Jim's practice journal

  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93251 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
This dark night has been kicking my ass.

The thought occurs that at least in the confines of this log, I’ve described my “dark night” experiences as any sustained, perceived negative experiences associated with practice that have occurred since I’ve been keeping the log. As such, I’ve described energy movements, kundalini banging around in channels, and near-overwhelming sensations in the heart center leading to anxiety.

This is different. This is like an experience I had well before I started this log, the I-have-no-(expletive)-idea-what-is-happening-to-me-and-must-be-having-a-nervous-breakdown experience that peaked over several months around three and a half years ago. I’ve since realized that that whole experience was a classic dark night, aided and abetted by the fact that (as noted) I had no idea what it was and thus fought it every step of the way rather than surrendering.

At its visceral core, what I’m going through now is very similar to that. The view is drastically different this time, however.

Similarities between the two experiences: Overwhelming feelings of energy pouring through the entire bodily vessel; ego hysterics (paranoia, fear); feelings of being in the clear and then being boomeranged back though it all again; periods of just collapsing in a ball, sobbing, emitting verbage basically consisting of “What. The. (Expletive)!?!?” (not, thankfully, in public); periods of great heat emanating from the body. Trouble sleeping, waking early with energy coursing through the body (although still suffering from all of the aspects of fatigue that come with not getting enough sleep); a draining out of the field of experience of anything that seems good or meaningful, like the soul being sucked out of me.

Differences: The last time I fought with the experience; there was a very visceral sense of the “self” falling apart and being destroyed, and having to find a new “self” (this was frankly terrifying); The ego hysterics were bought into and perceived to have merit. This time around I am avidly practicing surrender (more below); there’s no sense of losing the “self” – If I had to guess it’s most likely because my orientation to the small self has so changed as a result of 2nd gear practice. There’s also, almost to the point of default, the reflex of objectifying experience rather than fighting it.

However, one aspect of this experience that has been somewhat confusing, disorienting, and seemingly unhelpful has been that I’ve been ill for much of the time of this dark night. What I had thought was severe food poisoning (at the end of July), never really went away. I’ve undergone numerous tests and it hasn’t been specifically identified. Although the digestive aspects of the sickness have faded, periods of feverish, mental scatteredness are still persisting (although they have decreased in intensity and frequency). The main issue with the sickness was that when it was (or is) manifesting, I was most definitely not surrendering – at a very subconscious level, I was keeping my foot on it, which didn’t really seem a helpful mindset for dealing with the dark night. Recently I’ve begun to realize that some of the symptoms I’ve associated with this illness (mainly the hot flashes) were also symptoms of the dark night I experienced 3.5 years ago. At this point, I’m not sure which symptoms are symptoms of what, and I’m not entirely convinced that these seemingly separate events are actually all that separate (which is truly mind-boggling when I take into account everything that’s happened over the past few months). After all, they did start at roughly the same time (and another thing that also happened around that starting point – access to 5th PL jhana strata).

At any rate, I’ve modified my practice to accommodate all of this (ahem) excitement. I’ve stopped doing the 2nd gear/strata of mind practice regularly (although I still do it on weekends), and switched back to straight up embodied, choiceless awareness vipassana. I use the triple noting technique but the final note in the triplet is modified so as to bring about active surrender (“surrendering”, “relaxing”, “accommodating”, “loving”, etc.). I made this switch because the choiceless awareness practice has always been to me intuitively the most effective way to deal with the uncomfortable stuff – I can really incorporate visceral surrender into it in a way that I can’t with other practices.

One thing about the dark night that took place 3.5 years ago – although it was easily the most difficult period of my life (and this current one currently ranks as “second-most-difficult”), having gone though it I’ve always been thankful that it happened. There’s a very strong sense that it was something that needed to happen, that I came through it transformed for the better and having experienced a tremendous amount of growth. Just inclining my mind toward that concept brings me to a very visceral point somewhere in the field of awareness that really helps to objectify what is currently happening.

At times over the past few weeks the clouds will part briefly -- there will be periods of extreme bliss and equanimity, or the soul filling back into the field of experience and bringing with it that wonderful curiosity regarding practice and the world...But I'm not out of the woods yet...
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93252 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
A couple of days ago I figured since I was in this dark night fun, it might behoove me to look into it further. Up to this point, I'd just classified these things as "dark nights", with no regards to the subsets of fear, misery, disgust, desire for deliverance, etc. I read up on it and realized that the dark night experience (for me at least) does change it's shape -- I'd been flying through periods of paranoia, periods of nothing really resonating (music, sex, books, all flat and boring), and periods of shuddering with tears wishing it would all end. All of these, obviously, correlate with certain subsets of the dark night. And just as obviously, I felt like I was just being hammered by re-observation. Although in my case, the cycles of re-observation I've been going through have also included periods of stable, blissful equanimity before getting sucked back into the maelstrom.

Two mornings ago (Wednesday 9/25) I woke feeling refreshed and good. I did strata of mind/2nd gear practice for my morning sit. As previously mentioned, I'd put this practice on the back burner to concentrate more on surrender. When I would do the practice, I'd get stuck in the dukkha strata for indefinite amounts of time. Even if I did manage to ascend up and out of them, the strata beyond were muted in their presentation and infused with the churning instability and physical discomforts of the dukkha strata. At any rate, on Wednesday morning I had a very smooth experience -- I sped through the dukkha strata, up to what is in my experience PL5 and back down to 6th jhana before dedicating merit. Good times.

I monitored myself closely and could feel the nastier parts of re-observation manifesting during the course of the day. I did tsa lung exercises followed by embodied vipassana that evening focusing on surrender as a nasty-feeling energy permeated the body. This continued into yesterday morning. I began my morning sit with the choiceless awareness/embodied vipassana, just trying to surrender to whatever came up. After about 20 minutes I transitioned into 2nd gear/strata practice, and got hung up in the dukka strata for the rest of the sit. While I was hung up in there, I could discern cycles -- there were 3 or four times where things started to "clear" and I felt like 4th jhana was near, only to get pulled back under again.

Then, yesterday afternoon, I pulled out this talk on my drive home from work:

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href=" www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/12484/ "> www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/210/talk/12484/

It's always been one of my favorites in that over the years I can get further and further into the talk and understand more and more of what Burbea is saying. Well, yesterday, at about the 36 minute mark, this talk went all &quot;pointing out&quot; on me. I just gently kept disembedding. From the 2nd gear witness state, what is it that witnesses the witness? There was some flipping back and forth between the witness, the small self...and something else. (The flipping was reminiscent of the &quot;hall of mirrors&quot; effect when I was first trying witness practices). I just gently, skillfully, kept looking, kept pulling back. What is witnessing the witness? What is watching awareness? I just kept pulling back, kept pulling back, and got to an *extremely* nice place.

I was able to reproduce the practice this morning, and it seems relatively easy to maintain even off the cushion as long as I pay attention. I don't know what this is, and I'm under no illusions that it will be reproducible long term (or not be reproducible long term), but it sure is a nice relief right now. Very nice.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93253 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
I've continued with the practice described in yesterday's entry. I guess if I had to describe it, it seems like getting close to the endpoint (in my own current experience) of disembedding. In 1st gear, I disembed from thoughts, emotions, images, physical sensations. In second gear, I disembed from the self contraction, the sense of self. In this practice, I'm disembodying from awareness itself, just watching awareness. What is watching? Well, nothing. There's nothing there. At least nothing one can pin down. From this vantage point, watching awareness, there's a considerable amount of bliss manifesting in awareness itself. But as far as what's actually watching, there's nothing...

Is this 3rd gear? Rigpa? One taste? Whatever it is, the dark night symptoms have vanished for now (crossing fingers).
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93254 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Sat evening, 9/28: Lots of uncomfortable Kundalini activity in the head, building into a migrane.

Sunday 9/29: Practice is focused, but a feeling of being &quot;off&quot;

Monday 9/30: Did strata of mind practice from the vantage point of disembodying from awareness. Extremely blissful and joyful practice. On the way to work, started feeling strange. A &quot;knot&quot; of annoyance somewhere in the self in the field of awareness in the morning, blooming into disgust in a very stressful work environment. A strong sense of being trapped, &quot;surrounded by idiots&quot;. Got home and cried harder than I have since a close friend died in high school. This crying must be a form of surrender -- I feel better having done it. Though it would be most helpful to not have to do this &quot;practice&quot; at all.

This morning: Concentration poor. Horrible energy expanding in the body -- nausea with a good dose of fried circuitry.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93255 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
I'm realizing that in a couple of previous entries, the autocorrect function on this site has changed my attempts at referring to &quot;disembedding&quot; as &quot;disembodying&quot;...Disembedding it is, or dis-identifying, or objectifying <!-- s:) --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_e_smile.gif" alt=":)" title="Smile" /><!-- s:) -->
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 7 months ago #93256 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Really uncomfortable energy continues to well up in the vessel of the body. A tinge of nausea, burnt out circuitry, as mentioned before. This morning it's also accompanied by the near-overwhelming feel of energy in the heart-center accompanied by anxiety (as oft-mentioned in this log).

