Message Boards Message Boards

Insight and Wisdom

A (newly pressing) question on map theory

Hi everybody.

So I ran through all the elements of the Dark Night last week. First time going through all of it (at least in a way that was clear to me) - it was the 2nd time that Dissolution and Fear were clear & obvious, and the 1st time for all the others.

It all went like clockwork, tremendous clarity all the way through. I was able to see clearly the physical manifestations of most of them, sat on the cushion through them. Desire for Deliverance and Re-Observation both checked in last Saturday, so just 6 days ago. None of it really gave me any trouble. Some annoyance and fatigue, but that was the worst of it.

I figured Equanimity would settle in for a while, at least. I've never clearly been in EQ before and there was some fascinating stuff to explore, things to learn.

But today ... I was just going about my daily business and all of a sudden BOOM something's wrong. It may have started with a brief but powerful Dissolution: the sensation that I was noticing a ton of things I don't normally notice. Too much stuff, and it made driving feel unsafe. So I went straight home. Then I started to worry that the sensations were going to overwhelm me, and at the same time started to feel like nothing was real ... and freaked out. Basically, Fear hit really hard. There were definitely some moments along the lines of "if I survive this, I'm never going to meditate again." Eventually I realized what was happening, managed to start seeing the sensations as sensations, and things got better (slowwwly). Eventually I even remembered the concept of bringing equanimity to it, and it stabilized with only low-grade background growlings for a few hours.

So, good stuff, lesson learned. Awful but good.

But ... was it supposed to come back this quickly? Less than 6 days from Re-Observation back to Fear?

Also, is it typical to have another A&P experience prior to going back to Dissolution? It felt like some weird stuff was happening in my sleep last night.

More generally: Any rules of thumb for knowing when this stuff is coming? I really feel like the hard part of Dark Night, so far at least, is knowing that it's happening! Once that is clear, I have a fighting chance to deal with it.

Any thoughts of any kind would be VERY much appreciated. (I'm guessing this has been asked & answered a hundred times, so apologies in advance... feel free to just throw me a link to an earlier discussion.)  emoticon

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 4:30 AM as a reply to Kent.
Hi Kent!

The fact that you were able to recognize all the stages of darknight and go through them so quickly is a good sign, I believe. For me there was a lot of rapid cycling during the period leading up to getting into equanimity and also during the period leading up to stream entry. I don’t know if that’s a common pattern or not.

What you describe may actually be re-observation. It is possible (even common) to drop back into re-observation from equanimity, and the contrast may be huge. Re-observation may be a combination of all the worst of the entire dark night, but at the same time it comes with a very rapid mind that makes you notice things more than usually. I find it really good for insight practice in that respect, but it can be very unsettling. Dissolution, on the other hand, does not have that clarity at all. On the contrary, it makes it difficult to notice anything. Everything is just... sluggish.

I can’t speak for what is typical, but for me cycling the dark night tends to start with A&P, so that’s also a possibility. Noticing too much was not dissolution, though.

After a while you will learn to recognize your own patterns and quirks of the journey, if you are in to mapping, and that will make things more predictable for you.

Hang in there - you’ve got this! Best wishes!

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 6:00 AM as a reply to Kent.
Kent:
So, good stuff, lesson learned. Awful but good.

More generally: Any rules of thumb for knowing when this stuff is coming? I really feel like the hard part of Dark Night, so far at least, is knowing that it's happening! Once that is clear, I have a fighting chance to deal with it.

Unfortunately, there really is no predicting when a transition up or down to another nana will happen. It just happens, although generally speaking more meditation practice tends to make the process go to higher nanas, but even that isn't guaranteed. 

The best way to think about this is the nanas are our friends. They really do have lessons to teach about having the right attitude when things seem diffuse, fearful, miserable, disgusting, desireable to escape, a shitstorm, and just so. So dissolution, fear, misery, disgust, desire for deliverance, reobservation, and equanimity will keep happening until we develop a kind of instinctual understanding of how to relax and ride things out regardless of conditions. The nanas are also great at highlighting our background assumptions about self/mind. Normally we think "I am >some way of experiencing<" (e.g. "I am afraid" or "I am miserable"). But when we see our mindstate so clearly, it really highlights the background question about meditation --- what is the self/mind that goes through all these stages? "All of these nanas appear in my mind, what is my mind?"

So you can see that the nanas seem to be this very interesting way that our own mind teaches us about our mind. Pretty interesting! And in a wierd sense, it seems to know how to teach this better than our own thoughts about practice. It keeps showing us where are weaknesses are... kinda like going to the gym and lifting a lot of weight, but really feeling sore in our calves... and then realizing oh, I'm not exercising my calves enough. The nanas are like that. They have a way of showing, "wow, my attitude really needs to change when (insert problematic nana) appears".

Equanimity begins to develop when we have an experience of calm, clear presence. But fully developed Equaniminity is basically the ability to be equanimous regardless of whatever nana is occuring. So that should be both the path and the goal.

