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Dark Night
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1/4/13 5:32 PM
Greetings,

Been checking things out for a few weeks and getting a feel for things before posting. Want throw out my experience and get some feedback.

About 6 years ago was on a Goenka ten day and totally lost it. Lived in utter terror for several days. I could not stick it out and left on day 5ish. Was not prepared for this and have spent very little time processing afterward as no one really could understand or relate. Have had a hard time juggling the emotions between what happened and how it was handled (re: teacher and staff),

I feel the need to post (which feels quite vulnerable), to help see where I can move forward. This absolutely put the brakes on my practice. Had been starting to build momentum at the time and then this. The part that confuses me is that it seems really dark night, but had no real A&P experience like people describe. Appreciate any feedback.

RE: Dark Night
Answer
1/4/13 7:52 PM as a reply to Dan G.
It's hard to say from the little detail you provide but A & P should be the enjoyment of sticking with the noting and noticing things arise and pass away. The passing away part is what can highlight dissatisfaction leading to the dark night. Paying attention to the Three Characteristics is very important. (Impermanence, Stress, No permanent self found).

Everything in existence is impermanent so clinging (obssessive thoughts about likes and dislikes) to anything impermanent will cause emotional stress when those things you like show their impermanence or aversions appear to you. The next thing is that all the particles in your body are impermanent so if you look closely in your mind your consciousness (that knows what's happening in your phenomenological experience) knows all these thoughts and mental strivings (including striving for enlightenment) arise and pass away like everything else. There is no permanent self that can be held on to. The knowing can't be a self along with thoughts also being a self. It's like two selves. If you stick with your noting practice and note all things (including unpleasant sensations and emotions) you eventually get to equanimity which is a big relief. These negative feelings are also impermanent so fearing the practice doesn't make sense. Relief naturally happens if you pay attention to what is and watch it pass away on it's own. No matter how angry you get those thoughts that bring up the anger will vanish when clinging stops. You are trying to develop a disenchantment with obsessing over likes and dislikes so you can let go of both and dwell in the senses more. Thoughts don't have to be stopped but you don't have to cling to them. As you get better at consistently letting go then meditation will be more to see deeply and just letting go in daily life is enough. Letting go of thoughts as opposed to blocking them (more a concentration practice) is essential to function in daily life.

I would recommend reading through all of The Direct Path by Greg Goode which is a cheat sheet into realizations that could be missed while meditating. Just reading that book should help with some of the anxiety caused by striving for meditation attainments.

RE: Dark Night
Answer
1/7/13 6:23 AM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks for the response Richard.

That retreat was my 5th. Reading MCTB and listening to Cheetah House talks, I feel like I understand stages 1-3, and stages 5-6 at least. First retreat was all about dealing and sitting with the painful sensations. Second retreat feeling like I was settling in and really starting to observe sensation without constantly reacting to it (especially pain). I remember some beautiful moments of opening up a bit. Retreats 3 and 4 were ok but were starting to get uncomfortable and then the 5th retreat the doors blew off the hinges. I could see that the fear was coming out off, what seemed like nowhere, but I could not help but spin out over and over again. In real terrifying detail.

I wanted to post to this forum to get a sense of where I am so as to see where the work needs to be done. For instance, was I freaking out in 3Cs and maybe should be focusing on samadhi practices to help calm my mind before continuing with insight? or had I unknowingly crossed the A&P and moved along the path into this new territory and therefore should just continue with the practice?

I will add that the only other time I had experienced fear to this degree was a bad LSD trip as a teenager. Felt very similar. Out of control feelings and lots of terrifying fear.

Over the past 6 years, I keep getting drawn back to practice but the fear, and fear of falling out control arise and then I end up stopping. Thanks again for the response.

RE: Dark Night
Answer
1/7/13 7:01 AM as a reply to Dan G.
I imagine that the mind will try whatever tricks it can find in its clinging to self.

I have just returned from also my 5th Goenka retreat. My Sila has never been stronger. I expected my concentration to follow suite but it is atrocious right now (after the retreat); I'm either falling asleep during meditation (never had that before) or I am so antsy I feel like jumping out of my own skin (only had that when I first started meditating). I am never apt to practice metta at the end of my hour sitting.

Tricks of the mind. I suspect that if I see through these obstacles I will be rewarded for my new found equanimity.

One thing that I would tell myself if I were in your shoes is that for all of the fear my sanity is safe. My question is "have you ever fallen out of control?" If the answer is no then I suspect that the old cliche holds true, nothing to fear but fear itself.

RE: Dark Night
Answer
1/13/13 10:30 PM as a reply to Dan G.
Just keep practicing the same way. That's how you get through the dark night. Eventually the fear is something you've seen so many times and you just let go of those thoughts into natural awareness and feel better and better. You'll know you're getting somewhere when some sense of hope and a feeling of tensions start thawing in your brain like an ice cube melting. That's a sign the mental habits of tension are weakening. Make sure the notes are consistent so you don't lose the noting when strong emotions and daydreaming show up. The practice doesn't work well if you note "seeing", "hearing", "sensation", and then some anger comes up from some incident in your past and no note is made. Make sure you relax your facial muscles and body muscles when you let go. Those body tensions will appear when you get caught up in your mind. No matter how strong the fear or anger the courageousness to just be with what is and just notice the vibrations of addictiveness or negative emotions and how they are impermanent will seep into new habits of awareness. Let all of it wash over you and resolve on it's own. Those sensations run out of their own steam. Being non-chalant and non-dramatic when strong mental habits fly up helps to stop making stories. Making stories of all this stuff is also one of the pitfalls of looking at maps. You can get attached to maps and buddhist practice so remember that the maps are just for knowledge. Note any "urges" for enlightenment or better experiences. Enlightenment is more straightforward and boring than you think. It's being in the present moment and not clinging to any part of your experience as if it's a permanent resting place. Eventually you want to start understanding dependent co-arising and how your consciousness needs senses (eyes for eg.) and an object to look at. Since all these things are impermanent nothing can be leaned on as permanent.

The fear you felt should be a fear of letting go. It's very common to get daydreams with violence and negativity that feel unrelated to your practice. It's just the ego habits trying to keep you in homeostatsis. The way through it is as I typed above. Just keep practicing with the aim to see clearly that no fear will last forever and relief happens if you are patient enough to wait for it to naturally disappear. Sometimes noting when a hindrance is absent is a good reminder to enjoy the peace of mind we take for granted.

Hope that helps.

RE: Dark Night
Answer
1/16/13 3:00 PM as a reply to Richard Zen.
Thanks Richard. That indeed helps.

Noting is new and still feels awkward. But I find noting feelings and emotions very helpful. Significantly less spin out. Even having a general understanding of maps reduces spin-outs dramatically.

Been playing with being non-dramatic in addition to consciously relaxing in the moment. Quite helpful. Appreciate you weighing in.