Many thoughts about this whole process:

I'm doing whatever practice seems appropriate in the moment, but I realized these choices are being guided by pre-conceived notions as well as intuition. I do the dis-embedding practice as described over the last few days because it's a new experience and it seems like something that is presenting itself in order to be honed. With the return of dark night symptoms, I'm having a harder time completely dis-embedding from awareness/consciousness as there is the sense of strong discomfort and suffering in the pereceptual field. Nevertheless, this practice does seem to mitigate the symptoms when I am doing it.

I do the the embodied, choiceless awareness vipassana because it exacerbates the symptoms, makes them stronger, and thus enables me to surrender more fully to them. I realize that I am carrying a pre-conceived notion that really steeping in the nastiness is a good thing, to facilitate surrender, to more fully experience what is going on instead of retreating from it, with the idea that the more suffering I can pack in per unit of time, the more quickly this will pass.

I find myself wondering if I should be doing more strata of mind practice or more of the grounding, earth breathing/tsa lung type practices. At this point I don't know. The thought occurred recently that this has been going on for about 3 months now and is showing no signs of abating. The last experience I had like this went on for around 6-7 months. I'm realizing that based on my different approach to the dark night this time around (active surrender, lots of objectifying and accommodating of experience vs. fighting the whole thing), I have a set of expectations that it shouldn't last as long as last time. But like I said, there are no signs of abatement. In which case, it becomes curiously debatable whether the conventional wisdom about surrender is even accurate and maybe these things hang out as long as they need to regardless of the practices one does.

I'm also having strong feeling about something I've wanted to do in the future, perhaps when I retire from teaching -- become a meditation teacher. At this point, there's no way in hell I could advocate this type of path to a &quot;normal&quot; person. I'd think that a person has to really feel the pull of a spiritual path in order to do this (as I myself do). In no way, shape, or form, however, can I go around advocating that meditation is &quot;good&quot; for everyone.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 6 months ago #93257 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
The day before yesterday, I went back to 2nd gear/strata of mind practice for my morning sits (rationale below). Something happened that had never happened before -- I started, seemingly randomly, skipping strata and sort of bouncing all over the place. That morning I rose up through the strata as per usual, then skipped (or passed through extremely rapidly) PL3. On the way back down, I skipped PL1, as well as going from 6th jhana into the 3 characteristics territory. As this was a new occurrence, I did devote some energy trying to figure out where I was each time something unexpected happened. Yesterday, I gave that up and just sort of let myself skip around without paying to much attention to where I was at, other than just experiencing it. The same thing happened this morning.

I really have no idea what's going on.

I went back to the strata of mind practice because I was noticing a correlation between the dis-embedding from awareness itself practice and very strong kundalini activity in the head, which was leading to regular headaches, and in some cases, migraine-like symptoms. There's a very strong sense of needing to get the channels in the head sorted out so the kundalini can flow unobstructed. Headaches have been the major negative feature of the past few days. At some times during the day I can feel my mind dis-embedding of it's own accord, the kundalini ramping up (like electricity in my temples and the side of my head getting cranked up too much), and I have to gently &quot;re-embed&quot; back to my body.

I did make resolutions to see this process for what it is and see fearful thoughts for what they are and allow them to be liberated. This coincided with an easing of the burden. This morning I made resolutions at the end of the sit and it seemed I could literally feel some energetic working take place within the body vessel.

I have been feeling a groundswell of &quot;good&quot; underneath all the darkness and wildness. In listening to an Adyashanti talk about the dark night, he said something to the effect that &quot;darkness seeks the light, and you are that light...It can't hurt that loving presence that you provide -- you can tell that this loving presence is always there&quot;...something to that effect, and I realized this has been the case the entire time (At least on the cushion. An unprecedentedly stressful workplace is making things difficult).

This morning when I woke my body seemed released from a lot of dark energy, very light and open, and my head felt released, somewhat, from the grips of kundalini. However, my mind was mired in disgust and negative talk. As I sat, I felt the nasty, nauseous energy well up in the body, with definite passages through disgust and desire for deliverance. I did note that during the &quot;d for d&quot; phase that I knew the next phase got better, so I extended the sit, and it did get better -- wrapped up quite equanimously. Adjacent to this cycling, I was skipping all over the strata, with most time spent in PLs -- there didn't seem to be any relation between the re-observation cycles and the strata I was in at any given moment.

