A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

Martin Mai, modified 15 Years ago at 6/1/08 2:50 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/1/08 2:50 AM

A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hi everybody.
Daniel wrote in his book that the dark night can be a huge issue for some people while others pass through it in no time. I would like to hear some experiences about how this unfolded for you. Could you always determine in which stage you where?
The first peak-experience is the A&P event. How much of the mentioned characteristics of this incident like energetic phenomena, lucidity, etc. happened to you?
I find these topics really interesting and hope to read some nice takes on them.
Have a nice day, Martin
Nathan I S, modified 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 5:54 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 5:54 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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I'd also be interested in hearing what others have to say on this as well, since it interests me. The "Chronic Dark Night Yogi" phenomenon seems more prevalent than I think anyone realizes (just browse the internet fringes a while), and a lot of folks have just ended up living in the dukkha nanas without realizing it. It's not nearly as impractical to speculate either, considering how damaging and alienating these things can be to our everyday lives.

In my own experience, I think I've been through the A&P at least three times--either in dreams or waking visions--but never during meditation practice. So it had a much different nature than "I was sitting and really tense and then flew into the 6th jhana", more like, "I was doing a lot of ritual work and standing on my rooftop on day minding my own business drinking a beer, felt like something was about to happen and then I saw these lights and faces"

I tend to experience a lot of physical phenomena sitting, or at least, to have to work through a wall of them before things settle down, which suggest to me I am not that far along, although I do run into very difficult mental states sometimes.

It can feel like being stuck in a goddamn mental tape loop of deep frustration with just about everything... there seems to be a response, "if I can just change this and that and this and that" etc. that "I" will be okay. Usually if I tune out from this a little bit I can notice that this is a mind-state, and lot of fabrications, overlying a broad spacious feeling. This is about the limit of my understanding. This also arises more often when I am not formally meditating. So again, I don't like to say, "i am in nana 3.1.2" or whatever since frankly I could just be some dude with a bad attitude going through difficult Three Characteristics manifestations.

Again, I'd like to hear from others and practice advice.
Nathan I S, modified 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 5:56 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 5:56 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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The danger being, of course, that you will actually implement these changes, which really do feel like tape loops. It's like the mind has a 16-song playlist of grievances or something, and that itself can be further cause for frustration.
Martin Mai, modified 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 10:53 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/11/08 10:53 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Hi nathan28,
I really enjoyed reading through your post. I find it interesting that these things like A&P etc. happen to you when you´re not formally meditating. I just got home, entered my room and wanted to cry without having anything special happen to me. This was interesting because I thought "not that again!" and now I read your "16-song playlist of grievances" (great!) -take on it. I usually don´t like the idea of being in the dark night because I cannot say that I have passed the A&P for sure. Can you describe your A&Ps in a bit more detail? Were these so outstanding peak-experiences that you can be sure?
I´d love to hear more,
best wishes, Martin
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:34 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:34 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Martin, here's a longish post that might be interesting...

I’m working off the hypothesis that I’m somewhere in the Dark Night, but until I move through it – and move through it a few times – I can’t claim my thinking is exactly correct. But I hoping that I hope my comments will help in some way with the practical matter of navigating the Dark Night, learning its lessons and moving on. I haven’t made enough progress to really know where I’m at, but I think my experiences might be helpful to other people.

I’m pretty sure I got a taste of the AP early in my life. As maybe a young teenager or earlier, I was listening to my breathing while taking a long bath. I “watched” and listened to my breathing long enough that the experience became timeless and I also felt like I was exploring some new domain of experience. Then my inner thoughts sped up a thousand times and I had to “talk” my way out of the storm of thoughts. It left me thinking there was more to life, but it was dangerous to explore it. Even though I was a happy kid, deep inside it gave me a primitive and dark mystic outlook about “ultimate” matters.

