Shinzen Young on the dark night

 

1. Accentuate the good parts of the Dark Night even though they may seem very subtle relative to the bad parts. You may be able to glean some sense of tranquility within the nothingness. There may be some sense of inside and outside becoming one (leading to expanded identity). There may be some soothing, vibratory energy massaging you. There may be a springy, expanding-contracting energy animating you.

2. Eliminate the negative parts of the dark night by deconstructing them through noting. Remember “Divide and Conquer”—if you can divide a negative reaction into its parts (mental image, mental talk, and emotional body sensation), you can conquer overwhelm. In other words, eliminate the negative parts by loving them to death.

3. Affirm positive emotions, behaviors, and cognitions in a sustained systematic way. By that I mean gradually, patiently reconstruct a new habitual self based on Loving Kindness and related practices.

– Shinzen Young about the Dark Night, from The Power of Gone

I see that this can be helpful, and it’s – in some ways – a distilled form of what I have discovered for myself. The pointers are practical and helpful, and easy to understand. At the same time, they are written in a way that – at first glance – may seem to feed into and reinforce our habitual ideas of “good” and “bad”. Since those are potentially stressful thoughts they will be included under no. 2., and can be taken to inquiry…!

Accentuate the good. Even in a dark night, there is what we may think of as good. One way to discover this is to ask the question, is it true that what I am looking for is not here? More specifically: Is it true that peace is not here? Is it true that love is not here? Is it true that contentment is not here? Is it true that allowing is not here? 

Eliminate the negative. Examine the apparent problems through how it appears in words, images and sensations. What happens when you see words as words, images as images, and sensations as sensations? What happens when you take time and feel sensations as sensations? (Living Inquiries.) What stressful thoughts do you have about what’s happening? What do you find when you examine these? (The Work.)

Affirm the positive. Find love through ho’oponopono, tonglen, metta and similar practices. (Do these practices also on the suffering parts of yourself.) Meet the suffering parts of yourself in satsang. Pray to the divine. Ask for guidance. Ask for surrender. Ask for support in meeting what’s apparently troublesome with love.

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What if this is the single most important thing for you to do right now

 

In Break Through Pain Shinzen Young wrote, paraphrased:

If you are in so much pain you cannot do anything else than lie in bed, what if that’s what the universe considers the single most important thing you can do right now?

It’s a beautiful question, and I sometimes ask myself the same when I feel flattened and am in bed, or feel overwhelmed by primal fears surfacing. What if this is the single most important thing – for me, others, the world – is for me to feel flattened and lie in bed, or feel overwhelmed by these primal fears? What if what’s here is what the universe considers the single most important thing for me to do and experience right now?

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Maps and pointers

 

Here is a nice overview from Shinzen Young on six things to look out for on the spiritual path.

These six stories can be taken in a literal way and may be very helpful for some people in some situations. But they will have limited usefulness just for that reason. And if taken as beliefs, these six stories can become pitfalls in themselves.

It can be taken as more universal, applicable to many paths and situations in life.

More simply, it can be taken as a pointer for what is here now. These stories can be taken as a mirror of what is already here now. As a question and an invitation for inquiry.

And finally, if we are used to noticing symptoms of beliefs and inquiring into those beliefs – in whatever way seems most helpful to us – these six pointers are not even needed. Life itself will show us. Chances are, we will already have noticed most or all of them as they show up in many different ways in daily life, in whatever situations we are in.

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