DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

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Oatmilk, modified 7 Months ago.

DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 95 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey all, 

I've got some questions in regards to: Dark Night - grounding methods and physical pain. 

I assume to be in the middle path territory and since my last shift in perception I struggle with my meditation practice.
Previous to the last shift, which occured in the beginning of this year, I was following the standard prgression through the Dukkha Nana's multiple times. While they were unpleasant at times, there were also phases where they would just run in the background and didn't really bother.
The main focus back then seemed to be mainly emotional. During times were I hung out in the Misery Nana, I mostly just felt depressed. The most unplesant stages were ofc ReOb/DfD, but those stages never lasted longer than one day. Once I got out of the DN, EQ felt wide, spacious and really plesant, since quite a while though, even EQ feels like terror. 

Comparing this to the Dark Night's I go through right now, the above seems to be kindergarden and I'm not even close to the time spend on the cushion (15-20 min/day) before the last shift.
The last two weeks have been feeling like ReOb/DfD on steroids, times 100. I sit for 15-20 minutes, leave the cushion and 20 minutes later I experience the worst imaginable terror. My mind starts to produce a ton of weird thoughts and phantasies and comes up with intense cravings and sometimes anxiety attacks. Sometimes it gets so bad that I feel like getting a mental breakdown (it happened twice this week already). When that happens I feel so fed up with the Dharma, that I fall back into old negative behavioral patterns - when this point is reached, then all of my attempts to surrender have failed. It's just too intense. I stopped meditating for 4 day's and nothing has really changed. Accompanied by this, is lethargy, fatigue, nausea, excruciating pain in the head area and really unplesant heart- and gut-contractions.

Q: Did I damage my mind? 
I have this theory, that the closer one is to the end, the extremer the DN's become? (Maybe this is also just my fairy-tale thinking mind) 

Due to those difficulties and a seemingly terrible active Kundalini (nope, not A&P territory), I now wanted to ask the more advanced Yogis here, what kind of grounding methods they'd suggest (a specific Yoga pose? - or a specific QiGong practice?). Being in nature is unfortunately not an option since I live in a very big city. Going for walks and trying to get into the parasympathetic nervoussystem also doesn't seem to fit me well. I once tried some QiGong and did some Yoga on the same day - I ended up being really dissociated for an entire weekend. So I'd like to go slow on those things. It would be great to hear your guy's suggestions. 

Lastly, where does that pain come from? I usually just experience that kind of pain during 3C's and then it's just the head and the jaw. 

Thanks much for reading

-O
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Zachary, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 197 Join Date: 3/16/18 Recent Posts

Due to those difficulties and a seemingly terrible active Kundalini (nope, not A&P territory), I now wanted to ask the more advanced Yogis here, what kind of grounding methods they'd suggest (a specific Yoga pose? - or a specific QiGong practice?). 


I find Zhan Zhuang standing meditation to be very grounding. There's a lot of good resources at the link below if you're interested (the user who compiled this list is active on DhO, so thanks is due to them). There's a considerable depth to the practice but it really doesn't need to be made into anything complex as you begin. Personally, I've just been standing in the first "Wuji" position for almost two years at this point for about 20-30min a day in the morning after waking up. Just standing and breathing, adjusting if the body requires it. 

https://github.com/atrahhdis/zhan-zhuang

Other than that, the most grounding thing for me has been to continue ticking all the boxes of beneficial, everyday stuff such as exercise, spending time with friends and family, eating right, getting enough sleep, having meaningful work, etc.  
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ivory, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Zachary:

Other than that, the most grounding thing for me has been to continue ticking all the boxes of beneficial, everyday stuff such as exercise, spending time with friends and family, eating right, getting enough sleep, having meaningful work, etc.  


That was my exact experience as well. I had to really get my life handled before the DN symptoms subsided. My biggest sticking point was alcohol and nicotine.
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Oatmilk, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 95 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey Zachary,

thank you for sharing the link, I'll definitely check it out! 
Other than that, the most grounding thing for me has been to continue ticking all the boxes of beneficial, everyday stuff such as exercise, spending time with friends and family, eating right, getting enough sleep, having meaningful work, etc.

Those are all things I have done, unfortunately it didn't really work - I guess, I'll just do a long break from practice...

Anyway's - thanks a lot! 
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Jim Smith, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 962 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
I'm sorry to hear you are having such a hard time. If I were in your situation, I would stop meditating and see a mental health professional, or at least look outiside meditation for a solution.

My (maybe heretical) view of dark nights is that you shouldn't do intense vipassana unless you can start from a pleasant relaxed mood. (You can use samatha techniques: relaxing breathing, or metta meditation, to produce a feeling of wellbeing.) It's kind of like a brake to help keep you from going too far (or too fast) with a (potentially) dangerous technique or path. And you can get important, useful, insight just from learning how to find tranquility because doing so brings an understanding of what interferes with tranquility.

