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Dealing with the Dark Night

Moving through the dark night

Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 8:18 AM
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hey Dharma Lovers,

I have watched the forums at a distant, but due to my dark night apathy (2years+), I haven't participated. I feel I'm in a new space now and fire has been rekindled in my heart. I'd like to just share a little bit about where I am, how I got here, and to just have open feedback. Mainly, I'm trying to get myself talking about my experiences more as I tend not to.

After two years of fucking stalling in the dark night, In February I had a beautiful chat with Hokai. Understanding the vajrayana so well, he was able to understand my individual experience of the dark night and to give me some invaluable guidance that tangibly shifted me in practice, for which I am extremely grateful.

As for where I am at now, I not entirely sure, but it feels as some sort of progress. Interesting to me is that I actually haven't been "practicing" much at all, yet I feel a significant shift in awareness, whether that is deepening of insight or some capacity that aides in its development. I'm not sure what to make of that and wonder if I have made progress or not, and if so, how and what.

I've been feeling a powerful surrending that is permeating my being and awareness. Even though I feel myself ebbing and flowing in the awareness of suffering and unsatisfactoriness that comes with the dark night, I am not repelled by it like I was before, not scared to sit in its fire.

The dark energy that used to be centered in my chest has now transformed and my body feels full, grounded. Actually, this is not always the case, but more often than not. Sometimes I feel very contracted in my heart/chest, anxious, but I'm ultimately not swept away by it and even the smallest amount of practice seems to move this energy quickly.


RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 8:18 AM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
The other day I felt very heavy, the normal ugly dark night shit in my heart. I decided to sit down and do the breathing/visualization practice of Om Ah Hum. I approached it in an open way, not expecting anything in particular, just to see what would happen. To my surprise, by the virtue of the practice, I was transformed. Not only was my experience no longer contracted, I was feeling quite blissful. And then I just let that be what it was.

However, I experience this alternation quite a bit still. Another thing is that every experience seems to be amplified in intensity, no matter if I deem that pleasurable or painful, but they don't feel boxed in, just intensified in color.

I feel very strongly that if I actually sat every day, interesting things will happen. Hard for me to get that discipline when I feel so strongly a surrendering impulse in practice, which lends itself to "not doing" (which includes not doing shit!emoticon).

I have a tendency to not see where I'm at, as well as to assess myself short of where I actually am. To make it a little more challenging, I don't have much interest in reading about maps (at least right now), although I am interested in how best to practice in this moment. So, getting feedback from my fellow practitinoners is so helpful and I value it much more than reading books about maps.

RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 9:14 AM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
Author: yadidb

Hi Ryan,

May I ask how did you start practicing (what technique, retreats, etc) and when did you last cross the A&P?

best wishes..

RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 10:22 AM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
Hey Ryan,

I've been wondering where you were. It's great to see you here.

What you are describing could be the transition from the Dark Night, (dukkha ñanas 6 - 10) to the 11th ñana, Knowledge of Equanimity. If so, you can expect to alternate between feeling crummy and feeling fine until the equanimity stablilizes. As you have seen, when you are ripe enough it only takes a little practice to bump you up into EQ.

As for how best to practice in this moment, the important thing is just that you do some sort of practice, whatever that may be. In other words, anything that gathers the mind together in one place is going to help stabilize you in equanimity and continue the process of development leading up to the Path moment and beyond. So, if you are drawn to mantra, fine. If you'd like to explore samatha with a kasina object, great. Dry vipassana? Go for it. Advaita self-enquiry, Mahamudra, shikan-taza, you name it, it's all good at this point. The equanimity phase is almost always a rich and rewarding time for a yogi, so enjoy it while it lasts, do some exploration, but above all, keep practicing in some fashion. It is possible to get bogged down with complacency at this stage and not practice at all, which is a waste of a perfectly good life. :-)

Sorry to give you so much map stuff after you said you didn't want to read about maps. I hope it's helpful.


RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 10:32 AM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
Hi Ryan,

I find that even when my practise isn't very intense I still seem to make progress, for example just by paying attention all day during more 'fun' activities like listening to music, walking, even if I'm not paying attention to anything in particular but just letting sensations flicker and pass through. This is a lot easier than sitting down just to practise, although obviously not as good (some hardcore formal practise too is definitely a must).

For motivation, I find reading / listening to Krishnamurti very helpful. He communicates the importance of awakening, also his energy kinda kicks restlessness out the door. (Here's a random example:

Daniel's book is rly motivating too, check out the bit where he describes how he got arahatship in the 'Who the heck is daniel ingram' chapter. Reading about how someone else did it is a great boost (here's an awesome quote: "I decided that I would allow no sensation anywhere in the entire wide sense field to go by without it being clearly known as it was during every single second of the day.").

Also check out Tarin's retreat booklet if you haven't already (send a pm to theprisonergreco).

Good luck, and practise well
- Martin

RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 4:40 PM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
Hi Ryan,

It's good to read a post from you.

Here are a couple of techniques that worked for me...

When the dark night stuff kicks in, the best thing to do is to dive head first in to it and accept the hell out of it. Treat it like a good friend who needs to be listened to, and just listen. I found that if I tried to experience anything other than what was presenting itself in each moment, I didn't get anywhere.

When you've made it out of the nasty stuff and things become less of a big deal, I would suggest that concentration practice to be the most helpful (e.g. some kind of shamatha). Even something as simple as counting breaths from 1-10 was enough to keep me present enough to not get bored or complacent during that stage. It also really helped curb excitement and thoughts of progress -- both of which tend to agitate my mind and cause me to get distracted from the Now. This was enough to push me through to stream-entry, and I used the same practice when finishing up 2nd Path.

I hope that helps. It's good to keep it simple :-D


RE: Moving through the dark night
5/24/09 8:20 PM as a reply to Ryan Oelke.
Thanks so much for everyone's thoughtful responses. @Kenneth extremely helpful. Yeah, I've been feeling that any practice will do and when I sit (whether formally on the cushion, or spontaneously) I go with what feels good - might be mantra, might be breathing visualization, self-enquiry.... My challenge seems to be to just sit every day formally, and I'm finally feeling the juice to do that. Thanks for the affirmation about alternating between crumminess and feeling good. Oh, just read over your progress of insight articles - awesome. very helpful. That's the kind of map stuff that I find helpful, so feel free to share that alwaysemoticon

@Jackson yeah, I've been sensing concentration practice could be helpful. I feel a bit lazy with that, but also sense that it would be good.

@yadidb well, I started practicing long before I hit the dark night, various vajrayana and tibetan practices. Just never did a long retreat until a few years ago. I was doing guru yoga in the solitary retreat 2 years back when I hit the DK. As far as the last A&P - not sure. I'm so bad at catching experiences and knowing I had thememoticon Partly why I'm trying to share my experiences here, hoping I'm understand them more in real time than way later.