Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick?

Nick P, modified 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 10:54 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 10:39 AM

Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 5/20/12 Recent Posts
First of all, sorry about the long post. This is my first post and I would like to ask the community: WTF was that?? Where am I?
Thanks in advance to all who read it to the end, and if you can also venture a diagnosis, even better. Apologies if this sounds too obvious or overlaps MCTB or the post "Diagnosing the A&P" in some way.

My practice
- I started meditating because I tried it out once, guided, and saw it was amazingly good for my focus at work, at least in the few days after that first experience. I consistently meditated every day for a month, steadily increasing my time from an initial 10 minutes to about 45 minutes. Then I gave it up for another month due to personal circumstances, but all the while I got more interested and started reading about meditation, initially "Mindfulness in Plain English" by Bhante G (Theravada monk) and then found out about MCTB.

- I started reading MCTB, and had just finished the first chapter about the samatha jhanas. So I thought I'd give it a go that very night. I was coming back to meditation after that month with zero practice, it must have been the third or fourth time after the comeback. That night I meditated for some 45 minutes, trying really hard to get into first samatha jhana, but I think I never got too far past access concentration. I saw some weird waves of white energy, though. I got distracted a bit by them. Then the alarm went off and I went to bed.

The experience
I didn't read much the next day. I hadn't reached the chapter about the vipassana jhanas, so had no idea what A&P, Fruition or any of their friends were. I sat and tried to reach the first samatha jhana, this time with a much gentler effort.
- I set the time to 1 hour. After some 30 minutes, I was concentrating on the breath, in the sensations in the tip of the nose and on the sound of it. I was deep in access concentration, with occasional waves of sleepiness disturbing it. I'd feel like falling asleep for just one second, and then come back to my stuff. When coming back from one of those waves of sleepiness, though, suddenly I started seeing waves of white energy appearing in my visual field, and all the sounds, including that of my breath and also external noises, started to feel more remote. Sleepiness disappeared completely.
- I switched from concentrating on the breath to concentrating on the visual space, and the waves started gathering together at the center of the visual field. My focus wasn't particularly at the center, but slightly at the periphery of it. The waves became stronger and I saw a bright white flame burning for about five seconds. After that I tried to shift my attention to the center, and watch the flame directly, but when I did it my eyelids started flickering wildly and before I knew it I was crying big time. And I never cry.
- During all the experience, my mind wasn't at the ideal of mindfulness, calmly contemplating that stuff as it happened. Rather, as it was pretty much the first time something so crazy happened, the conscious mind was racing (Oh shit! What's that! And that!). And maybe the reason I cried was some kind of "Oh shit! So there might be some degree of truth in all those guys say!"
- After that, I felt compelled to tell many of my close friends/relatives/girlfriend about this, and I did. What I said goes on the lines of "I saw the light!", as I feel I literally did. Responses from them were quite positive, and some even manifested curiosity to start exploring this terrain.

Since then:
- I finished MCTB, and when I read about A&P, didn't immediately relate it to the experience I had had, nor I did so for another month. But then I started thinking it might actually have been A&P, so I thought I'd ask the community.
- I now find it harder to meditate. Now I feel I'm not getting anywhere with this meditation thing, and quite a few times I walked off the cushion after some half an hour in frustration, having initially set my timer to sit for 1 or 1.5 hours. I am much more disturbed by sleepiness than I was before, regardless of the time of the day I choose to meditate. I am much more disturbed by itching than I was before, I need to scratch the itch and I'm utterly distracted until I do that.
- I hear a background noise all the time, very much like this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QmEd3RmyIk not only on the cushion. When meditating, I hear it clearly. When not meditating, if there's not much noise and I pay attention I can hear it as well. It's not annoying or loud, it just is. Of note, the very first times I meditated I did it with that music, now I'm not using any music.
- A couple times after this I felt fear _at the end_ of the meditation session, never during it. Fear of the kind that makes me go and check that the front door is locked, and give the key another turn. And I don't live in an unsafe area.
- I once experienced spontaneous body swaying, that I had to consciously stop myself from doing, after letting it be for a couple minutes.
- I have become better at attaining the first samatha jhana, and I can do it from time to time, but it feels I'm going uphill and it's harder each time. One night last week, the environment was very conducive, so I set the timer to 1.5 hours and was able to reach third samatha jhana for the first time. After that, I've struggled to get to first, but I do get it on occasions, and that's more than I had attained before "the" experience.
- When coming back from those 1-second-long sleep blackouts, I have seen some interesting things, namely a red dot with diffuse edges, and a moving Moiré pattern, both less than a second in duration. Waves of white energy, I still see them, every time, but much less clearly and they never gathered again in a flame in the center. And almost every time I got to first samatha jhana, was when coming back from these blackouts.
- I never felt any pain of the sort described in MCTB, either before or after the experience, other than a slight contracture-like pain in the middle of the back after sitting still for more than half an hour, that I attribute to posture.
- The other day I tried noting meditation for the first time. I did it for one hour, but nothing whatsoever came of it, and I usually have one or two takeaways (or insights of some sort) of each session. Either I'm doing it wrong, or it's not for me, or I'm not in the best stage to benefit from this type of meditation. I think I'm resorting back to the kind of meditation that has "worked" for me, which was purposely going for samatha and encountering vipassana along the way. Thoughts?

Questions, and my own view
The experience I relate might have been A&P, might not have, what do people think? A couple things that make me think it wasn't, are the fact that I don't feel I went through the first three ñanas in the build-up to that experience, actually I went straight from access concentration, to a very feeble first samatha jhana, to "that" experience. Then, I experienced body swaying some days later, which I read Daniel mentioning as part of 3C, not Dark Night... what's puzzling is that I experienced it in sittings after "the" experience, not before. The experiences with Fear as a mark of the Dark Night? Well, yes, but they weren't during the sitting but immediately after. And my appreciation of the Three Characteristics is tangential at best, and rather conceptual than fundamental. Plus, I think (thought?) that two months of less than 1-hour practice a day, with another month of no practice in between, is too little practice for any attainment such as A&P, so I'm thinking more of confirmation bias rather than A&P.
And what's the background noise? It's nothing of the sort described in the Misery and Disgust stages, it's closer to 1kHz than to 10Hz, but it IS modulated in amplitude by something closer to 5Hz.
And how come now I'm better at attaining samatha jhanas? I think that as a marker I might not be in the Dark Night.

As an aside, I've noticed that people around here usually have very low standards to classify stuff as A&P, while having very high standards to classify stuff as a Fruition emoticon

Thanks all
Nick P
Nick P, modified 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 1:17 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 1:17 PM

RE: Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 5/20/12 Recent Posts
Just an update after I sat again, made it to 1 hour without much difficulty. If I wanted to leave, I just observed the urge to leave, and it slowly disappeared. Occasionally I also felt the urge to move to push back the timer to two hours instead of one, and I observed it as well, and it slowly disappeared. Same thing for the pain in the back.
This time I perceived the itch, then the intention to move the hand. Then the hand was moving, but I didn't perceive myself moving the hand. The same for body swaying: it wasn't me who started the swaying, then it continued on its own, then I perceived the intention to stop it, then it gradually stopped.
One practical thing that works for me: I found that wearing ear-canal headphones, not connected to anything, are a good way to isolate oneself from the distractions, at least until one is more concentrated on what comes from within than from without.
And no waves of energy this time, it was still white but now it was solid. Things are getting less and less spectacular, though I'm strangely more and more OK with it.
Plus, when I wrote the previous post, I was anxious to get an answer, but now I don't feel anxiety anymore.
Dodge E Knees, modified 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 10:01 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/20/12 4:08 PM

RE: Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick? (Answer)

Posts: 74 Join Date: 9/25/11 Recent Posts
Hi Nick,

Of course it's hard to be sure at this point, but it does sound to me like you crossed the A&P.

