Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Bodi Moens, modified 3 Months ago.

Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/26/21 Recent Posts

To begin with i am totally not experienced with meditation. My journey all started about a year ago. About a year ago i had my first panic attack (not really my first, i had one 2 years before this when i was using weed, but i didnt know what it was back then), that was the onset of an anxiety disorder. At this time i was also thinking a lot about my existence, and the meaning of life, but i didnt attach any emotion to it. I eventually started getting back to the normal life, and the anxiety reduced. Untill about a couple of months ago. I was diagnosed with crohns disease, which again set me back to the really (social)anxious state. The months went by and my anxiety stayed put. But during this horrible period i started really appreciating life a lot more. I started getting gratefull for smaller things. I started realising that one of the most important things is (mental)health, and that you should be gratefull for the small things. 2 weeks ago i decided starting meditating to reduce my overall anxiety. The first weeks went fine, i was focussing on 'observing' my thoughts, i recognised some thought patterns, and random memories from my early life. After every session i started to get really calm. So i decides to prolongue my meditation sessions. It went just fine, untill something happened yesterday. I was really focussing my attention on my breath. I started noticing i was getting a sort of 'spinning' sensation. My focus went to this sensation, and i started feeling that there werent any thoughts coming in. I just felt this sensation, i also noticed that i wasnt feeling my body anymore. It felt like my conciousness was above my body, like my spine was stretched way above me. I continued shifting my focus on the 'nothing'. And thats when i felt is. I wasnt feeling anything, no time, no thoughts, just nothing. I cant really explain it. I started noticing my head was being pulled backwards. And then a felt some sort of adrenaline rush, and my heart started beating fast. But i continued with just 'observing' this sensation. It felt like i was floating in a infinite darkness, with no sensation what was up and down. I was pulled back out of this state by my alarm. I noticed i was not feeling relaxed at all. I started googling all the things i felt, and saw some things like 'kundelini'. And suddently i felt a state of panic, and really bad detachtment and derealisation. As if i finally understand what this existince is, how it felt like. And i started getting a panic attack. This was the onset of shear terror that followed in the hours after. I felt like i was going crazy, or going to like a state of psychose or something. I began starting viewing the world very differently, as if i was detached from is. I was scared of just 'existing'. Today i am still in a anxious state, and the world seems very strange fo me. I am still scared i will get into a paranoid state or something. I red on the internet that this could be caused by the 'dark night of the soul'. Is this what i am exeriencing, and how do i progress from here? 
J W, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Posts: 531 Join Date: 2/11/20 Recent Posts
Hey Bodi,
Welcome to the DhO emoticon
I am no teacher, but you will find many topics here related to the type of existential fear and detachment which you are describing.
Some do find it helpful to think about it from within a spiritual context (dark night or the dukkha nanas-knowledges of suffering).

My advice to you at this point would just be to be aware that you are not alone in this, it is something experienced by many,  though everyone may experience it their own way, it is a somewhat well-documented phenomenon.

May you find helpful advice here and elsewhere and may you be well emoticon

Adi Vader, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Posts: 70 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Hi Bodi

You have written here about anxiety disorder. I am interpreting this to mean that you have been clinically examined by a psychiatrist or a psychologist who has given you such a diagnosis after having met you and spoken you at length in a clinical setting. I am also assuming that you do not have psychological problems like schizophrenia or any of the personality disorders. Given these assumptions I have some observations about meditation practice, your experiences and a few suggestions for way forward.

Meditation practice:

When we train attention whether using a single object or permit it to move between objects we start to gain what is called samadhi - samadhi is relaxed exclusivity of attention (stable or momentary doesnt matter). In such a state initially the mind suddenly receives a lot less input from the 5 senses or doesnt self generate responses to inputs from the 5 senses. This is a peculiar state for the mind. So at this point the mind self generates mental imagery, tactile hallucinations, auditory hallucinations (one or all three). This is called the prisoner's cinema it happens because of sensory deprivation caused by the exclusivity of attention. This phenommena continues for a while and sometimes becomes very powerful - in pali such powerful phenomena is called obhasa (hallucinations). If you continue practicing ignoring these hallucinations the mind will get used to the quisence of meditation and will stop generating these phenomena. Usually the progression of samadhi is that at first you do samadhi, then samadhi starts happening, then samadhi starts to do you. 

In short as far as meditation practice is concerned, totally ignore this phenomena, stay with your object. Kangaroos may punch you, witches may scratch your face, super-novas may go off behind your eyelids ..... relax ... ignore it ... go back to what you planned to do for the session - samadhi or kshanik (momentary) samadhi ... doesnt matter. Stick to the plan!

Regarding anxiety:

Think of panic attacks and anxiety as a normal human ability that has gone haywire. If we lived in the forest we would need all of the energy of a panic attack to escape a panther chasing us under the canopy. But now these same abilities are getting triggered by far less dangerous events - A boss who is upset, a parent who is disappointed, late for a meeting ... etc etc. This like the mind pulling out hammer to kill a microbe. Complete overkill. This fight or flight response is almost continuously active for you. This has to be addressed first or it will keep getting triggered by meditative experiences.

Meditation for relaxing the body and the mind:

Use a simple rubric, that you create for yourself that intentionally and consistently exposes the body and mind to relaxation. It is important to induce this relaxation and also important to be wide awake and observant in seeing this relaxation arise and stay for the duration of the meditation session. Over a fairly short period of time - a week, a month maybe? the strength of the anxiety will reduce and then you can go back to executing the meditationn plan you currently have. This awakening project is a game of patience and skill. You will not have either until you first soothe the  heart, relax the body, relax the mind and learn how to do it while being very observant.

