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Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/4/20 11:29 AM
Hey all,

About three years ago I had an experience of pure fear and unsurpassed brilliant terror for a couple months straight. No pause, no rest, every mindful second was pure torture. I think a big cause for this was not being able to progress on the path. Ever since I left school as a 18yr old (30yr old now) I've been convinced that Buddhism was my goal and salvation in life. That's why I've amassed an enormous amount of books in the hopes of progressing on the Buddhist path. I guess realizing that 12 years later I find myself not any wiser or happier made me sink into deep dispair.

I'm new to MCTB2 and I am sick of reading through heaps of books from different teachers (I have a small library by now) only to find out I am more confused about what to do than before. So I decided to just stick to MCTB2 and read it till the end to finally make some sense of things (if possible at all). As a daily user of antidepressants and anti-psychotic medication I'm fairly scared of doing any meditation work at all. 

Anyway, I'm afraid of slipping into the dark night again with strong feelings of "Everything is pointless in the end" or not being able to enjoy anything at all.. 

Is there anyone that has gone through something similar or has any advice, it would be appreciated very much.

ps. English not my native language so the sentences might be weird. Sorry!

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/4/20 1:59 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Hey Kvn,
Sorry to hear that you have been feeling overwhelmed like this. I can certainly understand how it can seem like you are not making progress and how that could lead to despair.
I have not experienced anything the the extent you have, though I have at times been in states of despair that seemed like they would last for eternity.  I'm a little hesitant to give advice since I'm still pretty new to everything, but I will say for me during these times it's comforting to remember that these states never last forever, since all sensations are impermanent, rising and passing due to karmic causes and conditions.  

Have you seen this thread on Dealing with the Dark Night?  Probably could find some good advice here:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/category/89581

Wish you the best and I hope you feel better. I hope you find some helpful and comforting advice on this forum and in your life.

-John

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/4/20 4:06 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Hi Kvn and thank you for sharing and also welcome to the forum.

I will say Im happy that you are in the place you are right now as I can see myself being in such a situation since 2011 when I dropped into Dark Night. I suffer from PTSD and I was on SSRI medicine which kind of was both good and bad for me until I managed to find the way to use it. 

My medicine is called Sertralin and I was only on 50mg. I refused to listen to the doctor telling me that I will need more. I managed well on 50mg. After a while the meds would cause some sort of unpleasant preassure in my head and that was sing to discontinue it for a while. That preasure would cause me to react with anger as I simply could not absorb words from other persons. Anything else was just too much to handle.

Once I've managed to recognise when to start again and when to discontinue I was fine with the meds. Usually when I felt depression and basically going away from the world into myself I would start it again and the meds would balance out this dip into depression. 

For many years I felt so bad I even wanted to forget everything about Buddhisms. I've got into Beekeeping and Music making. This kind of worked for a while but at the end of 2018 I concluded that this Dark Stuff will not go away by me ignoring it and I was sick and tired, totally fed up with living in such murky waters of the mind. I could even see all this happening but falling short to do anything about it.

So in the start of 2019 I made a decission to go back to the practice and make through this Dark Night stuff of die trying (metaforically speakeing)  emoticon This is why I say "happy you are in this place" as this was the tipping point to get back to the ONLY thing that can get me out of it and that is to continue the practice, restart it, fire up the Sati and with lots of Acceptance plow through the dark pile of Mara's shit emoticon

I knew I could not do it on my own so I decided to find a teacher that works with the Mahasi style noting and this led me to Kenneth Folk (Ingram's friend, they both had the same teacher Bill Hamilton). Kenneth agreed to work with me over Skype and the practice kept rolling forth!


