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Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?

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Hello all,

This is my first post here, so please forgive me if I over-share some background details.

I'm a teacher living abroad. Several years back I had a passing interest in meditation and spirituality (I was 23 at the time), but didn't have much in the way of a formal practice. No faith in religion or religious ideas, either. However, after doing some reading (Sam Harris's book, for example) and investigating basic samatha practices, I entered a phase where I decided to experiment with psychedelic substances. At the time I was convinced that these substances revealed the underlying "oneness" of existence, though I now feel that I delved into this area too early in my practice. 

The second time I used these substances I was alone, and for some reason found myself drawn to meditating in front of a mirror by staring into my eyes and trying to investigate the subject-object relationship. After about 20 minutes, I started to lose my sense of having a name, an occupation, a birthplace, a gender, you name it. It felt like the walls of my perception dropped away, and there was only a raw presence experiencing itself. My mind was extremely quiet for about an hour following this experience. I genuinely felt that I had breached some new level of reality, only "I" had not experienced it—it felt like a subjective dissolution of self-identity (ego death, as some might say). I didn't feel any subjective fear or sense of separation from others for about 3 days. All I could tell others was that "There will always be something," "there is no self, so there's no problem," and "Everything is passing, so everything is beautiful."  

For several weeks afterward, nothing could drag me down. I was absolutely thrilled to see everybody and everything, and I kicked many of the bad habits I'd had in my life until that point. I started a new relationship (full of babbling about oneness and meditation, of course), established a formal practice, and started digging heavily into Buddhism to make sense of this strange new world. 

After about 8-10 months of this ecstasy for life, however, I started to see "cracks" in the way I was living. I reached states of concentration that were full of piti, but never reached jhana (I still have not). I lost interest in the things that once gave me happiness—films, games, idle pursuits. I started to feel that everything would die eventually, and I felt as though (proverbially) God had shown me the truth and then locked me out of heaven. Nothing made sense; my experiences all felt cold, empty, and worthless. I had no faith that anybody, even the Buddha, had truly seen the depths of despair that I entered. Food seemed disgusting, my body felt detached from my mind, and I had a constant fear of my parents and siblings dying. In retrospect it's easy to notice the "self-fixation" of the period, as though the self-identity was trying so hard to hold on that it was digging its claws in wherever it could. I had no desire to meditate most days, and at some points I actively avoided it, despite knowing subconsciously that it was the only way out. 

It also became difficult to relate to others, because I saw the empty fluidity in the word "I." After the mirror experience, I realized that the self both does and does not exist as we know it. This made it extremely difficult to function in everyday life. On some days people seemed illusory, a product of the mind, and on others it felt like nobody was awake, and that we were all living on auto-pilot. My relationship and friendships were strained by these shifts in perspective. 

At no point did I want to commit suicide or harm myself, but I simply felt no reason to exist. I saw no purpose in doing mundane things that others seemed to love, and that I had once loved myself. During this time, I also started to view "myself" as a fundamentally bad person. It was easier to notice the white lies I told, the petty ways I talked about people, the judgments that cropped up in my mind, etc. I grew up a very egotistical person, and this is a habit that's still hard to deal with and shake. 

This "loathing" phase passed around 3 months ago, and since then I've started to see the situation largely the same way, but with one important divide: I see the emptiness of phenomena with a neutral mind. There's far less attachment to either the pleasurable or painful experiences in my life, but I take my time with what I do, trying to expand my awareness as far as possible in any given situation. When mental formations arise, it feels like my mind is sharper and more aware of its own revolutions, and it's far easier to focus on/work with whatever occurs in consciousness. Everything in reality has conformed to the dharma, and seeing the underlying pattern (whether in the context of sunyata, sila, karma, or any other concept) is nearly as immediate as the event itself. Overall, there's a greater "flow" to the experience of life, and a beautiful one. 

Several weeks ago I had a period of 3-4 hours where I felt "in the moment" to the degree that there was no past or future cognition. I was smiling, fully engaged, and fully patient with everything and everybody in that period of time. It was a remarkable taste of a state I'd been missing. This time has also led to a great deal of metacognition about how and why the mind behaves as it does. There is no mistaken action; everything is witnessed and occasionally analyzed as it happens, sometimes to a maddening degree. 

