Message Boards Message Boards

Insight and Wisdom

I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?

Toggle
Main points:

--recently on Monday I felt my first vibrations, and there was a sudden jump to a point where meditation got radically easier, everything became p blissful, I could feel pressure between my eyes, the world began to vibrate, and meditation just suddenly became a process that runs itself.

--I told my father. My father, who at least a stream enterer (sotapanna), recommended that I consider stopping meditation b/c the dark night could screw up my life plans-- and wait until I am older, my life has stabilized, and I'm in the working world to continue. In sum, his point: I am at a critical point where it matters a great deal how well I do. (Right now I am an undergrad who is working to bring up my GPA so that I can get into pharm school; then I'll be in school for another 4 years. What I do in these years determines the general direction my life will take later and whether I can achieve my dreams.)

--also, b/c as a kid I was v anxious, I stress out easily, and also b/c I recently worked my way out of a condition basically subclinical to an eating disorder (a year and a half ago), I'm worried about the effects the dark night will have on me. I know it can be mild, but I also know that it can get bad--- really bad. I've read some terrifying entries here on DhO.

My question to you all (esp for those who have been through the dark night and came out the other end at EQ or SE):

Should I continue to meditate? Or should I just take a break until undergrad + pharm school are over to take up meditation once more?

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/27/16 11:56 PM as a reply to li..
li. :

Should I continue to meditate? Or should I just take a break until undergrad + pharm school are over to take up meditation once more?

--also, b/c as a kid I was v anxious, I stress out easily, and also b/c I recently worked my way out of a condition basically subclinical to an eating disorder (a year and a half ago), I'm worried about the effects the dark night will have on me. 


If you are functioning in school and are reasonably happy overall in life, than maybe you should wait.  I personally meditated my way through college because I felt like I wouldn't be able to graduate and get a job without growing spiritually.  I am still on that path and its been a long struggle.  The lessons I have learned are that life logistics and having your moraity trip together are irreplacable bastions of a happy life, not matter how evolved or nondual one's perception is.  

p.s.- I say this specifically because of the mental instability you mention, which is the general thing I have tried to combat myself.  It is a long road that is good to think of in terms of progress over decades and not months.  

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
3/9/17 6:23 AM as a reply to li..
My question to you all (esp for those who have been through the dark night and came out the other end at EQ or SE):

Should I continue to meditate? Or should I just take a break until undergrad + pharm school are over to take up meditation once more?
Stopping to meditate for four(?) years is a huge exaggeration imo. There is a very small risk of getting very bad side effects, yes. But so what? You could also be run over by a bus tomorrow, but you still go out to get sunlight, right?

In my experience, all dukkha nanas except reobservation are really harmless. A day with dukkha nana and meditation is better than a day without meditation because the increased focus has its own advantages.

That said, you may face some challenges, and that eating disorder thing might add to those. If you want, you can switch to some practice that is known to be more stabilizing, such as Brahmaviharas or bodywork. Once you feel proficient in those, you can go back to Vipassana (or whatever it is you're doing atm), using them as support practice and knowing that you can fall back to those practices completely if things really get rough.

What exactly is your meditation background?

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 6:12 AM as a reply to li..
howdy li,
according to the information one finds on this website and the MCTB book, once one has passed the A&P then avoiding the dark night of the soul phase, to whatever degree one experiences it, is unavoidable.

so the question is:  what did you experience?  if it was the A&P then in all liklihood the decision has been taken out of your hands already and the only way forward is through.  what you are describing COULD be equanimity but possibly earlier stages.

to get the best advice, whether from here or from your experienced father, you should try to assess exactly where you are on the progress of insight by minutely describing the steps and stages you've gone through phenomenologically.

make sense?

cheers

tom

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 6:24 AM as a reply to li..
Culadasa says that the dark night is avoidable if combined properly with calming practices. He has a whole chapter of this in his book "The Mind Illumined". 

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 7:53 AM as a reply to bernd the broter.
bernd the broter:


What exactly is your meditation background?
 I started meditating in high school, intermittently and on and off through college. I would do anything from concentration on the breath, concentration on a body part (the hand, the legs hitting the floor), or noting practice (Kenneth Folk talks about this- just noting w/ 6 senses- thinking, feeling, smelling, seeing, feeling...)

tom moylan:
so the question is:  what did you experience?  if it was the A&P then in all liklihood the decision has been taken out of your hands already and the only way forward is through.  what you are describing COULD be equanimity but possibly earlier stages.
90 days ago, I started a regular 20+ minute practice (mostly noting, some concentration on body parts) that stabilized my concentration and last Monday, I woke up just feeling that something was different, that maybe I should try for a diff mind state (is it 1st or 2nd jhana?), that it really was possible to merely shift my attention from an object of concentration (say my right hand) to the pleasant feeling in my chest. I did it that morning, and I felt the vibrations at a rate of 1-3 vibrations per second. Thta day, it no longer was a struggle, an effort to meditate, everything became effortless concentration (of course, w/ mind wandering, but much less). Things hurt more when I hurt, I feel my body responses more, I feel joy much more deeply, I am way more in touch with where I am and what I am feeling, minutiae of experience. I had to wear earplugs for most of yesterday because I was more sensitive than usual to the environment around me. So that's the crux of it. I welcome any sort of labeling/classification of this by more advanced practitioners (those who are SE + beyond).
according to the information one finds on this website and the MCTB book, once one has passed the A&P then avoiding the dark night of the soul phase, to whatever degree one experiences it, is unavoidable.

does anyone know why this is-- that the dark night is unavoidable once one has passed that threshold? I spoke to my father and he said that if I just stop meditating the effects I'm experiencing should just dissipate??

and Andrew K- thanks for the resource! I'll check it out.

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 9:25 AM as a reply to li..
i would guess that you are just before the A&P.  why this "switch" is flipped after the insight into the arising and passing away is so i cannot say but it is often stated and taken largely for granted in this forum.

it is often the case that even without a consitent practice one can reach the A&P so even THAT may not be avoidable.

i think reducing worry about the whole subject is a good idea in any case.  that extra arrow of worry brings nothing positive to the table and can cause unnecessary suffering.

take it easy for a while and see what happens.  if you are in (or do go past) the A&P. c'est la damned vie.  roll with it

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 1:24 PM as a reply to li..
If you are very worried about the Dark Night, why not do only or mostly samatha? Granted, the vipassana / samatha distinction is partially arbitrary if not even misleading according to some, so you might not be able to avoid DN-like effects altogether, but
1) it should be a much safer ride, since samatha smooths out the DN a lot,
2) you would be getting benefits in mood and concentration ability, which are handy for whatever your goals in life are, and,
3) whenever you feel like doing vipassana again, you won't have wasted good years of practice.

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 5:54 PM as a reply to neko.
neko:
If you are very worried about the Dark Night, why not do only or mostly samatha? Granted, the vipassana / samatha distinction is partially arbitrary if not even misleading according to some, so you might not be able to avoid DN-like effects altogether, but
1) it should be a much safer ride, since samatha smooths out the DN a lot,
2) you would be getting benefits in mood and concentration ability, which are handy for whatever your goals in life are, and,
3) whenever you feel like doing vipassana again, you won't have wasted good years of practice.

thanks both neko & tom moylan-- I'm going to do a lot more research on both concentration (since you brought this up)and vipassana practices, as well as how the path has manifested for others as well, and see where to go from there. DhO is such a treasure trove for resources and of experience and hope.

RE: I'm conflicted-- should I stop all meditation?
Answer
1/28/16 8:36 PM as a reply to li..
If I were you I would focus on the wet path and create as much enjoyment in concentration on the breath as an aid to your life.

With difficult studies and pressure to succeed you need to be as positive as possible. This means focussing on Metta on yourself. Just pour happiness and love for yourself with these practices. 

I would also develop a welcoming practice in daily life:

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/9813/

The difficulty of the dark night is more of an insight situation where you are weaning yourself and going through withdrawal symptoms (not acting on impulses). I would focus more on highly positive concentration practices and spreading well-being throughout your body.

No matter what you do you'll always need Metta practices whether you are a beginner or an advanced meditator. You'll need them your entire life.

To do well in school you'll need energy so a very basic practice is to see any tightness in your body (already your brain containing some aversion) and look at that as wasted energy and start relaxing the tightness.

Try to notice any attitudes like "if I react with a stress response I'll get more work done." If you get work done after bashing yourself to work harder you might train your brain to think that extra stress is needed to get things done.

For your studies I would look at books like:

http://www.amazon.com/Improving-Academic-Achievement-Psychological-Educational/dp/012064455X
Improving academic achievement

http://www.amazon.com/Flow-Psychology-Experience-Perennial-Classics/dp/0061339202/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454034134&sr=1-1&keywords=mihaly+csikszentmihalyi
Flow

http://www.amazon.com/Why-We-What-Understanding-Self-Motivation/dp/0140255265/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1454034305&sr=1-2&keywords=Deci+and+Ryan
Why we do what we do (Intrinsic Motivation)

http://psychology.about.com/od/motivation/f/intrinsic-motivation.htm

Intrinsic motivation

Remember that interest in your studies is affected by Flow which means if it's too easy you are bored or if it's too hard you are anxious. When you increase the challenges during boredom or increase the skills during anxiety you should be back into Flow.


Good luck on your studies!