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Physical symptoms of dark night?

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Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 11:32 AM
Hi! This may be a stupid question, but I would really appreciate some input on it anyway... And if I’m just talking rubbish, then please let me know, because I don’t want my vanity to fool me or nourish false and misleading hopes, although parts of me are surely vain enough for me to need reality checks from time to time. 

Could three years of fatigue, pain and a ridiculous amount of sensitivity to most kinds of foods and exercise, without any apparent physical cause, together with feelings of meaninglessness and a lot of distractive behaviour (procrastination and obsessive engagement in facebook discussions and bingewatching netflix and other non-productive things although I have my dream job and great relationships), actually be symptoms of dark night? Even if I didn’t meditate that much before? I’m new to all these terms and information, but I’m pretty sure that I have gone through what you refer to as A&P more than once prior to this. I have experienced vibrations and waves and connectedness and sensations of all-encompassing love and things like that before I knew about it being a thing. I have also had the feeling that maybe having to let go of eating for the joy of it somehow is part of a journey to letting go of things. As far as I can tell from what I have read, I may very well have been going back and forth between A&P and dark night for a few times. I have had sensations of explosions in my head (like exploding head syndrome but not in any proximity to sleep); I don’t know if that has any relevance. I have had cessations a few times. I have had earlier periods of food intolerances, fatigue and pain, so I guess this is a relapse. My experiences of A&P have reoccurred as well, and I have had periods with an enormous love for mankind and abilities to solve conflicts and help people to see each other’s prrspectives (so much for the stereotypes about us autistic people), and I have had periods when I have struggled hard to maintain my faith in humanity.

Recently what at the time seemed to be pure coincidence got me to take up meditation and yoga again, and in a more disciplined way than ever before, and now things have changed for me rapidly (from my point of view and according to those close to me, comparing only with myself).  Beacause of disability (I’m autistic and have ADHD and Tourette) I still have executive dysfunction and need to budget the amount of draining noise, in a wider sense, that I’m exposed to, but I have more energy and faith and will-power and have been able to do things that I had procrastinated for years. At the same time I’m calmer. There is no doubt in my mind that I will continue meditating on a daily basis for as long as I can imagine. I’m a bit confused, though... Does this mean that I have moved backwards, to A&P once again? I have had such experiences again, with objects or parts of my physical body dissolving into vibrations, waves, bubbles and energy flow, but I’m not counting on them as something that will last, and I have noticed that they are more likely to occur if I’m willing to let them go. Still, I sometimes find at least parts of myself chasing these experiences. 

What should I do to avoid taking refuge in safer territory? I mean, in addition to continuing my practice with discipline. Is there something in particular that I should watch out for?

If my physical symptoms are dark night, will they diminish if I go forward? Or is the challenge to accept them and let go of my desire to be able to enjoy a nice meal and the kind of social life that requires me to be able to eat whatever is available? I have accepted them more than I thought I would be able to, but my complicated food intolerances are keeping me from joining a vipassana retreat.

I’m not liberated, that’s for sure. There is hard work for me ahead. I know that. If this is dark night and A&P, it happened before I had developed any disciplined meditative practise. Many of my experiences have occurred spontaneously, outside meditative practice. I still lack basic skills. I have worked with myself psychologically, though, and I know myself (my mundane self as a human being) pretty well. I have also deliberately worked on myself as a moral being. I’m not very scared of finding out my faults, but seek out knowledge about them and try to evolve to the best of my ability. It is important to me to see my own defence mechanisms as they arise, because I believe that fear and defence mechanisms holds humanity back.

This turned out to be more than one question. Please bear with me if my ignorance is a nuisance. This is my first post here, and I haven’t come around to look at the dharma maps yet. I’m still trying to grasp the basics.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 12:43 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
If my physical symptoms are dark night, will they diminish if I go forward? Or is the challenge to accept them and let go of my desire to be able to enjoy a nice meal and the kind of social life that requires me to be able to eat whatever is available? I have accepted them more than I thought I would be able to, but my complicated food intolerances are keeping me from joining a vipassana retreat.

