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Dealing with the Dark Night

WARNING: The Dark Night

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WARNING: The Dark Night
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1/31/12 1:20 AM
So, a forum participant pointed out that on the stickied threads there was none that mentioned the Dark Night, except that there actually is, but somewhat concealed, in the one on the A&P, but regardless, the point is a good one, so I thought I would refer people to that thread here:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2812066

And the provide some references here:

This from the Foreword and Warning of MCTB:

"In that same vein, I should further mention that the path I have followed has been dangerous, destabilizing more often than calm, excruciating more often than pleasant, harder to integrate than most other dharma paths I have heard of, and in general quite a rough ride. It has also been profound, amazing, and more glorious than most other paths I have heard tell of. Surfing the ragged edges of reality has been easier for me than slowing the thing down. In my explorations, accidents and adventures, I have learned a lot about not only how to make very fast progress in meditation but also a lot about how to do so without completely wiping out. I hope that I can pass on some of the knowledge of both in this book. This should be seen as another warning. This book and the path presented in it are not for the damaged and unstable spiritual seeker. You have to have your psychological trip fairly together to be able to handle the intense techniques, side effects and results I am about to discuss."

From MCTB on the section on Equanimity:

"On the other hand, even if you gain all kinds of strong concentration, look deeply into impermanence, suffering and no-self, but can't just open to these things, can't just let them be, can't accept the sometimes absurd and frightening truths of your experience, then you will likely be stuck in hell until you can, particularly in the higher stages of insight practices. "

And here is the Dark Night section:

Dark Night

Hopefully, this, coupled with all sorts of other supportive advice, advice on jhanas, advice on the Seven Factors of Enlightenment and their balance, advice on the Brahma Viharas, and many other supportive focuses, such as the AYP energetics advice, etc. will be of some benefit for those who are attempting to get a solid sense of what is possible and what can be done about it.

The Dark Night should not be viewed as more or less than it is, and the problem is that the personal variability of the strength of the effect is so large that this is more general than specific advice, and the whole point is that YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! and you have CCC to thank for the impetus for this.

However, if you are poking around obscure technical fora like this one, you probably already crossed the A&P and have at some point in your life known some Dark Night effects, so it is very likely too late, but regardless, at least now there has been more of an attempt than there was before.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
8/29/12 10:00 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
A very basic bit of advice from someone who has undergone some intense Dark Nights in her day:

Although intensity may seem uncomfortable (or outright unbearable), it can be quite helpful. The Buddhist metaphors discussing "light" or the "bright light of awareness" can be skillfully applied to the Dark Night in the context of its (potential) intensity. The magnification/intensification of sensations is like the mind is offering a bright light and a magnifying glass. Sensations that are normally not all that apparent (or that are not there at all) get exaggerated and overblown during Dark Night stages. Use this magnifying glass to see all the fine, intricate details of those exaggerations while you have the chance. You can gain some excellent insight if things are viewed this way rather than seeing the Dark Night as a storm from hell. Be curious.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
9/13/12 6:40 PM as a reply to Steph S.
Good article on the dark night taken from here


Dark Night: The Breakdown of the Mythology of Me By Jeannie Zandi, M.A.

Few issues can be brought to psychotherapy that better straddle the worlds of spiritual teachings and psychology than the dark night of the soul. This experience heralds the breakdown of the mythology of “me” and thus initiates an intense, comprehensive and life-changing spiritual crisis like no other.

Given that therapy is the most common place people reach for help in darkness, it is vital that psychotherapists have information about this unique passage in order to treat, refer or offer resources to those who experience this phenomenon. It is critical for our world to see and support the emergence of beings living from tender-hearted nobody-ness, the living of life from a selfless and heart-based ground.

In the year that I was pregnant with my daughter and planning on marrying her father, I was plunged into an inexplicable darkness that ruled my life for four years. During that time, much of what had characterized me became eclipsed - I was no longer sociable, brilliant or on top of anything. My sole focus was a gnawing discomfort, a total loss of meaning and an inability to find what was "true" in order to right my life. Between working, mothering and doing the basics of daily life, I desperately searched inwardly and outwardly, and mostly mentally, to find clues to this mysterious stalker who had performed a hostile takeover of my life.

I consulted therapists about birth trauma, and doctors, web sites and herb store owners about depression and pregnancy, post-partum depression, and the effects of nursing hormones. I read the DSM IV to see if I could diagnose myself with a mental illness. When I came up with nothing, I simply searched for anyone who could normalize or bless the wretched experience I was having, looking for any news that conveyed to me that this wasn't all about my failure at doing something right, that this wasn't about a wrathful God punishing me for being bad in some way. The sense of loss of control was deeply unnerving, and the resulting anxiety and grief nearly unbearable.

As the months and years passed, as possible causes were exhausted, I entered into a sort of resigned despair. At the time, nothing felt redeemable about the years I was spending in deep angst and suffering. Every possible attempt to understand what was happening in an effort to solve it spectacularly failed. It seemed there was nothing I could do to alleviate the tremendous anxiety in my body. The world looked like a meaningless Hades and I had gone from a giving, highly functioning woman, friend and lover to a dark-filled desperado.

At some point a few years into the experience I found spiritual teachings that helped me put my experience in a context. While at the time it was nearly impossible to believe that what I was experiencing was a spiritual transformation, the support from those teachings helped me to move from having all my attention on fear-based thinking to meeting the experience below the thoughts about it. The energy of presence that I found at meetings helped my body to relax, and the emphasis on now helped me endure the experience with a bit less suffering. It wasn’t until the darkness
lifted and my entire way of being in the world had radically shifted that I suspected the experience had some redemptive aspects.

Even the most sophisticated of self-growth aficionados and spiritual seekers are flummoxed by a dark night experience, and this ability to flummox is at the heart of its effectiveness and purpose. The coping strategies of conditioning must be entirely frustrated, the arrogance of the “me” must be thoroughly met with a humbling, so that the being is left with absolutely nowhere to turn to “solve the problem.” Thus the brilliant survival strategy that has the illusion of separation at its base is brought to its knees, made obsolete, so that a new reliance on the organic flow of the Divine may rise.
Spiritual teachings are of huge inspirational value to the seeker and provide a context within which the dissolution of the “me” mythology can take place. Such teachings, whether written or embodied, can trigger the demise of the illusion of the separate self and all that that means. However, many spiritual teachers are not available on a regular basis, nor are all willing and/or equipped to provide a regular container for patiently holding the person as she goes through the pain of death and the birth and embodiment of the new that a dark night presents.

Knowing can take place in a flash, but full embodiment is a process, one that takes place in the body. This process consists of the deconstruction of the creature’s coping mechanisms which are rooted in the survival system of the animal, so that living from radical openness can replace them. This set of coping mechanisms, the pride and joy of conditioning, has fingers into the way the organism perceives, thinks, feels, attends, moves and relates in the world and cannot be underestimated in its power to draw attention repeatedly into delusion.