Additionally, I've lost my sense of doubt in the Buddha's teachings. Everyday I strive to read suttas or listen to dharma talks, and of course, I've maintained my daily sitting practice. Reactivity is substantially lowered. Ill-will and lying are largely nonexistent. Sexual desire, too, is far lower than it once was. Rather than falling into a chain of visual recognition-desire-lust, it's effortless to follow the mind's path and easily track the flow of emotions and bodily sensations (making it easier to curb harmful behavior or thoughts). I've thought at length about becoming a monk, though I'm currently engaged and my fiancee supports my practice (and practices with me, though she doesn't understand much of what I'm babbling about). 

That being said, I haven't experienced the first jhana (I've had states of extremely high piti, but those descriptions don't appear to line up with what I've read about jhanic absorption), and I worry that I may be overestimating whatever state I've arrived at, much in the same way I did several years ago. I hadn't heard of the dark night until reading Daniel's (and other) texts on the topic, but I still am not sure if I experienced such a phase. Furthermore, I have no idea what I experienced with the "mirror event" all that time ago. It doesn't seem like the A&P, but who knows. Does anybody have any ideas what it could've been, and where I should go from here?

Thanks for any and all assistance. Metta to you all. 

PS as far as "experiences" from meditation:
Purple light sometimes forms in deep states of concentration. 
The breath sensations at the nostril have become a vibratory sensation rather than a smooth flow. 
Occasional hypnagogic vibratory states when dropping out of/into sleep. 

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/10/19 11:50 AM as a reply to James Wola.
Hi James,

You made me join the board ;) but since nobody answered your question, I'd like to, if you're still around. This sounds a lot like my progression through TMI (The Mind Illuminated), which I'm now doing the second time.

When you meditate do you see the nimitta?
Do your observations of the world and phenomena have the character of being uncanny?

You can try entering jhana using metta vippaka in the following way: stabilize your access concentration for a few minutes, then generate metta. See if you can sink into the breath. That's jhana. It'll be lighter than following the nimitta.

As for if it was the Dark Night, "Dark Night", it sounds to me like you've been going through the Knowledge and Vision of the Way purifications and are about to reach the end of the mundane path. "About to" is relative of course, it could take a while. But things tend to snowball toward the end in my experience. IMO this will happen when your sammadhi and sati are developed enough through meditation.

--Peter

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/11/19 11:38 AM as a reply to Peter O.
Peter O:
Hi James,

You made me join the board ;) but since nobody answered your question, I'd like to, if you're still around. This sounds a lot like my progression through TMI (The Mind Illuminated), which I'm now doing the second time.

When you meditate do you see the nimitta?
Do your observations of the world and phenomena have the character of being uncanny?

You can try entering jhana using metta vippaka in the following way: stabilize your access concentration for a few minutes, then generate metta. See if you can sink into the breath. That's jhana. It'll be lighter than following the nimitta.

As for if it was the Dark Night, "Dark Night", it sounds to me like you've been going through the Knowledge and Vision stages and are about to reach the end of the mundane path. "About to" is relative of course, it could take a while. But things tend to snowball toward the end in my experience.

--Peter

Hey Peter,

Thanks so much for bothering to respond here. Means more than you know! Funny you should talk about TMI, as I'm following it for the first time at the moment. I'd say I'm somewhere between Stages 3-5, but it definitely fluctuates with each sitting lately. Can you describe a bit of where you are now, in terms of mood, general insights, etc? Sometimes it feels as though I'm waving a flashlight blindly in the dark, hah. It'd be nice to have a general taste of what might follow. My attachment toward objects and ideas has definitely faded over the past few months, but again, it's hard to say what's a temporary attitude and what's a long-term shift. 

I haven't been able to glimpse what I would definitely label the nimitta, but I've had a few interesting situations with visual input while meditating (usually if I'm drifting toward sleep). I'll be sure to give that metta strategy a try; do you find metta has taken the edge off the process for you? 

Edit: Regarding everyday phenomena, things definitely feel much different than ever before. It's almost like you're starting to put the pieces of a puzzle together, if that makes sense. Like the end of a very big, confusing joke is coming... or something emoticon 

And if it's possible, could you shine a bit of light on what follows the mundane path? In your experience, of course. 

Once again, many thanks. I'd love to drop you a line at some point!

Best wishes,
James W. 

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/10/19 4:18 PM as a reply to James Wola.
Sorry you didn't get many replies James. Your description certainly has lots of evidence of dukkha nanas (dark night). I can see descriptions of dissolution, fear, disgust, desire for deliverance and so on. Desire for deliverance can manifest as a desire to become a monk. There are also lots of positive reports, from your initial vajryana-like practice onwards.

