Back in my college years, some thought I had psychic powers. I blame mindfulness meditation. Due to my mindfulness meditation practice, my ability to pick up subtle details was quite acute. I think I even sometimes picked up these details subconsciously!
Since I was still investigating the available evidence on psychic phenomenon, I was open to the possibility of having psychic powers. As a result, I would sometimes get called on by others to use my psychic powers to help them combat evil. To my current embarrassment, sometimes this meant I was running around in the woods with others trying to sense “evil hotspots” and sometimes I would get emergency phone calls.
One day, I got an out of town phone call from a distressed group of people. They felt a friend was being attacked psychically by a former member of their group. They requested my help. The importance of this was stressed quite heavily!
“Sure! I’ll help.”, I said. At this stage, I was starting to doubt the validity of psychic powers and interacting with this group. However, I knew nothing but good could come from me doing my meditation practices. What did I have to lose? It turns out, I was about to get quite a fright!
So, I laid down on my bed in my college dorm and began to meditate. By this time, I had done many years of meditation. So, I slipped quickly into a meditative state.
I used one of my favorite meditation techniques. It’s a combination of focus and lovingkindness meditation. I focused on my breath and then shifted to focusing on a mental image of a bright loving light shining from the center of my being. Through this, I was wishing good fortune on the person who was suffering.
Since no news is often good news and it seemed like lots of time had passed, I figured the person was okay. Since I was already meditating, I tried something new I had been playing with. I tried what I now call becoming Bowl Bottom Centered.
Back then, I imagined myself sinking into the bed and letting myself mentally go. I would drop all and allow myself to freefall mentally. It was like letting myself mentally fall into a bottomless pit.
Surrendering myself to this meditative experience had me experience something that I had never experienced before. Although the description is inadequate and will strike you as strange, I became the bottom of the bottomless pit.
I will describe this experience through imagery and with the help of your imagination. Imagine that you are a star filled night sky. It’s all you’ve ever known. It’s your reality. The stars have always been shining. It has always been night. As far as you’re concerned, the stars will shine forever. There is no other reality. Now, poof! The stars are gone. There is nothing. There’s not even a night. It’s darkness without the concept of light.
“Yikes! What was that?” was my first thought after the experience. Since I grew up on stories which introduced hell as a real thing and read books that described hell as a cold lifeless void of nothing, I was quite concerned. “Had I visited hell itself?”, I asked myself in alarm.
In reality, I may have had a taste of the Jhāna stage known as the Dimension of Nothingness. Since at that time I didn’t have anyone to turn to, I had not known that such a meditation stage was possible.
That night I had a nightmare about a shapeless monster of darkness. It was so intense that after I woke up I briefly saw the outline of the thing still in my room before it gently faded away. Apparently, seeing things before or after being fully asleep is considered normal and is known as being in a state of hypnagogia.
Absent a meditation teacher to guide me and assure me that I hadn’t seen hell, I had my imagination producing nightmares about the undead for a long time after. This leads us to a few lessons to share.
The first is that science is your friend. If people are making wild claims without a shred of science to back it up, don’t waste any time on those claims. The burden of proof is on them. Even if something is remotely possible and yet maybe not reliably reproducible, I’ve learned it’s not useful.
The second is applicable if you’re going to do any meditating beyond the equivalent of the morning jog. If you are going to sit for hours meditating and go deep into seeing what meditation has to offer, it is essential to have an experienced and trusted meditation teacher / coach. You would be surprised what wild experiences you can have while meditating. It’s good to have someone to talk to who has already experienced them and can assure you that it’s normal.
All that said, it’s worth deeply exploring your mind. You can discover things you didn’t know about your own mind as well as reap the fruits of meditation. Enjoy the journey!