During a dark night, the mental application of spiritual concepts does little for the terrified “badger in the basement” of the creature’s essential terror of non-existence and death. And though immeasurably valuable in realizing who we are, pointers to the absolute (such as “you are awareness” or “you are not the body”) can be of limited value in addressing the very real and gnarly experiential phenomena that can rise in the demise of “me.”

Enter spiritual psychotherapy. Psychotherapists have the time and the training to begin to provide this kind of container, but a valuable adjunct in addition to the skills of a therapist is a familiarity with the dark night: the infantile terror and grief that rise, the typical challenges presented from the dying coping system, and the bodily experiences that may accompany such a passage. This article is an attempt to provide some familiarity and spiritual context for psychotherapists. Even without being a living embodiment of ultimate reality, a therapist can be useful with the general knowledge of psychological crisis and information about this predominantly spiritual one.

The dark night of the soul can signify the onset of a radical shift of allegiance from mind to heart, and a reducing of the person to a quaking and humble transparent portal to the Beloved. Imagine wresting away from an uncooperative creature all the strategies that it believes it needs to survive. That is what the Holy is doing in a dark night experience, and it’s ugly, messy, and heinous. For a client who has a spiritual context, it can be a terrifying experience. For a client who doesn’t, she can resist with everything she’s got, which only intensifies the suffering involved.

The beauty of a true dark night experience is that it moves through the body making space for the embodiment of Love. A dark night can precede an awakening experience or follow it. Though there is no guarantee that any experience of darkness will result in a spiritual awakening, many times they do result in some level of freedom from the encumbrance of rigid and outdated egoic structures. After accompanying a number of clients through the dark night and out the other side, I have not met one who would have traded the experience and its outcome for anything. And yet, during the experience, it’s another story.

Identifying a Dark Night

Many issues that enter a psychotherapist’s office look dark and lots of precipitating factors can bring on a sense of darkness and meaninglessness. In order to address a client with symptoms of darkness, a therapist must assess what the causes are and address any issues that actually can be addressed. Compared to a medical condition or a chemical imbalance that results in depression, nothing can or should be done about a dark night because it is not a problem. This statement is the single-most therapeutic bit of information that exists and simply being reminded of this regularly is tremendously useful and relieving to such clients.

Similar to birth, the dark night is simply a natural evolution of consciousness, a passage that some human beings go through. You would not try and help a woman solve suffering from pregnancy, though you would seek to make her as comfortable as possible, educate her about the process, provide a context for her symptoms, and do your best to accompany her as the process happens. You would not try and circumvent the process by hurrying it along, nor would you try and find the cause of the problem in order to solve it. You would wait for the baby and rejoice at the culmination. Even though the woman’s cries from the pain of labor would chill you to the bone as you attended her, you would not try and eliminate the cause.

With the host of weird afflictions that assault our bodies in this modern environmentally- compromised world of ours, it’s important for each client who is suffering from dark symptoms (depression, despair, anxiety, grief, terror, excess energy, sleeplessness, loss of meaning) to be screened for any medical issues such as thyroid problems, Lyme disease, chronic fatigue, and other auto-immune disorders. These medical challenges can share some of the bodily afflictions that come with the dark night, and in those cases, medical attention is often required. In addition to symptoms that can be a direct effect of a medical disorder, the psychological challenges of such a medical issue can also bring on further symptoms of a dark night or actually initiate a full- blown dark night as the identity is challenged by the loss of functioning and/or control.

Psychological issues should also be screened for, such as mood disorders, substance abuse, surfacing abuse memories or ongoing physical abuse. A dark night can also accompany these symptoms as well, complicating the diagnosis. A dark night is generally much more active than depression and can generally be best described as an active and persistent agony, most often accompanied by deep and nearly constant anxiety.

There can also be what I would call a “dark life of the soul,” an individual who doesn’t have a particular chemical imbalance, but whose lifetime has been so challenging that she suffers from all manner of symptoms such as lifelong depression, complex trauma and various challenges coping with living.

A dark night can co-exist with any of these other issues, which can make it more complex and puzzling to identify. Just as you would not want to try and solve a dark night, you would not want to ignore issues that do need addressing. It is important to appropriately diagnose the client’s situation, including the influence of medications, the client’s home, social influences and self-care abilities.

Once the solvable issues are addressed (medical, psychological disorder, etc.), and the darkness is still present, it is best to stop the approach of “solution” and get down to what is of real assistance: helping the process along by assisting the client to meet the rising shadow material, and if you are familiar with it, helping the client learn how to live from a radical reliance on the Divine in the present moment by becoming acclimated to living entirely from the unknown and opening to the ground of being.
The dark night can most easily be seen and recognized in someone who is not medically challenged, does not have any sort of psychological disorder, has had a relatively trauma-free childhood and simply, whether through a precipitating experience such as divorce or loss of job or for no apparent reason, is plunged into an inexplicable darkness. It is incomparable to anything that has visited the individual before, and generally terrifies them. A common feature is a nagging sense of fear that feels as if it is portending doom, a sense that something is “wrong.” As well, the meaning drains out of previously meaningful activities and relationships, and the individual cannot figure out the cause. It’s often the case that the person has been engaged in spiritual work (though not always), or has said some sort of “dangerous” prayer, whether consciously or unconsciously, such as “Thy will not mine” or “All I want is truth” or “Make me an instrument of your peace.” Spiritually and romantically delightful at the time, some prayers are apparently answered in a rather intense way. For any of those prayers to be answered fully, the illusion of the separate self needs to lose its hold.

In a pure dark night, where the phenomenon is most easily recognizable because of the lack of
other factors, the person is typically a high-functioning human, psychologically pretty sound and flexible, whose usual approach to life doesn’t work anymore, often in any area such as work, relationship, recreation or spiritual practice. In essence, the person just can’t “get happy,” and nothing seems to help.

As the coping mechanisms fail to provide fulfillment, the core pain that spawned them in the first place rises to the surface to be met.

Psychological issues will arise as the Light moves into the being, sending shadow material up to the surface. Any undigested trauma that has been experienced by the individual will need to be met and healed. Already an overwhelming experience, the dark night can be further complicated by the surfacing of traumatic memories and issues of which the client was unaware previously.

It is wise to remember that if you feel you are in over your head as a therapist, you probably are, and should refer the client to another colleague.

Just as treating the dark night as a problem to solve is not useful, attempting to give the client a “better perspective” is also detrimental. The pull of the dark night is to go down, down into the darkness and pain that has been ignored and covered over through conditioning and control. Though common in western culture, going “up” actually violates the client’s inherent body wisdom and further delays the inevitable meeting. Similarly, pointers to the absolute such as “You are awareness” or “You are not the body” are often a spiritual bypass and can actually be used to evade a true meeting of what is rising. Positive thinking and manifesting are also not useful, as the material that is rising has life energy invested in it, and will not be thrown off by an attitudinal adjustment. What the soul of the client is after is not a temporary influx of light, but a thorough deconstruction of the false that results in the embodiment of a light that shines through the darkness.

