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Dark Night or Not? Questions that arose during a recent Goenka retreat

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My first ten day Goenka was in 2009, with a few months practicing afterwards before practice lost steam.I
experienced the 'bhanga' state during the first one on day 6, feeling
the body as just a mass of fine vibrations, with accompanying waves of
bliss & pleasure. (A&P?)


This was my second ten day Vipassana retreat over the new year, at the Mumbai centre.

The first five days went pretty easy, lots of "special" experiences, and on
day 6 I had an experience, like something just shifted. I remember
looking at the plants post-lunch, just gazing out at the world, like
there was nothing wrong with it, everything was just right. Even at that
moment, I made a mental note that something had shifted. The assitant
teacher (who I'm very grateful to) told me to stay with the experience,
and hinted/alluded that it might not last. Possible A&P?

Day seven is when it hit me, really really strong waves of depression. As I
experienced the sensations of the emotions and took them apart, I
realised that depression was just a made up term. What I was
experiencing was a deep sense of sadness & loneliness, the depths of
which I have not experienced since childhood. Also along with that I
felt strong sensations , like a panic attack, but I just stayed with the
sensations.
On days 9 & 10, the sadness was so bad I would be lying in bed and tears would be rolling down my cheeks.

Everytime I meditated, the depression or anxiety would come up, reach a
crescendo, and as I kept up with my scanning, then at some point
release. I should also mention that during each subsequent cycle, the
intensity of depression and/or anxiety lessened a little bit.
This cycle continued while meditating at home too.

The questions I have are,

Am I in stage 3 or in DN territory?

If I have indeed crossed A&P, like I believe, then during your sits,
do you cycle repeatedly through stages 5 to 10, like waves hitting
against a cliff face?

What would be your advice be for someone at this stage? I've already switched to
Mahasi style noting, which has made an amazing change to my practice.
The reason being, that my thoughts had so much momentum, I found most of
my formal sits would be lost in daydreaming and discursive thought.

On the other hand, I just finished 2 hours on the cushion noting Mahasi
Style, and I can easily say that I lost less than 10% time to wandering
thoughts, and thats being generous. emoticon

As an aside, I just started noting practice yesterday and had an interesting dream.

A brief dip of my consciousness into something akin to a river, black and void.

Then there appeared some text, some quote about Vasudev rowing me to the other side.

On the other side, out of that blackness, right in the middle of the black screen rose the picture of some abstract figures, starting with a mudra, which
then started changing into other pictures at a faster and faster pace. (mandalas, complex gemetric figures, Buddha knows what else)

These images then turned into faces and thousands of faces/pictures changing each second.
This changing became faster and faster until there was an accompanying
vibration which I felt throughout my body, until the pictures ceased and there was only the vibration. Again, A&P?

If you believe I'm not really in post A&P territory, then please let me know. I would appreciate any feedback.


Love,
Yash

Yash C:
My first ten day Goenka was in 2009, with a few months practicing afterwards before practice lost steam.I
experienced the 'bhanga' state during the first one on day 6, feeling
the body as just a mass of fine vibrations, with accompanying waves of
bliss & pleasure. (A&P?)

That would indeed classify as an A&P experience.

This was my second ten day Vipassana retreat over the new year, at the Mumbai centre.

The first five days went pretty easy, lots of "special" experiences, and on
day 6 I had an experience, like something just shifted. I remember
looking at the plants post-lunch, just gazing out at the world, like
there was nothing wrong with it, everything was just right. Even at that
moment, I made a mental note that something had shifted. The assitant
teacher (who I'm very grateful to) told me to stay with the experience,
and hinted/alluded that it might not last. Possible A&P?

Difficult to say. Could also be hints of Equanimity stages setting in.

Day seven is when it hit me, really really strong waves of depression. As I
experienced the sensations of the emotions and took them apart, I
realised that depression was just a made up term. What I was
experiencing was a deep sense of sadness & loneliness, the depths of
which I have not experienced since childhood. Also along with that I
felt strong sensations , like a panic attack, but I just stayed with the
sensations.
On days 9 & 10, the sadness was so bad I would be lying in bed and tears would be rolling down my cheeks.

