Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

M, modified 27 Days ago.

Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
What's the fastest way to get through the Dark Night? 

I've started off practicing Goenka vipassana. However, I've heard Ingram say that Mahasi style noting can be faster. 

Lately, I've shifted slightly away from Goenka vipassana and have been letting my attention flow more freely instead of forcing a body scan if it doesn't feel natural, but I've stilled maintained focus on body sensations. 

A couple more specific questions, though I'm really open to any feedback on how to get through the Dark Night: 
  • Does it matter if I direct my attention intentionally (systematic body scanning) vs letting my attention drift freely? 
  • When I try noting sensations within my body (so, not noting things like seeing or hearing), it feels much clunkier relative to body scanning without explicit noting. Is there a benefit to explicit noting that I'm missing? 
  • How should I relate to my thoughts, particularly the really dark ones that keep coming up? To what extent should I go into the content and grieve? Sometimes it's so overwhelming that I can't help but cry and lose focus of body sensations for awhile until I calm down a bit. 
George S, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
The fastest way to get through the Dark Night is to accept it for what it is - a byproduct of clinging. Try to investigate what it is you may be clinging to ... the high of A&P? Ideas about progress or what should be happening in your practice? Off-cushion stuff? Etc.

Does it matter if I direct my attention intentionally (systematic body scanning) vs letting my attention drift freely? 

​​​​​​​We don't really have any control over our attention, so try investigating this sense that you do have control!

When I try noting sensations within my body (so, not noting things like seeing or hearing), it feels much clunkier relative to body scanning without explicit noting. Is there a benefit to explicit noting that I'm missing? 

Explicit noting is easier starting out or when things are rough, but eventually you drop the labels and just feel things "as they are" (and when experience speeds up it’s impossible to do explicit noting anyway).


How should I relate to my thoughts, particularly the really dark ones that keep coming up? To what extent should I go into the content and grieve? Sometimes it's so overwhelming that I can't help but cry and lose focus of body sensations for awhile until I calm down a bit.

Thoughts can be investigated like any other sensations. If thoughts are overpowering, then no sense in fighting them. Just let the thought stream run wherever it wants to go and watch it as a curious third-party observer. Try to keep aware of the felt sense of the body as well, and its relationship to the thoughts. It always comes back to the body eventually. Crying and other kinds of emotional catharsis like anger and shame are totally natural and important to feel fully on a senate level.
M, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thanks so much for answering all these. 

Do you have any thoughts on how to distinguish between off-cushion stuff and dark night stuff? I definitely have a lot of off-cushion grief going on and am not sure how it fits in with insight progress. 

When you say we don't really have control over our attention, how does this influence how you view shamatha practices? Logically, I think I get what you're saying - I know that even if I'm focusing attention on my breath, I can't really control how long it stays there or when I notice when I've drifted. But I'm unsure what to make of this in the context of concentration practices? 
George S, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 2064 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Do you have any thoughts on how to distinguish between off-cushion stuff and dark night stuff? I definitely have a lot of off-cushion grief going on and am not sure how it fits in with insight progress.

It's hard to compartmentalize, because it's the same mind, underlying psychological drives and reaction patterns, just in a different context! As much as possible, try to avoid reacting externally to the off-cushion stuff and instead meditate on it to explore the deeper emotional/psychological drivers. Obviously if you are in an abusive or unhealthy situation then you need to take action to get out of that, but making big lifestyle changes "just to see if it will make a difference" probably won't make much difference ultimately if the underlying issues are not brought into awareness and processed.

The general approach with off-cushion issues is the same with on-cushion - find the greed, aversion or ignorance ...

What am I holding onto which is making me unhappy? What do I think I want which is making me unhappy? (Usually it's something we think we must have due to our conditioning, even we can't imagine life without it, and yet when we let it go life suddenly improves. Or maybe we see that we already have it but in a different form from what we expect. Or maybe we let go of wanting it and somehow it happens by itself ...)

​​​​​​​What am I avoiding which could make me happier? (Often we know what would be best for us to do, but we struggle with an unconscious resistance pattern. When the resistance is brought into awareness and released then suddently the impossible becomes possible and even easy ...)

What am I ignoring? Are there things which I'm taking for granted? Am I physically safe? Am I adequately fed, clothed and sheltered? Am I free from life-threatening diseases? etc.

The grieving process is totally natural and important when there has been trauma or loss, so again it's a question of allowing it to happen without resisting, clinging or ignoring (needlessly re-traumatizing yourself). Depending on the depth of the trauma, there's lots of specific resources (books or therapy) which could help with this.


When you say we don't really have control over our attention, how does this influence how you view shamatha practices? Logically, I think I get what you're saying - I know that even if I'm focusing attention on my breath, I can't really control how long it stays there or when I notice when I've drifted. But I'm unsure what to make of this in the context of concentration practices?