I also think folks in a deep dark night should consider seeing a mental health professional (or at least look beyond meditation for a solution). Just because the system of meditation you are practicing predicts unpleasant emotions, does't mean they are actually caused by meditation, or if they are triggered by meditation, it doesn't necessarily mean that more meditation will help.

I have found it very difficult to tell what factors influence my mood. I've found that in addition meditation, nutrition, exercise, and stress or relaxation can also have a strong effect.

I don't know what causes the physical pain, but it isn't unusual for people in severe emotional distress to have physical symptoms. Maybe it's your unconscious mind's way of telling you something is wrong and needs to be changed? 

I hope things work out for you. 
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Oatmilk, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 95 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey Jim, 

thank you for your thoughtful reply! 

My (maybe heretical) view of dark nights is that you shouldn't do intense vipassana unless you can start from a pleasant relaxed mood. (You can use samatha techniques: relaxing breathing, or metta meditation, to produce a feeling of wellbeing.) It's kind of like a brake to help keep you from going too far (or too fast) with a (potentially) dangerous technique or path. And you can get important, useful, insight just from learning how to find tranquility because doing so brings an understanding of what interferes with tranquility.


Unfortunately it doesn't matter what kind of meditation I do and Shamtha actually just seems to make it worse, since the energy is then flowing around the choosen meditation onbject and it seems to intensify the problems. Trannqulity is fortunately not a problem, since the mind gets quiet as soon as I sit. 

I also think folks in a deep dark night should consider seeing a mental health professional (or at least look beyond meditation for a solution). Just because the system of meditation you are practicing predicts unpleasant emotions, does't mean they are actually caused by meditation, or if they are triggered by meditation, it doesn't necessarily mean that more meditation will help.

I worked w. a therapist in the past - I don't know how much ite helped me though, since I never had any serious mental problems. 

Thank you, Jim 
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Jim Smith, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 962 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
I don't know if this is applicable in your case but I have found intense concentration can cause problems. I prefer a realxed attitude when meditating, I don't just let my mind wander, but my attitude is more relaxed than tense or forceful. It's more mindfulness (gentle relaxed awareness) than concentration (intense focus). Like looking in appreciation at a beautiful landscape rather than searching intently for a lost item.
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ivory, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Oatmilk:
Q: Did I damage my mind? 
I have this theory, that the closer one is to the end, the extremer the DN's become? (Maybe this is also just my fairy-tale thinking mind) 

If I were you I would note that thought any others that resemble it. As you progress through DN territory the intensity and duration decreases.
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ivory, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Hey Oatmilk, I like your screen name. I hear you saying "it didn't work" for some of the suggestions. Realize that nagivating DN takes time and it may be a while before you see progress. DN is all about working through your psychological stuff and living a healthy lifestyle (food, exercise, friends, etc). When I first told my meditation teacher that I hit DN, he said, "Meditation isn't going to help you." And he was right. So I found a good therapist, went on meds for a while, and worked through my shit. Until you clear up some of the negative beliefs you have about yourself and the world you will remain stuck in DN. Most of the stuff floating through your mind are just symptoms of a much larger system of beliefs that lie unconscious, so working through this alone isn't easy. Understand that society isn't structured in such a way that's conducive to mental healing so we need all the help we can get. You will likely find some comfort in some sort of breathing exercise, it can take the edge off of the anxiety. Long meditation sessions will likely just make you feel miserable so be gentle on yourself. 15-20 minutes in the morning and perhaps another session in the evening may prove beneficial. Or not.
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Oatmilk, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 95 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey Ivory, 

your advice here seems actually pretty helpful and I will schedule an appointment w. a psychiatrist. Thank you for the eye-opening reply! 

-O 
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Jim Smith, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 962 Join Date: 1/17/15 Recent Posts
ivory:
...
DN is all about working through your psychological stuff and living a healthy lifestyle (food, exercise, friends, etc). When I first told my meditation teacher that I hit DN, he said, "Meditation isn't going to help you." And he was right.
...
Okay, but not all cases are the same.

Whether meditation will help depends on the type of meditation, the source of the unpleasant emotions, and other factors. If the emotions are due to emotional baggage and not a purely organic issue, then the right kind of meditation can help in some cases.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains this type of meditation here. 
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/concmind.html
The Path of Concentration & Mindfulness
by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
...
Many people tell us that the Buddha taught two different types of meditation — mindfulness meditation and concentration meditation. Mindfulness meditation, they say, is the direct path, while concentration practice is the scenic route that you take at your own risk because it's very easy to get caught there and you may never get out. But when you actually look at what the Buddha taught, he never separates these two practices. They are both parts of a single whole. Every time he explains mindfulness and its place in the path, he makes it clear that the purpose of mindfulness practice is to lead the mind into a state of Right Concentration — to get the mind to settle down and to find a place where it can really feel stable, at home, where it can look at things steadily and see them for what they are.
...
Suppose that anger is interfering with your concentration. Instead of getting involved in the anger, you try simply to be aware of when it's there and when it's not. You look at the anger as an event in and of itself — as it comes, as it goes. But you don't stop there. The next step — as you're still working at focusing on the breath — is recognizing how anger can be made to go away. Sometimes simply watching it is enough to make it go away; sometimes it's not, and you have to deal with it in other ways, such as arguing with the reasoning behind the anger or reminding yourself of the drawbacks of anger. In the course of dealing with it, you have to get your hands dirty. You've got to try and figure out why the anger is coming, why it's going, how you can get it out of there, because you realize that it's an unskillful state. And this requires that you improvise. Experiment. You've got to chase your ego and impatience out of the way so that you can have the space to make mistakes and learn from them, so that you can develop a skill in dealing with the anger. It's not just a question of hating the anger and trying to push it away, or of loving the anger and welcoming it. These approaches may give results in the short run, but in the long run they're not especially skillful. What's called for here is the ability to see what the anger is composed of; how can you take it apart.

