RE: Diagnosis

Ryan Meinders, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 10:42 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 10:42 PM

Diagnosis

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/15/22 Recent Posts
Hello,

I"m not sure if this is the right place to post this. But hopefully someone can point me in the right direction if it is not.

I have had a off and on regular meditation practice for a few years now.  I have had a couple of experiences that seem to have been jhana experiences. But they were brief and light. And, I have had no other significant attainments. 

My question is whether I could be experiencing some form of the dark night.

I suffer from mental illness and have tried just about every medication combination and I have been looking into ECT therapy and anything else that might help. I am hoping that the parts of my psyche that cause me such distress are something that can be helped by meditation. I have heard that dark night of the soul is usually an experience had in more advanced stages of meditation. But I'm really hoping that by continuing to meditate I can find some solace from my distressing and concerning thoghts and actions.

Any help is appreciated!
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Sigma Tropic, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 11:36 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 11:32 PM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 331 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
HI Ryan, welcome, I copied the following quick start instructions from my site. These may be helpful for acute dukkha. 

SigmaTropic’s R,R,R formula
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  1. Breathe in with your belly
  2. Breathe out with your belly
  3. If you notice your mind wandering off from the present moment, gently bring your attention back to your belly and breathing.
  4. Then repeat and on the in breaths notice the refreshing sense, and on the outbreath, notice the sense of relaxation.
  5. You may feel a slight smile forming, and a sense of release from the dukkha.
If the average person were to practice the above practice every time they felt anxious or overwhelmed, we would have less anxious and overwhelmed people. This is the first look that we get at the fabricating activities of the mind and beginning to break them down- we have conscious influence over our state of mind. We were freaking out, then we did some belly breathing, calmed down, and now the same freak out is not a problem.

https://mybodhisattva.com/basic-practice-instructions/
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Sigma Tropic, modified 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 11:56 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/15/22 11:49 PM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 331 Join Date: 6/27/17 Recent Posts
This sounds like Dark Night. You have the mental illness well managed it sounds like. 
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For you Ryan I would reccomend a calming a centering type of practice that is enjoyable and pleasurable. For this you can stick to simple metta with visualization, combined with breathing. Anything that bring in an element of enjoyment, subtle peace, or pleasure, you want to encourage those factors of mind while also training to not fall into heedless rumination, dullness, or restless aversion, and taking an active role in rooting out causes of suffering. 

If you are medicated properly and you're paying attention to your behavior in dialy life, then the above should be fairly straightforward, and will counter Dark Night-type episodes. Some people have trouble with metta and encounter unpleasant emotions, and for such a person I would reccomend prayer, but generally it's a very safe practice that will allow you to heal and forgive yourself and others. Can be done in conjunction with prayer and 12 step-like morality practices. 
George S, modified 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 5:39 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 5:36 AM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 2466 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
 Hi Ryan, welcome to the DhO!

I suffer from mental illness and have tried just about every medication combination and I have been looking into ECT therapy and anything else that might help. I am hoping that the parts of my psyche that cause me such distress are something that can be helped by meditation. I have heard that dark night of the soul is usually an experience had in more advanced stages of meditation. 

It is possible, but unfortunately it may well appear to get worse before it gets better. This is because as meditation goes deeper into the mind it will tend to release whatever traumas are underlying the mental illness. So you have to proceed quite carefully, depending on the severity of the trauma. I think you should keep meditating, but in conjunction with some kind of trauma sensitive therapist/guide/healer.

Best wishes,
George 
shargrol, modified 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 6:05 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 6:05 AM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 1763 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Ryan Meinders
Hello,
But I'm really hoping that by continuing to meditate I can find some solace from my distressing and concerning thoghts and actions.

Hopefully you are finding ways to prevent distressing actions.

It's important to understand that what good therapy and meditation does is gives you solace _within_ your distressing thoughts. When you see distressing thoughts as just thoughts and when you notice your "mind" is bigger than those thoughts, then there is just a little more space. You don't feel trapped and you know you have options. There is a sense of being free, despite having distressing thoughts at the moment.

And that's the trick, so to speak, of good therapy and meditation. When you learn to see sensations as sensations, urges as urges, emotions as emotion, and thoughts as thoughts --- then these "mind objects" are just what they are and they aren't so distressing.

When we really believe our emotions and thoughts, then life becomes a hundred times more difficult. You know what I mean? This is why working on improving our mental health is so important.

Therapy plus meditation is the best combination for making progress. But it doesn't just "make the bad stuff go away".  Actually, it makes us better able to "be okay" during challenging experiences where we don't "feel okay" when "things don't seem okay". These practices remind us that just because we have difficult thoughts and beliefs about our situation, just because we have difficult emotions about our thoughts and beliefs, just because our body has difficult sensations due to our emotions, just because we have strong urges due to everything we're thinking and feeling --- what we "are" is none of those things. We are the mind that is aware of all of those things and so we are not as trapped as we think.

And so we don't need to blindly follow our thoughts/beliefs, emotions, and urges. We can choose to push the "pause button" and not do distressing actions. And if we have done a distressing action, we can choose to push the pause button and not do more.