Dark Night Of The Soul:

There is a part of the map of progress of insight that in pali is called Dukkha nanas (pronounced dnyan or nyan ... add an 's' for plural). Here the meditator is gaining knowledge of how stress and anxiety comes about. This knowledge is gained by having a very awake, alert and observant mind and directing a lot of investigation at how stress comes about. Once you gain this knowledge - you know how to deal with stress of various flavours - forever! This is the nana else ... its just dukkha.

Some people are gifted and they reach this phase of practice very early on. Some people are not gifted but stumble upon this phase without the necessary skills to gain the nana or the knowledge. It is not possible to say with any certainty whetehr you are here in this territory.

The best bet, my best guess, for further action for you is to learn how to relax the body and the mind and gain the knowledge of how relaxation comes about. This relaxation / tranquility / pasaddhi / prashabdi is one of the 7 factors of awakening and is a core critical component of the art and craft of mediation. How do you induce prashabdi on demand! spend  time on learning this and then it becomes a life skill as well as a yogic skill.
Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Posts: 780 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
Anxiety happens when parts of nervous system are abused. When you start to experience something like it and somehow any actions your nervous system does only make things worse - hit already tired neurons with more activity and/or make more neurons tired - then it can lead to panic attacks.

Meditation just like about everything else can lead to new connections (think of it as turning valves that allow activity to go from places to places more easily) and this generally mean that it can make places which already experience too much activity to receive even more activity. It can also make places which get not enough activity to be more ready to have activity and this is what you want. If you have ballanced brain then you always have parts of it which can be used which are not yet tired hence no panic attacks. It is however a question of working with these new places rather than those which are already having enough activity as it is.

Especially when meditating not because you are happy and everything is fine and you think it is a cool thing to try out but as a solution to some issue it is pretty much normal and expected that your thoughts (and with them activity) will wander to where the issue is making activity there only stronger thus making your problem worse.

What can be done?
You can try meditating on something completely different. So different that you cannot think about it in any way imaginable. Nothing might happen at first and that is fine. If it does or does not do not try to think about it as you think about other things but try to think about it in yet another different unimaginable way emoticon

If you do it like that and manage to do this mind bogglingly unspecified nonsense-even kind of meditation then you will force activity to new places in your brain/nervous system and in turn format these new places. In time you will be using those new places and they will help you find refuge. At least enough that when those places get tired the previous ones you normally use get rest and when that places get tired you can always go to somewhere else with your endless nervous system activities. And you can always do this kind of meditation and get more of your brain to be used. It is expected that even if you succeed and this practice is great success then you will mistake this practice with thinking using the places you formatted. The practice is formatting, it is about unspecified unimaginable kinda 'even gods do not know what he is meditating on' kind of things and because of how that kind of meditation works it can help you. Memories from childhood are normal when meditating because when you were child you had a lot of such unformatted places. Meditation to some degree if you are new to it will trigger such processes, they do feel very much like how we felt when very young. You can however go explore these unspecified new lands or go digging deeper in to known lands. Know however that known lands are tired, do not bother them when they are tired. When those places are not tired and thinking in ways related to those places do not cause fear then explore them. Do not try to fix them when they are tired, do something else, do it elsewhere, do it in a way that makes you feel in no way like how you feel when being when you have dukkha. If you cannot tell how you feel then try to tell how you feel using new unspecified ways. It will sort itself out, you will get new mind states, new ways of feeling, new minds. This is what makes meditation great. Not fixing tired scared for their life neurons by doing something with them. Doing something elsewhere helps your tired scaried neurons.

Got it?
Kaloyan Stefanov, modified 3 Months ago.

RE: Did i enter the dark night of soul?

Posts: 74 Join Date: 2/18/21 Recent Posts
HI Bodi, and welcome to DhO. Thanks for sharing the description of your experiences. It is a bit difficult to tell from one post, but indeed you might be experiencing Dark Night (one of the stages of insight which follows after the so-called Arising and Passing Stage). The way you described it is very similar to how it has manifested for my brother more than 20 years ago, as well as for my wife. Adi above has given you some good solid advice about DN, practice, etc.

If indeed you are experiencing dark night, it is important to be aware that this is a great opportunity to progress further on what Buddhists call awakening (seeing that there is no center/agent piloting the body and locking that way of percieving things) which is hugely transformational for most people that experience it, including myself. If indeed that is what is happening to you, you might want to make some adjustments in your life such as creating more space and time for meditation/time alone outside of activities which are too stimulating. The Dark Night is more or less a hard-wired (biology-level hard-wired if you want to think of it in this way) stage which meditators (but also many many non-meditators) experience once they are past the arising and passing stage. It is more or less like a certain stage as part of a "second puberty" which happens to a lot of people at different stages in their lifes (but also never happens to quite a lot of other people) for some reason.

My understanding is that you have little experience with meditation. Meditation is ultimately about embracing and gently paying attention to the sensations that come up, fully embracing this experience, right here, right now. This is even more key for sensations we don't like - anxiety, fear, terror, anger, shame, etc. - which innevitably bubble up during meditation. Some people are naturals in this - i.e. they were gently embracing sensations since they were kids as part of life. Others need more formal practice - Adi has provided some good advice and there is some very good advice on these topics here and elsewhere. 

What is your preferred way to consume information/learn? Do you like reading? If yes, we can point you to some books/resources to read up on how to progress from here. If not, maybe some videos etc. or maybe directing you towards someone who can help with 1:1 guidance.