One technique I like to use — when anger is present and you're in a situation where you don't immediately have to react to people — is simply to ask yourself in a good-natured way, "Okay, why are you angry?" Listen to what the mind has to say. Then pursue the matter: "But why are you angry at that? " "Of course, I'm angry. After all..." "Well, why are you angry at that?" If you keep this up, the mind will eventually admit to something stupid, like the assumption that people shouldn't be that way — even though they blatantly are that way — or that people should act in line with your standards, or whatever the mind is so embarrassed about that it tries to hide from you. But finally, if you keep probing, it'll fess up. You gain a lot of understanding of the anger that way, and this can really weaken its power over you.
...


Releasing emotional baggage is ultimately the same as becoming free from the fetter of identity view, which is the goal of all forms of Buddhist meditation.

This is because our baggage is ultimately due to attachments to self that originate in the way we distinguish between self and not-self, self and other. When we let go of our baggage, we are letting go of attachments to self, freeing ourselves from identity view, and ending the separation of self and not-self.

When one practices as Thanissaro describes, digging through the layers of baggage one uncovers layers of suppression and denial hidden underneath stories we make up to rationalize the conflict between our desires and expectations and reality. Releasing the baggage dispells layers of ignorance and delusion allowing us to see things as they really are.
agnostic, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 1639 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Hi Oatmilk,

Sorry to hear about your pain. To a certain extent the pain is already there and one is just becoming more aware of it. As concentration increases the mind becomes less distracted and it creates some space for physical pain to emerge as well as repressed emotions and other stuff. That can feel like meditation is causing the pain, but I think it's coincident rather than causal. I realized this when I would focus on objects other than the pain but it would only serve to apparently intensify the pain, because concentration was increasing regardless of the object.

I've found that there are basically 3 approaches to the pain: ignore it, pass through it or tread around it.

Ignoring it is basically what we've already been doing and it doesn't work. We might not be so aware of the pain, but it's there hidden in the body and it's causing all sort of uncomfortable experiences and driving our behavior subconsciously.

Passing through it is the end goal: you focus on the pain, break it into little fluxing sensations with no meaning, try to find the center and ultimately realize that the pain is completely empty and it vanishes into bliss. You realize that "pain" was just a habitual label you were applying to a complex set of sensations which was solidifying it into something seemingly painful and intractable. This is great but there's a problem with this approach - focusing on the pain is increasing concentration ... which is creating greater (awareness of) pain. This leads to the feeling that meditation is causing the pain and needs to be avoided or limited

The middle way between these two extremes is treading softly around the pain. In my experience you can't get completely past the pain this way, but you create enough space for the body and mind to heal themselves (which they know how to do, despite our habitual tendency to think that "we" have to solve the problem). In this middle way, you maintain awareness of the pain without getting too fixated on it. It helps to study the edges of the pain, notice how it is changing, how relates to other parts of the body. Can you broaden the attention so that you are aware of the pain, the breathing and the whole body and the space around it all at once? Over time this creates a looser relationship with the pain which allows the blockages to free up and ultimately pass through it.

I struggled with this for months and still do to a certain extent, but it helps to remember that pain is a great teacher. One day you will be thankful for it because it is teaching you a lesson that you will not learn any other way: how to accept something which you really don't like and is happening to you outside your control. Painful thought patterns can be temporarily forced aside, painful emotions can be repressed, but harsh physical pain cannot be ignored. It's painful but learning how to accept it is a skill which can be applied to meditation as well as life in general. At least it was for me.

One particular thing which helped for me was Buteyko breathing. It's very practical (counting and extending the control pause) and helps to take the mind off the pain while still keeping it on the breath and generally in an aware meditative-like state. Limiting breathing helps greatly with reducing anxiety and increasing relaxation. Be careful though, it's a bit like adding jet fuel to your meditation so you need to be aware of not focussing too much on the pain with the increased concentration!

Hope this helps,
George
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Oatmilk, modified 7 Months ago.

RE: DN/Grounding/Physical Pain

Posts: 95 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Hey George, 

thank you so much for your thoughtful reply - lot's of good information here! I will also look up the breathing technique that you mentioned! 

Thanks a lot! 

-O