Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

From Dark Night to Stream Entry

Toggle
From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/9/19 5:32 AM
Hi there,

Have read the MTCB two times, and still use it to look up things I dont understand, and I still cannot figure out an exact way to diagnose what I am going trough, but it seems very much like a prolonged case of the Dark Night.

Meditation Experience:
1 x 3 Day Vipassana, Thailand
2 x Goenka 10 days, Sweden
1 x 15 day Vipassana Dhammacari, Germany
+ daily 1-2 hour practice on and off since 2016, currently not very often, and Yoga has taken over with 3-4 hours of practice pr. day because so much tension and stiffness building up in the body.

On my first Goenka retreat in 2016 I felt absolutely amazing after day 4-5 or so, I am certain it was because of very strong concentration, and I felt like i was the master of my mind, and everything I directed it to, no matter if it included suffering (washing clothes) it was joyous because I was 100% there and fully concentrated. My breath slowed down, and I felt at times how my feet where like glue wherever I would put them, my balance was amazing and I could do handstands like never before. 

Then I was suddenly sure that I was being held at the retreat beyond my will, that the meditation was bad, and that they somehow harvested my life force everytime I sat down to meditatite.. I have had that fear or terror before during ayahuasca ceremonies and mushrooms. So it was familiar and felt very real this time again. I pondered it rationally and after understanding it was a deep rooted fear surfacing it left. 

Then the 3D visions started, mostly closed eyes, so vivid and more real than physical reality. Lots of porn, sacred geometry and other stuff, clearly coming from the subconsioucs, at one point I am was sure I communicated with Goenka and Buddha, and understand everything perfectly, like I finally found my path in life. Lots of insights about life in general and the feeling that everything was perfect, and all that I had been trough could not be any different. I am pretty sure I felt electric surges in the body, lots of tingling and loud noises.

At the end of the retreat I had no need for sleeping and the  last night I was just laying in bed noticing sensations and tingling all over the body, and feeling so restful. I came to the conclusion that as long as I directed the mind with full effort and believed I would not be tired the next day, that would be my reality. 

I stood up the next day and had more energy than ever, I felt how my eyes would pierce a strong eye contact with anyone I met. I was in charge of the cleaning and where supposed to hand out orders - even though I have been a CEO most of my adult life I always felt wierd about handing out orders. This time I felt great, and there was this magical flow to everything like I was in super control mode, and everything I was in contact with was perfect.

After leaving the retreat I suddenly was "allergic" to emf, and even more senstive to peoples energies, and to this day I am still not able to use my phone if it is not in flight mode, without being able to feel the harmfull frequencies that cell phones emit.

2nd Goenka retreat I was expecting a lot, but not much really happened besides feeling great from the concentration - at both reatreats I felt physical pain trough sitting long times, and then after a few days the pain would go away and sittings would become very blisfull and stay that way.

My 3rd retreat in Germany in 2018 - It was a new type of meditation with noting and walking meditation, so I did not feel the concentration as powerful as before, and I think learning the new methods was a little hard on my mind and I remember feeling dreadful for the first 7-8 days and pondering very much to leave.. I had personal consultatations with the teacher everyday and she helped me trough it. I remember crying, because I was trying so hard and nothing happened, and she told me I should stop trying so hard and it helped.. 

Towards the end of the retreat more isolation is suggested and I got my own room and down to about 3-4 hours of sleep, it felt great to be able to meditate with less distractions and I remember having energy moving in the base of my spine and I could direct it to places in my body where energy was stuck. That day I also communicated lovingly with my body and it replied with sensations and intuitive communication somehow, telling me when it was hungry, tired etc. All very interesting.

As usual as soon as I go back from the retreats I feel absolutely amazing for 3-4 days and then I am back to normal - Or its actually no where near normal.. I am very irritable, can get very angry fast, and not really motivated by anything at all. The only thoughts in my head of how to become free is to become a munk or meditate until reaching stream entry to clear some of this suffering.

It has been like that more or less since 2015 - I have tried mushrooms, ayahuasca and lots of other drugs, and I always feel great for a little while and then back to the misery. 

I moved to Portugal to get more sunshine, get outside more and be more active, and it did help for a little while, but there is always this nagging darkness hanging over me, that only leaves for short periods of time.

It is like my mind is set on a preset "dark mode" and I have to really distract it to get out of that mode. Also a lot of tension has been building up in my body, not in the sittings but just in general, so I have done a lot of yoga, and at times it seems to help.

Now I am pondering to visit Dhammacari in Germany for a prolonged period of time - until I reach stream entry, so I can get a bit of a break from this misery, which is hurting my family life, work life and everything I have going on.

Any insights to what I have been going trough, or thoughts on how to pass on from here?

I got an offer to talk weekly with the meditation teacher at Dhammacari until I can go there - and I think that would be a good slow start to get going.

Would it be possible to pass trough to stream-entry in 3-4 weeks time with isolation and strong meditation? Are there any other centers you would recommend where the focus on stream-entry is persistant and one could get the help needed to get there as fast as possible?

Sorry if I am rambling a bit - english is not my first language, and I am not feeling so well today.

Thanks

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/9/19 6:40 AM as a reply to John Smith.
I'm going to be very honest. I appologize for being very direct.

This sounds like you are the classic dark night yogi... and trying to hard. Isolation and strong meditation will probably cause you psychological harm. 

Effort is fine and good, but there is a limit to what you can "make happen" on a retreat. The big difference between a dark night yogi and someone who reaches SE is the ability to become intimate with what is occuring in experience, but without struggle or striving --- this is equanimity. And the ability to dwell in equanimity its what makes people prone to SE.

It is ver common for people to want to try harder and harder and harder to be unaware that this whole effort is often a way to cover up the feelings that come out on retreat, like shame and guilt and misery and feeling that we are bad meditators. This is what makes someone get trapped as a dark night yogi. The feel all the dark feelings and then they try harder. We push those feelings aside and try harder! This exactly the WRONG thing to do. 