Insight and concentration really go hand in hand in an organic fashion. If you sit and drop into a nice peaceful blissful state ("doing concentration") then great, but if not then there is some hindrance which needs to be examined (greed, aversion, ignorance), hence you are "doing insight". As the hindrances fall away then concentration deepens, but eventually the state passes and you are examining what's left - am I attached to the state? am I ignoring something? - insight again. When I started out practicing I used to think 'now I'm doing insight' or 'now I'm doing concentration', wherease these days I just sit and see what comes up (and that's always what's really happening, it's just that sometimes we overlay an illusory sense of being in control of what's happening!)

Again it's a sort of false dichotomoy tied to the illusion of control, which applies to the off-cushion stuff as well. Life is designed to survive and happens by itself to a much greater degree than we can imagine ... if we can get out of our own way. So again, it's often a question of finding out where we are clinging or resisting or ignoring rather than making any big decisions (and yes, big decisions also seem to happen satisfactorily by themselves when necessary, if we let them!)  
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 5922 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Whatever method or non-method allows you to fully embrace where you are at without an escape route, but with explorative curiosity and great appreciation for the richness of human experience that it is and all that you can learn from it. 
M, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö
Whatever method or non-method allows you to fully embrace where you are at without an escape route, but with explorative curiosity and great appreciation for the richness of human experience that it is and all that you can learn from it. 
I struggle to appreciate the richness of absolute misery. Did you feel this appreciation while going through this stage? Or is this more how you look at it in hindsight? 
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Oatmilk, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 110 Join Date: 7/30/20 Recent Posts
Best if you don't get started
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 2173 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Best to finish if you do start it emoticon
shargrol, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 1620 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
All good answers above.
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Stefan R, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 176 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Don't fight it. Feel it.

Here's some advice I gave on another forum about navigating the DN - EQ loop, with focus on re-observation. Hope it helps.

The important takeaway from it all is just to be with the experiences, knowing and deeply feeling what they're trying to teach you at that very moment.

The process isn't linear, despite it being called a "map" of insight.
  • Re-obs basically calls us to re-evaluate (huh) everything we've learned so far into one single continuous flow. Think the 3Cs, A&P, and Dark Night stuff
  • The 3Cs teach us that cause+effect ripple into new sensations, creating illusions of permanence, satisfaction, and solidity. We see into the chain of cause and effect with the 3Cs as the focus and link causes and effects working in body and mind sensations into a contiguous and coherent picture of how it works together, but in a narrow focus
  • This leads to the A&P which shows us these non-stop arising and passing sensations, colliding into and ricocheting off of one another, to create more causes and effects, and so on. It's very fun and exciting because this is the first taste of freedom. But freedom has a price... Which we learn with...
  • Dissolution is about the realisations of fading. If everything arises and passes, they eventually fade. This is a more macroscopic view of the A&P, it's like watching the A&P arise and pass away itself. You realise that it's just a state -- it'll come and go as it pleases. Our mind slips and slides into a whole bunch of perspectives, attentional patterns, etc., this stage is quite pleasant because it still has elements of A&P in it, but on the more mature side of it, it'll start getting a little spooky because now you'll start to see that...
  • Fear teaches us something about safety, what safety can we find in any sensation or state if they're coming and going as they please?
  • Misery teaches us about humility, every sensation or state eventually lets us down, because they never live up to our expectations. So we learn this repeated sadness is being caused by expecting more than arising/passing -- it's a reminder to let go.
  • Disgust teaches us about the impurity of sensations and states; they're messy things. Chaotic. You can't purify them or clean them up. You gotta take 'em straight, no chaser, no mixer. The only thing that can be purified is the relationship between the illusory experience of self and other.
  • D4D teaches us that wanting to escape, ignore, or be angry about it all cannot fix the real issue at hand. The issue being that you thought you could fix/improve/merge with/run away from the sensations in the first place.
  • Re-obs is like a gatekeeper to the EQ, like a snap quiz on everything you've learned at incredible speed. It's mostly subconscious stuff. It's not like you're consciously remembering these lessons. But consciously knowing them does help, because there's a sense of normalcy and safety. If there's misery, it's miserable. If there's anger, it's angry. If there's revulsion, it's revulsive. Et cetera...
Generally speaking, re-obs is where I recommend people to do nothing and let the insights realise themselves and integrate themselves into the flow of experienced reality. There's no gamifying the thing. No strategy. Even doing nothing is a strategy. Even directly experiencing the stuff is a strategy. What's left? What are you gonna do when there's nothing left to do? What was the purpose of a you if there was truly nothing for it to do? What was the you doing all along before realising this? Hmmm... emoticon
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Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 5922 Join Date: 12/8/18 Recent Posts
Nice! emoticon 
M, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 41 Join Date: 3/25/20 Recent Posts
Thank you for laying this all out. Super helpful! I have a few follow up questions. 

When going through stages like fear/misery/disgust - did you experience these as just being about sensations in your body? Or about other aspects of reality as well? I've been struggling a lot with the immensity of suffering in the world in addition to all the sensation stuff. 