Holding a Spiritual Context

Many who experience a dark night have already been exposed to spiritual teachings and most have been on a spiritual path for some time. If not, it will be useful for the client to start exploring in this direction to create a spiritual context that casts the whole experience in a light that differs from the culture’s failure perspective. This is an initiation, a sacred passage, a dying of the old and a birthing of light enfleshed. It seldom feels this way, because in the darkness there is only darkness. In the birthing canal having left the womb, there is no knowledge of the light, love and welcoming that lie just outside. There is only the dark unknown, and a sense that going back is no longer an option (though many try).
Without a spiritual context, the internalized messages of conditioning will reign, assaulting the client with advice to master the situation, while the situation continues to be un-master-able. The whole point of the dark night is not to master, but to be mastered. Those close to the client who have not experienced such a passage will offer the same messages that rise in the client’s mind, hoping all she needs is a bit of good advice to get back on track. The only possible interpretation within a conditioned context is that one must be a failure, insane or just “losing it” and should “get a grip.” Without a spiritual context that puts the situation in the right light, the client will continue to spin in circles attempting to fight and solve the process rather than surrender to it. Many cultures throughout history have had rituals and initiations for those who enter such a passage – western society does not.

Being With Versus Fixing

When someone’s mythology is breaking down, she is moving from relying on the mind with its future-based trouble-shooting, “analyze and address” mentality to relying on the heart, on a radical and surrendered being-here in the moment and meeting what’s here in its most fundamental energetic form. It is remarkably soothing for the client to be met by a relaxed, open therapist who has the sense that “all is well” no matter what symptoms the client is experiencing. Contrastingly, it is remarkably distressing for the client to be met by someone who is unconsciously or consciously unnerved by her condition who disguises that as being alternatively “helpful” and then frustrated when the client does not use or benefit from her suggestions.

It is tremendously useful for a client to be in the presence of a being who does not view the passage as a travesty, but rather as a necessary though painful transformation from reliance on a sense of separated personhood to a joyful reliance on God. In truth, how fortunate is the one who is besieged by the Dark Lord! Yet, the client’s agony and desperation to solve the dark night will bring up anything that remains in a therapist that is not comfortable with simply “being here” in the unknown and embracing whatever rises. It is easy to become identified with the need to be a “good therapist” and provide a solution, but this is exactly the opposite of what is useful. Any suggestion or hint at trouble-shooting, any desperation on the part of the therapist about the client’s situation, will further plunge the client into despair. The very mentality she has failed at applying and is leaving behind through no choice of her own is that of fixing or troubleshooting. By the time she has found you, she has already tried everything in her power to “fix” herself and has failed. By far the single most helpful characteristic of a therapist for such a client is the willingness to be with whatever arises without any sense that anything is wrong.

Meeting What Rises

One of the most unnerving aspects of the dark night is the myriad of ways the body behaves (or doesn’t!) as a result of the rising shadow material and cessation of effectiveness of one’s coping mechanisms. The freakiest for me was a constant sense of dread and terror that showed up not only as a haunting or sense of impending doom, but also as a clench in the solar plexus that stayed for four years. I have seen people who have this sort of tension in every part of the body imaginable. It is as though Love is calling for an embodied radical openness and surrender, and out of fear, the creature fights that invitation somewhere in the body and a clench results. It’s as though the creature of the body is screaming, “Noooooo! Remember what happened to us the last time we were this open!” It cannot be underestimated how deeply disturbing it is to suddenly have one’s body displaying symptoms that are not only uncomfortable to painful, but also are inexplicable and out of one’s control. It is as though the control mechanism of conditioning has failed in the closest quarters imaginable. Yikes!

One of the primary ways a therapist can assist the client is by providing a space within which to meet and metabolize the rising shadow material, as well as teaching ways for that to be met. Not only will unprocessed pain rise, so will the delusional beliefs we were forced to take on in order to find some security in a sea of confusion and hurt. Part of the challenge of this rising shadow material and its nasty messages is the way that its historic reality can paint itself all over the present, making it appear real that the individual IS bad, hated, a failure, alone and unloved. The primary conflict at the root of separation is normally very difficult to address – it hides in the unconscious and seldom shows itself for healing. During a dark night, this material rises where it can be “gotten at” and felt through.

Clients need to be taught how to identify delusional moments, so that they don’t attempt to solve the fictitious problem that the delusion displays as real, and instead put their attention in the body where the underlying pain shows itself. Presence digests pain as it is abided in and met.

In the process of this deconstruction, the various identities that the person utilized to feel good within conditioning will be assaulted and start to dissolve as the initiate is unable to keep up the behaviors that brought them a sense of safe identity. Similar to the pulling of a sliver out of a child’s foot, Love is removing the sliver of the illusion of separate self upon which the person has built their world, and that is woven into every bit of their being. The initiate will feel like she is dying, and in a way, she is. It is very common during this time to have a deep desire to die physically – which is simply the longing for oblivion, the longing for freedom from the separate self and all its conflicts and pain.

During my dark experience I longed for death often, and came upon an article that suggested that what suicide attempters were really searching for was “egocide,” not the death of their bodies. That just looks like the quickest route! It helps for the client to have someone who can witness such feelings without freaking out. (And as with all therapeutic issues, it’s vital to have training in how to recognize and respond to the signs of actual suicidality.)

Much of the therapist’s job is to assist the deep meeting of the feelings that underlie the identities, and racing thoughts and self-limitation that accompany those feelings. For example, someone who has built an identity of “worthwhile citizen” may find herself unable to or disinterested in keeping the behaviors going that give her a sense of worth. As the coping mechanisms for feeling worthy drop off, the underlying feelings of worthlessness will rise, including at times the experiences that led to this conclusion of “worthless me.” Though storytelling can help to access the emotion, it is not necessary – the emotion will present itself in the body without that. No digging or figuring out or remembering is required; the feelings will emerge in the present to be met. To meet worthlessness is to drop out of the mental concepts and messages that the mind assaults the client with and drop into the set of sensations that she calls “worthless.”

There is no need to counter the bad thoughts with good ones or find external activities to make her feel worthwhile. Instead she can be supported to drop completely out of the worth/worthless duality altogether in trade for a direct experience of the rising sensations that trigger the denigrating thoughts. We sit as the worthless one and feel whatever the worthless one wants to feel, rather than trying to send her back into the basement. And through that pure meeting, gradually that set of sensations, along with its persistent mind chatter, will burn away, revealing the essential self in its unconditional value.
A major source of suffering during a dark night is unmet fear in the body. As the creature gets wind that its usual survival strategies are failing, a fear can rise that is challenging to meet energetically because of the sense that there is actually something to fear. It can feel like the fear portends doom, and that if only the client could find the cause and address it, all would be well. In actuality, the fear is primal and infantile, a ghost of the past, and not portending or meaning anything actual in the present. It is simply ancient fear that was not digested at the time of the precipitating experience, and it only needs to be energetically met and digested.

