A&P during Dark Night?

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Abingdon ., modified 10 Years ago.

A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I guess I need to go back and re(re)read MTCB -- maybe my question is already answered. But from previous discussions with Daniel and reflections on my past, I think I first crossed the A&P in about 1985 or so. I was doing some things then that I now recognise have strong resemblance to kasina meditation and also Shinzen Young's "Focus Out" practices. Also, I've had A&P-like experiences occasionally since I began "real" meditation practice several years ago. I may have been (likely have been?) a Dark Night Yogi for years without knowing it.

Anyway, I took Shinzen's "Focus Out Pt 1" phone retreat this past weekend and have been practicing that all week. I did a 1-hour sit yesterday that was quite nice and just got off the cushion from another. Both yesterday and today I had what I think were A&P events. I felt pressure/tension starting to build up in my eyes. The pressure built, and built, and built, until -- POP! -- it released with a rush and flash of light through my closed eyelids. The word that popped into my head was "eyegasm." Tonight it happened, then a few seconds later it happened again (multiple eyegasms?). However, unlike the description that i recall from MTCB and Mahasi Sayadaw's "Progress of Insight," there was no joy, or exhilaration, or rapturous experience around it. It just happened and passed and I felt much the same after as I did before.

Perhaps the "good stuff" associated with the A&P is attenuated by my longterm Dark Night condition. Or maybe it's tempered by POD (Plain Ol' Depression -- my marriage is in rough shape right now and work's not so great either).

I'll add that tonight, before the multiple eyegasms, I was feeling something that's I'd describe as anxiety, or nervousness, or fear. Maybe that was Dukkha Nanas. But that comes after the A&P, not before (although it was after yesterday's, so maybe that counts). If you told me I was cycling, I'd probably believe you. If you told me that I was bouncing around randomly, I'd probably believe that as well (although my current understanding is that that doesn't happen). If you told me I was completely wrong and had no idea what I was talking about, I wouldn't argue that either. ;-)

I'll also add that I've never seen or experienced anything that I'd confidently label "vibrations." I can detect tingling in my sense of touch wherever I chose to focus; I can see "pixilation" or "TV snow" or whatever you choose to call it in my vision, and I can hear a "white noise" type background in my hearing. But none of it strikes me as particularly "vibratory" -- which to me would seem to need some sort of periodic or cyclical component. This feels more random and chaotic, and I've always just marked it down as being the noise floor of the nervous system. (I'm an engineer by trade -- can you tell?)

I'd appreciate comments and observations from you --I'm sure nearly all of you here know this territory MUCH better than I do! I'm especially interested in the experiences of those of you who may have been in the same sort of situation I think I'm in -- long time dark nighters and how the A&P event presents itself to you.

Thanks!
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Bruno Loff, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Abingdon, I can tell you my experience: I spent about a year in dark night (horrible stuff), and I would periodically revisit A&P territory for one or two weeks at a time. It would not last, but it would happen. Also, the tingling sense you are referring are vibrations. Didn't your eyegasm (sound awesome :-)) have a vibratory quality? You mention there was a sensation of "rush." When I get rushes or feel buzzed, the vibratory quality is fairly obvious. It seems that the more you meditate the more obvious it becomes; nowadays everything seems like its vibrating for me.
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Abingdon,

That pressure-and-light thing - "unknowing event", perhaps? Note that these usually happen in A&P, but can also occur at the border between re-observation and equanimity.

Vibrations: I perceive an "internal" high-pitched bell-tone. Superimposed on it, muting or modulating it, there is a fairly slow "vibration", like an idling helicopter rotor. Just an example. Don't worry about "getting vibrations", though.

How the A&P-event presents to me: almost always in dreams, between 2:00 and 3:00 AM. A couple of times I was awake after the initial "unknowing events", which in my case are sensations of something rushing at my face/brows, my chest or stomach, or all of me, and not really knowing what happened on "impact". In dreams, this can take the form of being shot at, being kissed, having a heart with wings ramming me in the chest... then there's a short vision involving unusual geometry (such as standing next to someone and simultaneously opposite, or floating upside down along inward-leaning walls, or doing a 360-degrees turn with my shoulders, or "falling forward") and another unknowing event.