You don't seem to be stuck, and in fact it sounds as if there are many good things going on in both your personal life and your spiritual life. So I would suggest carrying foward as you are. But do try to avoid bleed-through of any dukkha nanas to your loved ones. Remember that all these emotional states are temporary, they are not you, and the path can be confusing at times as it shakes up your perceptual and mental processes. Similarly, on sexual desire, my experience was that this varied a lot as I made progress, so you might reasonably expect this to return more strongly at a later point. Things will stabilise in a good place later.

Following TMI seems like a good choice at the moment, as it can give structure to your practice and stabilise your concentration, and has the advantage that you can do it effectively as solo practitioner outside a sangha. But keep doing your mindfulness of feeling tones and mind states in daily life too, as that is an exceptionally good practice to cultivate.

On Jhana, remember that this varies from lite to hard absoprtion, and first Jhana still has directed thought and evaluation (verbal formations) in it. So you can be somewhat mentally active and only moderatly absorbed and still be in first jhana. To access first jhana better, I would suggest trying to feel piti in a light way somewhere, then encourage it to spread throughout your body, and then make it the object of concentration, and then deepen the concentration on the piti. Some people don't feel so much bliss (sukha) in first jhana, so piti may predominate. The key is to become absorbed in the piti (and sukha if present) with single pointed focus. If you can't summon piti, try contracting the perineum (or activating mula bunda) to start it off, then visualise it flowing up on either side of your spine and then suffusing everything. Or indeed Peter's recommendatons look pretty good as a way of starting it off.  Or as another alternative, you may find that piti arises naturally after 30 or 40 minutes of TMI practice.

Good luck with your practice. emoticon

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/11/19 11:05 AM as a reply to curious.
curious:
Sorry you didn't get many replies James. Your description certainly has lots of evidence of dukkha nanas (dark night). I can see descriptions of dissolution, fear, disgust, desire for deliverance and so on. Desire for deliverance can manifest as a desire to become a monk. There are also lots of positive reports, from your initial vajryana-like practice onwards.

You don't seem to be stuck, and in fact it sounds as if there are many good things going on in both your personal life and your spiritual life. So I would suggest carrying foward as you are. But do try to avoid bleed-through of any dukkha nanas to your loved ones. Remember that all these emotional states are temporary, they are not you, and the path can be confusing at times as it shakes up your perceptual and mental processes. Similarly, on sexual desire, my experience was that this varied a lot as I made progress, so you might reasonably expect this to return more strongly at a later point. Things will stabilise in a good place later.

Following TMI seems like a good choice at the moment, as it can give structure to your practice and stabilise your concentration, and has the advantage that you can do it effectively as solo practitioner outside a sangha. But keep doing your mindfulness of feeling tones and mind states in daily life too, as that is an exceptionally good practice to cultivate.

On Jhana, remember that this varies from lite to hard absoprtion, and first Jhana still has directed thought and evaluation (verbal formations) in it. So you can be somewhat mentally active and only moderatly absorbed and still be in first jhana. To access first jhana better, I would suggest trying to feel piti in a light way somewhere, then encourage it to spread throughout your body, and then make it the object of concentration, and then deepen the concentration on the piti. Some people don't feel so much bliss (sukha) in first jhana, so piti may predominate. The key is to become absorbed in the piti (and sukha if present) with single pointed focus. If you can't summon piti, try contracting the perineum (or activating mula bunda) to start it off, then visualise it flowing up on either side of your spine and then suffusing everything. Or indeed Peter's recommendatons look pretty good as a way of starting it off.  Or as another alternative, you may find that piti arises naturally after 30 or 40 minutes of TMI practice.

Good luck with your practice. emoticon

Thanks a lot for chiming in here! Very valuable and specific things to consider moving forward.

A lot of what you wrote resonates with me, and it means a lot that you have an overall positive analysis of the way things seem to be right now. I'm sure this isn't new ground for anybody on DhO, of course, but it's been tricky to navigate "conventional reality" in the midst of all these shifts in perspective. A colleague will ask what I'm thinking about, and I'll usually give a blanket reply about "just life" rather than going into the rabbit-holes of pondering birth, death, the absurdity of time, so on and so forth. You're spot-on about the need to keep most of these thoughts and feelings contained without letting them spill out; I had a long conversation with my SO the other evening about the fact that all of my grievances are reflections of my own mind's current state, not anything to do with them. Hard to remember at times, but vital nonetheless! Thankfully my SO is also very supportive and understanding of what's going on with me. 