I don’t think I noticed a clear AP event in my twenties, but it sure seems like it contained a lot of the Dark Night. I’m frankly not quite sure how to tease out the difference between unproductive thinking due to psychology versus the influence of the Dark Night, but I will say that a lot of the nonsense I put myself through in my twenties tracks pretty much exactly with Daniel’s writing. “The Dark Night can really f### up your life.” I was lashing out at the things that I thought were causing me suffering, instead of seeing that my observations were both true yet also didn’t necessitate the extremity of my response. It all coincided with my getting deep into advaita vendanta readings, without having a teacher.
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:35 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:35 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Sadly enough, I was living in a town with many dharma resources, but I didn’t seek them out. I wasn’t willing to experiment with trusting others and pragmatically evaluating their guidance. My loss.

After that period I eventually returned to meditating and did one non-buddhist retreat where I probably hit the AP again. The retreat leader was less than ideal, which was hard to work past, but I stumbled on “noting” in a round about way and didn’t let up for ten days. This time instead of a flood of thoughts, there was a visual/spatial sense of reality strobe-ing in and out.

Years later and after reading Daniel’s book, I returned to more regular mediation practice and probably went through a much “cleaner” AP-ish event. There wasn’t much build up, it just hit me during a period of very regular and extended meditation off-retreat. Noting sped up, my thoughts raced and eventually became like particles of thought/sensing/awareness... but this time I didn’t take it to mean the world was ending, although I was really surprised and confused by it.

An AP event can give you faith that there is some evidence of this path or it might throw you way off-path. It seems to me that a lot of people stumble into the AP event itself without much warning or control.
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:37 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:37 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
It also seems like we have much more control than we realize in the Dark Night. In hindsight, I can see how I added a lot of additional self-protective interpretations during hard times in the past – with flavors of “the holy basket case” or the “dangerous mystic” or the “cult leader” or “crazy wisdom genius” – and these were just ways of making experiences bigger and grander so I wouldn’t have to look at them closely. It’s a house of cards that eventually falls down, forcing you to learn the basic truth of the original experience (of Dissolution/Fear/Misery/Disgust/Desire for Deliverance). The Dark Night seems to have been a purification, but I probably paid a needlessly high price.

In the midst of it didn’t feel stage-like at all. After living through it, I can see my hang-ups and I can correlate it with the themes of the Dark Night, but they still don’t quite seem stage like off-retreat. (I have limited experience with retreats, so I can’t speak with much authority about the stages while on retreat. I’m working on the logistics of making time for a longer retreat this fall.) If anything, these days it feels like I’m hanging out one of these stages and it feels like the dominant mood of the time, with wanderings into the stages surrounding that center of gravity. But they really can “hit” out of the blue sometimes. It’s ideal when they hit during sitting/noting practice because then you can really see how they come, are a particular way, then change into something else or drop away just as quick as it came. Makes you really doubt the eternal validity of that emotion’s energy, despite it’s intensity.

Anyway, I found Daniel’s cautious statement that we might have to second guess ourselves and our sources of suffering to be right on mark. The Dark Night can teach you the consequences of going too far with your interpretation of experiences. Don’t let “I feel awful” to become “I am awful” or “the world is awful”.
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:37 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/13/08 11:37 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
Don’t let “I am experiencing Fear/Misery/Disgust” to become I am a person who is defined by Fear/Misery/Worthlessness” or “The world’s true nature is Fearful/Miserable/Worthless.” Experiences are temporary, and yet you can’t deny the truth of those interpretations. There always seems to be some element of truth. The point is not to overextend your reaction into some form of self-punishing behavior. Keep paying attention to each fresh experience and use all the resources you have to keep on track in life or while noting.

Paying attention seems to show that the initial seeing is always somewhat contrived. We’re always over-interpreting reality to mean more than it means, and we suffer because of that. So there is no sense in indulging with even further interpretations and extrapolations of that original snapshot of reality and adding even more suffering to it. That seems to be the big lesson of the Dark Night.

Eventually there is a sense that “the world can fall to pieces, but that doesn’t mean I need to”.

Again, I can’t claim extensive understanding. I suspect that I might be overly equating psychology with the dynamics of the Dark Night, but I thought these observations might help some folks in some way or another.
Martin Mai, modified 15 Years ago at 6/14/08 3:22 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/14/08 3:22 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Thank you, betawave,
your observations gefinitely help! I´m really glad that you took the time to write this much since there is not much going on lately on this site. You mentioned something that is something I have to figure out, too. I can definitely encounter dark night-stuff in my recent experience but I cannot say with any significance if it´s really insight-caused or psychological blowup because I´m not sure about the A&P. There have been experiences on the cussion that could be called A&P but I´m not sure. They have not been as overwhelming as Daniel describes it.
So, if they really were A&Ps, it´s interesting to see how experiences of such an important attainment can vary from person to person.
Your advice of not letting the dark night insights overwhelming tha psychological realms cannot be addressed to often. I read Daniel´s book many times so I should know about this but it still is something really difficult to do as I had to realize painfully.
Another aspect I ran into lately is that my time sitting at a row has decreased but at the same time my drive to progress increased. It feels like to an artist when he´s drawing something and finds the results horrible he might not be able to stop until he is satisfied .
Martin Mai, modified 15 Years ago at 6/14/08 3:25 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/14/08 3:25 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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This is a bit ungrounding because it affects the mood of the day when you don´t have the time to practice as you wish. Strangely enough one is aware of this dilemma but unable to resolve it.
Anyway, I really liked the post! Thank you
Wet Paint, modified 15 Years ago at 6/16/08 11:33 AM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/16/08 11:33 AM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

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Author: Abe_Dunkelheit

I am not sure if this is dark night stuff, but I had very powerful experiences of fear (and lust) in my meditation; in fact there is almost always a subtle fear as soon as my mind stills, and I become aware that "I exist" or that "existence exists". It's as if as soon as content disappears from the mind, a hightened alertness results, and emotions (fear) arise to fill the empty space. To give an analogy: it is like in a dark night, when everything is silent, and suddenly there is a noice; from a moment to the next one becomes fully awake, alert and frightened (the noise being associated with possible danger). I also noticed that to fight the fear with blissful (sexual) feelings is a trap; what I do now is I fully focus an the fear (unpleasant feeling), usually it is located somehwere around the chest; I noticed it is quite important / beneficial to relax any possible muscle tension and keep the breathing smooth; the fear may not go away but at the same time it would also not be overwhelming anymore. I think, with regard to fear I have developed a "bring it on" - attitude in my meditation! There is just no escape. Early Jewish, Christian and Islamic contemplatives [Sufis] used to say: "Always keep death before your eyes."
beta wave, modified 15 Years ago at 6/16/08 11:49 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/16/08 11:49 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

Posts: 5 Join Date: 8/30/09 Recent Posts
You're welcome Martin!

I've thought a lot about how I would react differently if I knew I was post-AP versus just moving through something psychologically... and I think the approach wouldn't change. I would still need to pay attention, still need to have a bias toward non-reactivity, and still make time to practice... So in this case, I'm not sure if a diagnosis is all that helpful. I suspect it's just something that needs to be lived through.

It would be interesting to hear if Teachers have any particular approach for dealing with a student moving through this phase. I suspect it is a "Damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. A dark night student is liable to mis-interpret teachings and the consequences could be bad. Alternatively, if a student isn't guided, the consequences could be bad. Plus, there is a blind arrogance to the student's Dark Night which is really off-putting! I can imagine a teacher not wanting to get too involved.
Martin Mai, modified 15 Years ago at 6/26/08 10:32 PM
Created 15 Years ago at 6/26/08 10:32 PM

RE: A&P,Dark Night- big deal?

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
For me this problem whether some experience is a&p, dark night, etc or just psychological blowup is a difficult one for me and so, althought I might have crossed the a&p and hints to being in the dark night I lack certainty about it. Because of that I prefer to assume that I did not yet pass the a&p in order to keep me on track with my concentration and working diligently. This does not work too well all the time so it might be a dark night symptom but still I prefer being really critical about my level of skill.
I too would appreciate some prfessional posts of teachers concerning this topic.
Have a good day!