I really needed a teacher I can trust and also to have that someone to meet with every so often to talk about the stages, experiences etc ... kept me otivated not to give up.
I practiced Kenneth's method called Freestyle Noting Aloud which helped me a lot with overcomming the hindrances and this also kept the stream of noting without any stops (like lost in thinking as it usually happen in silent meditation). I made sure to practice 1-2 times 45-60 minutes a day each sit, and during A&P stage and Desire for Deliverance stage, 2-3 times a day 45-90 mintes each time. But I decided at least once a day 45 minutes was a MUST sit emoticon 

In about a few months I've entered the Dark Night stuff again and it was horrible! I never felt so much Mysery and Disqust in my entire life. Fear was not that big of a factor or me eventhough I did suffer for many years from Paranoia. If I was practicing silent I would have given up Im sure but hearing my own voice helped me Accept it all and keep Noting Aloud like crazy emoticon (I wish I had a video camera going to show you my face being all in disqust and even the words I've said sounded the same).
The 60 minute was over and the next sit was not that bad anymore.
Something opened up and I culd notice a ore panoramic awareness, and all inclusive awareness, with no unpleasant feelings. I knew I was in Equanimity.

Back in 2011 when I fell into DN I did try to get out of it and did reach EQ faze but liked it so much I re-lapsed into Re-observation so bad I gave up on meditation all together. I had no teacher at that time.So I knew this time NOT to cling to EQ and just keep Noting Aloud all that is being sensed. 
All this lasted for a few days and then I've hit a stage that felt like a Status-Quo and even starting to be Bored with it all. I kept Noting that Status-Quo and Boredom as well as anything else.

A few days after that stage, while playing with my little son, off the cushion, Cessation happened and all that heaviness was lifted and I felt like "I came back to myself". This was end of June 2019. I still feel very much ok today which is March 2020 emoticon  Im still having bad and good days but something in relation to all these bad and good days have changed, for the better emoticon

This is only my experience. We are all unike and time-line will be different from person to person but all Im saying is, it can be done with SSRI medicine. Maybe having a teacher can give extra clarity and accountability. You must add much of your own Acceptance and Effort and try to find a practice that is not breaking the stream of noting during the sit, at all. If you sit for 45 minutes it will indeed mean that you have been practicing for 45 minutes rarher than being lost in narratives of the mind most of the time. This is really important. Noting Aloud helped me A LOT emoticon

BTW, after the Cessation I still had some bad habitual patterns coming up into reactions but with each such experience something new was noticed and there was less and less reactivity as the time passed. Its a work in progress I guess and happens on its own by simply seeing things as they are "when this is that is, when this is not that is not", wisdom unfolding and using the knowledge from the Path well walked emoticon 

By the way, what was your main meditation practice? 

Ok, this is a long reply. I will stop here. Ask if you have a question or need more clarifying. 
Here is a link to kenneth's video demonstrating Freestyle Noting Aloud in case you wonder (he has more videos on this subject) 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-58IoZMNss

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/5/20 2:03 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
@ John W

Thanks for responding with such kind words. I will have a look at the thread you are recommending. Your response is certainly much appreciated!!

@ Papa Che Dusko

It's comforting to know someone else has gone through what I am experiencing. Even nicer to know you got out of it, which means I also got a chance. My practice was just a simple 10 minutes sitting with either Headspace or Waking Up app. The rest was all just theory to make sense of it all. I guess I am more of a theory kind of guy than practice. I think having a teacher is the next step. I will go seek out Kenneth Folk like you said. Thanks for the response and the write up. It is much appreciated!

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/5/20 10:04 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Buddhamma:

My practice was just a simple 10 minutes sitting with either Headspace or Waking Up app. The rest was all just theory to make sense of it all. I guess I am more of a theory kind of guy than practice. I think having a teacher is the next step. I will go seek out Kenneth Folk like you said. Thanks for the response and the write up. It is much appreciated!

In my humble opinion, the scale of stuff you are going through, have gone through, probably is going to require more dedicated practice to take it on.  Not to sound like a preacher, but one of the things I've heard over and over, especially with Dealing with the Dark Night, is 'practice, practice, practice'.  You might find 10 minutes a day is helpful to keep you calm.  But in order to master even the lower level Jhanas, taking you from the 3rd Jhana which is the foundation of the Dark Night (that is my understanding) through to the 4th Jhana and fruition - realistically it's going to take more than 10 minutes a day.  Maybe not that much more to start with (20-30 minutes to an hour a day?)

Usually it's cautioned not to try to take on too much at once. If you are feeling overwhelmed already, maybe wait to get into a more stable state before you tackle the Dark Night head on.  If you have any worries there, I would probably reach out to one of the teachers.

