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Dark night III

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Friday, 23 Jun 2023, 12:03


Just seem to be coming out of another dark night of a very unpleasant state of mind. I was fine most of yesterday, my mood seemed to be great. Then in the evening I got triggered by something completely meaningless and suddenly went into an irrational rage. It was like my nervous system was on fire, and I didn't know how to put it out. My skin was crawling with agitation, and no matter what I did I couldn't soothe it or find any relief. It was Hell. I couldn't meditate, couldn't sit still, couldn't lie still, couldn't even bear walking. No posture felt comfortable. I honestly at that point wanted my life to end, I had had enough. Thoughts of self-harm and suicide raced through my mind. And it was hard to endure. I have been trying so hard to keep my moods balanced and stay composed, and I seemed to be doing well. But suddenly this mood came upon me out of seemingly nowhere and I felt powerless.

The three poisons greed, hate, and delusion were making their presence felt and gave me a kicking last night.

It lasted all night, and was still there this morning. It is only now that it seems to be finally subsiding. I am not joking when I say the mood nearly killed me. It was unbearable. I feel ashamed. No matter what I did, what I tried, the strategies of right effort, the reasoning, the wisdom, the bringing it down in stages, mindfulness, samhadi - it all failed. 

I am writing this to try and help myself understand what happened. What can I do to prevent that mood arising in the first place? What triggered it? Prevention is all about avoiding unwise attention to the fault, and avoiding unwise attention to the beautiful. What is wise attention?

I now have this self-loathing that hangs over me like a fault-finding shadow. A cloud of midges constantly reminding me of what a crappy useless human being I am. 

Despite this, I will keep practising, but I feel afraid. Not afraid of people, or the world. I am afraid of the three poisons within me: greed, hate, and delusion. This spiritual path is not to be taken too lightly, be careful, especially if practising alone. Those three poisons, the kilesas/kleshas are real, they're no joke, and they don't want to be purified. They will resist you, and sometimes when your mindfulness is weak, they will make you do stupid stuff, say things you regret, lock you in a Hell of your own making. They will kill you if they get a chance, they are not your friends. They would rather you died than got enlightened, if that's what it takes to keep you in Samsara. 

The crazy thing is, they are empty, empty of self, just like everything else. But still they put up a fight and it isn't pretty, and sometimes on the spiritual path one must be prepared to fall, and sometimes fall hard, get up all cut up and bruised. It happens. For me right effort at the moment seems to be about acknowledging my failure, picking myself back up, brushing myself off. Trying to learn what I can from the painful experience. Then the hard part, let go of it. Because if I don't let go of it, if I keep holding onto it, replaying it over and over in my mind. I will struggle to move on and become stuck in the quagmire of regret and remorse.

Next time that mood comes. I will try very hard not to speak, not to talk at all, to endure it in silence, and practise the parami of patience. Wait for that which arises to also cease. Isolate myself somewhere quiet away from the world and the energy of others and try very hard to be still. Will that work? I don't know. It sounds reasonable now that the mood has passed, but when I am in the grip of it, I often find these plausible-sounding strategies don't work. I can't bring myself out of the mood, it is really hard. 

Anyway all I can do is try. And if I fail again. I will do another review, adjust the strategy, keep tweaking it until it works. If I get knocked down, I'll get back up again. Get knocked down, rinse and repeat.




Permalink 1 comment (latest comment by Daniela Miller, Sunday, 25 Jun 2023, 04:22)
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Asoka

Managing difficult moods

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Edited by Richie Cuthbertson, Tuesday, 21 Feb 2023, 15:25

I woke up today and the 'dark night' had returned. So strange, because I was sure it had gone away yesterday. But I was in a really difficult mood this morning. Once again my attempts at right effort were mocked and overridden by unpleasant and distracting thoughts.

 When there is a difficult mood present in the mind, the thoughts are coloured by this mood, and thinking actually makes things worse. There are moods that one cannot intellectually think their way out of.

Thought in itself is not evil, it can be a useful tool, and the ability to reflect and contemplate is important in studying and development. But when it is always going on constantly, it can be tiring and become a source of suffering. The thoughts are closely tied to whatever mood you are in, they are shaped by it, and there are some moods that are not helped by thinking.

There might be a little voice that says: 'you must think about this, this needs to be looked at, this is important.' And it makes you feel restless and agitated. It's almost like thoughts are tyrants made out of word formations. They don't stop making demands, and they never give you a moment to rest and be still; but that is exactly what one needs to be doing when the mood is like this. 

For me personally, I have to give myself permission to withdraw from the thought processes, and from the world also, and not feel guilty for doing this. Give myself the permission to not have to think about anything at all and just become still. Nothing bad happens when we stop thinking about stuff. If anything it is a relief. We do it every night when we go to sleep.

But just sitting somewhere quietly may not bring stillness straight away, especially if the mind is agitated and restless, so one also has to be patient with the difficult mood. This is where a bit of endurance is needed. It can sometimes take a while for one to drop into serenity and composure. And the mood might not go away fully after just one sitting. When this happens, one can at least notice if the negativity is reduced somewhat after the sitting, and if it is, then one knows they are going in the right direction, and it is working. The mood may have to be calmed down in stages, gradually, and it may take more than one sitting to get there.

Find somewhere quiet, away from the world and others, sit as still as you can with an upright dignified posture. And be in the body as it is, experiencing the sensations as they arise and cease in the here and now, let the thoughts continue, but don't pay attention to them, let them be like background noise, and just stay with the peace and quiet of the body and breath. If the attention goes back to the thoughts, try not to get stressed, it happens to us all, just gently bring the attention back to the body and breath, to the here and now. In time, the thoughts start to become less sticky, and the attention is not easily distracted by them, and then the energies start to calm down, the mind settles and composure returns.

One can find stillness in walking meditation too, especially if one has been sitting down for a long while, such as a livelihood that involves sitting at a desk. Practising walking or standing meditation can bring relief from that. Being present with the feeling of the feet on the ground, the feeling of the legs, the arms, the hands, the body as a whole standing, walking. The feeling of air currents on the skin, in the nostrils, feeling the breath energy go deep down into the belly. Notice the different parts of the body, the sensations happening in the here and now. Go somewhere private away from the energies of other humans, so you can spend some time alone, by yourself away from the hustle and bustle of the world and digital devices, someplace where you don't have to do any talking, and you can just be still. 

Sometimes others may make demands on our time, and the world can be stressful and there are things that need to be attended to. But when you are in a difficult mood, it is better to withdraw from whatever you are doing, withdraw from the world, withdraw from the thinking, and seek stillness instead.

Sometimes you may have to tell others that you are unable to deal with their request just now. That you need some solitude to look after your mental health; it does feel rude, like one is being selfish, and some people do take it personally and they can get resentful, and this is unpleasant; but, if one doesn't, one can end up saying and doing things they regret, because when one's mood is off, one is not in the best state of mind to deal with things. So one should give oneself permission to be assertive about the need for stillness and quiet, and not feel guilty about it. It is essential.

In Ajahn Sona’s YouTube Q&A livestream on Sunday evening, he answered a question about the “dark night” and advice on how to manage difficult moods.

Here is the link, for anyone who is interested:

 https://www.youtube.com/live/BPZzPm-cxbo?feature=share&t=380  (it is about 6:20 into the broadcast,link opens in new window/tab).

 There may be others out there who find his answer helpful. 

Peace and metta to everyone.





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