Lucid Dream of the Three Black Dogs


I audiorecorded my journal entries for May 27 and 28. Those were very “different-from-the-usual” and productive sits. I resorted to audio-recording because I’m trying to be better about going to bed earlier than 3 a.m. since I have to get up for work by 8:30 a.m. I’ll try to transcribe highlights from those recordings later; meantime, I’m at my favorite coffee shop, working on MCTB2, working my way to the end of Part II, Mastery, which includes the jhana framework, concentration practices, and the insight stages and practices. This is the practice heart of a book that puts practice first; therefore, much painstaking care has been put into this part.


I can go ahead and dispense with May 29 and 30 withal. Those sits were shit, I’m sorry to say. Both were late at night, and I was plagued by so much physical irritation, mainly itching, and emotional hopelessness and, yes, Pawel, boredom, that I cut each short after 25 or 30 minutes. I was getting nowhere, even as I tried hard to stay with all the horrible sensations and tried to notice that 95% of my sensate world was “just fine,” as Daniel says in MCTB2. I couldn’t or wouldn’t do it.

Ennui of Cycles

I climbed into bed to escape into sleep, but I couldn’t sleep, either. Early last evening, I had some acute surges of Fear; then the rest was all Misery, which until lately hasn’t given me much of anything to notice for the past year. Overall, I seem to be in Misery, which is odd for following a pretty wonderful Equanimity run. I’m sick of the cycles. The more they repeat, the moods and modes, the more meaningless they seem. And maybe that is precisely the point. But to have one baby I had numerous menstrual cycles, all unpleasant to miserable, so now to have one awakening I have to live with these stupid cycles the rest of my life? Not that I ever had a choice about either type of cycle.

Lucid Dream of the Three Black Dogs

After I finally got to sleep, sometime past 5 a.m. this morning, I had another dream with Dan in it. In this one, I was back in the home of my childhood, lying in my bed, trying, without success, to sleep. Suddenly I heard the scratching on the window screen of my bedroom. My various boyfriends and male Platonic friends would come break me out of that window at night back during my teen years. I would sneak out with them and drive till we were lost in the maze of North Florida dirt back roads.

I arose and went to the window, but instead of finding any of my boyfriends, I found three viscous black dogs tearing the screen to shreds with their sharp nails and teeth, and evidently coming to finish me off in a gruesome bloodbath.

Suddenly, time froze and I was Skype text chatting with Daniel. I was telling him these three black dogs were currently outside my bedroom, were tearing my screen open, and were about to leap at me and tear my throat out, silencing me forever. I asked him for advice. He told me, through this very different screenal portal, that I could try recognizing that these worries currently “dogging” me were aspects of myself and therefore but a dream. I told him, “I am in Misery, Daniel. I once read this memoir by William Styron on his bout with severe depression—he configured depression as a black dog. Those black dogs are going to kill me, Daniel.”

Today I’m also thinking how there were three of them. That trifold dog is Cerebus, the three-headed sentinel of Hades from Greek myth. Cerebus is a monster born of a woman who herself was a monster: half woman, half snake—a configuration of tempted/tempter with its own nondual resonances from the Bible. Cerebus allows people to enter hell, but will not allow them to ever again leave.

“So, Daniel, it is fine to say those dogs are just a dream, but they will kill me nonetheless.” Daniel said, “Realize that Everything is a dream, then, including your dying.” I said, “How do I do that, how do I realize that?” He said, “By realizing that this very conversation we are having right here and right now is a dream, lying without all confines of time and space, but here for the realization as such nonetheless.”

And with these words of his, I did realize that I was in fact dreaming. I instantly was flashed back into the dark bedroom of my childhood and saw the three black dogs still at their vicious work. But I was no longer afraid. I knew and remembered Daniel’s words and that I was dreaming. With one wave of my hand and a sharp boy whistle, I made the dogs freeze and then evaporate. And there were no boyfriends there to break me out of my confines, either. There was, however, a clear view.

And then I awoke.

Goddess, Priestess, and Near Hit on Nirodha Samapatti

May 27, 2015

I’m summarizing this from an audio-recording I made right after the sit of May 27, 2015, because I needed to get to bed. Short, 30-minute sit, and a very interesting one it was. It was very, very late, and I was sleepy, which is especially good for balancing my usual high energy with surrender.

Queen of Wands, Reversed

On DW’s suggestion, I am trying drawing a card before my sits rather than after. I drew the Queen of Wands, reversed. I drew the Queen of Wands, upright, recently. That is a good card with a dragon (wisdom) and lion (friendship, loyalty) on either side of the Queen. However, in reverse, this card signifies love run to lust, possessiveness, rage, jealousy, codependency, or some combination of these unsavory manifestations. The look on her face is one of naughtiness, the men on either side of her are slaves, and the large dragon’s eye behind her is glaring down on her, watching what she is up to. This was accurate for how I’ve been feeling. Not so positive in this position, but true, and at least knowing allows me to reflect and temper action, speech, and further thought with hopefully better intent.

Drowned Goddess, Sands, Uprooted Weeds, and a Floating Nervous System

Yesterday I was in Misery, but I must have passed through the rest of the Dark Night rapidly, because tonight I was in solid, magnificent Equanimity. My posture was pure, regal, and I felt like sitting all night.

Although I didn’t push or pull the jhanas up, I was quickly in fourth. Rapid-fire flashing mental “visions” started, behind my closed eyelids, many images. Early on there was a goddess with aqua-blue skin and white, white long flowing hair. She seemed to be from the bottom of the ocean, as if an apotheosis of a drowned woman. She was spooky in a fun sort of way.

Then, prominent for quite some time were images of sand—sands on a vast track of beach, individual sands, sands running through my clenched fists, sands sinking into a hole like a drain that all the sands on the beach were falling into, to the center of the earth. Then instead of clenching sands, my hand was clenching uprooted plants, weeds, and I kept yanking them up. And then one of the yanked plants became a jellyfish-translucent brain with spinal cord and nerves dangling as if roots. . . . Weird stuff.

Infinite Space and Consciousness, Unpushed and Unpulled

Suddenly—BOOM—the visions stopped. There was vast, vast, vast spaciousness, further out by far than I’ve ever felt before. Then in a bit I brought in Consciousness, which was rich and just amazingly vast as well. I entered Nothingness, NPNYNP, and P8JP, where I resolved for nirodha samapatti, which I never get. And from there that BOOM and out to vastness happened again.

May 28, 2015

This entry is for the sit of May 28, 2015, and is also from an audio-recording I made right after the sit.

Possibly Nirodha Samapatti “Lite”

This sit was for an hour after I meant to sit for only 40 minutes. I had a lot of discursive mind babbling, but that didn’t hamper the jhana’s from coming on at all. I made note of that, for the second night in a row, the jhanas seemed to have dropped to a new benchmark of profundity since that first “real” cycle completed on this new path. Amazing depth. Someplace in Equanimity it seems—started in early but seemed to end in High Equanimity. I had a discontinuity out of eight that I guess was a fruition. Also, later, out of P8JP, I had a kind of powering down of the body and mind; however, I was never completely gone, coma-like, the way Daniel describes, so I’m going to say only that “something interesting” happened.

[Postscript, 2018—I agree with Daniel that this “lite” thing, which was in vogue as a claim on the Dharma Overground and Awake Network back in 2012 or so, is not an attainment of nirodha at all. Nirodha means cessation, complete nonexistence of consciousness and the world, with absolutely no sense of time’s having passed across that interval of being “out.” One does not “experience” this state, but only the shift down into it and the powering up out of it. Then a debilitating 13-hour bliss afterglow ensues, which is the confirmation. This is a difficult attainment. It took me 3 months of resolution, prayer, and precision practice to nail it. It is written that only anagamis and arahats can attain to it. I don’t know about that, as those terms anagami and arahat are extremely inflated terms these days in pragmatic dharma circles. But the point is that it is advanced and the “lite” version is at best a near hit and not any attainment whatsoever.]

High Priestess, Reversed

I drew the High Priestess, reversed. This card is a very feminine card and connotes power based on passivity, waiting, drawing in. The priestess has no body but instead an unraveling of ribbons of cloth, a deconstruction of her clothes, with nothing discernible underneath them. On reverse, all those masks in the background mean that pleasantries are going on superficially, but someone or something is underneath that, behind the scenes, working something toward me that may be good or ill. The card warns me not to make decisions but to wait and remain watchful, maybe even suspicious.

Dharma Friends

I noted that I was sending good thoughts DW’s way, for some tough issues, and that I enjoyed two chats today with Daniel, with whom everything seems sweetness and light even though I’m giving him hell on the boards. Something feels completely “done” about all our former fights, as if the last one just completely unmasked something and now everything is more real, more disappointing maybe, but also more sustainable. Although maybe all that is all superficial wishing, even now.

The Dark Night of the Soul


Ace of Pentacles, reversed. Vague frustration. Desire to leave but not knowing where to go or what to embrace instead. Lackluster sit, but not unpleasant exactly. Wish I had been able to be outside today instead of working. It is bright green and brilliant blue springtime, but there is a dark gray wash over everything. No one sees.

Nonduality and Fear

So last night I couldn’t sleep at all. I tossed and turned until I gave up and read this new book Nonduality that Bill Finch recommended to me. Then the birds were chirping in the sunrise. I lay back down and several times drifted off, only to jolt awake in terror. I was losing myself each time as I drifted off. I was suddenly diffused into Boundless Space, or Boundless Consciousness. I was melting into surround space, I was losing myself, and at the last second, each time, I decided to hold back. With that decision, terror spread through my being like wildfire. It was truly terrifying and always at the moment of drop-off.


