Reasons for the dark night

 

I have written about this before, but wanted to revisit it for my own sake.

There are a few possible reasons for a dark night of the soul:

It’s a common stage in an awakening/embodiment process. It seems to be part of the process, for many or most.

It’s a part of natural swings. After a “high” there is a “down”, and the dark night of the soul sometimes comes after a honeymoon phase, an initial “high”.

With these swings, the invitation is to see, feel and love it all as awareness (Spirit, love), and to find ourselves as that which already is and allows it all.

It helps us see what’s left in terms of unloved and unexamined wounds, trauma, fears, beliefs, and identifications. It’s an invitation to find a new wholeness as a human being, and for identifications to (continue) to wear off.

It seems the dark night happened because I left my guidance. I went against my knowing and my guidance on a major life decision, and didn’t leave the situation even if it continued to not feel right. This led to a sense of being deeply off track, and eventually fatigue and collapse at many levels.

All of these may be part of the picture. It’s a natural phase, it’s an expression of natural swings, it’s an invitation to see/feel/love all as what I already am, it shows me what’s left, and it happened the way it did because I left my guidance on a significant life decision.

What are some possible reasons for an especially long and/or intense dark night of the soul? And, in particular, what may be some reasons in my case? (I am thinking of DNs that last 10-15+ years.)

It followed a long and intense initial awakening phase. The unusually high high was followed by an unusually low low. (Respectively 10+ years, followed by a transition, and then 10+ years.)

I may have special difficulties in finding love for what’s here, and examine it thoroughly. Perhaps due to trauma? In my case, it seems that it’s been difficult for me to allow it – the love, trust, understanding, insights – to deeply sink in and work on me at a deep(ish) level.

I continued to go against my guidance for several years, which deepened the sense of being off track, brought fatigue, and led to eventual collapse. I stayed in a situation that didn’t feel right, at a deep level.

On the topic of stages, here are some as described by Evelyn Underhill and Adyashanti.

Evelyn Underhill’s stages: Initial interest, dark night of the senses, illumination, dark night of the soul, unitive life.

Adyashanti’s stages: Calling, awakening, trails and tribulations, abiding tranquility, transfiguration, relinquishment, transmutation.

To me, it makes sense that a dark night of the senses leads to a more abiding tranquility. It seems that the only (?) way through it is to find a deep love for what’s here, including the deepest pain, and recognize it too – including at a felt level – as awareness and love. And it makes sense if this leads to a deeper sense of ease with what’s here, whether it’s easy or difficult, pleasant or painful, “light” or “dark”. It’s a deeper level of “one taste”, one that’s not only seen or loved, but also felt.

Update:

I am adding these points which came to mind:

A year or two before the dark night of the soul happened, I prayed for full awakening no matter what it would cost (for days, in front of the main altar in Bodh Gaya of all places). This is a type of “dangerous prayer” which may give us what we ask for, but not in the way we expect or (think we) want.

About six months before the darkest phase of the dark night, I received diksha (energy transfer) which led to about half a year in a (simple, easy, unremarkable) nondual state. This was followed by sudden fatigue and collapse at almost all levels. It’s possible that this was a response to the diksha. It may have tried to push or force a natural development that is better left to unfold in its own time. (Of course, this became part of my process and how it all unfolded.)

A couple of weeks before the absolutely darkest phase of the dark night (two years after the diksha event), I said another dangerous prayer. I asked to be shown what’s left, and was plunged into about nine months of primal and immense dread and terror.

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Recognize nature of reality and illusion

 

Here are some phases I see in my own process:

First, recognizing the nature of reality. A though may say that Spirit recognized all as itself, or that consciousness and it’s content was recognized as the same. It was an awakening out of identification as a separate object. Out of identification as a part of content of experience. Out of identification with words and images which previously created the experience of separation. This happened uninvited and early in life, before the “ego” in a psychological sense had formed in a mature way. (Some would say a little too early, but life obviously didn’t see it that way.)

Then, recognizing the nature of illusion. I am still in this phase, and for me, this includes exploring the nature of illusion through different forms of inquiry. How is the experience of separation created? What happens when there is identification with and as certain words and images, certain viewpoints? What are the consequences? How is it experienced? (For many, this phase goes before recognizing the nature of reality, or the two go hand in hand.)

Along with this, there is a more stable meeting of what’s here. A more stable meeting of any experience, as it is. The two previous ones makes this a little easier. This is also a building of capacity in meeting what’s here. And inquiry can certainly help. Is it true it’s overwhelming? Is it true these words, these images, these sensation can harm me? What words and images are stuck to these sensations? How is it to examine these, so I can feel the sensations as they are, recognizing them as just sensations?

And through this meeting of what’s here, more and more of what’s previously unmet, unfelt, unloved and unexamined is met, felt, loved and examined. At some point, many of the largest chunks have been met, felt, loved and examined, although – I assume – there will always be more to met, feel, love and examine.

So there is a recognition of the nature of reality, a recognition of the nature of illusion, a more stable meeting of what’s here, and of more and more of what’s here being met, felt, loved and examined, and all of these go hand in hand. There is no end point for any of these. They happen here and now. It’s fresh. And a thought may say each of these keep opening up and reveals more of itself. A though may say that life (reality, Spirit) keeps revealing itself to itself.

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Teachers and audience

 

There seems to be little correlation between how clear or mature and teacher appears to be, and the size of their audience.

Some may be quite clear and/or mature and have a relatively large audience, such as the historical Buddha, the Dalai Lama, and even Byron Katie. These people live their insights, and they present it in a way that’s inviting and helpful for a large group of people. They are interested in and able to express it in a way that meets a wide range of people where they are. They may also be somewhat charismatic, or be good business people. All of this helps them reach a wider and larger audience.

Some may be less clear and/or mature, and still have a larger audience (some popular new age authors come to mind). They meet people where they are, and do so in an engaging way.

This is also very good. It’s a stepping stone, as any teaching or insight is. There is always further to go. It can always be more clear. It can always sink in a bit further. As it’s lived, there is always more to discover.

Some may be quite clear and/or mature and have a smaller audience, even a very small one – just their family and friends. I assume most lives where reality awakes to itself in a relatively clear way fits this category. They may be content with a simple life. They may not have the human packaging to be a teacher or reach a wide audience. They may not be drawn to it. They may be clear it’s not needed. And that’s very good too. Reality awake to itself is lived in any number of ways, including as just an ordinary person living an ordinary life.

When I wrote clear and/or mature, it’s because I suspect that levels of clarity and maturity may be only moderately correlated. Some seem clear and less mature (Ken W. comes to mind), others seem quite mature and somewhat less clear (the head Breema teacher), while some appear clear and mature (Byron Katie, Adyashanti, Bonnie G., Barry). Of course, if there is clarity and it’s allowed to sink in, that does provide fertile ground for maturity at a human level.

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Transition experiences

 

In shifting from taking ourselves as an object in the world to awake void & field of form (Big Mind), there can be many transition experiences, either as glimpses or more stable phases.

One way to organize these is by the three aspects of Big Mind: void, awake, and form. It works to some extent, but there are also lots of overlaps here (by necessity, since those three are really the same thing/no-thing). Also, what I list here are mostly things I am familiar with from my own process, so a lot is left out.

  • Void… a sense of form as transparent, translucent, insubstantial, dream-like, absent of I and Other, absent of identification.
  • Awake… a sense of the wider world (beyond the human self) as somehow awake, conscious, animated. (Leading to experiences akin to nature and deity mysticism.)
  • Form… a sense of form as a seamless whole (from shifting the center of gravity into the witness, pure seeing), as transparent and insubstantial (from sensing it as void), and as awake or consciousness itself (from seeing it in its awakeness aspect).

And then a fourth area which comes up to different extents: the soul. It enriches the process tremendously, can appear as a stumbling block if taken as anything final or attached to for any other reason, and can also be a guide into an awakening of the void to itself.

  • Soul… a sense of clear luminosity, of alive presence, of smooth, full, round, luminous blackness, and of this body and all form as void combined with any or all of these. (For instance, a sense of alive presence in and as this body, or the smooth luminous blackness as what all form arises from, within and as.)

More specifically, transition experiences can include a sense of no separation, of oneness (a vague I here, one with the wider world), of synchronicities (the content of form out there mirroring what is going on in here), of one’s inanimate surroundings as consciousness (and not really separate from this consciousness), and much more.

Eventually, it leads into a sense of a separate self falling away, and what is left is just the field of awake void and form, the form including this human self and its surroundings (whatever arises in the field of consciousness), and all inherently absent of an I with an Other. It is all just a field… void, awake and as form.

Why haven’t we awakened yet?

 

It seems that lots of folks on the spiritual circuit wonder why they haven’t awakened yet. There is a resistance to what is (which happens to be what holds it, the appearance of non-awakening, in place.)

So why haven’t we awakened yet?

The immediate and technical reason is the resistance itself, which creates a sense of I and Other, splitting the seamless field of awakeness down the middle. This comes from a belief in a separate self, which in turn is propped up by innumerable other beliefs. The initial sense of I and Other is elaborated through lots of different identities which define exactly how this I is different from the rest of what is.

Another reason is that it is all the play of emptiness. It is all the spontaneous expression and manifestation of God in the form realm. It is lila, the dance of God. God manifesting, experiencing and exploring itself as and in form, including taking itself to be just a segment of this form.

Any experience, independent of its content, is God experiencing itself. Awakened or not, it is still God exploring and experiencing itself in its vastness and immense richness.

Specifically, there is a tremendous richness in the exploration and experiencing of being a separate self. Why would God let that go right away? There is so much more to explore and experience there, so it makes sense to allow the exploration to continue a little longer.

It may not always be what our human self wants, but that too is part of the game.

So if we take ourselves as this human self, and have stories about why we haven’t awakened, then exploring the genuine gifts of not having awakened may help.

It takes some of the charge out of our initial stories, allowing us to see that they are only stories, and revealing the inherent neutrality of the situation.

