Pretty much what the title says, but expand on it a little -

During breath meditation (also during vipassana, but mostly breath) I frequently see random narratives. Sometimes it is random bits from TV/video games that I play or from real life. But mostly it is random.

For example, today I was meditating on rising and falling on the stomach and in the beginning for half a minute or so I had clarity, but then it transformed into images of ball expanding and contracting (stomach is spherical, so I guess that is why it became a ball). Then within a minute or so it changed to two balls, and competition of which is bigger...and which then changed into someone saying 'you are good at management' which then changed to folder being arranged in finder in macos. You get the idea - they are almost completely unrelated to each other, and yet surprisingly, all the while I am deluded into thinking that I am still on the breath.

If I were to guess, I'd say these are low consciousness states almost like dreams where we are deluded into thinking something while something completely logical and disconnected is happening. But what's more important to know is what these states are and how to fix my technique if it is wrong.

So, please let me know your thoughts; and also I'd be more than happy to discuss it and give any more details. Thanks

EDIT : I want to know what this kind of random images mean in regards to my meditation technique. I strongly think these are bad, in the sense that I am not doing what I am supposed to do in meditation. Maybe it is my technique, maybe I am not serious enough or something else. I know it because at other times in my mediation I am able to achieve concentration in some form or other. Only when I am low energy like that, these dream-like states come.

I am surprised to see this kind of question is not talked about more here because this thing seems so common, kinda like one of the first pitfalls. But anyways, let me know what your insights on this phenomenon. I will be happy to share the exact details of my technique and mind states etc.

  • There isn't a question-mark ("?") in the text? Can you say what your question is?
    – ChrisW
    Apr 3 at 7:30
  • 2
    Stuff is going to pop up and you're noticing that stuff. Sounds like you're practicing Satipatthana. What is the problem?
    – Lowbrow
    Apr 3 at 7:52
  • I added an edit with the exact this that I want to know. Apr 4 at 13:33

3 Answers 3


Incidently, I recently replied to a comment about precisely this. Here is the comment in question:

When I broke the eighth fetter, I went through a bit of mild delirium where my dream world spilled over into my waking reality. All defence mechanisms fell away at the eighth, as there was no sense of inner & outer, no self whatsoever. Whatever is in the lower regions of the mind comes rushing up. Like the dream world, most of it made no sense. So think of dreams as like a locked & unorganised filing cabinet, which, when opened, causes a little confusion. It eventually settled, and I broke through into the tenth fetter!

I don't know what model you're using, but the fetters can dynamically and partially break, especially when doing meditative methods. By the way, although I broke into the tenth fetter, I still had to navigate the ninth, which seemed to be a whole beast unto itself.

What I wanted to point out is that, all attempts to resist experience - which is the regular human state - becomes a defence mechanism that forms a fundamental duality. In Buddhism, this is called subject and object (eighth fetter). Contained within this duality are two further dualities, in which all the previous seven fetters resonate inside. In mainstream psychology (derived from psychoanalysis) this is usually called the conscious and the unconscious mind. Those Theravadins had such an expansive view of the mind hundreds of years before Freud's theory of the conscious and unconscious mind, which is only a small snapshot of the Theravada perspective.

So, you could say that both your unconscious and conscious mind are finding some common ground. From a fetter perspective, you could say that you're seeing through the eighth fetter. Not really helpful without full integration, which means permeating this understanding within your everyday waking experience.

One should have a robust mindfulness practice prior to the sense of self breaking apart, so as not become associated with some of the strange things that can happen in that region. It's also the reason I strongly discourage giving yourself to 'other beings', which can send a practitioner into periods of psychosis.

I'm not suggesting you broke the eighth. However, when meditating, it's possible to see through some higher fetters very easily. When the meditator resumes worldly activities, they are generally pulled back into the form world by fetters 4 & 5, leading them into more cycling and a lot of head-scratching coupled with furrowed eyebrows! 4 & 5 are the karma-creating fetters, which can be dealt with in a number of ways.

Anyway, it's around here that trauma and old memories can surface, so please be sensitive to this, too.

  • Thx so much for sharing. Apr 4 at 13:34
  • "my dream world spilled over into my waking reality" This makes so much sense for my situtation, however i REALLY dont think i have broken the eight fetter! I have had some deep psychedelic experiences though. so maybe thats where this comes from in my situation. On a similar note, I noticed I cannot answer the question - 'Is this dream or reality'. By 'cannot', I mean completely unable to differentiate on a fundamental experiential level. On the surface I know this is 'reality' because this is my house and so on. Apr 4 at 13:37
  • Anyways, can you please tell a liitle on how to meditate so I actually mediate and not dream like that..which in my opinion doesn't give anything significant. Apr 4 at 13:41
  • @Kobamschitzo - when you say, is this dream or reality this is the perceptual structure bending and buckling under meditative inquiry - typical of 6th & 7th fetter which is all about perception of form, both coarse form (6th) and fine form (7th). I'm not suggesting you broke the eighth, or 6 & 7. However, when meditating, it's possible to see through some higher fetters very easily. When the meditator resumes worldly activities, they are generally pulled back into the form world by fetters 4 & 5, leading them into more cycling and a lot of head-scratching coupled with furrowed eyebrows!
    – user17652
    Apr 4 at 18:54
  • @Kobamschitzo can you please tell a little on how to meditate - I wasn't a technical meditator. Instead, I largely adopted the Shikantaza approach from the Mahayana which is just sitting with the sense doors. In my everyday waking experience, I was looking for the fetters.
    – user17652
    Apr 4 at 19:01

Could be you're starting to fall asleep. If so, what you're experiencing would be hypnagogia. It's a normal phenomenon that can occur during and also outside of meditation.


  • Thanks, I looked it up. Any advice on how not to fall into this state? I am sure that this state is unavoidable for some parts of meditation, but I would like to minimize these so to keep my meditation effective. Apr 11 at 3:08
  • @Kobamschitzo Get more exercise during the day or get some before meditation. There are also the energizing Awakening Factors: Rapture, Energy, and Investigation counter dullness and drowsiness. This has some guided meditations to help you understand the Awakening Factors. dhammatalks.org/mp3_collections_index.html#seven
    – triplej
    Apr 11 at 17:07

In the state of such experience. If you can remember anything which is very obvious then you are done. these experience will come and go you need not to resist it.

What is obvious thing that you can remember or stay anchored ?

  1. You are not part of that experience. 3rd party gaze. you are witness.
  2. awareness of breath.
  3. awareness of your body or any part of body.

If you stay anchored on any obvious awareness like above then your job is done. the experience will gently get faded away and wil be replaced by your current meditation object. which is breath.

Now what are these images ?

Its just your consciousness/creativity at its work. your unconscious/subconscious mind is like this only. You are just getting opportunity to see it. there is no way you can modify it. Your equanimous observation is only solution. Thats peaceful. Its nor your mistake or wrong meditation. meditation just uncovers what is undernith. and this is your case. everyone has different experience. but respond is same. equanimity( a vacant gaze). as if you you are not interested in it nor interested in removing it. like a expert father looks at his crying baby.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .