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Need some help… again
Answer
12/18/13 8:14 PM
First off let me say for those of you who read this and consider replying, thank you for taking the time. I've realized it can be a bit trying at times responding to all of these questions and whatnot. But know I don't take any of it for granted.

That being said, I was wondering if someone might be able to tell me if what I'm experiencing is the dark night. I've heard it be said before that I can self-diagnosis if I know the right characteristics/stages, I've also heard it be said that only 'I' can be the judge of such experiences. All that aside, what is your opinion of the following;

I woke up this morning and it was ridiculously difficult to concentrate on anything. Every time I tried to note my sensations or be aware of them my mind would trail off into thoughts, it seemed, almost immediately. All day I've felt a little upset, fearful, anxious, frustrated (cause I can't focus), and all around not 'stable'. I understand one should learn to not put importance or identification in these thoughts/feelings, but this is pretty overwhelming and it's hard to practice with this lingering in the background (but mostly in the foreground!).

At first read this might seem obviously DN territory. The only reason I doubt it is because of my length of practice with vipassana meditation, which is 10 days. I've got a moderate background in Zen meditation (learning to just be with what is, meaning, being mindful) but have never done meditation for the goal of SE until now.

It's possible for one to progress quickly, I am aware of that. Have I been doing non-stop noting from day one to now? No. I started off meditating maybe 3 hours the first day, while trying to be as aware as I could during those sessions, and progressed to about 5 hours a day.

No bitterness meant, just trying to be crystal clear.

RE: Need some help… again
Answer
12/18/13 9:58 PM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
If you've been truly noting from 10 days ago until now you should be gaining some progress. The problem with progress is that you need to be noting everything that entails with checking into progress which is often a self-referencing habit that wants to release reward chemicals of attainments. You can even do that but notice pain when the brain solidifies on concepts. When you're back to vibrating reality and the tension of the mind evaporates on it's own, you can compare which is more painful.

If you are straining too much with your attention while noting you need to understand that your consciousness/knowing is already registering phenomenon (eg. You know that you see, you know that you hear), and you need to be relaxing your body muscles and facial muscles. Sometimes noting without labels is a good way to rest if you're too agitated and if you are being too slack you up the verbal noting. That strain of noting is a sign of striving to find things. Try and note like you are backing up in experience and trying to include more things that naturally and causally happen. Any tensions in the body and face with reactivity can be relaxed. Any mental talk and imagining about meditation practice has to be noted and let go of or else you might condition a conceptual "meditator" that's trying to achieve attainments. I know that's subtle but once seeing through it there's more freedom. I made that mistake for years. Learn now that mental talk about meditation practice and attainments is just that: Talk. Note "progress", "intention", "thinking". It's okay to think normally but the point of the practice is deconditioning the unskillful mental thinking habits (clinging).

Here's some good troubleshooting for noting:

Gil Fronsdal - Mental Noting

Typical Dark Night symptoms would be withdrawal symptoms: mild headaches/irritability/fear/disgust/misery/disenchantment with things you are normally passionate with. The trick is to keep practicing consistently to reach equanimity. You need to be tolerant of the crappy things in life along with the good in order to develop that and that's what you are doing. Equanimity is the staging point before stream-entry.

Remember you are targeting clinging (ruminating in your brain over and over again about what you like or dislike - including the practice itself). When clinging goes down then mental peace increases. This is why thoughts can be allowed so you are essentially normal but with less clinging.

A typical mistake is forgetting about noting mindstates:

Mindfulness of Mind States - Rob Burbea

Thought patterns give you clues about what mind state you are in. Fearful thoughts is a fearful mind state. Lust, anger, joy, equanimity, tired thoughts etc. The problem with clinging is that we may want a pristine meditation experience and we cling to that and cause more stress and since clinging is the target you won't go wrong if you let go of clinging as soon as you notice it. Relax the body and relax the clinging thoughts but then just get on with your practice or other tasks you have to do normally. It's okay to even laugh at some of the thought patterns and disidentify with them. Habitual thought is just that and not a "self".

Noting when done properly can zero in with a label on some clinging you didn't see so well. As you get more familiar with your typical clinging patterns you can let go of them quicker simply because of familiarity. Noting also prevents stories from getting beyond embryonic stages. Once mental narratives take hold completely like a detailed mental world the chemicals are releasing and you're off the reservation. When you're back in the body and reality vibrating you should feel more space.

Again just some basic things. Get good sleep, exercise and eat well.

Good luck!

