Author Topic: Looking for advice on Dark Night  (Read 163 times)

skkw97

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Looking for advice on Dark Night
« on: October 25, 2019, 04:44:58 AM »
Greetings everybody,


I’m a new member on this forum and I’d like to ask for some insight regarding the dukkha nanas (dark night) that a yogi goes through during the stages of vipassana.


A little background about myself. I am a 22 year old Burmese currently living abroad. I suffered from depression and ptsd for nearly ten years (from being bullied and ostracized). As a result, I had frequent breakdowns, mood swings and had contemplated suicide multiple times. I thought I’d never escape and lead a normal life. However, all that changed three months ago, when I began to read every Dhamma book available on the Internet in order to cure my misery once and for all, and that was how I stumbled upon Vipassana. Having comprehended the Dhamma, my outlook on life changed instantly. I realized that I had been a fool all these years for allowing my mind to be so corrupted. So since the beginning of September, I have been meditating (Mahasi technique) regularly for five days a week by myself, noting the breath and every itch, pain and sensation that arises. I have experienced piti, the feeling of the body fading away, seeing white lights, the seemingly ‘breaking down’ of the breath, a constant humming / throbbing sound in the background (experiences I assume are part of the A&P stage).


And that brings me to the dark night. I was well aware of the dukkha nanas but after stumbling upon the MCTB book by Daniel Ingram as well as several other blogs written by those who had experienced the dark night, I have developed a sense of distraught and been going through sleepless nights because of it. I have read about yogis getting stuck for years, plagued by paranoia, disturbing visions and fear, unable to move on and restrain their emotions. I was not expecting the dukkha nanas to be that much of a hindrance, and I fear I would fall into the trap due to my not so pleasant past. 


So I have two questions:


1.   Are there any precautions or advice someone with a history of trauma and depression like me needs to be aware of? How do I endure the dark night without falling back into the same pit I’ve tried so hard to climb out of?
2.   I have heard of the Goenka retreats as well, but have never taken one. Would it prove beneficial to seek help at a mediation center under the guidance of a well-informed yogi (instead of meditating by myself)? 


May you all gain liberation and break free from the bonds of life.


With metta,
Sai

stillpointdancer

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Re: Looking for advice on Dark Night
« Reply #1 on: October 25, 2019, 11:33:36 AM »
Hi skkw97.
1. The problem with Buddhism today is that practically everything is available on the internet, that you can jump into meditating from almost any aspect of it. the downside is that there is nobody to gentle you into it, if that is what you need. The best advice is to find a good teacher who can help you, but failing that you could do worse than finding a couple of relaxation meditations to fall back on.
What you are doing with Mahasi technique is fine, but is rather advanced. I have tried following the method in the Satipatthana Sutta myself, but had to adapt it somewhat even though I had been meditating for twenty years or so. I suspect that a teacher would only let you use certain aspects of it when satisfied that you had found the balance that comes with other available meditations.
By relaxation, I mean those meditations which allow you to reduce stress and control anxiety; Mindfulness of Breathing, loving kindness meditation (Metta Bhavana) and body scan meditations all help to gradually develop a more settled mental state which is vital to more advanced stuff. Those who have experienced the dark night of the soul and recovered, so to speak, have been lucky, as it can be sufficiently traumatic to induce PTSD. This article sums it up well: https://www.learnreligions.com/buddhist-meditation-and-the-dark-night-449760.

2. I haven't followed Goenka myself, but am aware that it can be fairly traumatic itself to those not well grounded in other meditations first.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

skkw97

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Re: Looking for advice on Dark Night
« Reply #2 on: October 25, 2019, 01:19:24 PM »
Thank you stillpointdancer for your answer. :)

I guess it does sound incredibly risky to venture into the whole dark night territory without proper guidance and some solid foundation in mindfulness. Seems like I'll have to find a teacher. And for relaxation meditations, which one would you best recommend to better prepare for the journey ahead?





stillpointdancer

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Re: Looking for advice on Dark Night
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2019, 11:31:53 AM »
Thank you stillpointdancer for your answer. :)

I guess it does sound incredibly risky to venture into the whole dark night territory without proper guidance and some solid foundation in mindfulness. Seems like I'll have to find a teacher. And for relaxation meditations, which one would you best recommend to better prepare for the journey ahead?

I experimented with meditation quite a lot before actually going to a Buddhist centre. I actually used one of those relaxation tapes (that's how long ago it was) and I still play it in my head if I have trouble getting to sleep. One of the things the centre helped me with was to establish two basic meditations to keep returning to, Mindfulness of Breathing and Metta Bhavana or wishing people well. Matthews advice on this site is useful, particularly calm abiding meditation and advice on posture. My basic ones are:

Mindfulness of Breathing
The meditation has four progressive stages leading to a highly enjoyable level of concentration. To start with five minutes per stage is a good period of practice.
In the first stage you use counting to stay focused on the breath. After the out-breath you count one, then you breathe in and out and count two, and so on up to ten, and then you start again at one.
In the second stage you subtly shift where you breathe, counting before the in-breath, anticipating the breath that is coming, but still counting from one to ten, and then starting again at one.
In the third stage you drop the counting and just watch the breath as it comes in and goes out.
In the final stage the focus of concentration narrows and sharpens, so you pay attention to the subtle sensation on the tip of the nose where the breath first enters and last leaves the body.

Metta Bhavana
The first stage, you feel metta for yourself. You start by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace, calm, and tranquillity. Then you let these grow in to feelings of strength and confidence, and then develop into love within your heart. You can use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as ‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself. These are ways of stimulating the feeling of metta for yourself.
In the second stage think of a good friend. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities. Feel your connection with your friend, and your liking for them, and encourage these to grow by repeating ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs. You can use these techniques — a phrase or an image — in the next two stages as well.

Then think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know well but see around. You reflect on their humanity, and include them in your feelings of metta.
Then think of someone you actually dislike — an “enemy”, traditionally— someone you are having difficulty with. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, think of them positively and send your metta to them as well.
In the final stage, first of all you think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighbourhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to all beings everywhere. Then gradually relax out of meditation, and bring the practice to an end.

Both of these, over time, help you to relax both physically and mentally. For when I delved deeper, I made sure I had a safe place meditation, where I visualise a safe place where nothing can harm me and where I can mentally go when bad stuff happens while I meditate. Note I said 'when' and not 'if'. You can't start messing with your mind and expect things to go smoothly, so best to be prepared.

“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

Nicky

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Re: Looking for advice on Dark Night
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2019, 03:45:01 PM »
I guess it does sound incredibly risky to venture into the whole dark night territory without proper guidance and some solid foundation in mindfulness.

'Dark night' (a term from Christian mysticism) occurs from the diminishing of the ego. It is existential fear. In the Buddhists scriptures, it is called 'fear & dread": https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.004.than.html

Fear & dread is something to be passed through, which depends on three things:

1. One's personal aspiration for the path.

2. Clear knowing the fear & dread will be impermanent and pass away.

3. Spiritual capacity to reduce ego.

If you wish to discuss this matter with Daniel Ingram, you can join his chatsite, here: https://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/recent-posts