The dark night stages are a time when we need to continue to welcome all the dark stuff in our psyche to come out, but to do so in an intelligent and adult way. We need to welcome the laziness, fear, misery, disgust, and frustration into our meditation ---- and study it! What does it feel like when we have these feelings, what thoughts are associated with the feelings, why are these states so seductive and powerful? How does greed, aversion, and indifference work during these feelings/stages? How do our emotions keep us trapped in samsara?

In other words, the dark night is where we learn all of the lessons that limit our meditation and our life. If we go rushing past all of that, we will never develop the stabillity to dwell in equanimity and reach SE.

If people try to rush past the dark night stages and jump to SE, what usually happens is they get caught in a loop where they go through dark night stages, but go back to A&P because they are not relaxing into EQ. When that happens, all sorts of spiritual and psychic experience happen --- which feels like progress because it is so different from normal reality. But when an experience meditator sees this, we know that the person is running away from fully experiencing difficult dark night emotions, and is trying way too hard. 

The mind is MUCH MUCH MUCH smarter than we are. All we need to do is pay attention to what naturally arises on retreat. Simply doing this for 16 hours a day while walking, siting, shitting, peeing, eating, and bathing is more than enough to give you the necessary centering and relaxing to reach SE.

People use the english word "concentration" for this but a much better word is "centering", centering gives the right idea of calming and centering. The word concentration in english implies too much effort, especially for retreat practice. You don't need to try hard on retreat. You need to simply be with your experience in a direct and intimate way. Trust that it will happen if you stay with your experience.  


You say "It is like my mind is set on a preset "dark mode" and I have to really distract it to get out of that mode. " My number one advice is  do NOT try to get out of that mode. Instead, study what the dark mode is, see how it is made up of sensations, urges, emotions, and thoughts which are seductive but not really true. This is a lot like going through psychotherapy, because you need to be with these aspects of your mind, with neither avoiding it nor induldging in it. 

The way to SE is through the stage called Equanimity and the way to Equanimity is by developing equanimity with the dark mode.

Very simple, right? This is how meditation changes us. Not by some experience at EQ, but rather by all of the experiences of training our mind during the dark mode. We learn to see the falseness of the dark mode by experiencing it closely, but seeing through the way it tries to seduce us. Once we have seen that, we are much harder to be seduced by our dark mode. Then we realize that the mind is an amazing thing that witnesses all of our experience and learns the truth just by holding experience in our awareness.

When we finally learn to not be seduced by dark mode AND not try to avoid dark mode, then we can stay with any sensation, urge, emotion, or thought that arises, which is equanimity. Then this deepens and our whole experience becomes equanimous, which is the stage of Equanimity. And when we dwell in EQ long enough, really relaxing and soaking it it, then our mind might jump to SE.

There is nothing you can do to make SE happen, except practice gently and consistently and make friends with the dark mode and to dwell in EQ when things become equanimous.

Some other posts that might be helpful: 

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/6811263#_19_message_6811822


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/7411708#_19_message_7412922


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5871714#_19_message_5872398

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/11806974?doAsUserId=U4FYRpmIICQ%3D%2F-%2Fmessage_boards%2Fmessage%2F10837%2F-%2Fmessage_boards%2Fmessage%2F98108&_19_threadView=flat


https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/10235118

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/9/19 7:15 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Shargrol, thank you so much for your honesty and for being so direct. This is exactly what I needed, and you are very on point.

My whole life I have been running away from the "dark" because I was too scared, or because it was to hurtful when I was a child, to experience the emotions and sensations that arose.This has followed trough into my adult years, and the belief that I always needed to be happy, or energetic etc. has created this strong aversion to everything that the Dark Night includes. 

I have done everything in my power to get out of feeling like this, so I am running, trying, forcing myself to feel differently than I am. So I am running away from the true nature of reality instead of embracing and surrendering. 

I consulted with a clairvoyant as well, who told me very similar to what you are saying, just with other words, since she is not a meditator but a highly attuned clairvoyant. She told me to surrender, to quit the fight and let go, to allow myself to feel the pain that is stored in the system, to love everything that arises, to connect gently with myself and love the parts of me that I have been running from, including the subconscious which is some times called the inner child.

In times of strong feelings of loneliness, depression and deep sadness, I have managed to just sit down and feel where ther emotions are coming from, letting them be, analysing as you say, and trying to see them as they are without judging. I guess this is why the Yoga was helping me as well, but that practice turned into "getting rid of physical pain" practice by trying harder, and going for 4-6 hours pushing really hard. I have also found sometimes that if I just think positivily and turn the thoughts around I am able to create some amazing days filled with joy. But again that is me forcing something to be like that, and not just dwellign in the flow of the universe (which has happened a few times as well, when I am really relaxed)

Exactly as you say it is a closed loop where the more effort I put in the more I am suffering..
I have been an entrepreneur my whole life, and I have seen first hand how I have shaped my life trough hard work, how I created financial freedom, and the ability to move anywhere in the world - and it is tough that this mindset is not working here, and I need to forget everything I know, and have ever known, to stop trying and surrender completely to the grace of the universe, be thrown into the uknown and accept whatever is waiting there for me. Even if it means going bankrupt, losing family and ending up alone. I am also scared that I will feel this way forever which is somewhat of a paradox, because I WILL feel this way forever if I keep trying not to. I guess those are some of my worst fears.

I will change my current status from Dark Night Yogi to Dark Night Student.. Maybe I dont even have to go to a retreat to study this, since I am already deeply into the Dark Night.. Some of the days I have felt the best are the days where I just dont give a shit about anything, and the mind relaxes and it is way more playful to be alive.

Re-reading your posts again before hitting the publish button and small jolts of joy and hope going trough my body, I believe this happens when the mind and body recognices ultimate truth, and I appreciate you dearly for sharing that with me, without judging.

Thank you very much.

