A&P -> Dark Night?

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Sam N, modified 3 Months ago at 12/16/23 8:39 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/16/23 8:35 PM

A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 30 Join Date: 12/16/23 Recent Posts
Hi all, my first post on DO. Hope it’s in the right category. I believe I hit the A&P last year this time, since which things have gotten a lot more difficult. I could use some help. Here’s a synopsis:

After years of struggling to sit consistently, meditating became effortless. Hellish mind states dissipated and were replaced by spaciousness, loving kindness, and compassion. Then energetic phenomena, dissolving the barrier between self and environment, progressively easier access to brahma-viharas, and jhana. The meditative state itself became accessible regardless of place or position, and I felt compelled by the Buddha dhamma. 

Finding myself in personally uncharted territory, I started working with a teacher who said I was engaging Buddhism as a typical westerner, taught me more of the fundamentals, and had me change my meditation practice to much smaller sits throughout the day. Then things seemed to go off track - not blaming, just presenting the variables. Practice became empty, it didn’t seem to have a point because my mind felt blank, and it felt meaningless to function. So I stopped. 

Life got back on track, but the mental anguish returned. This time oscillating between grief and ill will with a a vengeance; stuff I thought long dead and buried was arising and claiming my attention. Absurd intellectually, but urgent viscerally.

So I started practicing again, on and off, and for the past few weeks consistently, building back up to currently 25 min sits morning and night. The painful stuff gets better on the cushion; overall it’s cool just to sit with whatever arises; the pain abates, though some weird mind states and experiences arise (for which I have no words). Insight practice, basic concentration, and present centered awareness yield much relief. Daniel Ingram’s "thoughts in the room" help too, and I'm putting much effort into morality. 

I guess I’m wondering if I truly hit the A&P last year and am now in the dark night? Or where I am in the progress of insight? Would appreciate some help. 

Thanks
C B, modified 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 12:50 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/17/23 3:19 PM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night? (Answer)

Posts: 12 Join Date: 9/19/23 Recent Posts
Take what I say with a grain. But what you described does seem to fit into A&P territory. Sounds like jhana/concentration/samadhi, which, as I've been taught, will happen at stage 3 and/or 4. And then, in continuing the process via your teachers' direction, the next, more challenging stage(s) are unfolding.

I wonder if your teacher saying "like a typical westerner" was suggesting that jhana had taken center stage, and simply wanted to encourage you past that and on toward insight. Not saying I agree one way or the other, or that I have any reason to assume that this is how you're percieving it.

Again, I'm no expert on any of this. But maybe it'll be helpful.
shargrol, modified 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 12:49 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 8:39 AM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night? (Answer)

Posts: 2378 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
I wouldn't worry too much about where you were and where you are at this point. It could be you're a dark night yogi or it could be that you're going through normal human stuff.

(Using maps to guide us only really makes 100% sense when someone is on a meditation retreat, it's less relevant to normal life unless someone is spending a lot of time sitting... )

It's great that you've found away to take some time and just sit with what is showing up in your mind and learning that a lot of emotions and thoughts seem so powerful but actually they are just little whiffs of feelings and ideas that come and go --- and really it's our obsessing and clinging to stuff that causes problems. Hope sitting continues to give you insights into your own mind and teaches you about the things we unconsciously do that causes unnecessary suffering!
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Sam N, modified 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 9:35 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 9:32 AM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 30 Join Date: 12/16/23 Recent Posts
C B - I wonder if your teacher saying "like a typical westerner" was suggesting that jhana had taken center stage, and simply wanted to encourage you past that and on toward insight. Not saying I agree one way or the other, or that I have any reason to assume that this is how you're percieving it.

Thanks for your response. The teacher meant I was preoccupied with meditation rather than the Buddha Dhamma, so I was to sit 5 minutes every hour. I cannot say whether or not that is what took me off track, and though I respect the teacher I have been solo since. It got to a point where I had absolutely nothing to say or ask. There was no obligation to continue for either of us. At this point I'm just grateful that the dhukka got me back on the cushion.
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Sam N, modified 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 12:49 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 12:48 PM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night? (Answer)

Posts: 30 Join Date: 12/16/23 Recent Posts
shargrol.... Hope sitting continues to give you insights into your own mind and teaches you about the things we unconsciously do that causes unnecessary suffering!

Thanks @shargrol. Just sitting with this dark stuff is remarkable. The benefits are subtle at first, then they seem to accumulate and ripple outward to everything. So to seems the reverse process. I wish I had not stopped practicing, and I hope to continue next time I hit a wall.
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Ni Nurta, modified 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 5:52 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/18/23 5:52 PM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 1073 Join Date: 2/22/20 Recent Posts
The way A&P works is that mind allows itself to construct minds much more freely with most responses being mocks - it is important stage when you figure out what you want and lay ground work for it.
The issue with all this creative phase is that we usually go overboard with all this stuff with focus not on functionality but other characteristics and which consctruct do not take rest of the mind in to consideration creating seeds of future suffering caused by inefficients designs, collisions within nervous system and whole slew of other issues which could be understood without goig such low level: clinging to these experiences and not letting them go when they should be let go of.