Hi, Linda.

Have you seen a medical doctor? Based on all the symptoms you posted I think that's the first step - see a doctor and describe all your symptoms to that person. To try to diagnose your issues as all related to meditation practice, especially the physical ones, or to recommend you pursue anything else related to meditation, would be irresponsible.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 12:55 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Welcome to the forum, Linda!

Yeah, that all sounds like pretty classic A&P/dark night stuff and yeah, it's common and expected to bounce back and forth between A&P and the dark nights until you figure out how to move beyond that (people stuck like this are sometimes called "chronic dark night yogis"). I did that for about 10 years and actually have also been diagnosed ADHD/autism spectrum, funny enough. At least in my experience, the sensory problems gets a LOT better with continued practice. And the social stuff as well. In fact, most things have gotten much, much better.

Continuing your practice with discipline is by far the best thing you can do at this point, but I would also strongly recommend that you read Daniel's book Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha 2nd Edition if you haven't already (Daniel is the person hosting this forum btw). It has lots of very useful information and will answer a lot of your questions in more detail. You're right that chasing after the exciting A&P experiences is not helpful and something to be let go of, but pretty much everybody does it in the beginning. Eventually things will start to settle down if you stick with it.

Another good resource for you might be Shinzen Young's Five Ways to Know Yourself. The techniques he teaches for "resting" in the different sense doors are very similar to the coping skills I discovered to help deal with sensory overload as a kid. Definitely more socially acceptable than screaming and biting people! =D His stuff is also has a lot of good info on how to work on mindfulness throughout the day and not just during formal sits.

I'll try to keep an eye on this thread in case you have more questions and hopefully other people will also have some helpful advice.

Best wishes for your practice!

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 1:08 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
If my physical symptoms are dark night, will they diminish if I go forward? Or is the challenge to accept them and let go of my desire to be able to enjoy a nice meal and the kind of social life that requires me to be able to eat whatever is available? I have accepted them more than I thought I would be able to, but my complicated food intolerances are keeping me from joining a vipassana retreat.

Hi, Linda.

Have you seen a medical doctor? Based on all the symptoms you posted I think that's the first step - see a doctor and describe all your symptoms to that person. To try to diagnose your issues as all related to meditation practice, especially the physical ones, or to recommend you pursue anything else related to meditation, would be irresponsible.

I agree with Chris that you should definitely see a physician to make sure your physical signs don't have a medical cause--I read your post assuming you were already under the care of a physician what with the Tourette's, but that's not a good assumption! I don't want to be a that irresponsible person inadvertently making meditation recommendations for a medical problem. 

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 1:50 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hi! Oh yes, I have seen plenty of medical doctors. I have provided more blood samples than I can count. They all think my physical health is perfectly fine and that I’m just having psychosomatic issues. Meanwhile, I have found my own ways of coping. The pain is gone since quite a while. I have recently found energy again, thanks to meditation and yoga. Still can’t eat most foods, though, but enough to fuel my body and mind and get the vitamins and minerals needed. I would like to be able to get back to vegetarianism, but for the moment that is just not possible. That is one of my main reasons for wanting to get well. Thank you for caring.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 5:15 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Wow, that’s interesting. I have been thinking for a while that maybe neurodivergence affecting sensory experience conditions us to experience A&P before we have been able to develop the concentration skills and acceptance needed to deal with it and go forward. What do you think? 

I agree that disciplined meditation practice helps a lot with both sensory issues and social life. In fact, the more I read, the more I realize that I have already been using some meditative techniques for dealing with those issues whithout knowing what they were. I thought they were just some autistic quirks that I had developed. Funny that you did the same thing! emoticon

I’m reading those very books right now. I find them both very helpful. I appreciate your advice a lot, especially since we seem to have several experiences in common. Much obliged!

