Insight and Emotions - what are the links?

Not Tao, modified 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 9:00 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 9:00 AM

Insight and Emotions - what are the links?

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts
So, there have been a lot of dark night type threads lately and I've noticed most of them are referring to chronic anxiety and depression as a dark night.  I'm wondering if there isn't a good way to differentiate between dark night related problems and psychological problems - if there is a difference at all. For those of you who are confident you have had at least stream entry a la MCTB, did you experience a dark night, and if so, how did it compare to everyday life negativity? I'd be especially interested to hear from anyone who had depression or anxiety issues prior to meditating and can make a comparison.

On a related note, I'm also curious what people think about looking to meditation to solve psychological issues? Is that the purpose of awakening? Is it good to expect that from meditation, or does it distract from its purpose in your opinion? What is the purpose of meditation, to you?

Also, I'd like to talk about the concept of cycling through the insights. What is this like experientially? Is it emotionally related, or does it manifest some other way? How is it different from the emotional cycles a normal person experiences in day-to-day life?
Laurel Carrington, modified 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 10:26 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 10:26 AM

RE: Insight and Emotions - what are the links?

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
Good questions. I have suffered from depression and anxiety for most of my adult life. The condition for me was relatively mild, but even mild depr. and anx. are miserable when they cloud your day-to-day life. 

I took up the practice because I realized that none of the other interventions I'd tried (psychoanalysis, CBT, antidepressants) had worked. So wanting to be happier is indeed a good reason to start practicing. Wanting to see things as they are is a better reason, I suppose, but since no one prior to insight has a clue what that means, pretty much all of us are driven to practice to alleviate some kind of problem. Of course, the irony is that we are then forced to face and accept these things, but there is a benefit to doing that. It's hard to explain, but there it is. 

So: in going for first path, I did have a clear experience of the Dark Night. In some ways it seemed an escalation of the baseline conditions, but there were also subtle differences. Fear, for example, was experienced with a level of purity that I had not had before. There was no accompanying dialogue, just the direct knowledge of terror. Misery was physical, a grinding in the gut, a sense of despair. As for disgust, I could literally taste it. Desire for Deliverance manifested as crying at the drop of a hat, wanting it to be over. Reobservation was a kind of underlying mashup of all of the above. 

Sitting during this stuff was accompanied by lots of kriyas, or else a sleepiness that went all the way to the bone. When I got to equanimity, however, everything suddenly smoothed out, and I was just cruising along, watching the show. It wasn't ecstacy, it was just a deeply grounded sense that everything was all right. I went through a couple of these cycles before the end, because the first time I hit equanimity I was so mellow I quit sitting. Happens to a lot of us. 

I have had other paths since, but I can't say exactly how they measure up to Daniel's standards. I suppose I could say: according to those standards, I'm not done. That's fine; everything is fine. I have some manifestations of fear remaining, but not to the level of before. My depression has lifted, although it can come back under certain circumstances that I won't go into. The best consequence has been the reduction in reactivity. I used to be angry more or less all the time. This is no longer the case. It's worth its weight in gold to be over it. 

Another consequence: my whole life's story has lost its interest for me. After years of turning it over and over in my mind, I find myself detached from it. I don't identify with this person that "I" am. There's habit energy still at work, but also a clearer understanding of how habits affect mood. Hope this helps answer your question. 
Eric M W, modified 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 12:57 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 10/9/14 12:57 PM

RE: Insight and Emotions - what are the links?

Posts: 288 Join Date: 3/19/14 Recent Posts
The Dark Night is best judged by the question, "What is reality doing?" In the DN, the center becomes murky and the periphery becomes solid, which gives rise to all kinds of issues, and the vibrations are slower compared to A&P. 

This stages gives rise to all kinds of nasty emotional and psychological side effects. Some traditions (Christian, Jungian) judge progress based on these side effects, but the beauty of vipassana is that we can look past the content and judge what is going on at a deeply fundamental level.

In the Dark Night, you can live a life of luxury in paraise and be completely unable to enjoy.

I've had depression and anxiety for most of my life, but I can say with certainty that the Dark Night has exacerbated these problems. As for the presentation of the Dark Night itself, I passed through it about two years ago without knowing what was happening. What is interesting, is that when I think about the individual nanas, I remember the exact moment that I shifted to a new one. I don't remember much else of that time, but I do remember each specific state shift, even though I didn't know what they were.

Fear: I was standing behind my cash register and, all of a sudden, I was worried that a customer would try to rob me, and was worried I would somehow be fired for no reason. I inwardly freaked out for the rest of the day.

Misery: I was laying on my couch, doing nothing in particular, when it hit me, how awful existence was. Not just the current state of affairs, or my living situation, but existence itself. My body felt achy and all I could think about was how much suffering there was in the world.

Disgust: I was, again, sitting on my couch, when I looked over at my kitchen. I could see some fruit flies, and I was filled with, well, disgust. I saw some trash sticking out of the can and some dirty dishes in the sink and it was just disgusting, absolutely awful. I look over at my wife and thought about how gross sex was. Why did I ever want to have sex? It was revolting.

Desire for Deliverance: I became aware of how society was shoddily constructed, able to fall at a moment's notice. This is hard to describe, but it was very profound. I withdrew all my plans to attend college and devoted my time to studying off-the-grid living, building my own cabin, and so on. I found a website of someone who lived in a cave in the Sierra Nevadas for several years and dreamed of doing the same.

Re-Observation: Ah, the ass-kicker! I was sitting on the porch of my apartment complex, looking towards the road. It felt like reality started spinning or screaming or both, and there was just this intense primal frustration with everything. It came and went a few times. I had some very intense dreams that led to low EQ. I actually had nightmares the whole time through the DN, but these were the worst.

A little later I reached low EQ, basked in it a while, and "fell back." I stopped practicing for months and here I am now, hoping to get stream-entry.

The DN sounds terrible and all that, but it just reveals the fundamental suffering that is always present in samsara. Mindfulness grows strong enough to penetrate the core of the selfing process, and this sucks. That is all it is. The emotional and psychological shit that bubbles to the surface can be overpowering, but it's just a side effect. Practice well and it will pass.

Now, as to how insight practice "solves" these problems, I can't speak from experience, but I can offer my thoughts based on descriptions of arahatship and my brief experiences of Low EQ. When 4th path is attained, there is no "self" remaining. Emotions may arise, but they are just impermanent blips with no agency, no perceiver, no self to which these emotions are happening. Thus, they aren't a problem.