In Buddhism, they describe a few phases or facets of the dark night, meaning the phase that comes after arising & passing away and before equanimity.
Dissilusion. Clarity, mindfulness and focus drops away. It becomes difficult to practice, at least in the same way (clear, stable, focused) as before.
Fear. Anxiety and fear.
Misery. Sadness and loss.
Disgust. Suffering and unpleasant sensations.
Desire for deliverance. A desire for the misery to end.
Re-observation. A cycling of the previous five stages.
The recommended “solution” to this is inquiry, and feeling the sensations as sensations.
Read more about these stages, and some good practical advice, in Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha by Daniel Ingram. He writes from a naming practice context, so although the specifics of his advice often applies more to that practice, much of it is helpful for anyone going through this.
Here is a very simple way of thinking about this process:
Recognize vs. realize
It’s possible to recognize what’s here, to notice it, to have a glimpse. And it’s possible to realize it, to live it, to deepen in lived familiarity with it.
Nature of reality vs. nature of illusion
What can be recognized and realized is the nature of reality, what we – this field of experience – really are, aka (a) presence, love, awareness, (b) all of this as this field of appearances, and (c) capacity for all of it.
And we can recognize and realize the nature of illusion, how the world of apparent separation etc. is created through taking images and thoughts as true, and all the dynamics around this.
As a whole vs. parts
The nature of reality and the nature of illusion can be recognized and realized globally, as the whole of this field of experience.
And it can be recognized/realized by the different parts of me, the subpersonalities, the different aspects of this psyche. This happens through holding satsang with these parts, as they surface to find their own liberation, to realize the nature of reality and illusion for themselves, to recognize and realize what they really are.
Milestones vs. ongoing
There are some common milestones in recognizing/realizing the nature of reality and illusion, and it’s also ongoing. There is always further to go. Reality keeps opening up to itself. There is (most likely) no end point.
About 30 minutes into this video, Bentinho Massaro talks about three facets of reality or what we are, and it’s quite simple and basic, and fits my experience and noticing.
There is awakeness and the field of awakeness which every experience (sight, sound, sensation, taste, smell, mental) happens within and as.
There is content of awakeness (experience) – as sights, sounds, sensations, tastes, smells and mental activities (images, thoughts).
And there is the capacity for all of this.
Using Bentinho’s analogy, there are clouds (form, content of awakeness/experience), there is the sky (awakeness which clouds happen within and as), and capacity for it all (space). Where this analogy breaks down, where it doesn’t fit, is in the word space. The appearance and experience of space (and time) happens within and as awakeness, and capacity is capacity for all of it.
There is also a difference between noticing and finding ourselves as form, awakeness, and capacity. I may generally take myself to be form, content of experience, as this human self (me), this soul (presence), or the I (doer, observer), and I may still – at times – notice awakeness and even capacity. I may find myself as awakeness, and form (experience) happening within and as me, and I may intuit or notice capacity. Where I am right now, I have noticed capacity, and perhaps to some extent found myself as it, and yet it remains mostly a noticing for now. And that’s fine.
My me – my human self and soul (subtle body, presence) – will continue to change and evolve within all of this. As long as this human self is around, it will continue to reorganize and align with what’s noticed, and what I take myself to be. Noticing awakeness invites the human self to reorganize and realign with this, and finding myself as awakeness even more so, and I assume the same is the case for noticing and (at some point?) finding myself as capacity. It’s ongoing, and I don’t assume there is any end to this as long as there is a human body around, and a more subtle body.
So there are three facets of reality – capacity, awakeness, and awakeness in its play as form and experience. There is the difference between noticing and finding myself as either of these three. And there is the continuing reorganizing, aligning and evolving or the me – my human self and soul – within all of this, guided and influenced by what’s noticed and what I find myself as.