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Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?

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Hey all, crossposting this from my KFD log. I've had some weird repeating cycle during my last two formal sits, hopefully someone can help me figure out what's going on. Does stuff cycle like this in the Dark Night?

Sit 1

Instead of sitting up right in a chair I reclined slightly against the headboard in my bed – I was feeling a little dull and didn’t want to deal with an edgy upright sit in a chair.

Anyway, started off noting the four foundations (5 minutes each). Made it through 5 body, 5 vedana, then started getting involuntary twitching and movements in the legs. Face started contorting and tightening, to a much more intense degree than I've ever experienced before. My face was tightening and tensing so much that it became really painful, especially in my forehead. Eventually it peaked until reached a breaking point, upon which I exhaled deeply and everything opened up and mellowed out.

Started to get back to noting and before long got movement in my legs again, followed shortly after by tensing and tightening in the face. Once again things got really painful before “breaking”, then opening up and mellowing out. This happened maybe 2 or 3 more times, then started to change a little. Instead of being painful, my face and throat area would tighten, tense, and constrict so much that I would actually choke and gag. This would break the peaking tension and things would mellow and open, and I would be breathing heavy. This cycle repeated itself no less than 20 times during the remainder of the sit.

Really weird stuff. Throughout I was questioning whether or not I was scripting myself into this, because like I said I had JUST talked to someone about facial contortions and dark night stuff prior to my sit. But I was really relaxing into this and staying open to whatever happened, and these little cycles of tension and release seemed truly natural and involuntary.

Sit 2

Another weird dark nighty session. 45 minutes. Started noting the four foundations. A bit into vedana starting to get the twitching and tightening against. Neck constricted and tongue pulled back so far into the back of the mouth that I actually gagged. This repeated at least a dozen times over the 45 minutes, probably more. When it first starting cycling I noted a lot of fear, fear which would turn into naseau and disgust as my tongue pulled back and made me feel like I was going to choke/puke. Noted misery sometimes and had some involuntary groaning for a bit at one point. Stopped noting the foundations in order and just started noting whatever came up. I noticed that every time I gagged the cycle would stop, things would open up and I would note pleasant, spacious, and sometimes equanimity. These would linger for awhile until attention spontaneously returned to the face, usually this would spark a new round of twitching and tightening. As the tension was building I would note aversion, since I felt myself trying to slow the process and avoid the tightening - I knew it would culminate in gagging and I hate that feeling. Really interesting stuff and at this point it seems like its obvious Dark Night type stuff. I would even notice a "desire for deliverance" type thought right before reaching the point where I gagged.

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/16/11 11:14 AM as a reply to bud ..
Hi Bud,

I don't know anything about your practice except for what you posted here, so I can't give that thorough of an analysis. I may stop by KFDh to see if you have a practice journal.

Getting right to it...

This isn't necessarily dark night stuff. It actually sounds like it could be one of two things that come up for folks during the early stages of practice:

1.) Could be your body's way of responding to the arising of the Five Hindrances, which give people trouble when they are trying to gain access concentration. If the gagging is causing you to lose focus, you're probably dropping all the way out of concentration and starting from scratch, which is why it keeps repeating.

2.) Could be the 3rd insight stage (Three Characteristics). This stage is commonly associated with bodily contractions, movements, and pains. As one learns to practice well, the energy of the body starts getting more intense. There is a kind of energetic purification leading up to a genuine A&P, and continues for a long time afterward. The energetic stuff gets way less intense for some people after a couple years of development, as was/is the case for me.

Suggestions:

Your posture could be a problem. Does this happen when you sit on the ground, or with your back upright? The body's energy is picky. There are a lot of ways the flow of energy gets blocked. Try working on your posture. Also, doing some yoga might help, as well as eating less animal products like pasteurized milk and cheese, and really fatty meats. I'm not totally sure why this helps the flow of energy, but it does.

Once you find a posture that works, practice breathing in a way that allows your body to relax. It's OK to manipulate your experience at this stage. See if breathing more slowly works. Or, picture your breath coming in and out of a lower spot on your body, like below your navel, and see if that takes the energy out of your head/neck/throat.

Hope this helps. Practice well.

-Jackson

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/16/11 11:44 AM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Thanks for your response Jackson.

Regarding #1, I don't think it has anything to with access concentration, early stages of practice, etc. I've been sitting daily for about a year now and think (hope!) I am beyond that point by now. I also suspect I may already have hit A&P, which I described in another post (here: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2297782)

Regarding posture, this happens when in my normal sitting posture, which is upright in a chair.

