Message Boards Message Boards

Phenomenology

Expansion vs Contraction in Dark Night

Expansion vs Contraction in Dark Night
Answer
11/28/19 12:12 PM
I’m gonna steal a term from Shinzen here and talk about the Dark Night in terms of expansion and contraction of the sense of self. Expansion is what it sounds like: the sensations of selfhood get big, diffuse, unfocused. Contraction is the opposite: the sensations of selfhood get small, centered, inward. According to Shinzen, awakening can occur in either modality, with selfhood either expanding to centerlessly embrace phenomena or contracting to zero to let phenomena do their own thing. But Dark Night material can manifest in both modalities as well. I’ve found a pattern and am wondering if anyone else has noticed it or if it’s individual.

Dissolution and Fear are expansive. They cause the confused feeling of things dissolving into fog, getting too big and wispy to grasp. In response, Misery, Disgust, and Desire or Deliverance causes selfhood to contract. Everything (especially cherished signs of attainment) feels like it’s slipping away, and selfhood gets tightly contracted into a little bundle of dukkha. This isn’t what “I” want, dammit. 

The entire process repeats much faster in Reobservation, and Equanimity kicks in when you realize that these fluctuations are actually not the basis of experience anyway, that this expanding and contracting is just more phenomena and not the self it claims to be. At its peak this indifferent-but-vivid acknowledgement of whatever the selfhood-baloon is doing becomes Conformity, which can lead to the end of a cycle and the start of a new one. 

Has anyone noticed a pattern in these terms, or is this an individualized thing?