I'm also finding myself wanting more clarity on what to do in re-observation. Like what kind of nothing should I do when doing nothing? The paradox within this question is not lost on me, but I'm not sure how to just "do nothing". I'm also not sure how much longer I can take all this unpleasant stuff - it's just starting to feel like I'm wasting my time and that meditation doesn't really "work". So I'd like to come out of it sooner rather than later. 
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Stefan R, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 176 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
There are somatic and mental components to it. Hard to say which come first. Just see what's happening. 

It can manifest in the sensations themselves or the mental landscape. If you think about the sensations as something like the choppiness of a vibration. And the mental landscape being like the tone. Neither of these precedes the other. It depends how honed into the individual vibrations you are or not. I'm very honed into my wider field, so most of my dark night stuff manifested as mental landscape stuff.

I feel ya, my dude, my dark night saw me hallucinating (auditory/visual) pretty regularly, along with paranoid stuff. Really not fun. It shook me to my core. Looking back, it was the most important thing that happened in my life to date. It all ended when I just forgave the parts of me trying to defend from the harshness. You need to forgive them and love them. With doing nothing versus doing something. There's no choice. There never was a choice. If you "stopped" now, how would that actually change anything? The thing has a life of its own. 

There's a real beauty now that I see in the 3rd Vipassana Jhana. There's a sense of returning home in it. That bittersweet release. Making peace with it all. Try and embrace these values in this trying time. 
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Ni Nurta, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 774 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
You got in to this mess because you forgot to relax. You need to rest.
Now more than ever.

For mind doing nothing is inconceivable but that doesn't matter. Only most of your mind is tired and needs rest asap.
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Pepe ·, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 441 Join Date: 9/26/18 Recent Posts
Hi M,

Check Shargrol's   Every yogi should have multiple techniques in their toolbox if they wish to attain Stream Entry.  Also A&P - Dark Night Loop in Shargrol's posts compilation. Plenty of good stuff for there onwards. Also Daniel Ingram's posts compilation 1st Path Section, starting at Lists of symptoms por ñana diagnosis.  

Things that were useful to me in DN:

- Noting/Noticing the endings of phenomena
- Resting in the silent gaps between thoughts and 'seeing' the distant horizon
- Whole body  breathing
- Abiding the uncomfortable sensations. If not possible, around its edges. Later in the session or the next one, it will be much less uncomfortable
- Alternatively, sometimes is better trying to relax the physical tensions that arise with every thought
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Papa Che Dusko, modified 27 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 2173 Join Date: 3/1/20 Recent Posts
Let me shake this up a bit and go a bit against the other fine replies here emoticon 

I will say that relaxing, do nothing, just be, feel it and similar DID NOT help me through the nasty DN and Re-observation. I come from the Shamatha background were there is lots of "whole body breathing" and calming and relaxing and doing nothing and just being, etc ... emoticon bascially all that which we find to be a "real" meditation emoticon (note; I did start meditating back in 2009)

Its when I found the un-cool noting aloud meditation as thought by Shinzen and Kenneth Folk that I managed to plow throught the DN/Re-observation. Took me 5 months of daily 45-60 minutes practice 2-3 times every day, and I did it so not to have any laps in the stream of noting. Basically would note 1-5 sensations every second, but at least 1-2 every second.

I armed myself with Utter Acceptance for all the arisings no matter how bad they are to be and look right at it all without any expectation for attaining anything out of this nut really soaking , or letting all THIS totally engulf me (as long it was Noted/Labeled). 

To support concentration some more I did rest my open eyes on a kasina object (any kind of dirt spot I culd see infront of myself on the floor or wall and even use this for noting)

Also to mention I did work with Kenneth Folk during this time, Feb - July 2019. His presence was of great help to me at that time. I thank him for that! So having a teacher you trust could be very good. Was for me.

I will link to the Shinzen and Kenneth videos so you can also get familiar with this method in case all the "cool" meditation methods failed (as they did in my case). As you see there is no "one way fits all" emoticon Gotta find what works for you. My journey was first Shamatha then Vipassana at the end. Most onthisforum go first Vipassana and then try to ease up and go Shamatha to balance stuff out. Maybe this is your way too, but I felt to share my experience just to give another angle on this journey.
Best wishes!

Shinzen
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StBTuX0tqU8

Kenneth Folk (he has more vodeos breaking down each aspect like Feeling Tones, Mind States, Body Sensations ... )
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-58IoZMNss
Adi Vader, modified 26 Days ago.

RE: Fastest way to get through the Dark Night?

Posts: 39 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Uptill the A&P you are training the perceptive mind to engage with 'objects'
In the Dark Night you are training the affective mind to soothe the heart, to relax the hardness with which the citta (the heart-mind) grabs objects

Please see if this reddit post helps.

​​​​​​​https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/osqhcg/vipassana_the_progress_of_insight_part_3_dukkha/

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