Right after making this post, I took a class in restorative yoga which is pretty much meditation while lying down in different positions for 90 minutes. I had another A&P. First I felt energy and heating in my hands, and then vibrations around my lips and spreading all over my face until it dissolved into waves. There were larger waves and also smaller oscillations within each wave.

Best wishes to you too!

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 3:15 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda Maria Örulv:
Wow, that’s interesting. I have been thinking for a while that maybe neurodivergence affecting sensory experience conditions us to experience A&P before we have been able to develop the concentration skills and acceptance needed to deal with it and go forward. What do you think? 

I have also done quite a bit of speculating about this as it does seem like a lot of the people who spontaneously cross the A&P at a young age are in some way neurodivergent. What is/are the mechanism(s)? 

Just speculating here--in my own case, I got started getting into jhanic territory as a kid via self-soothing rhythmic movements, listening to certain sounds, watching waves, etc. Jhana tends to "grease the wheels" and make insight (like crossing the A&P which happened for me around age 10-12) more likely. Also, being not very attuned to or interested in normal social stuff seems conducive to insight--I never was much interested in the usual human distractions. Atypical sensory processing like synesthesia might possibly make it more likely--I always had it especially in the audio-tactile direction and then with meditation it became just one sensory field. Having to work so hard to avoid sensory overload led to both of us developing coping skills that were basically meditation skills, so that's a no brainer. Obsessive "perseverative" autistic interests--well that's certainly a bonus if you want to get really good at meditation. And maybe just having atypical sensory processing requires us to PAY ATTENTION more just to get through the day intact, and so maybe that is also conducive to insight. But again, this is all just speculation and highly anecdotal.

I can't find the reference now, but remember reading once that the Tibetan Buddhists look for autistic traits when identifying tulkus and that would make a lot of sense. If you're going to train up a kid from a young age, you want to maximize the chances that they'll be successful in the training. The weird kid who prefers solitude and repetitive activities would be a much better bet than the social butterfly!

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 4:17 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Örulv:

Could three years of fatigue, pain and a ridiculous amount of sensitivity to most kinds of foods and exercise, without any apparent physical cause, together with feelings of meaninglessness and a lot of distractive behaviour (procrastination and obsessive engagement in facebook discussions and bingewatching netflix and other non-productive things although I have my dream job and great relationships), actually be symptoms of dark night? 

Fatigue, fibromyalgia type pain and food/alcohol/medication sensitivity have all been anecdotally associated with kundalini / dark night issues. If you have seen a medical professional and they have ruled out anything that can be found via conventional tests, then it might be best to work with a naturopath or integrative doctor. 

I have had all of those symptoms and was given a diagnosis of "chronic fatigue/chronic pain/fibromyalgia." With major lifestyle changes (diet, asana, moving to live in nature, cold showers (check out Wim Hof)) I finally overcame them for the most part. The symptoms can flare when I get stressed. 

In my personal situation, these symptoms did present exactly when I went through the dark night - about 3 months after learning to meditate. My current framework in which to understand my own health crisis is that it was a combination of chronic unrelenting life stressors, a weakened immune system PLUS the added pressure of going through a meditation-related dark night. In my case my health improved when I accepted that my health condition was a result of many many factors and that I would never find one simple elegant explanation or magic bullet. I would say use whatever framework works best for you, in order for you to heal - whether that is spiritual, biological, psychological or a combination of several perspectives.

Wishing you all the best! You can heal emoticon

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 4:38 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
What you say makes a lot of sense to me. Especially what you say about having to pay attention all the time just to stay intact is so very true. I think that sometimes, under the right circumstances, we can develop more finely tuned attention than average just because we do it manually. It costs more to develop this than having an autopilot, and not everyone has the resources (internal and external) to do so, but manual operation allows for some fine calibrations that autopilots might just miss.

By the way, I also am synesthetic, and I have a similar history of entering jhanas through sensory stimulation since childhood. I still do that. I love it. 

