Approaching insight, backing off

Elijah Smith, modified 7 Years ago.

Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 71 Join Date: 4/14/13 Recent Posts
Hi All,

I was doing open awareness meditation tonight (shikantaza style) and started to feel myself moving towards A&P (for the first time). I started to pull back because I read the disclaimers on moving beyond that stage and felt it might not be good for me right now (I start a very intense graduate program in a couple months, prone to anxiety). I am wondering, if this comes again, should I just let it happen? Would this type of experience be counterproductive given that I have to start working 80 hrs a week in a couple months? The ego death (seeing no self in thoughts, sensations, etc.) was actually frightening, mostly because of the disclaimers I've read.
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tom moylan, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 896 Join Date: 3/7/11 Recent Posts
wow..someone who actually reads and (almost) follows disclaimers! but seriously, they are there for a reason. imHo, if you are asking the question, you know the answer.

it is possible that you have no dark night once you pass the A&P but that is not a bet i would make. that you even have a choice (i zoomed past the A&P without knowing what it was) is very valuable. that said, it probably isn't helpful to make it into a big deal as it may pop up on its own when you least expect it.

best wishes

tom
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Sweet Nothing, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 164 Join Date: 4/21/13 Recent Posts
Hey !

Here's another disclaimer : I'm currently experiencing DN and I am prone to making evaluations which might contradict themselves once I reach Eq or SE. Mainly, I feel I overestimate the effects of DN and sulk too much over lack of enjoyment in my life.

Luckily for me, I experienced A&P just few weeks after I graduated. Since then I haven't been able to focus on studying and have chosen to take a 2 year break from education, focusing on getting some practical work experience. The work experience part is more of an excuse to be able to make enough progress to get myself up and running again.

Each individual is different and some people sail through DN without even noticing it. However, I'm not one of those people and if I was in your place, I would focus only on Metta and maybe some Concentration. I would focus on studies, work and also enjoy life the best I could at your age.
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fivebells ., modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 566 Join Date: 2/25/11 Recent Posts
It depends on your values, but if you value your academic performance above awakening, definitely postpone insight meditation. Just do jhana meditation, particularly if you're prone to anxiety.
Elijah Smith, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 71 Join Date: 4/14/13 Recent Posts
The weird thing is it seems that only insight practices give me real relief from anxiety. For example, for a week I just tried doing concentration practice, and I started to obsessively worry about nothing for a couple days straight. I couldn't get out of the worry, even by sitting down and practicing metta or concentration. Then, I started noting, and I was able to drop the worry (noting slowly).

Also, practicing open awareness for some reason is very effective for me in terms of letting go of bothersome thoughts or troubling sensations, but it was what started to lead me to feel vibrations/see no self.

So it's a dilemma... I can feel relief now via insight but it seems to risk a dark night. I also have the third option of doing concentration/metta during my formal practice and noting/doing open awareness during my informal practice. I think if I didn't do any insight during formal practice I wouldn't move into A&P
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dream walker, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 1312 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
You're making a lot of assumptions. They are not all necessarily true.
Any meditation IMHO leads to the A&P. I was reading a book when it happened to me. Should you avoid books?
After the A&P you wish to avoid the Dark night. There are no guarantees that you will have a DN that bothers you off the mat. There are no guarantees that you can avoid it by doing different types of meditation....just peoples opinions, that may or may not be true for you. Almost all of this is speculative...

You could trust in the unfolding as it happens....what would happen then?

If you're prone to anxiety why not get a prescription and put this meditation thing on the back burner till you have time?

Or you could trust in the unfolding as it happens...

best wishes
~D
Elijah Smith, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 71 Join Date: 4/14/13 Recent Posts
True, thanks for the response. I am hesitant to take medication because of the side effects (I enjoy my sex life) and the anxiety comes and goes.

I got into meditation out of reading psychology books that talked about how useful it could be for anxiety, and only recently have I heard of the dark night. So I have a lot of conflicting evidence on whether going fully into insight would be helpful or not. I never really thought of meditating as a "risk" until recently.