I have found it tremendously useful to assist clients to drop their attention into their felt sense of being in the moment. Anything from the feel of breath, to tension in the body, to sounds, to the feel of the chair beneath them, will let attention drop out of being fused to the content of thought (which is the major source of suffering during this experience) and be instead used to meet the overwhelming set of sensations, whatever they are. This anchor of felt sense in the moment can begin to allow the person to take her attention off of the useless and terrifying thoughts-gone- wild that only exacerbate the terror, and start to meet the felt energy and discomfort. Imagine an animal cornered, fighting for its life. That is what our unconscious being feels it is engaged in, and there’s nothing conceptual that will help the unconscious creature to calm. Creature speaks in touch and energy, not in thought and word.

Allowing the body to do what it feels like doing during the process, such as curling up, crying, shaking, making sounds, and moving in all manner of ways is useful. The body is highly intelligent and knows itself how to untie its own knots. To allow the body to lead can at first be challenging to the conditioned being, but when the creature of the body experiences how satisfying it is, it becomes second nature (as it was first nature when we entered the world). Authentic movement is a wonderful adjunct to therapy in these cases, because it allows a deep immersion into the body and a following of its lead.
Any resources that can assist with dropping out of the mind into felt sense are helpful, such as recordings of guided meditation or calming music, and any other kinds of body-centered activities such as yoga, sports or digging in the garden. Anything that helps the person to drop out of mentally “meddling” with the process by figuring out, obsessing, and freaking, that instead allows them to put attention in the simple felt experience of being, is useful. It turns out, dropping attention out of the content of thought allows us to open to and be in the unknown, which is precisely where the dark night is taking us.

Addressing Helplessness

When helplessness or hopelessness rise, it’s important to name them and allow the client to feel into those experiences. The whole structure of the “me” is designed to combat the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and to find solace in any sort of sense that “I am in control,” “I am going somewhere,” “I can improve my lot,” and “I can move toward nirvana and make things better.” When it is no longer feasible to feel in control, it is time to face an essential fact of human existence – we are entirely at the mercy of the Divine, in every way, and always have been. To meet and feel the utter helplessness and “at the mercy of” feelings can be deeply challenging with all the conditioning to avoid that experience at all costs, and is a primary thing to be reckoned with in this transition.

To surrender to God we must meet the truth of the helplessness and powerlessness of this fictitious agent called “me,” and allow the terror that rises to be experienced, met and released. It is not inherently terrifying to experience one’s helplessness as a separate “me;” the nonexistence and impotence of the “me” is a general experience of awakened living and is actually a relief when the fear burns off. The terror lies in the rising of felt memories of past experiences of helplessness in the face of trauma that were never digested and released. Much of this sort of terror has no mental memory associated with it because the experiences occurred so young. And no heinous act had to take place – a wide open infant can feel terrified simply in the presence of the average, run of the mill harsh energy that is expressed in the voice and manner of a caretaker living from conflict, or from a moment of feeling unsupported in mid-air, or alone in an incubator.

Hostility/Aggression

Another experience that can rise during the deconstruction of “me” is irritability and aggression. The body and psyche of the individual is being asked to meet too much all at once, so much so that it can feel like a full-time job and one can have little energy for anything else. Similar to asking a woman who is giving birth to smile so you can take her picture (for anyone who has experienced birth, this will most definitely elicit a snarl), someone whose attention and energetic resources are down in the basement being used to take apart the structures of coping that have accumulated over decades will find even the simplest of demands from the outside to be an imposition and at times an impossibility. Snarling is commonplace out of the tremendous pain one is in. The therapist can normalize this – this sort of behavior is to be expected when you have a sliver being removed from your innermost being.

It is tremendously useful to have an outlet for the irritability and aggression that rise sometimes as an uncontrollable force of life energy. I played a lot of aggressive soccer at the time of my undoing. Brisk walking, martial arts, making sounds from the belly, any kind of outlet for the energy is useful, as is asking for mercy and understanding from those with whom one is in close relationship. Sorry for the bitchiness, I’m being taken apart, please forgive me. Apologizing a lot can be helpful.

Meaninglessness

All the activities and relationships that were constructed by the “me” coping structure will no longer be satisfying because the client is moving from investing her life energy into the coping “me” to returning it to being in and moving from the divine unknown. As the mythology surrounding the coping structure collapses, meaning will drain out of the things that were built. Everything must die and be composted for a new birth to take place. This may involve a lot of grieving – and no amount of new meaningful activities will help. The death of the old sense of self must be tended, much as the death of a loved one. What begins to take the place of meaningful activity and meaningful relationship is the inherent embodied meaning of living as an instrument of the Beloved. External meaningful objects are no longer necessary – one experiences one’s breath and existence as enough.

Loneliness, Disconnection and Separation

At the root of separation is an incredible feeling of isolation and aloneness, desolation in fact. As the methods for distracting from this pain fail, tremendous feelings of disconnection can arise. No matter where the client goes or who she attempts to find connection from, the gnawing loneliness persists. This is good! She is being weaned off of external distractions and temporary solutions for this predicament so that she can face it full-on and burn through it to the sense of unconditional love. There is no master better than Hafiz for explaining exactly how to meet this particular aspect of the dark night (or any other aspect for that matter).

Absolutely Clear

Don't surrender your loneliness
So quickly. Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
As few human
Or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
Has made my eyes so soft,
My voice So tender,

Grief

My need of God Absolutely Clear.

The things in which we invested our energy in an attempt to feel good, connected, important, valued and worthwhile will start to fade and the resulting grief at the farewells can be immense. When we talk about attachment and letting go of being focused externally, we seldom include how the heart flesh of our comfort-safety-familiarity-loving-creature is woven in and around these external objects. Hours and hours of crying are not unusual, and clients should be encouraged to cry as often as the feeling rises, as this is the way the creature digests this dying away.

Dreams will die, relationships will die, and the whole sense that the “me” can somehow get some place beautiful if she just runs her coping strategies hard enough and long enough will die. The dream of “getting there” that the being invested all her life energy, hours, and efforts into is suddenly seen to be a mirage. There is a significant amount of hope that was invested in these futurizing strategies that turns to hopelessness in the dark night. This is good! Trying to get to nirvana with strategies IS hopeless, and the sooner a being has that insight, the sooner she can dispense with efforts in that direction. And mere insight is often insufficient: the coping strategies generally have to fail utterly for a new reliance on living radically open and unprepared in the moment to be fully embraced.

Self-Care

It is important that a client do everything she can during this time to care for the simple needs of her body – getting enough sleep, healthy food, exercise and any activities that allow the large amounts of released energy to move through as well as that allow her to sink her attention into her simple felt experience of being. It can also be useful to find activities that help her to channel the large amounts of energy being released in the body, such as sports and exercise of all types. Grounding activities and body-centered activities are also useful. As well, it can be soothing to have non-harmful ways of taking a break from the constant obsession with the process, such as watching movies and reading frivolous novels.

It is highly advisable that such a client spend as little time around people who are distressed by her condition and thus attempt to get her to be different than she is or to be “her old self.” Spending time in solitude is preferable to spending time feeling like one must answer for one’s self or stretch beyond where one is. However, the company of beings who can be with the client in a relaxed way is delicious and some who love the client can be trained to simply hold her while she cries, or relax their need for her to show signs of being “normal” again. Nature, as well as animals, can be deeply nourishing during this passage, as it embodies a sense of harmony and beingness that few human beings have fully embraced or express.