I will go on to reading the posts you shared as well,

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/9/19 7:42 AM as a reply to John Smith.
Yes, very successful people often have these kinds of problems at this stage... but the good news is that once they realize where their mistake is, their practice becomes amazing. yes,  become a dark night student. Yes, learn to truly love everything that arises. That's the fast path.

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/9/19 9:39 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Sorry for the spam... emoticon   Their are a lot of dark night yogis out there (and I was one of them, so I know), so I'm kinda including a lot of ideas on your thread... hope it's somewhat okay.


One more set of ideas, kind of cut and paste from another conversation I recently had...


I really recommend some aspect of "releasing ill will" at the core of practice. This basically involves is super honesty: how am bringing in an attitude of ill will by treating my current state as inadequate or as a failure? How and where do I experience that? And can I hold that ill will in awareness with love? All of us human struggle so much with our own minds. Nothing is ever good enough. The human realm of chasing one desire and getting it and deriving temporary release but then needing another desire to chase, on and on for eternity like some limbo state, all of that is happening right here and now in our sitting practice. Can we see it? Can we see desire as a super-seductive form of ill will that keeps us like a hamster on a wheel? And the only way out is to use the power of desire to illuminate the false promise of desire... We can desire to see how desire works in our own minds.

And this includes the attitude we unconsciously express in our own practice. The ambition, the striving. Sitting in place is essential, but where we go wrong is not seeing how the ambition and the striving cause us needless suffering ---- and on retreat it will make us not settle in EQ. I'm going to take Kenneth's words from (https://www.dharmaoverground.org/dharma-wiki/-/wiki/Main/Jhana+and+%c3%91ana+/enand slightly change it with my language in double parentheses:

"There are two very different instructions, depending on whether a yogi is pre- or post- fourth ñana. A pre- fourth ñana yogi, i.e. one who has not attained to the level of the Arising and Passing Away of Phenomena, must put his focus on penetrating the object. A post- fourth ñana yogi must ((relax and center)). It's that simple. And the reason, in my opinion, that the western dharma scene has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in producing high levels of attainment in its students is that western dharma teachers give beginning instruction to intermediate and advanced students; they tell post- fourth ñana students to ratchet up the intensity of their vipassana, when they should be telling them to ((relax and center)) their ((hearts)).

This, in my opinion tragic situation, is due to a misunderstanding that arose out of a cultural difference. The western vipassana scene, as exemplified by Insight Meditation Society, is influenced primarily by Burmese Mahasi-style vipassana. It seems that Burmese people, by and large, concentrate so well that it is difficult for them to learn vipassana. This, at least, is the conventional wisdom, and my experience in Burma in the early and mid-'90's led me to believe that it is, although a stereotype, generally accurate. Burmese yogis very quickly attain a deeply concentrated state and it is all the teachers can do to get them to look clearly at an object. Westerners, on the other hand, have no ((relaxation or centering)) whatsoever. We watch television, drink coffee, and obsess endlessly about our careers and our relationships. We are so goal-oriented that if you so much as suggest to us that there is something to gain by striving we will strive from here to eternity. When Burmese monks give instructions that were designed for Burmese yogis to American yogis, the result is too much effort and too little ((relaxing and centering)). Without ((relaxing and centering)), the strata of mind that contain advanced insight are never reached. This leads to the chronic achiever, as Bill Hamilton put it, the yogi that has attained to the all important fourth ñana, but is unable, year after year, to attain to the Paths.

Once a yogi, whether American, Asian, or otherwise, reaches the fourth ñana, it is imperative that the teacher recognize this and change the instruction from effort to ((relaxing and centering))). A post 4th ñana yogi is in no danger of becoming "lost in concentration." He or she has all the tools to deconstruct whatever object presents itself to the mind. The important thing now is to access the relevant mental strata. These strata are accessed through ((relaxing and centering)). There are various techniques to encourage the development of ((relaxing and centering)). "


As you can see, I changed "concentration" to "relaxing and centering" because that is much closer to the right word for what vipassina jhanas involve. The attitude that something is wrong in the mind state now and a need to get something different/better is basically anti-jhana. The attitude that the current moment is an evil trickster and we need to see through its disguise is basically anti-jhana. The attitude that we need to penetrate the object with the power of a logical mind is basically anti-jhana. Loving the current moment and allowing a full experience of it is the heart of relaxing and centering. Really being here, as it is, without judging what nana it is and how good of a meditator we are, and feeling what this moment of being alive is like is the heart of relaxing and centering.

The pressure is off. Now it's simply a matter of spending time relaxing and centering and letting the mind's own nature lead you into EQ and beyond. You can't make the stages of awakening happen, you never could, yet it can happen. But for you, the pressure is off. .

The heart of this is you must relax the feeling of being inadequate to the task by bathing that experience with respect and love.  And what I mean is: you must love your _flawed_ self. You must bath the _flawed_mind_ itself with love. That is true love and the basis of healing and true mindfulness.

Let go of the pride that thinks "I will make it happen" and recognize it is bigger than you. No one has ever made SE happen. No one has ever made a nana happen. The pressure is off. It's simply intention and sitting still, participating with experience. If you honor the energy of this, it will shine a light on all the ways you sabotage yourself by resisting and carrying around subtle ill will. But when you develop the new habit of putting loving attention on it, then oddly enough you'll see that resistance and ill will is actually like a path that leads you onward to awakening. So oddly enough, it is like all your flaws were actually wise guides all along.

A lot of people think, if I have EQ or SE then I'll finally be able to relax my heart/mind, but oddly enough the universe has designed it so that we have to relax our heart/mind to be worthy of EQ and SE. It's almost like the universe is forcing us to confront our own woundedness and see feel them completely so that we can finally heal. That's why crying is such a part of it. That's why compassion naturally grows from it. Once you see how resistance and ill will has everyone trapped in their own wounds, you naturally feel compassion for others because you know, intimately, what that is like. So you want to help others. And oddly enough it simply involves having others recognize their own power of being able to hold their wounds in their awareness. And their own power of being able to relax and center on this experience of the holyness of NOW. Then the experience of now becomes very deep and insight develops. There is no other "trick" that works. We must see the futility of resistance and ill will and the heart naturally drops resistance and ill will, and we can truly be mindful, insightful, and experience peace.

