Depression or dark night

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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/25/17 9:57 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/25/17 9:57 PM

Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
How do you know if you're in dark night vs. being very depressed? I'm in a huge transition after being injured from jiu-jitsu and can barely surf anymore. I can't do the things I used to love and I hate my career.

How can I tell if this is dark night stuff or just being really down due to life specifics? This is the question that was haunting me today. I've been meditating a crap ton and going on hikes but I feel emotionally constipated. Life seems so dry without play and having a shitty career.

Wouldn't you treat depression and dark night differently?
Derek2, modified 5 Years ago at 3/25/17 11:32 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/25/17 11:32 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 203 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Hi, ivory,

Sorry to hear about your difficulties.

In an old thread Dark Night vs. Depression? Daniel gave his criterion for differential diagnosis: "Dark Night follows A&P." So it would only be dark night if it was preceded by the arising and passing away stage.

A thought that occurred to me today was that the insight stage is not called "misery" but "knowledge of misery" (ādīnava-ñāṇa). So it would only count as dark night if the misery is an object of knowledge. Ordinary, mindless, unaware misery would not count as dark night.

Does any of that help?
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 3:01 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 2:58 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Derek2:
Daniel gave his criterion for differential diagnosis: "Dark Night follows A&P." So it would only be dark night if it was preceded by the arising and passing away stage.


The thing is, the A&P section of MCTB is the one that makes the least sense to me. I don't know what A&P is. What I think is dark night happened to me when I started contemplating loss. Then I lost my girl friend and shit hit the fan.

There were meditative descriptions of A&P in MCTB but they don't resonate with me. I was not a huge meditator. I was more of a philosopher who was just curious about every damn thing.

Derek2:
A thought that occurred to me today was that the insight stage is not called "misery" but "knowledge of misery" (ādīnava-ñāṇa). So it would only count as dark night if the misery is an object of knowledge. Ordinary, mindless, unaware misery would not count as dark night.


Are you sure about that? I mean, one case be depressed and still objectify miserty if they have the training or know how.
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Bruno Loff, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 3:13 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 3:13 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

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It is definitely possible to go through the dark night stages without getting depressed (I know from ample experience). It is still unpleasant.

Some friends of mine have become depressed because life hit 'em hard, and once medicated or after time went by, the depression lifted and they returned to their normal selves.

But I don't think knowledge of impermanence can be undone. My depression has lifted long ago, and I still feel that something needs to be solved in the way my perception works. This is commonly called "insight disease" in meditation circles.

So yeah, they are two different things, which are of course correlated.


For example: I dare you to do 1h of intense exercise a day for two weeks and see if you are still depressed afterwards. My guess is that the constant shitty mood will mostly have lifted by the 5th or 6th day. But your insight disease will not go away.
Derek2, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 8:39 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 8:39 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 203 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Hi, ivory,

That sounds like ordinary depression triggered by life-events.

The point about the meditation dark night is that one knows the states. I like Kenneth Folk's way of putting it: "You are unenlightened to the extent that you are embedded in your experience." The disembedding happens by systematically knowing each experience, one by one, as they arise.
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Daniel Johnson, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 10:47 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 10:47 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
I having spent many thousands of hours meditating through depressed mental states, and having been recently trained in the Mahasi tradition, I haven't found the distinction to be useful, personally.

An unwholesome mental state is an unwholesome mental state. That's all you need to know to keep practicing. If it's depression... then it's depression. Label it, observe it, know it's nature. There are many flavors of depressed mental states: intense, weak, painful, pleasant, heavy, light, etc. Know them all. Know their arising. Know their passing.

The other thing to keep in mind (which I think Daniel has mentioned many times, but is easy to miss)... your understanding of your path will become much more clear in retrospect, once you have navigated through this territory. Trying to diagnose from within the territory is very difficult, and for me, often a waste of time.

One note, however, if you become dysfunctional in your life or suicidal, then I'd say seek professional help for treatment of depression - ideally with a professional who has an integrative approach to psychology-spirituality.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 7:23 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 7:22 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
But I don't think knowledge of impermanence can be undone.

When you say impermanence what do you mean? That relationships, jobs, hobbies don't last? Or are you referring to sensory experience like touch, sound, appearance?

Bruno Loff:
For example: I dare you to do 1h of intense exercise a day for two weeks and see if you are still depressed afterward.

I’m up to 4 days a week. But I’ll push it to six this week. I personally think this has more to do with social isolation than it does lethargy.

Daniel Johnson:
An unwholesome mental state is an unwholesome mental state. That's all you need to know to keep practicing. If it's depression... then it's depression. Label it, observe it, know it's nature

If I’m right, and there’s an element of depression related to social isolation I’m just going to make sure I get more social time.

Derek2:
The point about the meditation dark night is that one knows the states

When you say “know the states”, you mean fear, misery, disgust, re-observation, equanimity, etc?

Daniel Johnson:
The other thing to keep in mind (which I think Daniel has mentioned many times, but is easy to miss)... your understanding of your path will become much more clear in retrospect, once you have navigated through this territory. Trying to diagnose from within the territory is very difficult, and for me, often a waste of time.

I get that. Today I am totally clear so it’s easy to take a step back and look at this with clarity.

I'm quite certain there is a strong element of depression. But that does not rule out dark night.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 8:41 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 8:39 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Bruno Loff:
But your insight disease will not go away.

And insight disease is quantified by what? Fear of loss? Or the knowledge that nothing lasts?

If you're talking about what I think you're talking about, in Zen it's referred to as groundlessness. You ain't got a damn thing to stand on.
Derek2, modified 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 11:01 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/26/17 11:00 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 203 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
When you say “know the states”, you mean fear, misery, disgust, re-observation, equanimity, etc?

Right.

An ordinary person, when they're depressed, thinks along the lines of: "The world is a shitty place. This is awful." And that's it. There's no awareness of what is happening in the mind.

But a meditator, in addition to thinking these thoughts, knows that a miserable mind-state has arisen. It's the knowing the state of the mind that makes it dukkha-ñāṇa as opposed to just plain dukkha.
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Bruno Loff, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 4:20 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 4:20 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

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ivory:
Bruno Loff:
But your insight disease will not go away.

And insight disease is quantified by what? Fear of loss? Or the knowledge that nothing lasts?

If you're talking about what I think you're talking about, in Zen it's referred to as groundlessness. You ain't got a damn thing to stand on.

It's hard to say. For me it is a feeling that something is a bit off in my experience. Like an itch. Meditation is the only thing that helps. And after some perceptual shifts that happened on retreat, it became permanently fainter.

If I don't meditate for a few weeks, it will become very pronounced and unpleasant. It drives me to meditate regardless of what I think about it. It's like a deep restlessness which used to be unseen, but now that it is seen, must be dealt with somehow.

Ring a bell?
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Bruno Loff, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 4:27 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 4:27 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

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ivory:
Bruno Loff:
But I don't think knowledge of impermanence can be undone.

When you say impermanence what do you mean? That relationships, jobs, hobbies don't last? Or are you referring to sensory experience like touch, sound, appearance?


Both. It is the understanding that nothing lasts. Usually people understand this conceptually, but I'm referring to a deeper, visceral experience. If I pay attention to it, it feels that every moment is dying, that every little aspect of experience is passing away, and can't be held on.


Bruno Loff:
For example: I dare you to do 1h of intense exercise a day for two weeks and see if you are still depressed afterward.

I’m up to 4 days a week. But I’ll push it to six this week. I personally think this has more to do with social isolation than it does lethargy.

Hmm OK, well it would work for me.
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Daniel Johnson, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 10:17 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 10:17 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 401 Join Date: 12/16/09 Recent Posts
ivory:

Daniel Johnson:
An unwholesome mental state is an unwholesome mental state. That's all you need to know to keep practicing. If it's depression... then it's depression. Label it, observe it, know it's nature

If I’m right, and there’s an element of depression related to social isolation I’m just going to make sure I get more social time.

Well, first, I'm sorry you are feeling isolated and depressed. I'm sure you know that you'll have to make your own decisions about what's best for you, so my comments are mere suggestions. With that said, I think there is definitely more for you to explore here from a meditative perspective, if you choose to investigate it.

From a Dhamma perspective, even if it's social isolation, and even if social time gives it a temporary fix, all of these states and conditions are still subject to impermanence. If the impermanent nature of social happiness bothers you, then you've got "insight disease".
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:01 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:01 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
I think it's both insight disease and depression. I feel that anxious itch when I start to enjoy something because I know it may not last. And if I hang out with friends and exercise regularly my mood is very bright.

I'm going to make it a prioirty to get really clear on this this week so I know how to prioritize my time going forward.

Thanks for you help guys. I may have more questions through the week.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:35 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:35 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
One more thing. With insight disease do you feel like you don't know who you are? I'll be making art and I'll thinking I'm an artist. Then sometimes I'll go surf and I'll identifiy as a surfer. When I'm at the gym I identifiy as an uber masculine gym rat. Then when I'm not doing any of these things I get confused and don't know who I am.

This sometimes leads me to try and construct an identity. Then I feel like the whole identifcation structure begins to fall apart simply becuase nothing lasts. This can get very messy.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:59 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 12:59 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
One last thing I'll mention is that this week I wanted to make getting stream entry priority #1. In that process I pushed my friends aside so I could spend more time focusing on concentration. I think I got too attached to outcome and as a result sacrficied my mental health.

Right now exercise and friends are priority #1. Work is prioirity #2. Meditation is priority #3.

I wonder how you can have resolve for stream entry without getting attached to outcome. I have a tendency to obsess over goals which will going forward a bit challenging. I think that balance is going to even out some of my one-pointedness.
Jigme Sengye, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:03 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:03 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
ivory:
Derek2:
Daniel gave his criterion for differential diagnosis: "Dark Night follows A&P." So it would only be dark night if it was preceded by the arising and passing away stage.


The thing is, the A&P section of MCTB is the one that makes the least sense to me. I don't know what A&P is. What I think is dark night happened to me when I started contemplating loss. Then I lost my girl friend and shit hit the fan.

There were meditative descriptions of A&P in MCTB but they don't resonate with me. I was not a huge meditator. I was more of a philosopher who was just curious about every damn thing.


In the Arising and Passing Away, you start feeling vibratory physical sensations (in other words, sensations that feel they're arising and passing away so fast that they feel like vibrations, a lot of people characterise the feeling as energy) and meditation temporarily becomes easy and exhilarating. It doesn't last, but the vibrations last as long as you keep on meditating, but get toned down. Do you feel vibrations when you meditate? Have you ever?

If not, I suspect that your problem is depression.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:30 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:23 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Jigme Sengye:

In the Arising and Passing Away, you start feeling vibratory physical sensations (in other words, sensations that feel they're arising and passing away so fast that they feel like vibrations, a lot of people characterise the feeling as energy) and meditation temporarily becomes easy and exhilarating. It doesn't last, but the vibrations last as long as you keep on meditating, but get toned down. Do you feel vibrations when you meditate? Have you ever?

I wouldn't use the term energy or vibration but I get why some would call it that. Sensation is pixelated. In other words, the hand no longer seems like a "thing." What I used to refer to as "hand" is now seen as nothing more than color and pixelated sensation.
Jigme Sengye, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:41 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:41 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 188 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
ivory:
I wouldn't use the term energy or vibration but I get why some would call it that. Sensation is pixelated. In other words, the hand no longer seems like a "thing." What I used to refer to as "hand" is now seen as nothing more than color and pixelated sensation.

Do the pixels flicker?
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:50 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 3/27/17 1:50 PM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
Yes. It's a lot like the static you would see on a TV.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:42 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:39 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
I wanted to provide an update. I am 100% positive that there is an element of depression to whatever it is that I am experiencing. Being in social settings on a regular basis has alleviated a great deal of my symptoms. Previously, I lost interest in people and had an unconscious tendency to isolate. I have learned that we (or perhaps just me) have a deeply rooted need for social contact. I have decided to make time for social outings three times a week.

This still does not rule out dark night. I will continue to investigate the cause(s) of whatever darkness it is that I am experiencing. However, I do know one of the causes.

I still find myself experiencing anxiety over the fact that I can't have everything that I want because there's not enough time in the day. I have just about enough time for work, various health commitments, and relationship commitments. I don't have time for the creative pursuits that I'd like to engage in and this is very upsetting. I have no fucking idea how to deal with this. But I have a feeling that meditation is the only solution to this problem.

Anyways, I just signed up for a 9-day retreat and I'll be heading out on Friday April 7th. It's not as meditation-heavy as most retreats, we'll only be meditating three hours a day. However, I believe this will be sufficient to gain significant insight.
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:48 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:48 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
I came across this article titled Dabrowski’s Theory and Existential Depression in Gifted Children and Adults which seems to describe my experience to a tee.

This is one example:
When people undergo a great trauma or other unsettling event—they have lost a job or a loved one dies, for example—their understanding of themselves or of their place in the world often disintegrates, and they temporarily "fall apart," experiencing a type of depression referred to as existential depression.

Here's another:

Yalom (1980), who is perhaps the most widely read current Western writer on existential psychotherapy, describes four primary issues of existence (or "ultimate concerns")—death, freedom, isolation, and meaninglessness. Death is an inevitable occurrence. Freedom, in an existential sense, refers to the absence of external structure—that is, humans do not enter a world that is inherently structured. We must give the world a structure, which we ourselves create. Thus, we have social customs and traditions, education, religion, governments, laws, etc. Isolation recognizes that no matter how close we become to another person, we will never completely know that person and no one can fundamentally come to know us; a gap always remains, and we are therefore still alone. The fourth primary issue, meaninglessness, stems from the first three. If we must die, if in our freedom we have to arbitrarily construct our own world, and if each of us is ultimately alone, then what absolute meaning does life have?
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ivory, modified 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:56 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/3/17 10:52 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 199 Join Date: 9/11/14 Recent Posts
The point that I'm trying make in the last two posts is that it's very difficult to apply a label to what I've been experiencing. I see similarities in common depression, existential depression, and dark night.

To make things even more interesting my therapist thinks I'm bipolar.
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Bruno Loff, modified 5 Years ago at 4/4/17 3:24 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/4/17 3:24 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 1094 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Yes, I used to call my suffering "existential angst". 'It is like depression', I would explain to my friends and family, 'but there doesn't seem to be a concrete reason for it to be happening: no-one died, I didn't break up with anyone, etc'. If pressed for a reason, I would explain that it felt to me like everything was dying: each moment was passing away, *woosh* *woosh* *woosh*, here and gone immediately. I remember crying because my parents were getting old. I remember crying because my childhood was gone. I remember having the urge to cry after a meal with my friends that was particularly enjoyable (because it was now over; I didn't actually cry so as not to upset them). etc.

I tried one session with a psychiatrist when my dark night was heaviest, and described her my symptoms. That very session she prescribed me anti-psychotics. After reading about usual side-effects, I thought that was extremely reckless of her to recommend such a powerful drug with so little understanding of what I was going through, and I decided I wouldn't return.

I was never depressed that way after stream-entry, but ups and downs would still remain. Several years after stream-entry (and lots more meditation), the ups and downs have smoothed out to the point they have no intensity, and aren't bothersome. And fortunately, normal-life events still make me sad (e.g. the recent death of a friend). So I would say meditation did it for me.

Interestingly, my understanding of the fleeting nature of things didn't disappear. And it all still seems fairly pointless, given that anything that is put together will some day fall apart. It just seems that this doesn't affect my mood nearly as much as it did. And a common-sense perspective keeps me wanting to contribute in a positive way to my surroundings. Maybe it will all be gone one day, but people still need care and affection.
Derek2, modified 5 Years ago at 4/11/17 11:09 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 4/11/17 11:09 AM

RE: Depression or dark night

Posts: 203 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
ivory:
I wanted to provide an update. I am 100% positive that there is an element of depression to whatever it is that I am experiencing.

Best DhO thread I ever read on curing depression was Edd's "Depression disappeared forever" from 2014:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5567939