I'll probably keep on going with open awareness during the day/metta or concentration as a formal practice. Open awareness and noting just "feel" right, I want to trust in them fully. I wish I didn't have to worry about there being a dark night emoticon

It is interesting to me that I mostly only experience the things I've read about in books from doing open awareness, i.e., seeing thoughts as just thoughts, coming into the present moment, feeling equanimity. I don't get those things as readily from using an anchor
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Fitter Stoke, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Elijah Smith:
Hi All,

I was doing open awareness meditation tonight (shikantaza style) and started to feel myself moving towards A&P (for the first time). I started to pull back because I read the disclaimers on moving beyond that stage and felt it might not be good for me right now (I start a very intense graduate program in a couple months, prone to anxiety). I am wondering, if this comes again, should I just let it happen? Would this type of experience be counterproductive given that I have to start working 80 hrs a week in a couple months? The ego death (seeing no self in thoughts, sensations, etc.) was actually frightening, mostly because of the disclaimers I've read.


Let's turn this around and think about this in a more productive, concrete way. Because IMHO, reports of "the dark night" are overblown.

How old are you? On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your emotional maturity as compared with your peers? Do you consider yourself a "reactive" individual (do you tend to overreact to things)? How sharply do you differentiate what's happening in your head vs. what's happening in reality? Are you prone to mysticism or belief in occult/supernatural causes?

By and large, people walk around the world thinking their happiness or unhappiness is being caused by things beyond their control. They have a tendency to scapegoat. "Patriarchy makes me miserable." "I have an artistic temperament, and that's why I can't get a job." "Merc is retro, so don't expect me to pay attention." "The relationship failed because she was a psycho."

It's not much different when people start meditating, except now the issues are past lives, dark night, "I'm enlightened so I can't feel anger," etc.

I've done a lot of crazy, destabilizing shit in my life. But even the most intense dark night experience I ever had - which was on a retreat - was more annoying than anything else, at least as far as the sensations composing the experience go. The problem is, like anything else in life that's frustrating, it invites our neuroses. It begs them to come out. Dark night is not at all special in this regard.

The way that it is special - especially if you do it in a setting where you can really dig into the experience - is that it gives you a front row seat for the way the ego tends to construct and deconstruct itself and move around in the face of frustration. It has the potential to make you a more mature person - assuming it lasts more than a day, which sometimes it doesn't.

So you see, you can avoid "going into the dark night" if you want, but all you're really putting off is looking at the mechanism behind the neurosis which is going on all the time anyway. But if you can be both clinical and passionate about understanding your experience, getting in up to your elbows can be pretty rewarding.

It's probably a lot less risky overall than a lot of the stupid things we do in life, so why not go for it?
Elijah Smith, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 71 Join Date: 4/14/13 Recent Posts
Thanks for the advice. I am young but have a pretty high emotional maturity outside of having anxiety. I don't believe in occult at all/am pretty sane with determining whats just in my head.

I wonder if what you are saying about the dark night is accurate; I've noticed on some other forums that people don't talk about the dark night nearly as much, even though it seems like a lot of them are seeing benefits from the techniques. I assume its either because a) they aren't as dedicated to meditating as the people here, and hence aren't getting to insight territory, b) the dark night hasn't been suggested to them, so they see it as just their regular old neuroses, or c) the fast noting technique is more prone to leading to a dark night. I'd think b plays a significant role because a lot of other teachers who cultivate serious students tend to claim the dark night is rarer/plays a smaller role.
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Fitter Stoke, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Approaching insight, backing off

Posts: 489 Join Date: 1/23/12 Recent Posts
Elijah Smith:
I wonder if what you are saying about the dark night is accurate; I've noticed on some other forums that people don't talk about the dark night nearly as much, even though it seems like a lot of them are seeing benefits from the techniques. I assume its either because a) they aren't as dedicated to meditating as the people here, and hence aren't getting to insight territory


Quite likely.

b) the dark night hasn't been suggested to them, so they see it as just their regular old neuroses


Equally true.

or c) the fast noting technique is more prone to leading to a dark night.


This is an underappreciated aspect of it, yes. The Mahasi techniques seem bring anicca to the forefront more than techniques which focus first on establishing an extremely calm mind (the more jhana-based approaches of Thai Forest) or techniques which make a B-line for anatta (shyiné, for instance). Of course the three characteristics tend to show up as a group, but the noting technique in particular seems to undo the sense of self by showing that the sensations composing it are impermanent, which might be less pleasant overall than the other approaches which only have you see impermanence at the end. (See the chronology given in the Anapanasati Sutta, for instance.)

Either way you slice it, disillusionment is part of this practice. The Buddha talks about it explicitly in the Anattalakkhana Sutta, one of my favorite go-to dhamma texts.

Just keep it in context. Some of the territory after A&P can be challenging. Some of the territory before A&P is challenging, too, just not in exactly the same way. But anything worth achieving in life is challenging, right? What matters most is how you respond to the challenge and learn and grow through it.

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