As for the autistic obsessive interests - guilty as charged. For the last few weaks, I have probably seen several hundreds of videos, found and  read a number of books and other resources, listened to a lot of pod casts. And practiced, of course. I have also done a one day retreat all by myself, following one that was taped. Meditation is the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep, and I try to integrate meditation techniques in my daily life. I have even done some meditation in a dream. 

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 5:09 PM as a reply to Anna L.
Thanks for sharing your experiences and knowledge! I’m very glad to see that you have recovered so well.

I can’t afford a naturopath or integrative doctor and I find it difficult to know which ones to trust as they are operating outside the medical system here in Sweden and thus are not evaluated the same way. I do believe that a more integrated approach would be beneficial, though.

I have overcome most of my illness, too, and emotionally I mainly thrive at the moment. A strict diet, meditation, yoga, nature experiences and avoiding pulse pounding exercise have helped me a lot. I have gradually come closer to accepting that there probably is no single explanation, just as you say.

I can live with this. I consider myself very lucky in many respects.

Very best wishes to you too!

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/10/18 5:56 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Hey Linda, I understand re the cost of alternative practitioners. If you have the all-clear from conventional doctors and can figure out the rest yourself, through research and careful monitoring of your own symptoms, then that is wonderful. I think a lot of it is common sense (eating as close to natural as possible, a gradual and graded approach to exercise, working on your relationships and psychological stuff).

Best wishes! 

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/11/18 4:29 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Örulv:


As for the autistic obsessive interests - guilty as charged. For the last few weaks, I have probably seen several hundreds of videos, found and  read a number of books and other resources, listened to a lot of pod casts. And practiced, of course. I have also done a one day retreat all by myself, following one that was taped. Meditation is the first thing I think of when I wake up and the last thing I think of before I go to sleep, and I try to integrate meditation techniques in my daily life. I have even done some meditation in a dream. 
Way cool!

Since you're in Data Consumption mode, you might also check out Ken McLeod's Unfettered Mind website which is an excellent resource (and totally free). I'm currently reading his Reflections on Silver River, which is a translation and commentary of Tokme Zongpo's 37 Practices of the Bodhisattva and it's wonderful--might be right up your alley. In the introduction he speaks of his own severe mental and physical difficulties brought on by practice during his first of two back-to-back 3 year retreats. The following prayer by Zongpo became very meaningful to him (and I have also found it critical to take this attitude of surrender toward that which is painful or difficult):

If it is better for me to be ill,
Give me the energy to be ill.
If it is better for me to recover,
Give me the energy to recover.
If it is better for me to die,
Give me the energy to die.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/11/18 6:41 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
I love this conversation. It's full of great information.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/11/18 7:23 AM as a reply to Andromeda.
Wow, there are so many cool resources out there! Thank you, Andromeda! I’ll definitely check it out.

And to Chris, I’m glad. :-) I appreciate the conversation a lot myself.

RE: Physical symptoms of dark night?
Answer
12/11/18 8:56 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Since we are talking about neurodivergence and spontaneous insight... A person that I love is neurodivergent and has a brain damage that causes executive dysfunction. He has never had a sense of self. All his life he has struggled hard to make sense of the concept of having a continuous, undivided and integrated self, that thing that people seem to take for granted. All he can see is a stream of thoughts and feelings and sensory input and causal reactions (although time is a vague concept for him as well). He has noticed that other people are very attached to certain ideals, opinions, preferences and interests, but he has never managed to feel that kind of attachment. He does care deeply about moral conduct in the sense of caring about all that is living, but he doesn’t see that as personal ideals or opinions in a way that constitutes self identity.

The sad part is that he doesn’t feel liberated by this, because he finds it very difficult to navigate in a society that wasn’t built for him. He suffers from it. Also, his mind is almost constantly occupied with intellectual analysis and processing. He doesn’t meditate.

I should start a new thread on neurodivergence and insight. I think I’ll do that later; I’m supposed to be working now and I really should be mindful about that.