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/10/19 7:36 AM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
Yes, very successful people often have these kinds of problems at this stage... but the good news is that once they realize where their mistake is, their practice becomes amazing. yes,  become a dark night student. Yes, learn to truly love everything that arises. That's the fast path.


Thank you again - I really apreciate every word you have shared, no spam there at all!

Something interesting happened last night - after deciding to call the Meditation teacher at Dhammacari Germany, I went to sleep pondering about letting go, relaxing and letting the universe do its thing. 

I woke up in the middle of the night with the usual tension in my body, my jaw and mind, probably lots of cortisol running trough the body at this time as well. Went to the bathroom and instead of starting stretching and trying to get the tension to go away like I have done for the past 6 months intensely. I just noticed the tension, where it was, send loving thoughts, compassion and smiling at it. 

Then I went back to bed and in an half awake / half sleep mode, the body was loosening up a lot of knots in the stomach area, legs and pelvis. This went on for about 2-3 hours, and it was like my body was finally able to release some of all the build up tension. 

I was a little nervous about my call with the meditation teacher 6.30 in the morning - but when I woke up and felt the release from the night I was just very happy, and thought to myself that it will go however it goes, and there is nothing to live up to, to prove or to be, just call and see what happens.

Had a great call with her, and she said it was very common what I was going trough..

I will do a retreat from home and meditate 2 hours daily, 1 hours walking, noting lifting, moving, putting and 1 hours sitting, noting rising, falling, sitting. 

And I opened up with a ceremony, giving metta for myself and the world and wishing to reach Nibanna. And I took the 5 precepts.

Also the resolution for each sitting is to attain https://puredhamma.net/three-levels-of-practice/sotapanna-stage-of-nibbana/udayavaya-nana-introduction/ As per her instructions. I had to look up what that meant, and it resonates very well with what I am going trough.

I will call her each week for a chat about the progress, which feels great.


I did 30 mins of walking and 30 mins of sitting right after, this morning - and fell asleep like a baby, and felt how the body was releasing an enourmous amount of tension.

The hours since the meditation I have been very aware of how there is something in the mind that wants to push, to control outcome, to strive, and how it affects my breath, and how it then creates tension. 

Just noticing this, and letting it go is a little bit like not caring about the outcome, thus accepting things as they are, or as they will be, and it is such a relief.

Like I can finally stop caring so much about everything and letting go little by little.

All the rules I have about how I need to live, how everything has to be perfect in every moment, has strangled life itself, and it is now time to relax into being and let the universe work trough me for the benefit of all.

Thank you for your pointers and encouragement.

Metta from Portugal

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/10/19 11:51 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Interesting posts Shagrol, thanks!

JS-- Best of luck!  I'm sorry to hear about the difficult journey you've had.  It's worth mentioning that psychotherapy might be a good thing to engage in if your meditation practice is becoming destabilizing.  

I'm a relative beginner but I continue to find it helpful to do concentration practices prior to doing insight work, particularly during the DN.  Starting insight practice from a place of bliss/tranquility/equanimity can be very helpful when experiencing a lot of harsh stuff.  I also find it helpful to choose a meditation position that's very physically comfortable, typically lying down or reclining.  

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/10/19 1:08 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Hello John. It's good to hear, that you are able to observe the tensions in your body without trying to get rid or change them in some way. Within those experiences lies the key to overcome all your other unwanted feelings/emotions/etc., but I guess you know that already.

Shargrol has explained in so much detail and clearity, what are the key points to deal with dark night yogi stuff. I think his words will be of great benefit to other Dark Night Yogis who will read this. They reflected most of my own experiences while trapped in dark territory and describe the way how to deal with it and overcome it in a healthy way: In my short own summary it is all about recognizing, observing and integrating your experiences instead of ignoring, disliking and pushing them away. And the (my) main essence to achieve that is self love, acceptence of what is and taking care of yourself in the midst of all the difficulties - which is quite the opposite I (subconsciously) did most of the time in the past. 

I have been a Dark Night Yogi too and your experiences are in so many parts qual to mine - or at least that's what I interpreted out of thememoticon. I guess you know quite well what suffering is and I guess you are meditating because you know that within the practice lies the solution. And I guess that's why are you trying so hard, at least that was the reason why I put so much effort in it. 

Was it worth it? Yes. Did it helped me? No. Well, actually yes, because I experienced over time (on and off the cushion), that this is exactly the way how I was acting in my life. Always trying hard, trying to be perfect, to make everything right - especially to others. Being harsh and judging myself because of the high self-expectations which never could be fullfilled. Even good was not good enough. Does this sound familiar?

On my first retreat (2016), which was a 10-day retreat with intervals of 45 Minutes walking/sitting meditation, I had those spectecular experiences (like you) of rapture, joy, equanimity (after going through "hell" the first 4 days of the retreat) and I thought, yes, that' it, that's the way it should go. That's the end of my suffering. Two weeks later entering real life territory, nothing of my retreat experiences were left. Still stuck in my own misery and pain. The only thing that was left was the "knowing" that there is a way to end suffering, because I experienced it directly. This was the reason why I stayed motivated to practice further on, on a mostly daily base, which included lots of non-formal practice too.

On my 2nd retreat (2018), which also was a 10-day retreat I left after the 5th day, because I was so stuck in the dark territory (or in other words where meditating myself into those states), that I came to the point where I was thinking/feeling that I was loosing it. It was the best decision I took to end this retreat. I didn't regret it from the moment I took this decision - it was quite the opposite. It felt like it was the first time, I became aware, that I was forcing myself too hard (during retreat and in so many aspects of my life). It also felt like that for the first time also, I took care of myself. I was honest to myself, that I was not able to deal with the stuff, which was going on. I protected myself. 