My experience of the A&P event was quite different to yours, but like you I came across it accidentally while thinking I was doing samatha. I had no recall of the first 3 nanas. I also had involuntary body movements. All classic signs, but it didn't click until after I first posted here:-


I had done some vipassana (body sweeping) many years before, but in the few weeks before hitting A&P, I had only been doing mindfulnes of breathing. I have not done any noting to date, like you I find it a little awkward.

After the A&P event I noticed a distinct difference in the vibrations in the body - a kind of dissonance. I felt shaky, sick and wierd and my sense of 'self' seemed to have changed. Do you notice anything like that? At that point I tried to work out the difference between samatha and vipassana, something that still occasionally confuses me. Basically samatha for me is concentrating on the breath and melting into pleasantness of sensations, vipassana is watching sensations good, bad or indifferent arise and pass. You don't have to note with a word, you can 'notice' worldlessly.

I was a bit scared of the big, bad Dark Night and stuck with samatha for a couple of weeks. Others may disagree, but I recomend this, as the tranquility and concentration gained will pay off when working through DN. When you feel confident and you understand what vipassana is, start a session with a period of concentration, then go for insight.

Try to get some experience of the 3rd samatha jhana and notice the focus is wide, or on the periphery. When in DN, use the same focus. Rather than laser in on the nasty sensations, widen the attention and notice any pleasant sensations as well. 'Opening the samatha valve' a little can help ease the ride.

Good luck, keep us posted.

Nick P, modified 12 Years ago at 5/21/12 5:11 PM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/21/12 5:11 PM

RE: Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 5/20/12 Recent Posts
Thanks for your answer and advice Dodge.

It's hard for me to be sure. One thing that tells me to be cautious, is that even when it was a big deal for me, it was nowhere near the mindblowing experiences that some guys relate around here, and you in particular (after reading about your A&P crossing).

Another element of caution is the fact that my mind/perception isn't invaded with flickering and vibrations and the like, it seems as solid as always. Maybe, judging from what I experienced, I'm advancing more through the terrain of no-self rather than impermanence.
I'm experiencing one thing mentioned in MCTB, previously automatic things now taking conscious effort. And the feeling of "the Dharma doing me" is also there, though it could also be that my natural obsessions now shifted to Dharma. I find myself more aware of the present moment and sensations, though only when doing activities that don't require high-level thought.

And the mood does seem to be lower for no apparent reason, though it could be anything from nocebo effect to a slight lack of sleep to actual Dark Night stuff. Actually, how the last meditation went is what sets the mood for the next day or so.

Off to practicing...
Nick P, modified 12 Years ago at 5/22/12 2:03 AM
Created 12 Years ago at 5/22/12 2:03 AM

RE: Was that A&P? Am I in the Dark Night? That quick?

Posts: 46 Join Date: 5/20/12 Recent Posts
So if the world was solid until now... it still is, but this last sitting was all about vibrations.
First, the contracture/pain in the back explodes in bodily bliss. Later, unrelated to that, I start getting into first samatha jhana again, but suddenly all bliss and rapture goes away, and all that remains is a weird drum-like vibration at 8Hz I never experienced before. Then I try to cultivate that vibration, as I knew it from the map... only to watch it disappear a minute later and be replaced gradually by tension in two spots on my temples, that vibrated at a much higher frequency.
The waves of light/energy I so usually saw in earlier meditations are now rarer and fainter. Insights seem to come equally when I'm in access concentration and as a comeback from a brief period of torpor.
Postural discomfort is replacing itching as my main distraction, and is getting so distracting that I need to move from time to time to make it bearable.
For the first time as well, I saw that the usual white light went down as each out breath ended, and was restored to the previous spot prior to the next in breath (not moving up again, rather being replaced by another light). Previously its movement, or lack thereof, was independent from the phase of the breath.