I was on a retreat in France at the Chateau du Buffalo with some friends this April using the fire kasina as object, this occurring just a few days from the time I retired from emergency medicine.
Emergency medicine makes for great stories and terrible dreams, and I was having multiple dreams per night that were basically the ER equivalent of the classic college dreams in which you are late for an exam and can’t find your pencil and didn’t study and can’t find the room and all of that, except that this is the bloody-people-are-dying-gory-agony-and-carnage version, based on the hundreds of really bad things I saw and dealt with over my medical career.
Me and my ER colleagues would sometimes talk amongst ourselves about “micro-PTSD”, a sort of cumulative pile on of hundreds of bad situations that collectively add up to something significant, written deep into the brain by high doses of adrenalin and cortisol, and pressure to make everything alright, often in situations where everything is not going to be alright. We all have our list of the worst moments, sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. Those experiences were coming up heavily in my dreams, as if retiring somehow let my guard down and this huge backlog of partially processed experiences came flooding in. My dreams have often had qualities that most people would consider pretty nightmarish since I was a child, so I am used to them and handle them well, but still, they are not pleasant.
After about a week of this on retreat happening night after night, I sat down one morning for the first sit of the day, and the moment I sat down this extremely powerful, thick, steady bliss rapidly established itself and just stayed there. Additionally, and here’s some woo woo stuff, I could suddenly see my aura, and it looked like the field you would see around a bar magnet, like a toroid, but this time in primary blue and very stable. Space turned whitish, but the blue aura was still very clear. I sat there a while with not much else going on, maybe for 5 minutes or so, just hanging out.
Then, in that very odd space, one of the standard canon of bad images from my medical career arose, except that it arose like an iphone app icon, flat, about 1 cm wide, with rounded edges, and the image was like a little cute stylized logo rather than the full 3D gory image it typically would be when it would come up, and it just sort of rotated a bit in space and vanished, not disturbing the bliss in the slightest, which was relatively steady and impressively strong (I’d give it an 8/10 on the bliss scale, with 10 being the strongest bliss I have ever experienced), and the thought arose, “Hey, I wonder if it would do that to the rest of the standard list of bad experiences?”
So, I started bringing up the images, one by one, initially all of them from my medical career: horrible images, bad situations, dead kids, legs torn off, maggots crawling out of rotting limbs, skulls smashed in, people screaming as they died in puddles of blood, you know, the usual ER stuff. One by one, they all became cute little icons like the first one did, rotated a bit, and vanished. None touched the bliss at all, which remained heavy and strong. The aura stayed blue and like a perfectly regular toroid. Space stayed whitish. Soon enough, I ran out of troubling ER images, which is saying something, as there were a lot of them, as the time from calling each one up to it iconizing and vanishing only took a few seconds per image, and finally, nothing else came to mind from my medical career and training, and I sat there a few moments. That whole process took only a few minutes.
I started on other traumas, bad situations, car accidents I had been in, traumatic breakups, bad childhood stuff, physical injuries, broken bones, surgeries, illnesses, and other unfortunate incidents that happened along the way, and one by one, they all turned into little flat, stylized icons like the others had and vanished, and the bliss stayed totally unperturbed, and the aura held steady, and space stayed white. After only a few minutes, I had exhausted even the standard canon of images from my life’s major and even some minor traumas, all rapidly turning into little, pretty, flat icons, all vanishing, all not impinging on the bliss in the slightest. It was like the ultimate version of the IOB (Identify, Objectify, and Banish), except much cuter than this is typically described and a lot more pleasant.
With nothing left to bliss-iconize, and wondering how breakfast was coming along, after sitting on the cushion for only about 10 minutes, this process seemed complete, so I got up to go to the kitchen. My body had that loose, slightly weak, a bit shuddery feeling that I have when I have swum a mile or two fast and then get back on land, but felt very light at the same time as if I had had a very hard cry, yet I hadn’t cried at all, it just felt like I had afterwards.
The gory ER dreams ended immediately, and I have felt vastly lighter since that brief meditation period, like it cleared out a massive amount of old stuff in some seemingly definitive way.
I have no idea if this is something that other people could intentionally do, but, if it was, it would be extremely helpful. So, should heavy, seemingly inviolable bliss arise, and if you have your own list of traumatic life events to bliss-iconize, might give this a shot and see how it goes.
Three cheers for the Dharma! Yay! What wonderful things can come from practice! Best wishes,