Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night

Toggle
Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 12:40 PM
By way of introduction, I am posting this here. It's long, but I'm guessing you if you folks are anything like me, you're used to this kind of thing by now.

I made some posts yesterday on /r/streamentry asking if anyone knew about an experience I had about 9 years ago. I’m re-posting those here, covering what I’m now learning was my ‘A&P event’, my subsequent long dark night, remedial measures I took, and finally where I am at now. I am very grateful a kind soul (who I mistook for Daniel) posted about the A&P and linked to Daniel’s essay on it. And I’m very grateful to Daniel for putting this information and site together. Thank you, both. I always knew I wasn’t alone. 

https://www.reddit.com/r/streamentry/comments/8paiud/questions_and_general_discussion_weekly_thread/

POST 1:

What did I experience? 

Many years ago I learned mantra meditation from a popular organization that teaches it. You probably know it. Anyway, I sat twice daily repeating the mantra and would sometimes feel a subtle bliss. It was nice, and peaceful.

Then one night as I repeated the mantra, I became calmer than usual and noticed my breath had nearly halted but I continued with the mantra anyway. Suddenly, my head filled with light. I mean the brightest light you can even imagine. And waves of intense bliss filled me. Like an orgasm times a billion, life changing level of bliss. Then I swear I saw what looked like outer space and I was zooming past what were clearly planets. I’m not sure if I was heading heading towards the source of the light, but that’s what it appeared to me at the time.

At this point I couldn’t hold concentration. (The event lasted no more than 20 seconds.) I jumped out of my chair and was convinced I had experienced “God” though I was previously an atheist. I was filled with a feeling that I needed to become a vegetarian, which I know sounds odd. And for the next 3 months was filled with an energy I had never had, could exercise longer and harder, could study longer, was in general a more captivating person to be around (I think).

I tried reaching that state again, and never could. Eventually I gave up, and eventually stopped meditating. Now looking back, I realize my desire to achieve that state was likely one of the main roadblocks towards re-experiencing it. But please understand the pleasure was so intense, it is hard not to crave it.

So. I’ve read a little about the Buddhist jhanas. And I’ve read about similar white light experiences in more Hindu meditations. Heck I’ve even heard of Christian saints experiencing similar things. But I am not an expert. Just a regular guy who stumbled into a doorway of bliss and what seemed to my brain like “God” one night many years ago.

I just want to know: what the hell happened? Anyone have any ideas?

Here someone linked to the A&P essay.

POST 2:

Just read. Having trouble posting on mobile right now. I identify very strongly with what you’ve written. Including the energy, sex drive, and darkness that follows the event. I had many years of unexplained illness and cognition issues after the event. Some I’m still working through. One thing I have learned is the yamas and niyamas seem vital as a way of working through the dark night.

Here I was asked some questions about my experience and I reply:

POST 3:

Firstly, thanks for responding and writing that essay. I assume you’re Daniel? I haven’t had time yet today to read through the entire site. But I’m blown away by what I’ve read so far. I’m been in and out of sanghas and spiritual communities for years and no one had any idea what I was talking about. Definitely reading your book this week!

(Other details rang true as well. Notably, I quit smoking immediately after the event. Although I’m told the research suggests all mystical experience tends to cause this outcome of addiction-breaking. And anecdotally, take Bill W and the LSD experiments on alcoholics, for instance.) 

I am just beginning to practice again, sans mantra (particularly those with eee sounds, which send the energy up up up) or visualization or anything that brings energy directly to the head.

That means: Qi Gong, tai chi, Classical Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, hara /dan tian related meditations and breathing, and the yamas and niyamas. I am attempting to lay a strong foundation before going back to bliss-land.

What I mean by this is: I am convinced the event was related to improper foundational practices and/or imbalanced wind energy in the body. Meditational related illness is a well known phenomena. And while the medical tantras and materia medicas don’t go into detail about the symptoms, the diagnostics are very clear. It is a wind condition, empirically diagnosed with pulse. In Tibetan Buddhism / Tibetan Medicine this would be called LOONG or in Ayurveda Medicine VATA or in TCM just WIND. Channels get going in the wrong way due to genetics / intensive or improper practice / stress / improper diet and all this energy gets shot up to the head/crown before a solid foundation is laid. So it has the Wiley Coyote effect: what comes up, must come down. The fact that most of us go through a lustful period immediately after would support this concept. We hadn’t yet closed off the lower energy centers, which are mostly brought under control with the Yamas and Niyamas. Righteous and healthy living and celibacy builds our foundation.

The event was about 9 years ago. It destabilized me completely for about 3 months. I had been sick with Lyme and Mono and Crohn’s disease (flaring) when it happened. The fun and manic, siddhi-like energy wore off after 3 months. Then: the dark times. I couldn’t even drive a car. An energy felt “stuck” at the crown of my head and would not come down. Sympathetic nervous activation 24/7 for the next 5 years. Immune system went to shit. In and out of hospital for Crohn’s and chronic infections. I was a wreck. They eventually found two inches of calcification at the crown of my head, later developing into a tumor. But they couldn’t determine if it was causing my symptoms. I call it my Ushnisha haha.

The next 5 years were rough. Mentally and physically. I eventually became reclusive and struggled to find any help for my mysterious medical symptoms. Spent a fortune traveling the country seeing every doctor I could find, and when that didn’t pan out, I began exploring eastern medicine.

When I found a truly competent Classical Chinese Medicine practitioner, a Taoist who understood the mechanics of meditational related illnesses, was when I slowly began to heal. It’s been about 3 years and I’m really getting back to normal living now. I am 75% healed. I can drive again, I can read non-fiction, I can do mild exercise, hang out with friends, work part time. I still have a lot of healing to do, but I am starting to meditate again in a more balanced way than before.

Brahmacharya (celibacy) is the most potent tool of healing I have found, for what it’s worth and anyone reading this in the future.

Anyway, why would I risk it again? Because now I know what’s out there. I’ve seen behind the curtain, and there’s no going back from that. Whether it’s Brahman or Heaven or Enlightment, I know it’s HOME. And I want to go back for good.

Later that night I added two more posts:

POST 4:

Just wanted to add a post for any future internet seekers suffering from some form of meditational related illness: 

I shouldn’t have made a blanket statement that wind imbalances are the only cause of meditational illnesses. MY imbalance was wind related. (My understanding is that at various stages in the kundalini experience, fire, or heat, is a major issue as well. And there could be pre-existing pathological, or dampness, related issues as well.) My point in posting the above is that Classical Chinese Medicine from a competent practitioner over several years of weekly treatment in conjunction with Chinese herbal medicine helped resolve a number of my medical and mental issues which were either exacerbated or caused by improperly meditating for extended periods of time, and that it might be worthwhile to explore this modality if you are in a similar difficult spot.

POST 5:
Fuck I’m reading your book now and I’m really Textbook aren’t i? Even the celibacy thing. I’m going through the desire for deliverance now... it is spooky how textbook I am.

Where I’m at now: I’m just starting the book, mastering the core teachings. One thing that keeps occurring to me while reading it is at once a feeling of relief (He, Daniel, and others, know the way out! I can follow their advice and escape this finally!) but also a sense of FEAR and DREAD (my reality is unreal, this is all an illusion, Mara and Maya feel symbollicaly demonic, like I’m being attacked in some subtle way because there is a part of ME that doesn’t want to escape, obviously, the part of me that wants to succumb to sensual pleasures and the fact that I know this means I need to suffer EVEN MORE to fully cut those ties. These are downright scary and spooky thoughts. But maybe the spookiest thought of all: that this path is so well known by Daniel and others that it's like I'm just carrying out the same Hero's Journey as everyone else. I don't care that it doens't make me unique or whatever, but there's this: it can make me feel like an actor in someone else's play. Call it God or Destiny or just Evolution. There is a deeply unsettling unease to even accepting this path, let alone traversing it, which feels paradoxical given the ultimate goal.)

All the best to all of you. Any and all thoughts are most welcome.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 1:16 PM as a reply to W.
I suggest you take up kick boxing.  Stop worrying about the nonsense bubbling in your mind and try to knock the shit out of some motherfuckers.  That will cure what ails ya.   The mind runs around in circles and chases its tale and you do not get happier by caring about its antics.

IMHO:  Folks here will give you much better advice than this and have more experience, so please ignore me. 


RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 1:33 PM as a reply to seth tapper.
seth tapper:
I suggest you take up kick boxing.  Stop worrying about the nonsense bubbling in your mind and try to knock the shit out of some motherfuckers.  That will cure what ails ya.   The mind runs around in circles and chases its tale and you do not get happier by caring about its antics.

IMHO:  Folks here will give you much better advice than this and have more experience, so please ignore me. 

Thank you. I think the aforementioned remedial measure I've taken, including qi-gong and tai chi, suit me nicely and have been very grounding and strengthing to my mind and body. I'm not really looking for more physical remedies at this point, as my experience has shown me what helps and doesn't in my own case, and as I said, I've already made significant and steady progress. 

I know from experience, for instance, that aggressive and physically draining exercise such as kickboxing is too stimulating for me. Though obviously one man's poison is anothers medicine, and having a framework of eastern medicine to understand why some constitutions would benefit from, say, kickboxing or even marathon-running and why others would need more relaxing and strengthening exercise like tai chi or yoga is what I am stressing here.

I am interested to join this community, learn from everyone here (especially Daniel, of course) and continue my path, and hopefully help others who have had similar A&P related illnesses find effective treatment. 

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/14/18 7:13 AM as a reply to W.
Hi W, you went through the crown. They were chakra's. Can you remember the colors? You may not have the original image, because you would have needed to catch the process of the stored image from your stock at the moment it was being slipped in. In which case you would have two, and know their not planets.  Sounds like you didn't let go of the mind-matter experience . The fact you could have a perception of time, didn't get or notice a ceasation before the outer space experience, didn't stop and stay out there, and a large amount of stuff that was not noticed, fits the description. You didn't let go, or weren't equanimous so you didn't break free. Still you got a glimpse, and its a good reason to put some time in, because you know there's possibly way more or less depending how one thinks. If it doesn't resonate, disregard my comments.
To stop practice for all this time. Don't make any more mistakes like that. I don't agree with your diagnosis of the energetics, but thats not important. Practice also do qi gong and stay away from healers especially energy healers. You have an up down imbalance. No down.
   (Edit. Changed mind-body to mind-matter).                                                                                                                      Best wishes.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 2:47 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
Bigbird:
Hi W, you went through the crown. They were chakra's. Can you remember the colors? You may not have the original image, because you would have needed to catch the process of the stored image from your stock at the moment it was being sliped in. In which case you would have two, and know their not planets.  Sounds like you didn't let go of the mind-body experience enough. The fact you could have a perception of time, didn't get or notice a ceasation before the outer space experience, didn't stop and stay out there, and a large amount of stuff that was not noticed, fits the description. You didn't let go, or weren't equanimous so you didn't break free. Still you got a glimpse, and its a good reason to put some time in, because you know there's possibly way more or less depending how one thinks. If it doesn't resonate, disregard my comments.
To stop practice for all this time. Don't make any more mistakes like that. I don't agree with your diagnosis of the energetics, but thats not important. Practice also do qi gong and stay away from healers especially energy healers. You have an up down imbalance. No down.
                                                                                                                         Best wishes.
I have a little troube understanding your writing, but I appreciate your thoughts. I assumed I had gone through the crown, as that's where the sensation went, but I had never considered the orbs I saw were chakras. That's an interesting idea!

Could you elaborate on: "You have an up down imbalance. No down."

Thanks.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 3:54 PM as a reply to W.
This sounds very similar to my experience years ago (big A&P with bliss etc, followed by very long DN). What helped was focusing on sensory experience and dropping the drama regarding "what was that?!". Trying to replicate the experience and chasing after it is exactly what causes the DN. Even if you do somehow manage to experience that again, if you cling to it you'll just find yourself in DN again afterwards.

Instead just focus on the characteristics of your sensory experience from moment to moment. Focus on the process of sensory experience versus the content of it. At a fundamental level your experience of drinking a cup of coffee isn't any different from some mystical state. The experience of bliss isn't so different from the feeling of cold on a winter day. You don't require that mystical state to awaken, everything you need is right in front of you, right now. Observe your sensory experience in as much detail as you can muster, as quickly as you can from moment to moment. It doesn't matter whether you choose the breath, sound, mantras, kasinas, just pick one and stick with it until you begin to notice the characteristics of that object. As your concentration increases it will be like your microscope lenses are upgrading themselves and you'll be able to see more clearly and quickly. Just keep observing closely and do your best to not fall into the trap of clinging to or pushing away whatever state occurs during practise (or off cushion). 

MCTB is great, reading The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa might also be a good step. Hope this helps.   emoticon

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 3:52 PM as a reply to Lars.
Lars:
This sounds very similar to my experience years ago (big A&P with bliss etc, followed by very long DN). What helped was focusing on sensory experience and dropping the drama regarding "what was that?!". Trying to replicate the experience and chasing after it is exactly what causes the DN. Even if you do somehow manage to experience that again, if you cling to it you'll just find yourself in DN again afterwards.

Instead just focus on the characteristics of your sensory experience from moment to moment. Focus on the process of sensory experience versus the content of it. At a fundamental level your experience of drinking a cup of coffee isn't any different from some mystical blissful state. The experience of bliss isn't so different from the feeling of cold on a winter day. You don't require that mystical state to awaken, everything you need is right in front of you, right now. Observe your sensory experience in as much detail as you can muster, as quickly as you can from moment to moment. It doesn't matter whether you choose the breath, sound, mantras, kasinas, just pick one and stick with it until you begin to notice the characteristics of that object. As your concentration increases it will be like your microscope lenses are upgrading themselves and you'll be able to see more clearly and quickly. Just keep observing closely and do your best to not fall into the trap of clinging to or pushing away whatever state occurs during practise (or off cushion). 

MCTB is great, reading The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa might also be a good step. Hope this helps.   emoticon
This is wonderful advice. Thank you. emoticon

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 7:34 PM as a reply to W.
The suggestion of chakra's puts you just above the head. Planets and space travel thats a big jump, but its what the mind will most likely project. Thats what mine did, but it didn't overlay what the facility ( facility is the term i give to whats makes it possible to experience anything out there)  experienced so it ended as two experiences, one was a past experience and one was a very specific image that looked similar to planets and space but also didn't. I got on with practice, googled it years later. Second or third shot Bingo. Chakras above the head. Of course if you can settle for planets and space. Do it, then drop it. Its rubbish level stuff, but of course wondering about what it was is common. Just don't get distracted.
The downward flow  is important, its so that it can flow out of the head and down the front and out the feet amongst other things. Its well documented, look it up, and of course meditation practice. Thats important. I think your saying your focusing on bringing energy directly to the head. Then what? 
                                                                               Best wishes.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/13/18 8:03 PM as a reply to Bigbird.
Bigbird:
The suggestion of chakra's puts you just above the head. Planets and space travel thats a big jump, but its what the mind will most likely project. Thats what mine did, but it didn't overlay what the facility ( facility is the term i give to whats makes it possible to experience anything out there)  experienced so it ended as two experiences, one was a past experience and one was a very specific image that looked similar to planets and space but also didn't. I got on with practice, googled it years later. Second or third shot Bingo. Chakras above the head. Of course if you can settle for planets and space. Do it, then drop it. Its rubbish level stuff, but of course wondering about what it was is common. Just don't get distracted.
The downward flow  is important, its so that it can flow out of the head and down the front and out the feet amongst other things. Its well documented, look it up, and of course meditation practice. Thats important. I think your saying your focusing on bringing energy directly to the head. Then what? 
                                                                               Best wishes.

Yeah, that's not what I'm saying at all. If anything, I'm intentionally NOT bringing energy to the head. Thank you for your thoughts, though.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/14/18 8:18 AM as a reply to W.

I am just beginning to practice again, sans mantra (particularly those with eee sounds, which send the energy up up up) or visualization or anything that brings energy directly to the head.

That means: Qi Gong, tai chi, Classical Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, hara /dan tian related meditations and breathing, and the yamas and niyamas. I am attempting to lay a strong foundation before going back to bliss-land.


Yes, your post did point to not building up energy in the head. My comment was based on
one sentence in your post that didn't fit, so i was checking just to be sure. I am obviously not seeing it correctly or its missing something. Its saying bringing energy to the head, so i mentioned it. Is there a word missing in that sentence, or directly to the head has a different interpretation? I do Sattipathana, so may not read your terminology correctly. I did have alot of energetic problems. Especially at first. It was only working with it, that made the difference in the end. The inner winds were of great value and the key to it. Healthy living etc, yes. Exercise, particularly the 60 - 90 minute bike rides 5-6 days P/W plus other forms of exercise, but the bike for grounding attention into the lower body, burning of energy, the breeze pulling attention onto to surface, before evening set the scene for the winds that night. If it didn't flow and started to overload, i had to wait or back off a bit. That happens.


RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/14/18 8:11 AM as a reply to Bigbird.
Bigbird:

I am just beginning to practice again, sans mantra (particularly those with eee sounds, which send the energy up up up) or visualization or anything that brings energy directly to the head.

That means: Qi Gong, tai chi, Classical Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, hara /dan tian related meditations and breathing, and the yamas and niyamas. I am attempting to lay a strong foundation before going back to bliss-land.


Yes, your post did point to not building up energy in the head. My comment was based on
one sentence in your post that didn't fit, so i was checking just to be sure. I am obviously not seeing it correctly or its missing something. Its saying bringing energy to the head, so i mentioned it. Is there a word missing in that sentence, or directly to the head has a different interpretation? I do Sattipathana, so may not read your terminology correctly. I did have alot of energetic problems. Especially at first. It was only working with it, that made the difference in the end. The inner winds were of great value and the key to it. Healthy living etc, yes. Exercise, particularly the 60 - 90 minute bike rides 5-6 days P/W plus other forms of exercise, but the bike for grounding attention into the lower body, burning of energy, the breeze pulling attention onto to surface, before evening set the scene for the winds that night. If it didn't flow and started to overload, i had to wait or back off a bit. That happens.


I think I see the source of misundertaning here. The word 'sans' means 'without'. I am saying I am practicing WITHOUT mantra or visualization or anything that brings energy into the head.

I also no longer have any energentic issues related to my head or crown. The remedial measures I discussed resolved those symptoms years ago.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 2:43 AM as a reply to W.
W, reading your story made me laugh, in a compassionate empathic way of course ;-) I went through something very similar, and when you said reading MCTB made you realise you were ‘textbook,’ I recalled thinking exactly the same. Mine was a big mind-body explosion on Day 6 of a Goenka retreat. Massive, life-changing, like you say. Loads of renunciation, giving up everything without even realising I was doing it. And all the energy in the months afterwards, I felt like I could do (& be) anything. But there’s nothing funny about the comedown and the DN.

I’ve been working on some intensive Mahasi retreats since then, which can be mentally tough at times, but getting well up that path has helped relieve a lot of the DN symptoms by revealing what it’s all ultimately made of (or not made of). And then between those retreats, some strong Samatha practice has alleviated the darkest stuff, sometimes bringing on lots of calm, peace, even joy and happiness, and I mean in daily life, not just on the cushion. There’s a big diff between Vipassana mind and Samatha mind - the former can involve a lot of dark thinking (hopelessness, alienation, self-doubt, etc) while the opposite happens in the latter. So now the way I see it is, Samatha is like bathing and resting the wounds, and Vipassana is going into battle to face the reality of sensate experience until someday that’ll result in a breakthrough.

Not sure if my input is helpful, but this is what I’ve learned in the past few years while on a journey that seems very similar to yours. If it’s any consolation, at least we’re on the way now...

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 11:32 AM as a reply to Peter S.
Peter S:
W, reading your story made me laugh, in a compassionate empathic way of course ;-) I went through something very similar, and when you said reading MCTB made you realise you were ‘textbook,’ I recalled thinking exactly the same. Mine was a big mind-body explosion on Day 6 of a Goenka retreat. Massive, life-changing, like you say. Loads of renunciation, giving up everything without even realising I was doing it. And all the energy in the months afterwards, I felt like I could do (& be) anything. But there’s nothing funny about the comedown and the DN.

I’ve been working on some intensive Mahasi retreats since then, which can be mentally tough at times, but getting well up that path has helped relieve a lot of the DN symptoms by revealing what it’s all ultimately made of (or not made of). And then between those retreats, some strong Samatha practice has alleviated the darkest stuff, sometimes bringing on lots of calm, peace, even joy and happiness, and I mean in daily life, not just on the cushion. There’s a big diff between Vipassana mind and Samatha mind - the former can involve a lot of dark thinking (hopelessness, alienation, self-doubt, etc) while the opposite happens in the latter. So now the way I see it is, Samatha is like bathing and resting the wounds, and Vipassana is going into battle to face the reality of sensate experience until someday that’ll result in a breakthrough.

Not sure if my input is helpful, but this is what I’ve learned in the past few years while on a journey that seems very similar to yours. If it’s any consolation, at least we’re on the way now...
Thank you, Peter. Your post as well as continuing to research all the varied opinions on the A&P and then DN symptoms makes it pretty clear that more Samatha is a solution. My worry is this: my A&P and subsequent symptoms were started from doing samatha meditation. There was a high degree of piti involved before the energy shot through my head. My concern is that even diligent samatha might be dangerous for me, might lead to re-experiencing the A&P. Looking into stories about people doing TMI (supposedly in that system DN is avoided to some degree) many people are suffering from excess piti symptoms. Feels like with vipassana I will probably suffer through more DN and with samatha I will probably suffer more energetic imbalance. It's frustrating and exhausting trying to decide where to go from here.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 12:34 PM as a reply to W.
Hi W,

Yeah, your story does sound very much like what so many of us here have gone through, but have no fear about it being some kind of canned Hero's Journey like you'll be riding the same Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean ride everyone else has been on. The diversity of experience is simply astonishing and the bigger problem is finding a common language to even begin talking about it.

Also, totally normal to feel overwhelmed and confused as to where to start what with so many options and concerns about impairing your day-to-day functioning with more weird experiences. I went through a period of intense piti and hallucinatory phenomena and it was tough at times. Learning that others went through a similar thing (like it's some sort of spiritual puberty) was very reassuring and helped alleviate my concerns that I was going Seriously Crazy. Crazy is like Tabasco sauce, a little bit spices things up but we don't want to overdo it. emoticon

It did seem to me that leaning too far in the samatha direction sometimes made the intense piti stuff worse. But then, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes it seemed to be exactly what I needed. I would recommend simply learning the fundamentals of both samatha and vipassana and gently experimenting with them both to see what the effects are rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is "best." It is ideal to be skilled at both anyway, and you'll likely get far more out of a personal exploration than trying to make sense of other people's opinions. 

Someone mentioned Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated: definitely a great read and covers more of a samatha-heavy practice. Also, lots of great tips for getting started with a solid daily habit which IMO is by far the most important thing in the beginning. Serious meditation is basically a lifestyle choice and you're unlikely to get far without a serious commitment.

Best wishes!

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 12:58 PM as a reply to W.
W:
My worry is this: my A&P and subsequent symptoms were started from doing samatha meditation. There was a high degree of piti involved before the energy shot through my head.
Please note: one should be careful with using a mantra as focus for shamatha, as it can lead to some very spaced out altered states of consciousness. Mantras were traditionally viewed as powerful occult instruments meant to cause certain physical, emotional, energetic and mental effects when used in sadhana, in devotional practice, in rites of sorcery - they have never been commonly used as a tool to develop the faculty of concentration.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 2:26 PM as a reply to Andromeda.
Andromeda:
Hi W,

Yeah, your story does sound very much like what so many of us here have gone through, but have no fear about it being some kind of canned Hero's Journey like you'll be riding the same Disney World Pirates of the Caribbean ride everyone else has been on. The diversity of experience is simply astonishing and the bigger problem is finding a common language to even begin talking about it.

Also, totally normal to feel overwhelmed and confused as to where to start what with so many options and concerns about impairing your day-to-day functioning with more weird experiences. I went through a period of intense piti and hallucinatory phenomena and it was tough at times. Learning that others went through a similar thing (like it's some sort of spiritual puberty) was very reassuring and helped alleviate my concerns that I was going Seriously Crazy. Crazy is like Tabasco sauce, a little bit spices things up but we don't want to overdo it. emoticon

It did seem to me that leaning too far in the samatha direction sometimes made the intense piti stuff worse. But then, sometimes it didn't, and sometimes it seemed to be exactly what I needed. I would recommend simply learning the fundamentals of both samatha and vipassana and gently experimenting with them both to see what the effects are rather than spending a lot of time trying to figure out what is "best." It is ideal to be skilled at both anyway, and you'll likely get far more out of a personal exploration than trying to make sense of other people's opinions. 

Someone mentioned Culadasa's The Mind Illuminated: definitely a great read and covers more of a samatha-heavy practice. Also, lots of great tips for getting started with a solid daily habit which IMO is by far the most important thing in the beginning. Serious meditation is basically a lifestyle choice and you're unlikely to get far without a serious commitment.

Best wishes!
Stellar advice. Thank you.

RE: Bliss, Light, and 8 Years of Night
Answer
6/15/18 2:44 PM as a reply to MetaYogi.
MetaYogi:
W:
My worry is this: my A&P and subsequent symptoms were started from doing samatha meditation. There was a high degree of piti involved before the energy shot through my head.
Please note: one should be careful with using a mantra as focus for shamatha, as it can lead to some very spaced out altered states of consciousness. Mantras were traditionally viewed as powerful occult instruments meant to cause certain physical, emotional, energetic and mental effects when used in sadhana, in devotional practice, in rites of sorcery - they have never been commonly used as a tool to develop the faculty of concentration.
Agree with you about the danger of using mantras, that's partly how I got in this mess. In particular, the mantra I was given acutely sends energy upwards to the skull, so it was an unfortunate mess I got myself into. 

My suspicion is I think there's actually two sets of problems and thus two kinds of A&P that lead to what are being broadly labeled 'dark night' on this forum and elsewhere. There's energetic imbalances / kundalini / piti issues that can cause a fairly specific set of physical and mental / emotional issues related to the wind imbalance (this is sometimes called loong in tibetan buddhism, or zen sickness in zen, or qi gong sickness in China, etc.) and then there are the Dukkha Nanas, which very well might cause similar issues, I don't really know. I also suspect the remedial measures for each of these two are different, and particularly when they are energetic related, probably need to be addressed on a case by case basis depending on the specfics of their imbalance.