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Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)

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Hello all, my apologies if this is the wrong forum or if this has been covered before - I've been searching for info about this topic but the more I read, the more confused I get. 

Basically, I'm looking for help / suggestions / recommendations on finding a teacher I can work with personally, especially one who can help with dark night stuff.

I've been practicing for the last seven years, though only in the last two years have I gone to 1-2 hours a day, including a 10-day vipassana retreat. I've switched through a lot of methods though most of them have been associated with the Vajrayana tradition. I also have a history of anxiety/depression/trauma and have been working through this with an excellent therapist for the past few years. What's happening lately though, I think as a result of meditation + therapy removing my defense mechanisms, is that I keep falling into experiences that sound exactly like the dark night described on the forum here. I have days where I get completely overwhelmed by painful emotions, mostly related to fear of death/fixation on impermanence, and every time I go back into those places they get worse because the methods I used to get myself out the previous time no longer work and I get less pleasure from things I used to enjoy. Even when it's not overwhelming, I feel like I'm never free of a sense that everything is futile. This seems to be more dark night than trauma because I have become much more functional through therapy, in terms of work, relationships, taking care of myself, etc., it's just that the truth of impermanence is unavoidable and suffocating me.

There's a Tibetan Lama that I speak to somewhat regularly and though he has a lot of technical knowledge, he is in a depression himself, and when I bring up my problems or ask whether spiritual practice can deal with these issues, he seems to get frustrated and talks about his own fear of death that he has never gotten over and pours out all sorts of negativity. I get that he's suffering too so I don't hold any hard feelings, but he is not the right person to be guiding me at this point. Also right now I'm having some doubts about the Vajrayana tradition in general - I love what it promises but I'm put off by all the cults of personality and find it difficult to connect with the practices sometimes.

So I'm looking for help on finding someone new to work with, especially with the dark night stuff. I've spent a lot of time looking into teachers but I just get more confused, so maybe someone here can offer some thoughts, even about how to approach new teachers. Lately I've been doing a form of choiceless body awareness shamatha, since practices that require a lot of focus seem to make my anxiety levels rise. I'd prefer to work with someone from a Theravadin background, though I also have been a long time fan of Shinzen Young's style. It would also have to be somebody that can work via phone / Skype - I'm not in an English-speaking country right now and there aren't many local options.

Thank you for your help!

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 4:09 PM as a reply to TissueLion.
TissueLion
There's a Tibetan Lama that I speak to somewhat regularly and though he has a lot of technical knowledge, he is in a depression himself, and when I bring up my problems or ask whether spiritual practice can deal with these issues, he seems to get frustrated and talks about his own fear of death that he has never gotten over and pours out all sorts of negativity. I get that he's suffering too so I don't hold any hard feelings, but he is not the right person to be guiding me at this point. Also right now I'm having some doubts about the Vajrayana tradition in general - I love what it promises but I'm put off by all the cults of personality and find it difficult to connect with the practices sometimes.

So I'm looking for help on finding someone new to work with, especially with the dark night stuff. I've spent a lot of time looking into teachers but I just get more confused, so maybe someone here can offer some thoughts, even about how to approach new teachers. Lately I've been doing a form of choiceless body awareness shamatha, since practices that require a lot of focus seem to make my anxiety levels rise. I'd prefer to work with someone from a Theravadin background, though I also have been a long time fan of Shinzen Young's style. It would also have to be somebody that can work via phone / Skype - I'm not in an English-speaking country right now and there aren't many local options.

Thank you for your help!
Hi Tissue Lion,

How did you come up with that username? Ha.

Reading your explanation about a vajrayana lama, it crossed my mind to add my two cents. Just a few days ago I was talking to a man who for 15 years (!) went to study with this famous rinpoche who at the end turned out not to have reached even 1st path/awakening. This friend of mine became dis-illusioned about the whole vajrayana scene where everything depends on the lama. Fortunately he woke up, after having quit his association with the rinpoche and at the moment has further advanced in his practice, more so than the rinpoche. Another respected lama, who is located at Helsinki, Finland, where I live, has only recently awakened and is now at 2nd bhumi which is related to 1st-2nd path area of the theravada model. And these guys are highly regarded "masters". So yeah, titles might not mean anything.

Subconscious stuff which is the cause for the dark night/s, can be extremely tricky. I know people who have been able to get it all sorted (4th path/arhat) in just a few short years of theravada-style practice while there are others who have hard time with it, after decades of practice whether tantric, zen, hindu or buddhist. Methods and techniques vary a lot, as do the abilities of the practitioners. Not many seem to get there. I personally know 5 (whom I can recall) such persons, and there are others who I don't personally know but who are there, and have therefore been able to put an end to dark night. But even then the number is quite small considering how many teachers are out there. So finding a valid teacher and a method you dig can be tricky. Hopefully it turns out good for you.

Cheers,

Baba Kim Katami





RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 4:51 PM as a reply to TissueLion.
Ron Crouch: https://alohadharma.com/

Hokai Sobol: http://www.hokai.info/

Abre Chen: Another person, other than Ron, that Kenneth Folk has authorized to teach.  Doesn't have a website but there are people on here that could help you get in touch with her.

Alan Chapman: http://fountainheadschool.org/#whitepaper

Vincent & Emily Horn: http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/dojo/about/

And, as you already know, Shinzen Young has bimonthly home practice programs: http://www.shinzen.org/

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 4:46 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah
Abre Chen: The second person, other than Ron, that Kenneth Folk has authorized to teach.  Doesn't have a website but there are people on here that could help you get in touch with her.

I know at least one more person who was authorised by Folk to teach, a friend of mine who is a Finnish guy. His name was at Folk's website at some point. I don't know if he would want me to mention his name, so I won't. I think he used a nick of "Petri Antero" in his practice log which might be found from awake network archives. This friend doesn't teach but would be allowed to.

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 4:52 PM as a reply to Kim Katami.
@Kim:

Oh okay, I know Antero.  I had two really interesting, intro-to-Mahamudra skypes with him.  I corrected the wording of my post accordingly.  

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 6:40 PM as a reply to Noah.
@Noah:

Thank you for the suggestions, I will check them out!

@Kim:

Thank you for your response as well. I am reminded of Trungpa Rinpoche's admonition that westerners should fully master Theravadin techniques (I assume be near or at stream entry) before moving on to Tantric practices. I don't think that many practitioners take this advice to heart though I my intuition is there's a lot of truth to it.

As for the screen name, totally random! haha

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/14/16 10:34 PM as a reply to TissueLion.
TissueLion:
@Noah:

Thank you for the suggestions, I will check them out!

@Kim:

Thank you for your response as well. I am reminded of Trungpa Rinpoche's admonition that westerners should fully master Theravadin techniques (I assume be near or at stream entry) before moving on to Tantric practices. I don't think that many practitioners take this advice to heart though I my intuition is there's a lot of truth to it.

As for the screen name, totally random! haha
I second the recommendation of Ron Crouch for those with psychological issues, he is a meditation teacher and psychologist. This is a useful combination. He has the practical experience to help you see what is meditation related and what is other problems with more mundane solutions.

I tend to agree with Trungpa. The foundations taught by Theravadin practitioners are quite efficient. After second path there are very useful Tibetan style practises to move to as one wishes.
~D

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/15/16 3:22 AM as a reply to TissueLion.
TissueLion:

@Kim:

Thank you for your response as well. I am reminded of Trungpa Rinpoche's admonition that westerners should fully master Theravadin techniques (I assume be near or at stream entry) before moving on to Tantric practices. I don't think that many practitioners take this advice to heart though I my intuition is there's a lot of truth to it.

As for the screen name, totally random! haha

I don't agree with Trungpa on this. Whether one is awakened or not, makes no difference whether one could take up tantric/mantric practices. But tantric practices are different and they are taught in different ways, not always clearly and reasonably. Of course, it is best to aim at stream entry asap because that changes a lot but "to fully master" theravadan techniques is an overstatement.

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/15/16 5:10 AM as a reply to TissueLion.
Hi 

i recently started working with Ron crouch during a tough dark night period. I have found him excellent. As others have said, you are in safe hands in terms of his experience of dealing with difficult psychological elements.

i also found him friendly, encouraging and full of good tips regarding practise,

all all the best 

B

RE: Help wanted finding a teacher (esp to work with dark night)
Answer
3/15/16 3:20 PM as a reply to Barry D.
Thanks for the other recommendations of Ron, I've booked a session with him and I'm looking forward to it.

@bernd the broter - I've been using the Brahmaviharas (as the Four Immeasurables) in my Vajrayana practices and they definitely do help. In fact anything compassion/bodhicitta related helps and I tend to do more of those practices when I get into dark places.

By methods that no longer work, I meant previously when I got into depressive states I would give myself permission to watch dumb TV shows, work less, etc., basically treating it like a bad flu with the understanding that the difficult feelings would pass and those weren't the times to go all out with practice. I guess now it could be more accurate to say that I'm less able/willing to let myself be distracted by those things.

@Kim - Thanks for your thoughts.