Cheers,
Florian
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Daniel M. Ingram, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 3166 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Zappy, rushing, anything-gasm: probably A&P, obviously.

As to what came before it, people tend to underestimate 3rd ñana (Three Characteristics), which can really suck.

Good luck with your marriage and job: I hope you can find a way to balance all these things and make things come out alright on all fronts.
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Jackson "awouldbehipster" Wilshire, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Daniel M. Ingram:
Zappy, rushing, anything-gasm: probably A&P, obviously.

As to what came before it, people tend to underestimate 3rd ñana (Three Characteristics), which can really suck.


Daniel brings up something important, here. The 3rd ñana (Three Characteristics) and the dukkha ñanas - especially the 10th ñana (Re-Observation) - can be very similar. I've often thought I was in the dark night stage of a cycle, only to cross the A&P and realize I was hanging out in 3rd ñana all along.

Another thing to consider is that the more one moves from the lowest stage to the highest stage available to them, the more that a groove or canal opens up between them. That is to say, one is likely to revisit all available ñanas during each sustained period of mindful attention. For example, prior to attaining stream entry, I used to cycle from 1st ñana all the way up to 11th ñana at least once during every sit; sometimes more than once. The more I passed through them, the less I was stuck in any of them for any significant period of time.

All this to say that you're probably experiencing A&P events often because you're cycling past them during most sits. The key is to cycle up to the highest ñana available and then keep practicing. You'll likely chip away at the false ceiling more and more as you do this.

I also wish you the best in regards to your relationship and your work situation. If you need to take a break from meditation, you should. You're not going to lose the progress you've made by taking a break to put your everyday life in order.

Take care,
~Jackson
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Abingdon .:
I'll add that tonight, before the multiple eyegasms, I was feeling something that's I'd describe as anxiety, or nervousness, or fear. Maybe that was Dukkha Nanas. But that comes after the A&P, not before (although it was after yesterday's, so maybe that counts). If you told me I was cycling, I'd probably believe you. If you told me that I was bouncing around randomly, I'd probably believe that as well (although my current understanding is that that doesn't happen). If you told me I was completely wrong and had no idea what I was talking about, I wouldn't argue that either. ;-)

I'll also add that I've never seen or experienced anything that I'd confidently label "vibrations." I can detect tingling in my sense of touch wherever I chose to focus; I can see "pixilation" or "TV snow" or whatever you choose to call it in my vision, and I can hear a "white noise" type background in my hearing. But none of it strikes me as particularly "vibratory" -- which to me would seem to need some sort of periodic or cyclical component. This feels more random and chaotic, and I've always just marked it down as being the noise floor of the nervous system. (I'm an engineer by trade -- can you tell?)


Was your pre-eyegasm unpleasantness accompanied by "body stuff" like weird postures or feelings like your body is in an uncomfortable position, or perhaps tension headaches/neckaches/backaches that are unusual for you during meditation?

What you describe as "not what you would confidently label vibrations," I personally would definitely consider what the term "vibrations" is trying to talk about. They manifest differently to different people and in different sense doors. At any rate, if you're paying close enough attention to your sensations to notice these phenomena, whether or not they're "just" the noise floor of the nervous system, you're doing vipassana right. That is, so long as you stay out of content. I'm going to advise you right now that you may currently or in the near future find it a bit more difficult to stay out of content, but now is the time that you will benefit the most from staying out of content. So please try and stay mindful of how valuable that meditation instruction is, and how much it helps you to follow it closely.

Has the nature of the vibrations changed after the eyegasm experience? Even in very subtle ways? Also, does your attention or concentration feel or work differently in any way? If so, could you please describe how? If not, then don't worry -- trust me, what ever you did was working fine.