Now the dukkha nanas are generally nanas of lower creative output and less energy. These nanas do not need to be unpleasant. In order to not be unpleasant mind has to know how to let go of unskillful behaviors - which is the main issue because some of them are not seen as unskillful. If something is or isn't unskillful depends on what it is and what other conditions are. Some of the unskillful things I have in mind when talking about  dropping them make dukkha nanas just normal pleasant experience present itself as skillful and usually yield good result and so they are hard to identify directly. So much so that certain amount of suffering is unavoidable and often people might not as much realize source of issue but merely through repetitive experience of conditions where these things yield negative results faster/stronger condition themselves out of them. What helps to avoid excessive stress this process requires is excercising moderation in everything - no matter what you are about to do in your mind do it gentler with more time for things to fall in to place and less sudden decissions based on impulse. When things fall in to place there might be impulse of activity but then it might feel strong but also gentle and orderly. I am talking about some kind of rushed actions which cause ruckus - this usually doesn't yield good results and only make healing of your mind take much longer. If you do however let things fall in to place you will have better opportunity to observe what mind does when handling situation which during dukkha nans might feel hopeless and with that connect the dots about what action you would do if you rushed action versus what mind did and get insight what to (not) do when much faster.

If you apply what I said as I described you should not suffer. Not if you apply this advice to every single aspect of your minds behavior including every experience like something is rushing you get relief and any experience which rushes it, etc. if necessary ad-infinitum. Practical consideration here is that as you experience this helping mind will quickly realize it can treat it as a game - and one which will feel not as game about suffering but how to feel more blissful. Kinda like you did it before before feeling need to drastically change the game. Perhaps more skillfully now because conditions changed.

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Regarding what your teacher said - absolutely nothing wrong with being blissful and having fun with meditation. Do it however you feel you should do it. For as long as you do not do any rush decission (intervention of your teacher can be treated as doing exactly what I just said you should avoid!) and let any decission settle in you will be fine. The only consideration is to neither believe too much about what is happening nor treat it as false a priori - let mind to play out things and get to its conclusions while keeping in mind that any conclusions no matter how final they want to become canot be final because that exact finality is in fact the same rushed action that you are now avoiding.

Mind in tranquility taking time to make decissions is much more capable of also realizing what is lacking in practice - when there comes time to be thinking about and it will know that not always there is time for certain things. There is difference between doing things right and rushing them. Even distractions and procastination comes from rushing things. Right concentration is exactly about being able to concentrate on action without doing anything so that action happen when it happen at the right time and with the right strength.

When it comes to your teacher I feel it must be someone who did lots of practice and has developed as I call 'overdrive' type of mind. At least what immediately showed up. Might be a good idea to cool/freeze that feeling down... we'll see.
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Sam N, modified 3 Months ago at 12/19/23 5:25 PM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/19/23 5:25 PM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 30 Join Date: 12/16/23 Recent Posts
Thanks for chiming in @ninurta

...
Mind in tranquility taking time to make decissions is much more capable of also realizing what is lacking in practice - when there comes time to be thinking about and it will know that not always there is time for certain things. There is difference between doing things right and rushing them. Even distractions and procastination comes from rushing things. Right concentration is exactly about being able to concentrate on action without doing anything so that action happen when it happen at the right time and with the right strength.
You seem to be advising restraint and bare noting so causes and conditions of dhukkha can be seen and modified by right actions. If so, then bulding up my sitting practice again is working so far: just sitting with whatever arises, noting, and watching it pass; which seems to affect everything else when not sitting too.

When it comes to your teacher I feel it must be someone who did lots of practice and has developed as I call 'overdrive' type of mind. At least what immediately showed up. Might be a good idea to cool/freeze that feeling down... we'll see.
In retrospect, I was probably attached to jhana and A&P-like phenomena, then when mind felt blank I was yearning for past experiences. Can't speak for the teacher. Regardless, it seems better for me to sit 30-40 min twice a day.
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 3 Months ago at 12/23/23 4:16 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/23/23 4:16 AM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 351 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
It sounds like your meditation is going great! (You're doing it diligently, consistently and paying attention to the sensory data directly).

RE: "doing Buddhism like a westerner"

I've found in my experiences Easterners want a religion and westerners want a mystical path. We care less about morality, but we are much more willing to try out the crazy things that the books say you can do. I think there's some wisdom to realize that the mystical path isn't uniquely Buddhist, so there's not really a "100% right" way to do it (Olivier has some good posts on this on the time for stream entry thread recently circulatated). So if your teacher brings this up again, I'd tell them the usual Buddha quotes, practice like your hair on fire, the sutta stories from Mashais book, and how the Buddhas dying words were "work out your salvation with dilligence"
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Sha-Man! Geoffrey, modified 3 Months ago at 12/23/23 8:25 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/23/23 8:25 AM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 351 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
Why does it matter on retreat? Just to get someone to change techniques or modes of attention?
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Sam N, modified 3 Months ago at 12/24/23 10:33 AM
Created 3 Months ago at 12/23/23 9:58 PM

RE: A&P -> Dark Night?

Posts: 30 Join Date: 12/16/23 Recent Posts
@geoffrey thanks for the encouragement, I'm keeping at it. Regarding the teacher, we haven't spoken in months and I doubt we will again. There was no commitment from either of us. Overall it was a good experience though it reinforced my solitary tendencies. I just talk candidly to a couple of fellow explorers whom I trust, and try to learn from podcasts and other resources like DhO.