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Dealing with the Dark Night

It's just like poker

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It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 8:34 AM
Pardon me for the catchy title, but the DN remembered me of when I was playing poker online couple of years ago.

Basically, poker, just like any investment, shows how good you are on the long run (I don't want to launch a debate on poker but just hear me out), and it is very possible to be an excellent player making good decisions but still winning very few overtime, or basically breaking even. That is because of variance.

Let's say you play a game where you put some money, and you have 70% chance of doubling your money (that would be a freaking good game for you). There's still a probability that if you play 10 times in a row, you would lose your 10 bets! The probability of loosing 1M time in a row is ridiculously infinitesimal but does exist!

I thought about that because the truth is, you know that moment when you 'drop the burden', or you kind of exit the darkness and pleasant feelings start to arise again; did you really do it? 

From my personal experience, the ego loves to wrap around that moment and say "yes, I found the exit!". But then you start to really believe that (actually it's too late at that point) and you inevitably end up in another 'dark night' (which by the way is completely supported by the fact that you think you are in the dark night) and you start trying to reproduce what you 'did' the previous time to get out of it, but of course, it just makes it worse.

The truth is that that is completely random and you have no control over it whatsoever. Few of us are lucky enough to really go to the deepest hellish depth of the DN ('midnight' in the dark night) where you have no choice but to completely surrender. We're generally in that awkward zone where there's unease and suffering but we're still trying to apply 'techniques', we're still fighting. And that's where all troubles come from. If you were to fully embrace a DN, there would be no DN. There might be psychological feelings of depression, physical unease, and whatever, but there wouldn't be suffering nor DN. It would be irrelevant.

Now, even though this is completely out of anyone's control, I believe there are ways to drag luck in our way. Just like in poker, variance is directly linked with the decision you make.

If you only play extremely profitable decision (what we call EV), variance automatically diminishes. If you only play very borderline decisions, your results are gonna be extremely swingy.

It's like you would choose to play a game where you have 55% chance of winning on every hand vs playing a game where you have 95% chance of playing on every hand. And that's where sila, discipline, comes as a handy tool, for instance. But at the same time, believing that ordaining as a monk will make you enlightened is just the other face of the coin. It's just about having full awareness of what you're doing.

Anyway, I just wanted to share my thoughts with you guys. Remember to enjoy yourself, be gentle, and that all those attainments only exist in your mind! So does the DN.

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 10:34 AM as a reply to Nicolas.
Hmm, interesting metaphor; poker is pretty fun!

Seeking to 'exit' the negative sensations and 'feel good' again seems very symptomatic of someone who is still fetishizing the A&P experience and conceives the DN as backsliding, not recognizing it as progress. That's what came up for me reading your post.

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 11:22 AM as a reply to Nicolas.
I think I relate to the metaphor, roughly, although I may be misunderstanding it.

To do the easy thing, to pursue the short-term reward, would be to not follow the long-term odds in poker and instead pursue a big hand.  In terms of meditation, the easy thing would be to follow the side-effect temptations of the particular nana you are in (give in to mania during the a&p, sloth during dissolution, obsessive thinking or paranoid feeling during Fear/Misery/Disguist, etc.).  To follow the true understanding of the odds (how to win out, on average, in the long run), would be to stay focused on investigating your object(s) of choice (maybe the whole sense-field) and resist the tendancy to become possessed by the 'mood' of a given stage.

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 11:35 AM as a reply to Nicolas.
Nicolas:

when you 'drop the burden', or you kind of exit the darkness and pleasant feelings start to arise again; did you really do it?
Do what? Move from the DN area to EQ or are you talking about fruition and first path?
Nicolas:

From my personal experience, the ego loves to wrap around that moment and say "yes, I found the exit!". But then you start to really believe that (actually it's too late at that point) and you inevitably end up in another 'dark night' (which by the way is completely supported by the fact that you think you are in the dark night) and you start trying to reproduce what you 'did' the previous time to get out of it, but of course, it just makes it worse.
Makes it worse? What are you talking about "'did' the previous time"? 

Nicolas:

The truth is that that is completely random and you have no control over it whatsoever. Few of us are lucky enough to really go to the deepest hellish depth of the DN ('midnight' in the dark night) where you have no choice but to completely surrender. We're generally in that awkward zone where there's unease and suffering but we're still trying to apply 'techniques', we're still fighting. And that's where all troubles come from. If you were to fully embrace a DN, there would be no DN. There might be psychological feelings of depression, physical unease, and whatever, but there wouldn't be suffering nor DN. It would be irrelevant.
I don't mean to harsh your groove but I find the metaphor tenious and the almost every stament and supposition incorrect from my expereince.
Perhaps you should try diligent and skillful practice, I have always counted on that to get thru every stage whether percieved as good or bad.
(again I don't mean to be a jerk or anything but almost every sentence made me cringe and I felt drawn to post)
Good luck
~D

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 12:24 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Thanks for your answer guys, I wasn't posting to complain about the dark night at all nor to talk about anything related to me personally; I guess I just thought the metaphor could be useful to some.

What I was trying to convey is that simply thinking that practicing a shit load and doing high speed noting to the point where you can't stand it (as I've seen many posts around here) might or might not be skilful.

Clinging to concepts such as dark night, insight stages and so on is completely missing the point in my opinion. Hence the poker thing: you can practice 'diligently' for 50 years and not get one little bit of insight ever.

And that's not because you didn't put the hours, that's not because you were not serious, that's just because....

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 2:10 PM as a reply to Nicolas.
Nicolas:
Thanks for your answer guys,
What was the question?
Nicolas:

I wasn't posting to complain about the dark night at all nor to talk about anything related to me personally;
You are the one who brought up the dark night, and if you are not speaking from direct experience, why are you talking about it? Is this mearly speculative?
Nicolas:

I guess I just thought the metaphor could be useful to some.
In what way might it be useful?
Nicolas:

What I was trying to convey is that simply thinking that practicing a shit load and doing high speed noting to the point where you can't stand it (as I've seen many posts around here) might or might not be skilful.
Well now you are conveying your opinion from some posts (please link to them if relevent). Have you done noting until you couldn't stand it? In what way could you not stand it? -
  1. The noticing part?
  2. The labeling part?
  3. The progress?
Or is this speculative again?
Nicolas:

Clinging to concepts such as dark night, insight stages and so on is completely missing the point in my opinion. Hence the poker thing: you can practice 'diligently' for 50 years and not get one little bit of insight ever.
Please try practicing diligently and skillfully....I doubt it would take you 50 years to gain the first few stages of 'insight'
Nicolas:

And that's not because you didn't put the hours, that's not because you were not serious, that's just because....
"Just because"....is that the meaning behind the whole post?
~D

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 2:32 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
I am not saying that noting is not a good practice.

But if you remember correctly the chain of dependent origination, before consciousness of any kind, you have volitions.

Which basically means that none of us when we talk about noticing, labelling, phenomena or even progress are really talking about the exact same thing.

Which is why in the end it's completely missing the point. It isn't the frequency of noting nor the stage of insight which you're at that will fully liberate you. 

Do not underestimate the power of the mind to fabricate phenomena that'd be in accordance with what the egoic structure wants. It will even create illusory cessations if you are really clinging to 'attaining' that.

This is why every technique must be dropped in the end!

I am sensing some aggression in your tone - it'd be interesting to investigate why is there aggression here? Who feels threatened by the fact that you might not get enlightened in 50 years?

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 3:12 PM as a reply to Nicolas.
I notice more and more in my self that I don't want to get enlightened if it is something different than what I am experiencing with "progress".  I want whatever this is, this thing that is happening to my mind as I meditate more and more.  I am less agitated and anxious less often in the body-mind-energy structures.  For me, the entire path is about the way the positive side-effects of insight can influence my day-to-day.

This trait of mine, like all things, is subject to change.  There may come a time when I feel fascinated with the full liberation. 

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 3:50 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah S:
I notice more and more in my self that I don't want to get enlightened if it is something different than what I am experiencing with "progress".  I want whatever this is, this thing that is happening to my mind as I meditate more and more.  I am less agitated and anxious less often in the body-mind-energy structures.  For me, the entire path is about the way the positive side-effects of insight can influence my day-to-day.

This trait of mine, like all things, is subject to change.  There may come a time when I feel fascinated with the full liberation. 

It's perfectly normal to be positively affected by practice and to want more of this, and in fact it is indeed a major motivational factor to keep practicing.

The problem that can arise then is that by becoming attached to those peaceful states of mind, we set ourselves up for tremendous suffering when shit goes wrong.

Even though that path doesn't work for me, I actually really like how Daniel puts it, something like "you're being asked to accept the entire range of human feelings/emotions". That means actually accepting it, not trying to use a technique to get rid of those feelings - and those mind movements can get really subtle. And what I'm saying is that that acceptance just happens, 'you' didn't provoke it.

By shit goes wrong, I mean shit like losing your children, or a terminal disease for instance. I don't think anyone claiming any attainment here (me included of course, I actually have attained no stage whatsoever based on the insight model) can say that they would react with wisdom and that no anger nor agigation would arise from such dramatic events in one's life.

That's why suffering is such a good teacher - it's when we totally let go of everything that things start to open up.

It's fine though because life is always the best teacher - when we get attached to peaceful states then we'll have very painful 'dark nights'. The thing that is misunderstood is that peace doesn't mean peaceful feelings. There can be tremendous peace in an incredibly agitated mind - even though agitation tend to diminish over time, out of disinterest.

That's why I say that in the end it's just like poker: you can put as much effort as you want, practice as hard as you can (and I'm really not diminishing the importance of daily practice - but it has to be authentic), it doesn't 'guarantee' anything; just like there is absolutely nothing that contradicts the fact that some beings can get suddently fully realized without having ever practiced. How freeing is that?!

Even meditation is a concept and shouldn't be clung to (again, I am not saying do not practice of course!). I know in my experience doubt was always an area that was given a lot of attention to, and I just wanted to share those thoughts with people that have self-esteem issues or usually think something is wrong. The fact is that nothing that happens to you is wrong for the very reason that it does happen!

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 5:01 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
DW, your posts seem hostile and condescending here. What's up with that?

Anyway, I disagree with the ideas presented as well. For me it has been very important to understand what I did to shift from a negative to a positive state. If you don't feel like you're the one "doing" the switch, that may be a cue that you actually need to stop doing something, rather than add something to do. Put another way, if tension goes away when you lose track if what you're doing, it is a good sign that the problem was rumination or the inappropriate use of force!

I don't think liberation is accepting the full range of experience. I think liberation is understanding the causes of the full range of experience and using this to free yourself from being adrift on the waves.

EDIT: That's not to say I haven't shared your views in the past!  I just don't agree anymore, though.  Mainly because I feel like I actually understand what's happening now.

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 5:08 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
I am truly happy to have people disagreeing with me, and I'd like to ask you guys the following question:

when you guys practice noting and focus on the anatta side of phenomena, if you clearly see in an authentic way that phenomena are all selfless and doesn't depend in any way from any input from 'you', that they arise and vanish on their own; how can you defend that 'you' are in control of anything?

Isn't the perception of someone controlling something another phenomena subject to the 'anatta law' too?

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 6:15 PM as a reply to Not Tao.
Not Tao:
DW, your posts seem hostile and condescending here. What's up with that?
Instead of a conversation I'm just getting avoidance, Gish_Gallop  and some word salad style nonsensical phrasing. There is no responding to questions such that comunication of a meaningful manner can happen.
My insistance at trying to pin down anything that is being said may be percieved hostile and or condenscending. That is not my intention. I am done with this thread as I do not see it productive.
Have fun,
~D

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/8/15 6:23 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Dream Walker:
Not Tao:
DW, your posts seem hostile and condescending here. What's up with that?
Instead of a conversation I'm just getting avoidance, Gish_Gallop  and some word salad style nonsensical phrasing. There is no responding to questions such that comunication of a meaningful manner can happen.
My insistance at trying to pin down anything that is being said may be percieved hostile and or condenscending. That is not my intention. I am done with this thread as I do not see it productive.
Have fun,
~D
I actually knew that was the risk of posting something here, and I perfectly understand.

I'd just point out that attachment to pragmatism is in essence the same thing than attachment to dogmatism. But my mistake, I should have known better when posting first on that community as I just realized it is clearly said in the guidelines of the platform.

RE: It's just like poker
Answer
6/9/15 12:09 AM as a reply to Nicolas.
Simplest answer from me is that anatta isn't "no-self" from my practice perspective.  I'm not a fan of this kind of vipassana teaching, generally speaking.  However, I'm not sure others would agree even from that perspective.  My understanding of the theravada teachings on anatta (ala mahasi) is that the contoller isn't realized to be out of control but rather that the controller is empty of a centerpoint or a separate reference.  Non-dual doesn't negate the fact that you exist, it negates the fact that you are separate. 

So, my understanding of the teaching is that, while it's true to say that the sensations of being in control are also "subject to the anatta law," this doesn't mean there is no such thing as control or effort, it just means control and effort are also happening as part of the world and not separate from it, like a command from outside if time and space.  I think the main point is that the experience you're having now is already empty, even before enlightenment, so there is something more subtle to look for.

Another way to look at it: if right at this moment, even if you feel like a thing that is in control, you are actually not a self, then this would mean that being in control was a natural part of existance.  There would be no reason to deny that aspect of existance.  If there is a change in perspective that you create, it isn't that it happened magically without the sensation of "you-ness" and you belief that you caused a change is delusional, rather it would mean that very sensation of "you-ness" that created the change is also without a self.

But anyway, maybe someone else can chime in on this.  I'm not sure I'm making complete sense.