On being an engineer -- great! I bet having the type of personality that is well-suited to engineering will be helpful to you in wading through all this technical stuff. One caveat is that it's so easy to get lost in mapping and technical nitpicks that sometimes one can forget to just sit down and watch sensations happening. So, if you're having any sort of meditation-related problem, try and always consider "staying farther away from content and doing more vipassana" as one potential solution. If you keep that in mind, then your technical mind will be a great asset to you as you can arouse the curiosity and energy to perform this type of hardcore meditation.
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the prisoner greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hi abingdon,

to this sea of voices, i'll add:

once, on retreat, i stumbled into the most focused, concentration-heavy, turbo-charged super-powerful blissful energetic experience ever, and was convinced - when i was coherent enough to be able to think at all - i was crossing the a&p for the first time ever and that the past almost-decade of hard, dedicated practice and every manner of experience i'd had during it was somehow all just something else, like 'early/immature/weak a&p'. and that everything i thought was the dark night was just lowly 3rd nana (comprehension of the three characteristics) after all.

then about 10 minutes later i got stream-entry.

tarin

ps- florian i caught your note about the helicopter idle rotor vibration. do you experience that frequently?
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Florian Weps, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
@Tarin, "helicopter": yes, frequently, as in "each sit, if I pay attention to it". While I perceive the "inner sound" whenever I choose to, the "flap-flap" modulation takes a few seconds of concentration and more quiet surroundings, as it's more "subtle". About a year ago, I decided to do noting practice on it, and got dropped into 4th jhana during one sit, when the noting solidified into something more samatha-like.

Do you get this, too, then?

Cheers,
Florian
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the prisoner greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Florian Weps:
@Tarin, "helicopter": yes, frequently, as in "each sit, if I pay attention to it". While I perceive the "inner sound" whenever I choose to, the "flap-flap" modulation takes a few seconds of concentration and more quiet surroundings, as it's more "subtle". About a year ago, I decided to do noting practice on it, and got dropped into 4th jhana during one sit, when the noting solidified into something more samatha-like.

Do you get this, too, then?


i would get this frequently for years, until i was on that retreat i mentioned above, during which i started getting it in massive doses, and toward the end of which i started panicking about my time running out, as those are late dark night vibrations and i was getting completely swallowed by them (disappearing into them, like a person disappears for a while under a massive wave in the ocean - going temporarily unconscious). has this been happening to you at all? what have you been doing in your practice lately?


About a year ago, I decided to do noting practice on it, and got dropped into 4th jhana during one sit, when the noting solidified into something more samatha-like.


what you're describing is a really effective way to move a bunch of your mind from re-observation to equanimity, which latter is, by its very nature, much more samatha-like (the difference between 4th samatha jhana and 4th vipassana jhana is slim compared to the difference between the previous ones[1]). did you get stream-entry yet?

tarin

[1] which is why people who are taught to master the jhanas via concentration practice first are taught to get 4th jhana and then make the 'switch' to investigation, when the switch will be easy, and they will have a straight shot at path.
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Abingdon ., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thanks, everyone, for both the input and the metta!

My focus early in the week had been very keen and sharp, but for the last two days it's been somewhat more difficult to stay on my object. I guess that reinforces the idea that I'm stumbling around in DN land.

Leading up to the eyegasms in the earlier sits was just a vague sense of fear with a tension or tightness in the chest. No other unusual symptoms.

No eyegasms in last night's sit, but early into it there was a brief occurrence of fear again, lasting at most a few tens of seconds. The sit beyond that was uneventful, except for the aforementioned slight lack of focus and slight wandering mind.

RE: vibrations -- I guess what I'm not getting about vibrations is that what I'd think of as a vibration would have cyclical nature over time and could therefore be said to have a frequency. What I'm experience I think of more a "static" or "snow" or something like that that does not have a frequency (or, like white noise, is composed of multiple frequencies none of which are predominant & detectable). I understand that it's very possible I'm making too big a deal of it! ;-)

If you have any more comments, I'd love to hear them. And I'll keep sitting!

Cheers!
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the prisoner greco, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
Abingdon .:

Leading up to the eyegasms in the earlier sits was just a vague sense of fear with a tension or tightness in the chest. No other unusual symptoms.

No eyegasms in last night's sit, but early into it there was a brief occurrence of fear again, lasting at most a few tens of seconds. The sit beyond that was uneventful, except for the aforementioned slight lack of focus and slight wandering mind.


just a suggestion: try keeping your eye muscles more relaxed so that the waves of sensation (energy/tension/etc) can go through that area rather than triggering event there. see if being able to keep that kind of stuff circulating (rather than climaxing) powers your mindfulness at all.


Abingdon .:

RE: vibrations -- I guess what I'm not getting about vibrations is that what I'd think of as a vibration would have cyclical nature over time and could therefore be said to have a frequency. What I'm experience I think of more a "static" or "snow" or something like that that does not have a frequency (or, like white noise, is composed of multiple frequencies none of which are predominant & detectable). I understand that it's very possible I'm making too big a deal of it! ;-)


those are vibrations; patterns show up out of the snow sometimes (and sometimes out of an empty, quiet, almost-imperceptible background).

tarin
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
In the dark night, vibrations can definitely be like that. In Dissolution, it's hard to see much of anything. Careful observation might reveal a clear view of the ends of sensations, but it's hard to express how that experience actually feels. Later in the dark night, the "vibrations" can be fast and irregular and complex.

See MCTB for Daniel's explanation that in the dark night, vibrations stop being like regular and gentle easy-listening music and become more like complex, dissonant jazz with all kinds of different rhythms happening at the same time. I believe this is especially typical of mid-to-late dark night, but some of this stuff could start showing up in Fear. It's done that with me. In fact, from late Dissolution through Misery, I often have the early dark night "drum beat" and the irritating panoramic stuff happening at the same time. By Disgust, it's usually all complex irritating stuff.


What you described was classic Third Characteristics, then A&P, then Dark Night. Attention feels like it sucks during the dark night, and it kind of does. You will probably need to keep some mindfulness aimed at keeping your concentration up during your sits, though not so much that you're getting distracted from actually observing sensations in a detached way. However, a return to the pre-dark-night attention just isn't going to happen yet, and it shouldn't be expected. That's not an excuse to slack off on attempts to strengthen and balance out the Five Spiritual Facuties -- rather, it's a reason to believe meditation technique is working correctly even if it feels like you can't focus right.
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Abingdon ., modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 53 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Thanks again, everyone.

Tarin, that's an interesting point about vibrations. I'd been looking for the buzzy/tingling stuff to have some sort of periodic component -- it hadn't occurred to me that the it could be a carrier medium for the frequency. What am I looking for -- something akin to amplitude modulation or something? I'll also try to consciously relax my eyes the next time I feel tension there.

J Adam G, you might be on to something. I may have had a slight taste of disgust yesterday. As I was eating lunch I was trying to eat mindfully, as I often do if I'm eating alone. Almost immediately as I established clear mindfulness on the tactile and taste sensations of eating, I noticed an aversion and my mind wanted to pull away from the sensations. It's not that they were unpleasant or in fact any different from other times I've done it, but rather that my mind not wanting them. Very shortly thereafter I got interrupted and that was that.....

Had a difficult sit last night as well. Lots of discomfort, restlessness and aversion.
J Adam G, modified 10 Years ago.

RE: A&P during Dark Night?

Posts: 286 Join Date: 9/15/09 Recent Posts
Sounds like the dark night to me. If you're lucky, noting that stuff will make it go away. If you aren't, then you'll note it for a few moments, and it won't change, and then you should just go back to the meditation object. Every time the mind tries to attend to the unpleasant sensation, just give a few notes to that sensation and move the mind back to your desired object. This can be a constant job that feels like it never stops! Right Effort is like that sometimes.

On the subject of vibrations, if you're more curious about them, one thing you can do is look at a sensation and DARE it to remain solid and smooth. Just watch it like a hawk for the slightest indication of shimmer or periodicity of any sort. It might be like AM, or like FM, or like something else entirely. Just watch the sensation with the attitude that whatever impermanence and discontinuity exists, you will see it. Is that any help? Even in Dissolution, where it feels like every sensation is gone by the time you can notice it, this technique can work. Note that you do not ~need~ that technique because the meditation instructions you're already following are working fine. It just might be a useful thing to try out.