Message Boards Message Boards

Toggle
Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/4/14 9:06 AM
Hi all,

I recently bought Daniel's MCTB book after hearing about him on a Buddhist Geeks podcast. I knew I had to get this book and it has been nothing short of astounding. I have already almost forced convinced 5 other people to buy it...emoticon

I am 27 now, but when I was around 21, I had the culmination of few years of quite intense spiritual persuit. Whilst this was initially extraordinary, I was son catapulted into a nightmarish, if only brief, psychotic episode. My moods have always cycled since I had powerful experiences as a 14 year old child...but they took on a new level of intensity. I abandoned my spirituality, only to find threads of the Dharma about 6 months ago. I am currently pursuing Rinzai Zen under the guidance of a very experienced teacher.

To read Daniel's extrapolation of the stages of insight....I just had no idea that maps like this existed. He has probably saved my life. I am so very grateful you were propelled to write the book, Daniel, and I sincerely hope I can return the good karmic ripples to yourself and beyond.

I have considered re-writing this all out. I have had many, many interpretations of my experiences since they have happened. Funny how we retell the narratives of our lives, isn't it? It seems as much dependent on the position of the narrator than any objective reality. As it stands, I think I will just copy paste a letter I wrote some time ago. I hope it captures some of the rawness of the experiences I had, so that people here may be better able to work out, on the level of insight, what happened to me. My hope is that, with this view of hindsight, if I can more easily navigate future cycles even 10% easier, it will have been effort very well spent. I am prone to switching between overly grandiose and overly pessimistic views of my experiences; it would be nice to have some more reliable, human ground upon which to stand.

May I stand on the shoulders of giants..!

So here goes. A summarised version, as much as possible.

My ‘spiritual’ journey, started as a young teenager, reading books such as “Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh. I was psychologically and emotionally sidelined by these books, becoming fascinated with the deeper concepts and truths that appeared to be held within. I continued a normal teenage exploration of life, but privately subscribed to a deeper search for truth and relationship to the numinous. It almost invaded my mind and I looked for these truths everywhere.

Unfortunately, somewhere around 17 years of age, I remember becoming much more introverted, anxious and depressed than I had been previously, perhaps as a result of smoking too much cannabis, as I went through a period where I smoked multiple times daily, every day. I soon discovered CBT and self-help, that I feel allowed me to progress past a definite depressive period. In terms of mental health, the years that followed were predominated by a rapidly cycling mood, alternating between an almost hypomanic confidence, especially after meditating, and periods of dysthymia. I remained mostly functional, at least to all observers, although I struggled greatly with affect regulation, self-concept, anxiety...but most of all, a pernicious and pervasive sense of self-doubt, that was never far from my consciousness.

By university, I was looking for more. I got lost down rabbit holes of New Age spirituality; David Icke, Eckhart Tolle, internet ‘energy groups’, online reiki ‘attunements’, conspiracy theories...the list goes on. It ended, and began again, with a group called “Higher Balance Institute”. I was led there on one of my long internet searches, clicking from one link to the next in a kind of compulsive madness, or addiction to information. It all changed with the discovery of this institute, promising to be one of the last remaining authentic spiritual ‘schools’ on the planet. It taught meditation, the development of psychic sensory, higher consciousness and promised intense experiences. The meditation techniques resemble what I now understand to be almost tantric yogas in kind; I meditated twice daily on chakras, gaining energy or ‘prana’ and developing what they called ‘non-thought’, or clearness of mind.

Rather than developing a lack of thinking, it encouraged developing a higher awareness. My experiences developed rapidly and I became progressively dedicated to my spiritual path, even teaching others whilst I was still at university. I was known as something of a spiritual maverick, an odd-ball perhaps, but grounded enough to associate with my peers through all the normal rituals of a university education. I experienced deep ‘awakenings’ and profound meditations, sometimes walking around in alternate states of consciousness for hours at a time, reflecting on the nature of existence and the nature of my own mind. I developed considerable strength of mindfulness, but my cycling moods were always around the corner.