In daily life I've largely been noticing phenomena arising, remaining, and passing, and the "fear" aspect of that impermanence has definitely lost its grip. If you don't mind answering a few questions about your own practice (I've read a handful of your insightful replies here), can you describe which practices you found most helpful at this stage, even in daily life? And more to the point, I suppose, could you try to verbalize what shifts have occurred in your own experience? I'd also love if you could expand upon what you meant in the first paragraph when you referred to "vajrayana-like," which seems to be referencing the psychdelic aspect? Suffice to say I'm no longer as "enchanted" by psychedelics as I once was, but I'm always keen on learning more about how vajrayana approaches insight. 

Excellent pointers for jhana, by the way. My notepad is filling up fast! emoticon 

Metta to you!

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/11/19 3:31 PM as a reply to James Wola.
Hi James, I'm glad my comments were useful.

By Vajrayana-like I meant meditating on your own reflection. My understanding is that Vajrayana will promote meditation and visualisation on other beings, sometimes looking into their eyes, and then exchanging identity as a way of promoting insight into no-self. So meditating on your own reflection is a bit like those practices. However, I hasten to add I am not qualified in those traditions, so may be slightly off base.

For a while I found insights were very disorienting, and I would even recoil from them slightly. That was when I took up TMI to build my concentration. I also made a resolution to accept further insights that arose, to be absorbed in them, and to follow them as far as I could.  That was really helpful. So I think carry on building concentration to give you more stable base.

In terms of any destabilising factors, there are two that spring to mind. One is dealing with changed perceptual realities. The other is dealing with any emotional stuff that arises.

I would say no need to dive too much into changed realities just yet, but no need to fear them either. Reality has always been the same, you have just been a bit deluded about it. As you work this out you may get all kinds of phenomena and ways of looking that are quite surprising.  By all means enjoy them, but don't worry about them. Other people still exist, you still need to eat, sleep and so on. Just enjoy the journey. At some point you may think nothing really exists, but that is an error.  The error arises as your brain plays around with ideas to try to keep up with your changed perceptions. So don't succumb to nihilism or solipsism, as they are not true.

On emotional arisings, these can be tougher. The trick is to see them clearly instead of ruminating on them. Meditating on their location in the body, ther size, shape, fluidity, energy, heat and so on can help you to do this.  Watch them arise and pass away.  This is a bit like your observation of your reactions to feeling tones in daily life. Study the emotion closely with your physical senses, look for its causes and conditions, and over time the emotions will steadily lose their power.     

Sometimes we let our mind get contracted, and obsess with verbal formations (rumination) about our emotions. This can create an unfortunate feedback loop. We fool ourselves that we are looking at the emotion closely, but we actually aren't, we are just talking to ourselves about the emotion, and reinforcing it by continually triggering it. If this is a problem, try to rebalance the mind outwards into the physical senses, and put your concentration on physical formations during the day (the feeling of the skin, or the breath, or a mild sense of piti) or on positive mind states (non-conceptual happiness, or non-conceptual broad spacious awareness). That takes the foot off the accelerator of the conceptual/verbal emotional rumination. You will slowly realise you don't need to 'solve' those emotional arisings, you just need to stop ruminating on them, truly accept them (this is hardest bit), and then let them go. 

From faith, joy arises
From joy, rapture (piti) arises
From piti, calm arises.
From calm, bliss arises.
From bliss, knowledge and vision arises.
From knowledge and vision, dispassion arises.
From dispassion, liberation arises.
From liberation, knowledge of destrution of the taints arises.

So the next stage is calm!  Oh, and if you are still not getting in jhana, have a look at the five hindrances for an explanation.

Practice well. emoticon

Malcolm

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/12/19 3:33 AM as a reply to curious.
curious:
Hi James, I'm glad my comments were useful.

By Vajrayana-like I meant meditating on your own reflection. My understanding is that Vajrayana will promote meditation and visualisation on other beings, sometimes looking into their eyes, and then exchanging identity as a way of promoting insight into no-self. So meditating on your own reflection is a bit like those practices. However, I hasten to add I am not qualified in those traditions, so may be slightly off base.