Today was beautiful outside, but I was confined to my office, working on MCTB2. I was in Misery. Not about anything, really, just the stage.

Tonight, during my sit, I felt my concentration was extremely poor. I was truly miserable, and bodily vibrations were very noticeable. I kept moving back and forth between trying to get jhana and just sitting there investigating all this vibrating anguish. I was crying at one point and then upbraiding myself for being stupid enough to cry. And so on.

The sit kept feeling like failure, but, even so, it was interesting. At one point, I got very intense large swaths of space fluxing through me, and I had that synch-up that that portends “agencylessness.” I felt that even this mood, even my excess attention toward it, were part of this larger moving of the whole volume of which it is part. There was no post-jhanic bliss reward. The whole-volume wave was it. There were several discontinuities. Not sure if those were fruitions or just kind of shift shocks through my skull.

King of Wands—Charisma, Charm, Boardroom Power

I drew the King of Wands, upright. He has that dragon flare and wears it like a boa. It has to do with negotiations and new ventures—confidence in my own new enterprises. Indeed I’m feeling a bit restless to be free of Daniel Ingram, to awaken, and then to start my own projects—writings, community, whatnot. This, too, is likely also just a fantasy, just part of my wanting to return to a life that really is gone now, a bit of clinging to my old self, a bit of clinging to the one who is in control of her destiny, right?

Even so, I will be reckoned with. I will bring all my power to bear on new startups, and I will not be content to be relegated to the margins of anyone else’s writings again. I will be one of the definers of community, on equal footing with whomever presumes to refer to himself as my Overlord.

So there.

The Arising and Passing Awake: Rapid Cycling

I meant to head this entry “The Arising and Passing Away,” but I’m going to let the way my hands typed it abide.

Just 15 hours after that remarkable Cause and Effect, all signs point to the beginning of an A&P. Confusing. I had an A&P dream in the middle of what seemed a protracted Equanimity-in-Review stage. Still Equanimity seemed to persist. I do remember having a few minutes of mind-body review. Then C&E today. Why would I be cycling this fast? Am I definitely out of Review now because starting from the bottom? Even though I can call up insight states now, which I thought happened only in Review?

The Magician

I lit my fancy oil lamp, meditated gently for a few minutes, feeling like I could sit all night, and drew the Magician card. This card represents positive new progress, a new direction, a new path (apropos). At the same time, this card represents an individual of high intelligence, self-understanding, and wit: an adept, a community leader, or teacher. This person could be new; in an established relationship, however, this card represents a new and positive beginning. The upright Magician in the card is moving boldly forward. He holds a straight staff upright, showing his absolute conviction in his direction and in his power. He commands all 4 elements of the minor arcana, which in the card he holds the signs of:

  • Cups for water: emotion, relationships, creativity, and love;
  • Pentacles for earth: the physical plane, career, money, and resources;
  • Swords for air/wind: intellect, thought, reason, and power;
  • Wands for fire: spirituality, energy flow, intention, will, creativity.

The images of paths and hands in the background suggest the specific unseen forces behind and undergirding the Magician. The upward flight of the white dove in the background suggests liberation (insight) and creation (magic). The Magician’s hand is open toward the sky, indicating both the release of self (insight) and creative expression (magick and other expressive pursuits).

The card is telling me to tap into my attainments, talents, concentration, intuitive ability, and other fortunate resources. It is telling me to very simply and directly stop holding back. The Magician is inviting me to step forward confidently into the spiritual transformation I otherwise desperately seek.


Woke with a migraine. Sleepy and mildly headachy all day. A&P seems to be subsiding into Early Dissolution (man, that was too short of an A&P!). Whatever has recently happened to me seems to have made the cycles much faster.

The First and Last Training

I was reflecting today on ways I need to improve my life and conduct, starting with exercising restraint. These cycles make me (and others) pretty nutty, and I need to be mindful of this as a fact to be always expected to manifest. In work situations I am mindful of it, but that doesn’t mean that I should let loose everywhere else.

Part of my shortcomings in this regard is that thinking in terms of conduct alone won’t work for me. I need to take it all the way to heart: what is at stake, what these forces do, and what I want to be from the silence of my heart out to others. I like to think of myself as pretty smart and precise. And I’m a person whose intentions are normally good, virtuous; however, it is humbling to see that I too easily get completely lost in these forces. It is not enough to recognize them and determine to control my words and actions: I have to plumb the counter-thoughts at heart, work from the deep level of self-purification, which seems to be this new trip I’m on. I’ll look into some simple rituals to do.

I’m going to go into magick pretty seriously, I feel. It is in my future. I was in many stage productions in college, a theatre major. Ritual is much the same thing. Magick is much the same: By becoming otherwise, you more completely become who you are.

What Daniel said about keeping renunciations private, in my own mind and heart, is resounding in me—not just the restraint aspect of it, but the heart aspect, the returning to the heart and reflecting from that interior more thoroughly, without neediness. I’m a shy but needy woman who wants to love and be loved by everyone. This collection of traits and habits, shyness and neediness, leads to my being hurt by my own over-expression. Not everything should be expressed. Most should not be, even the good should be restrained. If I had less of an open wound where a backbone should be, then it would be enough for me to sit with my mouth shut, my hands still, and my heart open. I might then not be so greedy and demanding, and ultimately hurt.

I’m also working with food, movement, schedule, sleep—although notice how terrible a job I’m doing on the sleep part at the moment, which is the root of my problems, just as Aparna said. A lot of my life and practice is on hold because work on MCTB2, but there are adjustments I need to make to self-scheduling. I can and will stop my life for MCTB2, but I do not need to further stop my life because I am on this Path. I do not need to obsess. I need to return some attention to the relative, to the training in uprightedness. I need to turn mindfulness in toward my heart.

The sit tonight was fine, my usual jhanic arc up and back down. Entering fourth came with this odd tingling up my legs. It spread to cover my entire lower body. That was a bit weird, because, otherwise, I was very neutral and slow.

Nine of Wands Upright

This card is asking me to reach within myself to find the strength remaining to finish the battle or quest to the end. The dragon in the background is one showing defiance. The end may be nearer than I think. I need to persevere despite difficulties ahead. 

Interlude for Daniel

It strikes me anew, Daniel, that this insight practice began not with meditation, but with my literary practice in the 1990s.

I had intense scholarly interest and practice in post-structuralist literary theory, meaning I was a deconstructor, meaning I pointed out how texts deconstructed themselves and the critic deconstructed herself in thus pointing out.

My dissertation was a koan on the koan that is Henry James’s The Golden Bowl, a novel so empty and luminous, like its central metaphor, that I was the only one constitutionally equipped, for whatever reason, to finish it. It is a stream-of-consciousness narrative continually emptying itself of content. It is a story of a marriage, an unlawful reconciliation (infidelity), and the gift around which the narrative timeline runs full circle.

The central metaphor, the golden bowl, is glazed in a luminous gold coating. The opacity of this coating hides a flaw in the background, underneath the coating. You see, underneath the gilt, is a perfectly transparent empty bowl; however, this bowl, sometime well before it is found and the story begins, was split: It has a crack down its center.

There are four characters:

  • Maggie Verver (a childlike woman who is overattached to her father)
  • Adam Verver (Maggie’s father)
  • Amerigo (Maggie’s new husband)
  • Charlotte Verver (Adam’s new wife, and Amerigo’s rekindled old flame)

Maggie is too attached to her father, playing that off as perfectly innocent, and consequently neglects a properly adult (sexualized) relationship with her husband. Although she is the innocent, ostensibly, her not letting go of the past, her sexual repression/recursion, pushes her husband back into the arms of the conniving Charlotte. Once Charlotte stops attending to Adam, whom she seems to have married for less than ideal reasons, perhaps to have access to Amerigo from within his own household, Adam is increasingly at Maggie’s disposal, while Charlotte and Amerigo are left together much of the time. So what do we have here as a direct result of Maggie’s childish innocence? Adultery and something akin to incestuous preoccupation between father and daughter.

Maggie, through gradual insight, realizes that these fatal flaws, splits along wrong axes, are her own doing. So she sets about realigning the pairs of spouses, over time, through a series conversations with the other three characters. What is striking, and literary genius, about this whole narrative, and the dialogues, is how completely empty they are of the content that they effect through sheer performance, through a rhetoric of failure, through repeated patterns of recursion to empty signification, through silence. Maggie talks around the problem with the others, not directly ever stating the problem. Another metaphor in the novel is a round table for playing bridge. And lest you miss that this comes out of Eastern traditions, the third big metaphor is a pagoda that Maggie circumambulates.

So the novel is a koan. Its narrative timeline bites its own tale. Its future goal is to restore purity to the original flaw.

My dissertation was not scholarly. It was creative. It too was a koan that took The Golden Bowl as meditation object.

This Path is also the rhetoric of failure, until it isn’t, until it is direct love.

I often reflect how funny it is that you and I, some 25 years before speaking to each other, were earning English degrees in the very same building. When I read MCTB years later, I had no idea you were from Chapel Hill. Then when I saw that old photo of you that you showed me, I remembered you from back then. You stood out, after all, long hair and quirky clothes. I even have a specific memory of passing you in the stairwell and meeting your eyes with my gaze. It is a small world, isn’t it? It would have been nice to talk literature back then, when we both had more time, as in 25 years before our next project.