With this said, in my humble opinion you could probably still work on your concentration and insight practice up to the 1st and 2nd Jhanic states without pulling up too much DN-related material.  Doing simple breath exercises (noting and/or concentration practice) in my experience has rarely if ever led to negative side effects.  But if you do find that it is making you uncomfortable then yeah probably hold off until you can find someone with the right experience to guide you.
I agree reaching out to Kenneth Folk or Daniel Ingram for that matter would be a good step.  In the meantime you have MCTB as your guide.

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/5/20 5:38 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
I was in some sort of dark night for years. I had my moments but generally felt trapped in something I did not had any idea of how to get out of. I felt I was doing something wrong and I was blaming myself for it. I felt there is some trick to it, something I need to do to make myself feel better.

Then I read MCTB and one idea was born in my mind: this dark night stuff is something natural and it will pass if I stop trying to fix myself. It just worked.

Over time I discovered what cause Dark Night and even how to almost immediately go to Equanimity so exactly stuff I always felt was possibe. It was however at that time pretty useless for me to try to figure it out and it kept me in the Dark Night. Simplifying everything and letting dust to settle on its own was much more efficient approach.

You mentioned reading a lot of dharma books. I can imagine you got a lot of ideas in your mind and with them hope you can figure it out just like I hoped to do. It is all possible but not all at once. Let your mind cycle for a while. Lots of things I can do now seems to actually require these cycles to happen.

In the meantime you can practice extremely simple to do practice of noticing sensations. As long as you do not treat it as a fix to your Dark Night issue and just as some practice you do because it is generally beneficial it will all be good. Even the immediate fix I mentioned earlier depends on not trying to fix anything... =P

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 9:46 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
@ John W

I do get what you are saying. If you want to make progress you've got to do some serious practice. I am just too afraid I will completely lose my mind if I do so. Especially after my breakdown a few years ago. I couldn't go through that again. I will keep doing soft practice and not too seriously as I guess I feel more comfortable with that. Maybe that connection with a teacher is the best next step I can do right now. Thanks so much for your advice, it's really helpful and comforting.

@ Ni Nurta

"I had my moments but generally felt trapped in something I did not had any idea of how to get out of." Exactly what I am feeling now. What you describe as "letting dust settle" seems like a wise thing to do now. I'm wondering if you ever felt lonely during that difficult phase? I always feel I cannot really speak about the path with anyone. I am aware this forum is kind of like a sangha. But conversing through a forum is still very different than chatting for example. 

-

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 2:52 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
What you went through seems very tough, to say the least. My best advice is to reach out to Daniel if you ever find yourself in a similar position again. I would. He has helped many people go through tough shit in the darknight stages, free of charge. Words seem especially empty when I wish to describe the compassion I feel having read your post. May you find peace and the union of wisdom and compassion. 

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 3:10 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
I hope Daniel would be available if I'd ever end up in that place again. I don't know for sure but it looks like he isn't that active on the forum. How do you guys contact him when you need him? I've seen a few Youtube videos of him by now and he looks like a really knowledgeable and stand up guy. 

Somehow, just to see people read my experience already helps a bunch. Reading about other people having had similar experiences makes me feel not so alone in the terror I faced while on this path of awakening. Thanks for the extremely kind words Linda "Polly Ester" 

Ö!


RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 3:34 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
This is a link to his contact details, with caveats and stuff. I think he is currently on retreat. https://www.integrateddaniel.info/contact

He once contacted me just after I had mentioned in a thread that I was darknighting but I was probably unusually lucky with the timing. 

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 4:02 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
I am not in any position to give advice for such situations, so don't take this please as an advice.

Reading your post, these from Papaji came to my mind:

Call off The Search.

Keep quiet.

Don't start a thought.

No Teacher, No Student, No Teaching.

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 6:04 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Hi

It was nice to read your post and the situation your facing. 

You mentioned that the reason you believe for your despair is not progressing on the Buddhist path. That doesn't sound like a "dark night" as that term is usually reserved for a psychologically disturbing stage on the spiritual path that may occur as a result of insight into emptiness/no self.
It sounds like you're just depressed because you are attached to your ideas of progress on the spiritual path. 