Overall, cycling seems to be going faster and faster.
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 6 months ago #93258 by NeverSummer
Replied by NeverSummer on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Random thoughts on this process:

I went back and read some of Laurel's log, recalling that she had gone through what seemed like similar territory. In reading the feedback given by Kenneth and Russell, I stopped to assess my own &quot;perspective&quot;. I feel like I may have been a bit too hung up on the fact that the dark night process is, in fact, impermanent in the long view. I realized that I was carrying quite a bit of expectations around that -- that it is a finite process and a beneficial process. I've adjusted my view a bit -- although I'm still working on perceiving impermanence in the moment, outside of that, the inclination of my mind is &quot;this is what is happening right now&quot;. That's it. Nothing more.

There's a couple of things that are really compounding the difficulties: Work is extremely stressful. During moments when I'm not completed mindful, there are lot's of things that can trigger resentment, which immediately puts me in a place of resistance, aka not surrender. I'm working on just coming back to &quot;this is what is happening right now.&quot; In addition, I've been in a relationship that has been long distance over the past four months, and the phone calls are fewer are farther between (she is traveling internationally right now). While this certainly gives me a surfeit of material to work with, it is ramping up the difficulty level.

Concrete thoughts about the process:

Concentration has been very good recently.

This is what is happening right now.
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  • Bill29ish
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7 years 6 months ago #93259 by Bill29ish
Replied by Bill29ish on topic Re: Jim's practice journal
Hi Jim: I am curious what your thoughts would be as far as where you are at in terms of paths. Have you tried grounding/noting at the same time?

Bill
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 6 months ago #93260 by NeverSummer
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Hi Bill -- Thanks for reading my log.

It's a good question, the accurate answer to which is &quot;I'm not sure&quot;.

Access to the PL strata would seem to suggest 3rd path, although on Kenneth's older website I saw it suggested in places that this could happen pre-3rd path. Or, I may be fooling myself entirely with regards to the PL strata...
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  • NeverSummer
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7 years 6 months ago #93261 by NeverSummer
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Seemingly lots of insights over the past week.

First, blind spots: To expand on my previous entry regarding some expectations I had been carrying around without even noticing &quot;...I feel like I may have been a bit too hung up on the fact that the dark night process is, in fact, impermanent in the long view. I realized that I was carrying quite a bit of expectations around that -- that it is a finite process&quot;...What I did here was shift my perspective to assume that these re-observation cycles would be with me *indefinitely*, and I needed to accommodate them as such, and function accordingly. And, although there's an assumption lodged in there, this seems to have helped calm things down a bit. I was able to dis-embed from those expectations I was stuck in and &quot;set them out in front of me.&quot;

Another blind spot: In reading about dark night stuff over at the Hamilton Project webpage, I read advice to the effect that one should, under no circumstances, believe in or give credence to the ridiculous, paranoid thoughts that arise during this process. However, in working on that, I found that disbelieving itself can carry with it no small amount of judgement and aversion. Even attempts to provide a loving vessel for all of this roiling energy coursing through me resulted in some sweeping aside and ignoring of aversion...Kenneth's advice to Laurel to &quot;note aversion&quot; during this process was extremely helpful in detecting this, and again, &quot;setting it out in front of me&quot;.

In terms of daily practice, my sits have evolved into: Doing embodied vipassana, really focusing on &quot;this is what is happening right now&quot;, and noting aversion. As I do this, however, the strata of mind and second gear practices start of their own accord after awhile. So, these two main practices of mine seem to have merged, and deepened. Through the deepening I'm noticing some things: Most of the strata is presenting very strongly -- my concentration is strong and the jhanas are extremely nice and peaceful. This is the case up to PL jhanas 3-5. I've always found it difficult to sustain concentration in this territory, but I've just kind of left it at that. As I can seem to see more deeply into it now, I realize that not only do I have difficulty sustaining concentration here, there's a tremendous amount of roiling energy, tenseness and uncomfortable physical sensations going on. It really seems like this territory has not entirely fleshed itself out. There's an incredible sense of loosening and relaxation that occurs when I drop down from PL3 to PL2.

The headaches stopped about 4 days after stopping the dis-embedding from awareness practices. Not sure if there is actually a link, I'll play with this some more after things calm down a bit more...

A really strong break into equanimity on Saturday morning (5 days ago). I spontaneously wept (tears of joy this time). The past few days, that thing where there is lots of energetic activity in the heart center accompanied by some anxiety...Again, setting it out in front of me. This is what is happening right now.
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