For a while I found insights were very disorienting, and I would even recoil from them slightly. That was when I took up TMI to build my concentration. I also made a resolution to accept further insights that arose, to be absorbed in them, and to follow them as far as I could.  That was really helpful. So I think carry on building concentration to give you more stable base.

In terms of any destabilising factors, there are two that spring to mind. One is dealing with changed perceptual realities. The other is dealing with any emotional stuff that arises.

I would say no need to dive too much into changed realities just yet, but no need to fear them either. Reality has always been the same, you have just been a bit deluded about it. As you work this out you may get all kinds of phenomena and ways of looking that are quite surprising.  By all means enjoy them, but don't worry about them. Other people still exist, you still need to eat, sleep and so on. Just enjoy the journey. At some point you may think nothing really exists, but that is an error.  The error arises as your brain plays around with ideas to try to keep up with your changed perceptions. So don't succumb to nihilism or solipsism, as they are not true.

On emotional arisings, these can be tougher. The trick is to see them clearly instead of ruminating on them. Meditating on their location in the body, ther size, shape, fluidity, energy, heat and so on can help you to do this.  Watch them arise and pass away.  This is a bit like your observation of your reactions to feeling tones in daily life. Study the emotion closely with your physical senses, look for its causes and conditions, and over time the emotions will steadily lose their power.     

Sometimes we let our mind get contracted, and obsess with verbal formations (rumination) about our emotions. This can create an unfortunate feedback loop. We fool ourselves that we are looking at the emotion closely, but we actually aren't, we are just talking to ourselves about the emotion, and reinforcing it by continually triggering it. If this is a problem, try to rebalance the mind outwards into the physical senses, and put your concentration on physical formations during the day (the feeling of the skin, or the breath, or a mild sense of piti) or on positive mind states (non-conceptual happiness, or non-conceptual broad spacious awareness). That takes the foot off the accelerator of the conceptual/verbal emotional rumination. You will slowly realise you don't need to 'solve' those emotional arisings, you just need to stop ruminating on them, truly accept them (this is hardest bit), and then let them go. 

From faith, joy arises
From joy, rapture (piti) arises
From piti, calm arises.
From calm, bliss arises.
From bliss, knowledge and vision arises.
From knowledge and vision, dispassion arises.
From dispassion, liberation arises.
From liberation, knowledge of destrution of the taints arises.

So the next stage is calm!  Oh, and if you are still not getting in jhana, have a look at the five hindrances for an explanation.

Practice well. emoticon

Malcolm

Thanks yet again for a prompt reply, Malcolm—and as in your initial post, a lot of what you wrote rings true experientially.

Sorry to prod with questions, but do you have any pointers for refining that delicate balance between awareness and attention in the TMI stages, particularly around Stage 4-5? I find that lately, I'm falling into the dual pits of either too much focus on the breath (causing me to nod off or enter that jolty-sleepy stage about 20 minutes in), or too much broad awareness on sensory input, leading to forgetting the breath or losing its continuous flow most of the time. I've heard people say to just power through these dry phases, but of course, the human mind doesn't always take kindly to seeing progress "slide backwards" in terms of attention, if you catch my drift emoticon Following the breath in a cyclical manner has been the hardest for me, as I tend to get caught up on the individual, conceptual stages (beginning of the in-breath, end of the in-breath, etc) rather than tracking the breath as a concrete flow of sensations.

You really hit the nail on the head with the emotional commentary. I read Feeling Good (the CBT "handbook," if you will) a few months ago, and it helped immensely in lightening some of the existential dread from the misery/fear stages. Recently, especially after Peter's suggestion, I've also been getting deeper into metta to complement my practice; have you used metta in such a way? 

Interesting note about the jhanic "blockade." The hindrance of "ill-will" is probably the one to tackle right now; it's fading slowly, but there's definitely still a note of discontent or disapproval about other beings that wasn't there in the immediate afterglow of the psychedelic experiments. As the Watts quote goes, of course, "When you get the message, hang up the phone." ;) 

Cheers and metta! 

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/12/19 3:33 PM as a reply to James Wola.
Hi James

On TMI, it sounds as if you are adopting practices for which you don't yet have the required concentration. For attention, I suggest that you focus exclusively on sensations at the tip of the nose, and only expand attention to include bodily breath sensations (including the bodily breath cycle) in order to fend off distractions. I also suggest that you only apply awareness introspectively, to spot emerging distractions and dullness, and to govern the exercises that fend off these factors (expanding attention, clenching muscles and so on). Follow these instructions precisely for a full 60 minute sit on seven consecutive days, and then you ought to be ready to move on.