Attachment to any idea of progress and getting someplace other than here entails suffering. Like a wordly person who is depressed because they don't have the desired status or material wealth, one on the spiritual path can become depressed when they don't have desired attainments or insight/wisdom. All this trying to attain, trying to obtain is just the mechanism of the self. 

Through meditation, one sees that everything happens right here now. All paths lead to here. All the striving and trying to get to some place other than  here happens right now. Try to get in touch with the sense of timelessness,the sense that you never go anywhere. There lies the peace you seek.


 

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/6/20 6:12 PM as a reply to Buddhamma.
I definitely felt lonely, both normal loneliness and more disheartening internal loneliness where nothing even makes any sense anymore.

It was however mostly about not feeling well and everything getting worse over time and I saw that any solutions I came up with appeared to me as not only not working but something that could not even work and time it took for deactualization of these solutions was getting shorter.

Interringly enough the work I have done at that time was not pointless after all. Mind faculties needed some sort of training and they got it. However I also need to note that all the work I did during Dark Night I could do much faster and have fun doing it if I did it differently. So it was pointless after all.

I watched YT video recently of how lockpicking work and this analogy is very fitting. Guy in the video had to apply the right moment of force, feel and move each pin, treat different kinds of pin differently and repeat it multiple times including some times loosening grip to allow pin to fall in place. It is the same with mind and cracking Dark Night and some pins, some locks, some doors, should be opened first even if they are only to make yourself feel pleasant but in the mind appear to be away from the solution that seems to be required to fix the issue. This is even more important because these doors are part of final solution anyway so it is best to open them as soon as possible.

Now I am perhaps contradicting myself a little because I just said the finding way of Dark Night caused it to persist and it is better to allow dust to settle. This is still the case. When you are not keeping mind in this mind state by trying to fix it then it will move by itself and you will cycle. When however you are back experiencing Dark Night as you inevitably will there is a good opportunity to pick it and learn a thing or two. Not as in "if I do not do it now something bad will happen" but as "this is an opportunity"

EDIT://
To anyone wondering what the hell Ni Nurta is talking about here... well, finding undefined solutions by cracking undefined mind locks to open undefined doors using undefined lockpincking methods sounds exactly like the kind of fun stuff one likes to do during Dark Night of the Soul emoticon

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/8/20 10:11 AM as a reply to Ni Nurta.
I think the lockpicking analogy is excellent. And I actually kind of enjoy doing that while darknighting, at least some of the time, but I'm probably a bit of a masochist. That's got to be within reason, though. There are times when I just want to curl up under a big rock and let moss grow all over me. 

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/8/20 10:27 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
notice awareness

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/9/20 1:06 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Some awesome advice being given. I feel a lot more prepared for an eventual attack of the dark night. The lockpicking analogy is wonderful and it makes a lot of sense. I want to thank everyone again for chiming in and the advice. 

RE: Persisting Dark Night
Answer
3/30/20 7:04 AM as a reply to Buddhamma.
Buddhamma:
Hey all,

About three years ago I had an experience of pure fear and unsurpassed brilliant terror for a couple months straight. No pause, no rest, every mindful second was pure torture. I think a big cause for this was not being able to progress on the path. Ever since I left school as a 18yr old (30yr old now) I've been convinced that Buddhism was my goal and salvation in life. That's why I've amassed an enormous amount of books in the hopes of progressing on the Buddhist path. I guess realizing that 12 years later I find myself not any wiser or happier made me sink into deep dispair.

I'm new to MCTB2 and I am sick of reading through heaps of books from different teachers (I have a small library by now) only to find out I am more confused about what to do than before. So I decided to just stick to MCTB2 and read it till the end to finally make some sense of things (if possible at all). As a daily user of antidepressants and anti-psychotic medication I'm fairly scared of doing any meditation work at all. 

Anyway, I'm afraid of slipping into the dark night again with strong feelings of "Everything is pointless in the end" or not being able to enjoy anything at all.. 

Is there anyone that has gone through something similar or has any advice, it would be appreciated very much.

ps. English not my native language so the sentences might be weird. Sorry!