This is good. The more familiar you are with this territory, the less power it will have over you. As time goes on, if you keep up your practice, the impulse to "hold on" to those sensations will lessen and lessen, and with that, those sort of "traumatic" mindstates will become more of a thing of the (confused) past. It's tough to say how much of this process involves "dealing with" the psychological stuff, as opposed to simply growing disenchanted with/disembedded from it.

Everytime I meditated, the depression or anxiety would come up, reach a
crescendo, and as I kept up with my scanning, then at some point
release. I should also mention that during each subsequent cycle, the
intensity of depression and/or anxiety lessened a little bit.
This cycle continued while meditating at home too.

This sounds to me like you were beginning to transition from the dukkha nanas to a more stable base in equanimity. Note that the Theravadan suttas refer to equanimity as an "awareness release" (the other three wholesome releases being good will, compassion, and appreciation).

The questions I have are,

Am I in stage 3 or in DN territory?

Yes, you were. That doesn't mean that you are right now. The maps describe a general progression, but they are not as set in stone as they may seem when you first encounter them after having heard of them. In fact, the concern about the stages is really no different from that which feeds the DN stages themselves (discursive thought, rumination, frustration, etc.), so that's something to be aware of (or, rather, be equanimous to). What's useful about the maps, from my perspective, is that they help us to understand that these things are part of a process that is not just limited to us as individuals, and therefore encourage us to let go more easily of our anxieties (DN) and also of our conceits (A&P and EQ). Maybe the DN is as far as you've gotten in your practice so far (though it sounds to me like you were establishing a base in EQ); what matters is gaining familiarity with whatever stage you're in, understanding how your mind works, and developing a sense of continuity in your practice.

If I have indeed crossed A&P, like I believe, then during your sits,
do you cycle repeatedly through stages 5 to 10, like waves hitting
against a cliff face?

Sometimes a stage can last the duration of a single thought, or impression. Sometimes I only notice it in reflection, like, oh, that was a fearful feeling (Fear), or, oh, that was a lazy feeling (Dissolution). When I was just getting familiar with the territory, it was definitely the case that I was more liable to get stuck in some particular stage, or (as you describe) cycle back and forth between different stages, but in reflection a lot of that had to do with this idea of trying to push myself up the maps. When you start to realize that the pushing is itself the getting stuck, that's when you start to make real progress.

What would be your advice be for someone at this stage? I've already switched to
Mahasi style noting, which has made an amazing change to my practice.
The reason being, that my thoughts had so much momentum, I found most of
my formal sits would be lost in daydreaming and discursive thought.

My advice would be to continue with what works, to not bite off more than you can chew, and to approach your practice with the goal of familiarizing yourself with the way your mind works.

As an aside, I just started noting practice yesterday and had an interesting dream.

A brief dip of my consciousness into something akin to a river, black and void.

Then there appeared some text, some quote about Vasudev rowing me to the other side.

On the other side, out of that blackness, right in the middle of the black screen rose the picture of some abstract figures, starting with a mudra, which
then started changing into other pictures at a faster and faster pace. (mandalas, complex gemetric figures, Buddha knows what else)

These images then turned into faces and thousands of faces/pictures changing each second.
This changing became faster and faster until there was an accompanying
vibration which I felt throughout my body, until the pictures ceased and there was only the vibration.

Sounds like a good dream. Sounds like you are headed somewhere. Best of luck to you,
Kyle

Yash C:

Day seven is when it hit me, really really strong waves of depression.
On days 9 & 10, the sadness was so bad I would be lying in bed and tears would be rolling down my cheeks.

Everytime I meditated, the depression or anxiety would come up, reach a
crescendo, and as I kept up with my scanning, then at some point
release. I should also mention that during each subsequent cycle, the
intensity of depression and/or anxiety lessened a little bit.
This cycle continued while meditating at home too.

The questions I have are,

Am I in stage 3 or in DN territory?

Yes, Standard dark night presentation. Fear and misery/depression.
Yash C:
If I have indeed crossed A&P, like I believe, then during your sits,
do you cycle repeatedly through stages 5 to 10, like waves hitting
against a cliff face?
That is usually the stage of reobservation.
Yash C:
What would be your advice be for someone at this stage? I've already switched to
Mahasi style noting
To get out of the dark night I will usually just increase the amount of sits per day. I usually do not lengthen the sits so I can not speak to that approach.
Once you get to Equanimity do not make the mistake of stopping practice because everything feels fine now and you can't imagine why you were making such a big deal out of it....this is the trap of EQ. If you stop you will slide back or start over. We have all done this so be warned and know you will probably ignore this advice as I did. Keep up the work to stay in EQ. It's much nicer.
Good luck,
~D

howdy,
as i recall bhanga is the equivalent to what is called the dissolution stage so, the 5th nana, This comes right after the A&P (or the knowledge of the arising and passing away of phenomena)...

So given the other descriptions you've given, yes: you've passed the A&P.  Your dreams are cool and interesting but those are really hard to corrrelate into stages.  I found that in that stage of my practice though my dreams were saturated with dharmic themes.  I attributed that to my general motivation to meditate though, not to a particular stage.  That said I did a lot of dream yoga and my meditation naturally flowed into my sleep cycle.  The depression you mentioned is classic DN stuff and only reinforces my presumption that you indeed hit the A&P and your teacher was right in saying it wouldn't last.  This is presuming that depressive states weren't on the daily menu before.

If you haven't read MTCB you should.  The classic advice now is keep going.  Don't try to for states of laserlike concentration, widen the scope of focus while meditating.  When you feel depressed, acknowlege the state and try to objectify it instead of wallowing in personalization.   It will pass, there will be peaks and valleys.  Make it your goal to stay with it until you're in equanimity  and then try to hang there..its pleasant and the diving board to cessation.

Cheers

RE: Dark Night or Not? Questions that arose during a recent Goenka retreat
Answer
3/2/15 12:08 AM as a reply to Incandescent Flower.
Incandescent Flower:
Yash C:

On days 9 & 10, the sadness was so bad I would be lying in bed and tears would be rolling down my cheeks.

This is good. The more familiar you are with this territory, the less power it will have over you. As time goes on, if you keep up your practice, the impulse to "hold on" to those sensations will lessen and lessen, and with that, those sort of "traumatic" mindstates will become more of a thing of the (confused) past. It's tough to say how much of this process involves "dealing with" the psychological stuff, as opposed to simply growing disenchanted with/disembedded from it.

Everytime I meditated, the depression or anxiety would come up, reach a
crescendo, and as I kept up with my scanning, then at some point
release. I should also mention that during each subsequent cycle, the
intensity of depression and/or anxiety lessened a little bit.
This cycle continued while meditating at home too.

This sounds to me like you were beginning to transition from the dukkha nanas to a more stable base in equanimity. Note that the Theravadan suttas refer to equanimity as an "awareness release" (the other three wholesome releases being good will, compassion, and appreciation).

The questions I have are,

Am I in stage 3 or in DN territory?

Yes, you were. That doesn't mean that you are right now. The maps describe a general progression, but they are not as set in stone as they may seem when you first encounter them after having heard of them. In fact, the concern about the stages is really no different from that which feeds the DN stages themselves (discursive thought, rumination, frustration, etc.), so that's something to be aware of (or, rather, be equanimous to). What's useful about the maps, from my perspective, is that they help us to understand that these things are part of a process that is not just limited to us as individuals, and therefore encourage us to let go more easily of our anxieties (DN) and also of our conceits (A&P and EQ). Maybe the DN is as far as you've gotten in your practice so far (though it sounds to me like you were establishing a base in EQ); what matters is gaining familiarity with whatever stage you're in, understanding how your mind works, and developing a sense of continuity in your practice.

If I have indeed crossed A&P, like I believe, then during your sits,
do you cycle repeatedly through stages 5 to 10, like waves hitting
against a cliff face?

Sometimes a stage can last the duration of a single thought, or impression. Sometimes I only notice it in reflection, like, oh, that was a fearful feeling (Fear), or, oh, that was a lazy feeling (Dissolution). When I was just getting familiar with the territory, it was definitely the case that I was more liable to get stuck in some particular stage, or (as you describe) cycle back and forth between different stages, but in reflection a lot of that had to do with this idea of trying to push myself up the maps. When you start to realize that the pushing is itself the getting stuck, that's when you start to make real progress.

