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Insight practice techniques in the Dark Night

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Had an A&P event a few days back and quickly found myself moving through the dark night. Right now, I seem to be in re-observation. It's not so bad -- I've had unexpected opportunities this week to do a shit-ton of practice and it's actually quite empowering to know what the dark night is (as opposed to having no idea where it's coming from).

My sitting practice during this time has gone like this: I start by focusing on the breath and moving up through the jhanas, spending the vast majority of the sit in 4th jhana (I don't go any further than this for insight practice). Insofar as insight, I start by focusing on the rising and falling away of the breath, as well as the finer qualities of the breath. Once concentration has more-or-less stabilized, I gradually open up and just start trying to note as much as possible: thoughts arising and falling away, itches, twitches and other physical sensations and the "knowing" consciousness that follows them and passes away, intentions, emotions, images arising and passing away, the tinge of suffering that surrounds all of this pouring into the void as well, etc., etc.

In re-observation, this is a lot to handle -- there's a lot of extraneous noise and obviously I don't feel like I am as effective a meditator as I was in early A&P. My awareness is bouncing around everywhere trying to account for as much phenomena as possible. It's not bad, per se -- I'm just wondering if it's the most effective way to approach the stage. So my question is this -- would it be more effective to practice insight into the three characteristics on a narrower subset of phenomena? Say, just the breath? Or, just the breath and thoughts?

Or is this most likely a case of "whatever works best for you?"

Many thanks to all who read and respond. Peace.

RE: Insight practice techniques in the Dark Night
Answer
10/29/11 2:35 PM as a reply to T. Merganser.
So my question is this -- would it be more effective to practice insight into the three characteristics on a narrower subset of phenomena? Say, just the breath? Or, just the breath and thoughts?

There's a few ways to efficiently move through Dark Night, but there's deep insights to be had so be willing to explore the territory a bit more.

Surrender. It's not like giving up, it's not blind acceptance based on what someone said a few thousand years ago, it's an equanimous acceptance of things as they are which allows you to understand, through direct experience, how nothing is exempt from the Three Characteristics. In practical terms, this means understanding that no matter how shitty things get it's just another transient, empty pattern of sensations.

Don't fight against DN, don't try to beat it, don't go at it like you're going into battle 'cause it will kick your arse up and down the place. DN is 3rd jhana so the attention is all out at the periphery which can be irritating as fuck, but use it to your advantage and allow the focus to rest there and just observe how everything still just does it's thing and passes away.

Something else to look out for is patterns of sensations that keep on recurring, I think Jack Kornfield called them something like "persistent visitors", even if they're unpleasant their continual appearance should be taken as "I'm trying to tell you something but you're not paying attention!". If that happens, invite them in and see what they've got to say 'cause it's almost always insightful and useful. Give them permission to come in and allow them to stay for as long as they like, bearing in mind that they're inherently transient anyway, and see what you can learn from them. They will leave politely and without a fight once they've conveyed their message.

As for objects, the breath is always a winner.

If you're noting, no sensations should be given any more importance than any other and everything is fodder for practice.

Something else you said:
My sitting practice during this time has gone like this: I start by focusing on the breath and moving up through the jhanas, spending the vast majority of the sit in 4th jhana (I don't go any further than this for insight practice).

I preferred to work from 4th jhana when doing insight due to the equanimity and panoramic awareness, but don't neglect the arupa jhanas if you have access to them as they can also, with the exception of 8th, be investigated.

Your practice sounds good already but it might be worth doing a practice journal, if only to get a bit more practical advice based on what's going on in each sit.

RE: Insight practice techniques in the Dark Night
Answer
10/30/11 7:40 PM as a reply to Tommy M.
Hey, thanks for your feedback Tommy -- very helpful. Your advice basically mirrored the approach I was taking, nice to hear that my intuition is serving me well...

Lots of signs of equanimity during a 1+ hour sit this morning (this was not my first dark night, but it was the first where I knew what it was and expected it to show after the A&P event party).

Which brings me to my next thread...re: backsliding

Thanks again!