RE: Need some help… again
Answer
12/19/13 5:02 AM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
Travis Gene McKinstry:


I woke up this morning and it was ridiculously difficult to concentrate on anything. Every time I tried to note my sensations or be aware of them my mind would trail off into thoughts, it seemed, almost immediately. All day I've felt a little upset, fearful, anxious, frustrated (cause I can't focus), and all around not 'stable'.


Some days I wake up and my concentration is really good. Some days I wake up and I can barely count to 1.

This is the way of life.

Very hard to know if there something causing the lack of concentration, fear, anxiety and frustration, or is it the thoughts surrounding the lack of concentration that is causing the fear and anxiety? "Oh dear, I can't concentrate, must be dark night, argghhh!!!!"

RE: Need some help… again
Answer
12/19/13 5:37 AM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
hi Travis;
Travis Gene McKinstry:
First off let me say... thank you for taking the time... I don't take any of it for granted.

That being said, I was wondering if someone might be able to tell me if what I'm experiencing is the dark night. I've heard it be said before that I can self-diagnosis if I know the right characteristics/stages, I've also heard it be said that only 'I' can be the judge of such experiences. All that aside, what is your opinion of the following;

I woke up this morning and it was ridiculously difficult to concentrate on anything. Every time I tried to note my sensations or be aware of them my mind would trail off into thoughts, it seemed, almost immediately. All day I've felt a little upset, fearful, anxious, frustrated (cause I can't focus), and all around not 'stable'. I understand one should learn to not put importance or identification in these thoughts/feelings, but this is pretty overwhelming and it's hard to practice with this lingering in the background (but mostly in the foreground!).

At first read this might seem obviously DN territory. The only reason I doubt it is because of my length of practice with vipassana meditation, which is 10 days. I've got a moderate background in Zen meditation (learning to just be with what is, meaning, being mindful) but have never done meditation for the goal of SE until now.

It's possible for one to progress quickly, I am aware of that. Have I been doing non-stop noting from day one to now? No. I started off meditating maybe 3 hours the first day, while trying to be as aware as I could during those sessions, and progressed to about 5 hours a day.

No bitterness meant, just trying to be crystal clear.

First off you, everyone,
should know that I don't take the same approach to any of this as many people here do.

This is to say I do not see meditation as 'a developmental path to enlightenment'. I take a very 'classical', back to basics approach, that can be most readily described as the naturalistic approach. Think of me as 'like' an owl, sitting in a tree, or a scorpion, dug into the sand. I can teach you what anyone who contemplates 'nature' can teach you.

If you find dealing with yourself as if you are some kind of a machine, that can be 'upgraded' or 'modified' or some kind of a commodity or product that can be 'processed', then I well understand where you are coming from but I do not 'live' my 'life'
this way.

I see the Buddha as a man who spent most of his life lying, sitting or standing in the jungle or walking around in the open countryside. It may be preferable for people today to see 'themselves' as commodities to be processed into products to be marketed and consumed by 'themselves' but I would still prefer to either sleep naked under the stars or to walk the cold streets of some urban graveyard and go door to door begging like any other homeless madman must today.

So, for me, meditation is not some 'linear' 'process' that I sit down and pass through like some old coke bottle on an assembly line. For me, meditation is a practice which long ago became ''a way of life".

What this means is that all five of my senses and my mind are open to my awareness 24/7, 365 days a year and it does not ever just "turn off" unless I basically beat my head with a brick - which will 'sometimes' work and sometimes I just see a few sparks.

Anyways.

As I see, know and understand the Path of Insight the goal to aim for is Conformity Knowledge. As I understand this, Conformity Knowledge is taken to mean that everything you are aware of, internally, externally, by means of every sense available to you "Conforms" to the same "Universal" "Truths" or Laws or Principles or Dhamma or Dharma.

Hope this is a useful view and a helpful orientation for you. It may not be where you are at right now but it serves well as a guideline for practice and will prevent much bigger obstacles from arising when you are further along this shining path.

your friend in Dhamma
nathan /// triplethink

Travis Gene McKinstry:

I see your logic in the order of my practice. It seems like a better idea to do what you suggested. I'll try that.

I've been 'practicing' for about 6 years but actually INTENTLY practicing with stream-entry in mind for a couple of months.

Where do I think I am? To be completely honest I have full faith (I believe) in the teachings but I feel a bit lost on what insight meditation actually is, as in what I'm actually noting/looking for and the path of progress. Meaning, do I keep noting until stream-entry or do I change it as I progress?
I don't have too much experience in meditation, and I have a strong background in the actual teachings. I'm 22, very motivated, and practical.