And that's the reason when I started to integrate loving kindness meditation (which included self-forgiveness meditation) in my daily meditation routine, which mostly included only sending love to myself in the beginning. The phrases, not like before, weren't empty, they started to become a "meaning". I was able to fill my heart with love and experience that fully. I started to befriend with myself, also for the first time of my life - or in other words I stopped being me own enemy. This helped me a lot to start getting in contact with my negative feelings/emotions during my vipassana sessions.

Because of that former experiences, I decided, if I ever go on a retreat again, I will search for a retreat/teacher, where I will have good guidance, which means at least a daily report and an individual meditation schedule. Luckilyemoticon, I found the right place and teacher. I may describe you my daily schedule on this retreat, because it is unusual to those retreats I've heard of, or attended before. It is based on Mahasy Sayadaw tradition. It included mindful prostration, walking and sitting meditation. We started at 4:00am an went to bed at 09:00-10 pm. We were a small group and every person got it's individual practice schedule, from the first day on. All persons who attended the retreat for the first time, got an extra session each day in the first 2 days, where the technique was shown to us and where we were allowed to ask questions. From the first day on we were encouraged to contact the teacher at any time, if it was needed. On the first day I told my teacher about my experiences on the 2nd retreat an he told me, that that could occur again and that I should start easy and be gentle and not forcing myself during this retreat.

Day 1: Mindful Prostration/10 minutes walking/10 minutes sitting/20 minutes break. Everything was ok for me at this time.
Day 2: Getting from 10 minutes up to 15 minutes walking and sitting. Everything was ok too. At the evening I did an extended sitting meditation (which was doing me no good --> I got restless)
Day 3: Only slept for about 2 hours because of restlessness. On my first meditation at 04:00 I got a feeling of panic and a slight feeling of loosing it. I went to my teacher and talked to him about that. Then he did something quite opposite than the other teachers before - instead of telling me to keep on practicing, sitting it through, he told me, that my concentration level is quite high, and if I start getting deeper into that concentration, things will probably come up, which I may not be able to handle yet and that for insight meditation, my level of concentration is enough, so that I should stop the formal meditation, try to rest for a few hours if I can and after that starting with non-formal practice during the whole day. That means open awareness, without focusing too much on one thing/sense, or sticking too much with what ever shows up. 

This was the key for me: For the rest of the retreat I wasn't doing any formal meditation, only open awareness. And this was my breakthrough, because it is the tool for integrating inner wisdom into daily living - at least it is for me.

From the superduper-high spiritual view I had so much insights (and those occured without formal practicing), like experiencing all three characteristics at one time, or one after another, feeling connected to every single one of this group, seeing his/her joy in me, seeing his/her suffering in me, seeing the whole suffering of the whole universe within me. But all those insights didn't really matter much. What mattered was the fact that I was aware of the three characteristics while experiencing those insights. For the first time I used this states to stay awake and I observed what suchs "positive" states did to me, like fogging up my awareness, getting attached to desire, leading to sloth, etc. I also experienced, that while in such a "state" that there are also the same feelings in my body,  or same thoughts and emotions are arising than when in a so called negative state. The only difference is, that there were no I in those sensations, and so they didn't had any grip of me. Thoughts were thoughts, feelings were feelings, etc. I was able to choose if I give some importance to them or not, I experienced that I can choose if I wanna feed the caring voice or the judgmental voice, or simple note them as thinking. That's why my judgmental voice was very, very silent at the end of the retreat and still isemoticon

Those experiences were for sure of a great benefit but I they weren't the most important ones. The things which helped me most where the following:

- On day two our teacher encouraged us, that we should act "normal" while not doing formal meditation, like not going super slow, or eating super slow - we just should keep the awareness with us, while standing, sitting, waiting, walking, etc. The funny thing was, that it seemed that nobody listened to him. Everyone was acting high spiritual, was going superduper slow, was eating superduper slow, was acting high concentrated while putting the right food at it's right spot at the table, etcemoticon. "Never ever make mistakes, they are not allowed because you should be mindful all the timeemoticon." I did that all those things too at the beginning, because my main issue in real life is social anxiety (which i was carrying around since my childhood I guess). And what do you wanna do when you have social anxiety - right. Act like everyone else, don't stand out - act normal - or in our case, act strangeemoticon. But at day 3 I started to act against my normal habits, I started to act normal normal, like not meeting the expectations of others or those of the group. I was able to release myself from my own social prison. Acting on a other way then most of the group doesn't mean that I acted rude. I just did what the teacher was telling us. I was walking at normal pace, when I took some food. I didn't stare at my food all the time, till I got up - instead I started looking around. The rudest thing I did was when I looked in the eyes of someone and get a glimpse from that person and a expression of his/her face which told me "what the hell are you doing, we are not supposed to look in someone other eyes"emoticon. I noticed the discomfort in that person an stopped this experiment after a few attemps. In short I was stepping out of my own habbits/confort zone. I stopped pretending to be like everyone else, so nobody could see my anxiety. And that helped a lot. I transfered the inner wisdom from meditation into my daily living - isn't that the main reason why we (you) are doing this practice?
- Even if I wasn't formal meditating I was challenged a lot during the day with states of discomfort, boredom, lazyness, dizziness, non-awareness etc and also I was experiencing moments of joy, freedom, equanimity. I was able to observe all those states, while taking care of myself. Instead of pushing the "unwanted" away, and wishing the "wanted" to stay permanent, I befriend with all those states, let them be and staying present from moment to moment.
- One of the most important thing  I also learned during this retreat is getting to know my own borders and respecting my limits. Like knowing how far I can go in handling difficult things and not overdoing it. During non formal meditation in those days I often experienced feelings of discomfort, shame etc. I even was able to gentle get through a few slight panic attacks. And the reason why I was able to do that, is because I learned to take things easy, to be ok with those feelings and do distract myself in situations when things started to overwhelm me. And so, over time, I was able to extend my personal borders of discomfort and integrate more and more deeper dark night stuff and transform it.