Sensitivity

Part of the package of conditioning is protection and body armor in the form of numbing and rigidity. This is part of what is assaulted in the dark night, as the client is forced into the dissolution of this protective gear and the meeting of the painful emotion underneath it. As the emotion is met, as shaking and crying ensue, the body softens and opens, the system is cleaned out of rigidity, and the remarkable finely tuned instrument of the body is allowed to reclaim its incredibly sensitive functioning. There can be a sense of being newborn, of being wide-eyed in a very speedy and harsh world. Anything and everything can send us into tears, or into hiding or wanting to go away. Suddenly anything false is experienced as painful in the body. Messages from one’s childhood such as “you are too sensitive” will start to rise and we will think this sensitivity is a bad thing. Not so. To be sensitive is to be able to feel deeply, both the deliciousness of being alive, and the agony of it. To hurt is to soften, and the body is brilliant at re-softening and reopening as it digests harshness and hurt. As well, this opening to sensitivity also allows the being to discover and develop new aptitudes such as clairvoyance and clairsentience.
As children, we were not allowed to mature wide open, and so when the coping mechanisms of our maturing fall away, we are left feeling as open and soft and unprotected and unequipped to deal as a newborn. Patience and tenderness toward one’s being are vital. This sensitivity must be embraced (it’s not going to go away!) and the client must start to listen to the body and intuition to take care of her newly softened self. This can be a difficult stage as the client faces the fact that much of the way she lived prior to this may no longer feel good. The remaining conditioning will pull her toward activities that were once doable, fulfilling, even fun, that are now obsolete. She will be naturally pulled toward more solitude, more quiet, less harshness. Ignoring this and following the pull of conditioning will result in discomfort and even pain. Especially social interaction, which seems so harmless, and with which we so easily dealt as a defended and coping “me,” suddenly becomes the greatest source of distress and inability to function. Relating wide open means feeling into the unconscious material that others carry below their shallow everyday conversation and can be incredibly uncomfortable when we are not yet able to address it consciously.

Goodbye Normal

There is a large pull within the conditioned being to return to “normal,” to become someone who does not stand out for being strange, someone who belongs by being similar to others. This is yet another feeling, that of isolation and fear, that surfaces when the conditioned identities and coping mechanisms start failing. The exact unhelpful thing to do is for the client to attempt to “fit in” or find belonging externally. She is being weaned from conditional belonging so that an unconditional belonging in God can take its place. Thus, it can be useful to encourage clients to say goodbye to their lifelong dream of fitting in and belonging by becoming normal, and instead invite them to focus on the unique being that they are, and the unfolding and revealing of that being as they are willing to listen to their moment to moment guidance and tendencies rather than what others say or what their conditioned thoughts say. The client is finding her legs in being “in the world but not of it.“

In summary, there are a few key points to remember once a therapist suspects her client is going through a dark night of the soul. The process is a passage or initiation and not a problem. Huge amounts of shadow material will rise, identities will fall, coping mechanisms will fail, and tremendous amounts of energy, mostly as emotion and interesting body phenomena will emerge to be released. The initiate mostly needs a spiritual and relaxed context within which to feel and meet the rising shadow material as her “me” coping structure undergoes a massive deconstruction, and the fresh, innocent, wide-eyed and present essential being emerges from the rubble. When in doubt, simply be.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
10/24/12 7:23 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Thank you Nikolai that article was incredibly timely and helpful for me.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
1/8/13 7:04 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Yeah... I am definitely in the dark night and have been for a few years. I pretty much stopped playing music, dancing or socializing. I stopped being interested in pursuing romantic relationships (celibate 6 or 7 years now). I had stopped meditating (restarted over the past month). Not so much a deep depression as a general sense of "who cares". I devoted myself to helping others (forgetting about my own sense of un-fulfillment) smoking pot and playing video games (dropped those when I started meditating again).

I hope (yeah stopped doing that too) that I can find a sense of meaning and wonder like that which used to motivate me and that I held so dear.

This certainly was not what I signed-up for when, a very long time ago, I figured that I needed to do 'exercise' for my brain and started practicing meditation. Now I understand why they say, "Better not start. But if you do better finish."

Anyways... off to practice (it sure is an act of will).

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
3/24/13 3:01 PM as a reply to The Xzanth.
I just came across this site and yes, this is incredibly timely. I've been in the Dark Night since 1997, which is far too long by any stretch of tolerance and function. I've felt damaged beyond any salvage and it's a wonder that I've made it this far and as intact as I have. I read through Daniel Ingrams description of the MCTB and was blown away by how well it mirrors my own experience. I suppose that my "mistake" (if I can take any responsibility) was to prolong the experience of the A &P (2 months) without the benefit that a firm meditation practice would have given in ushering me through that period more rapidly. That said, can anyone give me some firm concrete advice as to how to deal with this dilemma? I suppose I need to start an insight meditation practice. I would love to get some feedback here. Thank you.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
3/25/13 6:34 AM as a reply to Jeff Moore.
Jeff Moore:
I just came across this site and yes, this is incredibly timely. I've been in the Dark Night since 1997, which is far too long by any stretch of tolerance and function. I've felt damaged beyond any salvage and it's a wonder that I've made it this far and as intact as I have. I read through Daniel Ingrams description of the MCTB and was blown away by how well it mirrors my own experience. I suppose that my "mistake" (if I can take any responsibility) was to prolong the experience of the A &P (2 months) without the benefit that a firm meditation practice would have given in ushering me through that period more rapidly. That said, can anyone give me some firm concrete advice as to how to deal with this dilemma? I suppose I need to start an insight meditation practice. I would love to get some feedback here. Thank you.


Do you have a current practice?

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
7/21/13 2:11 AM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Jeff Moore:
I just came across this site and yes, this is incredibly timely. I've been in the Dark Night since 1997, which is far too long by any stretch of tolerance and function. I've felt damaged beyond any salvage and it's a wonder that I've made it this far and as intact as I have. I read through Daniel Ingrams description of the MCTB and was blown away by how well it mirrors my own experience. I suppose that my "mistake" (if I can take any responsibility) was to prolong the experience of the A &P (2 months) without the benefit that a firm meditation practice would have given in ushering me through that period more rapidly. That said, can anyone give me some firm concrete advice as to how to deal with this dilemma? I suppose I need to start an insight meditation practice. I would love to get some feedback here. Thank you.


Do you have a current practice?


Great video interview on difficulties on the path with Leigh Brasington (Jhana retreat teacher) and Dr Willoughby Britton of Cheetah House and the Dark Night Project.

http://vimeo.com/61893225

Nick

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
dark night
Answer
8/4/13 10:59 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I am new here and had just posted a thread because I'm def. one of these DNYs. I've now "stumbled" into territory that is beginning to freak me out. Basically, I'm seeing (this is mainly visual) these waves with distortions off the cushion and on, and I can't make it stop. I've been good-natured about it for 24 hours now, but, um, I have some work to do and can barely read. I feel seasick, too, from the nonstop undulations. I emphatically did not buy a ticket for this particular ride; nonetheless, here I am, so now what?