Does that all make sense?

One aspect of the Dark Night is that we believe our thoughts, emotions, and urges are really really true and we believe that really realy we must do our actions. But that is almost always simply not true. Therapy and meditation help us see that thoughts are just thoughts, emotions are just emotions, urges are just urges, and we can choose to push the pause button and no do distressing actions.

A meditation practice gives us lots of experience in just sitting and noticing our thoughts are just thoughts, emotions are just emotions, urges are just urges... and we simply keep sitting for the 15, 20, 30, 45, or 60 minutes and just watch our mind/body do its thing without us getting up from our sitting position to do an action. It trains us to be aware of our mind/body and not fall into trance-like actions. This is why meditation helps build sanity. It is practice for living in a mindful and awake way.

The important thing is to remember it is a practice and realize that no one is good at this right away. It's like practicing a piano, no one plays the piano great the first 100 times they do it. But things get better and better the more you practice. And don't judge progress by what "shows up" in your body/mind. You judge progress by how good you can be with simply being with your thoughts and emotions without acting. So in a way, if you have distressing thoughts and emotions while meditating, that's good! It gives you a chance to be with distressing thoughts and emotions! So "bad sits" are "good practice". And if you can develop this attitude, you'll make a lot of progress.

Hope this is helpful. Best wishes for your mental health!
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Chris M, modified 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 7:33 AM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/16/22 7:33 AM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 4428 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Ryan Meinders, modified 1 Month ago at 5/19/22 3:02 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/19/22 3:02 PM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/15/22 Recent Posts
[It is possible, but unfortunately it may well appear to get worse before it gets better.&nbsp;<p><br /><br />I'm sorry to hear that. Is it really dark nigh? I think I recall something from MCTB about how bad dark night can be. Are&nbsp;there some preventative steps I can take to avoid the worse parts of my condition?</p>
Adi Vader, modified 1 Month ago at 5/19/22 9:29 PM
Created 1 Month ago at 5/19/22 9:29 PM

RE: Diagnosis

Posts: 119 Join Date: 6/29/20 Recent Posts
Hello Ryan

You havent written enough about your practice to have a strong basis for an opinion. If you are so inclined I suggest you use this post by shargrol on reddit in order to create another topline post.:

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/jblh03/how_to_get_the_best_advice_for_your_meditation/

A few responses to what  you have written:

1. Regarding mental illness. Please continue seeing a mental health professional. I am deeply familiar with depression and anxiety first hand. I have had the opportunity to witness second hand the presentation in someone I know of 'paranoid personality disorder'. My experience thus tells me that mental illnesses are very different from each other. They may involve the same set of biochemicals in the brain, which in turn is wired in similar ways across people - but atleast some mental disorders 'look' nothing like depression and anxiety. For me depression and anxiety got cured through meditation, for somebody else going through a personality disorder - I have no basis to say that it will work. The care of a qualified mental health professional is essential

2. Very plain mundane things - like getting enough exercise, geting enough sunlight, nutrition, managing stressors in daily life, having a social support group of trusted friends and family members etc is very important. Often times these things are hygiene factors. Medication/meditation may be the cure, but unless these things are taken care of, that cure doesnt work.

3. The Dark Night of the Soul is a term co-opted for an extended tour through what are called the dukkha nanas. The hallmark of the dukkha nanas is that they are nanas ... or knowledges ... they are not the exeprience of. I experience fear .... is fear ... it is not a knowledge of appearances as fearful. These knowledges, they emerge as a natural extension of the meditative project which is uncovering the way the mind works to create dukkha/suffering. A hallmark of the 'knowledge of fear' is an experiential understanding of where it comes from and how one can stop it! I say experiential becasue its preverbal, preconceptual. Each 'knowledge' ... hits you with ... well 'knowledge' .... you know stuff! You know what fear is and how it comes about, you know the same about misery, disgust, deseration .... equanimity .... etc. Meditation here is working at two levels - a cognitive level of the mind engaging with objects and gaining experiences and a meta-cognitive level of why these experiences or rather 'how' these experiences come about. When there is knowledge of dukkha - it is stripped of all content, of all the stories which we have lived.

4. Generally in a consistent well designed well balanced meditation practice, you will pick up the ability to balance all the 7 factors of awakening, one of the most important and often overlooked factor (in Mahasi noting yogis) ,... is tranquility / passaddhi. It is not an emergent property - though it can be, it has to be trained for. When the state of the mind is disturbed - as it may be in going through the dukkha nanas - it is appropriate to relax, tranquil the mind and then continue observing sense objects. Similarly we have to tilt practice towards whatever is happening ... now! We cannot 'do' insisghts, we cannot penetrate objects, we cannot discern the characteristics or the lakkhanas ... we can only practice well. Establishing mindfulness, building tranquility, building energy, building concentration and investigation and so on. And we do this in the 4 foundations of mindfulness. It is within the 4 foundations of mindfulness that knowledge emerges.

​​​​​​​Good luck