So, to come to an end, to me the most important thing to me in dealing with the dark night, is to face all the unwanted/ignored things in the formal-meditation world and in the real life - always knowing what you can handle and knowing when it is time to protect yourself, when it is time to give yourself a hug, instead of trying to overcome and push through something. This was and (actually) is my way in integrating those aspects, which has been ignored for so long, into my daily living, 24/7.

Another important thing is to find a proper teacher who cares about you and guides you through your process - which it seemed you have already foundemoticon

If I can give you one advice it would be the following: To not give much about insights, they will happen (and vanish) anyway. Put your focus more on integrating the wisdom you gained from meditation into your daily life. Start observing your common issues in real world in more and more detail and be a good caretaker of yourself while doing that. This will change your habitual reactions to those issues over time.

I don't know if some of my written words are of some benefit to you, or of some others who read this. I would be interested if others who are also trapped in the dark knight, or were able to overcome it share their experiences too - but only if that is ok for you John. This may lead to similar storys. But some different viewpoints can be of much help I guess.

Additionally I just wanna repeat the citation (Kenneth's words) of Shargrol, because of its great importance to me. It shows the importance of a teacher who is able to see where you are on your path and who is giving you individual instructions. I guess for a teacher it is only possible to do this, if you are truly honest about your experiences and if he/she has enough time during a retreat for personal reports. If there is no or only limited time for reportings I would personally not recommend anyone going on a retreat, especially when this person is a beginner.

There are two very different instructions, depending on whether a yogi is pre- or post- fourth ñana. A pre- fourth ñana yogi, i.e. one who has not attained to the level of the Arising and Passing Away of Phenomena, must put his focus on penetrating the object. A post- fourth ñana yogi must ((relax and center)). It's that simple. And the reason, in my opinion, that the western dharma scene has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in producing high levels of attainment in its students is that western dharma teachers give beginning instruction to intermediate and advanced students; they tell post- fourth ñana students to ratchet up the intensity of their vipassana, when they should be telling them to ((relax and center)) their ((hearts)).


Greetings Georg

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/10/19 5:24 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Just wanted to jump on and say thanks for this thread. This discussion speaks well to what I am experienceing right now. Particularly the bit about how to practice after fourth nana.


Certified 100% spam free.

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/18/19 10:09 AM as a reply to Georg S.
Georg S:
Hello John. It's good to hear, that you are able to observe the tensions in your body without trying to get rid or change them in some way. Within those experiences lies the key to overcome all your other unwanted feelings/emotions/etc., but I guess you know that already.

Shargrol has explained in so much detail and clearity, what are the key points to deal with dark night yogi stuff. I think his words will be of great benefit to other Dark Night Yogis who will read this. They reflected most of my own experiences while trapped in dark territory and describe the way how to deal with it and overcome it in a healthy way: In my short own summary it is all about recognizing, observing and integrating your experiences instead of ignoring, disliking and pushing them away. And the (my) main essence to achieve that is self love, acceptence of what is and taking care of yourself in the midst of all the difficulties - which is quite the opposite I (subconsciously) did most of the time in the past. 

I have been a Dark Night Yogi too and your experiences are in so many parts qual to mine - or at least that's what I interpreted out of thememoticon. I guess you know quite well what suffering is and I guess you are meditating because you know that within the practice lies the solution. And I guess that's why are you trying so hard, at least that was the reason why I put so much effort in it. 

Was it worth it? Yes. Did it helped me? No. Well, actually yes, because I experienced over time (on and off the cushion), that this is exactly the way how I was acting in my life. Always trying hard, trying to be perfect, to make everything right - especially to others. Being harsh and judging myself because of the high self-expectations which never could be fullfilled. Even good was not good enough. Does this sound familiar?

On my first retreat (2016), which was a 10-day retreat with intervals of 45 Minutes walking/sitting meditation, I had those spectecular experiences (like you) of rapture, joy, equanimity (after going through "hell" the first 4 days of the retreat) and I thought, yes, that' it, that's the way it should go. That's the end of my suffering. Two weeks later entering real life territory, nothing of my retreat experiences were left. Still stuck in my own misery and pain. The only thing that was left was the "knowing" that there is a way to end suffering, because I experienced it directly. This was the reason why I stayed motivated to practice further on, on a mostly daily base, which included lots of non-formal practice too.

On my 2nd retreat (2018), which also was a 10-day retreat I left after the 5th day, because I was so stuck in the dark territory (or in other words where meditating myself into those states), that I came to the point where I was thinking/feeling that I was loosing it. It was the best decision I took to end this retreat. I didn't regret it from the moment I took this decision - it was quite the opposite. It felt like it was the first time, I became aware, that I was forcing myself too hard (during retreat and in so many aspects of my life). It also felt like that for the first time also, I took care of myself. I was honest to myself, that I was not able to deal with the stuff, which was going on. I protected myself. 

And that's the reason when I started to integrate loving kindness meditation (which included self-forgiveness meditation) in my daily meditation routine, which mostly included only sending love to myself in the beginning. The phrases, not like before, weren't empty, they started to become a "meaning". I was able to fill my heart with love and experience that fully. I started to befriend with myself, also for the first time of my life - or in other words I stopped being me own enemy. This helped me a lot to start getting in contact with my negative feelings/emotions during my vipassana sessions.