Hope this helps! 

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 7:28 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:

The best way to think about this is the nanas are our friends. They really do have lessons to teach about having the right attitude when things seem diffuse, fearful, miserable, disgusting, desireable to escape, a shitstorm, and just so. So dissolution, fear, misery, disgust, desire for deliverance, reobservation, and equanimity will keep happening until we develop a kind of instinctual understanding of how to relax and ride things out regardless of conditions. The nanas are also great at highlighting our background assumptions about self/mind. Normally we think "I am >some way of experiencing<" (e.g. "I am afraid" or "I am miserable"). But when we see our mindstate so clearly, it really highlights the background question about meditation --- what is the self/mind that goes through all these stages? "All of these nanas appear in my mind, what is my mind?"

So you can see that the nanas seem to be this very interesting way that our own mind teaches us about our mind. Pretty interesting! And in a wierd sense, it seems to know how to teach this better than our own thoughts about practice. It keeps showing us where are weaknesses are... kinda like going to the gym and lifting a lot of weight, but really feeling sore in our calves... and then realizing oh, I'm not exercising my calves enough. The nanas are like that. They have a way of showing, "wow, my attitude really needs to change when (insert problematic nana) appears". 


Well put! Although it may sound like this is contradictory to what I wrote above, I really agree with this. It does make sense to see this as the nanas not being predictable, but on the other hand I think it also makes sense to see this is a predictable pattern. Perhaps predictable is saying too much, though, because there seems to be many possible routes that this can take at each juncture point, until the direction is set and the other possibilities collapse. It always makes sense, though. The pattern that enfolds is intricately woven and connected in every thread to the larger weave.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 9:44 AM as a reply to Kent.
So I'm not sure how to think about this now. Things have NOT stabilized. Or, they have, but not in a good way.

My current concern is that I'm not "going through fear" but instead "being scared of the universe" and maybe even "nearing a mental break." Is there a difference? Are the recommendations different?

I am not 100% sure the world is real right now. I'm like 98% sure, probably, and that feels like it's almost enough ... but at the same time there's a feeling in the back of my head that I may have misunderstood the dharma (!) and that, properly understood, this feeling that the universe doesn't really exist IS the dharma, the point of practice. In other words, I have this very odd feeling that there is a non-zero chance that this feeling of panic IS awakening (or, you know, the difference between this and awakening is very minor). And yes I know that this would mean that all the boddhisatvas and arahats in the world, past and present, are just really good at coping with existential crisis. Not a good theory. And I don't believe it. But the panic is coming from the place of thinking that it just MIGHT be true - or even that I MIGHT keep coming back to thinking it might be true for the rest of my life ... and so I have to panic now at the thought of that future. Wheee!

I am getting VERY good at going through fear, at various levels of panic, because I am having lots and lots and lots of practice with it. I was up until 5 AM or so, slept until 9 -- slept very well for what it's worth -- and now it's back. Sometimes it feels like things are almost all the way back to better, sometimes not.

I'm doing a few physical grounding things, will continue to do them, will do more of them as the day goes on (supposed to be beautiful here the next several days, luckily).

I think I need someone to discuss the dharma with, in person or on the phone or via skype or something, because typing this all out is not going to work.

And yes you all told me to get a teacher when I first posted, like 6 weeks ago (is that all it was!?) ... and I even reached out to someone local, but he never got back to me, which I told myself was fine because I like to tell myself that I can do things on my own. That's feeling like a really bad decision right now.

I cannot believe I am typing any of this. I'm the normal guy who has his shit together. That's who I am, you know?

Thanks again.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 10:12 AM as a reply to Kent.
I am not 100% sure the world is real right now. 

This is a stage IMHO.

I went through it early in my early practice. It's a dawning recognition that the universe isn't what we thought it was. It can be terrifying but it's on the path. It's not the end point but it's important. Critically important, actually. Just how IS the universe constructed? That's the issue - if it's not what we thought it was, what is it? And while this seems existential, it's not. It's a view. It's surmountable. The path forward is to investigate what's actually going on when you perceive and experience the universe.

Keep going, and hang in there with it.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 10:52 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Thanks Chris! That is 100% exactly what I needed to hear.

So what I have been doing is investigating the fear. And like I said, I'm getting good at that. But it's getting tiring and not a little dreary.

What I need to be doing is investigating the feeling that the universe might not exist. That itself is just a feeling. Which means it's a sensation, and I can find it, and note it, and be with it, and let it do its thing, and come to know it for what it is.

I still think it might help to do some dharma talking with some folks. But obviously the investigation comes first.

OK time to go do some meditation. Wish me luck!!

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 11:08 AM as a reply to Kent.
What I need to be doing is investigating the feeling that the universe might not exist.