And regarding breathing, I'll keep your suggestions in mind. I've been doing noting practice and don't really use the breath as my object anymore at this point, instead sticking to the four foundations and whatever happens to be arising.

Honestly I'm not really sure where I'm at mapwise. My suspected A&P could have just been related to the general territory and not actually the A&P event.

Thanks again for your input.

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/16/11 12:07 PM as a reply to bud ..
Bud Valley:
Regarding #1, I don't think it has anything to with access concentration, early stages of practice, etc. I've been sitting daily for about a year now and think (hope!) I am beyond that point by now. I also suspect I may already have hit A&P, which I described in another post (here: http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2297782)


Thanks for the link. That certainly sounds a lot like an A&P event, and probably was.

However, that doesn't mean you're not getting stuck in the lower stages (1-3) during recent sits.

For example, I crossed the A&P quite powerfully in the Summer of 2008. From then up until stream entry in February of 2009, I cycled through all of the lower stages I had access to in almost every sit. Sometimes I would randomly get stuck in the 3rd or 10th stage during the day, which was always really uncomfortable (those the the two most likely places to get stuck).

If you're not cycling through the A&P during sits, and you're getting all of these weird tensions and contortions in your body, you may be getting stuck in the 3rd stage all over again. It could be something else as well, but the description you gave sounds the most like stage 3. Stage 10 is also a possibility, but it doesn't make as much sense in light of the fact that you don't pass through the A&P when you sit (unless I'm missing something).

I guess it's natural to think that we can save our place in the cycle, like it's a video game or something. But it doesn't work that way. We just go with what we're given.

Noting the Four Foundations is an excellent practice, so keep it up. Not everyone likes working with the breath in the way I suggested, so stick with what works for you and forget that I brought it up ;-)

I still think mild exercise and stretching could help, if you don't already do those things. Otherwise, get into your best posture and just keep on noting. These things have a way of working themselves over time, if we let them.

Best!
-Jackson

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/16/11 2:42 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Thanks for clearing that up. I'll have to pay attention and see if I can notice movement through the nanas - back when I used the breath as my object, the first 3 nanas were always pretty obvious. Now that I'm noting, not so much. I thought my recent cycle sounded a bit like re-observation. Anyway, I'll just keep practicing and see what happens.

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/17/11 10:30 AM as a reply to bud ..
Bud Valley:
Thanks for clearing that up. I'll have to pay attention and see if I can notice movement through the nanas - back when I used the breath as my object, the first 3 nanas were always pretty obvious. Now that I'm noting, not so much.


It may be worth it to try taking the breath as object again, to see if you get the same results. I'm not saying that the breath is better than noting. Noting is terrific. Switching around may help you figure out how the experiences of using the two techniques match up. Just a thought.

Bud Valley:
I thought my recent cycle sounded a bit like re-observation. Anyway, I'll just keep practicing and see what happens.


Yes. "Keep practicing" is the best advice, so long as you are practicing well. Continuous noting is good practice, because it safeguards against getting caught up in mental ellaboration and reflection. The only issue I have with noting is that some people have a difficult time building sufficient concentration while engaged in the practice. For those folks, focusing on the breath gets the ball rolling. We all have to figure out what works in our own respective practices, and there are a lot of techniques to choose from.

I should say that you could be right about your experiences being related to the dark night stages (i.e. dukkha ñanas). Just because I didn't tend to get weird contortions and tensions in the 10th ñana doesn't mean that you can't experience it that way. I think that's why it's a good idea to make a clear intention to progess through an experience of all of the insight stages you've already covered, and to do so during one sit if possible. It's often sufficient to simply state this intention to yourself quietly when you first sit down for practice. Then, try to notice each stage as it arises. This may or may not work, but it's worth a shot. Regardless of what you experience, take notes immediately after, so you don't forget. This also prevents the formation of false memories, since you can always go back and read what you wrote down immediately after the session.

What's your member name at KFDh? I wasn't able to find your practice journal.

Keep up the good work!
-Jackson

RE: Weird cycle during my last 2 sits - Dark Night stuff?
Answer
11/17/11 1:31 PM as a reply to Jackson Wilshire.
Jackson Wilshire:

What's your member name at KFDh? I wasn't able to find your practice journal.


Thanks again for the input. KFD name = j0shj0sh