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Is his experience what we are aiming for in meditation? Or was he in a different place? (article)

karastikarasti BreathingMinnesota Veteran

Read this story this morning. It's about a man who became ill as a boy and spent over a decade unable to move or communicate. But a couple years into this state, his thoughts started returning, and no one knew it. He has now recovered and is married. Fascinating, but also a sad story. At some points, his mother would say things like "I wish you would die" thinking he didn't hear or understand, when he very much did.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/01/09/376084137/trapped-in-his-body-for-12-years-a-man-breaks-free?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=shotshealthnews

But this caught my eye, with regards to what we tend to "aim" for with meditation. He considers it a dark place to have made his self vanish in that way. Is it the same place we are looking for? Different? Was he suffering too much to see it as a gift or was it not a gift at all?

"So he figured his only option was to leave his thoughts behind.

That was his first strategy — disengaging his thoughts — and he says he got really good at it.

"You don't really think about anything," Martin says. "You simply exist. It's a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish." "

Comments

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    It's a very dark place to find yourself because, in a sense, you are allowing yourself to vanish.

    If you think there is something to vanish, I can imagine it might be a dark place.

    Rowan1980Earthninja
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I would opine that what he did was not to Meditate, but annihilate, which is quite a different thing altogether...

    Rowan1980
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @genkaku Indeed, good point.

    @federica I agree. Clearly it was not the same experience. But I wonder what his thoughts on meditation would be considering his experience with this.

    If I put myself in his spot, I don't know how well, or not, I'd do despite my meditation practice. The lack of ability to act out, in any way, from thoughts would be very difficult.

    It also made me think of TNH, and I wonder how much he's actively engaged in his mind in his healing process. No doubt his mind is trained more than most to be able to deal with such things. I don't think I'd do very well myself! I had the flu over the weekend and lost any semblance of equanimity or peace for several days. I have a lot of work to do :)

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited January 2015
    Wow. Stories like this really make me want to be as mindful as possible. Imagine being so vulnerable and hearing your own mother say that... Or being the mother upon learning she was understood. So saddening.

    I'm very glad he recovered and hope he and his mother both healed.

    I think he was aiming for the same state Sidhartha was aiming for until he realized the middle of the two extremes of self glorification and self annihilation and woke to Buddha.

    Of course, Sidhartha was around 35, not a 12 year old boy. Poor kid.
  • @karasti said:

    — disengaging his thoughts —

    i do this sometimes

    this sometimes become more frequent lately

    it is another way of saying 'let go'

  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran

    @karasti said:
    genkaku Indeed, good point.

    It also made me think of TNH, and I wonder how much he's actively engaged in his mind in his healing process. No doubt his mind is trained more than most to be able to deal with such things.

    Can you elaborate on this? Makes me feel like I've missed something about his history.

    In regards to the article, when thoughts are literally all you have, it might be nearly impossible not to equate this experience with annihilation. It's an interesting concept to think about. With my own practice, I try to employ mindfulness with tasks... he can't do that. I try to remove the filter on experiences I have, to try and see an unbiased reality... but what are his experiences in that state? I can't really imagine.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 2015

    @zombiegirl‌ TNH was taken to hospital last year, in November....
    read the original thread here. I have linked the most recent update as a final post in that thread (3rd january 2015).

  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran

    @federica !!! I had no idea! Wow. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts after all of this. I'm reading one of his books right now... :/

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    That young man who spent so many years 'locked in' (the actual medical term for it) is such a fascinating case, especially considering the role of ego or 'self' versus Self/Not Self.

    Since there is no relevant science or reproducible experimental data to make my hypothesis sound idiotic, I take direction from Ken Wilber, his work from a couple of decades ago in particular. He hypothesized a continuum of human psycho-spiritual development that begins with the undifferentiated infant ego to that of the great yogis and the Buddha himself (Wilber spent some time as a Zen Buddhist).

    So this young man who was 'locked in' experienced a dissolution of 'self' but NOT a transcendence of 'self' to Self/Not-Self. Little bitty babies are not living Buddhas no matter how serene and simple their little selves are. They are the opposite. They are on the one extreme end of the psycho-spiritual continuum. Those of us here are in the middle and just above and working hard to move to the OTHER extreme end of the continuum, where the experience may be exactly as simple and sweet as that of an infant BUT is entirely 'conscious' or in Buddhist terms, Awake.

    So I'd say NO, that 'dark place' is not what meditation is shooting for (relatively speaking). Meditation is not moving backward along a continuum, it is moving forward where that 'dark place' is illuminated perhaps, with awareness and consciously 'known'.

    karastipegembara
  • I'd only like to point out that it's problematic to draw conclusions between a normally functioning brain and one that is injured or has pathology. We are not our thoughts. That's an important step to understand. Even understanding this, that does not mean you have gone the next step and answered, "Well, what am I, then?"

  • No, no. Not to disengage thoughts but to realize their (and your) true nature.

    "Why was I born if it wasn't forever?" bemoaned Ionesco; the answer is in the anaatman "no self" doctrine, according to which we cannot die because we were never born. Anaatma is the "middle way" between the extremes of eternalism (the self survives death) and annihilationism (the self is destroyed at death). Buddhism resolves the problem of life-and-death by deconstructing it.

    In the "Song of Enlightenment" of Yung-chia, a disciple of Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen : "Since I abruptly realized the unborn, I have had no reason for joy or sorrow at any honor or disgrace." That "all things are perfectly resolved in the Unborn" was the great realization and later the central teaching of the seventeenth-century Japanese Zen master Bankei: "When you dwell in the Unborn itself, you're dwelling at the very wellhead of Buddhas and patriarchs." The Unborn is the Buddha-mind, and this Buddha-mind is beyond living and dying.

    There is a clear sense of the relationship between awareness of death and a delineated Self. The second is impossible without the first. Even prior to the disturbing syllogism, "If death exists, then I will die," there is an earlier one: "Since 'I' was born and will die, 'I' must exist."

    If our minds have created this dualism, they should be able to un-create or deconstruct it.

    http://the-wanderling.com/ego.html

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