It's nice to have/give warnings but what practical good will a warning do if one has been cycling unwittingly in chaos since age 12? I would have loved and preferred to stay in salubrious calm abiding states once I found them 2 years ago, but I seem through biological makeup or early traumas or X to have been constituted with a low threshold for crossing over into "altered" consciousness, against my will, even during calm abiding sessions. How do I stop now seeing things as they are? I can't turn back, can I? My only diagnoses have been migraine with complicated prolonged aura and, later, major depressive disorder. My migraines are neurological rather than psychiatric but involve radically altered states, including the self disappearing. Since all warnings are too late and were for me unnavigable even when they weren't, what now?

May we all know peace.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
8/6/13 12:39 AM as a reply to _.
Sorting out things like that is complicated, as what you need is someone who has both the medical background and knowledge of the stages of insight, as well as enough time to talk about those things. See PM, in the messages tab above.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
8/6/13 10:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel,

If it is not too personal, is that one of the reasons you decided to go into medicine?

Tim

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
8/7/13 2:59 AM as a reply to Timothy Ingalls.
Actually, no. I went into medicine for all sorts of reasons, but oddly, that wasn't one of them, and merging the two worlds still makes me relatively nervous. I tend to keep a pretty solid wall compartmentalizing those aspects of my life, for better or for worse. It is only on rare occasions that I breech it, and this is one of those times.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
9/8/13 1:44 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Actually, no. I went into medicine for all sorts of reasons, but oddly, that wasn't one of them, and merging the two worlds still makes me relatively nervous. I tend to keep a pretty solid wall compartmentalizing those aspects of my life, for better or for worse. It is only on rare occasions that I breech it, and this is one of those times.


Daniel, I certainly appreciate your conscientiousness, and I do realize from my long history of interactions with them that medical doctors have all kinds of lines that they cannot cross because of professional ethics. Although these lines are a given in our present society, sometimes they nonetheless create frustrating blocks for the patient (I'm not referring to the present situation, but more generally to the mechanized and even infantilizing way the medical system can "process" patients rather than treating them as whole persons).

You also mention several times in your book that you would never map out or articulate insight guidelines until you yourself had "tested" them, been through them, many, many times. It is just this conscientiousness that conveys your credibility and, ironically, makes your advice (or even observations or speculations) bridging both worlds all the more valuable. However, yes, I do understand the constraints you have to observe and respect them. If you know of any published documents that address dharma practice (esp. stages) and its possible neurological/psychiatric/physical corollaries, I'd love a reference. If such a work hasn't been written, I hope it will be someday. You do touch on this in the book and in some of your videos--for example the wry neck and jaw pain. I've had this weird jaw pain since last Christmas and even went to the dentist to see if I needed a crown a few weeks before the recent A&P Event, so I certainly sat up when I read that in your book!

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/20/13 1:40 PM as a reply to Nikolai ..
Nikolai .:
Good article on the dark night taken from here


This is, quite frankly, the most comforting piece of writing I have encountered.

I'm very new to Buddhism, I haven't read much about it. I did however, read, the MTCB document a while back. I flipped through it again, and while I can see myself in there, I don't necessarily see the same linear progression. And some of the stuff I just don't understand at all, but that could because Buddhism terminology is so strange (I'm a westerner in the US).

Anyways, I started out determined to know the truth of existence. I had no idea what all the spiritual teachings were saying, so I did a homegrown style of self-inquiry for about 2 years, then got to a point where my mind felt like mush and the "world" and "body" dissolved and took on a strange dream-like quality. It also became obvious that all the characteristics that I once identified with didn't exist at all, or didn't exist in the way I thought they did.

My interest in things faded one by one. Girls, martial arts, surfing, friendships, drinking, and so on. After a while I started to see that externally I had no control over circumstances and that all that had come into my life also passed. I started feeling helpless.

I also began to notice that all the things that I thought that I wanted were ultimately disappointing, were conditioned desires, and not living up to the expectations I had for them.

This led me to a frantic search for something, or anything, I could hold on to. I looked for passion, friendships, a new identity.

The harder I searched, the more exhausted I became and the more helpless I felt. At time meaninglessness would be so intense that I would pray to be wiped out of existence.

I think part of the reason why the seeking continued for so long was because I just didn't know this was okay. I thought something was wrong with me. I couldn't understand why I didn't fit in with others. I didn't know why I didn't enjoy anything anymore and I could understand how other people could appear so happy. I can't help but wonder if they're all pretending, sometimes I get angry because the world is so fake. Other times I take comfort in it because I know not to take it too seriously.

The frantic energy is dying now, and what seems to be taking its place is an acceptance. I still find myself yearning for close friendships, but I don't think they exist, and this too is getting easier. Although, it does feel strange retreating into isolation in my apartment because it goes against my conditioning. It is, however, quite relaxing. Oddly, I even feel alienated at the local Buddhist/Zen centers where I live. The people I find there are no different than the people in the real world, and I have nothing in common with them either.

Another interesting development is that I now find comfort in being with the breath, relaxing, cooking, cleaning, and listening to music. Sometimes I actually feel happy and content. In any case, it does seem that a new stage is opening up.

Being with the breath has become one of my favorite activities. I don't know if I would call it meditation or concentration or whatever. I like to sit for about 15 minutes and just breath. Then, let go and watch as sensations and visual phenomena appear and disappear. In total I'll sit for about 1-2 hours a day. It seems that the mind is beginning to stabilize now, and that a more subtle investigation will be opening up over the coming weeks. I just don't have enough clarity to articulate my experience. This is a new investigation.

There is, however, a bit of fear. I'm afraid what might be revealed going forward. On the other hand, I can't help but be curious.

Anyways, this is my first post. I'm not sure if I'll stick around and post more. I don't want to let my ego run wild on spiritual forums because it does love attention and that just becomes an addiction.

In any case, I'd be curious to hear input from anyone who's been down this road already.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/20/13 4:33 PM as a reply to Tyler Durden.
Welcome to the DhO.

Nice descriptions. Very classic: A&P to Dark Night, hit ReObservation, sounds like during daily chores you sometimes get up to Equanimity.

My advice: get stream entry. You clearly have gotten close at points. It is not necessarily that much farther along, and in fact, is right here if seen properly. Try a good retreat: can you swing a few weeks somewhere, such as Panditarama Lumbini in Nepal?

What are your resources for this stuff related to time and logistics and the like?

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/20/13 6:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
Welcome to the DhO.

Nice descriptions. Very classic: A&P to Dark Night, hit ReObservation, sounds like during daily chores you sometimes get up to Equanimity.

My advice: get stream entry. You clearly have gotten close at points. It is not necessarily that much farther along, and in fact, is right here if seen properly. Try a good retreat: can you swing a few weeks somewhere, such as Panditarama Lumbini in Nepal?

What are your resources for this stuff related to time and logistics and the like?


Thanks for the response.

