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Dark Night for Dummies

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Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/13/18 8:43 PM
New here, and I’m trying to understand exactly what is required to fully escape the dark night. I couldn’t handle going through this hellish cycle again. I’ve made a lot of progress by focusing my efforts on Virtue / Morality / Health and by focusing on body orientated practices like tai chi, and simply by staying away from intensive meditation. My concentration is still poor from my A&P event and it’s a lot to take in, even as I read the relevant sections in MCTB and relevant posts here. Could someone help give me a bullet-point list that even a dummy like me could understand?

- Most important is to keep practicing, right?
- But not concentration practice? I should practice some kind of insight meditation?
- Retreats are helpful.
- I should try and produce a state of equanimity? Equanimity is the goal / solution to dark night?
- I should try and practice in a way that produces gladness?

Second question: For those that believe in some conception of God or Higher Power, has this been successfully used as a tool for reaching equanimity / permanently escaping the dark night? Say, something along the lines of "I put my troubles at the feet of my higher power and leave them there?" or simply, to borrow from AA, "Let go and let God." Or would this line of thinking be dangerous/present trouble down the road?

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/13/18 10:12 PM as a reply to W.
Following with interest. Recently I’m working Culadasa’s TMI which claims to bypass the dark night through samatha-vipassana. Early days but the dark night material that plagued me for so many years is not arising and increasing facility with moment-to-moment high resolution attention combined within expansive encompassing awareness is taking its place. I saw Daniel mentioning the fire kasina work as a more enjoyable alternative to deconstructive noting - Daniel do you have a perspective on judicious application of samatha to circumvent the dark night? Or is it simply something everyone must bite the bullet and barrel on through? Very interested in this thread and its implications.

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/14/18 2:15 AM as a reply to W.
Talking with others face to face ior via Skype etc is very helpful for this territory. This I find to be extremely valuable for dark night territory. Engage with like-minded yogis face to face or online talking. Forums can help but face to face will let you vent and manage better. 

Here are are some more tips as tips can work for some and not for others depending on one’s conditioning, samatha skills, past traumas, life situation etc. 

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/testimonies-of-dark-night.html?m=1

Nick

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/14/18 7:46 AM as a reply to W.
W:

Second question: For those that believe in some conception of God or Higher Power, has this been successfully used as a tool for reaching equanimity / permanently escaping the dark night? Say, something along the lines of "I put my troubles at the feet of my higher power and leave them there?" or simply, to borrow from AA, "Let go and let God." Or would this line of thinking be dangerous/present trouble down the road?

I'll second what Nikolai said about connecting with others in person or via Skype.

As for your question about God--there are plenty of theistic traditions with tools to manage the dark night including a pretty popular international movement of nondual mystic Christianity called Centering Prayer, so you might be able to find a local group if you're interested. Father Thomas Keating, a Trappist who started the movement, wrote a nice introduction. It's based on a 14th century text called The Cloud of Unknowing, which is itself an excellent read. Keep in mind that just as with Buddhist traditions, the way out is not through any fixed belief (like thinking you are laying your burdens at the feet of God, which is more of a band-aid than a permanent fix) but through dedicated and disciplined practice. God expects you to do the work emoticon

My God thing (not sure I'd call it a belief) didn't really get rolling until long after the worst of my dark night issues had passed and seemed to be more a curious side effect of vipassana than a cause, but it has been very helpful for keeping everything that arises into perspective. Definitely a very positive element in my practice. If you read Patanjali's yoga sutras, he comments that you don't need God but it is an advantage. So if you already have a God concept then it would make sense to find ways to utilize it. 

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/14/18 9:11 AM as a reply to W.
W:
Second question: For those that believe in some conception of God or Higher Power, has this been successfully used as a tool for reaching equanimity / permanently escaping the dark night?

You could always read what the originator of the expression "Dark Night" has to say:

https://www.amazon.com/Collected-Ascent-Spiritual-Canticle-Letters/dp/0935216154

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/14/18 11:14 AM as a reply to W.
Along with the other good advise below, here is the purely cognitive frame:
  1. Suffering is inevitable.  Until you accept that, you are pushing against a wall.  Entropy, human nature, social conditions, the powers that be, etc are guaranteed to be at odds with what is nicest for you and that sucks.
  2. The very desire to avoid or skip over suffering is the instrument of your tourture.  The fact of expecting better is doomed to lead to disappointment.  Once that is known, seen clearly in the context of your own mind and body, then a better path forward is possible.
You could just ponder these two points, ask yourself if they might true or not, what evidence do you see in your own mind and body?

Of course, i'm not being original here. emoticon https://www.lionsroar.com/what-are-the-four-noble-truths/

Part 2: I started my journey in a 12 step program.  Higher power was my first obstruction, and my first break through.  For dang sure, I was the one that was stuck, and I did not have the ability to get unstuck.  Yet I had to make the steps towards freedom so I had to get the information from *somewhere*.  What finallly worked for me was the realizaiton that the choice of which way to go was inside of me, and the right choice was there along side of the wrong choices, and that it just took time and faithful practice to sense the difference between the two. My chooser was messed up, but I did have the ability to fix that over time, and that ability is what nature gives every sentient being. That's what got humans to the top of the evolutionary pyramid, thats where higher power is evident for me.

RE: Dark Night for Dummies
Answer
6/14/18 3:39 PM as a reply to W.
Some remedies I find useful:

Karmayoga; i.e mindful and conscious (not absentmindly) performing tasks to the best of ones ability, whether you like the task or not, without any care of outcome, without attachment to personal success, failure and so on. This eventually trains non-grasping interaction, as you involve yourself fully with phenomena, but without getting entangled., i.e you hold a coin in an open palm vs clenching it to avoid loosing it.

Bhaktiyoga; can be found in various theistic as well as non-theistic systems, as witnessed throughout Mahayana and in the tantrik schools. Very efficient in my experience. (Used in the non-theistic manner it can also function as insight practice into the emptiness of phenomena.) An example drawn from aghori saivism: personify negative phenomena as wrathful charnel ground deities. Thus you take misery, fear and angst and personify it as Kali, reshaping these as holy symbols, as yantra, as mantra, as sadhana, facing the phenomena, embracing it in devotional despair, fully accepting the divine terror that is the Dark Mother's grace.

Shamatha; concentration practice - while it can make you aware of a lot of turbulent misery whirling around in the mind - also leads to the blissfull and tranquil meditative absorptions. You can use many different objects. Example: the method of of settling the mind in its natural state, i.e focus on the vast space of mind instead of any particular bodily sensation, image, thought or emotion arising and passing. Just observe anything that rises within the mind's panoramic expanse, and let it fade without clinging or aversion, just as the sky lets clouds, storms or absence of clouds be as they are, without preferring any over the other. Tilopa's six words: Don't recall, don't imagine, don't think, don't examine, don't control, just rest.

Hathayoga; by combining breathing, movement and various so-called holds and locks, you learn to manipulate the subtle currents structuring your embodied experience, thereby gaining a great boon in being able to reshape such experience, i.e calm it, exite it, contract it, expand it, transform it. By controlling the body and the breath (wind/vayu), you control the mind, as mind is but wind. On a more materialistic level: the workings of the neural systems underpins so much of conscious experience, as it determines a range of bodily processes indirectly and directly involved with anything from emotions to digestion to memory. Learning to relax and excite and condition this system through hathayoga works wonders for any kind of mindwork.