Meditation Experiences


Do not get fixated on what may or may not occur during your time at the retreat.


It may be better not to read this page if you want to avoid this pitfall.  


However, being aware of some things that may occur might make them less of a surprise and easier to let go.


Everyone will have different experiences. It's not a competition.


During the meditation practice, certain phenomenon may arise.


Initially, the mind is likely to appear to be very busy, and it may feel that the meditation is not calming the mind as it should. Actually, in being quiet and looking at your mind you are realising how busy it always is.


'Unfinished business' will present itself to you in the form of thoughts, memories and feelings, and some of these experiences can be very strong. This is a part of the process and is to be expected.


You might see clouds of colour or sparks of light whether your eyes are open or closed. This is usually a sign that the meditative state is deepening.


You might experience a feeling of lightness and ease. Your breathing will feel more free, your posture will feel easy and comfortable, your mind clear and easier to focus, and you might feel like you could sit all day. This usually indicates a move into step 3 of anapanasati. Knowing this can cause a stream of thoughts which affects concentration and so the experience ends.


You might experience longer periods where the mind is totally silent. This may be a few seconds at first, or a full cycle of breath, or possibly a longer period of a few minutes or more. This is natural as the mind starts to clear and concentration improves, and can indicate a deepening of step 3.


You might experience a feeling of disassociation with the body, or loss of the sense of the body. This might cause some difficulty when focussing on the tip of your nose, but you don't seem to know where your nose is. Try not to be distracted by any of this, and bring your attention back to the sensation of the breath.


A direct experience of the relationship between the breath and its affect on the body may occur, said to feel like a rubbing friction, or light scratching. This signifies the movement from step 3 to step 4.


A mental image, or nimitta in Pali, may be experienced as a deepening of the meditative state in step 4. It is possible, albeit rare, for a beginner to experience this image, though its initial appearances can cause concentration to break, which would cause it to disappear. With practice, the surprise at its appearance can be overcome.


For some people, the nimitta does not make such an obvious appearance and instead a new sensation, often occurring in the  hands or feet first, can indicate progress through step 4.


Clear insights concerning the nature of reality, or the nature of your personal reality, can arise at any point during these steps. Personal insights often lead to significant lifestyle changes, whereas true insights are assimilated more progressively and make fundamental differences over longer periods of time.


General experiences as a result of attending the retreat can be slightly different.


Strong feelings will make themselves apparent during the retreat, with anger being a difficult one for some people. Everything can be intensely annoying and the attendee can feel on edge much of the time. This is an excellent opportunity to investigate the true nature of anger, but it can be very difficult to remember this in the heat of the moment.


People generally experience calmness, peace and a sense of ease during the retreat, or after it has ended.


Though the body and mind can feel lethargic at times due to the regime, energy is generated through being mindful. Though this is mostly kept in check by the subdued activities of the retreat, it is often expressed on day 11 when talking starts again. 


Some people have a definite glow or a spark in their eyes at the end of a retreat.


Any spiritual experience can have a significant effect on an individual, and many people who attend the retreat change their views and therefore their lives as a result of what they experience. It has been said about the spiritual life: "If you have not start on the spiritual path, it is probably best not to begin. But if you have started, it is probably best to finish".


Attending the retreat can be the first step of what might become your life's work.


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