Because of that former experiences, I decided, if I ever go on a retreat again, I will search for a retreat/teacher, where I will have good guidance, which means at least a daily report and an individual meditation schedule. Luckilyemoticon, I found the right place and teacher. I may describe you my daily schedule on this retreat, because it is unusual to those retreats I've heard of, or attended before. It is based on Mahasy Sayadaw tradition. It included mindful prostration, walking and sitting meditation. We started at 4:00am an went to bed at 09:00-10 pm. We were a small group and every person got it's individual practice schedule, from the first day on. All persons who attended the retreat for the first time, got an extra session each day in the first 2 days, where the technique was shown to us and where we were allowed to ask questions. From the first day on we were encouraged to contact the teacher at any time, if it was needed. On the first day I told my teacher about my experiences on the 2nd retreat an he told me, that that could occur again and that I should start easy and be gentle and not forcing myself during this retreat.

Day 1: Mindful Prostration/10 minutes walking/10 minutes sitting/20 minutes break. Everything was ok for me at this time.
Day 2: Getting from 10 minutes up to 15 minutes walking and sitting. Everything was ok too. At the evening I did an extended sitting meditation (which was doing me no good --> I got restless)
Day 3: Only slept for about 2 hours because of restlessness. On my first meditation at 04:00 I got a feeling of panic and a slight feeling of loosing it. I went to my teacher and talked to him about that. Then he did something quite opposite than the other teachers before - instead of telling me to keep on practicing, sitting it through, he told me, that my concentration level is quite high, and if I start getting deeper into that concentration, things will probably come up, which I may not be able to handle yet and that for insight meditation, my level of concentration is enough, so that I should stop the formal meditation, try to rest for a few hours if I can and after that starting with non-formal practice during the whole day. That means open awareness, without focusing too much on one thing/sense, or sticking too much with what ever shows up. 

This was the key for me: For the rest of the retreat I wasn't doing any formal meditation, only open awareness. And this was my breakthrough, because it is the tool for integrating inner wisdom into daily living - at least it is for me.

From the superduper-high spiritual view I had so much insights (and those occured without formal practicing), like experiencing all three characteristics at one time, or one after another, feeling connected to every single one of this group, seeing his/her joy in me, seeing his/her suffering in me, seeing the whole suffering of the whole universe within me. But all those insights didn't really matter much. What mattered was the fact that I was aware of the three characteristics while experiencing those insights. For the first time I used this states to stay awake and I observed what suchs "positive" states did to me, like fogging up my awareness, getting attached to desire, leading to sloth, etc. I also experienced, that while in such a "state" that there are also the same feelings in my body,  or same thoughts and emotions are arising than when in a so called negative state. The only difference is, that there were no I in those sensations, and so they didn't had any grip of me. Thoughts were thoughts, feelings were feelings, etc. I was able to choose if I give some importance to them or not, I experienced that I can choose if I wanna feed the caring voice or the judgmental voice, or simple note them as thinking. That's why my judgmental voice was very, very silent at the end of the retreat and still isemoticon

Those experiences were for sure of a great benefit but I they weren't the most important ones. The things which helped me most where the following:

- On day two our teacher encouraged us, that we should act "normal" while not doing formal meditation, like not going super slow, or eating super slow - we just should keep the awareness with us, while standing, sitting, waiting, walking, etc. The funny thing was, that it seemed that nobody listened to him. Everyone was acting high spiritual, was going superduper slow, was eating superduper slow, was acting high concentrated while putting the right food at it's right spot at the table, etcemoticon. "Never ever make mistakes, they are not allowed because you should be mindful all the timeemoticon." I did that all those things too at the beginning, because my main issue in real life is social anxiety (which i was carrying around since my childhood I guess). And what do you wanna do when you have social anxiety - right. Act like everyone else, don't stand out - act normal - or in our case, act strangeemoticon. But at day 3 I started to act against my normal habits, I started to act normal normal, like not meeting the expectations of others or those of the group. I was able to release myself from my own social prison. Acting on a other way then most of the group doesn't mean that I acted rude. I just did what the teacher was telling us. I was walking at normal pace, when I took some food. I didn't stare at my food all the time, till I got up - instead I started looking around. The rudest thing I did was when I looked in the eyes of someone and get a glimpse from that person and a expression of his/her face which told me "what the hell are you doing, we are not supposed to look in someone other eyes"emoticon. I noticed the discomfort in that person an stopped this experiment after a few attemps. In short I was stepping out of my own habbits/confort zone. I stopped pretending to be like everyone else, so nobody could see my anxiety. And that helped a lot. I transfered the inner wisdom from meditation into my daily living - isn't that the main reason why we (you) are doing this practice?
- Even if I wasn't formal meditating I was challenged a lot during the day with states of discomfort, boredom, lazyness, dizziness, non-awareness etc and also I was experiencing moments of joy, freedom, equanimity. I was able to observe all those states, while taking care of myself. Instead of pushing the "unwanted" away, and wishing the "wanted" to stay permanent, I befriend with all those states, let them be and staying present from moment to moment.
- One of the most important thing  I also learned during this retreat is getting to know my own borders and respecting my limits. Like knowing how far I can go in handling difficult things and not overdoing it. During non formal meditation in those days I often experienced feelings of discomfort, shame etc. I even was able to gentle get through a few slight panic attacks. And the reason why I was able to do that, is because I learned to take things easy, to be ok with those feelings and do distract myself in situations when things started to overwhelm me. And so, over time, I was able to extend my personal borders of discomfort and integrate more and more deeper dark night stuff and transform it.

So, to come to an end, to me the most important thing to me in dealing with the dark night, is to face all the unwanted/ignored things in the formal-meditation world and in the real life - always knowing what you can handle and knowing when it is time to protect yourself, when it is time to give yourself a hug, instead of trying to overcome and push through something. This was and (actually) is my way in integrating those aspects, which has been ignored for so long, into my daily living, 24/7.

Another important thing is to find a proper teacher who cares about you and guides you through your process - which it seemed you have already foundemoticon

If I can give you one advice it would be the following: To not give much about insights, they will happen (and vanish) anyway. Put your focus more on integrating the wisdom you gained from meditation into your daily life. Start observing your common issues in real world in more and more detail and be a good caretaker of yourself while doing that. This will change your habitual reactions to those issues over time.