Hi Buddhama, I am someone who also has a long time spiritual pracice since my teens (in started with buddhism at 17, after being raised Roman Catholic), and also been immersed in dark night for hellishly long stretches, and who has also dealt with a number of big-time psychological breakdowns requiring medical intervention (one hospitalization for depression, three for mania, so i know something of the anti-depressant and anti-psychotic medications to some extent, and I am currently on an antidepressant). Your fear of slipping back into the worst of the dark night terror is very realistic, and your high awareness that meditation work is likely to intensify things enough to throw you back into deep dark night also strikes me, based on my own experience, as realistic.
And you are seeking help and refuge in the sangha of the Dharma Overground, and trying to bring your focus to the teachings of MCTB, to simplify the way forward. That in itself is very important, because as you know, DhO is a very practice-oriented community. And you are afraid of practice! So, really, my friend, you're fucked. (That is supposed to be funny, in a funny-but-true way, by the way. You said English is not your native language, and one of the harder things to get in a second language is humor, much less humor that might not even strike you as funny even if it was delivered with perfect timing in your native language. I can only joke about you being fucked as fellow dark night yogi from a similar depth of being fucked as well). But you know that, it is the insight into dukha, and the First Noble Truth. 
So with all due qualifications, here you are and here i am, and my heart goes out to you, as only hearts that know hell can go out to each other. The resources available in this community as unparalled, in my estimation, and if you hang in here you will come to appreciate more and more the range of souls and experience that can be brought to bear at any moment. So I speak humbly, at this moment, on this thread you began. Remember that "sutra," in Sanskrit, sutta in Pali, means, literally, "thread." So this is your dark night sutra, one of your threads through the labyrinth of samsara.
My advice is to accept precisely where you are, first, which seems to me, in the Theravadan-based mapping terminology of MCTB2, in the third of the four vipassana jhanas, The Knowledges of Suffering; and, more specifically in the neighborhood of the sixth nana, or stage of insight, out of 16 (or 15, depending on how you count). The 6th nana is Knowledge of Fear. So, given that much, you said that at this point you feel capable only of a soft practice of about ten minutes a day. I have been in a similar place, coming back from total breakdown, and one way I dealt with it, technique-wise, was to to, "Okay, today, day 1 of this eon of meditation, I will meditate ten minutes. 10:00." As you well know, ten minutes is plenty of time to open the doors to heaven or hell or anything in between. If I made the ten minutes, I added a second to the next day's meditation session: "day 2 of this eon of meditation, 10:01." If I broke down or crapped out or gave up in disgust, during my meditation, and didn't make the full time, I would take a second off for the next day: "day 2 of this completely fucked up and futile waste of time in this eon of meditation, 09:59." A bonus of this approach, for someone dealing with the worst dark night stuff, is that if you start at ten minutes, 600 seconds, and never finish a single meditation, losing one second per day of practice, you will be down to 0 in less than two years. It is said somewhere in the Tibetan tradition that this is how enlightenment may be attained in the hell bardos. I suspect that you will find your own rhythm, in your practice. But practice is the common language here; everything else is translation for the sake of the ongoing conversation, until all sentient beings are saved.
You remember the Buddhist parable of the turtle? (MN 129 Balapandita Sutta, originally, as best I can track it down, though there are much elaborated versions) A blind turtle lives on the ocean bed and surfaces just once every hundred years. A golden yoke floats on the vast ocean, blown here and there by the wind. What are the chances of the turtle surfacing at just the right time and in just the right place to be able to put its head through the yoke? This is how hard it is to attain human birth. And in the ocean of human birth, the same applies to how hard it is to encounter the teachings of a buddha, in one's lifetime. And through that yoke, another ocean, the yoke now being taking the dhamma to heart. So you are many many seemingly futile oceans along right now, my friend. You are afraid of the despair you feel at having to come to the surface so many times only to miss the circle, but here you are, still swimming, still surfacing. So put in your 10:00 minutes of practice today, and your 10:01 or 9:59 tomorrow. You really can't do anything else, you have what I've seen Daniel Ingram call "insight disease," also known as dharma fever. The dark night is a giant spike of high temperature in dharma fever, but it is unavoidable, once you have the basic disease. The only cure is the one you intuited right from the start, the four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path you have been swimming all these years. This is the only only ocean now, and this is your only body, so use that body, and its breath, and the dharma, to attain the salvation that keeps all turtles swimming.