Where am I?

joie delivre, modified 7 Years ago.

Where am I?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/30/13 Recent Posts
Hi all. I posted a version of this in the Dark Night thread and someone kindly recommended I start a separate thread seeking help. I'd love some support or understanding about where I am. I meditate at least twice a day, roughly around 45 mins each time, a little more on weekends when I also listen to dharma talks online. I have a very hectic and pressurised job. I started with Mindufulness meditation two-ish years ago and moved to Insight practice (I'd tried off and on over 20 years along with with yoga practice but much emotion arose and I guess that frightened me so I had woefully inconsistent practice until my latest pattern).

This summer I did a 10 day Goenka Vippassana retreat which I found really scary from about Day 3: lots of electrical surgings & jerkings I've no memory of experiencing before; lots of crying, sadness (not necessarily about anything) and much anxiety. Unable to sleep with the electrics although I usually have no problems in that regard. I've been experiencing much anxiety for 3ish years which kicked in when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. Since the retreat I continue with the electrics...if I stop during work for a moment I can feel it rising through my trunk...but it's not really frightening anymore (or mostly not). I still have much emotion rising, increasing fear (I can attach it to the most mundane things). I am disciplined and think I have a consistent and strong practice but have never had any blissful or pleasant experiences meditating so feel a bit odd about that. However that hasn't affected my dedication. Somehow I feel I have to continue but it all feels very difficult and despairing. I've had a teacher since September who originally thought I was in the dark night (although if my A & P was the electrics during the retreat, there was nothing pleasant about it). More recently he wonders whether I haven't yet hit either A & P or Dark Night...which I found really really scary.

I found the Jeannie Zandi article almost exactly fits my experience BAR the bit about god. My sense is that gods are myths so I have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night. I'd also appreciate opinions or steers about where I might be? I don't think I am particularly goal oriented with meditation. I don't feel the need to experience bliss, peace or jhanas but I do feel very alone and isolated at the moment...

A little bit of my background in case it's of use: I don't drink (never really did), never did drugs, have been a veggie for over 30 years, do yoga & walk, am fit and healthy. Haven't suffered from depression although I have had what I think are probably normal bouts of situational anxiety down through the years (when parents were dying or relationships broke up). The present huge anxiety and dread I've experienced increasing over the last 3 years seems to be getting worse but seems existential...and it is really draining and debilitating.

My actual practice sessions mornings and evenings have adjusted from beginning by single point breath concentration, moving to body scanning Vipassana to ending with metta. Lately the rough plan has been 15 min concentration at the top of the session, 15 to 20 to 25 min of noting (although sometimes noting leaks into the end of the concentration section) followed by 10 to 15 minutes of metta. I can sometimes see the progress of the path within the session: 3 characteristics followed by anxiety, then the surges, the a burst of sadness and crying, sometimes followed by nausea or gagging (very brief)...although the nausea has receded over the last few weeks and I just get to the surgings/crying.

Perhaps I should just keep at it and not worry but something feels like I am stuck in hell. All help gratefully received...gentleness a bonus! And if I've put this in the wrong section, apologies...feel free to move it...

Best, Joie
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 1333 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
joie delivre:
I've had a teacher since September who originally thought I was in the dark night (although if my A & P was the electrics during the retreat, there was nothing pleasant about it). More recently he wonders whether I haven't yet hit either A & P or Dark Night...which I found really really scary.
I'd chat with your teacher some more and see why your teacher thinks what is what...your teacher knows you much better than I.
joie delivre:

I can sometimes see the progress of the path within the session: 3 characteristics followed by anxiety, then the surges, the a burst of sadness and crying, sometimes followed by nausea or gagging (very brief)...although the nausea has receded over the last few weeks and I just get to the surgings/crying.

