Am I in the dark night?

Nicole M, modified 13 Years ago at 12/2/09 5:36 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/2/09 5:36 PM

Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Hello, sorry for the long message.

I found this website via buddhist geeks and Daniel's book, which I have read through very quickly and was stunned by the implications of it. Having read the book and a lot of these threads, it appears I may have been in the dark night for over 10 years without ever realising it. I have felt like I was searching for something as long as I can remember, but there was a particular event that occured when I wass around 15/16 that really sparked my interest in the 'spiritual quest'. I don't remember much about it now, but I know it happened after watching the film American Beauty with my friends, around half way through I started feeling strange in an uplifted way, and was paying as much attention to us in the room as the film. Later this feeling turned into a sense of unity and everything being ok. I sat on my bedroom floor for hours and wrote this which I have kept filed away all these years:

"The greatest works of art all point in the same direction but just from different angles. All they can do is point you the right way; you have to go there by yourself. They point towards everything, life itself, maybe even God. Words cannot describe it. Pictures cannot show it. Music can only light up a tiny section for a moment.
You could get lost in the vastness
I've been asleep.

Tomorrow, I will wake up, and still be asleep. For now I have woken up, just a little.
I am Alive = I will one day die (So it goes)

I was right about the next day, I had a good afterglow but that intense experience had gone. I found a book on zen by Alan Watts, and though I liked the feel of it, there was little practical information about actual meditation, though it sparked my interest in buddhism. Cue a big gap, then finally a few years ago I started doing Samatha practice at a lay center. After a few months I started feeling pitti, pleasant energy, feelings of calm, and got really into it for a while. From my newly aquired knowledge I would say I got at least to 3rd jhanna, (and now can do so easily and on a regular basis.) Then something new happened, I started feeling intense build ups of energy, and my body start to shake. This scared me a little but I decided to go with it, and one time it intensified until I felt like I was having a seizure, with massive pressure in my upper body and head. It felt kind of unbearable but carried on going with it, then at some point my body surged up and forward, I felt like my head would explode. Then I dropped out of it and felt immense peace and calm. I had no frame work for this experience, so I got scared, eased off meditating and ignored the whole thing.

This was some time ago, I have not had similar experiences until last night, when I applied the noting technique to abdominal breathing.
My question at this point, where on earth am I? Is shaking a vipassana symtom or can it happen from samatha jhanas? If I am indeed in the dark night what is the best way to cross it from here? Any advice/questions welcome
J Adam G, modified 13 Years ago at 12/3/09 10:07 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/3/09 10:07 PM

RE: Am I in the dark night? (Answer)

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Shamatha practice CAN cause you to have insights, just like insight practice will develop your concentration skills. It seems that in early Buddhism, you did jhana and used the strong concentration of the jhanas to gain insight into how reality is, and that was Buddhist meditaition. It might not have been until several hundred years after the Buddha's life that insight and concentration practices were separated. This doesn't mean that the separation is wrong; just that each type of practice is likely to improve your skills in the other.

Your strong concentration skills will help you in vipassana. You said that in only one evening of vipassana practice, you started having experiences like you used to, involving feelings of energy moving around in your body. I can't tell whether or not you're in the dark night, but it's very likely that these experiences you're having are related to A&P somehow.

Whether or not you're already "in" the dark night, the instructions are the same. Do vipassana as much as you can, and you will get stream entry if you just keep at it. Whatever you were doing with the noting of abdominal breathing was one way to do vipassana correctly because it gave you results. Keep at it, and acknowledge that there may very well be some scary and/or otherwise unpleasant times, but you can probably pass through those quickly because of your strong concentration.

If you start feeling very bad then you may want to spend some time in jhana without paying attention to vibrations or noting or sensations, but just relaxing in the sukha and equanimity. It can help keep you from getting burned out by the dark night, and keeping your concentration/equanimity skills sharp by releasing yourself into deeper and deeper jhana may help you get through the dark night faster. Just make sure that you don't decrease the amount of vipassana practice when you increase the amount of shamatha meditation time. Like if you spend an hour every day doing vipassana and you need some jhana time to keep from getting fried, keep the hour of vipassana if at all possible and add some shamatha time.
Paul Hurley, modified 13 Years ago at 12/4/09 12:15 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/4/09 12:15 AM

RE: Am I in the dark night? (Answer)

