to you naturally and without effort.
Inquirer: Now when I look at my fiancée I doubt her existence and feel a flooding of panic that is overwhelming. I also feel this with everyone else as well as objects, time and existence itself. I know that this is an odd question, however, I was wondering if you have any insight into how I should proceed. Thank you for your time and expertise.
David: Everything, tree, rock, bird, human is inherently insubstantial or empty. That is a fact. But that does not stop a bird from flying or feeding its young, does it?
It's none of your business that your fiancé doesn't exist! In her feeling she exists, just as you exist in your feeling, so just continue to enjoy the relationship for what it is. All relationship is just a play of feeling, including the world.
Responses by David Spero / http://www.davidspero.org
Here are a few responses posted to the blog itself:
From here, this is
a normal thing to happen when one is taking oneself to be
transient, unreal, born to die and the world as real, permanent,
What I'd say to do now is to realize that your Being is what's real, and the world exists only due to your presence in it. Now that you've "unrealized" the world, "Real-ize" yourself. Note that you are always 'here', no matter where you go, that it's always 'now' no matter what the clock says. You are timeless and spaceless awareness, the Foundation of all that is. I'm telling you a truth from my own experience - don't be afraid of the world going away. It is *you*, your own presence, and that's what you cannot lose. Good luck...
Cease trying to
find a cognitive shift in perception so that you may experience
the world as non-dual.
Instead, just experience the world with awareness. Right now. In this moment. Oh, and in this moment, and in this moment.....
...and THIS moment is truth.
If he/she is able
just to witness the panic attack is great, at the end is just an
experience that pop-up in the awareness and this can be use to
confirm that he/she is just the witness of this and not the ideas
that he/she has.
Point that during the panic attack there is a part of her/him that he/she is sure about the panic attack and not under panic so free from it.
But if instead if he/she is not able to sustain this and swept away by the panic attack just stop reading, find a quite place in the nature , lovely friends around and enjoy what it seems real but is not.
Then I suggest reading also some book about Perennial Philosophy or some Ken Wilber books ( i,e Integral Psychology)
With the reading that she/he is doing you can be exposed to the presentation or idea of higher state of awareness, towards Soul and Spirit, but you can also activate lower problem in the Mind, some people look for the Void because they have already some hole in their psyche
Note : all of this are relative terms and not absolute by I strongly believe in an false hierarchy of awareness and understanding need to climb the ladder before jump into the Void or the Suchness.
If there is problem in the mind :as example part of the Ego (voice) that is afraid to die or never been able to be exposed and now has been activated and taking control producing this e behaviour, I suggest a meeting a transpersonal analyst for a good check up.
Meanwhile Since you are Buddhist try to see if you can have access to Big Mind /Big Heart DVD of Genpo Roshi and do the exercise with her/him, this could help clarify some hints about hidden voice and help her/him to be be more aware about what is inside .
Last things go to a doctor and ask for general check up to verify that the body/brain is not out of some balance.
Hope that help
Last but not least give a big human hug to her/him.
Of course you are in a state of panic. Temporary that is. You have just peeked at the true nature of reality and it is very different from the ego-illusion sleepwalk you have been walking around in all these years. The ego will not go without a fight,however, even if it means causing the body/brain extreme discomfort in its struggle to maintain control. Trust me, you will emerge from this temporary period of struggle refreshed and if not fully enlightened, then at least with a perspective much closer to your true nature than you were before this experience.
Don't know if what
I have to offer will help at all, but I have experienced the same
thing. With each new awareness/opening of the Real "i"
would experience intense anxiety and panic attacks. Try to learn
to embrace what you feel, sit with it, observe it and don't cause
yourself more suffering by trying to figure it out in your mind,
or panicking over your panic. It is only your conditioned
thoughts that are reacting to your experience - ie: it is not the
experience itself that is causing you this emotional pain, but
what you are *thinking* about what you are experiencing.
What I also found extremely helpful was a book called The Mandala of Being: Discovering the Power of Awareness, by Richard Moss (www.richardmoss.com) It was only after I started reading his book that my intense experience of anxiety (which I have experienced for nearly 6 years by the way) subsided. Richard's book is about being in the NOW (the present moment) with *everything*. At times when we fall back into egoic consciousness with fear and panic I discovered that it is helpful to have some practical ways of dealing with it - while you are attempting to embrace it. Richard's book offers those practical ways. Check it out, it just might be what you need at this moment.
Also, you might want to check out a guy by the name of Leo Hartong. He also takes questions through his website and his answers have been quite enlightening through his newsletters. His web address is: www.awakeningtothedream.com
One other comment :) It is easy to get entangled in the esoteric as well. Don't try to "force" anything. Let it all unfold naturally. And don't focus your attention so much on what is illusion and what isn't, what's real and what isn't. Don't make those distinctions, because then you get caught in the duality again and just keep running in circles like a hamster on a wheel.
Hang in there! :)
Your case reminds me of what happened to Hume the philosopher when he realized--or at least thought he had--that everything is unreal. He got scared too.So he got the hell out of his study and went down to the billiard room and started shooting some balls.This calmed him down considerably.
Also--don't take yourself so seriously.People get on this path, have a little insight and right away start in with the painic attacks--it reminds me of the phenomenon of hysterical pregnancy.Calm down boy, you got a ways to go yet before you have to get shook up about losing anything.
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