What would be your advice be for someone at this stage? I've already switched to
Mahasi style noting, which has made an amazing change to my practice.
The reason being, that my thoughts had so much momentum, I found most of
my formal sits would be lost in daydreaming and discursive thought.

My advice would be to continue with what works, to not bite off more than you can chew, and to approach your practice with the goal of familiarizing yourself with the way your mind works.


Kyle




Thank you for taking the time out to reply, Kyle. That really helps.

I guess your advice is akin to what is called "milking the stage" in certain strength training circles. You don't want to be rolling about the DN more than necessary, but you don't want to be getting impatient with where you are (indeed, that would be going in the opposite direction).

I think you effectively changed my perception from focusing on 'climbing the ladder of insight', so to speak, to approaching the practice as, well, practice. emoticon

I guess I am where I am, but also working my butt off. emoticon

Love,
Yash

RE: Dark Night or Not? Questions that arose during a recent Goenka retreat
Answer
3/2/15 12:17 AM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thank you for the advice. I always love reading your posts here on the forum (been lurking for a while now).

Considering how many times I've seen that advice/warning of keeping going while in EQ here on DhO, you'd think people would stop making that mistake. emoticon

Seems like that's the trap of EQ. I'll do my best to stay mindful of that fact, especially because I'm starting to feel exactly the same way (fine, its all good, why stress?) and a massive pull to slack off practising.

Redoubling my efforts, & practicing like my ass is on fire. emoticon

Love,
Yash

RE: Dark Night or Not? Questions that arose during a recent Goenka retreat
Answer
3/2/15 12:37 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
tom moylan:
howdy,
as i recall bhanga is the equivalent to what is called the dissolution stage so, the 5th nana, This comes right after the A&P (or the knowledge of the arising and passing away of phenomena)...

So given the other descriptions you've given, yes: you've passed the A&P.  Your dreams are cool and interesting but those are really hard to corrrelate into stages.  I found that in that stage of my practice though my dreams were saturated with dharmic themes.  I attributed that to my general motivation to meditate though, not to a particular stage.  That said I did a lot of dream yoga and my meditation naturally flowed into my sleep cycle.  The depression you mentioned is classic DN stuff and only reinforces my presumption that you indeed hit the A&P and your teacher was right in saying it wouldn't last.  This is presuming that depressive states weren't on the daily menu before.

If you haven't read MTCB you should.  The classic advice now is keep going.  Don't try to for states of laserlike concentration, widen the scope of focus while meditating.  When you feel depressed, acknowlege the state and try to objectify it instead of wallowing in personalization.   It will pass, there will be peaks and valleys.  Make it your goal to stay with it until you're in equanimity  and then try to hang there..its pleasant and the diving board to cessation.

Cheers



Those kind of depressive states, no. emoticon

Thank you for your kind words, Tom. I read MCTB in one night (and reread, and reread it). Daniel is do bomb (or Arahat, if he prefers).

And your advice about concentration is bang on, it's just about all but gone. And today, while showering I got pissed off for no reason and was about to call my girlfriend and give her an earful. However, the state was noted & the bleedthrough was contained. You saved my life here. emoticon

I'm doing my best to get my centre of gravity higher towards EQ. Again, appreciate the advice.

Love,
Yash

Yash C:


I guess your advice is akin to what is called "milking the stage" in certain strength training circles. You don't want to be rolling about the DN more than necessary, but you don't want to be getting impatient with where you are (indeed, that would be going in the opposite direction).

At this stage, yes. But what I really meant to emphasize is that the stages are a lot more transient than they may appear to you now. There eventually won't be a need to know "where you are", only the need to observe the constant flux of the arising and passing of phenomena in the present moment (including thoughts), because once you've walked the path enough times, you'll start to understand at a really intuitive level that this is exactly what you need to do to make progress. So, my message is one of encouragement; keep practicing, and EQ will become second nature.