It also helps reduce resistance to what is, or rather identification with and fueling of this resistance. This in turn eases a sense of something being off. And it also allows for an easier noticing of what already and always is. A field of awake emptiness and form, seamless, with no center, sometimes with a sense of a separate self and sometimes not.

Edge effect

 

800px-mandel_zoom_11_satellite_double_spiral.jpg

(Thanks to Tom for suggesting fractals as another example)

In ecosystems, and most other systems, the edges are often the most rich and fertile.

We have the land ecosystem, and then the ocean ecosystem, and at the edge between the two there are representatives for both, and for the edge as well. Instead of characteristics from only one system, there are three: one, the other, and whatever emerges uniquely in the intersection of the two.

And so it is with awakening as well.

We have one system which is the awakened one. Another, which is the deluded one (taking oneself as a separate self). And at the edge of the two, there are characteristics of one, the other, and the uniqueness of the edge.

We get to explore a rich landscape, spanning all three ecosystems.

(In systems language, the awakened and deluded situations are attractor states, habitual states the system falls into… but in in this ecosystem analogy, it fits better to think of them as different landscapes or systems.)

Beliefs, no beliefs, and freedom to play

 

Writing the previous post on ideas about mass awakenings, I realize that it was slightly one-sided (as usual)…

A more inclusive way to look at it is to see that we have, at least, three ways of relating to stories.

First, as a belief. We take the relative truth in them as absolute, and the grain of truth in their reversals is denied or overlooked. They fall into the shadow of the belief, and as any belief also creates an identity, they fall into the shadow of our identity as well.

Then, as freedom from beliefs, and abandoning stories for the most part, resting in the wide open space of not-knowing mind. Stories may surface, as essential for the daily life of this human self, but they are seen as only stories and not engaged in much.

Finally, there is a freedom to play with the stories again, much as before the awakening, but now in a completely free way. We can engage in, explore, develop, use, play around with them, in great detail, yet knowing full well that they are only stories. Only surface ripples on the vastness of awake emptiness, and – at best – with only temporary, limited, and purely practical (instrumental) use.

Here, the stories are often used as pointers to not-knowing mind and that which is inherently free from (belief in) any stories. And if they are used to describe something in the form realm in addition to that, there is usually an emphasis of the purely relative truths in the stories and the grain of truth in all their reversals, inviting others to see the inherent neutrality of the situation and not get too caught up in any stories.

Three relationships with the reversals of views

 

Related to the previous post, but also a little different…

I see how I cycle among three relationships with an awareness of the reversals of views.

One is happily oblivious, using or attaching to a view without much awareness of the grain of truth in their reversals.

The other is releasing views. Having seen how each view has innumerable reversals, and they all have limited and relative validity, I become more cautious. I release from them, as much as I can. There may even be ambivalence here, because I see that I cannot continue in my certainty of particular views anymore, but I am also not quite able to play freely with them either. So I hold back. And I investigate.

The third is a free play with views, first using one, then another, then a third, the a view that includes some of them all, being able to find the truth and validity in each of them, and also seeing the limitations of each. This comes from a more thorough investigation of particular views and each of their reversals. There is a more finely grained familiarity with the terrain, so also more freedom.

Examples and flavors

There are many flavors to this.

One is in terms of views in general.

Another is with shadow projections, where I am first blindly caught up in it, then learn to recognize the symptoms and become more cautions, and then more free around it as we become more familiar with the process.

And yet another is in the belief of a separate self. Initially, we take it for granted. Then, when we see that too as just another idea with relative truth, we may get a little stunned and hold back for a while while investigating further. And finally, there is a freedom around it, a free play, allowing it to be there when it is, yet also seeing the insubstantiality of it.

The three relationships play themselves out in each of these situations, and many more than involves views and beliefs.

Briefly: transition experiences

 

What are some common transition experiences during awakening?

Here are some I have noticed for myself, and also heard from others:

Within form…

  • A sense of no separation between “I” here and the rest of the world out there
  • A sense of oneness with all of Existence. I am here, yet one with all.
  • A sense of the world of form as a seamless whole, with no separation between this human individual and the wider world
  • Noticing synchronicities – the outer world mirroring the inner, as if one seamless field.

Within awareness…

  • A sense of “I” as awakeness, as witness, pure awareness, pure seeing.
  • A sense of awakeness out there, in the wider world… in plants, trees, objects, the universe. it all seems mysteriously and inherently awake somehow.

Within emptiness…

  • A sense of awareness itself as a void, as empty, insubstantial.
  • A sense of all forms being insubstantial, transparent. Almost like a dream.

With the sense of a separate I…

  • The sense of a separate I weakens, becomes more transparent. There is just what is, content of experience staying much the same, yet with an absence of a separate I. And this becomes gradually more clear.

And it makes sense.

If what we are is awake emptiness and form, inherently absent of a separate I, then that is what comes through, in different ways, during the awakening process. We may take ourselves as an object in the world, but what we really are breaks through… as an intuition, a sense, a glimpse.

It is Big Mind gradually becoming more familiar with itself, as it already and always is. Only temporarily filtered through taking itself as an object within form.