Have you read MCTB yet? Link to progress of insite section - The Progress of Insight
Based off your descriptions you seem to match up nicely with the dark night phases and in order....
anxiety....fear
sadness..misery
nausea....disgust
And wrap them all together and you get re-observation
Keep practicing diligently and skillfully and get to Equanimity....then don't stop there.....keep going...it is worth it
Reread the link above and see what you think...you are always the best judge of what is happening to you...(most of the time)
Good luck,
~D
joie delivre, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/30/13 Recent Posts
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer...the second part of your response re: observation was what my teacher originally thought too and helped me to see it...but it was his change of view last time that unsettled me (the notion that feeling this bad so consistently wasn't even near the Dark Night point on the path). I'm talking with my teacher again in two weeks so will raise this, but I feel so frightened and alone in this at the moment I wanted to connect with others. Many thanks again. J
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Dream Walker, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 1333 Join Date: 1/18/12 Recent Posts
Well if you want to chat, google hangout, skype or whatever send me a message....(see button up top)
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Travis Gene McKinstry, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 208 Join Date: 7/26/12 Recent Posts
I've been reading your posts and it does sound like your in a tough spot. The path is very difficult sometimes and we have to go through these stages to reach stream entry.

I'm sorry to hear you feel so lost. I hope you can shake that feeling soon. Lots of metta coming your way.

Stay focused on the goal.
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Eric G, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 132 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
I am not much of a believer, by the way. Naturalistic world view.

There are definitely ups and downs on the path, and in the opinion of many, re-observation is the worst, if that's where you are, which is very plausible based on what you're saying. If it's really too bad you could back off and eat some heavy food and such, go to ground so to speak, but if you can take it my advice would be to continue to press thru and really feel all that stuff, let it be there.

This work can also bring up a lot of stuff, shadow stuff, layers of the onion getting peeled back. If you can be okay with all that raw stuff getting exposed, in my experience it will pay great dividends.
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Travis Gene McKinstry, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 208 Join Date: 7/26/12 Recent Posts
Eric G:
I am not much of a believer, by the way.


I'm sorry, not much of a believer of what?
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Eric G, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 132 Join Date: 5/6/10 Recent Posts
I was responding to the OP:
joie delivre:
My sense is that gods are myths so I have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night.
joie Delivre, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 4 Join Date: 8/19/13 Recent Posts
Thank you all for responding to my queries and for your generosity of spirit. I'm continuing with my practice: hour in the morning or more followed listening to a variety of online dharma talks. Same in the evening and smaller session at bedtime. My home practice involves about 20% concentration (which was good until the last week); 60 or more % noting; the balance in metta. Sometimes I start with metta, sometimes I end with it but concentration always preceeds noting and sometimes if I'm very rattled, I focus on concentration.

I attended a half day vipassana retreat on the weekend as well as my own meditation sessions. It was reassuring to sit silently with others but there isn't much happening in that regard where I live and of course, no talking! Last week and this I have felt the most intense periods of existential sadness, despair and anxiety but also a few glimpses of calm (this is not normal for me and my meditation compared to others I read about is quite different: no bliss, no real pleasantness, little calm).

My electrical surges continue, featuring most strongly during the noting period but observable as well during the day and sometimes in concentration. I'm anxious about even small things. Yet I've noticed feeling my heart opening more and lots of feeling of raw vulnerability. But I am also more mindful with others and more open. BTW during the Vipassana retreat I stuck to Goenka practice as per their instruction, but found single point concentration difficult this week. At home I lean towards noting but sometimes do pure Vipassana.

It all still feels like a hellish roller coaster where going to work is the last thing I want to do but which also provides some respite. Some of my aches and pains have subsided and I've noticed sometimes that the nut of anxiety in my chest goes a bit fluttery. I had a bad night on Saturday (I'm normally a great sleeper) where I hoped I was at some turning point: I've had a few calmer periods, not long, during my meditation. Oddly I've found eating a potato before bed seems to help the morning anxiety!

I don't know if this is relevant and it may be quite common, but up to my early thirties (I'm now 60), I experienced not infrequent epiphanies of bliss often triggered by light: sun flashing off chrome or water or clouds. Quite exquisite and connected but nothing like that since I did a counselling course where some gestalt type work tipped me during one session into a physical and scary foggy-skin sensation and losing a sense of where I was as if hypnotised for maybe 20 minutes...and that left a really anxious period of several months.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated...
T DC, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I?