On ill-will. Prior to getting serious about meditation I had been nursing a very serious grudge (for significant cause). One of the most powerful things I did was to reverse that, to turn it around into forgiveness, love and support. I had also been clinging to money (due to past family trauma), and another really effective thing I did was to start regularly giving to beggars and to charity. These actions contradicted and exploded some of the bad karma I had been generating and reinforcing. So ... time for some forgiveness? Some industrial-scale forgiveness? Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, even more powerful than envy. Forgiveness needs to be done with an open heart, but wierdly it benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven. Oh yeah, and don't forget to forgive yourself as well.  

Metta to you too emoticon

Malcolm 

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/13/19 12:02 PM as a reply to curious.
curious:
Hi James

On TMI, it sounds as if you are adopting practices for which you don't yet have the required concentration. For attention, I suggest that you focus exclusively on sensations at the tip of the nose, and only expand attention to include bodily breath sensations (including the bodily breath cycle) in order to fend off distractions. I also suggest that you only apply awareness introspectively, to spot emerging distractions and dullness, and to govern the exercises that fend off these factors (expanding attention, clenching muscles and so on). Follow these instructions precisely for a full 60 minute sit on seven consecutive days, and then you ought to be ready to move on.

On ill-will. Prior to getting serious about meditation I had been nursing a very serious grudge (for significant cause). One of the most powerful things I did was to reverse that, to turn it around into forgiveness, love and support. I had also been clinging to money (due to past family trauma), and another really effective thing I did was to start regularly giving to beggars and to charity. These actions contradicted and exploded some of the bad karma I had been generating and reinforcing. So ... time for some forgiveness? Some industrial-scale forgiveness? Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces on the planet, even more powerful than envy. Forgiveness needs to be done with an open heart, but wierdly it benefits the forgiver far more than the forgiven. Oh yeah, and don't forget to forgive yourself as well.  

Metta to you too emoticon

Malcolm 

You may be right—sometimes I suspect the mind wants to feel more advanced than it is at the moment, even if the "signs" aren't there yet emoticon I'll be sure to give that protocol a try over the next week (or month, if needed) and post an update if anything goes hideously wrong... or right. ;) 

And thank you for bringing up the forgiveness/openness angle. I'm a very compassionate person (or so I've been told), but there are surely undercurrents of grudges/disdain/judgment when one mines deep enough into their psyche. Good stuff; it's invaluable moving forward. 

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/18/19 4:36 PM as a reply to James Wola.
How is the TMI going James?  Are you managing 60 minutes a day on the tip of the nose, using introspective awareness to spot and fend off subtle dullness and distractions?  emoticon

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/19/19 11:22 AM as a reply to curious.
curious:
How is the TMI going James?  Are you managing 60 minutes a day on the tip of the nose, using introspective awareness to spot and fend off subtle dullness and distractions?  emoticon


Hey there Malcolm! Thanks for checking in. Unfortunately this week has been rather hectic (we're finalizing exams for students for the end of the year emoticon ). That being said, I've been applying your advice throughout my daily sits (which have ranged from 35-45 minutes, generally). My experiences with the dullness hasn't changed much, but my approach to its arising is treated with more equanimity. Next week will be full steam ahead for the 60-minute sits (which is my ideal, borderline usual, sitting duration). 

Do you recommend any light noting at this stage? I find that noting can help to retain the focus on the breath, but I've also seen many TMI meditators saying that Stages 6-7 are the prime time for Mahasi techniques. At this stage I've been experiencing "snowballing" in terms of a subtle distraction growing larger and more predominant, and noting has felt useful to recognize the links in the distraction chain and return to the breath. Not sure what your experience was/has been with it. 

Best wishes and metta,
James W.

RE: Did I experience the Dark Night? If not, where am I?
Answer
5/19/19 2:06 PM as a reply to James Wola.
Hi James, yes it takes a while to effect the changes. I think light noting is fine provided you never lose awareness of the breath (this is really important). 

Also, at this stage you should make the noting internal only, and restricted to dullness and distraction and the actions you take to combat them. Noting of the distraction chain is also really good - again, provided you maintain simultaneous awareness on the breath.

Later you can move from introspective awaeress to extrospective awareness, but defeat the dullness first.

Best wishes

Malcolm