I attended a number of meditation/informational ‘retreats’, meeting with the master of this school on a number of occasions in a one-on-one context. The third retreat was held in Hawaii in 2009, named “Across the Universe”. I had a profound vacation for sure, but at this point my experiences very much took a turn for the worse. The retreat was a week long and by the third day things were really beginning to heat up from an experiential point of view. I was walking around in a shifted state of consciousness continually, without the periodic grounding in more human relational frames that I had been accustomed to.

Wild ‘kundalini’ type energies rocked through my psychological, emotional and physical systems, expanding my mind and stressing my physical body. I felt like I was ‘downloading’ information from the cosmos, directly in tune with a super-conscious force of energy, guiding and flowing through all things. Of course, these feelings directly resembled the ideas of my then teacher, things we were instructed to try and find, but the intensity was overwhelming. I remember feeling time and space move in ways very alien to our three dimensional training and vastly complex ideas flowed through my understanding with ease.

I was walking around the retreat, talking to others and relaying to them some of this information, at which they were frequently in awe. On the final day, there was a definite shift. Everyone in the retreat was meditating in preparation for the final lecture, when a new energy came over me. The previous flares of knowledge calmed to an inner silence, with my visual perception taking on a luminous quality. Everything glowed intensely, as if I could see, directly, that it was made completely of light. That all matter is really this multi-dimensional stream of information, shimmering down from higher, non-physical dimensions. Everything was infinitely connected to everything else, and it felt like I just understood. Before I could formulate a question in my mind, it was as if I knew the answer. I felt like I radiated outwards like a sun, with flowers growing in the ground, following my steps (metaphorically). Everything I looked at was a reflection of the divine, including my own actions, now that I felt I was truly listening to this cosmic force.

Reality seemed to bend to my will, and I remember thinking I was controlling large expanses of energy, including the weather etc. At one point, I remember leaning down to a small flower, willing it to grow, and seeing it grow before me a number of inches. I have no idea as to the physical reality of this act, although I suspect a heightened state of self-suggestion and perceptual disturbance. There were no gross visual hallucinations that I really remember, but all senses were greatly magnified. The liberation did not last more than half a day or so, if I remember correctly, which I am pretty sure I don’t.

There was an interpersonal issue with my teacher, who apparently misunderstood some of my previous actions on the retreat, involving some of my peers. I was very confused, as I found it hard to think in a ‘normal way’, or relate to my normal identities, with my attempts to do so ending in a hellish dovetailing of human and dimensional/cosmic thought. These began to bleed over into one another; I can only imagine that they magnified my inner demons and complexes, which started to roar into a renewed existence, fuelled by this high state that I was in. Metaphorically, it was as if the light of my consciousness magnified and intensified the shadows on the wall. I began to flee, psychologically and emotionally speaking, in attempt to run from myself. Conversations about Krishna and Kali intensified these inner fears and before long I was in complete crisis internally. There were only a few that really knew of the extent of these reverberations, a fact that is somewhat ironic considering this was supposed to be a camp full of highly psychic individuals.

Every event, every interaction, was overwhelmingly symbolic; it was as if reality itself, at every turn, was teaching me something about my own psychology, lessons that had to be learned. These lessons were coming directly from the universe and it was up to me to not only decipher them, but to control them. If my mind became too anxious, my reality became more terrifying. If I surrendered, it became benevolent.

With the retreat over, people began to dissipate, leaving me with only a few others. It must have took me hours to orientate myself to leaving, collecting my things in confusion and horror, constantly running away from the growing shadows in my mind. Friends gave me a lift to the airport. At the terminal, I became convinced that the ‘darkside’ of this cosmic energy was going to trap me if I could not control my mind. As my mind was connected to all things, on a psychic or energetic level, again my world would oscillate between a safe or dangerous place. It felt very much that I was in a cosmic game, weaving between different layers of truth, whether they be the more mundane appearance of human life, or more subtle interactions of energy, and ultimately the force/darkside, at others.

I was having to constantly ‘stealth’ my mind, so that I wouldn’t be found out too much. As I felt it slipping, I would feel the awareness of other people on me. I don’t know if you have seen the movie ‘Inception’, but it was very much like trying to avoid the subconscious of the dreamers mind. After getting through security, highly concerned they would find a gun in my bag (some kind of baggage swap etc), I couldn’t read my tickets, as they were just a jumble of letters and numbers, so my friends helped me board.

On the plane, obviously things did not improve and each flight became a wrestle between my life and death instincts, if I can put them that way, trying to not allow the plane to crash. I could feel the plane all around me, the nuts and bolts, the engines etc. As you can imagine, this was terrifying. I have no idea how I navigated each domestic airport, as there were two before the final jump to the UK. It was all part of the game - it would take me a long time to relate all of the narratives contained within it. I hope the gestalt I have already given is enough. I became highly confused on the flights themselves, losing my seat multiple times, as I eluded the grasp of the FBI/Mi5. I found it incredibly hard to pay attention to anything, and I am fairly sure that multiple in flight movies, that I watched without sound, became encoded into my nightmare. I was the possessor of an intergalactic decoding device that showed me multiple meanings in everything around me. A dimensional criminal, on the run from the dimensional law.

By the end of the final flight, as we approached Heathrow, lightning did actually strike the plane (was later validated), which of course signalled the end for me. I thought the plane was genuinely flying towards the ground, convinced that I would kill myself and everyone in it. The guilt and pain was dissociating - I cried gently to myself, holding an ice-cube, a metaphorical dagger, trying to sacrifice myself to God to save the plane. I thought I was going to hell, and saw how I would spend an eternity getting back out. I genuinely thought I had an evil soul, that I was a devil incarnate, that I would pay for trying to become God, or whatever I thought it was that I had done. As we escaped the storm turbulence, I thought the plane had been saved.

As we approached the airport, I broke down, no longer able to tolerate the identity confusion; at one point, I thought I was actually Ricky Hatton, the boxer, that our identities had been somehow switched in this inter-dimensional game I had entered, and that I would spend the rest of my life suffering unspeakable toil in jail. I had vivid visions of being paraded through the airport in deep shame and humiliation. I was wheelchaired off the plane, no longer able to walk.

By this time, I must have been severely sleep deprived and dehydrated. My Dad, who came to find me, said I look severely gaunt and perished. My anxieties grounded a little on seeing my father, although he soon became the subject of my unleashed insecurities. I remember experiencing all these memories that he wasn’t my real father, that I had seen my mother copulating with my uncle as a child. I think, in truth, these were confusions from the movies I had ‘seen’ on the flight, as the idea is completely preposterous, knowing the dynamics of my family as I do. It may have been some internalised childhood trauma, manifesting in another way. I am sure I experienced many traumas in my youth, as I have always felt different from others, despite an apparently healthy upbringing. I was checked out by psychologists, but by that point I was somehow able to orientate myself in date/time. I probably narrowly avoided a section, but returned home with my Dad.

The week that followed consisted of child regressions, acute hypochondrias, terrifying persecutory nightmares (often of being dragged down to hell by malevolent beings) and fears of impending doom. I experienced frequent panic attacks, but with the help of diazepam, I gradually began to re-orient. I was struggling to decompress all my post-retreat experiences, and nearly left the country for America (to be closer to my teacher), at one point.

Over the course of months, I began to leave my spirituality. I began to consider an acute stress psychosis, or possibly mania. I weighed up the possibility of biological brain dysfunction, against those of genuine spiritual crisis. I had begun my career in psychology as an assistant clinical psychologist and I think, by osmosis of that environment, I began to view my experiences with increasing scepticism. I read a little material on critical thinking, neuroscience....becoming slowly convinced it was all biiological, or no spiritual consequence.

Fast forward 3 years. I’m working in primary mental health care, within the “Improving Access to Psychological Therapies” services, as a ‘psychological well-being practitioner’. I have aspirations for clinical psychology, or perhaps a hybrid between existential psychotherapy and studying/teaching zen/Dharma. My mental health these days is much more robust than it has been in times past, as I have recently (about 6 months) accepted the grace of psychotherapy, psychotropic medication and a renewed, more grounded approach to meditation.

If anyone is able to contribute, anything at all, it would be greatly appreciated. If Daniel takes interest in this, I would also greatly appreciate any feedback or comments, although I don't imagine my story is much different from so many that get posted here.

Warmly,

Rick

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/2/14 7:36 PM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
It seems to me that, just as much as maps, the purpose of MCTB is to remind us to remain simply grounded (in the breath, noting, etc) through all of it. I'm going to guess, from personal experience, that Daniel will say there is a combination diagnosable mental disorder along with your progress on insight paths. I have been told that, and it is true, but I have not yet had the opportunity to seek psychiatric assistance with expertise/some experience with the progress of insight. I have even tried just psychotherapy, and I have not been able to get medication due to no openings with local professionals. I can't afford to just go the hospital and not even get a renewable prescription; I am happy for your more fortunate situation on this front, and I will hopefully check this out further when I get some medical coverage. Daniel also mentioned to me that of his millions of visions/etc, he hasn't given hardly any the time of day; I take this as a formal practice instruction--simplicity, as indicated in his book, works--there is no use in following the fractal complexity of everything into further rabbit holes (see 147). I also feel I ought to note that Daniel consider himself arahat largely (it seems) due to not having fully investigated the psychic powers. Given that ignoring these can bring such progress in ways useful to so many and that following them potentially brings....what? I suggest exercise, perhaps re-reading the whole psychic powers part.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/4/14 6:01 AM as a reply to Clinton Tyler Patterson.
Hi Clinton, thanks for your response!

I agree the lines blur in my case between clinical and insight maps. I only wish I had been better guided regarding the simple observation of these phenomena; unfortunately I was actively encouraged to pursue these experiences and magnify their intensity, evaluate their meaning etc. Almost the opposite of vipassana, which I feel contributed somewhat to the psychoses itself. Most psychiatrists I have spoke to think it wasnt a 'genuine' psychotic experience, as I had too much insight (ironically). They consider it an acute stress reaction. I rapidly discontinued a psychotropic herb on that retreat by mistake, which also contributed to organic instability.

That being said, I would still very much appreciate more feedback i to those cycles, perhaps by those here who have a lot of experience in their recognition and navigation.

Over 80 views and only one reply; was it something in the way I worded the OP? Happy for any feedback on this too. I know it was quite a long post, so it might just be a case of tl;dr.... XD

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/4/14 6:19 AM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
Rick Hallett:
Hi Clinton, thanks for your response!

I agree the lines blur in my case between clinical and insight maps. I only wish I had been better guided regarding the simple observation of these phenomena; unfortunately I was actively encouraged to pursue these experiences and magnify their intensity, evaluate their meaning etc. Almost the opposite of vipassana, which I feel contributed somewhat to the psychoses itself. Most psychiatrists I have spoke to think it wasnt a 'genuine' psychotic experience, as I had too much insight (ironically). They consider it an acute stress reaction. I rapidly discontinued a psychotropic herb on that retreat by mistake, which also contributed to organic instability.

That being said, I would still very much appreciate more feedback i to those cycles, perhaps by those here who have a lot of experience in their recognition and navigation.

Over 80 views and only one reply; was it something in the way I worded the OP? Happy for any feedback on this too. I know it was quite a long post, so it might just be a case of tl;dr.... XD


The really long paragraphs make it hard to read. Also, it sounds like you're doing well now and you didn't ask a question or post anything about your current practice, so it wasn't clear what type of feedback or reply you were looking for.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/4/14 9:13 AM as a reply to J C.
Noted; will sort OP out!

In terms of feedback, I am no longer in the state that I was then, which is clearly a good thing. I have though, for so long, sought to understand those experiences. I practically cried when I read Daniel's description of the stages of insight and I was hoping that someone else might help me to understand what stages I went through and perhaps how they contributed to what followed.

Regarding my current practice, I am currently sitting zazen and working on a mixture of standard breath concentration practice (about 30 minutes a day) and koan practice (30 minutes a day, and when and where I remember during my working life). These are instructions from Daizan Roshi (aka Julian Skinner) of the Zenways school in London (recieved inka from Shinzan Roshi).

My sitting tends to go quite quickly to what I believe to be the within the first 3 stages of insight. The koan I am working on focuses on the no-self characteristic, so I often find my self-other boundary start to dissipate (foreground, rather than complete background) and I feel a natural swelling of energy down in the hara, accompanied by a quiet, calm state of absorption/enquiry (kind of osscilates between the two). My field of vision often seems very bright with its own kind of luminosity. I think I am able to access 1st and 2nd samatha jhana relatively easily, although they are quite 'soft' in intensity. I think the same is true for my skill in the vipassana jhanas.

I will often become aware of my 'self' as being an expression of a larger, more inclusive flow of reality. I imagine these to be 'mind and body', 'causal awareness' and 'the three characteristics' state of insight, although I am really not sure. I will occasionally get these springs of energy fount from the center of my being and I feel at one with everything - is this tripping into the A&P event, or just a grasping of pleasant experience?

Sometimes I have glimpses of an awareness that seems to go beyond withnessing, but it isn't very stable. It can feel like a more primordial or transcendent kind of awareness. It always feels very profound.

I suppose I am also interested to know what the likelihood of me precipitating these experiences are in the future. As a younger man, I used to actively seek them, whereas now I am interested in finding and resting, to whatever degree possible, in the ground of being.

In summary:
1) Help with understand what happened to me, from a grounded, insight perspective.
2) Help in understanding where I am currently, as above
3) Help in understanding the likelihood of having to endure similar experiences in the future if I start to increase the anti on my spiritual quest once again, start going to retreats/sesshin etc.

Does that clarify?

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/5/14 2:10 AM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
Rick Hallett:
In summary:
1) Help with understand what happened to me, from a grounded, insight perspective.
2) Help in understanding where I am currently, as above
3) Help in understanding the likelihood of having to endure similar experiences in the future if I start to increase the anti on my spiritual quest once again, start going to retreats/sesshin etc
Wow, quite interesting experiences I don't really know what to say about them...
1) I think you may have the best vantage to understand the meaning of what happened...seems like a lot of A&P stuff and high concentration states.
2) From an insite point of view are you trying to map to the progress of insite? I would read MCTB and see what seems to correlate. Have you practiced any vipasinna/insite? I am not familiar with zen practice and can not map from that. You say you are following breath but is it the sensations of the breath or just in/out? Breath can be concentration or insite or probably a mix depending on how you do it. What do you do when you lose the breath? Are you noting anything?
3) I have no idea about the likelihood. I think if you approach things differently they will turn out different. If you approach things like last time you may or may not have the same experiences.
Sorry I can't help to much. I would start where you are at now. Practice zen if that is what you are into. I would read MCTB and look at all the options in practice and clarify what your goals are. Pick what you think will get you to those goals. Get quality instruction, start a practice log, sit daily and try some retreats in that area you choose.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/5/14 3:41 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thanks for responding dreamwalker.

I am beginning to suspect I have completely misunderstood the purpose of this forum subsection. I was under the impression it was a place people could come to have other pairs of eyes comment on experiences that people have had. I appreciate I will always in the front seat regarding actual 'diagnosis', as our experiences are ultimately unique, but there is something useful that can come from talking this stuff over with other people, is there not?

I do currently practice Zen, but I have read MTCB and can talk in the language of vipassana etc if needed. From my reading of of MCTB, I feel that I passed the A&P event and had a lot of concentration effects, as you say, but I am not sure how far I crossed over. There were periods of my experience that went extremely quiet, seeming to describe states towards the end of the insight path (high equanimity etc), but Daniel also warns that the A&P regularly gives the illusion of attainment higher than has actually been achieved. Hence, confused face.

In my current practice, I do a mixture of concentration practice (breath as object) and koan practice (more "objectless" meditation, insight based).

I think your recommendations are all completely sound though, so thank you. I've been meaning to start up a log and can definitely see the importance of getting myself through a few extended retreats. I also understand that, ultimately, wherever I ended up, my practice is unlikely to change at the current time. It is still a case of moving forward through insight, and that happens with insight practice. But that surely cannot be the only advice permissible here; if it were, the purpose of this subsection would be mute.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/5/14 4:10 AM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
Rick Hallett:

I am beginning to suspect I have completely misunderstood the purpose of this forum subsection. I was under the impression it was a place people could come to have other pairs of eyes comment on experiences that people have had.


No, that's correct.


I do currently practice Zen, but I have read MTCB and can talk in the language of vipassana etc if needed. From my reading of of MCTB, I feel that I passed the A&P event and had a lot of concentration effects, as you say, but I am not sure how far I crossed over. There were periods of my experience that went extremely quiet, seeming to describe states towards the end of the insight path (high equanimity etc), but Daniel also warns that the A&P regularly gives the illusion of attainment higher than has actually been achieved. Hence, confused face.


Well, you're a Dark Night yogi, which means you've probably been going around the loop A&P -> Dark Night -> Equanimity -> A&P etc.

It is still a case of moving forward through insight, and that happens with insight practice. But that surely cannot be the only advice permissible here; if it were, the purpose of this subsection would be mute.


Of course. It's not that other advice is "impermissible," just that your situation is very complicated and has a lot of stuff mixed in, and it's hard to know what else to make of it specifically. I'm not very experienced so hopefully others with more experience with that kind of thing will comment.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/5/14 11:39 AM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
First of all, I'm glad you are getting competent psychiatric help. This kind of stuff is nothing to fool around with unless you have your mental health in order.

Second, I don't have enough experience or information to diagnose your earlier experiences. You mention, for example, that you discontinued a psychotropic drug rather suddenly--that can precipitate lots of stuff whether it's herbal or not; as you know, any changes to brain chemistry can create special effects. What I will say, though, is that spiritual practices are potentially so powerful that you really must be sure to pursue them in a safe environment with a trusted and competent teacher. This might not be the case to the same extent for everyone, but it seems to be especially true for you. I don't want to sound like I'm averse to experimentation; after all, the very spirit of pragmatic dharma is a willingness to challenge hidebound tradition. But a practice that has a good, solid track record is less likely to send you off the deep end than a mix of new-agey type stuff led by someone with limited depth in a tradition.

So I say keep up the good work with your Zen practice. It seems to be grounding you and at the same time allowing you to make progress. If you would rather switch to vipassana, then find a good center with a good teacher (no problem in London) and have at it. I have a more conservative IMS-style teacher where I live, but then I work with pragmatic dharma teachers over Skype as well. Working with trusted people who know your background will help avoid some of the more destabilizing experiences you had in your early twenties. Feel free to open a practice log here as well. If anything crazy happens, let people know immediately. Oh, and check out Willoughby Britton's Dark Night Project.

As for where you are, I would second the suggestion that you not rely on flashy experiences in assessing progress, but just acknowledge them and then let them go. I think the dark night assessment is likeliest. Work on grounding and steady progress and don't be in too much of a rush. Give it all time to ripen. And good luck.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/5/14 3:52 PM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
Rick Hallett:
Thanks for responding dreamwalker.

I am beginning to suspect I have completely misunderstood the purpose of this forum subsection. I was under the impression it was a place people could come to have other pairs of eyes comment on experiences that people have had. I appreciate I will always in the front seat regarding actual 'diagnosis', as our experiences are ultimately unique, but there is something useful that can come from talking this stuff over with other people, is there not?

Well, yes talking about it may shed light but sometimes it's not polite to comment on things that you do not have direct experience upon. In the OP you describe
psychotic episodes
manic depressive mood cycles
smoking too much cannabis
Higher Balance Institute...(cult? whatever)
complete psychotic break
Multiple Hallucinations
Paranoia
Various thought insertion, thought broadcasting, thought withdrawal, thought blocking
identity confusion
sleep deprivation
etc
You're working in primary mental health care so I think you would have the best opportunity to evaluate what this means. There are very few people here who have direct experience in these things. I would not look to a forum to find meaning in what you experienced...I would look to a professional. Ron Crouch is a advanced meditation teacher as well as a psychologist. I would check him out for a professional take on things. Ron Crouch He has some good stuff on his website regardless.

Rick Hallett:

I do currently practice Zen, but I have read MTCB and can talk in the language of vipassana etc if needed. From my reading of of MCTB, I feel that I passed the A&P event and had a lot of concentration effects, as you say, but I am not sure how far I crossed over. There were periods of my experience that went extremely quiet, seeming to describe states towards the end of the insight path (high equanimity etc), but Daniel also warns that the A&P regularly gives the illusion of attainment higher than has actually been achieved. Hence, confused face.

I'd say you have experienced fear, misery and disgust, desire for deliverance and re-observation but I can not tell you if they are the Nanas from the progress of insite as stages or not. If you have read MCTB you probably have come to the same conclusion. I do not see much equanimity descriptions but sure, why not. I hereby deem you a dark night yogi....congratulations...grins...welcome to the club
Rick Hallett:

In my current practice, I do a mixture of concentration practice (breath as object) and koan practice (more "objectless" meditation, insight based).

Using the word insight with Koans means something different than insite/vipasanna to me. Insite is not about thinking, it is noticing the various phenomenon of the now without getting caught in the content. Vipassana
Rick Hallett:

I think your recommendations are all completely sound though, so thank you. I've been meaning to start up a log and can definitely see the importance of getting myself through a few extended retreats. I also understand that, ultimately, wherever I ended up, my practice is unlikely to change at the current time. It is still a case of moving forward through insight, and that happens with insight practice. But that surely cannot be the only advice permissible here; if it were, the purpose of this subsection would be mute.
If you are not doing insite/vipassana practice it is harder to map as the map was written for that purpose. Translating the map is merely noticing the states and stages that you find yourself in when it happens with the information you now have....it may not help you map retrospectively as you were not paying attention at the time. I would personally add vipasanna to your mix of practice but that's just me....whenever you get off breath for instance

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
2/11/14 3:03 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
What you described at the retreat center sounds like a high dose LSD experience while chain smoking DMT and various toad skins. While I don't listen to Terence McKenna's raps without an girl drink snifter ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_H_sVNgvf4 ) of salt by my side, I think his description of the DMT being's admonishments apply well in such circumstances: "Pay attention, don't just goof out on this stuff", which is probably the rolled up backwoods road atlas your Zen teacher is whacking you with anyways. I for one don't think you're wrong to approach things from a skeptical neuroscience perspective; in fact the critical thinking you've acquired from your education would probably be complementary to a vipassana practice (though please correct me if I'm wrong anyone), which is a somewhat different form of critical thinking applied to experiental reality.

I too am attired in the winkle pickers and 80's Morticia Adams meets Gene Vincent vestments of the Dark Night, and what's helping my practice most right now is strong concentration practice on metta and those slippery jhanas when they present themselves, and then ruthlessly noting on long walks (which helps with grounding; remember, don't be too Thoureau in observing the scenery) and then yoga and sitting for as long as I'm able. I also find that my best creative ideas tend to happen away from the guitar or pen; they usually occur as deviations during my sits or walks, and I allow myself to keep a notebook to jot them down occaisionally even though its an interruption in meditation.

You've mentioned a lot about your career and practice, but have you attempted to creatively address your experiences in poetry, visual art, music etc? I ask this because it can be a good complement to what you already practice, and it may help to at least externalize the psychological baggage acquired after such a harrowing journey into a contained form such as a picture or song, even if you never plan to share it with anyone.

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
6/1/14 10:28 AM as a reply to Rick Hallett.
Hello Rick,

Oddly enough I relate to your experiences very well, ever since encountering this forum I adopted a 'crazy wisdom' approach to life, but for the first few years of doing that sort of thing, none of it was genuine.

Later when I broke through and touched the heartwood of the teaching I began to have experiences such as yours. I've written extensively about this topic in word documents on my hard drive =p.

In general my findings are something like this: The experiences of meditators and yogins, are 'genuine'. This is a very important point, the experiences are VERY, VERY, real. But whether or not they are physically actual or whatever is a whole 'nother question. I myself had experiences such as yours but were less intense, the commenters here who believe that your experiences are somehow related to drugs are COMPLETELY missing the point.

For example I firmly believed I was the Tathagata, I was convinced that there was going to be a wikipedia entry about how I was the fifth and last Buddha of this age and etc etc. On my birthday there was a ray of sunlight in the sky that pierced 7 layers of clouds (I actually saw this), and whilst being driven to my apartment the sun seemed to shine directly on my face. I had experiences of transmigrating 500 lifetimes within a few seconds, the phrase: "Everything that can be known, has been known." rang true with me. I felt that I had encompassed the world and/or known the all.

I independently discovered the tenets of Madhyamaka, everyone's thoughts, feelings, perceptions and whatnot were blatantly clear to me, in other words I knew exactly their entire 'being', their motivations, what they thought and what they did.

In other words I was deeply, deeply, powerful. And I even wrote a status about how the physical world seemed to bend to my will, ironic seeing as that you wrote something similar.

The experiences are explained as such:

For all deep meditators there is the experience of jhana, and jhana is real. I compare jhana to a well-made figurine, it is very real, genuine if you will. However it is still 'compounded' or made, and consequently is fake. Yet, it is real.

Contrast this with a plastic figurine from a factory, the factory figurine is not genuine, also 'compounded' or made, but not genuine.

See the difference? Your experiences were real, they were compounded however.

These experiences are not mere poeticisims, they are in fact genuine experiences, deep, bodily and moving. I suspect that's what you went through. I also suspect that many of the experiences of the old Buddhists contact deities, seeing sambhoghakaya deities, receiving the Mahayana sutras and so on and so forth were in fact constructed experiences of this sort.

The compounded nature of the mind to make pleasant experiences is incredible!

In peace,

James

RE: Just another dark night yogi
Answer
6/2/14 3:22 AM as a reply to J J.
It is a bit tangential to the OP, but here is a link to some of the products of the NewReligiousMovement that the OP was involved in:

http://www.higherbalance.com/siddhis-cube/

You couldn't make it up...

More relevant to the OP - so, involvement in a cult leading to psychosis, or progressing through the stages of insight? Looking back, how would you prefer to frame your experiences? I am assuming the latter, and I can see the appeal, and I can see you have come here looking for interpretation in terms of insight and might not want to hear other perspectives.

3) Help in understanding the likelihood of having to endure similar experiences in the future if I start to increase the anti on my spiritual quest once again, start going to retreats/sesshin etc

What I would say is be careful on who you get involved with in future (learn from mistakes!). And perhaps don't go so deep - I can imagine if you put your career second and your spiritual practice first, you might run into problems again. But if you keep yourself grounded in a career and "normal life", you might do a better job with staying sane.