Regarding equanimity, I have a series of things I do to strip my mind of desire. Your description of equanimity sounds similar to when I have no preferences. I used to have a hard time with drinking though. I'd get to a point where I was content doing anything or nothing (I even get excited about life, but I'm pretty sure that's just a trick of mind), then I'd get shit-faced drunk and have to do it all over again. I recently quit drinking because I've become too sensitive. I can't take the pain of hangovers anymore (even 2 beers is too much).

I would also get stuck because I didn't know how to concentrate or follow the breath (this is basically why I'd drink, I just didn't know what else to do). Only about 2 weeks ago did the breath smooth out and become joyful. There has been a CLEAR shift.

Regarding time resources, I have a 9-6 job. And I have a girlfriend who I spend every other weekend with. Other than that, I have no obligations. I make good money, so I can travel, however I don't have enough vacation time to take a few weeks.

What is stream entry? I read about it, but the descriptions make no sense.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/20/13 5:45 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
One more thing, you don't think I need psychotherapy based on what I said above?

Also, I don't hate people, but I don't necessarily like them (except for a rare few). I certainly don't know how to converse with them or what to talk about. I've always been introverted since a kid. Also quite shy. This can be pretty confusing sometimes.

I know it's hard to tell based on the info I gave you. But once and a while I do wonder.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/20/13 6:07 PM as a reply to Tyler Durden.
I can't possibly tell you if you need therapy based on a post or three, so that you will have to decide based on much more data than I have available.

I do think that retreats are likely to help and that stream entry will help. You might still be shy, and likely still will have most of your personality aspects, but it does help with the Dark Night part.

Stream entry: very good stuff. Highly recommended. Allows mastery of the states of insight at that level, allows Fruitions, which are like nice mental resets, and it is the foundation of later good things, and can have other benefits.

Daniel

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
11/22/13 11:38 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
sounds like during daily chores you sometimes get up to Equanimity.


I had another read of MCTB, particularly "equanimity"...

However, this stage can be such a relief after Re-observation that it is very tempting to solidify it into the fourth samatha jhana either because doing so is so nice or because of fear of falling back to Re-observation, which can easily occur. However, as I continue to mention, not investigating the qualities of this stage, such as peace, ease, and a panoramic perspective, causes failure to progress and makes falling back to Re-observation more likely.


Dude! You hit the nail on the head.

I'm not sure why others get pulled out of Dark Night and back into Re-observation, but for me it's clear.

My lady friend sent me a quote just this morning:

Try to remember that taking care of ourselves in the
emotional and physical sense is a revolutionary act. The
world can be a really sick place, and we need to care for
ourselves in ways we were never taught we'd have to.
Kim Christoffel


For me, it was social "norms" and jealousy. People seem so happy so I thought I should have what they are having. This would lead me to seek happiness in some way or another. For me it would be "fitting in" or finding a way to connect with people or finding a way to have fun in which most neurotic Americans do. These efforts would of course fail, which would launch me into further feelings of meaninglessness and despair. This became a cycle.

Additionally, I'd have short bursts of meaninglessness that would drive me back into addictions. I would think that feelings of "meaninglessness" were the end of the world. I'd forget that all things pass, including feelings of meaninglessness. This would drive me to drink and smoke cigarettes, which would then take me days to recover. If I didn't recover, then I'd continue to indulge just to avoid the unpleasant side effects of binging. This also became and endless cycle of suffering.

At this stage however, I find that meaninglessness only lasts for 10-30 minutes tops. The key is diving into that shit head on and ignoring any cravings that may arise. They all pass, and rather quickly if the experience is embraced.

The other aspect which is more existential, is that it can be really challenging to calm the mind at this stage because of the how subtle experience becomes. Seeing and hearing and feeling are no longer good meditation objects because they are so fine, subtle, and fleeting. It can be rather painful to use these particular senses to ground attention. This suffering would also cause me to find relief elsewhere as I described above. I'd get caught in the cycle once again.

Now, I knew nothing about breath meditation. I've never done it until recently. The breath has a way of calming the mind which makes the meditator content and feel at ease. The breath is absolutely necessary at this stage. What I find when the mind is calm and stable, experience not just dissolves, but disappears into something more vast, clear, and spacious. I would describe it as a "sea of consciousness." I find this space extraordinarily pleasant to play around in. Playing around in that space results in a level of clarity that is astounding.

Another thing I'd like to mention is that meditation isn't necessary to pull one out of the endless cycle of desire. Nor is sustained attention on anything. All that's really required to pull one out of the cycle of desire is to engage in mundane activities such as cleaning, walking, being in nature, or engaging in whatever other duties one may have to attend to (including work, or parenting, or whatever). All that's really required is to NOT indulge in desire. Do not try to make any of these experiences "better" with whatever desire you are used to.

When you stop indulging in desire, the mind ceases to produce desire-based thoughts. <---- THIS IS KEY!

As MCTB states:

not investigating the qualities of this stage, such as peace, ease, and a panoramic perspective, causes failure to progress and makes falling back to Re-observation more likely


Yes! It is absolutely necessary to notice how freeing it feels to not feel like anything is needed or wanted. Over time, this peace that results from not wanting becomes home. This is where you need to be. Get here. Forget concentration, forget mindfulness. Simply free the mind of desire by not indulging and bathe in that peace as long as possible.

This is equanimity. You want nothing. You need nothing. You are at peace and content.

At this point, understanding how and what pulls one back into Dark Night is essential. This is going to be some form of aversion. Pain, fear, meaninglessness, boredom, confusion. All of that shit has to be embraced fully. Relax into whatever you are avoiding, allow it to be felt fully, and you are golden.

This is my experience. But I'd be willing to be that others would have a similar experience.

Peace out guys.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
12/1/13 6:52 AM as a reply to Tyler Durden.
Hi all. I'd love some support or understanding about where I am. I meditate at least twice a day, roughly around 45 mins each time, a little more on weekends when I also listent to dharma talks online. I have a very hectic and pressurised job. I started with Mindufulness meditation two-ish years ago and moved to insight practice (I'd tried off and on over 20 years along with with yoga practice but much emotion arose and I guess that frightened me so I didn't have consistent practice until my latest pattern). This summer I did a 10 day Goenka Vippassana retreat which I found really scary: lots of electrical surgings & jerkings I've no memory of experiencing before; lots of crying, sadness (not necessarily about anything) and much anxiety. I've been experiencing much anxiety for 3ish years which kicked in when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. Since the retreat I continue with the electrics...if I stop for a moment I can feel it rising through my trunk...but it's not really frightening anymore (or mostly not). I still have much emotion rising, lots of fear (I can attach it to the most mundane things). I think I have a consistent and strong practice but have never had any blissful or pleasant experiences meditating so feel a bit odd about that. Oddly that hasn't affected my dedication. Somehow I feel I have to continue but it all feels very difficult and despairing. I've had a teacher since September who originally thought I was in the dark night (although if my A & P was the electrics during the retreat, there was nothing pleasant about it). More recently he wonders whether I haven't yet hit either A & P or Dark Night...which I found really really scary.