Posts: 23 Join Date: 8/25/09 Recent Posts
Hi Nicole,
Just read your very interesting post. Who would ever have thought American Beauty would act as a catalyst for a unitive experience. Unitive experiences are a facet of the A&P crossings. Also, kundalini tends to be awakened during the A&P or second Jhana. I know that huge energy surge you described very well. Kundalini can be very powerful and as J Adam G described it can fry you if you are not careful. The massive shaking arises because the body is locked or blocked and the energy which emanates from the first chakra can't move in the manner in which it wants. Just be careful pushing yourself too far with these locks. What you are looking to do with these surges is to immediately relax the point or place where the lock begins, it may even be a whole body part. You may also feel the urge to engage a yoga pose, you won't have to think about it, your body will do it for you, ie find the posture it wants to engage to release that particular cycle or knot of blockage. It can be exhausting and also very peaceful in the aftermath. The kundalini will run all the way up through equanimity where it should come to an end. At that point, you concentration and insight will be so refined, your physiology so altered, those huge bolts will have diminished to fine whispers. During the process, you may also be aware of the chakras or energy centres opening one after the other right up to your crown. Take you time. Patience and resolution and concentrated intention are very important. Also, release or make resolutions to immediately drop or not attend to feelings of fear or anxiety as they only serve to lock the body more and prevent progress. Hope this helps and good luck!!
Nicole M, modified 13 Years ago at 12/8/09 4:38 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/8/09 4:38 AM

RE: Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Thank you both so much for your replies, I was uncertain about whether I was having insight experiences, but now it seems clear that I strayed into insight from the samatha practice.

I've been practicing the abdominal noting for a few days now, and have been having some very strange and intense experiences, so I suppose it dosn't really matter where I am, something is happening and I just need to keep at it.
Paul you mentioned the kundalini carries on through to equinimity, does that mean it those surges keep on through the dark night? From the maps people have laid out I understood that the energy side effects fell away at this point.

In my practice the whole body shaking seems to have died down, I just keep going round and round this cycle of noting, then feeling burning energy, then the surge which is quite painful, my body locks into a posture where I sit very straight up and arch backwards, then back to noting etc. The energy starts in my stomach, then rises to my heart after a while. Last night I started to feel a subtle energy at my throat and my forehead started tingling in a rather irritating way. I'm guessing this all has to do with the chakras opening up as you mentioned.

I am very grateful for this website and Daniels book, the past few years I have spent countless hours searching for information, but I never seemed to find quite what I was looking for. Now I feel like I can finally stop looking and start seriously practicing.
Chuck Kasmire, modified 13 Years ago at 12/8/09 4:38 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/8/09 4:38 PM

RE: Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 559 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Nicole,
There is another thread with some more suggestions on this topic here - don't know if you have seen that one.
Paul Hurley, modified 13 Years ago at 12/12/09 3:58 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 12/12/09 3:58 PM

RE: Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 23 Join Date: 8/25/09 Recent Posts
Hi Nicole
Hope you are well. Yes, the energy surges continue but the intensity diminishes as chakras open. It is good to read of the advance upward toward your throat and crown. This is what happened with me also. Feel strong empathy with the powerful back arching you experience. While in the middle of the lock try to remain calm and focused on relaxing. If you don't notice what you are doing, you can actually be contributing to it which is not a good idea because you just enahnce the block. As throat and crown open, the arching should ease and then fall away. It is difficult to find corresponding material in Kundalini literature that alligns with the progress of insight maps or the jhanic states. I asked Daniel about it months ago and he said there is work to be done in this area, as he says in his book, and was not very familiar with the territory in that respect. Perhaps that has changed, I don't know. Also, the cycles continue, it's a feature of the territory. Take not of course of the moment you start getting board. It's just a sensation too. Metaphorically speaking, we might say that the body is now fully familiar with that state and it will move again on its own accord, you just have to be ready. Try to map your own specific energetic movments so you can watch them unfolding. It helps make your own sits more coherant and structured and not so nebulous. I found that once new territoy opens up, eg, throat tingling, focusing on that point was very helpful in development. You see you can just as well note the vibration patterns in the throat or head as much as in the stomach. A vibration is a vibration. Hope this helps and also that things are going well for you!
Daniel M Ingram, modified 13 Years ago at 1/2/10 12:24 PM
Created 13 Years ago at 1/2/10 12:24 PM

RE: Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 3250 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Dear Nicole,

Glad you are getting something out of this site and its resources.

All sounds like classic territory to me. The advice above is all useful.

Keep going. It sounds like you have a natural ability in this stuff. Retreats can help. Consider Mahasi centers, though if you know what you are looking for, others can work well also.

As you know, these "odd" experiences can really throw people who have no framework for them. One day they will teach the maps in Junior High School, I hope, but until then...

Just keep practicing, see what happens, stay connected to people who know this territory well and can help you through it.

Happy New Year, and glad to have you here,

Nicole M, modified 13 Years ago at 1/7/10 10:14 AM
Created 13 Years ago at 1/7/10 10:14 AM

RE: Am I in the dark night?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 12/2/09 Recent Posts
Paul thank you for the advice on dealing with the energy surges. Reading that along with the thread that Chuck linked too really helped and they died down very quickly after I applied advice about widening my attention around the energy, and noticing that the shaking was a sign of subtle resistance. I also had a strange idea that the shaking was a necessary part of the process, but when I read that it was not I relaxed as soon as it started and it quickly fell away. Daniel thanks for your note of encouragement, it pushed me on to keep at the meditating.