I meditate everyday for at least 10 minutes but have never actually sat for any longer than 45min.

RE: Need some help… again
Answer
12/19/13 2:56 PM as a reply to Travis Gene McKinstry.
Travis Gene McKinstry:
I was wondering if someone might be able to tell me if what I'm experiencing is the dark night.
Reread the the relevent sections and see what you think...
MCTB 5. Dissolution, Entrance to the Dark Night
Different people have different intensities of the dark night and some only experience it on the cushion. Myself yesterday popped into misery and I wanted to cry then disgust followed....I recognized the states as I have spent time here before and passed thru many times. That is how you get to recognize it...the first time my be the hardest as your impression may vary from others.

Regardless of where you are at; what are you going to do next? Does knowing affect this in any way?

When it comes to insite....hindsite is 20/20.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Need some help… again
Answer
12/24/13 10:39 AM as a reply to triple think.
triple think:
hi Travis;
First off you, everyone,
should know that I don't take the same approach to any of this as many people here do.

This is to say I do not see meditation as 'a developmental path to enlightenment'. I take a very 'classical', back to basics approach, that can be most readily described as the naturalistic approach. Think of me as 'like' an owl, sitting in a tree, or a scorpion, dug into the sand. I can teach you what anyone who contemplates 'nature' can teach you.

If you find dealing with yourself as if you are some kind of a machine, that can be 'upgraded' or 'modified' or some kind of a commodity or product that can be 'processed', then I well understand where you are coming from but I do not 'live' my 'life'
this way.

I see the Buddha as a man who spent most of his life lying, sitting or standing in the jungle or walking around in the open countryside. It may be preferable for people today to see 'themselves' as commodities to be processed into products to be marketed and consumed by 'themselves' but I would still prefer to either sleep naked under the stars or to walk the cold streets of some urban graveyard and go door to door begging like any other homeless madman must today.

So, for me, meditation is not some 'linear' 'process' that I sit down and pass through like some old coke bottle on an assembly line. For me, meditation is a practice which long ago became ''a way of life".

What this means is that all five of my senses and my mind are open to my awareness 24/7, 365 days a year and it does not ever just "turn off" unless I basically beat my head with a brick - which will 'sometimes' work and sometimes I just see a few sparks.

Anyways.

As I see, know and understand the Path of Insight the goal to aim for is Conformity Knowledge. As I understand this, Conformity Knowledge is taken to mean that everything you are aware of, internally, externally, by means of every sense available to you "Conforms" to the same "Universal" "Truths" or Laws or Principles or Dhamma or Dharma.

Hope this is a useful view and a helpful orientation for you. It may not be where you are at right now but it serves well as a guideline for practice and will prevent much bigger obstacles from arising when you are further along this shining path.

your friend in Dhamma
nathan /// triplethink

Travis Gene McKinstry:

I see your logic in the order of my practice. It seems like a better idea to do what you suggested. I'll try that.

I've been 'practicing' for about 6 years but actually INTENTLY practicing with stream-entry in mind for a couple of months.

Where do I think I am? To be completely honest I have full faith (I believe) in the teachings but I feel a bit lost on what insight meditation actually is, as in what I'm actually noting/looking for and the path of progress. Meaning, do I keep noting until stream-entry or do I change it as I progress?
I don't have too much experience in meditation, and I have a strong background in the actual teachings. I'm 22, very motivated, and practical.

I meditate everyday for at least 10 minutes but have never actually sat for any longer than 45min.


Triple Think,

Thanks for the response. I guess with your response, my next question would be 'how does one "make progress" if one isn't concerned with progress?' I do appreciate that point of view though, the 'classical' view on meditation being a life-style. I can agree with this definitely.

Dream Walker:
Thanks for the reply.

Reread the the relevent sections and see what you think...
MCTB 5. Dissolution, Entrance to the Dark Night
Different people have different intensities of the dark night and some only experience it on the cushion. Myself yesterday popped into misery and I wanted to cry then disgust followed....I recognized the states as I have spent time here before and passed thru many times. That is how you get to recognize it...the first time my be the hardest as your impression may vary from others.

Regardless of where you are at; what are you going to do next? Does knowing affect this in any way?

When it comes to insite....hindsite is 20/20.
Good luck,
~D


I've said this to myself and my brother multiple times, 'if you are at that stage, what will change? Won't you just keep noting?' and although this is true a lot can be said when one keeps track of progress. That, and if I know that I've made at least the first or second stage of insight then it gives me reassurance that I'm doing it 'right' or that something is happening. I'm not practicing 'incorrectly'.