Dark Night while doing TMI or Just Blip in Practice

MettaJunkie, modified 2 Years ago at 9/27/19 10:11 PM
Created 2 Years ago at 9/27/19 10:11 PM

Dark Night while doing TMI or Just Blip in Practice

Posts: 3 Join Date: 9/6/19 Recent Posts
I'd like your help diagnosing whether this sounds like a Dark Night or whether it's more likely a blip in my practice. For your reference, my primary practice is the shamatha-vipassana approach as described in The Mind Illuminated. In sum, I'm increasingly getting the felt sense that Dukkha is pervasive and suffuses every aspect of life. Here are the gory details.

During my sit yesterday, I had what I think is an experiential realization for the first time that it's ALL f-ing dukkha. Stillness is dukkha (because I don't want it to end or because I want it to be more deep), quietude is dukkha (same as with stillness), equanimity is dukkha (because when I get it I don't want it to end or instead I want it to get to stream entry), stream entry is dukkha (same as with equanimity, although this is not from personal experience), awakening is dukkha (same reasons). All is dukkha. It's inescapable and we're "f-ed" so to speak. So this should lead me to make peace with this fact as best I can and carry on with my life. 

This was followed by another unpleasant sit today, with all sorts of awareness of Dukkha. For example, I had the thought that even intimacy was Dukkha (because it ends or it leads to future suffering). This then left me with a felt sense that there is simply something irreducibly unsatisfactory about life. 

I also had a pretty strong purification during the sit, which I think has yet to fully purify and integrate. But I have a sense of needing to work with this. It has to do with certain relationships in my life. Another thing I noticed is that concentration was pretty shot once I started getting hit with Dukkha left and right. Stage 3-4-5 TMI concentration at best. Prior to this, I was at stage 8ish (effortless single pointed attention). Relatedly, I simply found it very hard to narrowly focus. Nevertheless, my ability to keep a broader awareness felt less impacted by this. Also, sit became unpleasant and I wanted to end it early. That almost never happens to me.

Another data point is that I had previously been able to get to 1st pleasure Jhana almost at will after reaching access, but in today's sit I was unable to replicate this. I found it nearly impossible to find pleasure in the moment, which didn't allow me, of course, to get to jhana.Finally, for the last couple of weeks I've found several things in my daily life that I before found very pleasant to now feel more like a source of aversion and even sometimes disgust. These things popped up in today's purification episode, which, as I mentioned, does not appear to be fully resolved.

In terms of intensity of suffering, I don't find any of this particularly intense. It's just mildly annoying or irritating.

OK, so that's it. Any thoughts regarding whether this seems like a Dark Night, just a blip in my practice, or something else? Any skillful ways of dealing with whatever this is?
Jim Smith, modified 2 Years ago at 9/28/19 3:18 AM
Created 2 Years ago at 9/27/19 11:34 PM

RE: Dark Night while doing TMI or Just Blip in Practice

Posts: 1138 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
  Any skillful ways of dealing with whatever this is?

I find that my practice is more consistent in general and specifically with the jhanas if I do relaxation exericses before meditating.
Very often any unpleasant emotions I am feeling disappear when I do the relaxation exercises.

Relaxation exercises have a role in the way I practice Buddhism because they can cause you to let go of attachments. This is because stress hormones cause you to become fixated on the source of stress. (This is an obvious survival advantage when the stress is caused by a nearby lion.) But when you turn off stress, you turn off the attachment. 

Dukkha = stress.

I try to observe my daily activities and notice what might be causing inconsistencies in practice. What I have found is that there is a common situation in that whatever the cause, I can get into a kind of "standard frame of mind" by doing relaxation exercises first and then when I meditate from that state, the meditation experience is very consistent. 

It's like rebooting my brian, going into a deeply relaxed state - then when I meditate I have a consistent starting point.

On meditation retreats and in monestaries they do something before sitting meditation, bowing, and or chanting. It is a way of preparing the mind for meditation. Many lay people think they can just sit down and meditate but the "experts", the "professionals", know better.

In some yoga traditions, they will do assanas which are very relaxing, deep breathing which is also relaxing, and or lie flat on the floor for a few minues, before meditating.

I have posted a bit about the relaxation exercises I do here:

How it fits into the wider context of my practice is explained here: