Author Topic: On the Dark Night  (Read 20523 times)

Quardamon

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On the Dark Night
« on: January 20, 2011, 08:39:43 PM »
To my understanding the Dark Night of the Soul cannot be avoided if one does vipassana intensly and for an extended period.
(That might be as short as a ten-day retreat or a year of meditating daily twice for 45 minutes, I suppose.)
I suppose it can be avoided, O.K. That should be then by training relaxation, training concentration, then entering pleasant (or neutral) states and go there if you need it or want it. But if one grows a keen awareness, it is different. And vipassana is about awareness, not about relaxation. Relaxation is just a prerequisite for it: you cannot do without. and you cannot do without proper concentration, for that matter.

At the retreat I did a year ago, Frits Koster told that no matter how well you were brought up, no matter how good you are at yoga and stress management, there comes a stage of strong unpleasant feelings if one does vipassana. That is an effect of the practice, and will occur only if you are well established in the practice and have gone through several phases.
The simple reason is, that you grow aware of pain and suffering that is inherent to human life as such. You grow aware of pain that is not part of your person, not part of your personal history.

I quote from his book "Liberating Insight" (translation from Dutch done here by myself):
" Stage 6:  Cleansing through intuitive knowledge of and insight in the Path
When the previous cleansing has ripened enough, than again a difficult phase can start suddenly in the meditative process. Experiences can be quite heavy now, sometimes so much so that one is inclined to give up meditation. That is why in Birma this stadium is somtimes called "the phase of rolling up the mats". Experiences that one could have are:
- Intense fear. One feels instable, one psyche can feel sick, and somtimes the legs you stand on are shaking.
- Strong feelings of being down, hypochondria. Bodily feeling week, tired and heavy
- Feelings of disgust, abhorration. Naming your experiences goes by itself, but give no pleasure whatsoever. You want to be off, go home.
- A deep understanding of the suffering in the world.
- A strong wish to overcome pain and suffering. This suddely makes you highly motivated and inspired to go on with meditation. You get agitated.
- Intense physical pains and sensations, like spears coming through the body,as is the body is ripped apart, or as is needles are put into the back, and so on.
There is a strong tendensy to interpret such experiences as negative; one could get the idea that something went wrong in the meditation. While in fact it is a good sign and it makes cleansing. Now, you come into contact, on a deeper level, with the three characteristics of impermanence, unsatisfactoryness and uncontrolability."
(This book is available in English - in a better transation, I trust.)

Of course it might be a bit too much if one enters the dark night when one has also a lot of deep pain in the personal history. Maybe it would bewiser then, to train shamatha up to first shamatha jhana (or higher samatha jhana's). I do not know, have no experience with it. I did a lot of therapy in "personal growth' weekend groups (and a year group). And I can totally and healthily freak out through dancing (and more recently through rowing).

Matthew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2011, 10:27:34 PM »
Can't be avoided - can be mitigated, through strength of practice.
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nibs

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2011, 10:29:58 PM »
Nice thread!

Yes, the dukkha nanas. Not to play up a blog that I frequent, but because i feel strongly that knowing about the dark night gives the yogi a head's up on what might happen and so that they don't suffer unnecessarily without some sort of idea what to do about it, here are some links to talks and info on what one can do during the dark night. I suffered for many years cycling through the dukkha nanas without knowing what was going on,  and that suffering conditioned my desire to share with others how it can be dealt with.

Podcasts
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/dukkha-nanas-tales-of-dark-night.html
http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/dukkha-nanas-navigating-dark-night-part.html

This one has  a number of pieces of advise on how to go about surviving the dark night unscathed:

http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2010/12/testimonies-of-dark-night.html


You could technically avoid the dark night if you were a master of the first 4 samatha jhanas. But that takes a bit of work.

May all yogis not be burnt (too much) by the dark night!!!!!

metta,
nibs
« Last Edit: January 20, 2011, 10:37:16 PM by nibs »
"Awakening is like taking a satisfying dump." Some anonymous yogi

kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2011, 10:57:53 PM »
You could technically avoid the dark night if you were a master of the first 4 samatha jhanas. But that takes a bit of work.

And perhaps this is why the Buddha didn't really talk much about the dark night. Or did he? Does anyone know if he did? I can't recall reading a sutta where the Buddha described difficult experiences arising as a result of proper meditation (I can recall some negative experiences he described as a result of unskillful practices that he tried before finding the path). Are there any?

With metta,
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

nibs

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2011, 11:08:01 PM »
Yeh, I dont know if he did. I don't think he did.. It's in the Visuddhimagga , a commentary, where the nanas are discussed and not at length either. His teachings usually centered around practicing within jhana having calmed the mind and attained inner tranquility. There insight and discernment is practiced.

And if you follow certain strains of thinking, the 4 rupa jhanas correspond to certain nanas as the same strata of mind. Jhanas being the more absorbed version. This is my own experience as well. When out of jhana, the nanas arise...all of them as vipassana is practiced. If jhanas are entered, the very absorbed variety, the dark night seems to pass by either extremely quickly and uneventfully as sub-levels of the 3rd jhana or not at all. The crossing from 3rd to 4th jhana is more or less instantaneous. The 3rd jhana corresponds to the 5th nana of dissolution and the 4th jhana to the 11th nana of equanimity of formations. So the dukkha nanas, that would be in between those two strata of mind, would be avoided. This is my current subject to change at the drop of a hat opinion.

metta,

nibs
"Awakening is like taking a satisfying dump." Some anonymous yogi

kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2011, 11:42:34 PM »
Thanks for that, Nibs. I'll be curious to know if anyone else knows of suttas pointing to the dark-night. I still haven't quite wrapped my head around the different models of jhana and how they overlap. I mostly just work with what the Buddha says, not because I'm a traditionalist, but because it seems the most straightforward, and best conforms to my own experience so far.

Personally, I suspect that extensive practice cultivating a tranquil mind and a strong sense of well-being greatly mitigates the dark night, even if one hasn't quite mastered all the jhanas.

This makes sense because the dark-night is necessarily made up of feedback loops (i.e., dependent co-arising). As we train the mind to have its default state be one of calm-abiding, this calm-abiding becomes a powerful resource when the dark night arises. Specifically, one is able to more quickly intervene in those feedback loops. The simplest way, of course, is to at least become fairly skilled at calming the body. (hats off to TIB!)

With metta,
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Jeeprs

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2011, 01:29:17 AM »
The expression actually comes from a poem called On the Dark Night of the Soul, by the Christian monastic, St John of the Cross. The idea has subsequently entered the lexicon of spirituality. There is quite a good article on it on Wikipedia.

Morning Dew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2011, 09:08:50 AM »
NOTE! I am talking to my self here;

Dark Night like anything else in meditation is to be treated by not clinging to it, not avoiding it, not pushing it away, be aware of it and go back to calm-abiding, again and again but softly, kindly, full of awareness without a forced effort.
Things of the past arising in great quantities up and up and up ... be with them without pushing them away wihtout whishing to go towards the idea of enlightenment (what ever that means).
Let them be in the same manner we let normal thoughts come and go.
Remind your self "this too shall pass" and just sit in calm-abiding.

Dont forgett about excercising, drinking planty of water, higher doses of D3 vitamin, eat well and be gentle with your deluded self as best as you can  ;D
Also cleaning around house, washing dishes, often showers will aid too.

Jhana's helping ... dont know about that one, maybe Buddha knows  ;) go and ask him, or maybe go and ask Jhananda.  ;D

Did Buddha know that there is a map? Who showed him the path? Is there realy a need for copying a guy by following HIS steps? Good luck with that, I sure hope you come back to following the self, and even this leads backwards into where it springs from and not forwards into the idea of enlightenment.

Friendly Che

torgeir

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #8 on: January 22, 2011, 07:40:40 AM »
Can't be avoided - can be mitigated, through strength of practice.

It is indeed the part of the path which all truly great masters know intimately!

Yoda: "Think you I have never felt the touch of the dark? Know you what a soul so great as Yoda can make, in eight hundred years?"
Dooku: "Master?"
Yoda: "Many mistakes!"
―Yoda and Dooku



« Last Edit: January 22, 2011, 07:44:20 AM by torgeir »

nibs

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2011, 07:07:32 PM »
You could technically avoid the dark night if you were a master of the first 4 samatha jhanas. But that takes a bit of work.

And perhaps this is why the Buddha didn't really talk much about the dark night. Or did he? Does anyone know if he did? I can't recall reading a sutta where the Buddha described difficult experiences arising as a result of proper meditation (I can recall some negative experiences he described as a result of unskillful practices that he tried before finding the path). Are there any?

With metta,
KN


I found this link to where one can find references to the nanas in the suttas.

http://www.leighb.com/7sop16ik.htm

metta,

nibs
"Awakening is like taking a satisfying dump." Some anonymous yogi

kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2011, 09:19:21 PM »
Thanks for that link, nibs. Its interesting, and reminds me that I like leigh brasington!

I can't help but notice that even on that link, there are no sutta references conforming to the "dukkha nanas." Mostly, the references just discuss Equanimity onwards.  Thus, I am still thinking that the Buddha didn't say much about the dukkha nanas.

Since you have alot more knowledge in this area, let me be upfront about what I'm thinking. I wonder if meditation done properly will NEVER amplify or generate dukkha in the mind. This is not to say that the "dark night" is avoidable, or that meditation shouldn't make us aware of those negativities which we have unknowingly been generating for ourselves.  Indeed, sometimes meditation can/should heighten our awareness of our negativities. We can't avoid our kamma nor the viscissitudes inherent to life.

But the idea that proper meditation may amplify or exaggerate one's unskillful mental habits, that just seems off to me.  This certainly happens, but I would think it is best understood as an indication that one is not meditating properly.  Perhaps that's why the Buddha didn't talk much about it?

What do you think?
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

nibs

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2011, 10:03:28 PM »
Thanks for that link, nibs. Its interesting, and reminds me that I like leigh brasington!

Same! He's one cool dude. Your Welcome.
I can't help but notice that even on that link, there are no sutta references conforming to the "dukkha nanas." Mostly, the references just discuss Equanimity onwards.  Thus, I am still thinking that the Buddha didn't say much about the dukkha nanas.

Yes, I noticed that as well. My current subject to change theory is that the Buddha, having been perusing a lot of the suttas recently, taught primarily jhanas and using the jhanas as a jumping board to nibbana and path.

My current practice, which can be found at the Hamilton Project, "a letting go approach to jhanas",  is showing me that the nanas are seemingly only experienced if a yogi bypasses the harder jhana absorptions and ops for a more "dry" insight approach via purely vipassana with minimal concentration. The dukkha nanas in particular are not a problem when one practices insight within the jhanas.

There is no support for the "dry" insight path in the suttas according to Thanissaro Bhikkhu's research:

"The role of jhana as a condition for transcendent discernment is one of the most controversial issues in the Theravada tradition. Three basic positions have been advanced in modern writings. One, following the commentarial tradition, asserts that jhana is not necessary for any of the four levels of Awakening and that there is a class of individuals — called "dry insight" meditators — who are "released through discernment" based on a level of concentration lower than that of jhana. A second position, citing a passage in the Canon [AN 3.88; MFU, pp. 103] stating that concentration is mastered only on the level of non-returning, holds that jhana is necessary for the attainment of non-returning and arahantship, but not for the lower levels of Awakening. The third position states that the attainment of at least the first level of jhana is essential for all four levels of Awakening.
Evidence from the Canon supports the third position, but not the other two."
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/wings/part3.html#part3-f


But the "dry" insight path is being taught a hell of a lot,  in the past century up till now especially in Burma and the West. And people ARE getting results from it. People ARE getting path/cessation moments (stream entry at least). And jhana is certainly being bypassed.

So even though the Buddha does not mention a purely "dry" (correct me if I'm wrong, I'm going on Thanissaro's research here) insight path, yogis taking this route are experiencing similar stages. And theses stages where picked up in the Visuddhimagga, probably from ancient yogis' experiences of a "dry" insight path and thus conceptualized, placed within the structure of development the Buddha expressed in some of the suttas (see the Leigh Brasington link above), and later made more popular by Mahasi Sayadaw among others.

So no, the Buddha doesn't mention the "dukkha nanas" specifically, perhaps because yogis of his time were taught to develop jhana and from there work towards awakening. The more abosrbed variety of jhana seem to allow a yogi to have a much easier time navigating the dark recesses of the mind or even making them a non-event. The 5 hinerances are already dealt with at least.

This is my own current experience. Thus we have the two paths to awakening talked of in the Visuddhimagga. "Dry" versus "Tranquil".  A "dry" approach will take you through the nanas. A "tranquil" approach will take you through the same strata of mind (**see link below) in their more absorbed jhana versions. The dukkha nanas are a non-event in the "tranquil" path.

** I am adhering to the view that certain nanas correspond to certain jhanas: See here for more info: http://thehamiltonproject.blogspot.com/2011/01/talking-in-jhanas.html

Since you have alot more knowledge in this area, let me be upfront about what I'm thinking. I wonder if meditation done properly will NEVER amplify or generate dukkha in the mind. This is not to say that the "dark night" is avoidable, or that meditation shouldn't make us aware of those negativities which we have unknowingly been generating for ourselves.  Indeed, sometimes meditation can/should heighten our awareness of our negativities. We can't avoid our kamma nor the viscissitudes inherent to life.

I believe the dukkha nanas are "suffered" because a mind is identifying with the arising and passing negative phenomena as support for an illusory self. Thus the unsatisfactory mental tension results and we have yogis talking of how hard the dukkha nanas are. Yeh, I think the level of suffering endured in the dukkha nanas or the  absence of suffering, is subject to how strongly one's practice is, how much momentum one have in their practice, how strong one's concentration is, and how discerning of, dis-identified from, dispassionate of, equanimous with, dis-embedded from mentioned phenomena.  

Like Matthew mentioned above: "(the dukkha nanas) can be mitigated, through strength of practice." Using the jhanas as a means to insight via a calm abiding mind will definite help reduce or completely avoid any falling prey to wrongly identifying and reacting to phenomena thus suffering a so called "dark night".

But the idea that proper meditation may amplify or exaggerate one's unskillful mental habits, that just seems off to me.  This certainly happens, but I would think it is best understood as an indication that one is not meditating properly.  Perhaps that's why the Buddha didn't talk much about it?

What do you think?
KN


I agree with all of what you said.

metta,

nibs
« Last Edit: January 24, 2011, 10:17:57 PM by nibs »
"Awakening is like taking a satisfying dump." Some anonymous yogi

kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #12 on: January 25, 2011, 12:41:02 AM »
Hey Nibs,

And I agree with EVERYTHING you said... almost surprisingly so.  :) After having read about your practice at the Hamilton Project, I find our approaches are not exactly the same, but they're pretty darn close! Perhaps because we are both quite influenced by Goenka and Ajahn Geoff? (By the way, have you practiced with him before? If not, I highly recommend making it out to San Diego, CA some time, and staying at his monastery for a bit. He is very present and available.)

Since I suspect you are a bit ahead of me on the curve, I'd enjoy hearing your thoughts on my own "working hypotheses" for practice. So I'm going to try sketch my "view" here.  I too believe that Jhana was essential to the Buddha's teachings, and that when done properly, the path to developing Jhana is thoroughly paved with insight and purification.
-------------------------

But to avoid totally hijacking this conversation, I will post my thoughts in a new thread titled, "Some thoughts on Jhana."

KN
« Last Edit: January 25, 2011, 12:44:31 AM by kidnovice »
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Matthew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2011, 08:18:02 AM »
Intellectualising about the path, especially places you have not been yet, is not greatly beneficial to progress.
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Morning Dew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2011, 08:25:58 AM »
But Matthew  :o  there is a meditation map out there showing the path towards Kurt Cobain   :P   ::)   ;D

Matthew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #15 on: January 25, 2011, 04:09:51 PM »
Hmmmm
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kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #16 on: January 26, 2011, 04:01:49 AM »
But clarifying one's view, and refining one's intentions certainly is beneficial. I suppose it is all about how you hold your ideas, and how they relate to your practice.

And of course, if you end up meeting Kurt, that's just gravy!
KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Rocket

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2011, 01:37:04 PM »
To my understanding the Dark Night of the Soul cannot be avoided if one does vipassana...

This may be a semantic difference but it is downright misleading one:    my training and first hand experience  is one starts with shamatha practice,  then when some degree of Samadhi is present Vipassana,  or insight and permanent release from afflicted emotional states may happen.

So,  the idea of "learning"  or "doing" vipassana is a misunderstanding   and one that misleads people.  I've seen folks waste a lot of time.  spinning their wheels going nowhere,   on that misunderstanding courtesy of poorly trained "vipassana " teachers.

Effective Shamatha practice does dredge up the rotting corpses out of the mud of your psyche.    Iit can be quite harrowing.   That is how you know it's working on you so you do not want to avoid it.  It is telling you you're going somewhere with practice.

Experiential psychotherapy to quiet the strong afflicted emotional states ahead of time can shave decades or centuries off the time it takes to  progress into deeper states.  And make riding out the "dark night" easier because you've been there before.   Its a very simiilar process.  Both help us become transparent to afflicted emotions ....  afflicted emotional states are the drivers of an aggitated mind,   things that "come at you" from the back of your own mind and make sinking into the deeply relaxed stabilized state quite impossible.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2011, 01:59:16 PM by Rocket »

Morning Dew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #18 on: January 26, 2011, 01:47:46 PM »
That is interesting what you are saying Rocket.
I passed the Dark Night stage pritty quick for someone with lots of traumatic experience. I wonder would that be so if I hadn't practiced Shamatha but something else, like concentration on the nose or belly or koans or scanning the body etc...?

Che

Rocket

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #19 on: January 26, 2011, 02:08:47 PM »
That is interesting what you are saying Rocket.
I passed the Dark Night stage pritty quick for someone with lots of traumatic experience. I wonder would that be so if I hadn't practiced Shamatha but something else, like concentration on the nose or belly or koans or scanning the body etc...?

Che

I would not presume to guess about your process ....   I'd only say I am convinced we are pushed all over the map (and may eventually wipe our species out or close to it)  by our kookoo afflicted emotions driving kookoo behavior.  

As i heard the Dala Lama say (in a meeting with western neuroscientists)   what Tibetan Buddhism has to bring to that table is "mastery of the emotions".  Its scary how clueless western behavioral science and neuroscience is about this.

Since I don't know for sure what shamatha is for you its tough to comment.

Matthew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #20 on: January 26, 2011, 05:54:23 PM »
That is interesting what you are saying Rocket.
I passed the Dark Night stage pritty quick for someone with lots of traumatic experience. I wonder would that be so if I hadn't practiced Shamatha but something else, like concentration on the nose or belly or koans or scanning the body etc...?

Che

Che,

You may go through more than one stage. Don't worry as you know how to handle it now but be aware it could happen.

Warmly,

Matthew
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kidnovice

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #21 on: January 26, 2011, 06:17:16 PM »
That is interesting what you are saying Rocket.
I passed the Dark Night stage pritty quick for someone with lots of traumatic experience. I wonder would that be so if I hadn't practiced Shamatha but something else, like concentration on the nose or belly or koans or scanning the body etc...?

Che

Here is a similar unanswerable question: What would I be like if I hadn't recreationally used drugs all through college?

Or better yet: How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.  ;D (Wow, I hope you get that reference, Che!)

KN
May we cultivate the serenity to accept the things we cannot change; the compassion to change the things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Quardamon

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #22 on: January 26, 2011, 06:31:05 PM »
Hello Rocket,

I suppose that it is partly a semantic difference. I get a bit tied up in a knot, if I try to untangle the root of that. Suffice it to say that
- indeed "dredging up rotten corpses" I would regard as vipassana meditation, not any more as calm abiding; and
- I am not a poorly trained vipassana teacher, for the simple reason that I do not teach. (Unless you regard my activity here on the forum as such.)
I do not know what you mean with "folks wasting a lot of time, spinning their wheels going nowhere". But as I do not find the time to read all that is posted on the forum I do not encourage you to start a separate thread on that. But still you can, and it will certainly interest me.

Be well,
Quardamon

Morning Dew

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #23 on: January 26, 2011, 08:00:44 PM »
Quote
I would not presume to guess about your process ....  Since I don't know for sure what shamatha is for you its tough to comment.

Fair enough  :)

Quote
Its scary how clueless western behavioral science and neuroscience is about this.

It is only scary if you percieve it that way. Give it no power by percieving it that way. Have compassion instead for the deluded science and neuroscience  ;)

Quote
You may go through more than one stage. Don't worry as you know how to handle it now but be aware it could happen.


I hear you. At the moment I am meditating only 4 days a week giving me 3 days to actualy observe the off the cushion me which walks without the invoked calm by Shamatha. It sounds strange but this kind of schedule gives me better insight into the Self than when sitting full time (at least at this time). This shows me clearly how important role calm-abiding plays on the ego-self's reactional habbit. It reacts but in slow motion kind of.
Thanks for the warning  :)

Quote
How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? The world may never know.   (Wow, I hope you get that reference, Che!)

First let me see what these are ....

From Wikipedia;
Quote
Tootsie Pops[1] are hard candy lollipops filled with chocolate-flavored chewy Tootsie Roll. They were invented in 1930 by Brandon Perry, an employee of The Sweets Company of America. The company changed its name to Tootsie Roll Industries in 1966.

The candy debuted to the public in 1931. In addition to chocolate (the original flavor), Tootsie Pops come in cherry, orange, grape, raspberry, strawberry, watermelon, blue raspberry, and now, pomegranate, banana, and green apple flavors. Another release of Tootsie Roll Pops, named Tropical Stormz, features six swirl-textured flavors: orange pineapple, lemon lime, strawberry banana, apple blueberry, citrus punch, and berry berry punch.

In 2003, sixty million Tootsie Rolls and twenty million Tootsie Pops were produced every day

Ah yes I see now  ;D  well we dont have those in this part of Europe, but there is one similar with Liquorice in the middle. Well it takes apporx ... well lets see .... if you devide and then multiply ... take off half, give the rest to the poor and literarely sit on it for at least an hour while focusing on the nose ... well  :-\  in about 3.14159265 hours   :P   ;D

Friendly as always
Che

Rocket

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Re: On the Dark Night
« Reply #24 on: January 27, 2011, 02:18:21 AM »


Quote
Its scary how clueless western behavioral science and neuroscience is about this.

It is only scary if you percieve it that way. Give it no power by percieving it that way. Have compassion instead for the deluded science and neuroscience  ;)

Che,  I've been wondering,  which planet are you from?