I found the Jeannie Zandi article almost exactly fits my experience BAR the bit about god. I think gods are myths so have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night. Also, any opinions or steers about where I might be? I don't think I am particularly goal oriented and don't feel the need to experience bliss, peace or jhanas but I do feel very alone and isolated at the moment...ongoing now for several years...

I don't drink (never really did), never did drugs, have been a veggie for over 30 years, do yoga & walk, am fit and healthy. Haven't suffered from depression although I have had what I think are probably normal bouts of situational anxiety down through the years (when parents were dying or relationships broke up). This huge anxiety and dread I've had now for almost 3 years seems to be getting worse but seems existential...and it is really draining and debilitating.

All help gratefully received...gentleness a bonus!

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
12/2/13 3:55 AM as a reply to joie Delivre.
joie Delivre:
Hi all. I'd love some support or understanding about where I am. I meditate at least twice a day, roughly around 45 mins each time, a little more on weekends when I also listent to dharma talks online. I have a very hectic and pressurised job. I started with Mindufulness meditation two-ish years ago and moved to insight practice (I'd tried off and on over 20 years along with with yoga practice but much emotion arose and I guess that frightened me so I didn't have consistent practice until my latest pattern). This summer I did a 10 day Goenka Vippassana retreat which I found really scary: lots of electrical surgings & jerkings I've no memory of experiencing before; lots of crying, sadness (not necessarily about anything) and much anxiety. I've been experiencing much anxiety for 3ish years which kicked in when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. Since the retreat I continue with the electrics...if I stop for a moment I can feel it rising through my trunk...but it's not really frightening anymore (or mostly not). I still have much emotion rising, lots of fear (I can attach it to the most mundane things). I think I have a consistent and strong practice but have never had any blissful or pleasant experiences meditating so feel a bit odd about that. Oddly that hasn't affected my dedication. Somehow I feel I have to continue but it all feels very difficult and despairing. I've had a teacher since September who originally thought I was in the dark night (although if my A & P was the electrics during the retreat, there was nothing pleasant about it). More recently he wonders whether I haven't yet hit either A & P or Dark Night...which I found really really scary.

I found the Jeannie Zandi article almost exactly fits my experience BAR the bit about god. I think gods are myths so have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night. Also, any opinions or steers about where I might be? I don't think I am particularly goal oriented and don't feel the need to experience bliss, peace or jhanas but I do feel very alone and isolated at the moment...ongoing now for several years...

I don't drink (never really did), never did drugs, have been a veggie for over 30 years, do yoga & walk, am fit and healthy. Haven't suffered from depression although I have had what I think are probably normal bouts of situational anxiety down through the years (when parents were dying or relationships broke up). This huge anxiety and dread I've had now for almost 3 years seems to be getting worse but seems existential...and it is really draining and debilitating.

All help gratefully received...gentleness a bonus!


My guess is you crossed A&P decades ago and you're now in pre-path DN.

I've been experiencing much anxiety for 3ish years which kicked in when my partner was diagnosed with cancer.

Intimacy with dukkha probably accelerated you deeper into DN territory; functioning as a kick-start for a previously latent procession.

I found the Jeannie Zandi article almost exactly fits my experience BAR the bit about god. I think gods are myths so have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night.

Lets turn to the Buddha for guidance in these times of woe:
""Therefore, Ananda, your duty is the contemplation, 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress.' Your duty is the contemplation, 'This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress.'"

Suggestion: start a new thread where you specify your current meditation practice and what you want to get out of it, there are many experienced practitioners on here who can then give you feedback.

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
12/2/13 1:15 PM as a reply to Pål S..
Thank you, Pal for taking the time to reply (I have a Hungarian friend with the same name)! I have taken your advice and hope I've put my query in the right thread: http://dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/4968517

Best, J

RE: WARNING: The Dark Night
Answer
7/10/14 2:00 PM as a reply to joie delivre.
I swear I have been having Dark Nights of the Soul for like the past twenty years or more. I am starting to understand something from a different perspective, and the person who writes this blog: http://lezboyenne.tumblr.com/ has been instrumental in helping me. So some of my understanding is from this point of view.

Dark Nights are often due to the killing Yin energy, the entropic/destructive forces, which we might call Satan or evil. These labels are of course not the real deal. Dark Nights are often times for rest and stepping back - withdrawing ones own energies so that the energy is not wasted on destructive karma. During Light Nights, here there is time for expansion and creativity, the gathering of virtue.

Sun Tzu's Art of War is good reading for this stuff.

I am going to start writing more on this site, now that I have passed through my Dark Night. I really feel like I am now done with that shit! I haven't had a return to that place for months - just some ego dross, that is half light half dark.

I got kicked out of TaoBums for crossing the line during an intense period of Dark Nightism. I should have withdrawn as my friend Deci Belle suggested. I am sometimes a hard-head. Stubborn and whatnot.

I am working on not second guessing the past, which is now only a concept in the mind-matrix.

Generally speaking, I believe that I am now almost immune to Dark Nights. I call this an attainment of sorts. I can take the heat and don't mind the illusion of suffering.

I have embraced my dark sides, and merged them with the light to allow myself to be a 'fun guy who takes things seriously,' vs. a 'seriously fun guy who steps on people's toes due to nonchalance, insouciant behavior, which stemmed from passive suicidal ideation which stemmed from half lidded Dharma Eye syndrome.'

Translation:

I know deep down that I am immortal and that there is nothing to strive for.

I play games in a nonchalant way, because it is being at home in the Land of the Gods. What are we immortals to do, if not anything we wish? I have incurred much 'negative' karma this way, because I enjoy suffering.

Nirvana/Samsara - same thing...I like to suffer and I like to heal, I like to make others suffer and I like to make others heal. My ultimate intent is to gift those around me with gnosis. 

Being of the left-hand path, as well as the right, I am an Avadhuta...so I have found that DARK=LIGHT. YIN=YANG, SATAN=GOD...they are just flipped versions of the same coin. There is no better or worse, just this or that suchness as it is. Making labels such as dark/light is fun...until it's not! 

Once you get to the point of non-labeling things as good/bad, self/other, you simply see all this matter/energy/bliss for what it is - and you know very well that I can't tell you what that is like...it must be seen directly. Then the question becomes: "What can I do with all this dark/light energy?" - I say..."Any ting you wan mon' - but it would probably be best to pursue virtue vs. its opposite - this is what I intend at least.

IMO - jump into the dark depths - let yourself die! Kill yourself again and again until fearlessness links with wisdoms basics: Nothing to do, nothing to say! Hip Hip hooray, this place is awesome, and nothing bad is really bad - it's all for the good!

We will be trained like this forever, while we train others around us like this forever.  This is not to be construed with the truth of course.

No evil snakes, no good snakes, just power and potential, just learning and seeing, doing and being.

I like this place! By that I mean this mind cage I am in. Soon I will break out of this immensely enjoyable fabricated state into an even better one, whether it be rusty or shiny - it shall be me! I am that Dark Night, and..as my body is composed of the 10,000 things, which you are all to me, you guys are my Dark Night, and I am yours! I accept my dross holistically, embracing all those that I hate as my own selves, never to deny them again. When you suffer, I suffer and vice versa.

Song