Kent, you might want to focus on something easier to perceive and less destabilizing, like your breath or a tactile sensation, or even a sound. You can investigate what's really going on with any object. It doesn't have to fear or a complex or compound object like the thought the universe isn't real.

Stop back in and keep us updated.

Good luck!

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 1:33 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
So here's where I am.

The bodily sensations associated with various "stages" have become pretty apparent and easy to recognize. And they're easy to recognize in every day life, not only when I'm "in a stage." 

So, for instance, what I think of as Desire for Deliverance presents itself, initially, as a general feeling that I am tired of ... stuff. Just a general sense of "meh" about everything, and a desire to do something else. When I sit down and investigate, I find two very clear sensations in the body, which don't seem to vary much. First there is a relatively low-grade but steady pain just to the right side of my belly, which seems to do two things at once: it engages my stomach area, history to a long series of bad associations (a lifetime of gastric problems [though going gluten-free has helped]) and thus makes me feel kind of gross; and at the same time it manages to connect to my right side, making it feel vaguely as if I have a minor "stitch" in my side, like the kind you get from running too long. The second sensation is usually right above or in my right eye. This one adds a touch of pain or irritation to everything I see. Together, these two sensations manage to make life seem blah. But it's just the two sensations! Now there's some mental talk and some emotions along with it ... but once I notice that one or both of these two sensations are there, the mental talk and the emotions seem to subside pretty strongly, and I'm much less bothered by the whole thing.

Now this new Existential Dread (because why not give it a name in capital letters?) presents in a variety of fun ways. But by far the biggest and most unpleasant aspect is a pain in the LEFT side of my stomach, pretty much mirroring the one on the right side that's there in Desire for Deliverance. But whereas the DD pain is subtle, almost like it doesn't want to be noticed, the ED pain is bright and sharp, calling attention to itself and proclaiming I AM IMPORTANT YOU WILL NOTICE ME. There are a few other sensations as well, which I can perceive some of the time -- but this is the bad one. It is a different sensation from what I had thought of as "fear," which primarily manifests in the bottom right part of the stomch and basically just grinds and growls at me.

So anyway, I was trying to just sit and notice the new ED sensations, feel them clearly, bring at least a measure of equanimity to them (things like saying, out loud, "Hi there, fear-that-the-universe-doesn't-exist, good to see you again, I'm going to come get close to you, hold your hand and be your friend" and then trying to follow up and do that). But they were overlaid with a ton of other sensations, which I was eventually able to categorize as including some DD sensations, as well as some more classic Fear sensations, and a whole ton of mental talk, and so on. It's a lot to disentangle, for sure. The whole jumble made me think I may be doing Re-Observation? 

I contacted the local teacher and am planning to go to their twice-weekly meeting tomorrow. It's a Zen place (Rinzai), which I have no experience with and which Daniel seems to have some strong skepticism about. But the teacher is American and his biography seems similar to me in some ways and maybe it will go well. In any case, it feels like it can't hurt to talk to an experienced teacher, in person, about some of these things. For what it's worth, he told me to stop meditating, go on walks, eat heavy food, and contact a teacher ASAP. Which all seems like good advice and things I was kind of doing or planning on doing anyway.

So I've done some walking around on this lovely day. But "stop meditating" is not really an option, in a sense: I'm not on the cushion, but I can't help noticing things -- such as, the fact that every time the ED comes around, it's associated with a feeling on the left side of my stomach, right where I expect it to be. One time I noticed I was NOT having any ED, and actually felt good for a second .... I started rubbing the spot on my stomach, saying, cmon Dread, you know you want to show up here, right here is where you live, let's see what you got ... and I paid attention, and it showed up right on schedule. Just knowing that when it shows up, that is HOW it is going to show up, feels very freeing.

But I'm not free from it yet. It keeps coming back and coming back. It gets tiring and boring, frankly, feeling the same thing again and again. (It's a little bit like being sick, and then after a while you're just so tired of being sick.) When the feeling that I want it to be done already peaks, I look around and sometimes I can notice the DD feeling on the other side of my stomach. And around and around we go.

So that's what's happening.

I feel like this is as skillful as I know how to be right now. Any suggestions about improvements, modifications, or even just words of encouragement would be very welcome.

Thanks muchly much.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/6/19 8:12 PM as a reply to Kent.
I had panic attacks just like what you describe not very long ago, in re-observation. It’s horrible! And it will pass. And no, that fear is not awakening. It is related, though. I think that one may need to deconstruct one’s sense of reality in order to make room for a new much more liberating understanding.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/7/19 12:51 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
All better! Whew, that was awful. Some lingering effects but also some solid happiness from what was learned. 

Off to meet the Zen teacher soon. He will be the first path-proficient (for lack of a better word) person I've ever met. Really hoping we can get along. Wish me luck.

Thanks for your help.

RE: A (newly pressing) question on map theory
Answer
4/7/19 1:45 PM as a reply to Kent.
Oh, I’m glad! Yay!

That sounds promising. Best of luck!