Posts: 389 Join Date: 9/29/11 Recent Posts
Hi sorry if this is long, just wanted to try to hit everything.

joie delivre:
This summer I did a 10 day Goenka Vippassana retreat which I found really scary from about Day 3: lots of electrical surgings & jerkings I've no memory of experiencing before; lots of crying, sadness (not necessarily about anything) and much anxiety. Unable to sleep with the electrics although I usually have no problems in that regard. I've been experiencing much anxiety for 3ish years which kicked in when my partner was diagnosed with cancer. Since the retreat I continue with the electrics...if I stop during work for a moment I can feel it rising through my trunk...but it's not really frightening anymore (or mostly not). I still have much emotion rising, increasing fear (I can attach it to the most mundane things).

I am disciplined and think I have a consistent and strong practice but have never had any blissful or pleasant experiences meditating so feel a bit odd about that. However that hasn't affected my dedication. Somehow I feel I have to continue but it all feels very difficult and despairing. I've had a teacher since September who originally thought I was in the dark night (although if my A & P was the electrics during the retreat, there was nothing pleasant about it). More recently he wonders whether I haven't yet hit either A & P or Dark Night...which I found really really scary...

...My electrical surges continue, featuring most strongly during the noting period but observable as well during the day and sometimes in concentration. I'm anxious about even small things. Yet I've noticed feeling my heart opening more and lots of feeling of raw vulnerability. But I am also more mindful with others and more open. BTW during the Vipassana retreat I stuck to Goenka practice as per their instruction, but found single point concentration difficult this week. At home I lean towards noting but sometimes do pure Vipassana.


Definitely sounds like the dark night. General unpleasantness combined with uncomfortable body sensations (the electrical surges you describe) sounds VERY much like the dark night. To be honest it pretty much reads as a textbook description of it.

Don't worry about blissful and pleasant experiences, given that you seem to be in the dark night it's not a surprise you aren't having these experiences. Personally I associate such experiences with pre-AP sort of practice, after that they seem to all away.

Though your teacher may doubt that you're in the dark night, given what you have said, it seems extremely likely to be the case. That you yourself believe it to be so, and scary that he does not, seems to be even more of an indication you are in the dark night.

joie delivre:
I found the Jeannie Zandi article almost exactly fits my experience BAR the bit about god. My sense is that gods are myths so I have difficulty with the dark night being about surrendering to a god. I would love to hear from others who may also be atheists and who have been or are in the dark night.


I don't know the article you're referencing. As others have suggested, I would highly recommend reading Mastering the Core Teachings of the Budda which can be downloaded here: http://static.squarespace.com/static/5037f52d84ae1e87f694cfda/t/5055915f84aedaeee9181119/1347785055665/ This is the common basis off which most people on here are discussing the dark night and stages of insight. None of it is at all spiritual, just straightforward and descriptive, and helpful.

joie delivre:

I don't know if this is relevant and it may be quite common, but up to my early thirties (I'm now 60), I experienced not infrequent epiphanies of bliss often triggered by light: sun flashing off chrome or water or clouds. Quite exquisite and connected but nothing like that since I did a counselling course where some gestalt type work tipped me during one session into a physical and scary foggy-skin sensation and losing a sense of where I was as if hypnotised for maybe 20 minutes...and that left a really anxious period of several months.

Perhaps I should just keep at it and not worry but something feels like I am stuck in hell.


That is interesting. To me it sounds like you may have somewhat of an affinity for dharma practice, given you experienced these sort of things in the past, and have now seemingly crossed the threshold into the dark night. Haha, as for the last sentence I quoted above, indeed the dark night is pretty hellish, and you have every right to want move through it.

joie delivre:
I can sometimes see the progress of the path within the session: 3 characteristics followed by anxiety, then the surges, the a burst of sadness and crying, sometimes followed by nausea or gagging (very brief)...although the nausea has receded over the last few weeks and I just get to the surgings/crying.