I don't know if some of my written words are of some benefit to you, or of some others who read this. I would be interested if others who are also trapped in the dark knight, or were able to overcome it share their experiences too - but only if that is ok for you John. This may lead to similar storys. But some different viewpoints can be of much help I guess.

Additionally I just wanna repeat the citation (Kenneth's words) of Shargrol, because of its great importance to me. It shows the importance of a teacher who is able to see where you are on your path and who is giving you individual instructions. I guess for a teacher it is only possible to do this, if you are truly honest about your experiences and if he/she has enough time during a retreat for personal reports. If there is no or only limited time for reportings I would personally not recommend anyone going on a retreat, especially when this person is a beginner.

There are two very different instructions, depending on whether a yogi is pre- or post- fourth ñana. A pre- fourth ñana yogi, i.e. one who has not attained to the level of the Arising and Passing Away of Phenomena, must put his focus on penetrating the object. A post- fourth ñana yogi must ((relax and center)). It's that simple. And the reason, in my opinion, that the western dharma scene has been so spectacularly unsuccessful in producing high levels of attainment in its students is that western dharma teachers give beginning instruction to intermediate and advanced students; they tell post- fourth ñana students to ratchet up the intensity of their vipassana, when they should be telling them to ((relax and center)) their ((hearts)).


Greetings Georg

Thank you Georg for your very comprehensive reply - there are so many things you write that reflect my own experience, and it has been very beneficial to me to re-read it again today. 

It took me 4 days of pushing like crazy again with my daily retreat until I realized strongly again, that this is what I am always doing in my daily life - and I decided to pull the plug, to stop and care for my self - to feel into what I need. This made me feel absolutely amazing and I was certain it was the right choice to slow down and meditate more easily when I had the time, without forcing anything. 

However when I called up the meditation teacher to tell her - I imediately felt the shame and guilt of letting her down (an authority) and I started quiestioning my choice and my newly found self-love went out the window. I am slowly building it up again now, and actually found an online course I resonate a lot with called "love everything that arises" about loving your own innonce. I feel intuitively that this is what I need - and I think this process is very important for me to be able to know who I am, what I need and when - without placing my power in the hands of anyone else. My teacher ment that this was the minds way to get out of having to do the daily meditation, it could be, but this just feels different, like I have finally listened to myself, without just pushing trough. A bit like you explained above. 

After stopping my daily retreat I also connected deeply to my body and had intutitions about my psoas muscle - how it is creating a lot of problems for me because of tension from sitting, and how it is storing emotions and blocking hormones for energy etc. - and I found some interesting information about the psoas that I believe I need on my "healing journey". 

I feel when I am in a space of love, and I am able to relax in the psoas and stomach area - awarenes becomes wider and I am able to stay present in everything I do - when I am in the forcing / striving / pushing mode it is like I am at war with the universe- I am automatically put into fight and flight mode and it is impossible to create or see any magic from this point of view, and the suffering is tremendous. 

I will try your tips of open awareness, and start with the course to cultivate more self-love.. I know it could be a pitfall to follow what feels good and use it for intuition, like going towards pleasure - but I have the feeling that this is the right thing to do now.

When the stress settles a bit after an integration period (a lot of stress going on in personal life as well) I will try to see if I can get on a retreat again when the performance pressure has settled. 


Ps. I did a few guided breathwork sessions aswell with focus on the Inner Child and felt a deep emotional release and a connection to my center, and a small opening to my heart - and I could feel the loving connection to other people, and it felt very homely and natural. It has since subsided, but it was a great thing to experience since I have felt disconnected from love for a long time (I believe this happens in fight/flight mode) and I also feel the very loving vibes coming from the recomendations in this thread. I will try to cultivate more of this feeling with some metta practice.

Thank you for that emoticon

I will keep you updated!

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/20/19 2:58 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Hello John. At first I want to say, that despite this forum is a great source of inspiration, it can never replace a good teacher, who you know personally (and who knows you), who you can trust and be honest to. As I'am not a teacher I don't want to intervent too much into your process, because words are words which could be read and interpreted in many ways. I write this to you, because I have the feeling, that your mind maybe got fooled by my words and actually plays some tricky mind games with you, which you might don't acknowledge yet fully. 

I would recommend before changing or interrupting your meditation routine you should talk with your teacher first about that (e.g. why you wanna do it, what you wanna try out, what you concerned of, etc.) , because she knows you better than I do (or the members of this forum, I guess). If she is a "good" one and you are truly honest to her, like you are to us, she knows where you are in your process, what you are going through and what should be in your interest right now - at least when you are honest to her and to yourself.

Maybe some of the more experienced members of this forum can write something additionally, because I'm concerned that my (further) suggestions/assumptions/hints about your process will disturb you more than they will benefit you. What I can do (and that was my main intention when I first posted here) is sharing my own experiences with you, but I don't feel privileged to be a guide to you, because I'm in the middle of something and not at the end. 

I guess this wasn't the answer you expected, but I want to be honest to you - before giving you any advice, which may fog your vision instead of cleaning it. 

Greetings and best wishes

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/29/19 1:24 PM as a reply to shargrol.
A perfect advice from shargrol. 
The whole practice is revolving around how to balance energy - how to remember all time but not striving. 
Speaking from a person cycling AP through EQ for 15 years without much success. Sometimes I wish I had had more wisdom as people in here, at an ealier age, while still have much energy and aspiration. But, it is what it is. Having a good sleep without dreams is enough for me (nowadays).



 

RE: From Dark Night to Stream Entry
Answer
12/30/19 12:09 PM as a reply to John Smith.
Hi John. Some excellent advice on this thread. Not much to add publicly, but I've sent you a private message and I'm not sure how reliable the notifications are on this board. Please check the "messages" tab above if you get a chance. Wishing you the best of luck with your practice in the meantime.