I attended a half day vipassana retreat on the weekend as well as my own meditation sessions. It was reassuring to sit silently with others but there isn't much happening in that regard where I live and of course, no talking! Last week and this I have felt the most intense periods of existential sadness, despair and anxiety but also a few glimpses of calm (this is not normal for me and my meditation compared to others I read about is quite different: no bliss, no real pleasantness, little calm).


This is good, it sounds like you are making progress toward equanimity. Do you know the stages of insight? Definitely have a look at them in the book MCTB I linked above if you don't. If you don't know, essentially there is the dark night, then re-observation, which is a very intense stage, followed by equanimity, which is ideally followed by fruition (stream entry). Equanimity isn't bliss, it is simply non-preferential mental evenness toward all phenomenon. Don't worry about bliss or any nice states, shoot to practice well and maintain/ rest in equananomous states when they occur.

joie Delivre:
I'm continuing with my practice: hour in the morning or more followed listening to a variety of online dharma talks. Same in the evening and smaller session at bedtime. My home practice involves about 20% concentration (which was good until the last week); 60 or more % noting; the balance in metta. Sometimes I start with metta, sometimes I end with it but concentration always preceeds noting and sometimes if I'm very rattled, I focus on concentration.

My actual practice sessions mornings and evenings have adjusted from beginning by single point breath concentration, moving to body scanning Vipassana to ending with metta. Lately the rough plan has been 15 min concentration at the top of the session, 15 to 20 to 25 min of noting (although sometimes noting leaks into the end of the concentration section) followed by 10 to 15 minutes of metta.


I would really say do what you are drawn to in terms of practice, and don't feel bound by techniques; meditation practice should be pragmatic. In order to make progress in insight, noting is recommended. Though, if your mind is too crazy, concentration is good.. Insight and concentration work hand in hand, the way you have been practicing, of concentration followed by insight seems like a good way to go. But if you want to do more insight, don't feel bound by your schedule. Insight meditation really is what moves one along the path so it may be you could practice more of it.

As for metta, again personal preference is probably a good decider here. If it's nice to do, then by all means continue it. However if it feels forced or hard, there's no need to do it. While at all times it is important to remember that compassion for all beings includes yourself, especially at this time when you are in a rough place dharmically, it may be best to focus more on assisting yourself out of your own situation than trying to cultivate compassion for all beings. Though that is just my opinion, again if compassion practice works for you than don't change it.

As well I would say that practice in everyday life in addition to meditation is very important, and will greatly help to move you along the path. Remembering mindfulness during the day, or attention to sensations creates a continuity of practice in your life which naturally produces stronger results than simply practicing mediation and leaving it on the cushion.
joie delivre, modified 7 Years ago.

RE: Where am I? (Answer)

Posts: 5 Join Date: 6/30/13 Recent Posts
Thank you so much, T DC. Yes, I have read Daniel's book and it was that that brought me to this site, of which I am grateful. Over the last month or so I have been able to bring mindfulness and a meditative awareness more and more to daily life. For example, I can get irritable driving in congested city traffic but have come to realise that really I am afraid, that I am having a lot of subtle electrical surges and that if I 'stay in the car' with how I am feeling in the moment and don't try to think my way out of my fear & vulnerability or plan out of the moment by taking short cuts etc. to get ahead of the driving path (some metaphors there, huh?), that I do feel much more grounded as well as generosity and connectedness to the stresses of other drivers.

Also, I am getting a glimpse that perhaps my regular sensation of anxiety is a subliminal aversion tactic for resisting softer feelings like vulnerability and sadness and, at its heart, probably impermanence. I also have an 'unskillful' judgement tactic, that manifests itself in aversive thoughts when I skid momentarily down the 'story' thinking path during concentration. I know there are kinder ways to handle this but suspect the judging may also be an aversion tactic.

Any tips for dealing more effectively with judgement like 'I'm not doing this properly'. I think it feeds into my anxiety.

Much appreciation, Joie